Posts Tagged ‘business’

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.


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.


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.

Bankers are Balling Again

January 15, 2010 3 comments

Today Morgan Stanley announced they’re 2009 compensation figures, and they are near-record highs in nominal value.

The media is in an uproar, drumming up anger and contempt towards some of the worlds’ best-paid employees. What is glaringly missed is the fact that banks also had near-record years in terms of profits. Those profits and their sustainability are a rant for another time, but isn’t the essence of the public’s fervor from last year that compensation should be tied to profits and that employee’s not receive bonuses in bad times?

In the financial world, the good times are back. Not only have the banks built enormous profits again, they have rolled back the percentage of those profits that they are paying to their employees. 2008 saw an exorbitant 62% of the bottom-line redistributed as compensation. The 2009 number is 33%, which is significantly less than even the historically typical 44%.

All of that indicates to me that it may be a good time for new business grads to be looking at CFAs and potential careers in the financial sector. That is, if you like money of course. If not, try Arts – I promise that you won’t be burdened by any extra cash.

For more, check this out: Damn it Feels Good to Be a Banker

Marketing Yourself – Business Fashion is Important!

January 14, 2010 2 comments

I could rant (and often do) for hours about the garbage fashion decisions that many professional people make on a daily basis. But, you say, clothes aren’t important, right? People should judge me based on my work.

If you believe that then you also believe that all cars should look like plain white boxes and that customers will make the correct decision based on the performance and reliability of the vehicle.

You and I are plroducts that we are selling every day. To maximize our value we must therefore focus some time and attention on our marketing, i.e. our clothing. That being said, I will offer 4 simple tips that will significantly improve any wardrobe and position your personal brand higher than before.

1. Fit is Everything

The best possible advice I can offer is to go out and find an excellent tailor. Cheap Moores suits can look stellar if cut right, whereas I’ve seen $1500 Zegna suits that hang off shoulders and look like hand-me-downs. Keep in mind, I’m not (and would never) advocate that anyone wear a Moores suit, even as a bathrobe. Find a tailor who knows what he’s doing, have a chat about likes and dislikes, then take him everything you own. You’ll see in the following tips just how cheaply quality clothing can become your fashion staples with the help of a good tailor.

Alfani Suit - $300 at Macy's

Ralph Lauren - $1000+

2. Buy Quality
Quality suits that fit your six specific measurements can be tailored, and tailored again to match your body type specifically. With the knowledge of those measurements in your back pocket, a whole world of inexpensive possibilities opens up. The six to know (in order of importance) are: Shoulder width, chest width, neck size, arm length, waist size, and inseam. Of course, if any of those are significantly irregular for you, then it would jump to the top of your list.

A shirt, pants, blazer or suit that matches your measurements can often be had for a significant price reduction at blowout sales, consignment shops, and especially online. All of the measurements are a bit flexible and can be adjusted down except for the shoulder width. The shoulder measurement is absolutely non-negotiable. Anything else can be cut down, hemmed or taken in but the width is the width of the shoulders. The chest is tough to take in too, but it can be done.

For me, I am a 42r suit with 19″ shoulders. I can buy a suit that has a waist two inches too big, an inseam that is infinitely too long, or sleeves that hang down just a bit, but if it’s a 20″ shoulder I don’t even think twice.

Here’s a perfect example. There’s something just not right about this model. Most people with little suit experience will pick out that he doesn’t look great, but can’t say why. Have a look at his shoulders. The padding extends beyond his natural break, and the rest of the suit falls off of him the same way.


3. Buy Used
There is absolutely nothing wrong with used dress clothing. No one has worn it to bed, it has usually barely been worn at all, and the prices are often 75-90% off retail. Just recently I picked up a Burberry suit off of a forum for $125 that retails at roughly $1500. After a $70 trip to my tailor, it is now one of my two favorite suits. Some of the best places to look are eBay (seriously), local consignment shops like Turnabout on Broadway, and (my personal favorite).

4. Finally, Know Your Colour Spectrum

Matching shirts to suits and ties to shirts is all about colour spectrums and once you get the basics down, you’ll never commit a tragedy such as this:

I’m optimistic that none of us on here would ever imagine rocking a pink and red tie with a yellow-beige shirt, so look at this poor slob as a cautionary tale.

Don’t be afraid of solids. Solid colour ties are easily the most under-used pattern out there. They’re classic, bold and unpretentious. They’re also very easy to work with.

As a general rule, the shirt should always be lighter than the tie. Given that, 2 closely related colours can work together. They can, but I find most incarnations of navy on soft blue, or kelly green on pale green to be a cop out. If in doubt, wear a white shirt. Otherwise, refer to the chart below. Colours that work together are directly across from each other; blue with red, yellow with lavender, etc.

For more on fashion do’s and dont’s, check back or find the fashion forums at style forum (linked above). Always remember though, sometimes the best dressed people are the ones who break all of the rules, and so are the worst.

Rules are For Pussies

Google Takes a Stand in China

The world’s most powerful internet company has announced their intention to defy the state-imposed censorship laws in China. After a series of e-mail account intrusions into human rights activists accounts using Google’s software that is tentatively liked back to Chinese government offices, the restrictive policies will no longer be adhered to.

This will likely mean that Google will be forced to retreat entirely from what is arguably the world’s largest and fastest growing online market. China commonly blocks its citizens’ access to websites that it has deemed to be less than beneficial for their well-being. If Google drops their big-brother algorithms from their search engine, then billions of Chinese would have access to information, media and communications that the State has never allowed access to in the past. Most likely it will mean that Google will join the list of blocked sites along with porn, preachers and PETA.

In a move of altrutistic solidarity, Google’s largest competitor has linked arms in their stand against China’s practices and Yahoo will also be dropping their censorship practices.

What’s being set up here is truly a battle between the public and private sectors; it has been speculated that corporations have become more powerful than governments. Clearly, an impasse has been reached and the result of this international arm-wrestle will have far-reaching implications on business, government and even human rights. Keep your eyes open, Stoked will be posting any big developments. For more details check out

Last-Minute Olympic Opportunities

The Olympics are coming and you, being a savvy young professional, are racking your brain for opportunities to take advantage of the globe-sized opportunity. You’re probably concerned that you’ve missed the boat. That either the startup time needed is too long or all of the good positions are taken. Not true!

With the amount of activity going on here in February, there simply aren’t enough people to fill all of the roles needed. The following are some potential opportunities that are still available for anyone with some aspiration and a bit of time:

Nasco Staffing Solutions.
They handle four major areas related to event marketing at the Olympics:

Production technical projects (audio/lighting/video technicians, riggers, set carpenters and stagehands)
Conferences and events (bilingual booth assistants, computer registration staff, hosts and transportation coordinators)
Promotions and marketing gigs (mascots, models, sales assistants and street promotion teams)
Food and beverage venues (banquet servers, bartenders, coat check and wait staff).

Check out their website for more information and contact info. Is a boadband based journalism site. They’re looking for people interested in journalism and production. They’re lookign for off-camera people to do research and communications work.

Of course security is an option. If you have your BST certification and are looking for a lot of cash in a short period of time, check out It’s not much of a resume booster, but cash is king.

NEWAD will be putting hundreds of young energetic people of the ground in Vancouver and Whistler. Anyone interested in sales or marketing who could benefit from jamming thousands of face-to-face experiences into a couple of weeks should seriously consider this option.

Those are the companies pushing hard for people like us right now, but the list of sponsors is extensive, and I’d suggest contacting any one of them and asking about opportunities. The worst they can say is no.

Top 10 Cities for Young Business People

I found the following list on It’s very interesting how different regions can offer such different opportuinities. I have often thought about the potential benefits of moving to the states as a young business person. If it’s crossed your mind too, give the following a read:

10. Jacksonville

A surprise finalist on the Under30CEO Cities for Young Business People, Jacksonville with no state income tax catapulted itself into the top 10. A relatively cheap cost of living compared to others on the list, your money goes far in Jacksonville. This isn’t the Florida that you grandparents live in–average age of JAX is 35. Warm weather, beaches, what’s not to like?

9. Phoenix

You may have overlooked the fact that Phoenix is the 5th most populated city in the country or that Phoenix’s Arizona State University enrolls 90,000+ students. Phoenix has a beautiful backdrop and represents all four major sports with professional teams. Go shopping for your dream home at discounted prices as have dropped more than anywhere in the country.

8. Denver

An extremely active outdoor scene, whitewater kayaking within city limits, epic skiing a short drive, Denver is not only great for outdoor sports, but also a great spectator sport city. Coors Field spills out into the bar scene in the middle of bustling LoDo. “The Wall Street of the West” operations include Charles Schwab, Janus Capital, Oppenheimer Funds, and Western Union.

7. San Francisco

SF has an enormous entrepreneur scene, laid back California culture, and tons to see and do. Entrepreneur meetups, Stanford and Berkeley nearby the Bay Area has plenty of hungry business people. Don’t expect sunny California weather throughout the city–micro climates can be a 20*F difference on opposite sides of the city.

6. Portland, OR

Often overlooked in the Pacific Northwest, Portland boasts fantastic preservation of open spaces. Dry summers and temperate winters “The City of Roses” is a great place to start a business or meet your match. Come to Portland for the outdoors or the art/music scene.

5. Seattle

If you like Rock and Roll forget Cleveland, Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi and grunge. If you like studying the rapid expansion of coffee shops–Starbucks and Seattle’s Best have set the pace. Seattle is extremely wet; home of the Puget Sound, Seahawks and Mariners. If it wasn’t for the rain and earthquakes, Seattle would rank even higher.

4. Austin

Rising on the scene, Austin is not your typical Texas city. With something for everyone, Austin’s nightlife will accommodate University of Texas students, young professionals and the upscale crowd. Austin’s resistance to commercialization gives it the adopted slogan “Keep Austin Weird”.

3. New York

Want to conquer the world? Move to New York. It’s price tag kept it out of the #1 slot, but New York has so much to offer. By sheer size, things to do, people to meet and opportunities to seize New York is BIG. You can’t walk down the street in NY without hearing another language, meeting someone from out of town or seeing something bizarre. Take it piece by piece and think of your neighborhood as a city of its own.

2. Chicago

Cold as hell in the winter, but fun as hell in the summer. Where else in the world can you lay on the beach and look up at skyscrapers? Michigan Ave has impressive parks, shopping, restaurants and views of Lake Michigan. Go out Saturday mornings for beach volleyball, a run or bike on the boardwalk or just stay in bed hungover from your night out in Wrigleyville.

1. Boston

New England charm, 20+ higher learning institutions, fantastic history and plenty of neighborhood bars, Boston tops our list of Top 10 Cities for Young Business People. Less expensive than their rival New York, walk anywhere in the city without worry, there will be students and young professionals all over. When it’s sunny in Boston everyone is outside, pretending they were on Cape Cod. Hate them or love them, the Sox, Pats and Celtics make Boston a huge sports town.