Your Competitors Just Hired Two Interns to Scope You Out


I used to have a marketing colleague, who when I asked him how his day went, would often answer, “I met my quota, I completed three spreadsheets today.”  His cynicism aside, he was expressing a fundamental that limits a great deal of productivity in corporate America.  We get complacent and confuse activity with results.   How else can you explain our 24/7 umbilical attachment to a Blackberry or an iPhone?  The fact that we get 100 emails a day and feel satisfied when we read them, or guilty when we don’t, is a symptom of this lack of productivity.   Our secret is that each of us maintains a set of priorities which we know are important and we would get to if it weren’t for all this “really insignificant stuff” that occupies our time. 

While I could rant about what is important and what is a waste of time, I’m not sure it would change behavior.  However, here’s another option that might help you get done some of those things you know you could be doing.  Hire a college intern.

Yes.  Simply, hire a college intern, undergrad or grad, it doesn’t matter.  Just assign them to do that task you’ve been putting off… that Win/Loss study, that customer loyalty survey, that database upgrade.


  1. Because they are smart,
  2. Because they are cheap,
  3. Because they are willing,
  4. Because they are malleable,
  5. Because you can’t get it done yourself
  6. Because you can hire them after their internship
  7. Because you can afford it
  8. Because they can teach you
  9. Because you owe it to them. (Remember those that gave you a break once.)
  10. Because they are grateful

The last intern I hired spent 2 months working for me and developed a complete Asia-Pac product introduction plan for a $60M company.  It was something I wanted to get to, but couldn’t.  Included in the plan were market potentials by country with recommendations on how to launch the product and who to launch it with.  In another case, I had an intern actually negotiate the terms of a service agreement with AT&T.  She came up with a novel way to assure that AT&T delivered and also promoted our service.

During this economic downturn, companies have trimmed their workforces and productivity numbers have risen.  But here’s what you may not know.  Studies show that those who have cut more than 20% of the workforce take more than 9 years to regain their market positions compared with competitors making lesser cuts.  There is an old adage that says you can’t cut your way to growth.  The corollary is that those who hire and invest first, after a recession, get the jump on their competition.

So here’s the formula.  According to the US Department of Education, using Class of 2007 data, there are 155,637 graduate business students and 335,254 undergrads for a total of 490,891 potential interns.  According to the US 2007 Census there are 532,391 firms in the US with a workforce of between 20 and 99 individuals.   That would just about cover it, if every firm with 20 to 99 employees hired just one student.

Thank you Proctor & Gamble for the opportunity you granted me.

Now, what would be the consequences if your competitor hired an intern to scope you out?  What would that cost you?

1 Comment

  1. Seth Johnson

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