Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Increasing your sales

Increasing your sales...no, really, this is the thing that every businessman wants to do. We all know what our fixed costs bases are, we all know what our over heads are. So, given these and our productions costs, which are also fixed.....

Ah, let me explain for a moment. Whenever you are in business there are certain costs just about being in business. These are what we call overheads. Fixed costs. Then there are costs about producing whatever it is that we are producing. If we're making potato chips, then potatoes. If cars, then steel, or axles.

So, what we want is the maximum of sales, to cover those overheads, while still making the profit on the marginal costs. There's a whole science about this, the economics of business. And there's also a way out for many businesses.

Increase sales, by using sales prospecting. Don't be constrained by the limitations of your sales force, use the ability of a flexible sales force to work for you. Just as you would use a flexible production force, use the sales one that way.

Hey, why not? Profit is profit, after all!

Oh Lord, no....

Please tell me that this isn't a real story?

We're told endlessly that if only the authorities knew everything about us, out DNA, then they would be able to find those who committed the crimes.

Mhhmm, hmm?

German police are struggling to explain why they chased a phantom serial killer for 16 years after confusion over an innocent woman's DNA samples.

Police in the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg had searched since 1993 for a woman they believed had taken part in more than 40 crimes, from murders to muggings. Her DNA was found repeatedly at crime scenes in Germany, France and Austria.

But the DNA came from an unsuspecting woman working at a factory in southern Germany, where cotton swabs are produced for the police force, investigators said.

No, sorry, it ain't true.

DNA is very good at making sure that someone didn't committ the crime. But that's all it is, a tool in investigating crime. Nothing will replace the holistic view.

Who? Why? When?

Forget that and the guilty go free and the innocent get jailed.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How to manage your money

This is an interesting little informative article about Money Manager. To explain it fairly simply, it's a website that connetcts you to the various people who can help you manage your money.

Whether you're planning for your retirement, trying to roll over your 401 (k), or any of the other myriad things you might do to protect your savings and earn from them. All you need to do is to fill out a brief online survey and you'll be directed to you, at no direct cost to yourself, those in your area who can help you with the specific problems or desires you have.

This AIG bonuses

Oooh, my, this is an interesting little snippet. It appears that the AIG bonuses were rather larger than originally admitted. This is a bit embarrassing if they can't even add up. You might not expect bankers to judge risk perfectly, but you would hope they could add.

Documents turned over to the Connecticut attorney general show that American International Group Inc paid out over $218 million in bonuses, more than the previously disclosed $165 million, published reports said on Saturday.

The reports said the documents were turned over to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office late on Friday in response to a subpoena.

The documents show that bonuses of at least $1 million were paid to 73 people, and five received more than $4 million.

No, that really is pretty bad, that they couldn't even add up the amount that they'd paid out to their own workers.

I wonder what else we're going to find out, what else we're going to have leaked to use before this story is all over?

Water recycling solutions

It's often said that a clean environment is a luxury good. Not that it's something we don't want, but something that we can only get when we're rich enough to buy it.

This is of course true, for only a wealthy and technologically advanced economy can afford to clean up all the waste created. Just as an example, think of washing trucks. Obviously there will be oil washed off them. And for a clean environment we need to extract that oil before the waste water reaches the sewage system.

Which is exactly what these Oil Water Separators do. And yes, they're the product of a wealthy and technologically advanced society.

QED eh?

The European shadow banking system

This pretty much sums up my own thoughts on the European banking system as a whole, not just the shadow one. There's been so much said about how it's all Anglo Saxon economies that are at fault, with their deregulation allowing excessive leverage and so on. But the truth is that the European banks were even more leveraged up than the US or UK banks. 40 times for some of them, way above that Anglo 30 times on average.

The shadow banking system in Europe isn't so much dead as being kept on life support by banks and central banks in what amounts to a desperate but risky attempt to avoid the reckoning.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the biggest single month ever for securitization in Europe and Britain was sometime before we all realized that we were in a credit bubble, sometime like the sunny days of 2006.

In fact, the biggest month ever, by some margin, was December 2008, when more than 212 billion euros of securitizations were issued in Europe.

One small problem however is that there was almost no demand for them, with only about 8 billion euros in public deals intended to be bought by actual investors wanting to take on actual risk.

The rest were "retained" deals, almost always structured so they were eligible for financing by central banks under repo arrangements.

If the problem at root was excessive leverage (which I think it was) then the solution has to include deleveraging. We'd like this to happen slowly, for sure, but it does have to happen.

But if all that's happening is that the sources of the leverage are changing to central banks, then the European banking system isn't deleveraging and thus the root problem isn't being solved.

That doesn't bode well.

Getting working capital

In these straightened times all of us in business need to think about how we're going to make sure that we've got the working capital that we need. As we can all see our customers are taking longer to pay us and our suppliers are demanding ever earlier payment. This puts a horrible squeeze upon cash flow and therefore working capital....and a company that runs out of that goes bankrupt.

Fortunately there is in fact a solution. It's called receivables factoring and it works very simply. Have a click through of that link to check the details but essentially it's a company lending you money agains the invoices you've issued. you get the money before your customers pay, removing one of your major problems.

Jade's Mum's teeth

It's amazing the things that become news in the tabloid newspapers really. OK, so we know that Jade Goody's dying of cervical cancer and we also know that she's doing it pretty much in public.

However, there's a certain straining for a story here I think. Do we really need to know that Jade's Mum has been instructed to get her teeth fixed for her funeral? Jade's funeral that is, not Mum's?

SPIRITED Jade Goody has ordered her mum to get her teeth fixed — to look nice at her funeral.

The dying reality TV star, 27, shelled out for Jackiey Budden to have her gap mended as soon as possible.

Jackiey, who has a fear of dentists, has cancelled three appointments in four months.

It's a bit of straining for a story, don't you think?

I'm not sure there ever really was a day when newspapers only reported only news stories but again, I'm not really sure that there was ever a time when newspapers reported such trivia.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Need a plumber?

Well, to be more accurate, need a plumber in Austin Texas? If you do then you'll want to check out this website: Austin Plumber, which does just what it says on the tin. It's a site that tells you about a great plumbing firm in Austin.

Now there is more to it than just this. For example, the firm is owned and run by twin brothers. There aren't that many plumbing firms that can say that. They grew up out on the farm, out in the places where you have to build self-reliance. And one of the twins became the plumber, the other the electrician. If they had been triplets no doubt the third would have become the carpenter so that they could have dealth with every household necessity.

Now of course this is part of the great American economy, the way in which family run firms (and you can't really get much more family than twins, can you?) provide the services you need. And of course, again, you know that you're going to get the best customer service because the boys know that this is how they're going to keep their own families going.

So, if you're looking for a plumber, or some electrical work, in Austin, click through to see what the boys can do for you.

That Versace Sale

Gianni Versace was as we know shot a couple of years back. As a result of that all of his possessions and the furniture from his various houses has been sold off. The only problem was that Gianni had such strange taste, rather like some sort of Egyptian mafiosi sort of thing, that no one was quite sure who would buy them.

Fortunately the sale went very well.

But that did not prevent the auctioneer raising 7.4 million pounds ($10.4 million) from its London sale of the contents of late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace's Lake Como villa late Wednesday, roughly three times expectations.

"With heated bidding ... extending beyond 12 hours, the day sale turned into an evening sale too," said Mario Tavella, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Europe.

"Gianni Versace's passion for collecting ranged from contemporary masterpieces by artists he supported and with whom he developed friendships to the neo-classical works combined to create his own personal Arcadia at Villa Fontanelle.

The question on everyone's mind really at the moment is who was buying all of this stuff. For much of it really was quite garish and extreme.

But apparently if you're a designer then a liking for that sort of stuff is good taste even if the rest of us think that it is indeed too weird to be desirable.

Where to get your deskset checks

Well, we all know that bank checks can come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, designs and colors. But where is the best place to actually get them from? For example, where would you go to get Deskset Checks made for you?

Well, actually, probably the best thing to do would be to click through that link there and see what they can do for you. And is deskset isn't quite what you're looking for of course there are myriad other designs and possibilities for you. Just have a look and take your pick really. From the basic value priced checks on upwards really. Would you like to have customs photo checks? Perhaps have the favourite child as a baby on your checks? No, seriously, everyone would be delighted to see your drooling bundle of joy....as long as they knew that they were getting the money from you too :-)

Or perhaps you'd prefer to declare your love for football, or basketball. Or have pictures of cute baby animals? Although, I have to admit, looking at the checks with the animals on I start to think how they'd taste upon my plate but that's another matter.

Anyway, if you're looking for a huge selection of checks at the right prices, try clicking though that link above.

Natasha Richardson dies

Ach, this is a horrible story. Natasha Ricahrdson, the actress wife of Liam Neeson, has died of brain injuries sustained in a fall while skiing.

The thing is, from the reports, it wasn't actually a bad fall. It was on a beginners' slope and she wasn't going fast. She got up and walked away and only complained of feeling ill later.

Britain's bestselling daily tabloids the Daily Mirror and The Sun dedicated their front pages to the news, expressing shock felt by the family and wider public that what had appeared a relatively minor fall on the slopes had ended in tragedy.

In a statement released just before midnight London time, family spokesman Alan Nierob said: "Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha. They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

Richardson had been hospitalized in New York since Tuesday, surrounded by her husband, actor Liam Neeson, her two sons Michael, 13, and Daniel Jack, 12, and members of her immediate family including her mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave.

It's just weird that such a minor fall should lead to her death. It has to be said though, that she wasn't wearing a helmet:

Following are other famous people who died due to skiing accidents as well as statistics on skiing and helmet use.

* Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, son of the late U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, died in 1997 after striking a tree while skiing in Aspen, Colorado. He was 39.

* Sonny Bono, a singer and entertainer who entered politics and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, died after hitting a tree in 1998 while skiing near South Lake Tahoe, California. He was 62.

* Michel Trudeau, son of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was swept into a lake by an avalanche in 1998 while skiing at British Columbia's Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. His body was never found. He was 23.

* John McWethy, a longtime national security correspondent for U.S. network ABC, died in 2008 after striking a tree in Keystone, Colorado. He was 60.

Skiing can be dangerous.

It's Tax Time!

Yes, you knew it. The nights are getting longer, spring has truly arrived and now we get to do our favourite task of the year. Work out how much of our money we've got to hand over the Uncle Sam. What joy, eh?

But this year why not take some of the pain out of the process? Why not have a look at what the Tax Relief Specialists can do to lower your bill? There is, after all, no way that you're going to be able to be up to date on all of the allowances and breaks that there are in the tens of thousands of pages of tax law that applies. Better to leave that to the experts, don't you think?

For example, I'd never heard of the IRS innocent spouse relief, had you? And what is it when it's at home anyway? Something to ask the experts I think. Or as far as business taxation is concerned, what's the 941 payroll deposit,. Anyone? Bueller, at the back there?

The thing is, and where perhaps we've gone wrong in hte whole design of our tax system, is that it is not possible for anyone to understand the whole thing. Even the experts are experts in only part of it. So, there's no hope for us. If you do want to pay only the tax you must well worth clicking through one of the links to see how you can do so.

Smelling in the wind

I do think this is a funny little story. And of course it's been one that headline writers around the world have had fun with too.

Bob Dylan has sung about wind many times -- winds of change, the "Idiot Wind," and the winds that hit heavy on the borderline.

But some of his California neighbors Tuesday were singing a new tune about what is blowin' in the wind from his Malibu toilet.

A family living near the 67-year-old folk and rock icon's house in the posh California beachside community of Malibu have complained to city officials about an outdoor portable toilet, which is apparently used by guards on Dylan's compound.

Cindy and David Emminger say the toilet wafts fumes from waste treatment chemicals, and that the smell carried by breezes from the Pacific Ocean makes their family feel ill.

Yes, yes, very funny, isn't it? One of his most famous songs was "Blowin' in hte Wind" and of course there's this small that's blowin' in the wind from his compound....oh, OK, maybe it's not all that funny then.


Alhtough I have to admit I can think of a couple of solutions here. One is that he lets his guards use the loo in hte house, the one attatched to the sewage system. The other would be that he encourage them to change their diets.

Finding trophies

It's always been one of those little things I vaguely wondered about: where do you get trophies from? No, not trophy wives but sproting tophies, those cups and statues and awards that we all fight so hard to get?

And now I've found out, there's a company that makes them. They make all sorts of things actually. Graduation awards, softball trophies, soccer trophies, you name it they make them.

So if those are the things that you want now you know where to get them. Although, hmmm, I have to admit, a naughty little thought has crossed my mind. If you wanted to give the impression that you were a better sportsman than you actually are, or were from a different place than you actually were, couldn't you just buy a handful of these and sprinkle them around the office?

Stripping for socialism

Or perhaps this should be called stripping to protest the failures of capitalism?

An Italian pornographic actress stripped down to her panties at the Milan stock exchange on Tuesday to protest against the financial crisis, police said.

Laura Perego, 22, climbed on to a table inside the bourse entrance clad only in her panties and with the Italian flag painted on her body, a police spokesman said.

"Italy is down to its underpants," the Sicilian-born actress shouted before being taken away by police. She was charged with obscene acts.

I have to admit that I'm not all that sure what the point was. Of course, a neaked or near naked woman in public is always going to get attention. But the message being passed on was hardly of the most amazing originality, was it?

I mean, even having sex in public as a protest wouldn't really work all that well. We all know the economy's f***ed don't we?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What have I been doing since high school?

The subject of high school reunions came up and it set me to pondering, what have I been doing since high school?

Hmm. I've been a waiter and a bartender for about three years, gone to college (and waited and bartended to pay for that) for three years in London and then what. Ah, I became a stockbroker, a job which I didn't like and was bad at. Then I set up a telemarketing company with some friends. That lasted about 5 years and died in a recession then I went to work in Russia. After that California. I've been a metals trader, distributor of newspapers, owned a deli, and am now a freelance writer.

That's quite a lot to fit into just under three decades, no?

Hang them all.

Hang them all, that's my solution to the idiocies of bureaucrats and politicians. Like this ghastly murdering of that most beautiful and flexible of things, the English language:

Autonomous benchmarking of best practices toward coterminous, holistic governance and stakeholder engagement.....


Gone should be terms or phrases such as "cascading" (sending an email around), "menu of options" (choices) and "predictors of beaconicity" (?), and in comes straight talk.

Instead of "transformational" just say "change," rather than "client" use "person" and avoid the confusion created by a phrase such as "distorts spending priorities" and just admit that whatever it is "ignores people's needs."

"Why do we have to have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just have 'talk to people' instead," said Margaret Eaton, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA).

No, I don't think there'll be any use in just giving them a stern talking tyo nor will we change their behaviour by sending out new guidelines.

Death, death and pain, those are the only two things that will work. Lamp posts, hempen rope and bureaucrat, some assembly required. That's the only thing they'll listen to.

Think I'm being too harsh? What should we do with someone who invents a phrase like "predictors of beaconicity"?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Choosing a web host.

We all know that in this modern day we need to make sure that our businesses have a web presence. It might be just to give information to possible customers or it might be as an actualsales site. But a web presence is now a necessity.

But, and here's the question, where do you host such a site? Well, the best way to decide that is probably to have a look at this comparison site. For example, they can tell you about cheap web hosting if that's what you need.

Or maybe you need a guide to how to choose a web host? They can do that for you too.

It's a good little site, worth checking out if you're looking for a web host.

This won't work you know

I know Portugal and I've got to tell you, this simply won't work at all.

Alarmed by high death rates from strokes in Portugal, deputies from the ruling Socialist party submitted a bill to parliament Friday to slash the use of salt in bread, blamed for many blood pressure problems.

The country's key dietary staple -- dried salted cod that is rehydrated and cooked in many different ways -- has made the Portuguese accustomed to using more salt in food than other nations, and bakers add generous amounts to their dough.

Bread is one of the main sources of salt intake and many Portuguese eat it with every meal.

Salt cod isn't the dietary staple. Bread is. We in English say that man does not live by bread alone but that doesn't make much sense when translated into Portuguese. Man cannot live without bread might be a more appropriate way of putting it.

For example, the Portuguese eat more bread per head of population than any other nation on earth. And believe me, they're not going to eat a low salt version of it just because something might go wrong 50 years down the line.

No, it won't work.

My favourite appetiser

I know, I'm weird, but my favourite appetiser when I'm at a catered event is in fact miniature Beef Wellington. There's just something about the combination of beef, pastry and foie gras that does it for me. Which means that, as they do indeed produce such, I'm looking forward to going to an even done by this Dallas caterer.

Yum, yum!

This post sponsored by the Dallas Catering company, JimLeeEvents.

Adam Ries

Adam Ries has found out the hard way. There is just no way that you can get free from the TV licensing people. Doesn't matter where you hide or how hard you try to do so.

Even if you've been dead 450 years, they'll still get you.

A German mathematician who died 450 years ago has been sent a letter demanding that he pay long-overdue television license fees, residents at his former address said on Wednesday.

Germany's GEZ broadcast fee collection office sent the bill to the last home address of Adam Ries, an algebra expert who bought the house in 1525. A club in his honor was set up at the property four centuries later.

"We received a letter saying 'To Mr Adam Ries' on it, with the request to pay his television and radio fees," said Annegret Muench, who now heads the club.

Muench returned the letter to the GEZ with a note explaining the request had come too late because Ries had died in 1559, centuries before the invention of television and radio. She nonetheless received a reminder a few weeks later.

Even when someone explains that you have been in your grave for 450 years, they'll still keep coming after you.

I wonder, should we start talking about Vampire bureaucracies, the undead who suck the money out of you? Or zombie bureaucracies, the undead who want to eat your brains?

The Saskatoon Redemption

It's not really possible to title this story anything else, is it? The Saskatoon Redemption?

Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Six high-risk prisoners escaped a Canadian jail last summer after spending four months chipping a path to freedom with nail clippers and other makeshift tools, according to a government report released on Thursday.

The prisoners, four of whom faced murder charges, used their tools to remove a heating grill and steel plate and win access to a brick exterior wall.

What were they at high risk of? High risk of escaping?

Although, it has to be said, in the real movie (err, in the sense that there can be a "real" movie) it took 20 years to make the escape.

Here it was only four months. Although, if you're going to be really picky, it was two man years. Still only 10% of the fictional version.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Dolphin Discovery!

This is absolutely great, I hadn't realised that this had become so organised. Swimging with dolphins can be an absolutely fantastic experience and I had thought that you needed to just get lucky. Uou know, be swimming around somewhere in the warm water and maybe, just possibly, some dolphins would turn up and swim with you.

That's certainly what has happened to me. Many years ago, more years than I care to remember, I was broke and sleeping on a beach in Antigua. I was there a whole week. My day was up with the dawn, lie around and read a bit, walk the few miles into town to get some lunch. Stock up on rum, bread, cheese and another book and go back to the beach. Read again until nightfall and then go to sleep. All really rather fun although the best bit was first thing in the morning. Wading into the water off this little beach with my salt water soap I would soon find several dolphins playing around me. It was really amazing having my morning shower/swim with these delightful creatures.

But as I say, I thought you just had to get lucky to experience this. Apparently not, now it's all much better organised. In fact, it's now one of the options in these Grand Cayman Island cruise tours and excursions. So you don't just have to hope, you can go knowing that you'll be able to do this.

And I thoroughly recommend it, it's great fun!

Tongue tied Hillary

You know, I think the Americans did rather well in their last election cycle. Lord forbid that Hillary Clinton should have become President given the gaffes she's making in her trip to Europe:

Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe as secretary of state when she mispronounced her EU counterparts' names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe's.

Pronunciation isn't all that much of a problem but claiming that US democracy is older than Europe's is very odd indeed. Iceland, for example, has had a parliament since 900 AD or so, the Isle of Man isn't that far behind.

Even England had a Bill or Rights in 1688 or so, fully a century before the US did.

"It is hard enough with two parties to come to any resolution, and I say this very respectfully, because I feel the same way about our own democracy, which has been around a lot longer than European democracy."

The remark provoked much headshaking in the parliament of a bloc that likes to trace back its democratic tradition thousands of years to the days of classical Greece.

Well, yes, there is also that example of the ancient greeks....although the idea didn't in fact last all that long there and died out for a millenia or two before reviving.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Restaurants and chairs

As someone who has actually owned a restaurant and as someone who has worked in them over the years I think I can answer this question pretty well. The question being, what sort of restaurant chairs would you prefer?

Now, I agree, that if you open a new restaurant then what the place looks like is very important. It's what will encourage people to try the place for the first time. But then again, if the restaurant chairs are uncomfortable, then you'll lose some of those painfully acquired customers.

But that isn't, from my point of view, the important thing about such chairs. As I say, I've worked in the industry, owned in the industry, so what the pretty pictures look like isn't the important point.

What is important is how do those chairs stack? No, really, the staff (or you when you start out) are going to spend a good amount of their time picking up these chairs, stacking them, so that the cleaner can get in underneath in order to make sure that your place is clean.

So when you think about the design of chairs that you might buy, remember the most important thing, the labor you'll also be using over the years to move them around.

You or the internet?

Umm, actually, the internet please:

German twenty-somethings would ditch their spouses and do without a car in a heartbeat if they had to choose between having them or Internet access or a mobile phone, according to an industry study.

In a survey by German broadband association Bitkom around 84 percent of respondents aged 19-29 said they would rather do without their current partner or an automobile than forego their connection to the Web.

Living without a mobile phone was also unthinkable for 97 percent of those questioned in that age range.

Well, I dunno. What are you looking for? Companionship, conversation, sex....these are indeed more available online than out there in meatspace, aren't they?

Or are the youngsters lying to me?