Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Executive Bio: Liberty or Lie?

I recently updated my Executive Bio, because in the cutthroat world that is commercial real estate you must aggressively market yourself, and the best way to do that is to lie. Well, maybe “lie” is too strong a term, but words like embellishment, exaggeration, and Donald Trump come to mind. The Executive Bio is about making yourself look better than the next guy, so typically your listings, closings, and number of bowling trophies are rounded to the next light year. This concept is borrowed from the world of sports, where for years game programs have been adding 3 inches to the listed heights of quarterbacks and tight ends. It's all about looking good and successful and intimidating on paper, because let's face it—paper may be all you've got.

The Executive Bio usually starts out by giving some information on your education. So, it's at this point that you talk about college majors and degrees and whenever possible drop some Latin on the unsuspecting reader. Generally the Latin should contain a phrase containing "Cum Laude," which means "with honor," or "with praise." The beautiful thing about this is very few people realize what these terms mean, and even fewer readers will have actually attended your graduation ceremony. So if you are so inclined, you could place in your Executive Bio that you graduated "Parenta Cum Laude," which simply translated means “to the surprised praise of his parents.” This is a true statement, although the Latin may be a bit twisted. Not to worry. You’ll not be exposed unless your pharmacist happens to read your Magnum Opus of Executive Bios.

Next the Executive Bio author must deal with his past work history. This is where most people try to write around a glaring gap of unproductive years that are as conspicuous as 18 1/2 minutes of missing Watergate tapes. Here the author may mask three failed businesses and two firings by stating that “he started numerous small business and entrepreneurial ventures which generated unprecedented exit strategies.”

The Executive Bio should be accompanied by a professionally produced photograph (see above). The photo in this column was randomly chosen from those readily available on my hard drive and from those which would not subject Finley River to copyright infringement. The liberal use of airbrush technology to “touch up” your photo is acceptable. In fact, you should attempt to give yourself a virtual facelift if you are older and most likely well passed your prime (again, see above photo). Unfortunately, there is nothing commercially available at this time to make you look 40 pounds lighter (OK yes, once again see above photo).

Next, it’s time to get personal. Whenever possible bring your family into the mix. If your wife works and has a great job, flaunt it. Only a handful of discerning individuals will realize she’s the reason you’ve been able to master Madden ’09 during the workday. If you have any kids, highlight this. Everyone realizes that a man with a lot of kids is well rounded and probably so desperate to make a buck that he will give his services away for practically nothing.

Finally you’ll want to provide some interesting fact about yourself—something that the reader will “take away" and remember you by. Here is where you desperately mine the depths of your past to uncover something remotely interesting about yourself. It is here that you will also want to aggressively and liberally employ what we call “editorial license.” Again, you’re not lying here, but you acknowledge that your space limitations will simply not allow for full and complete disclosure. For instance, we looked at the Executive Bio of the same fellow which is pictured above and found this statement: “While attending (unnamed university) he participated on the school’s football team and was named to the conference all-academic team while leading the team in scoring in 1982. True enough, but further research unmasks these troubling facts:

1. The “conference,” as it was referred to, had only four teams. Yeah, I know—not exactly the Big XII or Pac 10 or Big 10 (Question: Why does the “Big 10” have 11 teams?),
2) The criterion for being named to this conference’s all-academic team was, vaguely, “periodically showing up to class.”
3.) This fellow led his team in scoring not by rushing for 23 touchdowns or catching 37 touchdown passes but instead by… kicking five field goals and 25 points after touchdown. Yes, he was a placekicker and no one else on the team could muster up more than six touchdowns. And finally,
4) He missed more field goals than he made. Pathetic. This is perhaps the most troubling usage of “editorial license” that we have reviewed to date.

I just realized that I need an unprecedented exit strategy from this column. So I’ll conclude by encouraging you to get to work immediately by authoring or updating your own personal Executive Bio. Hopefully someone will read it, and maybe, just maybe…they’ll believe it.

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