Thursday, September 18, 2014

Could you swim in The Shark Tank?

Kevin Brass, WSJ, Aug 25, 2014, talks about what it takes to brace down those mean investors in the TV show The Shark Tank. Ever seen it? Entrepreneurs bring their show-and-tell and try to convince someone on a panel of investors to toss them some money.

Mark Cuban of BB fame is, to me, the biggest smugbag--but they all are, really. Tough room.

God forbid you don't have your ducks in a row when the investors start grilling. How is your idea different? How many hits has your site had? Why so few orders then? This is nothing new--what's new about it?

The poor would-be business person stands there and tries to respond. So the first advice is Stand Up Straight. Look confident, authoritative.

Get right to the point. Don't start with, "I was eight months pregnant when I wondered how I would protect my baby's little knees while crawling..."

Forget jargon like "burn rate"--keep it simple.

Show why YOU can do it--the business plan, the experience, the track record, the instinct.

Show you are tough--if you failed and revamped or tried something else, admit it.

Don't be greedy and ask for too much you can't deliver. Also--if they offer the money you want for a bigger share, don't dismiss it out of hand.

Show how the business can grow--and be "scaled."

And don't beg. If they don't chomp, thank them and leave.

Oh--this applies to all ven cap meetings.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are you a person of habit?

I used to eat Top Ramen for lunch everyday until I read it has some crud in it that kills ya. I am still here, but why tempt fate?

I often feel like I am in a rut.

Then I read a feature in the pretentious WSJ, a tony mag sent out by the Wall Street Journal, which by the way, I can no longer afford so expect material from other places. I can't describe this tony thing--black and white atmospheric pix where you can't even see the somber menswear, storky gals splayed out with their unlikely gams askew....almost creepy.

Anyhow they have a feature where they ask some people they consider celebs about things and this time it was about their "habits."

Jeff Koons (artist). Gets to work the same time, leaves the same time. Eats the same amount of pistachios and Cheerios and Zone Bars each day. Exact right proportion of carbs, protein, and fats.

Paloma Picasso (daughter of and jewelry designer). She travels to "step out" of habit. She works lying on the floor or in a plane. Has a special perfume but sometimes changes it up.

Thomas Keller (chef). Naturally habitual, he says. Likes repetition--allows him to think of other things.

Audra McDonald (actor). Playing Billie Holiday on Broadway--a person with bad habits. Spritzes gin on hself to "feel" drunk. Billie Holiday, for her part, never sang a song the same way twice.

Michael Kors (fashion designer). Drinks iced tea all day no matter what the season. Stays in the same room in London. But also will hare off and do something new.

Maria Sharapova (tennis). As an athlete has to eat and sleep consistently. But no two matches are the same and must adapt.

So there you are--with all their money and freedom--if they had ever heard of Top Ramen, some of them might get into it for life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Read employment contract--I mean, really, do it

Writing in the Business Insider, Emmie Martin warns about contracts. Like house papers, people tend to look these over with a sage expression and nod.

I never had a contract back in the day, so there is that.

Anyhow, the "noncompete" areas can limit you at your next job--or who you can hire. If you don't go over these coming in--leaving is too late.

Mostly such clauses are aimed at keeping you from taking confidential or proprietary info to your next job. You want as short a time specified as possible and as narrow a list of companies you cannot work for.

Non-solicit clauses are to keep you from taking your best people with you if you leave. Also clients--you can't take them to your next job.

No-hire clauses prevent you from hiring people who have worked for competitors.

Invention assignment agreements require new hites to disclose things they invented before being hired. The new company cannot claim the patent developed at the old. From there, it becomes crazy complicated.

I would advise a lawyer--maybe Harvey Spector, Mike Ross, and the Good Wife rolled into one.

Monday, September 15, 2014

We don't need no stinkin' classrooms

Ana Campoy and Julia Harte, WSJ, Sept 8, 2104, says schools are breaking out of the classroom paradigm.

At a school in Texas, kids meet in coffee shops, parks, museums and galleries. This is a private school--sounds like one long field trip.

Critics say electronics don't substitute for a good teacher. But many schools combine the two. Or they hope the teacher is good.

Some experimental schools transmit the student and teacher faces to each other on a screen.

At one school, get this--they take public transit! Wow.

Once, in a museum, the kids tried to use their laptops to take notes and the staff went nuts--paper, paper.

I do remember helping my kid dissect an owl pellet at home because she was home with mono. It  was gross but kinda interesting at the same time--little mouse bones.

My question on this is what if these experiments don't "work" and the youngsters are snotty, wired, entitled little twits who can't add, subtract or read? Just write them off?

Friday, September 12, 2014

People, people--going broke on $200,000?

Veronica Dagher, WSJ, Sept 6-7, 2014, writes about people with a pretty big income who are still deeply in debt or going bankrupt.

You can still live beyond your means at six figures--no problem. One gal had a private chef, housekeeper, designer clothes, lavish trips on $200,000 and got $300,000 into her cards.  Didn't see that one coming, apparently.

Eventually she cut back, cooked for herself, moved to a cheaper place, and haunted thrift stores.

She got that $300,000 down to $40,000 and is still working on it.

Better to face facts, save for retirement, own and live in one house. This does not mean suffer--it can be a nice house.

Take action well before losing a job or retirement.

That means now.

I have had my issues with money, believe me. But money is a fact of life and we have to face it down.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The happiness boss

In the Sept issue of GovTech (, we learn about Chief Happiness Officers--these are, of course, a creature of Silicon Valley.

They monitor the workplace's emotional well-being.

They advocate changes to promote worker happiness.

Google has a guy whose title is Jolly Good Fellow. Part of his job is to promote world peace.

Quite a job description.

Seriously--this is serious. These people get paid.

Where do I sign?

I recent read Gretchen Rubin's second book, Happier at Home, on how she tries to create happiness in her home and life. One thing she concluded is that she tends to work harder on things she likes.

Also she avoids things she does not like--travel, listening to music, pets, acupuncture, her kids coming in her home office without knocking, food, eating, the list is long..

One for The Big Book of Duh.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Even the smartest entrepreneurs screw up

Barbara Haslip, WSJ, Aug 25, 2014, writes about things some business people have done wrong--and what they learned.

One gal started without a business plan and sold 80% of her equity for "peanuts." The office space she chose was not near her clients.

Another lesson is don't forget your spouse. The business owner traveled, ate nice meals, talked to interesting people while his wife languished at home with the kiddies. He created more weekend outings for the family.

One guy was offering analysis but without working for a client company, he did not know they did not have time to read all that stuff.

Yet another man was so tight with a dollar he had to fix every piece of equipment in his restaurant--time waster.

The owner of a podiatric medical center had so many rules and benchmarks, his employees could not meet any of the. He learned not to sweat the small stuff.

Check on contractors--one woman hired one so busy he never came over.

Always be selling--not just creating to sell later.

I published a newsletter called CHEAP RELIEF for 14 yrs. Once, I offered a free issue in a magazine called FREEBIES--if people sent a stamped envelope. Thousands did--and it was weird--little one-cent stamps with kittens all over them, utility envelopes turned inside out and reused--and I got no subscribers even though I spent $150 to print all those issues. Inserting them in these envelopes hurt my shoulder there were so many--we called it my Freebie Shoulder.

Oh, yeah--it dawned. The magazine was called FREEBIES--they weren't going to PAY.