Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Inc.

Moshe A. Milevsky in his book, "Are you a Stock or a Bond" has a great chapter titled "You Inc.".  Addressing the idea of Human Capital, he recommends a person should estimate the present value of their earnings stream and add this to their personal net worth statement. Based on this new balance sheet, financial planning takes on different decisions - asset allocation, insurance, and debt. 

After all, You Inc. is a "small, tightly controlled, privately held company with productive assets invested in non traded units of your future salary and wages".  Started by Parents Inc. as a speculative venture that lost money in the early years, it was always planned to be spun off into a separate entity.  An eventual merger of equals (marriage) may occur at You Inc. and will be rightfully renamed Family Inc. anticipating the decision of creating one or more Child Inc.  Various stakeholders in this Family Inc. will now include spouse, children, and in-laws (maybe even Parent Inc. again).

So is You Inc. a stock?  Higher returns, leveraged, risky cash flow, and volitile?

Or is You Inc. a bond?  Conservative, steady reliable interest payments, with a long maturity?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Life-time Management

Jenna and I have had some discussion time in the car as I drop her off at work. As she discovers what a full time work week is like, the concept of "life - time management" has entered her knowledge domain.  During my early career years, I studied time management carefully.  Much of this had to do with productivity and efficiency in the workplace.  However this also caused me to think about my personal time management.  Several times I would "log" my time each day for a week to determine how that time was spent. 

Here are some interesting thought provoking charts on Life -Time Management:

Click to Enlarge

What you discover quickly is how much time we spend sleeping and eating - basic survival of almost 50% of our time.  Next you determine that it is difficult to segregate our time into distinct "buckets".  Finally you see how little time we have that is truly discretionary and available. 

In the book "The Millionaire in You" by Michael LeBoeuf he describes our time like money asset allocation in four categories - Learning, Earning, Living and Giving.  Conceptually these four categories are easy to understand.  It is much more difficult to put into practice and measure.  In the second chart, I took a sample 85 year old person and tried to allocate their lifetime (31,025 days) into the buckets. 

How balanced is your portfolio and is it aligned with your purpose?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eight to Five

Jenna had her first day of work yesterday - and I mean a full day 8am - 5pm at University Hospital.  While it is a summer job, her first two weeks consist of the employee orientation.  Jenna asked, what could take two weeks before I even get assigned to a floor?  I tried to explain the value of a company properly training it's new employees in it's mission, vision, values and culture. 

Starting at the bottom of the corporate rung is still crystal clear in my memory.  I remember my summer job in the factory of Antenna Specialists drilling aluminum tubes for the base stations of Citizens Band Radios (CBs).  The factory was in Euclid, Cleveland which meant getting up at 6am to get to work on time.  The boring work of continuous drilling was a welcome relief from the pressure of college finals, but within one week that tedious routine reminded me of why a college education was important.  However that factory experience was invaluable in my consulting career when I planned and installed MRP (Material Requirement Planning) systems for manufacturing companies. 

It was a shock to Jenna entering the "real world" of business.  An experience she will remember for the rest of her life.  Her summer job will be invaluable to her as she navigates her own career in the Health Care Industry.  It is also the start of her journey to determine whether she will enter the "rat race" or a purposeful career.  

Eight to Five - or fulfillment to eighty five.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heart's Memory

"Gratitude is the heart's memory" --- French Proverb.   

Too often we can spiral into a "victims" mentality.  Thinking that the world is against us when everything seems to go wrong.  Maybe a string of bad luck, or a series of disappointments begin the seed of exponential growth of negative thoughts.  This spiral down of attitude can become a self fulfilling prophecy unless the mental chain can be broken.  Finding your way to breaking this chain is an important survival technique.

One way that has helped me has been my journal of gratitude.  Started December 3, 2007  (and now in it's third volume),  I list 5 things I am grateful for each day (well it has now drifted to each week - but I need to get back into the daily practice of this again).  After reading Barry Schwartz's book "The Paradox of Choice", I was determined to try out his suggestion of a Gratitude journal.

Re-reading some of my entries brings a smile to my face - one of the many powerful expressions of gratitude.  The power of this smile (or a mental laugh), breaks the chain of feeling down.

"Our heart's memory will set into motion an ancient spiritual law: the more we are grateful for what we have, the more will be given to us."  Sir John Marks Templeton

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shopping at Home

The other day K.C. and I just happened upon the conversation about Amazon Prime and it's amazing convenience, quality and pricing.  We both marveled at the new e-commerce business model that is becoming the shopping default for both of us.  Instead of traveling to the local retailer to find, research and buy an item - both of us just query the item on Amazon, read the product description, read the reviews and in two days the item appears at your doorstep (with free shipping). 

Some rebutt that you will never avoid the need to visually inspect (or try on) the merchandise prior to purchase - mainly to avoid the hassle of returns.  This recently happened to me when some home and garden items that Amazon shipped did not match the product advertised dimensions.  But the return process was simple and painless.  In fact when I requested the one time promotion code be reset for a subsequent purchase, the representative was very accommodating by issuing a gift certificate for my next purchase. WOW - this kind of customer service will reinforce my habit of turning to Amazon first for ecommerce shopping.

But what about large dollar purchases that require interactive questioning, complex interfaces  and/or visual inspection?  Many people go to Best Buy and talk to the representative, view the various flat screen TV's and then return to home to buy the item on the Internet for less.  I can see why Best Buy is in danger of failing (like Circuit City).  What's the local retailer to do?

I think they must convince the customer (if they won't match the Internet prices) that the post purchase service will be better than any Internet delivery.  This could be done in many ways - warranty, free delivery and set up, future training or tuning, trade in options etc.  If this value can't be "sold" the big box local retailers will slowing fade away. 

And for the benefit of chatting with the local retailer?   It won't be long before you know your Federal Express/UPS driver on a first name basis.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Inner Conflict

"With increased integrity comes increased happiness"  Tal Ben-Shahar states in his book "Happier".  Integrity is all about accuracy - living the life according to the values you have.  From the word "Integer", a mathematician can think about this virtue in terms of "whole" rational numbers.

When a politician's words or actions ignore their stated values, beliefs, and expectations of others we call them a hypocrite.  Consistency provides mental foundations of security - within yourself and your perception of others.

Certainly values change over time (even beliefs) and so should our actions.  So how does one evaluate integrity over time? 

My answer lies in your feeling of inner conflict.  Only you know when you are being true to yourself - past, present and future. 

When inner conflict = zero;  integrity = whole one.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day

Jenna and Ellen presented me with a very thoughtful gift today.  A book/journal called "My Dad.. His Stories, His Words" (Compendium Inc.).  A hardback 4x6 journal for me to handwrite answers to 38 thoughtful questions:

#1 "Dad, what kind of house did you grow up in, and what was the old neighborhood like?
#5 "Dad, what's the best thing your dad and/or mom taught you?"
#12 "Dad, what music did you grow up listening to?"

and the list continues to the last question.....

#38 "Dad , how do you want future generations of your family to remember you?"

What a great project for me.... and how my girls know me so well to present me with this project.  When I quipped ... this is a gift for you..... they quickly responded -  yes Dad we would really love this..... but we also know how much you love blogging :)

The perfect Father's Day response by my two lovely girls!

"Memories are our greatest inheritance"  Peter Hamill

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Post Purchase Analysis

The other day, I reflected with K.C. about one of my personality attributes - post purchase analysis anxiety.  This is the habit of infinitely re-analyzing a purchase decision for it's optimal outcome.  This occurs in me, especially as it applies to technology gadgets - TV, Computer, Router, Surround Sound, Projection Screens, Cell Phones, Data Plans, etc.

So K.C. stoked the fire with a simple technology question about the range of wireless WiFi routers.  Immediately, I tried (unsuccessfully) to remember and verbalize the entire analysis of my decision to purchase the NetGear N600 WNDR3400 from E.W. three months ago. 

The change in routers was occuring during the three month ordeal of troubleshooting my home network -- problems with Cincinnati Bell's DSL network to my home. Luckily my technical support team (K.M. at CBT; and E.W. tech guru) have just now got my network ready for testing.  CBT has installed new DSLAM equipment and ported my line over (June 15 deadline)  Having purchased E.W.'s NetGear N600 and created my own D-Link switch, my home network should now be ready for the new DSL network.

So today, I reminded myself of all the features of a wireless router that I needed and tested the antenna range in my home (better but still doesn't reach Ellen's room).  At the same time, I spent the effort to re-evaluate premium wireless routers and concluded that taking E.W.'s advice and buying his NetGear N600 was optimal (for my needs). 

My justification for infinite post purchase analysis (and its resulting anxiety) is that it promotes continuous improvement and knowledge acquisition.  Since technology is changing hourly - it also sets up a continual channel of need to acquire new gadgets - bleeding edge.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Referral Network

In Vistage today, S.M. presented his "Referral Network" chart.  It was a tree diagram showing the trail of the customers that came as a result of a personal relationship or referrals over the last eight years.   It was almost 50% of  his customers  and shows the power of business relationships and the linkage of the network. 

It struck me that each of us has a referral network chart in life.  Who connected us with whom and what part did that connection make in our lives.  I visualize a network diagram that shows all the people that you have made contact with.  The lines between them vary in width by the number of interactions, the quality of interaction, and the trust.  This could be extended into a Facebook or Linkedin type of social network that includes shows all the inter (and intra) relationships.  Of course this diagram would become unwieldy. 

The NNDB Mapper tracks 37,000 public domain business connections. At Accenture, for large accounts we created relationship maps to understand how best to service (and sell) to our clients.  These maps become invaluable in understanding how to better capitalize on referrals and existing relationships to create new nodes.

Our Wednesday Men's Fellowship group is studying "Unbinding the Gospel" a book about Real Life Evangelism.  The "E" word seems to be cursed and "the majority (in church) hear the word and begin to feel queasy as they back quietly toward the door, trying not to attract attention as they slip from the room". 

But the "E" word is just a Spiritual Referral Network.  How strong are your connection lines?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Apples and a Prune

I have become a distinct minority in my family.  In addition to being the only guy among three girls, now I am the only Microsoft loyal user among three apples.  Susan is the proud owner of a Mac desktop as of today.  This effectively eliminates my technical support position since I have no skills in the Apple Os operating system.  In fact, I can't even navigate with the touch pad.

Jenna now can realize the challenge of being technical support for the family.  It is a thankless job.  "The internet is down"; "I'm having trouble printing"; "My computer is acting glitchy";  "How do you burn this to a CD"; and the list goes on and on.

Actually it is a good thing, since Jenna and Ellen have relied too much on my skills in their own computer education.  Being able to trouble shoot "level two" difficulties is an important skill to have.  Even understanding network skills at a rudimentary level can very important.

Apple continues to wear methodically away at Microsoft's market share.  There is a big infrastructure hurdle of Corporate America that still must be scaled -  but clearly the consumer is voting with their dollars.

I guess I'll be the last Microsoft Man Standing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Power of Suggestion

Lee Tyson, the youth minister at Armstrong United Methodist, had a great message this morning from Psalm 23.  He focused on the problem of lack of sleep and respite - titled "Green Pastures".  At the end of the sermon he told us all to feel good about taking a Sunday nap today.  This powerful suggestion was implemented this afternoon and has "restored my soul". 

So instead of calling this a sleepy sunny Sunday.  I prefer to name it a respite relaxing renewal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cost of Forgetfulness

Subscription renewals are wonderful time savers and providers use this as a convenient way to extend their services without your proactive intervention.  It is the classic promotion that "sucks" the new customer into a multi-year program with automatic renewals (that you forget about).  It becomes your responsibility to remember to call into a 800 number, spend the time through the computer voice generated menus to wait on hold until they can route you to the live cancellation representative who attempts to resell you on the service.  That is if you even remember to call ahead of the automatic renewal process.

I have previously blogged about my intense hate of Time Warner and their policy of requiring you to call exactly 30 days prior to their renewal notice  of their two year contract (you can't cancel in advance).  I would bet that there is even an early termination fee if you call one day after the automatic renewal occurs. 

Today, I discovered I was 14 days behind remembering to call Sirus/XM to cancel the automatic six month renewal of the November 2011 promotion that I signed up for.   Ugh!  Who knows what penalty will apply for this forgetful mistake.

The cost so far is the $100 renewal for another 6 months of service (and the time to talk this over with a representative who will ask me if I read the small print of the contract that was attached to the electronic bill that I was supposed to review each month). 

The lesson is that we all pay for our mistakes - forgetting, or signing up in the first place.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Worth It

I was reading Paul Heagen's Memorial Day blog entry "Do we Live like we are Worth It?" and it struck me how do we value a person's life or worth?   Unfortunately, this comes into play in the legal system when tragedy, mistake, sin, error and randomness occur in life. It even comes into play in making corporate cost/benefit decisions. I remember R.R. (who was a CEO of an airline) said to me, that each passenger was $1 million of liability upon a crash.

Various government agencies use life values for policy decisions - EPA $6.8 to $9.1 million; FDA $7.9 million; Dept of Transportation $6 million; In the court room there is a need to quantify life in terms of what human capital earning power is diminished by the accident or fatality.  You can estimate your life value with this calculator.  For the mathematical and statitically inclined, Vicusi analyzes the risk premium of injury prone occupations to calculate how we value life - $7 million in 2002.

So time and money seem to be most quantifiable variables available for quantifying the worth of life.  However this assumes that aging reduces the worth of your life (less time, less earning power).  But what is an older person's wisdom worth?  One comment, action or example that could change the life worth of someone else?  My career at Accenture constantly reminded me of how much one hour of my time was worth. And that billing rate increased exponentially with the skill level  and value delivered with the advice.

So as we age, our billing rate increases to infinity.  Hence the reason - every minute counts!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Garden Advice

Last night was the SVP Cincinnati "Garden Party" at T.A.'s immaculate home and perfect Feng Shui garden atmosphere.  With perfect weather and wonderful company it was partially a celebration of 5 years of "return on life".  Forty or so like minded (or like "hearted") individuals who collectively want to give back to our community.

As I re-introduced Susan to W.C. (a fellow SVP Partner), she immediately reminded him that they had previously met and both knew J.P.   Somehow the conversation drifted to how deeply we knew J.P. and his wife D.P. and somehow out of my mouth blurted:

"Here's my advice to you (W.C.) when the end is near.  Use your connection to J.P. to have D.P. at your bedside."  Susan added - "That's for sure ...... at that time you want D.P. on your team!"

How quickly our spirituality evolves at the end of our journey.  Preparing a spiritual foundation for readiness is something that sometimes gets put on the back burner.  Even though we all know that time will inevitably come.  So it's appropriate, that when the time comes, you would want a good spiritual coach "on your team".