Monday, March 30, 2009

Uncle's Money - UncCars version

Taking the money has allowed the government to not only peek into the privacy of many budgetary houses, but it has also given the government the authority to start making suggestions and to initiate actions on the business expenditures.

How would you feel if you borrowed money from your Uncle and he started telling you to buy canned tomatoes from the bulk ware house instead of getting the more expensive fresh tomatoes?

Better yet, you run a business, that Unc has no real expertise in running, but your new silent partner has found the unmute button. Why do you pay that VP so much? I don't think he's any better than the manager that makes 1/3 of the money.

Recently, Unc told GM, you have 2 months to get your act together...and do that without your leader. He needs to go now. Not that I disagree, but it's interesting that Unc has to do what the GM board would not do...even in desparate times.

By the way, Unc will now guarantee the warranty on some vehicles...because the companies took his $$$. I wonder how that deal tastes to Ford and the other auto companies? Maybe Unc will fix cars too. After all, those government mechanics will need something to do when they are not making warranty repairs for UncCars divisions TCCFKAGM (the company formerly known as General Motors) and TCCFKAC (the company formerly known as Chrysler). You know how the government loves those jacked up acronyms.

If you had written employment contracts with some of your employees, do you abandon them based on advice from Uncle or do you take the heat and gain a little credibility internally?

There are no easy answers, but I am confident of a few things.
If Uncle w/o industry experience knows more about your business than you do, find another line of work.

If you made commitments to your employees prior to taking Uncle's money, make sure you know how this will impact your reputation inside your organization and industry when you decide to change the game. He who holds the cash may make the rules. That doesn't mean that the rules are good ones. If I am your competitor that did not take Uncle's money--this is a part of the game plan to take your best employees.

If Uncles smacks you around for spending money on things that may not fit the core business, make sure he treats you the same way when the questionable spending goes to Uncle's business associates. From taxpayers to TARP to Congress.
It is not easy to be responsible with large quantities of other people's money, but it is clear that many folks are tempted to chastise business people when they spend money in ways that they don't like while looking the other way when the funds are spent on themselves.
When my neighbor is out of work, its a recession.

When I am out of work, it is a depression.

When politicians get TARP funds it's hypocrites in session.
Whos is watching Uncle's employees?...hmmmm
The elected ones have 2-6 years between formal evaluations/elections.

Can we even afford to fund Uncle's wallet? That's a future discussion.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Newco Motors

Innovation has been on my mind. Let's look at the other side of it.

The motor vehicle industry is struggling. Even the good ones are having a tough time. If you are honest with yourself, how often does the average person need to buy a new car? Buying used cars help dealerships, but they don't justify manufacturing more new vehicles. There is an overcapacity of auto manufacturing. If an auto manufacturer goes bankrupt, I do not expect to see the company return...unless...some insightful new organization is ready to change the game.

That means a company or group of companies that are ready to change the way we look at the cash flows related to automobile ownership.

Imagine you purchase a Newco mobile. At Newco, they have models that look like your standard cars, but the deal is different. For the price you pay they bundle in certain things that link you to their big organization. In addition to the standard warranty, they include maintenance and insurance for X years. Newco provides you with some additional services (think OnStar) that are bundled into the price of the car. Maybe they bring some other services to the table that car buyers have to purchase or have demonstrated that they will pay for over time.

Newco is an organization setup by an insurance company, a finance company, possibly an oil/fuel station company and a major auto repair organization. They sell the cars to make real money off the services. It is similar to the way companies sell printers to make significant profits from the ink replenishment. The same way that the profit is in the razor blade sales much more than the razor sales. The difference is that their auto industry profit is bundled into the purchase terms.

Changing the game happens, but often we miss the key moment that tips the scales. Look at how you spend the part of your household budget called communications. Thirty years ago, this was mainly a black telephone and its related service that was tied to your home. Now it is a combination of home service w/o equipment, mobile phones for almost everyone, and internet. It is also likely a larger percentage of your budget than the black phone was in the 1970s.

hot car Pictures, Images and Photos

The next big industry shift is moving fast. Do we see it?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Better Education Now

You can find lots of chatter about the need to make schools better. Some will link it to more funds. Others will say that we need innovative techniques. The truth may sit in between these ideas. However, I propose that there are some ideas that can be initiated now that will have minimal cost, but useful impact on education.

Teacher--blog thy community.

Asynchronous learning--a fancy way of saying, give students a chance to learn when they are not in front of the teacher. A blog provides the teacher a chance to share information with students that they can refer back to at any time they have internet access. In addition, a blog provides an opportunity to share information with parents as well. They can keep up on lesson plans or special requests (upcoming field trips, special learning experiences) without coming to the class.

While there are many sources for free blogs, like this one (Blogger), there are also blogs that specialize in working with the educational community, like Edublogs.

For those who are concerned about families that have limited resources, most public libraries have free internet access with your free library card. Some businesses have computers and interent access for little or no cost. If there is a will, there is a way. Is there a will to get to the internet? These sorts of information sources might encourage some families to access the internet and learn together.

RUTE Knowledge - Research Used, Tactics Evolved

If you need new ideas about ways to innovate, do a little market research. Talk to people that have a similar demographic as your students. If you teach 3rd graders, talk to some 3rd graders. Find out what they like to do outside of school and how they spend their pleasure time. These same ideas apply if you teach GED to 30 somethings with families.

If it's the kids and Club Penguin, the adults and Monopoly, or the seniors and water workouts, there are lots of potential commonalities that can be explored between what I do and what I learn.

Bringing elements of your students' personal interests into your lessons will give them a personalized flair that allows them a better chance to stick with your class.

Innovate lessons with current technology

When many people think of adding technology to education, often we think of significant investments for new technology that our teachers don't know how to use. It is usually much wiser to start with simple innovative ideas that use technology that is easily available to most people right now. Some teaching techniques may stand the test of time, but they could be improved with newer technology.

Consider a high school educational scavenger hunt. Instead of hiding things all over an area for them to find and bring back, let the students take pictures of the items with mobile phones or digital cameras. No need to wait for pictures to develop. Easy to compare different interpretations of the goal based on these pictures. In the end, students could print the pictures and create collages OR post their video diary to a website or blog. Old ideas can have a new twist with technology that is common now.

Have you checked the podcast options available for your MP3/4 player? Have you gotten insight on an advanced topic from experts around the country? Have you considered text messaging as an improvement to the game of telephone? Today's teaching innovations are more cost effective if you can apply yesterday's technology innovations.