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Best Interview Question

Filed under: — 1:12 am

So, I started checking out Xooglers today (Nathan mentioned it a while back). I found a great account of an interview with Sergey (apparently business2blog liked it, too). In any case, I read this and realized that “career services” has been doing me a disservice. Stop telling me I need to know how to respond to “where do you see yourself in 5 years”. Try this question:

“I want you to explain to me something complicated that I don’t already know.”

…yeah. I’ll need to think about that one a bit.


Employment Survey for College Student and Recent Grads

Filed under: — 6:35 pm

I found another great blog the other day written by Ian Ybarra. If you’re a student or recently graduated Ian has a survey for a book he’s in the process of writing. It only took me a few minutes and I look forwarding to the results…

Click here for the survey.

Source: Ian Ybarra

Ten Rules for Web Startups from Evan Williams

Filed under: — 5:05 pm

Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and Odeo, has put together a general list of rules/tips for web start ups:

#11 (bonus!): Be Wary
Overgeneralized lists of business “rules” are not to be taken too literally. There are exceptions to everything.

Ironic yet highly valuable…

Source: evhead: Ten Rules for Web Startups via Boing Boing

Business Ideas Wanted: $500 To The Winner

Filed under: — 12:50 am

I was reading some feeds this evening (haven’t done that in a while) and stumbled across a contest. Noah at is planning to give $500 to the person with the best business idea submitted to him. The money is intended to be used to get the idea (company) started. Personally, I think this is a great idea. Too often people feel their creative ideas are limited by finances; that’s no longer the case.

Source: noah’s stupid $500 sponsorship challenge via Business Opportunities Weblog

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price

Filed under: — 12:06 am

I had an opportunity to check out the new documentary. Michael Moore really raised the bar as far as documentary standards are concerned because this one was hardly engaging, barely interesting, and poorly put together.

But, there were plenty of fun facts to share:

  • Wal-Mart has driven down retail wages by $3 billion.
  • Research at Berkeley has shown $86 million has been expensed to California tax payers in the form of health-care and other benefits (ie: welfare, food-stamps that employees are forced to apply for).
  • …and over $1.6 billion nationwide.
  • There are over 26.7 million square feet of empty stores across the country.
  • Denver Public Schools could have kept 3 schools open with the subsidies given to Wal-Mart.
  • Over $1 billion has been given to Wal-Mart in the form of subsidies across the nation.
  • Workers in the Chinese factories bring home less than $3 a day.

See? Weren’t those fun? I’m not sure where the numbers come from, what they are and aren’t comprised of, etc. But I suppose that’s true of all opposition. In any case, the documentary seemed so random, so back and forth between topics. Movie clips and interviews from previous and current employees were haphazardly edited. It was almost hard to sit and endure the film.

Those facts were almost as fun as the part where workers from China, India, etc. started to speak directly to the viewer. They remind us of the pain that they go through to provide us with our inexpensive toys and cheap electronics. It’s those people that gave us the privledge of trampling over our neighbors and community members to grab the last portable DVD player on Friday…

But seriously, I’m really frustrated by the health-care comments presented. People like to constantly argue that Wal-Mart has made its health care unafforadable. I invite anyone to post a list of companies that provide reasonable benefits such as cheap healthcare. Wal-Mart employees aren’t the only ones suffering. A quick search on Google News provided not one, but a number of articles about the high cost of health care to businesses everywhere. One even cites “health benefits” as “the largest business expense after salaries”. You won’t get low prices if Wal-Mart has to provide for all its employees…

That leads me to my next point: playing “This Land is Your Land” while the movie harps on the well-publicized notion that Wal-Mart destroys the smaller stores is annoying. Even the crude animated show South Park nailed it on the head when it said that it’s the people that kill the stores. The masses choose the cheaper alternative. Put simply: competition kills.

As I wrote this I glanced a few pages into the latest Fortune. They have an article entitled “Don’t Blame Wal-Mart” which says, ultimately, the same things. It also suggests that we “blame America’s inability to devise a national health plan that takes the burden off employers”.

One final point made is that although a lot of questional behavior is presented by the documentary (racism and sexism, among other things), the real question is “whether such behavior is systemic”. Michael Moore’s documentaries certainly tried to look a bit deeper then this one did. Point-of-view alone suggests the extreme bias against any and all management in any and all situations. It’s hard to draw any conclusions from the jumble of accounts and tales…

If you already hate Wal-Mart you may enjoy this film (just so you can add more facts to your arsenal) and if you don’t, then don’t bother…

Update: Matt Johnston adds additional points. For instance, “Whenever I see, Chinese factory workers make less than $3 a day, I must ask the question, what are their salary alternatives? ”

There are plenty of great points being made in the comments, thanks for posting, everyone.


Zuckerberg’s Business Card

Filed under: — 8:27 pm

Fact of the Day: Mark Zuckerberg’s business card reads “i’m CEO … bitch”.

Source: Fortune, November 28, 2005


Microsoft Student 2006 Review

Filed under: — 11:37 pm

Hey Nathan, guess what I found in the mail today?

At first glance I really wish I had Student 2006 when I was in high school. That’s not to say it’s not useful for college students. The Encarta subscription (although temporary) is easily worth the $0 I paid to get the package (for sale at Microsoft for $70).

The first thing I clicked on was ‘College Prep Online’ which gave me online access to a plethora of resources and sites I didn’t even realize existed. I went back to Student 2006 and poked around at the different tools and subject areas. Encarta is a great tool. It’s so easy to find some of those simple yet easy-to-forget things. I personally found myself looking for some traditional email closings the other day and, surprisingly, it took a while to find some online. This actually has a section for things like that under the “Style Guide”.

Student easily integrates into the Office suite. I quickly turned on the ‘Spanish Language’ toolbar and could insert all the crazy characters I needed to communicate in another language. Student Tools also integrates into each of the products to provide guides on how to accomplish just about anything; book reports, presentations, research papers… you name it.

I kept looking around and realized there’s so much ground to cover. This product is definitely worth the money. If you’re a parent, this is a must-have for your child. The media access is astounding. I just watched a Discovery Channel video on diamonds! The book summaries are great! No more hassling with Cliff’s Notes… these are even searchable.

Wow. What a great product for students. Where are the other learning tools like this? In short, the list of features is endless… definitely a product with value.

Corporate Canaries by Gary Sutton

Filed under: — 3:32 pm

I just finished a new book entitled Corporate Canaries: Avoid Business Disasters with a Coal Miner’s Secrets by Gary Sutton. I have to agree with the testimonials, especially the following: “If managers could read only one book, this should be it” (Bartley, WSJ).

Sutton is a veteran ‘turnaround expert’. He’s seen a number of mistakes and problems common to businesses these days. Gary presents five chapters all with the same theme. The chapters begin describing about the author’s grandfather’s experiences in the mining industry. From that story the reader is then presented with similar (modern business) examples and how to keep the canary from falling from its perch. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it provided solutions to problems that had been solved.

Corporate Canaries is a quick 140-page read with five key points: You Can’t Outgrow Losses, Debt’s a Killer, Fools Fly Blind, Any Decision Beats No Decision and finally Markets Grow and Markets Die. In other words, margin is important; you can’t win merely with mergers and sales increses. Debt is obviously great for growth but can (and often times does) kill a company. Fools Fly Blind refers to those companies which have lost sight of their mission. On top of that, controls are essential to one’s success. The last two chapters are self-explanatory and Sutton provides his own advice on what to do to avoid potential problems when faced with hard decisions.

I highly recommend this book. It was great to sit down for a few hours and just read it through. If not for the business lessons but the interesting stories about the mines…

Write Dilbert Lines

Filed under: — 2:49 pm

I don’t think I’ve seen a more effective use of a blog: Help Me Write Today’s Comic.

If you haven’t subscribed to The Dilbert Blog yet you’ve been missing out…

Microsoft is the World’s Most Respected Company

Filed under: — 2:18 am

Nathan points to what I found to be a very interesting fact: Microsoft jump[ed] ahead of GE for the first time as the world’s most respected company.

I definitely would not have guessed this a year or two ago…

I wonder where Wal-Mart falls…


Tip of the Day: Ctrl-Backspace Deletes Words

Filed under: — 10:14 pm

My productivity has had to have increased at least 20% due to the little button I call ‘Ctrl’. I believe its pronounced kuh-tar-uhl. In any case when I decide to change my thought mid-sentence it really helps to delete a word at a time. So try it: Ctrl-Backspace.

Techno Song from Burger Commercial

Filed under: — 10:04 pm

I consider myself to be extremely search-savvy. Not to toot my own horn but friends will search endlessly online but with the right combination in words on Google I can have an answer in seconds…

…except tonight. I saw a commercial from either Carl’s Junior or Good Times or some place. There were a bunch of tomatos stacking up on the burger with the beat of some techno. The pattys would go up and down with the music too. But no matter what sites I used they couldn’t tell me the song. Google couldn’t tell me the song. Nobody could.

So for those of you looking for that techno song it’s called ‘Satisfaction’ by Benny Benassi.

The weird part? William Espy pulled up iTunes before his presentation and played the same song…

…and danced a little bit.

Neat coincidence I thought.

Update: I finally saw the commercial again… it was Wendy’s. Close enough…

Search Engine Comparison: Huh, seems that Google is far less relevant than MSN Search.
Google: wendy’s commercial techno burger commercial techno
MSN: wendy’s commercial techno burger commercial techno

William Espy, Creative Director, Chipotle

Filed under: — 7:55 pm

You may or may not have had a gourmet burrito in your lifetime. If you have, you know what a big deal Chipotle is. If you haven’t… you have no idea what you’ve been missing out on. In any case, I had a chance to sit in on a presentation by William Espy, the Creative Director for Chipotle. He’s essentially the genius mind behind any and all marketing done by Chipotle. (and yes, they’re owned by McDonalds but are going public soon).

William started the presentation by explaining the point of his job. In a nutshell: every aspect of the experience needs to be used to convey the intended brand and image. This includes the website, the store, the people, the ads…. “everything is branding”. How does Chipotle go about achieving that?


“In a world of advertising, who wants to read more?” If you look at the majority of Chipotle’s ads, they’re filled with white space. As Espy put it: “when everything is bold, nothing is bold”. So instead of filling the ads with lots of extra crap, he’s made them more and more simple. You’ll find some words, a burrito and a logo; that’s it. In fact, it’s so simple that Titan Auto Insurance once emulated the look and people automatically thought they saw a Chipotle ad on TV. (Bonus: If you’re looking to make your own Chipotle-esque ads just go download the font ‘Confidential’)

William has come up with some very clever ads. He says that the ads are designed to be simple yet memorable. For instance, the way he aligns the words in ads are often important. But no matter how they’re all aligned, they all end up filtering the reader down to the logo. Another way he makes the ads memorable is by making the viewer “participate”. Some of Chipotle’s ads are so clever you actually have to think an extra second about them. Once you get it you typically feel so good about figuring it out you can’t help but remember it.

Speak the language

Another way Chipotle connects with its audiences is by tailoring its ads to be very specific. Often times the ads are filled with words and ideas that coincide with a particular market. For instance, in a law school an advertisement simply said “Libelously Large”. Another example placed in a hospital just said “Gourmet Gavage”. In a Hindu publication Espy simply put the foil burrito and underneath it said “Prashadam”. If you don’t know what any of these ads are saying that’s because you’re not the message’s intended recipient. If you were in law school you’d know exactly what libel meant. As a nurse you’d look at ‘gavage’ and a light bulb would come on. If you were Indian you’d realize that Chipotle is very serious about its meals.

Personally my two favorite examples were as follows.

A picture of a burrito with a rainbow ribbon tied around it with: “LGBT: Large Gourmet Burritos and Tacos, Curious?”

A picture of a burrito and “4:25”


Espy also mentioned the importance of being consistent throughout the experiences. Think about the nice sales guy you interact with at ______ (insert store here). They’re very friendly and helped you find what you needed. But once you need to call customer service it seems like you reached the most unfriendly individual hired. That’s inconsistency… you don’t want that.


William mentioned how its important to make a connection with the customers. He does this by sometimes putting the same clever ads inside as they have outside. When someone enters the store they recognize it and instantly there’s that connection. But once someone does enter the store, he says, he wants you to enjoy the experience and stop “selling” to you. There are only five spots where you’ll find a “presentation” and they’re so discreet it hardly interrupts the meal.

One example of a “presentation” is a flyer promoting the back to school gift cards. The flyer actually says “with love” and instantly makes that connection with parents.

One way that Espy has worked on connecting has also been internally. The legal documents and internal materials all have the same look and feel as any other Chipotle material you and I have ever seen (see: consistency). Espy actually re-worded the ethics policy from saying “You” and “The Corporation” to say “we”. There’s a simple yet powerful change that connects the people within the company. In turn you’ll see this reflected in each and every restaurant.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Espy talked about a “revolution” occurring; a revolution of culture. For instance, think about what your six dollars will buy you. For starters you get a pound of gourmet food. Yes, gourmet. The founder and CEO was a gourmet chef and decided burritos were just a different type of “packaging”. In addition to the food you get the service. Think of the last time you encountered a human when you had to fix your phone service, pump you gas, complete a bank transaction? At Chipotle you make a real connection with a real person. You sit there and beg them to add a little more guac, you trust them to wrap your burrito nice and snug…

The food and service, coupled with the cool atmosphere have led a revolution. How do we know this? The industry has seen same-store sales grow at roughly 6%. Chipotle grew at 24.5%. Why? Chipotle solved an inefficiency. There was a lack of soul before and Chipotle brought it back. Others have followed (Qdoba, Illegal Pete’s) and this is why Espy can call it a revolution.


One important point Espy made was the fact that Chipotle creates a sensation. If you think of golf: it’s focused meditation. For a moment you’re focused on that ball and you forget everything around you. You forget the crap going on in your life. Will said if you want to be successful you need to accomplish the same thing: help people forget the crap. When you walk into Chipotle you’re surrounded by smells, music, you focus on the ingredients going into your burrito… you forget it all. I agree: it’s a wonderful sensation.

One last point Will made was that whatever you end up doing be sure you be real and have fun…

…sound advice.


God’s Debris by Scott Adams

Filed under: — 10:02 pm

Here’s a great piece of work by Scott Adams, God’s Debris. From the introduction:

The target audience for God’s Debris is people who enjoy having their brains spun around inside their skulls. After a certain age most people are uncomfortable with new ideas. That certain age varies by person, but if you’re over fifty-five (mentally) you probably won’t enjoy this thought experiment. If you’re eighty going on thirty-five, you might like it. If you’re twenty-three, your odds of liking it are very good.

There’s a free download available.

Here’s a thought:

“The steering wheel and the engine are of equal importance.
It is a human impulse—composed of equal parts arrogance
and instinct—to believe we can rank everything in
our environment. Importance is not an intrinsic quality of
the universe. It exists only in our delusion-filled minds. I
can assure you that humans are not in any form or fashion
more important than rocks or steering wheels or engines.”

Update: I finished the book…

In fact I finished it the night I discovered it. I enjoyed the story and obviously couldn’t put it down. Last year I took an introduction to philosophy course (having taken one in high school as well) and every page seemed highly relevent and extremely interesting. In fact I went back and emailed the book to the instructor. I’ve emailied it to a number of friends, in fact. Scott Adams takes some of the deepest thoughts and somehow made them light and easy to read through. Well, for the most part. Some places bogged down but overall I enjoyed the characters’ points-of-view and modern-day applications. I’d recommend this to anyone, especially business geeks who primarily read business books (such as yours truly). God’s Debris is, put simply, a book that can transform you into one of those “well rounded” individuals I keep hearing about.


Employers Check Facebook

Filed under: — 12:22 am

Dear Students,

Before you put ‘blacking out’ and ‘drinking until you look good’ as some of your interests on Facebook stop and think: would I put this information on a billboard?

Because essentially that’s what you’re doing. Anything you’ve put online is accessable to anyone… anyone who cares. Would you be embarassed to show some of your “favorite quotes” to your mom?

Seriously though, I had a professor pass around an email he recieved from “an employer” who actually researches students on Facebook… maybe it’s not such a good idea to publish your wildness on the internet?

Just a heads up,

Dear Employers,

Why would you want to look at Facebook? Would you want to “hang out” with one of your potential hires at a party? Would that be an accurate representation of how they present themselves at work? Does that demonstrate how hard they work to get the GPA they’ve put at the top of their resume?

Think back to your days of college. Would you share those brilliant memories with your employer?

I think if you start eliminating students based on their extreme social behavior then you start eliminating nearly every college student out there.

Just my thoughts,

Dear Everyone Else,

Be sure to replace ‘Facebook’ with ‘MySpace’, ‘Friendster’, or whatever else is relevant to you (your blog, your homepage, your MSN/Yahoo/AIM profile, anything with a leading ‘http://’). I think we all need to realize that ‘google’ is a verb and your name will be placed into the white box at one time or another. Adam agrees…

Warmest regards,

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