Monday, September 30, 2013

When is a $20 bill worth more than a $50 bill? All Depends How You Stack It...

I wrote a blog entry over the summer about how pricing is one of the most difficult decision that any new enterprise has to make.

Just about EVERY start-up founder is tempted to "grow, grow, grow."  That makes sense -- people that self-select an entrepreneurial route in life tend to be go-getters.  Go-getters tend to want to, well, go and get. People with more wisdom and experience will say, "Why not tap the brakes a bit by playing with your pricing model, even if it means sloughing off a few customers?"

The early-stage founder hearing that is listening to, but still not following, that advice.  There's an important distinction, and the process is necessary (some things need to be personally experienced to be understood, and then they become obvious in retrospect).

Anyway, here's another unsolvable zen koan riddle:  What is an hour of your time worth?  In the context of someone bootstrapping in order to smooth out their personal cash flow, it depends.  Again, it's not simple.

I have a job that pays $50/hr.  Not bad, eh?  Well, it's not so great, actually.  It's a tutoring gig that works on a taxi dispatch model, so there are a few problems.  First, the hours don't stack up, so the transition time/travel time really eats into the dollar total. Second, and equally problematic, it doesn't work like a *money faucet.*  In other words, I can't simply decide I want to work more, and then work more -- someone else controls the throughput.

That considered, a $20/hr job might be worth far, far more.  If it's something where the hours stack up in 4- or 8-hour shifts, and if it's something where the hours are predictable (and therefore the personal cash flows predictable), it's an infinitely better option than the seemingly more lucrative one.

Trying to work multiple "taxi dispatch" type of jobs to make it all somehow add up the right way isn't advisable, either -- way too complicated, and way too much risk.  $20 x 20 hours/wk tells me the pre-tax math works out to $1600/mo.  If THAT is enough to clear the bar (to where start-up income PLUS that exceeds monthly expenses) then that sounds like the no-brainer option for being able to effectively bootstrap.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Excuse Me, Are You a AAA member?

I was just walking up Market St., back towards home, when a clean-cut, late-teens/early-20s white male said to me, "Excuse me...are you a AAA member?"

Right then and there, I said this: "Let me guess:  You're from Andover.  You're out of gas.  You can't get a hold of anyone right now, and you just need a few bucks to get gas and head back home."

I'll give him credit for the way he responded: "Yes...but hey, I'm just trying to eat."  At least he was honest.  I only knew to expect it because a neighbor had just explained to me two days ago how she had given someone money after hearing that story.

I then told him why I thought the "Stranger in Distress" story was pretty effective, and I actually asked him about his yield.  At that point, he looked at me kinda funny, and just said, "I hate to lie. Sometimes I'll ask for money straight up...but hey, I'm just trying to eat."

We parted ways after I explained that I actually didn't have any cash, and that even the coffee I was holding had been purchased with a credit card.

As CC Lorrey has explained in the Chamber, this is becoming a bigger and bigger issue downtown.  The other day, I was accosted three separate times getting back from 336 Bridge to 200 Market.  This is mainly a hunch, but I don't think Lowell produced these people...I think it drew them.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Empowering the Idiots

One of the truest things you can say about the impact of online-all-the-time social media on our culture and society is that "we haven't figured it out yet."

We haven't figured out the legal boundaries of what employees can say about employers without risking termination.

We haven't figured out the legal intersection of social media postings and custody of children.

We haven't figured out where the line is that separates teenagers' 1st Amendment rights from things that might be construed as serious threats.

And we certainly haven't figured out that a couple idiot Tweeters do not speak for the mood of a country.  Certain news organizations, however, can use those idiots to push their narrative, and they do.

Let me get this straight:

1. A beautiful woman of Indian descent was crowned Miss America.
2. 99.99+% of Americans simply went on with their lives, genuinely not caring one way or the other, or maybe giving her passive support (i.e. 'good for back to my errands.')
3. A handful of people used the #MissAmerica hashtag to attract attention to themselves for making vile comments about her heritage.

I could find a handful of people on Twitter who are saying the moon is made of cheese.  Does that mean that such a statement captures the national mood?  No one would take that seriously.

This cycle could literally never end.  ANY TIME that someone wins something, is elected to an office, or is otherwise recognized, there will be SOMEONE ready to write some flip, vile comment on Twitter.  Whether it's a teenage boy out for jollies, whether it's a deranged loner who really means it, or whether it's completely staged in order to set up a 'teachable moment' (remember the staged racial stuff at Oberlin a little while back? Google it) it does not merit the front of page of CNN and the Globe.

Well, at least I say so.  But then again, I'm not the editor of either one.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Words of the Prophets Were Written on the Subway Walls...

I was thinking this morning about something Gerry Nutter said about bicycles for city employees in Lowell, and the way that he then used Cambridge/Somerville/Lexington as pejoratives when implying something about the motives of city decision-makers.

It didn't take long for Corey Erickson and Tobes from Sons of Franky Cabot to jump in...or for me to follow up with another point last night.

Here's what I said:  Some people in Lowell are quick to throw down their "Cambridge" card when they want to criticize any new, interesting outside idea.  The feeling, however, is not mutual.

For the past 40 years or so, Cambridge has been run by a Lowellian (and not just ANY Lowellian, mind you, but a former Aide to Mayor Howe).  The people of Cambridge love much that they've paid him a salary comparable to that of the PRESIDENT for much of this time (yes, I'm being serious...and yes, you can look that up), and put his name on important buildings, like the police station kinda sorta near the Galleria.

Boston isn't afraid of Lowell or Lowellians, either...just look at their nationally-renowned Police Chief.

Anyway, on my way into work today (I TA on Thursdays now...easy work for good pay), the sign you see here in the pic caught my eye.

Here's why:  What it's implying is that when you take/borrow/steal the BEST ideas from the BEST minds, you then become the BEST.  

Lowell is already the best Gateway City in Massachusetts.  If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't live there.  And while I may be plotting my escape from downtown, I plan to stay in Lowell for quite a long time -- that's as strong of a statement as I can make for my personal *investment* in the place.

What's going to keep Lowell great is the presence of civic leaders like Patrick Murphy, Dick Howe, Bernie Lynch, Cliff Krieger, etc....people with a WORLD view who aren't afraid to open their eyes, ears, and minds to the big world outside and see where it can fit inside our little slice of America.

What could truly make Lowell a backwater in a way that would hurt ALL stakeholders (yes, it's a huge middle-class/working-class city with lots of families) is a reactionary, not-invented-here mindset that's terrified of things that are "from away."

...And if the complete, knee-jerk, reactionary rejection of all things "from away" is what you seek, you might be able to find it in some remote parts of Maine.  Shake down enough downtown yuppies, and maybe you'll be able to scratch together the fare for a one-way.