When i met George* more than two decades ago, I remember chuckling over the name of his first business.
He still had company checks, and I came across a box of them one day while we were packing to move out of our apartment.
They said: "Sessum Cleaning and Productions."
He was 18 when he officially started his own business, and he decided to name the business after what he did: commercial floor cleaning and music production. Completely unrelated businesses, apples to oranges, a marketing faux pas in my eyes. And, boldly monogrammed on yellow checkered business checks, also kind of funny.
He said, "It made sense at the time - It's what I did. Plus, it saved the cost of registering more than one business name."
In those days I wrote about technology. All of my marketing training and big company expertise made me right, of course. I told him, you don't dilute your brand. Focus. How can you know who you compete against if your business is cleaning and production? You're playing in two different markets; you have no unique selling proposition; how can you differentiate across those markets - it's a losing proposition, I told him.
I was so smart. girl genius.
Except, he was ahead of his time.
His time is actually now.
With business as usual officially on life support, we as workers will all assume new roles, like it or not, before the plug is pulled. I can be glad that I'm ahead of the curve. The dot-com bust cut my industry** down substantially 8 years ago. I've had my own business ever since.
During the last year, I find myself differentiating my offerings even further. I sell vitamins. I write copy. I'm a business strategist. I do marketing and PR. I'm a publisher. If you give me a microphone, I might even do comedy. I'm just sayin'.
I'm starting to be asked to do even smaller time-limited tasks for some, micro tasks, which in turn bring in micro dollars, but dollars nonetheless. Once the dollar is no more, I'll be trading words for chickens, and I'm okay with that. I'm cleaning and productions. I'm PR person and journalist. I'm vitamins and content.
Micro jobs for micro money*** -- the age of the micro-focused is here. One job won't do it, and one job is hard to find. Many tasks spread over geographies and markets will supplant the old "real job." Many small business activities under one small business umbrella, or personal brand, will trump the job title (at) real company (dot) com.
Tools that will make this happen:
Google - gmail, collaborative google docs, g-chat and video chat.
LinkedIn**** - it's there, we're already using it, referrals based on multiple types of skill sets (related and unrelated to my current business) are coming in.
RevolutionMoney*+* - I've been calling for a micro-payment service to take the lead in allowing us to compensate one another for small tasks we can farm out to those we respect and know across our various online social homes. With Revolution Money, the service provider won't take a hit when they receive a payment for a task as they do with paypal.
Skype*#* and Twitter*#* - "Hey, do you do x?" "HELL yeah!" (or) "No but let me find you someone who does." Do I become my brother's reseller? Am I my friends' affiliate? The details remain to be seen, but I think IM and DM (through the likes of twitter.com) will take the place of 'over the cube wall' inquiries.
Companies like Cerego*^, with the iKnow social learning platform, and the open source education movement, where the world's best universities offer free access to course and lectures, also have much to offer the coming upside-down business environment by helping solo practitioners stay ahead of the game with new skills, languages, and knowledge.
As David Weinberger's#@! blogsticker(^) noted several years back: "Cluetrain was basically right." id est:
>>"Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls down."
>>THESIS 94: To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
These are the best of times. These are the worst of times. Ain't we lucky we got em - good times.
Disclaimers follow: *my husband, **reference to BigPR and Ketchum, ***covet it, ****member, *+*I hear you get $10 for signing up and plan to do so, *#*jeneanesessum and jeneane respectively, *^work with them some, #@!Friend, (^)blame gary turner.