Archive for January, 2007

There's Something About Maryland

January 30th, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I spent the past weekend visiting an old friend in Boston, which is where I lived last time I was in a graduate program. I completed my coursework to qualify for a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering degree from Northeastern University in December of 1995. This weekend’s trip was only the second time that I have been back since I finished my studies. Truth be told, I really disliked Boston when I lived there despite the fact that I was born in Massachusetts. In the eleven years since I left, I have never regretted moving to Maryland.

While I doubt I could have gotten into Harvard Business School, it wouldn’t have been high on my list of places to apply given its location. Boston is a terrible city to live in. Don’t get me wrong – it is a great tourist town, and well worth visiting. However, it is a horrible place to live. Maryland is so much better.

I know there are some people who will read this entry and will think I am out of my mind. Well, it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. Your mileage may vary.

My feelings about Boston are based on a few indisputable facts and a number of personal observations. First, Boston is the worst driving city in the United States. Washington, DC is a close second. I haven’t driven in every city in this country, and I suppose Los Angeles must be pretty awful, but for my money Boston is the worst. The car crime is terrible there as well. My car was broken into six times during the two years I lived in Boston. In the four years that I lived in Baltimore, my car was only broken into once. The weather in Boston is atrocious. The wind coming off the ocean is unbearably cold all winter long. That probably explains why Bostonians are some of the rudest people I have ever encountered. On multiple occasions, I had other drivers chase me for blocks just to flip me off after I changed lanes suddenly to avoid getting lost on one of the myriad one way streets. And if I may be blasphemous for a bit – Fenway Park should be torn down. Sure, it is a pretty place and makes a nice backdrop for televised games. However, the seats are tiny and uncomfortable, it doesn’t have enough capacity, and parking nearby is terrible. Tear it down, build apartments, and construct a new ballpark in the suburbs.

I’m sure to get hate mail for that last bit.

Give me Baltimore over Boston any day. It’s Charm City. It’s easy to drive in. It plays host to array of fabulous trash culture that is exemplified by one of its most famous residents – John Waters. You can go to a bar and not be surrounded by glassy eyed, eighteen year old college students who are celebrating their new found freedom from mommy and daddy. And if you need highbrow culture, it is easy to get to DC to visit the museums.

Now that I’m married and established, I completely enjoy living in the DC suburbs. Montgomery County is wonderfully diverse. In my home county, I have been exposed to the cuisines of the world – Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Korean, Schezuan and Hunan Chinese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Salvadorean, Peruvian, Italian, Lebanese, and so on. I live a short drive away from the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater, where current releases are shown side by side with cinema classics. Every band that tours the United States makes a stop in Baltimore, Annapolis, or DC, all of which are a short drive away.

Of course, in order to stay on topic for this blog, I must mention the Smith School of Business. Maryland also has one of the best part-time business programs in the country. I didn’t have to look far to find a world-class education. The proximity to DC gives the school an advantage over other institutions by virtue of the huge pool of talent that can be called upon to provide guest lectures. I have had the pleasure of attending classes with guest lecturers from the Federal Reserve, the SEC, the FCC, and even a former Congressperson. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity at a lot of business schools.

So, give me Maryland anyday. This is a great place to live, work, and go to school. Now if someone could just do something about the traffic…

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Spring Term

January 11th, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

When I started in the MBA program, I thought I was going to concentrate in finance. A lot has changed in the last two and a half years. Since the core, I have focused on Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship. I have had a hard time picking classes. Even now, heading into my final semester, I had five classes that I wanted to take. I finally settled on the following two (with descriptions from the course catalog):

Strategic Growth for Emerging Companies – Explores the key elements of mastering the move from being a successful small company to achieving industry significance. Supplemented by readings, video and guest speakers, the course highlights the application of practical lessons leading to strategic growth and subsequent emergence as a player.

Marketing High Technology Products – Examines unique characteristics of marketing in dynamic high technology industries. Explores implications for channel management, product development, and bundling of products and services to develop a unique value proposition.

If any of you are taking these classes, let me know. For everyone else, I will pass along my experiences as the semester progresses.

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Required Reading

January 7th, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

I have some required reading for all of you this winter. I know that a reading assignment is the last thing anyone wants on their time off, but I guarantee that this will be a fun read. The book is Infoquake by David Louis Edelman and it is a science fiction novel. I don’t care if you don’t normally read science fiction. If you have even the slightest interest in business (and you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t), then you will thoroughly enjoy Infoquake.

The book follows the exploits of an entrepreneur named Natch as he seeks notoriety for his firm in the business press, raises funds from wealthy investors, and forms a partnership to commercialize a technology that is destined to change the world. That sounds like the dream of a lot of my fellow business students. The whole story takes place hundreds of years in the future after control of the human body has been optimized using nanotechnology. People run computer programs called bio/logics to control everything from their facial expressions to their libidos. The market for new programs is highly competitive and new releases are made available constantly on the Data Sea. In a world where everyone is permanently wired in, a disruption to the worldwide computer networks presents a threat to every person on the planet.

The plot touches on elements of entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, information systems, and economics. The novel presents a fascinating view of the future of business competition. I am afraid that I may not being doing the book justice. If you want to know more, check out the official Infoquake website.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to mention that David Louis Edelman was on of my housemates in college and we still keep in touch since he lives in nearby Reston, Virginia. That being said, I would not recommend the book here if I had not thoroughly enjoyed it. So, go pick up a copy and give it a read. If you like it, let your friends know. This is a science fiction novel that deserves wider recognition in the business community.

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Goodwill

January 5th, 2007 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

The MBA program provides me with a lot of great side benefits including the ability to give my boss grief when he misuses business terms. He’s the kind of guy who views getting an MBA as “joining the dark side”, which makes messing with him all the more fun. One particular incident stands out above all others and is referred to in the office as “The Goodwill Incident.”

One of our workplace traditions is to have a beer or two with lunch on Fridays. One particular week, we were at DuClaw in Bowie, MD and were discussing an issue that we had with a customer. They had purchased radios from us and had returned them for service. The only problem is that they had violated the terms of the warranty, so we were under no obligation to fix the units. Since we had a long standing relationship with the customer, my boss decided that we should make the repairs for free. Unfortunately, accounting for pro bono work is not easy in a big company. When a person works on a particular job, he enters the charge number for that job on his time card. So, if he does work for a customer for free, how does he charge it?

My boss claimed that the work would be accounted for as goodwill. At the time, I was taking Financial Statement Analysis, so I protested. I told him that goodwill is the difference between the purchase price and the book value when one company buys another. He insisted that he knew what he was talking about and asked how I thought we should account for the repair work. I didn’t have a clue, but suggested that perhaps we would charge it to overhead. Nonetheless, I insisted I was right but I could tell he wasn’t buying it. So, as soon as we were back in the office I went straight to Investopedia and sent him the following definition:

An account that can be found in the assets portion of a company’s balance sheet. Goodwill can often arise when one company is purchased by another company. In an acquisition, the amount paid for the company over book value usually accounts for the target firm’s intangible assets.

Immediately, I heard him yelling in his office. I walked over and poked my head in the door with a big smirk on my face.

“I knew it. I knew that as soon as I sat down, Mr. MBA was going to send an email with the definition of good will to prove he was right.”

There was some additional swearing that is not appropriate for this forum. Suffice it to say, I had a good laugh at his expense.

Now, some of you may be thinking about my last post regarding the free repairs that I received from Toyota. They explicitly stated on the receipt that the repair was considered “customer goodwill.” If that’s what they wanted to call it, I wasn’t going to argue the point. There’s no point in being a know-it-all if I’m saving $4600.

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