Monthly Archives: January 2015

An intern’s angry outburst

Again and again the media talk and write about the exploitation of interns. Some who had discussed this, too, now received bitter complaints by an Austrian student.

23 year old Sinah D’s last week’s post on the media platform TheBlackShirtBlog advanced to a viral hit with hundreds of comments. Literally, she writes that she is upset about “all the companies that let people work full-time for an ass-filth-internship salary” and then expect them “to smile and say thank you”. And the names she mentions are not only clammy no-names or start-ups but well known media addresses as the newspaper Standard or the national TV station ORF. She even states that with 700 euros for 40 or more hours per week she had earned relatively well compared to the industry average. 400 euros or less were more usual for the full-time drudgery.

In her article entitled “Thank you for (almost) nothing” she continues speaking of young people who came into the companies motivated, unprejudiced and full of expectations. And then they meet employers about who she writes: “… you who have been farting into your finest leather boss chairs since 1996 and talking about big visions, team spirit and delegation (…) actually ruin our expectations of working life”.

Sinah does not understand why her work is worth less than the “other one’s”. Above all, youngsters like her basically spend their entire period of study in bloody internships instead of lecture halls and libraries without being able to make a living. Not everyone has parents able to fund a study including the bare expenses for their children, as she points out. But everybody accepts this “work for dumping prices” just to make sure to later get a job.

“We are not greedy for money which is perhaps our greatest disadvantage”, the 23-year-old woman concludes. A typical Generation Y attitude? Maybe. Sinah D.’s courageous blogpost has received many favorable reviews. But not only. Other former interns do not share her opinion at all. “Get off the moral high ground”, as the now 30 year-old former intern David P. comments. Nobody out there waits for a young undergraduate student, says the blogger. Above all, he argues that interns are not only productive but also produce a lot of work for their trainers.

For example, as intern in a PR agency he had needed a long time until he could write acceptable press releases. His supervisor and a volunteer had spent some 30 per cent of their working day only to educate and support him. Full-fledged work is only possible after three months, if at all, he says. And the most practicals don’t last much longer. David P. finally comes to talking about money and remarks that in the first year of training the salaries were often not much higher.

Well, everyone may decide for himself whether Sinah D. revealed an exaggerated expectation. But if renowned media companies still make young people feel that they misemploy their interns just as cheap laborers, they obviously do not meet their desires at all and reveal deficits as employer brands. A big mistake in times of skills shortage. Sinah D’s is probably not an isolated case.

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No business idea yet?

You know you want to be boss but you still don’t know the biz. Right? Well, let’s inspire you a bit …

How much is a globally unique baby name? For 28,000 Swiss francs, mothers or fathers can let the text agency Erfolgswelle create a name for their child. The agency founder, copywriter and naming specialist Marc Hauser had created product or brand names for companies such as Nestle and Alstom for over ten years. The idea for his new business model came when he saw a couple arguing about their baby’s name. A press release earlier this year was sufficient: soon newspapers from all over Europe wrote about the offer and called Marc Hauser for interviews from everywhere––Zurich, Paris, London and even Moscow. The first requests have long since reached the Swiss entrepreneur. His team of 13 free designers, historians and marketing people develop the ideas and check databases from all over the world in order to see if the names creations are truly unique. They also look after approval from the relevant national authorities. All included in the package price.

Well, it doesn’t have to be such an unusual business idea. And perhaps the best news is that you don’t necessarily need to develop the idea by yourself. On virtual franchise fairs hundreds of entrepreneurs offer their models. They are looking for partners who build up their business under the franchisor’s brand in a protected sales territory. Being a franchisee has a lot of advantages as you benefit from an established brand. You can primarily focus on sale and serving your local clients. The franchise headquarters take care of many administrative tasks like national advertising, accountancy or procurement. In addition, product and business processes are approved and have long since passed the market test.

Very often franchise companies also offer very lean and efficient operations. For example, there are restaurant chains that specialize in one popular product in many varieties – be it burgers, schnitzel, quiche or flatbreads with all kinds of toppings and side dishes. Similar to a fast-food restaurant, the preparation is often standardized and even requires no cooks. Yet there are many more innovative franchise ideas than such restaurant concepts––e.g.the mobile mattress cleaning service for hotels, hospitals and allergy sufferer’s households or the car washing team with the environmentally friendly waterless special cleaning solution for open-air car dealers and garages. They all offer a highly specialized service which, however, is easy to learn and also suitable for newcomers.

One of my business partners runs a small advertising agency. He found out that medium-sized and larger companies often employ several agencies and must coordinate them cumbersome: one for the website, one for print, one for marketing strategies and so on. Others create the trade fair booth or the signs and illumination advertisement. For one of his customers, a large company, he took over this coordination function as service provider and established his own second agency for it. It now works as the customer’s marketing management in outsourcing.

In your own existing business, it’s often smaller features that may boost the sales and create a unique selling point. A friendly couple of mine owns a four-star hotel in the Alps which specializes in families with children. They have encountered a problem many parents in family hotels: usually there are only buffet restaurants. And when the kids frequently run to the buffet, there is a “traffic jam” and almost never the whole family sits together quietly and comfortably. In their hotel the couple introduced a family restaurant with table service and received much appreciation from the guests. Sitting at their table and waiting for their meals, the families tell each other what they have experienced during the day or they have fun by playing little games. So easy can it be to distinguish yourself from your competitors.

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What it takes to be an entrepreneur––part 2

Are you fulfilling your dream of self-employment? Or are you only dreaming of? Here are five questions that may help you figure out whether you are able to be an entrepreneur. You can find the first five questions in the post from last week.

6. Are you willing to work longer and harder?

If you believe, as chief you enjoy the flexible scheduling as pure luxury, forget it. Say goodbye to terms like 9 to 5 and words such as closing time, especially in the initial phase. You will have to work from early morning until late at night and of course even on weekends and holidays. It’s you who is responsible for everything. Many problems that have to be solved do not appear and are not mastered at regular working hours. Therefore, even in your private life, you will always be thinking about your business. That’s maybe the greatest difference between you and an employee.

7. Are you able to take criticism?

Customers, business partners or investors … not everyone will be excited about your product from the beginning on. At least not as much as you. Many of your decisions will be questioned. Anyone who reacts thin-skinned or discouraged to this has a hard time as an entrepreneur. Remember that no company and no product is perfect and unbeatable. Always leave room for optimization. See even harsh criticism as a chance to innovation. And without innovation there is no progress.

8. How long does your money last?

Successful entrepreneurs know how to economize. Because the initial investment in a company always exceed the initial gains. So your savings must be able to cover your cost of living as long as possible, perhaps far more than a year. When it comes to financial decisions during this period: Compare prices and services meticulously.

9. Do you have the courage to fail?

“Failure is simply no option” responded Margaret Thatcher to the question, what if the Falklands war would be lost. Well, in case of a business the Iron Lady was wrong. As an entrepreneur, you must be able to deal with the fact that you might lose battles, take false decisions, crash projects or even get bankrupt. Fortunately, there is nothing from which we can learn more than from our mistakes. But the fear of losing is the main reason that prevents most people from the step to independence. You need to have the courage to fail but go handling risks with a strategic approach––for example with clear cost-benefit analysis. Then make your decisions well informed and with clear targets.

10. What is your plan B?

Of course it hurts when you have to experience that your plans pursued with passion do not work as desired. What alternatives do you have to your original business idea? Can it be product or service variations? And if you fail, which alternatives have you considered? Are there any financial reserves for a second attempt? Or would you be able to return to your old job? Definitely keep the doors a gap wide open. Go your way determined––but do not tear down all bridges behind you.


Loosely based on Taylor Johnson /

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Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Would you like to fulfill your dream of founding a company this year? Or would you rather remain being an employee? Ten questions may help you to decide. Here you find the top five. Question six to ten follow next week.

There are plenty good reasons for becoming an entrepreneur. We would all would like to be our own boss. But being an entrepreneur is more than just that and much more than only to bless the market with a great business idea. Be honest with yourself and answer these questions for yourself:

1. Why do you want to start a business?

Founders start their businesses due to very different aims. But most successful entrepreneurs definitely don’t do it to earn more money and have free timing. Poor prospects of success have those who only want to become famous, rich or wealthy and would like to work less than before. More promising goals are to create something new, to meet customer’s needs, to have creative freedom and to do something that you really love.

2. Do you love challenges?

As an entrepreneur, you have to work hard, usually much harder than an employee. But not only that: Most of all, you need a lot of mental power. There is no red carpet rolled out for you and your business. You will always encounter obstacles and have to clear rocks out of the way. Be honest: Have you always been a person who avoided difficulties and took the line of the least resistance? Or do you usually say “Yes I can––I’m not satisfied, I don’t give up––I want to solve this damned thing” when encountering problems? Only if that is the case, you have an entrepreneur’s mentality.

3. Do you have patience, strength and endurance?

It usually takes years until a company becomes successful. In the beginning, most entrepreneurs work with enthusiasm but many show signals of decline after a few months. For sure, your patience will be challenged by all the many small and large frustrating setbacks. If you know that you are a person who does not lose control even in descent, you have a good chance to succeed with your business.

4. Are you a man with leadership skills?

Most companies are not one-man shows. And surely your’s isn’t like that, too. You rather need a team of specialized professionals. You have to select them. You must be able to trust them. Give them clear goals and directions. Set realistic expectations even for the skills and power of each individual employee. Give your employees incentives and encourage them to honest and constructive feedback. And when it comes to conflicts, resolve them carefully. In short: As an entrepreneur you need the highest level of social skills.

5. How well can you plan and organize?

Most start-ups fail because of lack of planning especially in the financial field. For example, supplier invoices accumulate while important customers wait months until they pay. For longer periods of financial constraints safeguards must be provided. Risks must be predictable. A simple protection mechanism is a well-developed business plan that you create with the help of a business consultant. Such a business plan is often a prerequisite for bank loans and aid money.

Loosely based on Taylor Johnson/

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