A new intern has begun

A lot has happened here in the past few weeks. We’ve had many people out on vacation, a few days here and there to a week. We've participated in events and have both a new client and a major new project with an established client.  In the midst we also had a new intern start. While school is still in session, spring quarter to go, he is part time and then will be full time in the summer.

Classically interns spend the summer in a role, often the summer after their junior year, and if they do well are offered a full time job, ready and waiting for them after graduation.   We’ve not taken that classic approach.  

We’ve actually preferred to have interns start with fewer hours, while still in classes. As anyone who has had an intern in the past knows there is a lot for them to learn. At the beginning it’s easier for us to train a few hours a day than be faced with full days.   We’re able to ‘chunk’ the learning into manageable pieces and know he’s ready for the next step. By the time his schedule does allow for full time work he’ll be more independent and when summer is over we are hoping to see him continue with us part time.   

Last summer we hosted an intern for one of our clients. The majority of the intern’s work was with us, though they did participate in some events at the client site. We’re lucky, several good universities are nearby so interns can come in to the office and work part time with us during the school year. Having several recent college grads on staff also makes for a welcoming environment to someone still in school, many of us are not far removed from college days! We enjoy having a new team member and a fresh perspective, there will be more interns in our future.

We are hiring!

We have a job opening! Referential, Inc. is focused on customer success, that's what we do! We design, implement, and manage customer reference programs; which includes turning stories from our client's customer base into compelling pieces which then help close additional sales. We have an opening for a staff reference manager. We’re looking for a creative person, and foreign language expertise is highly desired. This role will be a member of the core team and responsible for client database information data entry, reference customer recruitment, some reference request fulfillment, assisting with our web site, and helping us penetrate new markets. You can see more details on the careers page of our website. Help us find the next great member of our team!

Check what you already have first!

We’re helping a new client get a more formalized customer advocacy program off and running.  We’re contacting customers that have given high NPS scores recently, that have been part of early adopter or beta testing programs, or that were ‘known’ to product marketing.  But there are other treasure troves of advocates out there!  Stories on our client's web site and quotes in press releases are just two examples of advocacy in action. In the zeal to get new advocates you need to be careful to not overlook the ones you already have!  Make sure they are welcomed into any new program.  It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and understand the activities they are now interested in.  They have been there for you in the past, make sure they are a central part of your program moving forward.

Hiring - looking for foreign language expertise

We’re hiring again, looking for someone with foreign language skills and, of course, great English!   The team is asking their friends, and friends of friends.  So far that’s been our very best source of new employees. All the people we hired last year were from contacts our existing employees have and all are proficient in at least two languages.   This time we need a ‘less common’ language so are doing a bit more to publicize the position. Today we posted the opening at two local colleges.   Of course the systems they use are different, but both were fairly easy for registration and then job posting.  We also contacted a local school which specializes just in foreign language instruction.  They’ll be distributing the opening to students and staff.

Our team may still be the best source for another candidate but it will be interesting to see what comes of the other postings.  We wouldn’t mind being flooded with resumes soon!

Background checking the checker!

We’ve changed background check companies, or nearly so. We wanted some additional services which led to a change of companies.  We’ve chosen a firm that not only meets our needs but comes highly recommended by several business associates. Before we can begin to use the services of the new company we’re getting checked ourselves. There was quite a thorough application form to complete.  Then a level of business review, followed by a site visit.  At the site visit there were questions about topics ranging from shredders, data security, and company history to site access.  Then photos were taken of doors and file cabinets and locks and building signage.   We are now in the final stage of review, though not quite sure what that entails.  Within a week we should know if we’ve been approved as a customer.  This process has taken a bit longer than expected, good thing we had the services of our original company still, as in the interim we made a job offer so of course did a background check.

They’ve done such a thorough job checking us out we’re doubly confident they’ll do a great job meeting our needs.

Hello and Goodbye

We’re about to say goodbye to our team member from London. Her visit went so fast!  She’s headed to a conference next week and then back home.  We love having her visit.  We’ll miss having her here in person, but we’ll see her on Skype with our team meetings each week. While we are sad to say goodbye to Lynn, we are happy to say hello to Ankit.  We just hired a new staff reference manager.  He brings a great skill set and multiple languages – fluency in Punjabi and Hindi.  He’s joining just as we kick off work with a new client; it will be nice for him to be involved from the beginning.

To wish Lynn a safe trip home and to celebrate Ankit joining us, we have a fun afternoon planned on Friday.  Lunch and a bit of team building ahead.  We are all looking forward to a fun afternoon.   While we eat lunch as a group most days it will be nice to have some extended time together.

Languages, Languages

English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese.  We just finished program documentation for one of our clients in all of those languages.  Language expertise has been a priority for our recent hires and they’re busy translating program documentation, speaking with our clients’ sales reps in local language, and working directly with their end customers.  We prioritized languages after discussions with our clients and analysis of their customer base.  Our hires are a mix of native speakers and folks who learned primarily in school, but who coupled that book learning with significant time abroad.  We have found that even native speakers don’t necessarily know the complete suite of business terms we need but that’s been fairly easy to address.  We have our next priority languages set and are actively recruiting now.  Our languages list will be longer shortly!

Commitment to Youth Opportunity

We just hired two recent college grads.  Not only that, we made the pledge, will you?  See smallbizsupportouryouth.com. More than four years have passed since the economy was at it's low point, and yet nearly six million young Americans are both out of school and out of work—a staggering number.

As small business owners, we are committed to addressing this challenge in the way we can best.  Today, we joined the pledge to create meaningful opportunities for our nation’s youth.

Over the next two to three years, Referential, Inc. commits to take one or more of these actions:

1.    Increase the number of opportunity youth hires

2.    Expand full or part-time intern or apprenticeship placements for opportunity youth

3.    Adopt or expand a high-quality mentoring program for local opportunity youth.

4.    Partner with nonprofit training providers to create a new employee mentoring, job-shadowing and recruiting program.

5.    Partner with a local nonprofit or education system to identify opportunity youth to fill entry-level positions

6.    Work with our suppliers to assess opportunities to hire, train or mentor opportunity youth.

We hope your company also pledges to create meaningful opportunities for our youth.

New Employees - Where To Find Them

Hiring time again. Which is great, but where do you find the best candidate? So far we haven’t had to post a single job opening, not for a full time hire, not for contractors. Our secret? Word of mouth. Our employees have told their friends, even their children, and through that network we’ve found all of our new employees. Our last several hires have been recent college grads. One great source of potential college hires has been the son of one of our employees. As he says, “everyone wins, employed friends are more fun to hang out with because they can afford to do things”. We’re interviewing for both a full and part time opening right now. We should make our decisions soon and a couple more college grads will soon be employed. And be even more fun to hang out with than they are now!

What’s been your best source of candidates? Should we have to post an opening in the future it would be good to know what’s worked well for others.

Project 'Find the Customer Reference!'

We were recently asked to do a special project for a new client.  They had a high priority need for customer references for a specific product.  A rather new product at that. And, of course, a very short deadline.  Major events were on the schedule where they needed speakers and new collateral because who better to tell your story than a happy customer? Sometimes you need to call in reinforcements, which they did.  They didn’t have the bandwidth to take on this special project so called us.  We have the processes in place already, and the people.  We were able to supplement their staff and contact every single sales rep that had sold this product, discussed their customers, and then went on to talk with each customer who was a potential reference.  We were able to help frame the stories to highlight business benefits, not just the ‘speeds and feeds’.  Putting extra resources on this, in a very short window, was really successful.  We’ve uncovered several new references already and we're not yet done.

While typically we run major programs for our clients sometimes we’re asked to do special projects such as this.  It can be a huge help to have extra bandwidth when you need it – big or small we can help with your customer reference challenges!

What are good sources of customer references?

Sources of potential new references are everywhere - your sales teams, professional services, support organizations to name just a few.  The source I'd like to talk about today is leveraging user group meetings.  We're in the season.  Be they small or LARGE, many organizations have gatherings of their users and it's a great way to have even more of your customers agree to be references. First off treat your current references as the VIPs they are!  Special badges so they stand out in the crowd, front row seats for entertainment, reserved seating, executive meetings, a thank you dinner: make sure they know you appreciate them.

Encourage them to recruit other potential references.  You might even have a friendly competition, which current reference can recruit the most new references?  Be ready with a sign-up table, know the data you want to capture, and have a sticker to add to badges to indicate they have just been recruited.  Your entire staff should be on the lookout for the stickers and take the time to thank your new references.

These meetings are also a perfect opportunity to capture video.  Get your customers talking, and really listen.  Sometimes that constructive criticism is even more valuable than a compliment.

What's your favorite way to recruit new references at your user meetings?