Nantucket 2014-2

We dined at The Pearl last night, where we’ve been going since it opened. We were joined by our friend Julie who’s spending a couple of days with us and enjoyed hamachi and then soft shell crab with noodles, along with a Chassagne Montrechet.

The best, after a wonderful beach day, was the “super moon” hovering over the convertible as we drove back from town to the beach house. (A super moon is a full moon that occurs during the closest approach to the earth in the moon’s orbit.) The night sky was lighted by what looked like a giant Chinese lantern. Down the beach, someone was setting off impressive fireworks.

Just a slight breeze yesterday, with a huge seal cavorting 30 yards off shore for a couple of hours, head bobbing above the surface like a living periscope, then disappearing to catch some fish, I’m guessing. Other than that, a woman taking “selfies” for about a half-hour in every conceivable position, rearranging her hair and other attributes for each shot, and a dog with its own umbrella.

Another day at the beach.

© Alan Weiss 2014

Selfie woman.

Selfie woman.

Umbrella dog.

Umbrella dog.

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Nantucket 2014-1

We’ve arrived for our two-week sojourn, following Bali, and the Jersey Shore. We are eclectic people.

The trip to the ferry which should be 90 minutes (to Hyannis) took 2.5 hours. There were eight-mile backups at the Cape. I still don’t know why. The ferry was 10 minutes late leaving, a rarity, as frantic last-minute arrivals swarmed the ticket office. (It is VERY difficult to get a car on a ferry during the season without a reservation dating back to February.) Every single vehicle around us was an SUV, and while you’re about to tell me that’s the practical way to do it, they all look like ants in a colony headed for food. Boring.

But here we are. As is our 20-year habit, we dined at Topper’s (named after a dog) at the Wauwinet on the opposite side of the island. For those of you who follow me on Vivino, we had a superb Harlan Estate. The food was great and there are few things I know of to equal a 70-degree night, riding through winding, narrow roads under the stars, in a convertible.

This morning is lovely, and I am preparing for the 20-yard trip to the beach.

Lost in the SUV swarm.

Lost in the SUV swarm.

 

Daybreak, overlooking the pool.

Daybreak, overlooking the pool.

 

Calm morning ocean.

Calm morning ocean.

 

Entering the bay.

Entering the bay.

 

A beach near the town.

A beach near the town.

 

Docking.

Docking.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Derailed: DASM

I’m in the first class car of the Acela returning from New York, and I notice a strange sign on the wall I’ve never seen before. It extols first class benefits, but they’re strangely different: lumbar support seats, for example, which don’t now exist, and no free alcohol, which very much does now exist. It seems to me that the benefits are less overall than currently is the case. (FYI: A first class seat from Providence to New York is about $300, which includes all meals and drinks. There is also a frequently rider program to earn free trips.)

 

One of the car attendants was nearby doing his paperwork. So I asked if it were an old or a new sign. He looked like a 30-year railroad guy, so his first sentence nearly knocked me down: “It’s a subliminal message.”

 

After a gulp of my currently free alcohol he told me that this was a subtle warning by management that things would change to save money. The Acela I was on was full, as are most of them, and Amtrak has a larger portion of Boston/Washington corridor business than the airlines. This route—where the Acela solely runs—is hugely profitable.

 

But get this:

• Many of the train components—for example, the cash machines in the cafeteria cars—were purchased from companies no longer in existence and can’t be repaired. So they all have to be replaced.

• The cars themselves, fiendishly expensive, were built by a firm overseas that is now out of business, and Amtrak mechanics can’t fix them easily or well. Why they can’t be trained to do this, or they can’t hire people who can do it, is beyond me. Hence, the trains often run with problems (water leaking in the galley) or the cars have to be pulled out of service altogether for longer than warranted repairs.

• The engines, one at each end to avoid having to turn the train around at the end of the line but adding hugely to the weight, had to meet crash standards far beyond European or Asian counterparts, are heavier than those engines, and more expensive. The train was designed to run at about 185 MPH, can actually manage about 155 MPH but seldom does  because the track can only support that speed in a few places between Boston and Washington, which are roughly 400 miles apart. (The Acela usually takes slightly less than three hours to go from Providence to New York City, which I can drive in the exact same time or less, though with much more inconvenience.)

• As I recall, the train cars were originally designed to tilt on curves to enable increased speeds, but no one had the bright idea of testing what would happen if two trains passed each other doing that, until too late, and the feature couldn’t be used.

 

So, as airlines increase their first class amenities and membership lounges, Amtrak maintains dingy lounges in major cities on the route and is going to reduce first class amenities on its most profitable trains.

 

There is an article in the New York Times today about Amtrak “inching along” on improved rail service.

 

Anyone want to invest in Uber on tracks?

 

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Faceboor

Spent two minutes looking at Facebook this morning. Blocked one guy who had to use F**k in his title; four self-aggrandizing posts; 18 posts on nothing at all (beautiful sunset, drunk falls off boat); one really funny photo of dog with leash waiting not for walk but car door to be opened; and the rest about vacations, motivation, wishful thinking, and so on.

I think I wasted a minute forty-five. Moving on.

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Call for Volunteers

NOTE: Please contact the address at the end of this request, not me, thanks, Alan:

 

Solo (or 1-3 person) service business owners : (speakers, consultants, architects, attorneys, massage therapists, hair stylists, manicurists, personal trainers, IT consultants, HR consultants, nutritionists, image consultants, and similar)

 

Are you great at what you do, but not so comfortable with the financial side of your business?

Have you ever hired a bookkeeper and wished you could get more guidance from them?

If so, we may have a great opportunity for you.

 

We’re looking for 1-2 special service business owners to join us on a life-changing business journey.  You might have heard how some businesses are chosen to become case studies that college students and their professors use to learn consulting on in their MBA programs.

This is a similar volunteer opportunity within a training program for accountants that is designed to help them move from bookkeepers and tax preparers to true business advisors.  The accountants will be learning how to help their clients on three fronts:

  1. Better accounting systems,
  2. Financial mastery, and
  3. Increased financial prosperity.

What we’ll be doing

We’ll be reviewing your accounting setup, systems, and financial files and providing you with state of the art suggestions that will help you reduce your accounting costs, increase your business decision-making, and improve profits.   We will be helping you implement what you agree to.  All of this will be at no charge to you, including the first year of any licenses we purchase on your behalf.  All of this will be supervised by a CPA and no student will touch your books directly but they will see the numbers.

What we need you to do and agree to

We’ll be asking you to share your financial information with the individuals in the class.  We can keep you anonymous in name if you’d like, and we’ll be asking students to sign an NDA.  We’ll also be asking you to join us on the webinars and provide your feelings about how we are to work with, what you think about our suggestions, and more.

We’d like to work with you for at least a 3-month period.  Some of the things we’ll be discussing are whether your accounting system is the best fit for your business, if your chart of accounts and other classifications are optimized, how to read your financial statements better, and how to set up budgeting if you haven’t already.

If you feel frustrated with your current accounting system or your numbers, you are the perfect candidate for this.

To find out more or to apply

Email support@sandismith.com for an interview/application.    We will only be taking 1-2 people and this is first come first served, so don’t wait.  Reach out now before this opportunity disappears.

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What They Really Mean

We’re looking for a relationship boost in the leadership space. (I work in HR and have no clue about anything, but I heard someone say this in the restroom.)

Let me get back to you once I’ve reviewed this. (Get out of my office.)

The timing will be better next quarter. (Get out of my office.)

We just had an emergency that requires all of my attention. (Get out of my office NOW.)

Let me run this by some people it impacts. (I lied to you, I’m not a buyer, I have no budget, and I need to stop pretending I can purchase this.)

Your terms are fine, I’ll send this to procurement. (If I’m lucky, you will have finished the work for us before you finish answering their questions about how to reduce the costs.)

We are a people-oriented organization. (We need people here, like we need furniture here, so we look for inexpensive, comfortable, and replaceable.)

We are customer-centric. (I’m from HR and I don’t have a clue, but I read that in a book called The Six Habits of 12 Successful People in 18 Situations.)

We don’t hire consultants here. (I’m scared witless of what you might find in the dozen areas where I’ve screwed up beyond belief.)

Would you talk this over with my HR director? (Neither one of you has a clue.)

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Customer ROI

The Peninsula Hotel in New York is one of my favorite hotels.

I arrived late yesterday, because of a delayed train, and when the limo deposited me in front of the hotel an assistant manager said, “Welcome back, Dr. Weiss. May I escort you to your room?” I casually asked on the elevator if I was upgraded by American Express.

“Oh, we double upgraded you,” she said, “to your favorite suite.”

The Peninsula is expensive, but I can walk to my meetings and shopping and to the theater, it’s 10 minutes away from Penn Station, and they know how to treat their best customers.

If you want to earn high fees, you must provide high value and recognize who your best customers (and potential customers) are—I call them “your ideal buyers.” You have limited time and resources. Focus them on the largest potential return.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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One Straw At A Time

We had to have a large tree cut down recently, so I removed the bird house that had resided there for years to move it to another tree. I had to open it to secure it on the trunk, and found about six inches of nesting material inside.

The house was used by sparrows, I know, because I could watch them from my den  doing their commuting each day. The height and tiny opening are apparently perfect for them. Twig by twig, with the occasional piece of pilfered cotton or napkin shred, the birds built a formidable, comfortable nest.

That’s how our businesses can grow, twig by twig. A great many people look for the “magic bullet” and the get-rich-express. They usually fall victim to some sharpster making HIS money preying on them or to their own impractical dreams. If you can build an internet empire overnight, more power to you. If you can create the strategic approach that propels business giants to seek you out, I’m happy for your success.

But most often, building a consulting business (or any business, for that matter) is a question of constantly moving forward, one step at a time. You make a call, have a meeting; create marketing materials, gain referrals; develop new IP, write an article. Home run hitters swing for the fences and usually lead the league in strikeouts. The people with high batting averages merely try to make contact with the ball on a consistent basis.

Of course, some people are born on third base but think they’ve hit a triple.

The key for all of us is to build our business every day, always moving forward, one step at a time. Pretty soon, you’ll have a very comfortable nest. Once you do, of course, it’s time to start thinking about building a bigger one.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Writing on the Wall Episode 95: Defaulting To The Positive

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