Archive | November 2012

Should $1 Be “Cold, Hard Cash”?

Image from www.coinnews.netCheck out the original story on Yahoo: Congress looks at doing away with the $1 bill by Kevin Freking.

Some have argued for years that the U.S. should switch to a $1 coin and ditch the $1 bill. And perhaps it makes sense- coins can stay in circulation much longer, after all, so they can be more cost-efficient to produce.

The most common argument I’ve seen against the idea is simply this: we have never used $1 coins, and we don’t want to. As Philip Diehl notes in the article, though, “It’s really a matter of just getting used to it.” That’s my take, in any case.

I’ve been blessed with the good fortune to visit a couple of other countries, the United Kingdom and El Salvador, in which $1 coins are used. Both experiences were unique, but both left me with an improved opinion of $1 coins.

The UK actually uses Pounds rather than Dollars, of course. It was my first real experience with large denomination coins- I don’t really count the few I run into here in the U.S. To me, their 1 & 2 pound coins were just as convenient and useful as bills. Their best feature, though, was that their size and/or thickness makes them distinctly different from the smaller denomination coins.

El Salvador actually uses U.S. Dollars, and the larger denomination bills are used there too. But $1 coins are the norm there- in fact, we ship a lot of ours we don’t use to them. Again, convenience was the same, aside from the one real problem we face in this: gold dollars aren’t easily distinguishable from quarters. I couldn’t simply reach in my pocket and know by touch which one I held. But that’s not too hard to fix.

Perhaps $1 coins are a needed governmental cost-cut and a positive cultural change. In regard to business, aside from a few instances such as vending machines, I think the situation is really six of one, half a dozen of another. With equally convenient usage, I doubt business trends will be greatly effected.

Thanks for reading,



We Learn Old Data

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
     ~Eric Hoffer, American Social Philosopher

This quote really caught my eye when I first saw it, because of how it translates into the lives of college students like myself. And no, I’m not talking about that sixty-year old professor who drones on endlessly. In this case, I and my contemporaries are all too often “the learned.” We run the risk of getting the arrogant idea that just because we have a nice, pretty diploma, we know all we need to know.

Not in this generation.

Good professors of business teach with the foundation of their personal experience in the world of business to guide them. But by its nature, that information is dated. Even coming from those professors who split their time between professional careers and their teaching duties, the information is only current at best. There’s nothing that guarantees it will even be relevant tomorrow. Even relatively rigid disciplines such as accounting are subject to change, and sometimes very quickly.

Am I disregarding my $120K education, then? Hardly. (Mom & Dad would kill me, after all.) We certainly need a solid foundation to be able to operate on a professional level. But a foundation is not a roof. Nor can you look through the windows in a foundation to see that next great opportunity. An education, a degree, a certification…they’re all good. But we must continue to move forward if we wish to continue being relevant in today’s fast-paced world of business.

Thanks for reading,


Teaching Kids Business Their Way

There’s a lot of maturing that goes on between playing Xbox in middle school and sitting in a management class in college. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no room for business thought in that middle school student’s life. After all, my Xbox 360 sits proudly in my dorm room even today. Why not take things the other direction?

Business simulation videogames have been an interest of mine for many years. I first played one, a hot dog stand simulator, in elementary school. I wish I could find that game again, because it was excellent. It had so much: price management, random equipment breakdowns, cost management, etc. The ice for the drinks even melted over time. Pretty comprehensive for a ten year old, and very engaging. It can probably be credited as being the reason I chose to go into the field of business all these years later. That’s important.

It’s not  uncommon for businesses to begin courting college students in their Junior year these days, and some are even beginning to go earlier than that. Why not go even earlier? I think, on the long term, there could be great benefits for our economy if we invest in videogames aimed at drawing kids’ interest into business. Not just the crappy fly-by-night stuff you can find on free games websites on the internet, though. Something that’s had some effort and thought invested. Something designed to be truly engaging and with depth that scales with what the kid can handle.

Videogames are one of the most prominent forms of media for my generation, and for those following us. Let’s meet them where they are, on their terms, and see if we might just be able to raise up a generation of entrepreneurs.

Thanks for reading,


Business Naming Conventions

Most of us have, at one time or another, groaned at seeing yet another “Al’s Auto Shop” or “All American (insert business here)” sitting there as we drive on by to do whatever we’ doing. Most of the time, those are small businesses run by a sole proprietor or possibly a franchise. In either case, I can’t help but shudder at the sheer lack of imagination shown by whoever named the place. From what I’ve observed, there are two main trends in these generic business naming conventions:

  • Businesses named after their owner/founder.
  • Totally generic names that pop into mind if you spend only thirty seconds considering the topic.

But why? It has to be maddening trying to market for Al’s Auto Shop when customers have three businesses by that name to choose from within 5 square miles. I exaggerate (I hope), but the point is valid. In today’s market it’s essential to build your brand no matter the size of the market you’re competing in. It’s all about building relationships with customers and generating repeat business. One of the first steps in that direction is choosing a name that isn’t painfully generic.

You only get one first impression. I know that I, for one, tend to skip right over businesses with generic names. If there’s no effort or character in how they present themselves to me in that first instant, why should I think there’ll be any particular effort or unique twist put toward their product or service? I’ll pass them over in favor of someone who isn’t competing with ten thousand others for the same domain name for their website.

I’ll throw in one caveat: One type of business seems to be immune to the stigma of naming a firm after its founder, and that’s the financial industry. From local CPA firms and financial planners to the Big Four and massive investment bankers like Goldman Sachs. Something, and I suspect its the generally long lifespans and air of respectability, makes it acceptable to name your company after yourself in this area. But will even that last?

Thanks for reading,


Food for Business Thought

First, please forgive the hokey title. 😉

Recently I traveled to El Salvador as part of a business missions and outreach team. On that one week trip we did ministry and gave presentations on basic business topics at a university in San Salvador called USAM. All that was great, but one other thing that really stuck out to me on the trip was this: the food.

Anyone who’s been to a non-1st World country knows what I’m talking about here, before I say a word. The food there was simply amazing. We ate a lot of the local foods, especially pupusas, as part of learning the local culture. But here’s the thing: not only did the food please the tastebuds, it was completely genuine. And those who made it love what they do. I don’t think we realize just how fake and processed our food is here in the U.S. Since I’ve been back I’ve had a hard time finding TexMex I can stand to eat, because it’s such a poor imitation of the types of food I encountered there.

The food was good- so what? What’s the point? The point is this: the restaurants here often have better quality ingredients than those did. That is, the “healthiness” is better. Don’t get me wrong- I appreciate our super-low risk of food-borne sickness. But that doesn’t change the fact that its “healthiness” or “higher quality” doesn’t in any way compare to the genuineness of the Salvadorian food.

So is it enough to have the “highest quality” or “best product” in your given business? Will that satisfy the customer most? In my opinion, that won’t win out against a genuine, is-what-it-is product and/or experience delivered with passion and heart.

Genuineness. Es Chivo.

Thanks for reading,


Lives Ruined…by a Tax Cut?

It’s an interesting, if macabre, phenomenon: large swings in tax rates can influence peoples’ behavior, even to the point of choosing to die early. It’s not the cut that causes this so much as it’s the end of the cut and the increased rates that brings.

A good example of this has to do with the Estate Tax. It was repealed for 2010, meaning that anyone who died that year wouldn’t have to pay taxes from their estate. This led to a rash of rather suspect deaths, most notably that of Yankees’ majority owner George Steinbrenner III. Due to his death that July, the Yankees passed to his beneficiaries tax-free. If he had died any other year, they would have been forced to sell the team simply to pay the estate tax. Convenient, right? Too convenient, according to some. But no estate tax is no estate tax, and the IRS could only watch in envy as opportunity walked on by in her diamond-studded dress.

This begs the question, though: What about the next few months? If the Bush Tax Cuts, among some others, expire on December 31st, what will the effects be? In a rather tepid economy that hasn’t seen true recovery for years, plenty of people continue to struggle just to pay the bills and put food on the table. A sudden increase in rates could force them over the edge.

On top of that, capital gains rates will rise back up to 20% for long term investments and dividends will be taxed at taxpayers’ ordinary income tax rate. There will be consequences in the stock market in response to those changes, and they’re likely to be less than pleasant for most portfolios.

Of course, the government might (yet again) pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last second. I try not to make value judgments on politics here, but I will say this: I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being played with like that by either party. I’d rather see a real solution.

So what will people do in response to the changes? I’m far from qualified to point to anything with absolute knowledge, but my guess is that we’ll see, to some degree: foreclosures, bankruptcies, decreased investing, and maybe even additional unemployment as small business owners get socked with higher taxes.

What’s your take?

Thanks for reading,


Getting Back Into It

Sorry for the month and a half absence. I’d really wanted to be a lot more consistent with my posting here, but school this semester has been truly crazy. The difference between three and a half and four hours of sleep has been persuasive, I’m afraid.

Anyway- we’re coming into the holiday season now, and families are starting to think about Christmas shopping lists. In honor of all that, I thought I’d post up a couple of lists: books I recommend and books I’d like to read soon myself.

My Recommendations:

  • Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
  • Quitter by Jon Acuff
  • The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley & Dr. William D. Danko
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins
  • Little Bets by Peter Sims
  • The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

My Future Reading:

  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  • Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
  • Accept No Mediocre Life by David Foster
  • Business by the Book by Larry Burkett
  • The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Thou Shall Prosper by Rabi Daniel Lapin
  • The Legend of the Monk & the Merchant by Terry Felber
  • The Go-Getter by Peter B. Kyne
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki

That’s looking like a pretty nice list- and an exciting one. I might just make it my New Year’s Resolution for 2013 to read one of those a month, if not more.

Thanks for reading,