Debra Swersky
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Journal

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The Price Is Right

It all started with the question, “What do you do?” I’ve asked this question and have been asked it a bunch of times… especially since moving to Dallas. I’ve even been asked, “What do you do to make money?” (I greatly admire the person who asked me that iteration of the question.) 

As my entrepreneurial journey progressed over the past year, my response blazed its own trail. I started with “preparing for the unknown.” Then I switched to “self-employed” and “onboarding strategies” and found myself rockin’ “Executive Director.” But I felt like, more often than not, I was getting the you’ve-got-seven-heads stare. I felt like I needed a stronger response.

I just finished the book Rework, which is written by the team behind 37Signals, a suite of fantastic software products, and what the tech community knows as Ruby On Rails. Great team. Great products. Great book. Their advice is raw, real, and super duper helpful and their book is super duper short. I enjoyed all of it and found myself fixating on their straightforward examples for why you should focus on the product or service that you’re providing…  better said, the problem that you’re solving, rather than the name of the business or packaging. (“… a hot dog stand isn’t a hot dog stand without the hot dogs.” Right?)

Above and beyond their hot dog stand line (or their knowledge bomb about Crate & Barrel), I liked the example that they gave about “creativity born from embracing constraints.” 

“The Price Is Right, the longest-running game show in history… has more than a hundred games, and each one is based on the question, “How much does this item cost?”” 

As an Entrepreneur who has very little startup money, I am becoming well-versed in getting creative and embracing my constraints (that means leveraging my skills, resources, knowledge, and network… and borrowing Rework from the Dallas Public Library instead of buying it off of Amazon). Lucky for me I know my strengths and how to best tap into them… hint: it’s not working on just one type of project. 

Do you see where I’m going with this Price Is Right example? As someone who likes variety in my project-type (100+ games), I needed to figure out the question on which to base my “enterprising energy” and projects-of-many-flavors. Drum roll, please. 

“What do you do?”

My 10-years of background in start-ups, for all intensive purposes, is in Product Marketing. My spare time has been spent helping individuals prepare for interviews (through resumes and presentations). And my most impactful work has been preparing recruiting strategies, onboarding programs, and training processes for companies. 

So… what’s my own response to my most-favorite question?

I work with people and companies to create better first impressions by focusing on their “why’s” and “how’s” helping them answer the question “What do you do?”

Debra Swersky