Monthly Archives: July 2011

Copy That

I’m totally revamping my den/office, and I’m finally off the card tables and into about 75% completed digs. On the way to dinner the other night, on a whim, I said to  my wife, “Let’s stop at Best Buy and see if they have a copier/fax/scanner gizmo that will work wirelessly.” My son-in-law urged me to look at these and get rid of the three huge pieces of equipment taking up so much room (copier/scanner/fax, color printer, laser printer) in the old setup.

The people in Best Buy are very nice and knowledgeable, and a one of the guys took 10 minutes to describe what I needed but told me, “You’re not our demographic, and that level of machine isn’t here. But if you go onto BestBuyBusiness.com you’ll find it and can order it.”

Well, I was in the mood for immediate gratification, and would prefer to see it and watch it work, so I thanked him, disappointed, and left. On the way to the restaurant, we stopped at the Staples where we usually purchase office supplies. I didn’t think they’d have a machine like this, but it was on the way. The store manager intercepted me, found out what I needed, and sent over the resident printer expert, who was about 12 years old.

He took me through a few machines that would meet my objectives, narrowed it to one and demonstrated it for me, answered every question, told me it was $50 off, and then fetched a hand truck to personally take it out to my car and shocked wife. (Good thing it was a great evening, the box fit in the back seat, barely, with the top down.) And, of course, I get Staples reward points. (And this is an HP machine, I’m a devotee of HP, they were a fabulous client for ten years and I own their stock.)

The machine took 15 minutes to set up the next day, 10 of which were devoted to getting it out of the box and removing a pound of packing protection. The only wires it has are the fax jack and power cord. It works perfectly and has given me a ton of additional room. It is smaller than any one of the three machines it replaces.

Maybe Best Buy would draw a more affluent demographic if they stocked more sophisticated machines. They sell some expensive stuff in there, and they are a quality operation. Why would you send me down the road? Next time, my first stop will be Staples. That’s how delicate the retail business can be.

Try not to send me packing.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Episode 59: The Myth of Retirement

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Huey Lewis and the Ducks

We saw Huey Lewis and The News in Atlantic City on our way to Cape May. He encourages photos and we were in the second row.

When we came home, a mother duck who had raised her duckies in our pond had decided to take up recreational paddling in our pool with the entire family.

Huey Lewis in great voice.

Duck laps.

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 07/25/11

July 25, 2011—Issue #97

This week’s focus point: We need “white space” (the term is from text that’s easier to read because of surrounding, empty space) in our lives, breathing room to reflect, to mourn, to rejoice, to share, to plan, to meditate, to appreciate. Doctors who book “back to back” appointments all day don’t do a very good job with patient relationships, office management, billing, or diagnosing. Consultants without white space don’t do as good a job trying to grow their business, creating intellectual property, or improving quality family time. Poor fee and billing practices are the worst enemy of white space. If you’re only paid when you work for an hour, then you’re going to try to work every hour you can. Wealth is really discretionary time, meaning you need a lot of white space to be truly wealthy.

Monday Morning Perspective: They’re killing the game with this phony mystique, telling people a guy needs the abilities of a brain surgeon to play guard for the Colts. Football is a game designed to keep coal miners off the streets. — Sports writer Jimmy Breslin

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© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved

I remember a meeting with a boutique consulting firm that had fallen on hard times. The debate was whether or not to sell their magnificent conference table. “Where would clients sit?” asked one partner. “We have no clients,” stated the advocate of selling. You can’t cut your way to renewal or success. Top line growth is the key to bottom line achievement, for you and for your clients. Today is the time to invest in the future. Once you cut muscle, you’re powerless.
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Temporary Housing

My den is being redone and people can’t believe I’m working off card tables!

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The Lunacy of Hourly Billing

Over the past couple of weeks I had the opportunity to chat socially with an attorney and an accountant, at two different events. One knew me, the other did not. We wound up discussing hourly billing practices, and after a great deal of wine, here is a summary of what they told me about the practices of their firms which are enforced by senior partners.

• Never charge a “round hour.” Instead of charging for an hour, charge for 1.2 hours. No one will ever question two-tenths, and they add up considerably over the course of a year.

• If a client calls to question a bill or statement, that is billable time.

• If you are researching anything that can pertain to several clients, charge each client separately for the entire time. It is never to be pro-rated or apportioned.

• At any kind of social event, whether a planned lunch or a common political fund-raiser, ask some work-related questions and charge part of the time you were there to the client’s account. The client being charged need not even be present.

• If you take colleagues to lunch, discuss several clients, and charge the lunch and the time separately to each client.

• Bring a colleague into the discussions whenever possible to build additional hours.

• Even when work is done by lower level people, it should always be reviewed by you at your higher hourly rate.

I could go on, but you get the point. I’m not claiming that every professional services firm charging hourly rates is this unethical, but some are. It’s a shame that this kind of creativity couldn’t be invested in better service for the client or quicker results, but then, there wouldn’t be as many hours to bill. This is the lunacy of hourly billing.

Please feel free to make a comment reporting the abuses you’ve found or experienced. Here’s my favorite: When I was chair of the Newport International Film Festival, our bank mistakenly sent statements to an accounting firm with which we had no connection. The firm forwarded them to us, with an invoice for $125 representing the time it took to “handle, review, and take appropriate action” to get the papers to us.

I told them to sue us, and find a good attorney who charges by the hour.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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First Stones

The shaving cream pie thrower invading the Murdoch questioning could easily have had more lethal intent (at which point I’d guess Mrs. Murdoch would have pulled out her uzi). Did the members of Parliament hold themselves responsible for this gaffe? Was it the fault of the head of the police assigned to the inquiry? Was it the Prime Minister’s fault? Is it the Queen’s fault, since she heads the empire?

Of course not. Then how is it that they expect Murdoch or his (extremely underwhelming) son to be cognizant of and responsible for some employees within his own empire hacking phones?

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The Fog of Life

I’m looking toward the breakers about 200 yards away. But I can’t see the beach or even the water because of the fog. Last night on the boardwalk at Wildwood you couldn’t see the top of the ferris wheel or the roller coaster.

The fog is caused by atmospheric conditions. Water droplets are formed when cool air is over warmer ground in most cases of fog on the surface (unlike a cloud). It can be quite opaque or at best translucent.

But I know the beach is there. I know the roller coaster is still on its track. And if I move forward, the fog disperses and I can begin to see those things closest to me all the better.

There is fog in all of our lives at various times. The “atmospheric” conditions cause it: family, business relationships, uncertainty, fear, lack of self-belief, and so on. Many of us can quickly remove it by changing the temperature, or moving our position, or shining a bright light. But many wander around in it, waiting for it to end, bemoaning their fate, cursing the poor visibility.

You can’t go through life, let alone your career, groping about in the fog of confusion, fear, guilt, or lack of confidence. You need simple methods and approaches to eliminate the fog: acquire skills, take prudent risks, understand and communicate your value, jettison demeaning baggage.

There are too many people lost in the fog who make excuses about why they should be there, why they can’t escape, why it’s impossible to see any better. They become ghosts of themselves, spectral images without substance, without followers, without interest. To the world around them, it’s as if they’re no longer present.

I can’t see the beach but I know it’s there. I know the route and I’m unafraid to pursue it. I know the roller coaster doesn’t disappear. In fact, I know that if I get on it, even if I can’t see the top, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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