Dot-Com Warning

The job market within "dot com" companies isn't always glamorous.

If ever there was a business that combined glamour, excitement and the chance to make lots of money, it’s e-business. Like advertising in the 1950s and aerospace in the 1960s, dot-coms are the home of this decade’s “cool” jobs.

While our economy does appear to be undergoing a transformation as a result of the Internet, there’s a lot of hype mixed in with the hope. First, pure Internet or dot-com companies still constitute a very tiny proportion of the nation’s employers. Most of the e-action is going on at conventional companies that are expanding their Web presence and exploring new opportunities in cyberspace. So, if you think everyone and his brother is getting a job at a dot-com and you’re not, stop worrying.

Second, many – if not most – pure Internet companies are losing money. The promise may be there, but just because an idea is terrific doesn’t mean that real, live customers will buy an e-company’s product or service – or pay enough for it to make the business succeed.

Third, as glamorous as they may be, Internet companies can be as wacky as any conventional company. They may not suffer from the bureaucracy and politics of larger, established companies, but any dot-com that calls its workers “Sherpas” (a true story; the name is supposed to indicate the employees are knowledgeable customer guides) can’t be completely normal.

In fact, here’s a story about dot-com lunacy that will offset some of the glowing stories you read about e-millionaires and e-uphoria.

A friend of mine, who had been a senior salesman at a prominent financial information publisher, had been recruited to an e-business start-up that was the brainchild of a wealthy investor and his son. Armed with incentives and stock options, it was my friend’s job to increase sales, which had been trickling in (curiously, the dearth of revenue didn’t seem to bother the father too much, although he was spending about $1 million a year on software, hardware, facilities and people).

My friend hired a junior salesperson and both went on lots of calls. They learned that prospects had several reservations about the service: It was too expensive, confusing and not especially helpful. Over time, the junior salesperson became more and more vocal and insisted that features of the service be changed to improve sales. Apparently, that was the wrong approach – the son fired her.

My friend grew frustrated. Neither father nor son listened to him, to the other employees or to the customers. Father and son knew best, and Dad believed in the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, rules. Our sales director still plugged away, making appointments, giving presentations, making some suggestions, and even making some sales – until the recent Friday when Junior fired him.

“You haven’t met our expectations,” Junior said. “We thought sales would be higher by this point, and we don’t believe you really communicated the value of our product.”

The sales director was speechless. He wanted to tell Junior he was an idiot, but held his tongue. He is now negotiating a settlement package, and vows to very carefully analyze any dot-com that offers him a job.

Article- Copyright 2000 Evan Cooper. Syndicated by ParadigmTSA

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