Monthly Archives: March 2014


Contrary to the disparity advocates, this country has now and will continue to offer unlimited opportunities for those who prepare through at least a high school education, want to seek out opportunity, and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen.

We’re not talking about Google and Facebook, or Twitter, who just created 1,000 or more millionaires with their IPO. These big guns will still continue to exist, but the huge numbers of opportunities we’re thinking of are for Small Business Entrepreneurs (SBE).

This is in addition to the steady growth careers like policemen, firemen, teachers and salaried personnel in a hundred different careers. You see, everyone, whether they own a business or not, are, in fact, the entrepreneur of their own life.

Two representative examples of SBE who created opportunity with no money are your two co-authors in this series—Gary Wechter and Art Schwartz. They did what thousands have also done and many more thousands can still do. We have similar backgrounds. We came from lower middle-class homes in Queens, New York. We attended public elementary and high schools, and benefitted from no special privileges.

I went on to finish college, concentrating more on the non-academic side of college life while Gary dropped out during his first year at St. John’s University. Our stories then began to take different paths, but all in the same direction. With many doubts along the way, we kept striving to achieve more. We were both, along with dozens of people we have known, the beneficiaries of America’s opportunities.

Gary’s first job started with a lead from an employment agency which sent him for an interview to a company named only as “National.” Gary assumed National Biscuit Company. When arriving for the interview, Gary was surprised at the name on the building, National Cash Register. “I guess it doesn’t really make any difference. I just need a job.’

Gary got the job as a Mechanic Apprentice and over the next seven years, through NCR’s extensive training, Gary learned not only how cash registers work and how to fix them, but also what’s expected in providing exceptional customer service. In 1969, Gary requested and was transferred into NCR’s computer division and that became the foundation for the rest of his career.

After moving to California in 1971, Gary went to work for Nixdorf Computer, where over the next five years he worked hard learning how to program, design and manage computer projects. After a brief, unsatisfying stint with Citibank bringing ATM’s to the marketplace, he decided it was time to hang out his own consulting shingle and founded Summation Data, Inc.

Over the next 16 years, the business grew into a prominent computer sales and service organization in Southern California focused on IBM’s range of small business computers (System 32-36 and AS400). During this period, Summation’s staff grew to over 25 professionals earning head-of-household level salaries. Then in the early 1990s, market forces (i.e., arrival of PC networks, Unix systems and IBM’s retreat from the small business market) forced Summation to end its run.

Undaunted, Gary moved on as manager of a computer project for Freedom Furniture, the largest furniture retailer in Australia. After a year living in Australia and a successful implementation, Gary came home and founded another computer sales and service business, Strategic Selling, Inc.

Strategic Selling sold, tailored and implemented a program called GoldMine that runs on laptop and PC networks and helps companies manage their sales force and marketing efforts. For the next 15 years in this “work from home” consultancy, Gary “paid the bills” while giving perhaps a dozen professionals short-term, well-paying contract positions. Now semi-retired, Gary has started flipping (buy, renovate, sell) residential properties, providing income for himself and for the myriad of necessary subcontractors.

And now back to our other story…

Even though Art wasn’t able to come up with a definition of management, he was hired by the Electrical Industries Association of So. Calif. back in the late sixties.

The mission of the EIA was to promote the increased use of electrical energy in the existing home market. To do that, we worked with some 400 or so appliance dealers in Southern California to put on promotions like “Waltz Through Washday,” “Freeze Your Food Costs,” and “Snow Balls in June.”

We worked with other facets of the electrical industry as well to promote commercial lighting and electrical heating. Our activities were financed primarily by the electrical utilities, as well as dues and fees from our 600 plus members. There were about five of us on the full-time staff.

About the time of the first U.S. energy scare in 1973, the utilities were being pressured to start promoting conservation instead of increased use. This left the EIA with a questionable future. After considering several options about my future, I decided to form a management and promotion agency. I nurtured this idea with the EIA ex comm. and board. After nine months, I got their agreement to help me set up my management business with the EIA as my first client. I sold them on the idea that it would provide a flexible future benefit for both of us.

I didn’t know how to establish fees, so we sat down and divided the budget. The EIA would pay me for everything in the administrative budget—rent, salaries, etc. That was my fee. The program and promotion funds would stay with the EIA.

It wasn’t hard to figure out this was a fixed fee that would need some way to be adjusted. If inflation hit my costs and salaries would keep going up, I had to find a way to utilize a different kind of fee.

During the first year or so, I didn’t solicit any new clients and spent some time searching out an adjustable fee arrangement. I found some people in similar businesses who mostly negotiated a fee with their clients based on an estimate each year of how much time would be needed to accomplish the program and services the organization set as their action plan.

Along the way we created something of a niche approach to some promotional projects like trade shows and publications. We would propose creating an exposition for a client, for example, and because they didn’t have any substantial capital reserves, we offered to finance the project and pay them a royalty. This eventually became the biggest and most profitable part of MAS.

We did okay with MAS and built what I called the smallest conglomerate in the world. We had four related activities under our banner: association management, trade shows, publishing and consumer expositions. We employed as many as 30 people. When it came time for me to slow down and ease toward retirement (a little too soon, but that’s another story), I set up two of my people to take over the activities they were already managing.

They put up no money because they didn’t have any and paid me a small percentage of their revenue over a number of years. They both did so well that they bought me out about half way through the payout period.

Our major trade show was sold a few years later and I was off to becoming a happy has been.

Gary and I were not alone in pursuing this kind of business creation and opportunity. We were people I call successful opportunists. Some with college degrees, some not. None of them, like both of us, had any real money. They certainly weren’t part of the 1%.

So, when we hear the proponents in academia and the far left decry the wealth and income disparity as justification for their carefree calls to spend unlimited money we have to print or borrow, I say get out in the real world and see the wealth of opportunity that still exists.

You should not be surprised to learn that Entrepreneur Magazine has well over 650,000 readers. Ever watch Shark Tank on ABCTV? It’s a popular show in its fourth year which allows budding entrepreneurs to present their business ideas to five potential investors.

There may be more obstacles to starting a business today, but these are all people like Gary and I who believe the American Dream is still alive.

We all were children of the lower middle class who created an opportunity and had the drive and motivation to make it happen. Please don’t tell me the American dream of opportunity is dying. It just ain’t so.


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The following questions were in last year’s GED examination.  These are real answers (from 16 year olds).

Q.      Name the four seasons

A.      Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar


Q.      How is dew formed?

A.      The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire


Q.      What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?

A.      If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed


Q.      In a democratic society, how important are elections?

A.      Very important.  Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.


Q.      What are steroids?

A.      Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.  (Shoot yourself now, there is little hope!)


Q.      What happens to your body as you age?

A.      When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.


Q.      What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?

A.      He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.  (So true!)


Q.      Name a major disease associated with cigarettes

A.      Premature death


Q.      What is artificial insemination?

A.      When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow


Q.      How can you delay milk turning sour?

A.      Keep it in the cow (Simple, but brilliant!)


Q.      How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized?  (e.g., the abdomen)

A.      The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity.  The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and the lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I, O, U.


Q.      What is the fibula?

A.      A small lie


Q.      What does `varicose’ mean?

A.      Nearby


Q.      What is the most common form of birth control?

A.      Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.  (That would work!)


Q.      Give the meaning of the term `Caesarean section’

A.      The caesarean section is a district in Rome


Q.      What is a seizure?

A.      A Roman Emperor (Julius Seizure, I came, I saw, I had a fit!)


Q.      What is a terminal illness?

A.      When you are sick at the airport (Irrefutable!)


Q.      What does the word `benign’ mean?

A.      Benign is what you will be after you be eight (Brilliant!)


Q.      What is a turbine?

A.      Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head



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  1. To determine how much capital you need and for cash flow
  2. To determine how long it will take to be profitable
  3. To determine if your business can ever be profitable
  4. To chart a course of what needs to be done and how to do it
  5. To provide a road map – a base from which changes can be made
  6. To get other people’s input


Know your position

Determine the specific niche your business intends to fill (what you will be in the minds of your prospects and customers/clients).

In establishing your position, think in terms of:

  • Objectives
  • Strengths and weaknesses of what you offer
  • Perceived competition
  • Target market, i.e., its needs
  • Marketplace trends

Ask yourself these basic questions:

  • What business am I in?
  • What is my goal:
  • What benefits do I offer?
  • What are the competitive advantages?
  • What do I fear?

Identify your target market

Then, measure your position against four criteria:

  • Does it offer a benefit that your target market really wants?
  • Is it a valid benefit?
  • Does it truly separate you from your competition?
  • Is it unique and/or difficult to copy?

Create your strategy

This can be accomplished with seven sentences:

  • Know your purpose (to maximize profits, etc.)
  • Describe how you will accomplish it
  • Describe your target market(s)
  • Outline the tactics you’ll employ
  • Describe your niche
  • Reveal the identity of your business (what you want it be known for)
  • State your budget (if estimable)

Set your positioning statement

The positioning statement reveals the identity of your offering; it explains what the product/service stands for, why the offering has value, and why it should be purchased.  Unlike image, which is the impression you choose to make for your business, identity defines what your business is really about.

Develop your working marketing plan

  • Identify the market
  • List goals
  • Address long-term and near-future vision
  • Consider (realistic) market share
  • Schedule timing
  • Make projections
  • Provide promotional framework
  • Specify media and other avenues to use
  • Consider personnel issues and outsourcing
  • Reflect on potential obstacles/pitfalls
  • Consider remedies
  • Estimate campaign costs

Consider the use of a situational analysis

This should include information about your:

  •  Key prospects and audience
  • Current and expected competition
  • The possibilities, probabilities and reality of the marketplace at (this) time

Financial plan/projections

It’s a lot of work, but well worth it.

Allan Starr is the founder and creative director of Marketing Partners, at


Business Plan considerations:

  • Why write a Business Plan
  • What do lenders and investors look for
  • Developing an Exit Strategy
  • Developing financial assumptions

Cover sheet:

  • What to include

Executive Summary

Part I/The Organizational Plan

  • Description of the business
  • Products or services
  • Management and personnel, description of departments and their functions
  • Legal structure
  • Location
  • Accounting and recordkeeping

Part II/Organizational Plan

  • Description of process of product development and design
  • Sourcing of fabrics
  • Sourcing of labor, justification for location of production
  • Wholesale pricing structure, cost sheets
  • Description of total quality management program
  • Servicing your customer, order processing, returns, credit checking
  • Description of sales management program

The Marketing Plan

  • The Product-Market Analysis
  • What is your marketing plan
  • Target market
  • Competition
  • Methods of distribution
  • Promotion
  • Timing of market entry
  • Pricing
  • Industry trends

Financial Information

  • Types of financial documents
  • Summary of financial needs, startup needs and ongoing needs
  • Pro Forma statements
  • Pro Forma cash flow statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Profit and Loss Statement



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Among the 80 or so trips, plus almost annual visits to Maui and New York that Gabriele and I have taken, we were surprised to find that 17 of those trips have been what you might call cruises.  They were all on water, but not all were what you normally think of as cruises.

If you had asked me if we’ve done a lot of cruising, I would have said “No, not really.  We prefer land tours.”  I guess we’ve done more than I realized.

Although they’re a great value for the money in many ways, the big hotel ships of 2,000 to 4,000 people never seemed appealing to us.  We looked for small ships and different destinations.

Here’s a list of the on-water boat trips we’ve taken and how I rate them:

  1. A&K Barge Trip (5 stars) on a canal near Dijon, France – 20 passengers and the smallest cabin you’ll ever find. Wonderful food, local produce, cheeses and wines.
  2. Cruise West (out of business) to Alaska (4 stars) , Panama and Costa Rica (3-1/2 stars) and Japan (3 stars) – 90 passengers.
  3. Oceania Riviera (4 stars for the boat, 2 stars for the Caribbean) – 1,250 passengers.  Great choice of dining options.
  4. Holland America to Alaska (3 stars) – 1,250 passengers.
  5. National Geographic to Alaska (5 stars) – 84 passengers.  Lots of outdoor activities.
  6. Quark to Antarctica (4 stars) – 96 passengers.  Russian boat, Russian food, and at 4pm the most delicious cakes and sweets.  Amazing sights.
  7. Regent from Dubai to India (3 stars) – 450 passengers.  To be fair, this is a highly rated cruise line, but this was a maiden voyage in this area.  The excursions were poor and the food was mediocre.
  8. Sea Dream (5 stars), West Coast of Italy, Sardinia to Amalfi and Dubrovnik to Athens – 100 passengers.  Terrific.
  9. Travel Dynamics (5 stars), West Coast of Africa and inland to Mali and Timbuktu and across the Great Lakes – 100 passengers.  Terrible, confused office.  Great cruises.
  10. Seabourn (2 stars), Venice down the Adriatic – 200 passengers.  Highly rated, but stupid rules, poor selection of ports.
  11. River Trips – Tauck (4 stars) on the Rhine and Mosselle – 150 passengers.  Viking (3-1/2 stars), Moscow to St. Petersburg – 160 passengers.  Russian food.
  12. VBT Barge/Bike Trip (4 stars), Amsterdam to Brugge – 22 passengers.  And if you want to stretch the list a little further, we also did two days rafting on the Kern River (5 stars)

They were all a great cross section of what’s available in small ship cruising.  The small ships especially attract a younger, more active passenger group.  As you noticed, we avoided the large popular cruise ships who offer a lot of entertainment at attractive prices.  The floating city cruises didn’t appeal to us but it’s still great for a lot of folks and especially for families.

There are some passengers on ships who are called “cruisers.”  They are people who just want to stay on the ship.  They don’t care much about the ports or excursions.  They come just to relax and enjoy the ship’s services.  They paid the fare.  They can do what they want.

Future cruise desinations we’re considering

  1. Oceania – Fall 2014 (10 days) – Lisbon – Tangers – Valencia – Barcelona – Marselle – St. Tropez – Florence – Rome.
  2. National Geographic – Fall 2015 (9 days) – Columbia and Snake Rivers, tracing the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  3. Travel Dynamics – Montreal to New Brunswick – Prince Edward Island – Halifax – Bar Harbor – Boston.
  4. National Geographic (10 days) – Upper Amazon – Peru.
  5. AMA Waterways (7 days) – Paris to Normandy.
  6. Travel Dynamics (11 days) – New Orleans – Natchez – Memphis.
  7. Tauck River Boat (12 days) – The Blue Danube – Prague, Budapest, Vienna.
  8. Other Cruise Destinations – Iceland, Papua New Guinea.

There are cruises available with ships of all sizes and shapes, and some are great bargain vacations.  You need to investigate to find the ones that fit your desires.


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