Capilano’s Best Take on the World

The lectures are finished, the all nighters have been endured, and the exams were crushed – the class of 2010 Capilano School of Business is Graduating! A collective fist pump rolls across the hundreds of grads who are leaving our sprawling campus for opportunities, careers and paycheques, but that can wait for at least one more night. Tomorrow night the class, some supportive faculty and local businesses will gather at the Pinnacle Hotel to celebrate their achievements. The event will be the first ever Capilano University Grad celebration, and promises to kickoff the tradition in a fantastic way. It’s made possible by the initiative of our Business Enterprise President Courtney Lange, and the extreme generosity of our Dean Graham Fane. Both of those people have done so much for the School of Business in their short tenures that a simple listing of accomplishments couldn’t possibly suffice. Graham and Courtney killed it this year. Unfortunately we lose Courtney to graduation this year, but we hope to benefit from Graham for a while yet. I could gush on about the amazing people at Cap, but I’ll embody the collective in the Grad Committee who put in a ridiculous amount of work and stress to this effort – headed up by Saralyn Nickerson. These guys rock.

Clearly I’m pumped for the event, even though it means that we will be losing what is indisputably the greatest grad class that I’ve seen in my near-decade stay at Cap. I may be biased in that I’ve had the opportunity to work with these people longer than most, but the rockstar ratio is ridiculous. We have entrepreneurs who are owning the competition before even graduating, effortlessly brilliant people headed off the world’s most prestigious Universities for graduate studies, and an unbelievable pool of talent that we will all be able to tap long into the future.

Faithful Stoked readers will be familiar with the fact that I will not be one of the victorious few to cross the stage, and some are starting to wonder if I ever will. Next semester I’ll be putting in my application for the mandatory golf cart that comes with 8 years of campus life. Readers will also be familiar with the fact that I somehow manage to squirm my way into as many exciting Capilano events and initiatives as possible, so how’d I pull this one off? Rather than hiding behind a computer screen and ripping on defenseless people and ridiculous issues, this time I’ll be doing it live and in person as the MC of the event. Terrified? That’s probably the correct response; however I have promised to be on my best behavior and will be donning my formal persona for the occasion.

Aside from my barely coherent ramblings, there are legitimate reasons to be excited about the event – the keynote speaker will be Vanoc’s Design Manager Roger Bayley. The man who somehow coordinated over 150 consultants and produced the Olympic legacy that is the Olympic Village. Additionally, local businesses have stepped up and supported our grads, resulting in a fantastic collection of takeaways for the attendees. One of the gifts is redeemable by all Capilano graduates, attending or not: Business in Vancouver magazine has extended a 12 week subscription offer to us, and I have the exclusive pre-release! Check it out here: Business in Vancouver

Have a great time at the event to all who are attending, and I apologize in advance for the MC. Congratulations Grads! Your work has paid off finally; I can’t wait to see you all out there rocking what you do as hard as you did here.

Categories: Business News, CUBES

Americans Do Nothing

As predicted, the rate remained unchanged. Does that mean that we’re getting set up for another bubble? Possibly.

The bigger question is: which bubble are we talking about? Speculators are back in the real estate market, driving prices up using the extremely low interest rates as fuel, there’s a possibility that many areas could re-bubble in housing as a result, but not everyone has returned to even early ’00s levels yet.

Gold? Definitely. But this is a bubble that won’t burst, it will slowly sag and then pick up speed only if confidence in a solid base currency returns. The USD doesn’t seem to be coming back any time soon, and certainly not the precarious Euro, so how about the basketed Renminbi? Could the communist coin really be the solution? We can only hope that the answer is no, the way that the Chinese have manipulated rates with the limited power that they’ve had until now.

Here’s hoping that I’m wrong and the miraculous Americans can pull somethoing out of their collective hat again and provide some stability to an unstable world.

Categories: Business News

All Ears on the Fed

The world is poised and ready for today’s 2:15pm announcement from Bernanke and the boys at the US Federal Reserve. Lately, all talk has been about significant recovery and positive signs in several markets. It’s unlikely that times are so good that the Americans will be pumping their rates up just yet, but the world will be over analyzing every word said for indications of the next move. Today could be a big day depending on what is said. Stay tuned.

RIM: The Cutting Edge of Success

Response to:

Research in Motion: Managing Explosive Growth

By Daina Mazutis for the Richard Ivey School of Business

Growth is what we all want, its what every company is working towards and what every shareholder is betting on when he/she buys equity. RIM shows us that even world beating sales figures come with challenges.

The core of RIM’s success is its ability to anticipate the needs of consumers, needs that even buyers were unaware of, and to develop technology that meets those needs. Even more than that, the technology that Lazardis and company develop is the world’s most efficient and difficult to replicate. To date, despite the billions spent on R&D in the world’s largest telecommunications think-tanks, no comparable products have been released. The iPod is the world’s most user friendly interface, and the Nexus One is the world’s fastest consumer device. The Blackberry, however is the only encrypted push e-mail, while using the least amount of data to fully integrate all of a person’s mobile technology needs.

That competitive advantage is fleeting, and its shocking that it has existed as long as it has. The new versions including the Curve, Storm, Tour and Bold offer no significant new functionality, just an upgrade of the only model. In order to maintain the lead, RIM will not be able to just beat its head against the same old wall using larger sums of money. Another game changer is required, and required fast to satisfy the end-user and the shareholders. Rather than focusing on straight ratios that equate increases in expenditure to increases in innovation, RIM must now focus on developing a real edge that differentiates the Blackberry brand from its competitors.

The supply of talent is clearly one of RIM’s greatest challenges and massive numbers are required to satisfy the growing demand. It is simply not realistic to assume that organic growth or even traditional onboarding can double the organization’s size in a short time period without damaging either the culture, the quality of work, or both. Instead, RIM should look to build on its history and past successes with acquisitions to grow. Opportunities abound, especially as companies like Palm are being left in the wake of progress. A huge takeover like Palm would supply RIM with a sudden jolting influx of seasoned talent as well as a glut of intellectual property that has is currently in Palm’s possession. Most likely, those developments could be coupled with Blackberry code to produce new reasons for customers to be excited about the boys from Waterloo and their toys.

The bulk of the effort must be spent on the onboarding process as Palm people become RIM people. Blackberry-ing Palm-ers will be the crux of the challenge and, if successful, the edge that keeps Steve Jobs and his legions of iUsers at bay.

Categories: Cases

Waterfalls, Warren Buffet and why knowledge can’t be managed

Response to:

The Rise of Knowledge Towards Attention Management

By Davenport and Volpel

The Rise of Knowledge

Knowledge management is people management? I take issue with that statement. Knowledge is a factor of production much the same way that skills, processes, IP, and even muscle strength are factors in the production of computer chips, railroads and hamburgers.

The topic has been on the tip of my tongue for a while, though as I’ve been wrestling with a seemingly unrelated topic: what makes America “great”, what (other than war profiteering) propelled it to the top of the global heap, and what does it have to leverage itself back to the top?

Clearly, the answer to the first two questions is knowledge. Knowledge alone allowed the United States to tear the title of World’s Banker from the British, and to remain the undisputed richest country for 40+ years before the emergence of China and the financial meltdown.

Does that lead us to believe that the third answer is also knowledge? That’s where Davenport and Volpe come in. The world is getting smarter – India is producing Earth’s greatest engineers, the best doctors are German and Chinese business acumen is the envy of American industrialists. Attribute that to the spread of wealth or communications, whatever the cause, the U.S. doesn’t have a corner on the smarts market anymore. If we place ourselves in the American corner, let’s consider how to regain that competitive advantage. If we believe the paper, and managing people is managing knowledge, then we just need to start producing the world’s best managers and the world will once again become our smorgasboard.

Were Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs well managed? All three of those men embody the American Dream that we are taught is the heart of what makes America great. People who struck out and became world beater by taking risks and resolving to win at all costs. Their knowledge has shaped the world and came at us not as neatly bundled packages of value, but as wild explosions of innovation that refused to be denied.

Knowledge within an organization is no different. Efficiency can be gained by directing the collection of knowledge and steering the allegorical library of smarts in a desired direction, but successful knowledge acquisition comes at us like a giant waterfall of unrelated curiosities. It is the beauty of the human mind that we can thread seemingly unrealted gems together, not as volumes to be managed, but as potentially new knowledge and idea that will emerge brand new if allowed to evolve.

That’s why the last, current and next earth-shaking innovations all came not from Billion-dollar labs, but from dusty basements and abandoned garages.

Categories: Cases

A Semester of Stoked

The end of the Winter 2010 semester is here. Today I found myself sifting through the dozens of forum posts and discussions that Ive generated for my Strategic Management and Managing Change classes. If youve been following the site at all, youll know that I tend to rant when I get on a topic, so some of those posts tend to get a bit intense. Ive picked some of my favorites and will be posting them on here over the next few days. Theres a lot of opinion in there, all of them are right of course, but feel free to disagree and comment.

Categories: Cases

More Proof that Business is Sexy – 3 Ways to Ball-out in Vegas on the Cheap

Vegas Baby!
Of course we all know that Sin City is the mecca for people in search of drinking, drugs, dining and debauchery, but did you also know that its the world’s best place to swing your silver tongue and get something for nothing more than confidence?

My absence from the hallowed grounds that are the pages of stokedonbusiness has come largely as a result of a business trip down to the place where anything can happen and nothing leaves, especially in your wallet. Conferences, networking gatherings and research had me tied up for most of the time, effectively thwarting any opportunity I had to dabble in the world famous Vegas delights, but I still had to eat and sleep. Fortunately for me, eating and sleeping are two of my top four favorite things to do, and if you’ve been following this blog you know that another favrorite pasttime is negotiating (I’ll allow you to use your imagination on the unmentioned favorite activity).

I was in heaven! Vegas does an amazing job of surrounding its visitors with a treasure trove of sparkles, temptations and desires, all at premium prices. The unspoken theme there is that everone wants to look like a baller, therefore the ultimate faux-pas is to ever appear cheap. For example, I watched (for professional purposes only) as a group of girls in their early twenties accepted coupons from a sidewalk promo guy to The Bank nightclub. They were obviously sold and walked directly to the front door where they stashed the coupons and paid the full $20 price tag for cover. Simply flashing the coupons would have saved them a total of $70, but they would rather part with the cash than damage their collective image.

I can empathize with that feeling, no one wants to look out of place, especially not in a venue where the primary goal is to see and be seen. There are ways, however to wheel deals and actually benefit your public perception while relieving the strain on your bank account:

1. The old $20 bill trick
The first concept to understand is that Vegas hates taking money off the table, but has no problem with adding perks to close a deal, especially if it means something extra in that person’s pocket. Figure out what you want and identify the gatekeepers to that goal – there’s almost always a poorly paid employee somewhere along the line who depends on the kindness of tourists to pay his bills. That’s why the most classic of all wheel-methods still works beautifully.

For those of you who have never heard of it, here’s how it works: Arrive at the check-in counter with a folded up bill pressed neatly against your driver’s license in your pocket. Giver your name to the clerk and wait for him to ask for I.D. When he does, pass the card and hidden bill to him while casually asking “Are there any complimentary room upgrades available today?”. Rumor has it that the trick has become so well understood that clerks who can’t bump you up will apoligize and return your cash. I say that it’s a rumor because no one I’ve talked to has ever heard of it failing. In my case, I went from a standard room in a wing packed with retirees and a 4th floor window to the parking lot, to a deluxe room with a king sized bed and a gorgeous view of the strip – all for 5 nights and all for $20.

vs.

2. Drink like a king for $5.10/hr
The majority of casino-floor bars are littered with Video Poker machines to entice patrons to do some gambling with their drinking, which is clearly a winning combination. Most places have a tiered comp system that allows bartenders to serve certain drinks to certain levels of players free of charge. In the case of Caesar’s Palace, regular $20 players are given standard beer, wine and house liquors. In order to justify the good stuff, the bartenders need to know that the “eye in the sky can see that you’re flashing some benjamins” as one server put it.

Given that, this wheel is as simple as it is easy. First, find a slot machine on the main floor. Any machine will do. Insert a $10 bill and cashout immediately. The machine will print a ticket that can be placed into another machine for credits, or cashed out at the cash cage. Place the ticket in your pocket and head to the bar. The ability to talk and get people on your side benefits every negotiation, and this one is no different. Upon arrival, engage the bartender in idle chatter about the recent game, the strip, My Little Pony, whatever gets him to come closer to you. While you’re talking, take out a minimum of 2 $100 bills and place them into the Video Poker machine in front of you, paying more attention to your conversation than to your money – the bartender will notice, whether you see it or not he’s trained to pay attention to that sort of thing. Now, order the most premium drink that you like and wait to be served. Before the bartender returns with your drink, cash out from your terminal and move to a nearby seat. Poket the $200 ticket that just printed and retrieve your $10 ticket from earlier on. Insert the $10 ticket and select the minimum amount to bet (typically $0.25). Start spinning the reels and mention your terrible luck as the bartender returns with your free drink.

Tipping is mandatory, and something that you can’t get away from in Vegas, especially if you want good service. Tip $1 every time that the bartender refills your drink, thanking him every time. This is where $4 of the $5.10/hr comes in. The other $1.10 is the expected loss rate that a Video Poker machine will take based per hours on 4 spins per minute and $0.25 bets. Played properly, Video Poker is one of the best games in Vegas for the player, and assuming that you order 4 $10 drinks per hour, can be very profitable.

3. Pay a little, get a lot at the world’s best restaurants
Some of the shadier casinos on the strip (O’Sheas, Bill’s, etc.) have ticket agents that sell last minute admissions to popular shows, tours and discounted meals at high-end restaurants. Simply buying a coupon and heading over to the restaurant will save you a ton of cash, but leave you looking like a chump when the bill comes. Instead, pick up one of these tickets, make reservations and head over to the restaurant at least 15 minutes before your table will be ready.

Ask to speak with the waiter who will be serving you and present him with your dilemma: you have these tickets that entitle you to a fixed menu at a discount, but would like to enjoy some of the finer items on the menu without letting the tickets go to waste. The waiter will likely propose that you hand over the tickets, order what you like and he simply knock 30-40% off your bill when the time comes. The benefit for him being that a larger gross bill will likely result in a larger tip and he can simply write the difference off as promo. If he doesn’t, slide a $10 bill between the tickets, hand them to him and propose 50%. He’ll likely counter with 30-40% aned you’re all set.

Instantly the $50 steak that you were dying to try becomes $30, and $90 bottles of wine become a more palatable $55. All of this, and when the bill comes you can proudly pay the much-reduced total and leave a healthy tip for the very helpful service staff.

For more Vegas tips, or to leave suggestions of your own, comment below.

It’s good to be back – check in again soon for more Stoked content and tips.