How Much Would You Pay to Avoid TSA?

This was the question that the students in the MS Marketing Analytics program at Bentley University recently asked 475 flyers. I was surprised at how low the costs were that flyers were willing to pay:

  • $3.31 to skip the metal detector
  • $4.65 to avoid the full body scan
  • $5.26 to forego an enhanced pat down

To avoid all three: $13.22.

For some reason, I thought they would be willing to pay more. For over 10 years, I was Platinum with Northwest/Delta, flying an average of 80,000 miles/year and at least 60 segments each year. For frequent flyers like myself, for 60 segements, this would equate to a total cost of $793.20/per annum. Would I pay $800/year to avoid the TSA lines altogether? Yep. You betcha. No problem. No worries. True that. Sign me up. I’m in. I got a dog in that race.

It won’t happen, of course. But if they tied this to their trusted travelers program (TSA Pre-Check), which I’ve already joined, they’d have a way to make a lot more money and keep airline travel as safe as it is today. They already have my fingerprints and have run a background check on me. They could add knowledge based questions – I’m good with that too. Scan my bag if you’d like, but let me bypass the lines. I HATE the full body scans – it’s a violation of my 4th Amendment rights and it’s invasive of my privacy. I don’t like the metal detector either.

This won’t ever happen, I understand. But the idea of paying to avoid the lines is appealing to a frequent flyer like myself.

Bill English, CEO
Elevate
Bible and Business

An ancient entrepreneur the hero of Christmas?

Anne Dilenschneider tells the following story.

Once, there was a little boy who was so excited one Sunday after practice for the church Christmas play that he practically jumped into the minivan when his mother came to pick him up. When he finally settled into the back seat, his mom called back to him, “So what part did you get that’s making you so excited?”

The boy could hardly contain himself. “I got the part of the hero!”

“The hero?” she asked. “Are you Joseph?”

“Nooooo, Mom!” The look he shot her made it clear that he thought she was truly clueless.

“Are you the lead shepherd just like last year?”

“Nooooo, Mom!” She really didn’t get it.

“Are you going to be a king and wear a crown this year?”

“No Mom! It’s better than that!”

“The Angel Gabriel?”

“NO!”

“Tell me you’re not baby Jesus!”

“Aw, Mom. I told you I’m the hero of the whole show.”

“Well, who are you?”

“I’m the innkeeper!” the boy announced, grinning from ear to ear. “Without the innkeeper, there wouldn’t have been any place for Jesus to be born!”

Like most households we have a nativity scene as part of our Christmas decorations. Has it ever come to your attention that most nativity scenes have shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph, Mary and of course the baby Jesus? Have you ever noticed that there’s somebody conspicuous by his absence? Where’s the innkeeper?

Now for all of you astute biblical scholars I realize that the Scripture only insinuates that there was an innkeeper because Mary and Joseph went to the inn and there was no room there. He is never mentioned, only the inn is mentioned. Because of Luke 2:7 I think it’s probably okay to assume that there was some type of innkeeper. I also understand that the concept of an inn is not in any way like our concept of the modern Comfort Inn.

I know this innkeeper is generally portrayed as somebody too busy to come and worship at the feet of the Christ child. Dr. David Jeremiah writes:

“Could it be that the innkeeper missed Christmas, not because he had no room in his inn, but because he had no room for it in his heart? He was preoccupied, distracted, and unaware. We have no reason to think he was angry or belligerent. He was just busy—too busy. He got so engrossed with all the details of his life—taking care of the inn, taking care of his family, dealing with all the pressures—that he couldn’t stop to reflect upon the moment that was at hand”.

 

Being too busy to have time for Jesus is something that all of us should avoid in our lives, not just innkeepers.

 

The story about the little guy that thought he had the part of the hero in the Christmas Pageant got me thinking. In one way the little guy is right. Where would Jesus have been born if there was not an innkeeper? Where would Jesus have been born if some ancient entrepreneur in the little town of Bethlehem did not take the risk to open up his house as an inn to those that were coming to the little village. In his vocational call from God the innkeeper did open an area for livestock, a little cave with some type of thatched overhang that offered a little shelter, where Jesus was been born?

 

If that ancient business owner had not had these resources he would not have been able to offer the refuge to Mary and Joseph and eventually to Jesus, a marginal act of compassion of a residence in a stable. Mary and Joseph could’ve found themselves in the cold with no protection from the elements.

 

I really don’t know what type of man or maybe even woman that this innkeeper was. All the speculation about the lack of spiritual depth and awareness may be true. But no matter what type of person the innkeeper was I think this year I’m going to go out and try to find a figurine that looks like an ancient innkeeper and include it in our nativity scene. I may not put the innkeeper in among the sheep, goats, shepherds, and the wise men watching Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. I may put that little figurine a little bit off to the side to keep doing what innkeepers do.

 

This is a quiet reminder of the role Christian business owners play by fulfilling their vocational calling in the building of the Kingdom. I should take time to lift up in prayer my brothers and sisters in Christ who are business owners. Because I think it’s important that my family and I remember if there had not been that ancient entrepreneur there would not have been an inn or a stable to function as the first address for the incarnate son of God, The Creator, The Sovereign Savior of all the world.

Dale Hutchcraft

 


Functional or Hybrid Methods of Organizing Your Business: Why Baking Core Processes into Your Business is Important to Your Success

In this post, I’ll give a brief overview of why I believe a Matrix organized business will give you, the small business owner, greater chances for success.

Functionally Organized Business

Organizing a business by functional area is one of the most common ways to build out your company. The work and processes are grouped by functional specialty, for example, sales, finance, marketing and so forth. Sometimes, this is referred to as a “silo” method of organizing your company. Communication is generally limited within the silo with department heads communicating for cross-functional needs. Silos tend to have independent KPIs, foci, strategies and processes.

In a functionally organized company, projects tend to be focused on current initiatives with cross-functional processes tending to feel “foreign” to those who work within the functional areas. The current projects tend to be strategically based and grounded in the mission and vision plans of the organization.

Matrix Organized Business

In a Matrix organized business, the functions are built around the core processes of the organization. The processes are not thought to be cross-functional – instead, the processes themselves are the core of the organization. Because process improvement is all about delivering a greater customer experience at a lower process cost, “customers” can be defined as internal consumers of the outputs of the process or actual customers who purchase products and services from the company.

In a matrix organization, you’ll have a process owner with supplemental managers. The process owner will work to ensure the process is working well, managing the measurements against the expected KPIs and working with the supplemental managers to ensure the process is doing what it is designed to accomplish.

Take traditionally accepted silos and turning them into core processes in your organization could do wonders for your business. Here are two examples.

Get rid of your sales manager and instead, have a Process Owner for Revenue. Why do this? Think about the difference. If I’m in charge of sales, then my only goal is to increase sales. Do I really care what happens in production? No. Do I really care what happens with customer service? Not my problem. I’m measured on sales. So I’m going to sell, sell, sell! But if I’m in charge of Revenue, think about the touch points that is required to maximize revenue: sales, customer service (so there are as few returns as possible), marketing (that aligns with sales), product quality and so forth. There are many things that can positively or negatively impact revenue, so now I become concerned with all those touch points because I’m concerned with maximizing revenue.

Have a Process Owner for Cash Flow. If you do this, then you’ll find this individual is greatly concerned with both receivables and payables as well as being concerned with short-term investments and budgeting. By making one individual ultimately responsible for cash flow (and for blowing the whistle well in advance of when cash is going to be short), then you give yourself an excellent opportunity to have cash evened out. This person will be incentivized to have low cost, but effective vendors, sales contracts that negotiate aggressive payment schedules and the like. Managing cash well is one of the greatest avenues to profitability you’ll ever have at your fingertips.

Summary

There is much more to this topic than meets the eye, but in our opinion, it is well worth your while to look at identifying your 5-10 core processes and then staffing for those processes first, then staffing for the functional areas that will support those processes.

Friday Five December 5 2014

Current Stories

The price of gasoline is now down to an average of $2.72/gallon. This is good news. This leaves more money in our pockets for other spending or savings. As a political issue, we have never found a strong connection between what the President does and the price of petroleum. While we’re delighted that the price of gas has come down considerably, we don’t attach the lower price to a success of any policy in the Obama administration. Read more here.

In the early 1950’s, the average American consumed roughly 45 pounds of sugar each year. This equated to under 2 ounces per day. (here too). Health issues due to poor diet has now eclipsed tobacco as the #1 health issue in the United States. Today, each of us eats roughly 90 pounds of sugar each year. Soft drinks, processed foods and desserts are the main culprits. Type II diabetes is a direct result of this over-consumption of sugar. In fact, pregnant mothers are now delivering obese babies as they pass along the sugar and fat to their children during pregnancy.

One of the overriding promises of the Obama administration was his ability and expectation that he could heal race relations in this nation where others had failed in the past. What we’ve seen, over the last six years, is that race relations are no better and in some quarters, worse. Only 8% of Americans feel that race relations are better in this country today than when he took office. “But while 54% of whites think the U.S. justice system is fair to blacks, 84% of black voters consider the justice system unfair to them.  Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true. In the Ferguson case, 59% of blacks think white police officer Darren Wilson should be charged with murder for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.Just 15% of whites agree. Similar racial divides are found on a number of key issues, with blacks more favorable to a big government approach than whites are. Black voters also continue to overwhelmingly approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while most whites disapprove” (Rasmussen Report) even though blacks are doing worse under President Obama (also here, here and here). It is loyalty based on race, not on outcomes.

40% of the CEOs of our country’s largest companies expect hiring and sales to pick up in 2015. Yet, on the same day, the same magazine (Money Magazine) reported that they trimmed their 2015 sales forecasts and yet expect to boost hirings and capital expenditures. Corporate leaders expect a 2.4% growth in GDP next year. One wonders how all this can be true at the same time. At first blush, what went through our minds was that corporate CEOs have surplus cash on their balance sheets which they funnel into capital expenditures. Apparently, they’re thinking is that they can finally make more profit putting that money to use than they can leaving it in some type of savings or investment instruments.

For an Evangelical Christian, the State of Theology report is disconcerting. What once was accepted as core, common beliefs in Christianity are now questioned. For example, many believe there is no literal heaven or hell. If this is true, then why did Christ die on the cross? Certainly not to make us better people.

National Debt

While the national debt peaked at just over $18T near the end of November, some of the debt was temporarily retired. We’re certain the debt will continue to rise. Congress will increase the debt ceiling and the can will be kicked down the road past the election next year. Nothing will get resolved. Entitlements will continue to extract the wealth of our children and grand-children. And apparently, getting something for free now is more important to us than denying ourselves for the good of our children. The selfishness of our generation is astounding.

Date Debt Held by the Public Intragovernmental Holdings Total Public Debt Outstanding
11/20/2014 12,888,587,001,199.85 5,077,803,051,705.69 17,966,390,052,905.54
11/21/2014 12,889,776,540,331.31 5,076,654,326,113.95 17,966,430,866,445.26
11/24/2014 12,889,755,500,344.12 5,079,585,702,518.56 17,969,341,202,862.68
11/25/2014 12,890,968,195,297.62 5,082,300,179,570.08 17,973,268,374,867.70
11/26/2014 12,890,693,488,815.29 5,073,060,129,141.97 17,963,753,617,957.26
11/28/2014 12,922,681,725,432.94 5,082,867,603,128.51 18,005,549,328,561.45
12/01/2014 12,931,900,593,260.86 5,056,239,108,715.41 17,988,139,701,976.27
12/02/2014 12,932,180,810,260.93 5,062,558,367,892.50 17,994,739,178,153.43
12/03/2014 12,931,967,850,617.08 5,044,928,523,462.92 17,976,896,374,080.00
12/04/2014 12,945,811,624,100.99 5,047,914,557,299.09 17,993,726,181,400.08

So, You Want to Start a Business?

OK. You’ve made up your mind. You’re going to be your own boss. You’re going to live the dream. You’re going to start your own business and work for yourself. No more corporate politics. No more long commutes. You’ll work out of your house and maybe get a small office somewhere close by. Or perhaps you’ll open that restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Now is the time. You’re ready to take the risk.

If this is you, then you’re joining nearly 28 million fellow Americans who own a small business (defined by the SBA as 500 or fewer employees). You’ll be one of the 543,000 new businesses that start each month and the life expectancy of your business is less than 10 years. Only a third survive past 10 years with only 25% staying in business 15 or more years. Roughly 10% of these businesses have gross receipts of more than $100,000, so if you’re planning to earn your bread-winning income out of this business, then you’ll need to target that six-figure income for your business. You’re personal income will be less because the business itself will incur costs that will need to be paid before you are paid.

Call of God

So, what do you need to do now to make sure your business lasts more than 10 years? In other words, what do you need to do now to make sure your business is successful? If you’re a Christian Business Owner, then you need to ensure that you’re called by God to venture out into your own business. You need to be sure that you’re following the Lord on this, because there will be times when you’ll wonder why you did this and if you should shut down and go back to working for someone else. Believe us when we say that you’ll need the rock solid foundation of knowing God has called you to small business ownership. Without that calling, you’ll lack a significant mooring when the waves get rough and you get tossed about.

You Must Be Competent

Next, you must be good at something. And that something must be valuable enough for others to pay for. And you’ll need to convince them that you are the right person to deliver that something to them at a price point they are willing to pay and you are willing to work for. If you can’t get alignment on this, then you’re doomed from the start. This is why franchising is so popular – they will teach you how to be good at what they do. They will give you the processes, marketing and such to get started. But you’ll need upfront cash – in some cases, over $100,000 just to get started.

You Must Be Willing to Risk

Starting a business will have upfront costs. You will pay them or your business will never get off the ground. The costs will include incorporating (we highly recommend), getting a web site, business cards and so forth. But there is another cost – and it’s huge: time. You will spend inordinate amounts of time working on the initial structure of your business. If you choose to do everything yourself, then you’ll be working overtime to not only do your day job that earns income, but you’ll also be working evening and weekend hours working on the business.

For example, you’ll need to choose a name for your business. Your personal name might be fine if you’re in professional services such as accounting or the law. But if you’re starting a dog-sitting business or a training business or a consulting business, chances are you’ll need a name for that business. Aligning your business name that can be trademarked with an internet domain name that is available can be a very frustrating experience. Word of advice: make it easier by not trying to find a .com domain name. Go with one of the new 96 domains, such as .company or .fund and so forth. You’ll find these domain names in use more and more as time passes.

Jack of All Trades

In starting your new business, you’re signing up to work in a number of areas: accounting, marketing, human resources, the law, product development, sales, product and/or service delivery, customer service, business development, leadership, supply chain and so forth. The size of your business will not necessarily preclude you from having to spend time in each of these areas to get started and keep your business going. Please don’t minimize this point. Don’t say, for example, “well, I won’t have to do sales since this and that will do it for me” or something like “I don’t need to worry about leadership since I won’t have employees”. Not taking seriously the many hats that you will wear will only cost you in the long run and probably will be one of the core reasons you’re business doesn’t last as long as it could.

Start with the End in Mind

Plan for how you want to wrap up your business. How you plan to end your business will directly impact how you maximize the value of your business for yourself personally. For example, if you plan to grow your business and then realize the value out of it when you sell it, then you’ll make certain choices along the way to maximize the value of your business at the time of sale. But if you plan to work for yourself over the next X number of years and you don’t plan to grow your business, then there will be nothing to sell at the end, so you’ll need to pull out additional value from your business incrementally and consistently. For example, many CPAs who work for themselves pay into their retirement funds on a monthly basis and over a twenty or thirty year time period, they are able to comfortably retire because they pulled additional value out of their business on a monthly basis and tucked it away into a saving instrument of some type.

Don’t run a business where all you have at the end is the memory of some good income years. You’ll enjoy the ride, but you won’t enjoy the landing. Recognize that your business must support you now and in the future, even if the business doesn’t exist in the future.

Running your own business will be the toughest job you’ll ever love. We offer this advice out of experience, not some book. We’ve made every mistake in this post. If you’d like help getting your business off the ground, just contact us. We’d love to help.

Bill English,
CEO and Founder, Elevate
Founder, Bible and Business

Friday Five November 28 2014

Several news stories caught our attention this week. Here’s our pick for the week ending November 28, 2014.

Current Stories

Since 2007, large banks have paid out more than $180B in fines. Mortgage-related claims constituted the majority of the legal costs paid by banks, but other costs included sanctions violations, improper conduct, market manipulation, tax evasion and misrepresentation. Such fines and legal expenses are a cost of doing business – costs which are passed onto us in the form of higher fees and/or lower interest rates.

This young man kills his girlfriend because he thinks she is pregnant. During the arrest, he asks if he can get community service for his crime. What would lead him to believe or expect that he could murder and come away with a light sentence like community service? Is it not because justice is not meted out consistently in our society? When laws are not uniformly enforced, we believe this is the result. While the report is silent on our next point, let us interject that having a father in the home who meets boyfriends and sets some expectations would also go a long way toward hindering this kind of evil behavior.

From our You-can’t-make-this-stuff-up department, a women was recently removed from an airplane after her service pig pooped on board. That’s right, she claims she needed the pig to calm her anxieties. We’re speechless, not only because the women thinks she needs a pig, but also because the airline let her take the living bacon aboard a flight.

If you’re a woman, don’t try to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. Our allies don’t like it. Somehow, a female driving a car violates the rules of their Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. This shows what happens when a religion is used to rule a country – inevitably, it becomes a legalistic, oppressive state with rule on top of rule governing the population. And the farther one moves away from Christianity, the worse women are treated. (here too.)

Lost in the all the hubbub is a small story about Fannie and Freddie relaxing mortgage lending guidelines. The change is supposed to clarify rules on who they believe is a good risk, but still, it begs the question: did we learn nothing from the last decade?

National Debt

As best as we can discern, this country’s national debt exceeded the $18 trillion (that’s $18,000,000,000,000) on Thanksgiving Day this year. We find this ironic.

Leading Indicators

Total construction was up 1.1% from September of 2014 with a total spend of $971B in October, according to the Economics and Statistics Administration. This is up 3.3% compared to October 2013.

Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United States, adjusted for price changes — increased at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the third quarter of 2014, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 4.6 percent.

Hiring Rubic

Those who have worked with me when hiring individuals know what a fan I am of rubic’s. A good rubic can keep an interview on track while allowing the interviewer freedom in how questions are phrased and how to direct the conversation. They are also a great way to compare what an interviewee says with what their references say. If a common rubic is used for a single candidate across all interviews and reference discussions, then notes can be compared between interviewers and it forms a basis for comparing and contrasting what references say relative to that the candidate says in his or her various interviews.

The rubic I’m referencing in this post was developed for an executive position for a non-profit ministry. It is easily ported to the for-profit world. I give this rubic to the community as a starting point for developing your own rubic. Use it if it is helpful, leave it behind if it is not helpful.

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Thanks.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

The Challenge of Looking Ahead Without Getting Left Behind

There is an old proverb that says when you’re up to your neck in alligators it’s hard to remember that your original purpose was to drain the swamp. There should be an addendum to that proverb: “When you’re up to your neck in alligators it’s hard to think about what comes after draining the swamp.”

If “draining the swamp” equates to the day-to-day operations of your business, the “what comes after draining the swamp” is focused on your long-term plans.  After you have successfully put out the immediate fires, then what?

For business owners of all stripes, in all verticals, one of the most challenging questions is this:  “what am I going to be doing and what is my company going to be doing five or ten years from now?” The importance of answering questions like this is emphasized at business seminars, in business magazine articles, and even Internet blogs.

The reason for the emphasis on planning is generally considered obvious. We live in a world where change is a constant:  the assumption is not if there will be change but how much change is there going to be. And how quickly is it going to come? In some industries it may seem that change happens at a manageable speed from one business cycle to another. But there are some industries in which change comes at the speed of light.

For most business owners there are numerous plates in the air demanding their attention.  There are issues of hiring, retention, and unfortunately an occasional termination. There is staying on top of hitting those short-term targets. And then there are always those cash flow issues. It is hard for business owners to think beyond the here and now.  In fast-changing industries,  thinking five or ten years ahead is a real challenge.

Business owners need to understand that the first step in preparing for the changes of tomorrow is setting aside time to think and learn today.  Sometimes, working on the business rather than in the business is your best way to long-term success. Peter Drucker once wrote that “leaders in business have the task first to keep their noses to the grindstone while lifting their eyes to the hills”. Drucker’s contemporary translation for modern business owners is that modern they must be keeping their focus both on producing results for the present and preparing for the future.  Christian business owners have the advantage of being led by the Holy Spirit.

The embracing of thinking and learning is not so much an issue of how many hours business owners have to set aside to understand industry changes and plan for the future. It is really about effectively answering particular questions related to themselves and their industry. So what questions should business owners answer to position themselves to effectively meet the challenges and changes of the future?

The first thing a business owner needs to do is to get a handle on what it’s like to think five years or even ten years into the future. The best way to get mentally prepared to think about the future is to think about what has happened the last ten years. Not just within your industry but throughout the business world as a whole. This little exercise gives you the opportunity to sense the speed and magnitude of change that allow you to estimate the pace and quality of future changes. Looking back ten years helps you have a more concrete conception of what is a ten year time span.

For example, take a moment and think back to 2004. Toyota’s hybrid Prius had not yet been introduced into the United States market. Before 2003, no single wireless transmission standard had either the range or the speed to handle our growing appetite for connectivity. Facebook came on the scene in 2004, GPS devices showed up in 2005 making getting lost almost impossible.  Then there’s the iPhone in 2007. What are the new advances for this year? Some examples are drones which Amazon.com wants to use for delivery of their orders, new smartphones with built-in security and software that can empower mobile collaboration, and microprocessors configured more like brains than traditional chips which could soon make computers far more astute about what’s going on around them. The concept of the prolific use of social media certainly wasn’t on any company’s radar screens.

Planning CartoonAfter gaining a sense of the past as well as what the future might be, business owners need to focus on several more significant questions.  For example, what is changing in our industry? Is it growing or shrinking? Does our  current strategy maximize present growth areas or does it minimize potential access of future growth areas? Is it possibly time to make a strategic withdrawal from the company’s present segment of the industry to retool the business for participation in some other segment of the industry? Is it time to strategically withdraw from the industry and completely reinvent the company? What are the political, economic, and social forces that will create the world that constitutes the external environment where the business must exist and flourish?

After business owners make decisions concerning the long-term directions of their business, the next focus is on developing the short-term plans that support the long term plans (refer to the Christian Business Reference Architecture).   The key question to ask at this point is this:  what do we need to accomplish and achieve this year so that we can know we’re achieving our long-term plans?

Decisions business owners make concerning long-term direction of their business will set the context for the choices they make concerning the investment of capital and sweat equity in the present.  Those long-term decisions also influence the choices concerning strategic alliances, partnerships, recruiting, training, and retaining the right employees for the business, selecting the right processes, and building foundational infrastructure. Decisions concerning long-term strategic direction for a business and the development of a concrete plan around those long-term strategic direction forms the basis of developing measurable goals that must be implemented to bring a vision or dream into reality.

At a higher level, probably three of the most difficult questions that a business owner needs to ask him-or her-self are as follows:

  • The essence of the first question is what changes need to be made within themselves as an individual.  For example, is there a habit or problem area (such as drinking or lying) that needs to be changed?  An owner’s personal dysfunction will be stamped onto the business.  The only question is how much damage this owner’s dysfunction will create in the business.
  • The essence of the second question concerns business owners’ business support network, such as those individuals who support the business for remuneration but are not part of the business in terms of an employee, partner, or owner. Is this network available at a cost the owner can reasonably absorb?
  • The essence of the third question concerns why the owner is in business in the first place. If you’re motivations are all about the money, chances are you’ll not last long.  For the Christian business owner, it’s a calling from God – a fulfilling of a passion which God has placed inside that individual to create wealth for the Kingdom of God.

Reality is that to sustain a business the owners must not only be focused on draining the swamp but also to be thinking about what to do after the swamp has been drained.

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