July 2012
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Month July 2012

Understanding the “price umbrella”

The umbrella pricing business definition:

A market situation in which several large firms dominate an industry and maintain relatively high prices such that smaller firms with higher costs are also able to operate profitably.

It is often asserted that a dominant firm provides a pricing umbrella for smaller firms; that is, as long as competing firms price at or below the level of the dominant firm, they will be able to find buyers. Obviously, if their products are inferior, they will have to set their prices substantially below the dominant firm’s.

Many a firm has lost or made money by simply not understanding, or understanding this concept.


Seventeen ways to work smart

  1. Get clear on the objective.
  2. Create a vision.
  3. Take the 80%/20% route. [result | effort]
  4. Go for the high impact items.
  5. Create structures to maintain your work processes.
  6. Stop being a perfectionist. Perfectionist
  7. Learn from others.
  8. If it works, stick with it. 
  9. Ask for help. 
  10. Cut-out the fluff…
  11. Automate. 
  12. Delegate.
  13. Outsource. 
  14. Wait. [Sometimes waiting may be the best solution.]
  15. Pick your battles. 
  16. Always be on the lookout for a better way. 
  17. Review regularly.

The English language and your ideas

I read this post on Hack / Make, and I liked the George Orwell essay…, so I am passing it along.


Words are powerful tools. Mastering the English language will make your life easier. Speaking clearly is necessary in life and business [to conduct and complete].

George Orwell, in his essay Politics and the English Language (first published in 1946), says: “Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward…” In essence, writers need to put in the effort in order to get  their ideas across. And, even with clear communication, that doesn’t mean your ideas will be well received, but, Orwell believes:

You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you—even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent—and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

Success in communicating ideas comes from truly understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, so that you can then translate thoughts into things that can actually be said or done [actionable]. The higher altitude something is, the harder it is to explain…

When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning.

Having a clear, concrete idea allows the writer to find the right words to express it.

What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them.

So, start with the idea, and then let the idea(s) choose the words. Dropping meaningless words and phrases from your vocabulary is a start, but how do you shape your words into something concise? Orwell offers some steps to form clear sentences.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1. What words will express it?

2. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

3. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And, he will probably ask himself two more:

1. Could I put it more shortly?

2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

Relentlessly desire to express your ideas clearly, and put in the effort to remove abstraction, while constantly editing your ideas and words along the way. It will take more time and more effort, but by using these steps, you will gain the trust and understanding of the people around you. Source: Hack / Make. 

Giving back to the community…

As the board chairman for the Salvation Army, here is my “Open Letter” to Baltimore for 2012:

Dear Friends:

This past year was another difficult one for many Baltimore area families because of the continuingly tough economic times.  Even more families are struggling to make ends meet, giving them few options other than turning to The Salvation Army for the needed additional support.

In any year, and even more so in a depressed economic climate, The Salvation Army strives to help those in need by providing a wide range of support and resources. Family Service Centers provide food, clothing, and emergency funds for essential services each and every day of the year. The Boys and Girls Clubs offer children warm, safe, and caring places to learn and develop. The Booth House is a place for emergency and transitional shelter for men, women and children (i.e., families) who desperately need a home. And, the Feedmore® mobile canteen serves meals to the homeless and provides spiritual support to ease suffering.

Your charitable donations of time, money, and resources are paramount to The Salvation Army’s ability to provide each of these types of support. The Salvation Army receives 87% of its revenue from the general public, so your personal contributions afford The Salvation Army the opportunity to provide all of the programs and services crucial to so many people. We continue to be truly grateful for the Baltimore community’s generosity.

It has been an honor to serve the greater Baltimore area as Advisory Board Chairman in 2011 and witness the overwhelming support from the community. The Salvation Army is able to make incredibly positive, wide-ranging changes in our community with limited resources due to the large number of devoted volunteers and careful handling of expenditures. With your on-going financial support, time, and prayers, The Salvation Army is able to continue to serve those in the community most in need.

Thank you again for your generous support.

Sincerely yours,

Mark B. Kirkwood

Advisory Board Chairman



Business plan considerations

Business Planning Rationale & Considerations

I. Strategic & Business Plans Are Critical (With the following exception…)

XYZ Company: Which way should I go? Axis: Where do you want to be? XYZ: I’m not sure. Axis: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.

II. Primary Reasons To Develop A Business Plan

  1. To map the future in order to get where you need to be “on-time.”
  2. To support growth & funding, or the “investment” of others in the project.
  3. To develop & communicate a course of action.
  4. To help manage a budget & cash.
  5. To support a strategic launch and or exit.
  6. To develop: organization, accountability & leadership.

III. Key Considerations When Developing The Plan

  1. Write from an external perspective with keen analysis and clear thinking.
  2. Understand and plan for internal and external challenges.
  3. Research/understand supply side (i.e., manufacturing) and demand side (i.e., sales) issues thoroughly.
  4. Understand your competition.
  5. Attention to detail(s) (e.g., credible projections and assumptions, etc.).
  6. Focus on the opportunity: Unique business propositions…/Will it work?
  7. Ensure all areas (not just key areas) are covered.
  8. Exhaustive attention to detail in economic models and financials.
  9. Executive summary must stand on its own.
  10. Review the process, and develop adequate feedback loops along the way.
  11. Assign clear and logical accountability throughout the plan.

IV. Key Components of a Valuable Strategic Business Plan

  1. Objectives
  2. Executive Review
  3. Technology/Manufacturing/Engineering Analysis (e.g., technology, processes, materials, costs, etc.). Test & Re-test this…
  4. Market Analysis
  5. Supply & Demand Analysis
  6. Environmental Analysis
  7. Company Analysis (i.e., mgt. & org,, IP, funding, history/story, needs, key success factors, etc.)
  8. Competitive Analysis
  9. Business & Market Strategy (to manage “thru 7” above)
  10. SWOT Assessment [carefully developed and answered]
  11. Business Model
  12. Financial Analysis / Economic Model
  13. Tactical Implementation Plan for all Strategies

V. Now ask: “What components of IV are in place and actionable for XYZ Company?”