This is the simplest lesson in running a business (and living your life) that you will ever read.
You must have a good product, offer it at a reasonable price, make it available at a good location, and communicate its benefits to potential customers.
You must take in more money than you spend. At the beginning, cash flow is more critical than profit, but that must come at some point. (Of course, in personal life, this means not maxing it all your credit cards!)
You must set aside money to improve what you offer (in product, in place, and in people). Money should be spent only on things that have a direct impact on customers.
If there is any left over, then you can spend it on nicer things for yourself. But, the owner comes last and only after the business is healthy and the future is set.
The easiest ways to kill a business is for the owner to not have control of spending or to take out too much money. The fable about killing the goose that lays the golden egg applies here.
Parenthood is a lot easier to get into than out of.
In parenting, there is no right way or wrong way. There is only the way that children want or how they interpret what their parents did, do, or will do.
It is somewhat similar to what I wrote the other day about government officials and natural disasters: you can’t win for losing. You think that you are doing something useful and positive, only to have it thrown back in your face as the worst possible choice of actions. Passing on experience and knowledge is labeled as “trying to dictate how I live my life”. Being generous (ie. spoiling) is exploited and interpreted as a form of control or manipulation.
There is a saying: make it easy for your children when they are young and you make it difficult for them when they are old. I have noticed some truth in this. Perhaps, the most harmonious families are those, where the children leave home, make their own way in the world, and visit only at Thanksgiving. Complaining about lack of phone calls, letters, and emails must be less stressful than frequent confrontation, accusations, and hurt feelings.
If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River,
the headline that afternoon would read: "President Can't Swim."
Lyndon B. Johnson
Last night, I lay in bad reading. The window was open, letting in cool night air. At some point, I noticed what sounded like detonations in the distance. I paused in my reading—bringing me back to the present from 17th Germany—to think what the noise could be.
I recalled that the Museum Festival on the banks of the Main River is closing, with. A favorable wind carried the sound of traditional fireworks marking the end from Frankfurt, 20 kilometers away
I could not help thinking that the sound reminded me of wartime bombardment—aerial or artillery. I tried to imagine citizens of this village over 60 years ago, lying awake and hearing the sounds of Allied bombardment of Frankfurt and neighboring targets. It must surely have been disturbing—not the celebration that explosive fireworks convey. Did they fear the end of their country’s foolhardy attempt to right the wrongs of an unjust treaty? Were they happy to live in a farm village, uninteresting to military planners? It must surely have been only women, children, and old men listening to those unwelcome and frightening sounds.
In contrast, I picture the crowd in Frankfurt: all ages, confessions, social classes from many countries—many of which were formerly enemies or told by their government to hate one another. On this night, all enjoy a colorful aerial display that was accompanied by symphony music. Surely, I was the only one to think of war.
Dull thuds in the distance did not bother. I would have returned to my book, but a neighbor’s stupid dog started yapping and forced me to get up to close the window...
While we’re on the subject of media...
I noticed the following headline in one of the serious British newspapers:
Euro bail-out in doubt as “hysteria” hits Germany. (their quotes)
I understand a different definition for that word than what I observe on the street, read in newspapers, or see on television news broadcasts. Hysteria is what happens when Godzilla stomps through Tokyo or when awe at seeing a plane crash into the World Trade Center turns to panic, when the building collapses and people run for their lives in a cloud of debris. Mild disagreement—even heated debate—among politicians and political parties is rather normal behavior and business-as-usual. I become concerned only when all agree.
I wonder what words will be used when true calamity hits, since all the juicy ones have been enfeebled.
There’s a phrase: can’t win for losing.
Sadly, this seems to apply to local, state, and federal officials in the United States in the wake of any natural disaster, such as a hurricane.
After Katrina, everyone was criticized (many justifiably) for failure to prepare for something the scale of which no one had heard of, experienced, or foreseen. (Then again, someone must have said: I told you that would happen!) Now, following the visit of a young lady called Irene (Why is it always women? Perhaps Rudyard Kipling was correct.), officials are being criticized for being too cautions, ordering evacuations, and raising fear of dire consequences...which did not, for the most part, happen.
I believe in the need for a free press, but many are unreasonable and just plain stupid. Instead of being happy that nature did not unleash all the power at its disposal, too many must criticize officials for being unable to predict the unpredictable. Few seemed to notice that someone did an impressive job predicting the storm’s path.
After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done. Unknown
Reporting of the on-going turmoil in Libya is fairly similar between television news channels. Some spend more time on it than others, and some reporters are simply better at war reporting (more objective and less breathless, impressed by their own faux bravery). Lately, reporters have come to don helmets and bulletproof vests to prove that they are near dangers. This is patently different from earlier war reporting, where it was badge of honor to taunt danger and dress the part of foreign correspondent.
Something else new to the 24-hour cable news genre is anchors travelling to hotspots to have their face imposed upon the turmoil in the background. (Daily Show does this more cleverly using blue screen.) I do not know why these people must waste travel expenses, because they do not do better than their colleagues in the field, who are pushed to the sides...or closer to the front. There are some very brave, intrepid reporters, who do not get anchor roles (beauty before bravery).
Women reporters are particularly interesting to watch. I was amused to see one Sky News (UK) anchorwoman, dressed in spotless cliché blue helmet and vest on a Tripoli rooftop far from any shooting, breathlessly reporting tidbits feed to her by TelePrompTer, which had been sent in from her colleagues closer to danger. This was clearly contrasted by the brave BBC women in the thick of things, with bullets whizzing over head and fighters rushing past or crouching in the background. I’m sure that the Sky woman had her hair and make-up staff (flown in with her and put up at the same luxury hotel) complained about the helmet destroying her hair, while I have never seen the BBC woman (who’s been turning up in all the war zones for years) ever seem to care about her hair...which is probably why she does not get an anchor job.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.