Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The rules of the great Ethnic Turkey Recipe Download are simple: Please post only recipes of any dish other than turkey that is served with your Thanksgiving meal that reflects a special ethnic, religious, national or geographic origin.
For example, the Hungarian Russian Polish East European and the minority represented WASP side of my family serves up brisket, stuffed cabbage, mashed eggplant, sour pickles, smoked fish, little white bread t-sandwiches, and vodka, while the Spanish, Turk, Greek Middle East side serves up chicken lemon soup, their version of stuffed cabbage, berekas, flaffel, flat bread with oregano, a red spicy eggplant, retsina Greek wine and humus. It comes together with the pumpkin pie, which tastes like it has garlic in it.
We are actively recruiting family members for the next generation in other ethnic groups. Please apply online. Equal opportunity family.
And yes we discuss politics.
This post is a free for all. And despite the ultimate title, open to all.
If I get enough, I am going to organize a site and call it The Great Ethnic Babson MBA Turkey Recipe book in honor of my classmates, but it is open to anyone, anywhere, including all my direct marketing, social media, SEO/SEM web, database analytic types, PR, event marketers, entrepreneurs, corporate types, branding colleagues (can't discriminate), family and friends, etc. All who contribute will be given credit.The recipe must be publishable, testable, and eatable.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Even strategy stuff which I thought I had down cold, I feel like I am getting whipped around the head with a bag of nickels (a metaphor from the strategy professor describing some other challeging issue that I thought was pretty straight forward but was not). Just hope the nickels end up in my pocket someday.
The beauty of study groups is that there is always someone around who understands it better than me, and they make great tutors. I help out where I can, stronger in marketing. Perhaps the best part of the MBA education is group socialization. Maybe we get it right, maybe we don't, but we are learning how to figure it out as collaborators rather than an the lone knight or knightess. As a result, of I had done the MBA 20 years ago, perhaps I would have followed a more corporate path since I might have learned earlier better how to work with groups of people, to understand group politics and coming up with group solutions. This could have happened at Columbia, NYU, but I am doing it at Babson, so there probably is a unique flavor to this learning environment, which I enjoy. Well, maybe except for that data analysis assignment on page 803.
Friday, May 15, 2009
There is an element of self-righteousness here, and I am no angel--sure I have shared work with colleagues and in return they have shared with me in private with understanding that the sharing is to generate thought, not steal it --- but what is being drilled into the heads of my Fast Track Babson class is not just the concept of the law but what is also ethical. To wit: Such a blatant solicitation to share potentially copyrighted material, e-books and papers in a public venue without the potential of attribution or payment is odious.
The concept of law and ethnics is not just focused on one class, but is a theme that permeates the program. While we are being trained as large "C" capitalists, we are also taking a serious look at the philosophy behind our business conduct. It is a matter of understanding what we are selling and that the buyer understands what they are getting. There is limited stomach for promoting a product like a CDO (that odious word that is likley to get some people reared up for comment) when we don't understand exactly what it does, but selling it anyway to people who think they know what it does, but then does not.
We are encouraged to develop a general, yet flexible rule, to establish the guidelines upfront before faced with an ethical issue.
We are studying the law, but also the ethical construct behind the law. Our readings include: Kant, Aristotle, Confucious, Jeremy Bentham, John Mill, as well as others.
Perhaps the philosphy that Babson is trying to get across, more than finance, marketing, supply chain management, or strategy can be summed up by a quote from Peter Cooper in 1874, just after the rampage of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall in New York City:
"I have always recognized that the object of business is to make money in an honorable manner. I have endeavored to remember that the object of life is to do good."
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
99% of us are getting an MBA to enhance our careers, which means more money or to use the degree in leveraging our passion whether it be a cause or to start a company.
There will always be a debate about fuzzy math and caveat emptor, but I believe that our responsibility is to be honest brokers of information. If we don't get it, we don't sell it. Idealized.
Since Tyler feels that the buyer beware, and I maintaint that the sellers were less than knowledgable, I throw down the guantlet. A $100 award for a debate between brokers circa 2006 and CFO's from small to medium sized municipalities, circa 2006. One has to pitch derivatives the other has to explain what they bought. The audience clap meter will tell us who wins.
I offer anyone this: 1) It has to be a debate has to be referreed by Babson professors with backgrounds in finance, ethics and law; 2) The rules are still in flux, so come up with a structure.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Westport is fast becoming a town of too much new construction on fair sized lots that are remaining vacant an unsold. Like note in an earlier post, it ain't Detroit, but eyebrows that have not been botoxed do raise a bit when houses that were on the market for $4 million sell at auction for $1.9 millon. It becomes worrysome when even the well off are denied new credit cards because their Experien credit report indicates that the value of their house has declined past even a modest mortgage. Things are getting a bit serious.
Unlike in NY where you might lose Kindergarten, Westport cuts back on things children in most towns, including pretty well-off towns, would be amazed at, which is why we moved here. I suppose it is a bit of just desserts since many MBA's, Lawyers and executives who got us in this spot do happen to live here as well.
This whole situation is pretty ironic and brings to mind a story from my days at Rutgers. One night in 1972 a student commited sucide by jumping off the roof of one of the river dorms yelling as he went down "I am not a derivative." Ahead of his time, it should be the rallying cry for the afternoon protest in front of Westport Town Hall. Maybe we can get some of our money back.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Fellow lap swimmer Captain Jack, graduate of the SUNY Martime Academy, ex- ship captain and now president of a privately held bulk cargo shipping company related how they are protecting their boats off the Gulf of Aden. Dripping wet, towl around his hips, Captain Jack did did say that whatever he was doing it was a way to get pirates to bother someone else. Deterence is the operating word.
I met Jack in Stamford at the Connecticut Martime Association convention a few years ago. Like Koreans who became green grocers in New York City 30 years ago, Greek and Norwegian shipping magnates moved to where other shipping magnates moved to and that was in the area around Greenwich and Stamford, CT., thus the area is now a shipping node as they say in the business. Their children are Americans, going to to Maritime Academies up and down the East Coast, marrying into each others families. They get Masters Degrees in International Transportation Management.They own ships, trade ships, book trade, they run chanderlies, supply ship crews, evacuation, customs paper work, ship hedge funds and private equity investments. In Feb. 2007 people were wondering when the party would end -- it had gone on almost 11 years. By September 2008, it ended.
Maritime conventions are interesting things. All things that matter begin with a chaplain reciting the Mariners Prayer. It don't matter your religion, you stand silently before invocation, because most of the audience knows that the Bermuda Triangle is a real thing. So are pirates.
Back to Jack. Jack's ships are bulk carriers. Pretty much recession proof since they move raw minerals from one place to another. Nice work if you can get it, just have to makes sure you have the right ship in the right place. If you can back haul stuff (learned about back hauling in Supply Chain Management), then you have a great business. As Jack notes, no man is an island and the supply chain is feeling the econonic heat. The biggest concern is staying in business and maximizing the ships. Like Wal-Mart 30 years ago where information allowed Wal-Mart to run trucks with cargo from stores as well as to to stores, the shipping business is trying to figure out how to keep those ships out there longer, competing for ever scarcer cargos. Otherwise Stamford, CT is going to have a lot of large ships sitting out in the Long Island Sound.
Sounds like a Babson Case Study in the making.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Moving on. The real entrepreneur in the family is Jane Moritz now the owner of http://www.challahconnection.com. Jane bought http://www.challahonnection.com from sales guy about 6 years ago who had developed a business delivering challah every Friday morning via newspaper delivery people. Stuffed into postal service boxes, sometimes eaten by squirrels and deer with occasional protests from local postmasters, www.challahconnection.com is now a totally online business in the great tradition of catalogers stretching back to Sears and through Kati Muldoon, REI, Smith and Hawkins and even IBM.
Inventory arrives by UPS, USPS, FEDEX and delivery dudes in the morning and picked up as Jewish gift baskets by UPS, USPS, and FEDEX in the evening. Shiva baskets -- the event that marks a Jewish death for seven days after a funeral--are the big sellers, followed by Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa (go figure), Jewish High Holidays, Purim and Passover. Working with Sherry, her underemployed Columbia MBA mom (she should have gone to Babson) and several high school girls who know how to tie a ribbon, the business has grown a great deal through Search and PPC and social media and live chat. Direct mail and advertising are duds.
Over the years she has taken over a few competitors who could not adapt to the new way of the web catalog. They plotzed.
Now I know the goods are good because when I leave little tastings around Babson as bribes to professors and administrators and fellow students, they just kvell. He who shall go nameless even said it reminded him of his mother's baking.
Todays promotion will make you plotz (see it in full living color on her website):
"Mother's Day is May 10! It's the day to make her kvell, plotz and see what a mensch you
are. Free shipping on all orders over $75. Use code FS09. Follow us on Twitter!
For Mother's Day, Give Your Mom Something to Plotz About!
Shop Now and Get Free Shipping!*She'll be so proud of you for getting a deal. Why not make
While you got to love it --she is my wife afterall so I do love it-the real question is who is going to get us out of this economic mess? She and probably the 20 million new small business start-ups who like my wife who come up with a game changing idea that actually makes money, rather papers it over with derivatives, accounting changes to GAAP and the next form of credit default swaps.
Mind you I wish I had the brains to think up a legal and moral form of CDO's. That is why I am in MBA school to make me a more creative thinker -- I am seeing signs that might actually happen, but from a moral point of view, let's hope that some of the financial types out of work come back with some tangible substance buttered on challah.
Meanwhile, Jane is saving the economy one challah at a time.
Note: This is not a paid political announcement, all views herein are mine and not my wife's, the local caterer, customers, prospects or anyone connected with any government agency. But it could be a sales message.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Yvonne is another story. A long lost Texan gal, now Westport residdent who now owns a popular coffee shop in Westport called Docs is more worried that the solutions are coming fast enough. She'll tell you she did not vote for Obama, but she likes him, she just hopes there is enough time to fix the mix. A very plain speaking woman, Yvonne is quite colorful in describing the morning traffic that used to stop in on the way to the trains station: it is way down. She can't figure out if half the town has been laid off or is going on vacation. Wish I knew. Her solution to the whole mess is to keep on making that coffee. The parking lot is not half empty at rush hour, its still half full.
Friday, March 20, 2009
The AIG witch hunt did come to Westport as well, seeking out devious capitalists with contracts. Despite being an unapologetic lefty capitalist, the witch hunt is nuts. While I question the moral fiber of things like CDO's, swaps and derivatives sold to unsuspecting sophisticated souls, my feeling is that contracts are contracts. I know, when we sold a company, we had a contract, and although we exceeded expectations, I would have been really pissed off if someone had come in and unilaterally taken away my contract.
More to the point. As of March 31, 2009, the AIG blow-up is off the front page, in fact it has disappeared from our consciousness.
Speaking with my friend Tim Manners, a local spin doctor and owner/editor of the HUB, just after the the AIG fiasco aired in mid-March, we both felt that the way it was handled in the press was a classic Blow UP Marketing. While the Clinton administration did not know how to handle Blow UP Marketing, and the Bushies were just too Republican to get it, the Obama Administration has embraced Blow UP Marketing as a critical communications tool.
It works like this: You take the irritant, build on where the press is going is going with the irritant, check the poll numbers to see if the public is getting good and crazed and if they are, fan the flames of fury like a tornado. Like a good old fashion laser canon that vaporizes everything in it's path, the fury is gone in a few days. It is cathartic. You cry your eyes for a week and forget about "it" and then focus on the real problems at hand.
Thus, the NY Times breaks the AIG Story on Sunday March 15th, the administration got rightfully indigent in the press on March 16th, Congress got into the act on March 17th and by March 25th or so all the fury was spent. No more bus visits to homes of rich people, the President called off the witch hunt and even some of the AIG folks paid back some if not all of their bonuses.
It's been blown up, its gone, at least until the next irritant.
Put that lawyer in front of a jury in the Bronx and he can forgetta about it. They'd tell the lawyer to go slap his clients around the head, say some nasty words and throw them in jail if they violated the law. Even on a lesser count, eating all the cookies in the cookie jar, the jury would tell the lawyer to tell the clients that there be the financial equivilant of no more TV, computer games, FACEBOOK, hand over your Blackberry's and cell phone. No dinner, go right to bed. Curfew is at 7pm.
To suggest that some highly educated adults from Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, (dear god I hope not Babson) the London School of Economics, are incapble of understanding what they were doing seems pretty dumb. Think about it, people pay upwards of $120,000 to get an MBA from Harvard and you are going to tell the jury that they don't get understand how we can insure bonds for more than then the GDP?
The lawyer proably feels that when his kid turns 21, that the kid has no responsibility to drive safely and not tresspass because he is of legal age.
Tell me this lawyers name and I ask him if he gets a ticket for speeding is it his fault or the fault of the ordinance that says he can only do 25. How about when he smoked pot in college? Did he get caught? Probably not since he was admitted to the bar. But if he did, who would he blame? The law or himself?
Starting today, if anyone has some good case studies on how Congress allowed highly educated adults to break the law, send me the post.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
See the email from my classmate, Curt:
Wed 3/18/2009 12:25 PM
To: Moritz, JoshuaSubject: Money magazine article
Just read your article in money magazine:
Congratulations on the press and way to go, on plugging Babson's MBA program! Us Babson MBA's need to look out for each other.
How did you get hooked up with Money Magazine?
For perspective, pall is a relative thing. Westport will never be Detroit or Cleveland where the housing stock has gone bad, or home to unionized labor (well maybe there are a few) that have to make concessions to make sure GM will survive. Nor does Westport have to worry about the Headstart program will be eliminated (there is none), or that our community pool will close this summer because we can't afford lifeguards. No, none of that.
But there is a pervasive feeling that economically the town is off kilter. Well educated people from well heeled schools with MBA's, PHD's, MA's and law degress are feeling a wee bit of concern that a certain lifestyle guaranteed by money and education is not quite what it used to be. Give back the Bentleys and hold onto that BMW.
Those people - as our proudly over-educated, bi-racial (her description), perpetual student, piano playing, book-keeper would say-- are employees and refugees from places like UBS, Citibank, WPP, AIG, Goldman Sach's, and a variety of law firms, unique hedge funds and smaller companies. Many are now self-employed and often self-important.
There are plenty in denial, while others are hunkering down in the way that the well off know how to hunker down: they buy coffee machines for the office instead of going to Starbucks, they bring in cases of Snapple (50 cents each when purchased by the case from Costco), they cancel Aspen and go to Vermont. Florida on miles. They begin to tend to their own lawns, but when you own a 15,000 square foot house on two acres, you buy a garden tracker.
As if they could not get away from doing a bit of M&A work, some people are seriously thinking about combining several kid's Bar Mitzvah parties into one to acknowledge these trying economic times.
People are beginning to wonder: what do you do when there is no bonus?
Maybe I should have gone to MSW school to become a therapist. MBA is beginning to seem so last year.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
From: Paul R*
Sent: Tue 3/3/2009 10:42 AMT
To: Moritz, JoshuaSubject: Money Magazine
I just wanted to say hello. My name's Paul R.* and I'm a Babson Fast Track student on the West Coast, in the Portland Cohort. I graduate this year.
I was waiting for a flight yesterday in the airport and flipping through Money magazine. I saw your name/article and it made me proud to be a Babson student, so I wanted to say thanks, and hello, and see how things are going for you.
I also used to work in the ad agency world, but on the PR side. I did public relations for 6 years in Philadelphia. I now am in tech sales at a company called Smarsh.
Take care, and maybe I'll see you in May at graduation if you're in the same year as me?
*Paul asked that his name be abbreviated for privacy reasons.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
But what about the concept of marketing for social change? At Babson there is an emphasis on social entrepreneurship -- which I think is pretty amazing since Babson celebrates, honest, legitimate capitalism with a big "C". The school is out to create dynamic individuals with a moral sense that know how to work as teams in a collaborative way--amusing since I usually think of entrepreneurs as some of the most territorial people in the world -- that might actually want to take their talents and use them for the social good in NGO's, non-profits and in education.
One gentleman who would have fit the social entrepreneurship mold at Babson goes by the name of Jack O'Dell. Without realizing it in 1961, he may have had a hand in influencing the elections of 2008.
O'Dell created and led direct mail fund raising campaigns in 1961 that accounted for over 50% of the organizational budget that supported Dr. Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s civil rights efforts.
In that first year, for an expenditure of $10,000, this direct mail campaign generated over $80,000 and a master list of 12,000 proven contributors, a significant feat for 1961. In 1961, he was one of the pioneers in direct mail fund-raising. He learned direct mail marketing from courses he was taking at New York University.
This achievement is more remarkable given what O’Dell had to work with in 1961: there were no civil rights donor lists, no opt-in databases, no donor histories or credit scores, no demographic or psychographic profiles, no Facebook, Twitters or Linked-In. There was no data analysis or computer to crunch the numbers. Success was a combination of great judgment and masterful execution.
O'Dell did not know that he was as social entrepreneur, but his actions helped to change the way Americans live. Like some NOVA documentary on PBS, you could almost trace history from that day in 1961 when O'Dell sent out those fund raising letters through all sorts of social change that includes voting rights, civil rights, Title 9, non-discrimination in housing and even politicians.
For more information about O'Dell see the book “Parting The Waters, America in the King Years 1954 to 1963,” copyright, 1989, Taylor Branch, published by Simon and Shuster, pages 574 to 575.
Some biographical information from the Web:
"Born in 1923, Jack O’Dell was raised in Detroit and educated in its public schools. He has spent nearly 50 years as an organizer for the labor, civil rights, and peace movements. While a Merchant Marine, he was active in the National Maritime Union. Briefly a member of the Communist Party in the early 1950s because of its anti-racist stance, he resigned to join the Civil Rights movement in the late 1950s. By 1959 he was a field organizer for the first “March on Washington for Integrated Schools,” which was co-chaired by A. Philip Randolph, Harry Belafonte, and Jackie Robinson. The following year he joined Dr. King’s efforts and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A close advisor to Dr. King, he helped to plan the historic 1963 Birmingham campaign which helped pave the way for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Along with his subsequent writing and teaching and his work with Jesse Jackson in Operation PUSH and the Rainbow Coalition, he has consistently applied his organizing expertise to help plan and carry out nationwide demonstrations against wars and weapons proliferation from Vietnam to the 1991 Gulf War.
O’Dell is currently residing in Vancouver, Canada with his wife, Jane Power."
When I told mom that I was thinking about an MBA she said, why not get a Maserati instead? Live a little, she said.
My mom was thinking that her son was having a mid-life crisis. For the fun of it, I had just test driven a Maserati Quatroporte. Ever the direct marketer, I was intrigued by the direct mail offer that Maserati sent to me. The reward was a $100 gift card to the Smith and Wollinksy steak house in New York. Drive a great car and eat well. What's not to like?
Mom did have have a point, but it sounded a bit like to me the economic rule of instant gratification vs. saving for the future.
For comparison's sake, a three year lease on the Maserati actually costs less than a Babson MBA, about $40,000 vs. roughly $51,000 to $55,000 all in for business school. Throw in the cost of extra gas vs. my hybrid which gets roughly 37 MPG, I figure it was a wash.
The seats and stereo are nicer in the Maserati vs. Olin Hall at Babson, and you don't have papers, finals and quizzes, work in a study group, or for that matter work 25 hours per week on homework. The Quatroporte is a lot faster than even the two Fast Track Babson MBA program.
Doing a primitive NPV analysis, I figured out that that if I was right, the Babson MBA was likely to pay bigger dividends in the long-term, although in the short-term there are days now when it seems the Maserati would have been more gratifying.
From an intellectual side, you can't do mechanical things yourself on a Maserati like I was able to do with my oil burning Chevy back in college. You need a master's degree in mechanics. The car would have been fun to drive, my wife and I would have gone parking maybe a couple of times, the kids would have put their feet on the dash and dog would have left her hair on the seats.
The Maserati sales person even informed me that there were only 7 other people in my town that were driving them. Reminded me of the time in Barney's Men Store when the sales person said would you like to buy a Mercedes or a Chevy. I looked at the Chevy suite I was test driving, thought it looked a hell of lot nicer than the one I saw at Brooks Brothers and said "Chevy."
Although I like a good meal, wearing fine clothes some of the time and driving fast cars, status conscious I ain't.
So to mom I say this: my Babson MBA won't depreciate nearly as fast as the Maserati, no matter what the sales person says. Besides it might get me somewhere faster in the long term.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4 - 6:00-8:00pm
Blank Center Rotunda
Learn from 4 experienced entrepreneurs that used credit cards, cash, and retirement accounts to launch successful businesses without outside financial help
Marco Protano has worked for more than twenty years building businesses through strategic marketing within Fortune 100 clients, such as First National Bank of Boston, Nestle, RJR Nabisco, and Bristol Meyers. He has started his own ventures in e-commerce and CPG brands and sold the ventures to public and private firms.
Jane Moritz began her career as a marketing executive working for advertising agencies like Ogilvy and Mather, Wunderman, Barry Blau and Partners and McCann Erickson. She started her first venture in 1987. Initially focusing on newsletters for exercise studios and gyms, the business grew into a successful direct marketing ad agency. She then bootstrapped her second venture, www.challahconnection.com through a variety of methods.
Steve Lehman has over 30 years experience in sales management, marketing and general management with a comprehensive background in publishing, media, marketing, advertising and franchising. He has held a variety of executive and management positions from Advertising Director to SVP, Group Publishing Director, President and CEO. He has led the development and launch of new products as well as spearheaded three E-Commerce and Marketing web sites.
Karen Couto started NewGround Publications on a very small budget, keeping costs low until revenue began rolling in. Profits were reinvested in marketing the business. NewGround now has 14 small business guidebooks in Spanish and English which are sold in bulk to large banks, colleges, and SBA organizations.
Food and drinks will be provided.
To RSVP email firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the great things about Babson is that their secret sauce is teaching people how to start businesses and to teach and encourage people to network. Babson will supply all the coffee you need to keep going. You want to have dinner or lunch with someone in the Babson community and all you have to do is flash your student or alumni ID and bingo you have lunch.
If your were a shy person going into the program, you learn how to talk to walls by the time you leave.
In the undergraduate community, there is almost a requirement for teams to put together proposals, get money from the school and start small businesses. It's the Obama Stimulous package on steriods.
With my classmate and fellow entrepreneur Mary Sandro (Babson Fast Track Section 2, October 2008) owner of a ProEdge Skills, we put together a panal on how to start your business with boot strap financing. Tish Costillo and Dan Marques of the Babson Blank Center (www3.babson.edu/ESHIP/eship.cfm) hosted the event. Panelists included my wife, Jane Moritz, owner of the http://www.challanconnection.com/, Karen Couto, owner of http://www.newgroundpublications/, Steve Lehman, owner of http://www.ezmatchfinancing.com/, Mary, http://www.proedgeskills.com/. At the last minute I was recruited as the moderator (my website: http://www.customer-growth.com/).
The Blank Center is one of the many nexus of entrepreneurship development at Babson. Headed up by Patricia Costello, the Center's mission (from the website) is to "lead the global advancement of entrepreneurship education and practice through the development of teaching, research, and outreach initiatives that inspire entrepreneurial thinking and cultivate entrepreneurial leadership in all organizations and society."
To me it is like opening up a pint of Jerry Garcia Ice Cream from Ben and Jerry's. Delicious, innovative, forthcoming, friendly and extra-ordinary helpful--which I know is hard to say about Ice Cream. Including Ms. Costello and Dan Marques, I have been networking like a fiend with various Blank Center people as a means to build my contact list for new assignments and new business opportunities. I soon realized the plying various people with cookies from my wife's business wasn't enough and that volunteering my time was probably the best avenue to say thank you and get in the kitchen to meet even more people.
I learned this lesson during some volunteer work I was doing in the early 1980's. What I found was that literally working in the kitchen prepping food and cleaning up was a great way to network with people of similar concerns and bearing. While then it was more to build a network of friends, applying this concept to business seemed natural, only it took me another 20 years to figure it out.
Thus I volunteered to do this panel, recruited Mary to help out, convinced Jane my wife to be the first panelist and voila we are rocking along.
The purpose of the panel was to demonstrate how entrepreneurs start businesses without any outside venture money, face credit short-falls, credit cut-offs and dip into savings and retirment accounts to start and maintain businesses. Many of the start-up stories were downright funny, but the critical lesson was that you always have to find a way to keep your credit rating great by paying all your bills on-time, even if you have to pay the minimums due. Negotiate with vendors when shot with cash, but pay everyone something every month.
We were not talking about just the credit cards, but all bills.
We all had great stories to tell about using retirement accouts, savings and credit cards and friends and family to help get the business rolling. We all faced the moments of dread when we had to pay bills (kiting from one credit card to another was a popular example) and the need to apply for credit when the going is good. When the going is bad there is no way to get credit.
One of the best stories was the time one of the panelists used a 401K to start a business without realizing that you can't just take the money our of a retirement account out forever without penality. The panelist recalled that they were single when they did this. By the time the IRS caught up with the mistake, they were now married -- it took about 18 months. As you know the IRS does not look kindly on these mistakes and assesed a pretty hefty penalty on what was now a couple not a single person. Talk about a marriage tax penalty!
The moral of the story: timing is everything. To secretly share your start-up costs with a significant other, do it during the dating phase but don't admit to it until you are contractually committed to each other and the IRS notice comes due.
To the point about networking, the students attending the panel had preprinted business cards to hand out. I never had a business card as a student -- to the Babson folks it is their badge. Two undergradates flashing these badges: Evan Morkawa and Marco Morales who started a company called Alight Learning (http://www.alightlearning.com/) and are taking a 1 year sabatical from the Olin College Engineering school --which my classmate Kam He says is like MIT only better. Whipping out business cards faster than muggers with handguns on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the mid-1980s, these two guys were on the hunt for information from marketing to money.
Fast Tracker classmates in attendence included Kam, who arrived from China about 20 years ago with two suitcases and was now flashing a card promoting himself as a venture capitalist --last month I thought he was a software engineer. Ilaya Ilyin from Russia who commented on the fact that things were a bit more liberal in the USA than Russia when it comes to finance, Mary of course, and Sal who is in a class ahead. Sal is actually bidding on using incubator space at The Blank Center to start a business while he is in school and working. But more on that in another Blog posting.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Of course, no way. Although I consider myself a pretty bright guy,and unless there is some devine elightenment (and frankly given my performance in my finance course), this education is going to give me an idea of how we got into this mess, but not necessarily how to come up with a solution. There are plenty of smart people worrying about that. I am going to concentrate on coming up with a business idea that I love and that makes me some money. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind on taking a few minutes of making a contribution to the solution.
My feeling is that while I might join Wall Street either in the form of private equity or investment banking or just go back to being a marketing guy, is that our financial system is a form of legalized piracy even under the most draconian regulations. Smart Mafia dudes would do well to go to Babson (and if they have to settle for Harvard or Wharton, so be it) and leave the "business" behind and just come up with the next form of Credit Default Swaps that the SEC and Congress never even considered regulating.
I know that my finance professor disagrees with my POV regarding that the finance is really a form of legalized piracy. But he did give us to read a wonderful article called "Fuzzy Numbers" by a guy named David Henry (McGraw Hill, copyright, 2000-2004) which described that much of our financial reporting is clearly an art, not an exact science. I learned that GAAP is not short for Generally Approved Accouting Principles for nothing. You really have to read the footnotes in financial statements and then "scrub" the numbers by adding in and subtracting out certain items in order to get a fair comparable understanding of what is going on in a company. Given the broad way numbers can be presented and altered, legally, a regular old fashion consumer of financial products really should just invest in a well regarded mutual fund or bank CD's. You have to have the tempermant and at least a bit of training to understand the fine print--it is caveat emptor. Even though I don't think that I will be able to leave Quickbooks behind, I am hoping that by the time I take my next financial course I will be at least a bit capable of geting to the bottom of the annual reports and 10K's.
One of my favorite investment stories, is my father's investment in Chock Full Of Nuts coffee stock in the late 1950's to cover my college education. Despie almost finishing a PHD in engineering, dad did not exactly follow the stock market carefully. I think his investment went from $10 to $1 by the time I was 18. He should have read the fine print.
A more recent one are the people who have invested in bank stocks that were trading around $5 a few weeks ago and are now even lower, thinking that how could they go lower? Well guess what, you don't know what you don't know and the stock market is kind of emotional.
There was a great story of Iococca taking over Chrysler in 1979 when the car company was struggling then. The stock was trading at $11 and Ioccocca was quoted as saying how much lower could it go? The next year it went to $5. And of the soccer coach who had lost all 10 games for the season. How worse could it go? He lost 11 the following year since his team now had to play 11 games not 10. So my advice: invest heavily, take risks but with a juandiced eye; be sure that you are willing to drive a taxi-cab well into retirement just in case.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
It was an enthusastic response. Within hours of my posting, I had more than 50 responses and within a day over 70. One MENG colleague I did not know, looked up my phone number and called me from San Francisco to give me advice. Some it was negative, most of it was very positive and sometimes cautionary.
I found the summary of that requst, here it is. (If you want to see some the emails, please contact me.):
Thank you all that wrote in. The request generated more than 50 responses in few hours. Here are the findings:
1) Amongst responders, it was about 40 to 2 in favor of the EMBA (the others were more informational and not offering a comment one way or the other). In order of positive mentions:
a. Intellectual development
b. Expanding horizons
c. Network opportunities
d. Career development (valuable mid-career development especially
within the same industry and company)
e. Improved current professional situation
f. People not in favor said that it was age and where you are in your career vs. opportunity
costs that might make an unprofitable endeavor - see points 10 and 11 below-the older you are the harder the payback
i. Headhunters seem to be neutral on a later career MBA. But they do say it never harms to have the credential especially as a consultant or as a tie-breaker for a job
ii. On theother hand, new knowledge could make you more valuable to an organization -seems to refresh the brain (like I said, they seem kind of wishy washy)
2) People in favor of the EMBA were not just enthusiastic but effusive, even gushing about their programs even if they were not the name brand schools: it was about knowledge,
network and career. Age ranged from late 20s through their late 40s
3) It's hard work, 20 to 25 hours per week outside of class
a. Make sure your significant other and your family buy into you doing this. You must carve out time for school, work and family if you are so situated
4) Columbia had the most frequent and most favorable mentions withstrengths in finance and strategy
5) People love Thunderbird even though none of the Thunderbird attendees did the distance learning MBA program, and even if some did not get jobs right out of the program
6) Only two people knew about Babson. One of them an instructor was quite impressed with the program and students
7) People from SMU, U of Texas, Drexel, Rutgers all thought their programs were great and did great things for their careers
8) The NYU EMBA had one favorable mention. It is widely seen as strong in finance (the lack of mentions may reflect that MENG is a marketing group of people, not a finance group of
9) Name brand is important to the outside world. For example, a person from one of the top ranked programs in 2000 mentioned that he is introduced in meetings as having attended the XXX EMBA . Others made the same comment
10) One person cautioned that they cost much more than the regular programs offered by the same school, nearly 40% to 50% in most cases.
a. This leads to the cost benefit analysis discussion brought up by two people
b. If it is that more expensive, you have to be sure to leverage itvthat much more
11) Several people suggested that at a late career path, you might want to consider less expensive certificate programs that focus on 4 or 5 courses in a specific area, such as finance or direct marketing.
a. On the MENG Site there is a document called "MENG-Saw Sharpening" that outlines a
number of educational opportunities outside of the graduate school environment
12) Make sure the program has a network that is open to networking, a strong Alumni association, an administration that stresses networking and post graduation collaboration, the students themselves, strong career services, post graduate seminars. Not every program in the top 100 has this- so investigate carefully. Strong network mentions included Columbia, SMU, Texas (not an EMBA mention), Rutgers, Thunderbird
a. There seems to be an issue with some programs that people become friends for life, but not business associates. This is not a common theme in most responses, but it came up a couple times.
13) In doing any online or offline course work, make sure it is accredited by strong regional and national associations
a. State accreditation is not considered good, especially if you want to teach
b. Regional - done by six regional agencies that are part of the National Board of Education. These degrees are recognized at all accredited institutions. The six agencies are NEASC, NCA, MSA, SACS, WASC, NWCCU. Do a google search to find these agencies and their list of schools
c. AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) Top tier of accreditation for business programs.
My take-away from all of this:
1) Its about the knowledge, the friends and network you make
2) The payback is up to the individual and how they leverage it at any age
3) Less expensive alternatives exist, but they are very focused
Thanks to all.
Monday, February 23, 2009
During the start-up phase of the agency, I started investigating several executive MBA programs in the New York area: NYU both the domestic and international program, Columbia, Baruch, UCONN. I also looked at a programs at the New School (a masters program that was more like a mixture of business and public policy) at McGill in Toronto, Babson and even Northwestern. I dropped the idea again when all of sudden we had 5 accounts towards the end of 2002 and just was too busy to even think about school. There were too many things to do.
I also dropped out of teaching. As I was leaving the Masters program at NYU, my supervisor also said that I should really think about getting my MBA since if I ever wanted to pursue life as a part-time college professor on the Masters level, that I would need the degree. While the commment made me pause, I was not motivated enough to think about teaching quite yet since I was pursuing business as a career and not teaching. It was again something to file away for the future.
Customer Growth was very well positioned for the types of clients that we took on: financial services, insurance and software arenas, traditional heavy users of direct mail and email. For a longtime it was a great system. As clients left one company and moved to another, we moved with them and kept our curent customers as well. We were concerned though that we were pigioned holed as the direct mail guys, and despite proposals to build web sites, utlize web analytics, banners, pop-ups, PPC, SMS Text, Blogging, PR, trade shows, advertising, outdoor, dancing emails, social networking, databases, lists, even twitters, we were always precieved as the direct mail guys.
Our clients loved our work but said that they had a slew of online specialists and that we needed to stick to our knitting.
The problem was defining what was the knitting. To us it was interactive marketing which encompassed a slew of media, to them it was direct mail and maybe email.
It wasn't helping that I just finished two book like reports on the credit card industry or that I was pulling together the interactive boot camp held at the Direct Marketing Association each year. Or acting as a CMO for start-ups where I really did use all forms of interactive, advetising, branding, outdoor, PR, telemarketing, CRM to sell and service all sorts of stuff.
I was beginning to think it was time to rename the agency to Dinosaur Direct.
I can't change my age and I am not about to dye my hair -- something about a 54 year old with those strange redish brown dews just don't seem very natural. Works for my wife, not for me.
But one can change the way one thinks, what they know and who they know. After working many years with NYU SCPS, I knew that education can turbo charge the brain cells and the netowrk.
I thought about getting a graduate certificate in social networking, bogging, SEO, but realized that all of this could come and go.
What I wanted was a new network and a degree that could lead in new areas. I was also facinated by the legalized piracy going on Wall Street (my Babson finance professor disagrees with my analysis) and I had no real understanding of finance, operations research, or international marketing.
I also think doing something counter-intuitive to the norm can be a game changer; and it can impress propects, clients and people in general for that critcal extra 5 seconds it takes to make a relationship or to get in the door. (Amazingly, there are quite of few people in their 50's at the Babson Fast Track program who must be thinking in the same way -- so much for being truely unique.)
Let's not also forget that what you learn can make you a better marketer, consultant or general manager helping your company and clients grow.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The apartment was so cheap that I had more than enough money to do whatever I wanted to and save about 20% of income per year. Living there was also a return to the Shtettle where I began my life. M grandmother bothered the housing office for four to make sure that when my name came up, they were going to find me and offer me an apartment. See, these were non-profit Co-ops, set up under some strange NY State law that said you could only buy and sell the apartments through the housing office. The prices were frozen at the 1959 price, so in 1981, I paid a grand total of $1500 for a 1 bedroom apartment, overlooking the East River with a huge balcony. My monthly cost was about $250 per month, which topped out over 7 years to about $400 per month. Grandma was really happy that I was in the neighborhood. She asked for a key to the apartment so she could stuff the freezer with all sorts of food that would make the manufacturers of Lipotor salivate. Because of privacy I declined her offer, gave the key to my neighbor Faye instead. I was living fat and happy. Really low rent meant that corporate ambition could be deferred, being a floozy could continue.
Fast forward 20 years; by this point I have not only married, but I have three kids, my wife and I have sold our first advertisng agency. As any entrepreneur knows, getting to the point where you have a company big enough to sell is not easy, lots of potholes along the way, near death experiences and salvations. Fun stuff. While I enjoyed my time at the agency that acquired us, I also knew that in my early 40's it was time to move on. During that time, one of things that I did was teach at NYU in the direct marketing certificate and master's program. While that too was fun, I realized that the life of adjunct was very limiting and not monetarily rewarding. Without a master's I was not going anywhere fast in this type of track.
Although I had been a general manager at an ad agency before starting mine, I realized that if I were to change careers, I would have to seriously think about a graduate degree. I also realized that all my training was in marketing; I had no real experience in finance, operations and my negotiating skills were limited. So I had to broaden my experience and broaden my knowledge.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
"Do you really think an MBA this late in life will get clients? Do they care about your education or examples of your business successes for your clients? You may be spending your hard-earned money for basically nothing."
No formal degree will ever get you clients or a job or a career. You get there the old fashion way: hard work, networking, selling good ideas and selling yourself. Learning to be a collaborator. You have to sell yourself in person, learn to communicate well, provide an honest evaluation of your skill set and capabilities. You don't get hired because you went to Babson, Yale, Harvard or the London School of Economics, or by stretching the truth about who you are or what you can deliver. You get hired because you probably learned how to to think well and became a broader thinker as a result of professors, your peers and ideas and activities you get exposed to offered by any educational institution. How you leverage the education, that is what gets you the clients, the job or in front of a VC. It becomes one of the many, and perhaps one of the most critical, tools in your toolbox.
Payout is critical. If you think you have a limited number of years, you have to work really hard at leveraging the degree. That said, I met a 63 year old doctor at Columbia Exec. MBA who said he wanted to buy a bank, and that a finance certificate was not enough education. At Babson I met a guy in his 50s who was in the music instrument business. He was president of the company. As he said its about the 200 case studies you would never read on your own. He began to leverage that knowledge whether he was in China negotiating or on a factory floor in the U.S.
School is not just a place where a professor lectures you. You must be assertive (even to the point of making mistakes and what better place to do that in a place where you pay to make those mistakes) in making connections with people who can help you achieve your goals and lead you to new potential directions you never would have thought about. Going back to school is more than a conversation starter, it provides you with new talents ranging from negotiation skills to a deep understanding of finance and new forms of marketing and exposure to management concepts and technology that did not exist 30 years ago.
It provides a foundation for some and enhancement for many in leadership development and team building.
As for payback, which I will get into later, there is one exercise that I have already applied to my business and to my client's businesses: "Define one focused need statement." But more on this later.
How you leverage your skills and education to find a client, to start a new business or a new division for a company, becomes a critical component of success. Place an ROI against it; measure your own payback.
In the end, you create your own luck.
Monday, February 16, 2009
The truth was I was a bit arrogant since I had been running the business department of the college newspaper, The Rutgers Daily Targum. I figured I knew all that business school had to offer. After all, I had 5 or 6 direct reports and 100 part-time employees, a $250,000 annual budget and made $5000 per year in my junior and senior years at a time when tuition, room and board for school was less than $2000. I went to small claims court to sue deadbeat advertisers, settled all sorts of legal claims, sold advertising, learned how to manage the accounting (thank goodness we had a real book-keeper;there was no Quickbooks in those days). My friends Arthur and Sherwin sold advertising like crazy and I got commissions on their commissions. We still chuckle over the time the local sub shop - Greasy Tony's-- owed us money from the previous year (maybe a $1000) and they wanted to advertise their "buy one get one free" kick off for the fall semester. Arthur noticed that on the day he went to get the ad copy and I told him no advertising until they paid, that Greasy Tony's was taking a large delivery of cold cuts for the special. In an astute move that has made Arthur fairly well off as an adult, he told Tony that all that meat was going to go bad unless he could advertise with us and the only way he could advertise with us was to pay off the bill. Arthur walked out with a check for $1000. The ads ran, Tony sold out. The check did not bounce.
Further adding fire to find a job versus getting the MBA was that my grades were pretty mediocre, barely breaking 2.9 and those low down GMATs scores were just hanging over my head like little ice picks. Everntually, even Bill Kolodinsky came around to the realization that I was not going to graduate school and helped me get my first advertising job. MBA off the radar.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
The Babson Fast Track program is a hybrid. After the first kick-off week - in which I felt that the program should be called Heart Attack, not Fast Track--we do our studies online during the week and then meet in person every six weeks on campus in Wellesely, MA. There is also a Portland program for people on the West Coast.
During the week, professors download lectures, readings and assignments. We read, discuss the ideas virtually via discussion boards, Sharepoint, Wiki's, conference calls and emails. We sometimes have live lectures online via product called Elluminate. While the subject matter maybe challenging, the lectures are in clear, concise Americanized English. To me this is an improvement over the calc lectures that were taught by non-English speaking professors who could not understand your questions and you could not understand their answers.
If you are like me, I sometimes phase out during course lectures, particularly at night. Since everything is online all the time, all you have to do is back-up a section of the lecture you might have missed to hear it again.
Unlike in the offline world, you don't have to hunt down professors to get questions answered. They answer them via email and pretty quickly most days. Classmates are also great at answering questions as well.
Our study group generally meets every Sunday night via conference call to discuss the next weeks assignments, some of which we need to respond to collaboratively. We can be anywhere. This week one my study group was calling in from India, while another called in from Italy at the beginning of January.
Overall, I would say that we have at least as good sense of community as any does in the offline world.
I loved both schools from the start. My virtual network gave rave reviews to Columbia and Babson. The classes were really interesting. Even the instructor in finance kept my interest up for 2 hours.
Columbia while closer geographically, though, seemed at the time to be attacting a group that was very Wall Street and at this late stage in my career, that did not seem to be where I was going.
Babson's secret sauce is entrepreneurism, which is what I do; they breath it from main street to Wall Street. I met people who are working in family businesses, at start-ups, VC's and in larger companies. They came from all over the world. Several people in my cohort come travel in from places like London and Shanghai, Venezuela, New York, Connecticut (me) and California. People may live in Boston but they seem to be as likely to be US born as coming in from Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, China and Africa.
I had dinner one night with a classmate who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China. His chief complaint right now is that his Americanized sons have it too soft. I don't exactly meet people with those kinds of experiences in Westport, CT. who are my contemporaries.
1) To renew my marketing license. Much as changed in 30 years since I left school. While I am good marketer, I needed an update that I believe combined with my experience will make me a more powerful marketer either within my company (www.customer-growth.com) or as an independent marketing consultant
2) I wanted to hone my entrepreneurial skills. I am pretty good entrepreneur, but I never believed I was a great intuitive business person. I felt that the Babson program would enhance this skill (more on why the Babson Fast Track MBA program later)
3) I needed to learn finance. I have zippo knowledge in this area and the intro course is proving to be really facinating even if i am finding it a tough slog. I have hopes that one of my next entrepreneurial endeavors (for self, a company, a VC or non-profit) will incorporate this knowledge
4) I needed diversity. Nothing against my partners, but after 6 years of working with guys who look like me, sound like me (well not quite that), think like me a bit, and living in the suburbs, it was time to be exposed to new points of view. I needed to meet people who were not like me, who had new perspectives, new ways of seeing things, new ideas. I had become clositered. Like a friend visiting me in NYC from the mid-west once said to me when I asked her what kind of food did she want and she replied: "Anything Ethnic." Multiply that thought a few times and you get my drift.
5) I needed to broaden my horizens. I have spent nearly thirty years in advertising, general branding and direct marketing. The world had changed; I needed to see it.
6) I needed to expand my network of contacts and friends. I wanted to see who else was out there to help me build my business and for me to build theirs. As one behavorial test once showed, a new prospect is a friend I haven't made yet.
I started this epic just after my father died in August 2006 at the age of 82. I had been thinking about graduate school for many years and decided I was not getting any younger, so it was time to get on the stick.
I am also looking at potentially a long life. My grandmother died last year at 104. My other grandmother at 94 and my great-grandfather died at 96. Early deaths in the family are clearly attributable to smoking and I don't smoke.
While I had been well known in the mid-90s through very early 2000's as a direct marketing expert, that is now "so last year." Direct and database marketing guru's had become dinosaurs, the new hot ticket was internet, social networking, search engine optimizers. Catalogers were now multi-channel merchants. Even my wife morphed from being a well known direct marketer to a search optimization queen and started a successful e-commerce site: www.challahconnection.com.
I figured if I am going to be a successful entrepreneur for myself, another company, VC's or non-profits, I had to take a radical approach for a guy entering his 50s. That approach is MBA school.
The Money Magazine story was also picked up by The Week magazine. Click below.