Thursday, September 24, 2009

7:45 AM Tomorrow

I think I wrote in a previous entry that I recently interviewed for a permanent position with my current employer. I have been a contractor for the last 10 weeks or so...

Well, I received an e-mail today from my manager asking that I meet with her tomorrow morning at 07:45 AM. This is 5 days before she said I would get an answer on the interviews. As soon as I got the e-mail I felt nervous. I started immediately going through a mental list of possibilities.

Here is what I came up with....

1. The other candidates that were interviewed for the position weren't up to par and I am going to be offered the position.

2. The other candidates were far better than me and I am going to be told that I am no longer in the running.

3. The number I put in under "expected salary" on the pre-interview questionnaire was too high.

4. Something completely unrelated to the interviews.

I have gone over this list several times in my head and have come to an extremely novel conclusion... Are you ready for this?

I can't change the interviews and there is nothing I can do about what will be discussed tomorrow, so I need to let it go. I have tried very hard to do this and have mostly succeeded as of about 3:00 this afternoon.

Now, back to the business of preparing for school to start up again in 2 days!

My schedule this quarter is a bit weird. All of the classes are 2 or 3 credits so none of them meet on consistent days. One Tuesday I may have Spreadsheet Modeling and Business Strategy while the next I might have Ops management. This is instead of having 2 of the classes split the quarter. It is very confusing...

Well, I have a few chapters to read for my first day back. See you on the flip side.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Business School Favorites. IDEO!

Over the last several days I have been reading syllabuses, putting old school work in binders, buying outrageously expensive books, and getting my mind ready to start another quarter in business school. However, tonight I want to reminisce a bit about one of the best things I have seen in business school. It is a video about a firm called IDEO.

IDEO is a consumer product design firm that is located in Chicago (they recently moved from the silicon valley). That isn't the interesting part though. The interesting part is how IDEO develops new product designs and how they run their company.

They develop new product designs by putting together small teams of people with extremely diverse professional backgrounds. You might see a team with an ex-school teacher, an aerospace engineer, a paleontologist, a dentist, and a CFA on it. For the most part there are no hierarchical rules on the team and everyone is expected to come up with their own quirky ideas. They have a specific process for designing which involves a research phase, brainstorming phase, building phase, and refinement phase. During the whole process, the "adults" guide the group and insert deadlines. The adults are a few people picked to ensure projects stay on task.

The company culture is also very interesting. If you walk inside IDEO's offices you will see the wing of a DC-3 pertruding from the wall, bicycles strung up on the ceiling, and umbrellas blocking the glare on computer screens. Employees at IDEO are encouraged to build their workspces in a way that suits them. This produces the aforementioned decor and lots of other crazy stuff. It also gives employees a sens of ownership, and a say in how their company works.

The interesting thing is that IDEO is not only a design shop... they have also been tapped to offer advice on transforming company culture. The video that I link to above says that IDEO may be the workplace of the future. Well, it has been a few years since the video was filmed and I still don't see an airplane wing in my workplace, but maybe we have headed bit more in that direction.

Enjoy this business school favorite!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Business School at Work: Project Management

I recently had the opportunity to interview for a permanent position at the place I have been a contractor for the last 2 months. During one of the interviews, the hiring manager (my current boss) said that she would like the person who fills the open role to design a road-map for the team to use as a development guide. She shared her goal for our team, which manages the supply chain of high value IT assets, to become 1st class and then world class. I thought her definitions of both of these were interesting. By her definition...

1st class means that your customers trust you more than themselves.
World class means other groups model their teams after you.

Anyway, owning something like this sounds a lot like project management to me. And although there are many certified project management professionals, I am finding more and more that it is something many of us have to learn OTJ (on the job). It's real life Business School.

My ideas feeding into this road-map mainly center around data acquisition, vendor management, and supply vs. demand analysis.

1. The data acquisition piece has to do with ensuring systems are in place that deliver accurate and timely data about the supply chain. Currently we have some of this, but the systems aren't always reliable. Hence, some of the data is outdated and some is just plain wrong. In other cases, the data we want measured and recorded might exist somewhere, but systems still need to be developed to deliver it to us.

2. The vendor management piece is something that has already been a big focus, but a supply chain team should be able to make strong recommendations to the group procuring assets on why they should or shouldn't choose a particular vendor. We should also be able to inform the contract creation process by providing specific terms for inclusion.

3. Analysis of supply vs. demand is the last piece. Basically, this one is making sure the internal customers are ordering the product in the right amount and at the right time to meet their demand while allowing some flex for unexpected business.

In all of the above items, whoever holds the new position will be driving the processes and tool development. Seems like a great opportunity to extend business school into the work place.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Business School in Real Life: A little bit of Customer Service Goes a Long Way

I just got back from a very productive and pleasing trip downtown. I was able to get a new watch that was recently given to me adjusted and come home wearing it.

My experience doing this involved a store that that has a strong emphasis on customer lifetime value and showed me that through good customer service. This is a real life business school lesson. Let me explain...

Nordstrom and the Watch Adjustment

Nordstrom's customer service is the stuff of legends. Everyone has heard the story of the elderly woman who successfully returned a car tire there or of the scores of people who have returned shoes after years of wear. Although those things sound extraordinary, what impresses me is the small stuff. Today was an example.

I walked up to the men's watch counter with a brand new Seiko watch and asked if they could fit the watch. The young lady behind the counter very politely said that she would and measured my wrist. She then took the watch and the box and told me she could have it done in 5 or 10 minutes. I browsed the men's department while I waited and returned to find the watch fitting perfectly. I asked the young lady how much I owed and she said not to worry about it.

Wow! What is free in this world anymore? I walked away very impressed and in Nordstrom's debt. As a result, I will be much more likely to make a purchase there in the future and I will be telling everyone I know how great Nordstrom is because they helped me out with my new watch. Maybe someone I know hear's this and goes to Nordstrom to purchase their next watch. Maybe someone who had a bad experience at a lesser department store decides to give Nordstrom a shot because they just want to go to a place with good customer service. Remember, the watch was not purchased at Nordstrom. To them, it doesn't matter. They had an opportunity to make an impression on a customer and they know a positive impression is worth more than a $10 service fee. Kudos Nordstrom, and thanks for the real life business school lesson.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Economics of Gardening

Harvest season of the summer's gardening escapades has begun at my house. Today, as I was chomping away on some rainbow chard, leafy greens, and tomatoes that I grew in my back garden I began to think about whether or not the DIY project was cost effective.

Here is what went into the garden this year.

-4 boards (2"x10") for above ground planter

-8 self drilling screws for above ground planter

-30 square feet of water proof liner for under above ground planter

-60 lbs of organic soil

-seeds for 3 heads of lettuce, 3 rainbow chard plants, 4 beets, 2 snap pea plants, and 1 giant leafy green plant

-a starter tomato and cilantro plant

-organic fertilizer

-approximately 15 hours of planting, watering, and trimming labor

Assuming the labor is free, the total cost of the project was approximately $118.50. From the garden I have harvested and have yet to harvest approximately 12 salads worth of leafy greens and heads of lettuce, 90 cherry tomatoes, 30 snap peas, 4 beets, 0 cilantro (died), and 10 rainbow chard leaves.

Allocating this cost in a completely non-systematic way that is...

$8.25/ salad ($100.00 total)
$0.10/ cherry tomato ($9.00)
$0.10/snap pea ($3.00)
$1.00/beet ($4.00)
$0.25/rainbow chard leaf ($2.50)

This makes the vegetables look pretty good, but the salads quite expensive. The one thing to consider is that the cost of the boards, screws, liner, and soil is a one time cost. I guess we could make the salads about $4.00 each then.

Well, the point is that I have discovered that if you garden it is not to save money. It is definitely because you enjoy fresh vegetables and enjoy trimming tomato plants. I actually discovered the latter to be true of myself. Conclusion? Gardening is not an economically sound practice for the average Joe, but it is worth it!

Bon Appetit

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Business School (Part II)

It has been several weeks since I gave my final presentation in the summer management class and I am again gearing up to enter the hellish schedule, arduous rigor, and delightful experience that is business school.

I'm no longer a new kid on campus, I am now a much older and wiser second year. I will be starting this year off with three courses...

Quantitative methods

Operations Management

Business Strategy

I have to be honest that I really don't know a whole lot about what these courses will entail. I have been putting off reading the syllabuses because once I know what the courses are about I will feel like I am back in school. Not quite ready to leave my vacation.

The one thing I do know is that the quantitative methods class is centered mainly around Excel modeling. This is particularly exciting for me because the job I recently started has involved a lot of work in Excel. This means that I may learn some useful things... but hopefully it also means that the class will be a light load for me. I guess I will confirm that soon.

In the mean time, I plan on enjoying the time I have left to be a normal person. I will continue to pretend that having nights and weekends off is normal and that reading books for fun is actually something I can do. I have only a few more days of bliss where I just have to work so I am going to soak them up. I will wrote again once I begin preparing for class.

Until then...