Intro To Business


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About the Author

Teri Bernstein, MBA, CPA has been teaching full time in the Business Department of Santa Monica College since 1985.  Prior to that, she worked in Internal Audit and Special Financial Projects for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, CBS, Inc., and Coopers & Lybrand (which is now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers).  She attended the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

  • "Chef": social media meets career path crossroads

    [View: / :550:0] trailer of the movie "CHEF" from YouTube By most accounts, "Chef" is not a profound film, but it is an engaging story that coincidentally highlights several aspects relevant to business and career realities. Here are some of the highlights (spoiler alert): a chef is at odds with his boss: the boss wants a conservative menu; the chef wants to be creative the boss gives the chef an ultimatum a food critic uses Twitter to soundly criticize the chef the chef learns about Twitter from his son, but responds to a tweet in what he thinks is a personal environment, but what is in fact, the Twitter universe emotional outburst gets viral attention, leading to the end of the chef's employment career path crossroads: chef starts a food truck the best-of-all-possible outcomes evolves For business students, this stream of events produces some obvious questions: Can being fired be the best of all possible events? Is Twitter a profound and effective marketing medium for a restaurant? What are the regulatory requirements for setting up a food truck in various states or other jurisdictions? Is being an entrepreneur the answer to every worker's dreams of real fulfillment and financial success? Can financial backing realistically materialize in the way it does in this movie? However these questions are answered, "Chef" remains an engaging and inspirational advocate for the entrepreneurial spirit. Sources: "‘ Chef’ movie review: Jon Favreau makes a satisfying return to his indie roots , " by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post , May 15, 2014. F ollow up: What would you do if you were in a job where you felt your best qualities were not appreciated by your boss? What are the pros and cons of taking action--either for the character in the movie, or as you would imagine in your own situation? Are you a Twitter user? Have you ever been a part of a communication situation that has spiraled out of control? What examples from fairly current events can you cite where Twitter users did not understand the way that Twitter works...with unfortunate and unforeseen consequences?
  • Dealflicks: selling seats nobody wants is a valuable business

    image from Dealflicks is like Priceline: it tries to match moviegoers with seats that are not otherwise going to be used --and offers big discounts. According to Sean Wycliffe, CEO of Dealflicks, the statistics show that 88% of movie theater seats go empty. This is a marketing niche that was crying to be filled! Entrepreneur Kevin Hong teamed up with Wycliff and website whiz Zachary Cancio to start the business with venture capital funding. Wong and his sales teams have traveled the U.S. in their minivan trying to woo theaters across America into signing up with their service. image from article linked below Dealflicks is very flexible--letting the theaters set prices and determine which shows get discounted. Moviegoers access the deals via phone apps or the Dealflicks website. Dealflicks makes its money by taking 10% to 20% of the ticket price. Last year, sales were $245,000...but they are projected to be more than $2 million this year. Source: " Dealflicks aims to put movie fans in cheaper seats, " by Richard Verrier, the Los Angeles Times , May 6, 2014. F ollow up: According to the article, when do discounted tickets really work for the theater owners? What are the downsides? Who funded Dealflicks? What was their motivation? Why does Wong make sales calls by minivan rather than by phone?
  • Beer solves water crisis in California town

    image from article linked below--online version of radio story The drought in California does not just affect farmers--or homeowners worrying about their lawns. As it turns out...this drought is so bad that the state of California has made a list of cities that will actually run out of water soon. So the businesses in these towns have a big problem to worry about...especially a business that is water-dependent like the Bear Republic Brewing Company in Cloverdale, CA. Acting in self-interest--but also realizing that its investment must first serve the citizens of the town--Bear Republic Brewing Company loaned the city of Cloverdale $466,133,000 to dig two new wells. The owner of Bear Republic, Ricardo Norgrove, took this bold action because he was a 5th generation resident of Sonoma County, and he wanted to stay put. He also wanted to keep Bear Republic Brewing in Cloverdale if at all possible. Of course he has considered moving his company, but he figures the water problem is going to have to be addressed everywhere: it is a global issue. Sources: " Beer: Saving a town from drought ," by Kai Ryssdal, , April 15, 2014. F ollow up: What does Ricardo Norgrove recommend at the end of the online article? How might this be a marketing strategy by American Public Media to attract more hits to this article? What other strategies might be employed, if more hits to the website is APM's aim? What other business/community partnerships might be encouraged to solve sustainability problems or other environmental or life-style issues?
  • "Why I love doing taxes": one man's story

    image of Bruce McFarland from Marketplace website link to radio story Bruce McFarland is the Missouri Tax Guy. He does tax returns and he loves it. He acknowledges that people sometimes have a poor attitude with respect to tax preparation. Nevertheless he sees taking one's business records to a tax professional as a haven of safety--where clients go (not unlike a spa) to be taken care of by an honest and knowledgeable person. I prepare my own taxes, with the help of an ever-morphing tax program whose "Easy Step" function becomes more cumbersome each year. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing where all the money went--and also in seeing how much of a contributor I am to the functioning of the federal and state governments. Sources: " Why I love doing taxes ," by Kai Ryssdal and Bruce McFarland, , April 15, 2014. F ollow up: It is after April 15th. Have you filed an extension? Did you do your taxes? What changes are you going to make this year in record-keeping strategies? What apps are you using to help yourself?
  • "Silicon Valley": business start-up comedy comes to HBO...and YouTube

    [View: utility/ :550:0] from HBO via YouTube HBO's new comedy "Silicon Valley" premiered this past weekend. The show portrays young programmers--one of whom has developed a program he calls "Pied Piper." He designed this program to alert aspiring song writers to any copyright infringement problems, by searching all music libraries everywhere for the note sequences entered. Others realize that the main feature of this program is its ability to instantaneously search through compressed files and deliver sound quality that isn't distorted...and that there are limitless business applications of this rapid and high-quality search algorithm. In addition to the comic interactions portrayed in the series, there are business partnerships, business decisions to make, business entities to consider, and business values to ponder. By the end of the first episode, we learn the importance of a good business plan. The show is its own "Introduction to Business." Interestingly, HBO has decided to let the first episode air on YouTube, so everyone can take a look. Sources: " Watch the first episode of HBO's 'Silicon Valley' on YouTube ," by Chris Velasco, , April 7, 2014. F ollow up: What are the pros and cons of HBO's decision to let the first episode air on YouTube? What entities stand to benefit? Can you identify with any of the characters? What business advice would you give the main character?
  • Oculus: what I don't understand might make a fortune for others

    This image of "The Rift" by Oculus was taken by Christina Ascani for Mashable (linked below) When I read the news that Facebook had purchased Oculus VR , a "virtual reality" start-up, my first thought was, "Huh? What does this have to do with Facebook?" The Oculus "Rift" device lets a user experience a video game as though they were inside it. Moving your head can result in dodging a virtual bullet, and turning your head gives a different view of your video game environment, as though you were really inside that environment. This device is still what I like to refer to as " vaporware "--it doesn't exist yet. Oculus developers were trying to raise enough money through Kickstarter to continue development (they'd already raised $2.4 million). Then Facebook came along...and for $2 billion bought the whole operation. While this solved the Oculus developer's cash problem, it didn't make some of the Kickstarter supporters very happy. David Prosser writes about those concerns in an online Forbes article . [View: :550:0] from vimeo Still--what is in this for Facebook? Do they just want a piece of the video game action? Or do they foresee the Rift device as a way that Facebook friends can also interact? We'll see... Source: " What is Oculus Rift--And Why You Should Care ," by Samantha Murphy Reilly, Mashable online , March 26, 2014. Follow up: What is "virtual reality" and what makes it different from other media experiences? How do the potential users of Rift use Facebook now? Who might eventually be the users? What potential might this product have as an educational tool? Read the Forbes article written by David Prosser. What might be the issues for the original Kickstarter supporters, and what bigger concerns might that mean for Kickstarter?
  • Picture this (in one photo): your own small business

    Perma-Link to slideshow at Capturing the soul of a small business in one photo The Small Business blog arm of the New York Times , "You're The Boss," asked readers a while back to submit photos of their small businesses. These photos were to capture something meaningful and over-reaching about the essence of their business, or the rewards or heart-aches involved in building the business. The short slideshow linked on this page illustrates five central images from five different businesses: Pumbaa, a "very lucky pig" from the WhyNotFarm business in Snow Creek, North Carolina Digging out from a snowstorm at Perrault Spring and Equipment (fifth generation family business in Connecticut) Dozens of boxes in a warehouse waiting to be shipped during the high season at Lowrider Sunglasses in Exeter, CA Dedicated--and multi-tasking--service people at DC Home Buzz, a real estate brokerage A blank wall at an online art gallery in San Francisco. Maybe these photos can inspire you to take a photo with a similar "core" feeling about whatever it is that is of primary importance in your life right now. Maybe it is a business or a new job. Or your accounting class.... Source: " Capturing the Soul of A Business in a Single Photograph " by You're The Boss Editors, New York Times, March 13, 2013. Follow up: Really: What does capture most of your attention right now? Can you boil it down to its essence--a single photograph? Pick five to ten photos and mull them over for a few days, then post (in whatever medium you see fit) the photo that really captures the essence your "life's work" at this point in time. Which of the images in the slideshow speaks to you the most--both in terms of communicating the essence of a business, or inspiring you to want to know more about (or have dealings with) that business)?
  • Upcoming IPOs...and a source to watch for more

    screenshot of "Money Morning" IPO advertised website for IPOs. "Money Morning" (above) is an ad site, but the "IPO activity" site linked below is a more neutral source of new public stock offerings for those who are interested in investing in risky but potentially mega-profitable new companies. Source: "I PO activity ,", February 28, 2013. Follow up: Review the IPO activity items for the last 5 months. Do any of the issues interest you? Have any become news items? Could you have predicted the ones that have done well? What were the sources that helped you identify the "winners"? Pick three IPOs from the last year and track their performance to date.
  • Sweet-to-the-core product launch

    image from article linked below Pictured above is one of Ben & Jerry's new "core" ice cream flavors: Hazed and Confused. There is a core of Nutella (chocolate/hazelnut), surrounded by hazelnut ice cream and chocolate ice cream with fudge chips. The products in this launch have multiple ice creams in one yummy container. Ben & Jerry's is a company that started in 1978. During that time, they have expanded world-wide and have remained profitable. One way that they have continued to thrive has been to adapt their product line on a regular basis. This product launch is one innovation. The other products that are a part of this launch are: That's My Jam Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Salted Caramel I wish I could say I'd already done a product taste test. Which flavor do you think will be most successful? Source: " Ben & Jerry's Nails It With New Core Ice Cream Flavors, " Huffington Post, February 25, 2014. Follow up: Read about Ben & Jerry's on their website, linked above. What attributes make Ben & Jerry's different from other corporations, and in what way is it similar in terms of structure? What are Ben & Jerry's "core" values? How do they influence the following: marketing campaigns? product manufacture? employee relations?
  • Trying to escape a 7-day work-week...

    image from Entrepreneurs often have a difficult time setting a work-life balance...particularly if they are running a business open 7 days a week to the public. Carlos Vega bought Father and Son Pizzeria in 2007, and successfully doubled sales over the next few years. Besides serving prepared pizzas, he also sold Italian "gravy"--his popular red marinara sauce. But he was working seven days a week, to save on labor costs. This was not a sustainable business model, so he brainstormed possible alternatives. There were certain constraints, which had to be faced honestly, in developing his alternatives. The constraints included: the restaurant was small and land-locked on the main street of a "blue-collar" town there was no parking maximum gross revenue had hit a plateau of $10,000 per week Mr. Vega considered these possibilities: Adding on to the building that he was in so that there would be a real dining room...but a complication was that he could not afford the quarter-of-a-million dollars needed for a liquor license...nor would the addition bring him any parking spaces Losing the pizza place and switching to the manufacture of "gravy"--which would require a lot of learning and the hiring of a third-party manufacturer. The plus of this option would be more-time-with-the family. The minuses include many unknowns of being in a food manufacturing business rather than a restaurant. Business observers were impressed by Mr. Vega's success so far, and hoped that he would transition slowly into the manufacturing business, which seemed to be the more sustainable alternative from a personal standpoint. Source: " A Business Owner Seeks an Alternative to Seven-Day Workweeks, " by John Grossman, The New York Times Small Business, January 1, 2014. Follow up: What is the difference between "gross revenue" and "profit"? What does the "margins were higher for the red sauce than for his menu items" mean in terms of product mix and future planning? Delineate the ways in which Mr. Vega maximized profits for his restaurant before reached this decision point. How much profit would you need to receive in order to make 7-day work-weeks worthwhile? What kind of work could you sustain for, say, 5-8 years at that rate?
  • A social network just for college students...sound familiar?

    image of Evan Rosenbaum, Akash Nigam and Matt Geige of Blend. It's " deja vu all over again." Blend is a social networking site that is for college students only. This might sound familiar because that is how Facebook started, on Harvard's campus. I remember my students telling me...back in 2006...that they could "get me onto Facebook" because I had an email address that ended in .edu, but that most "grown-ups" were excluded. Now the demographics of Facebook have shifted. According to iStrategyBlabs , 3 million young people (under 25) have left Facebook within the last three years...while the number of users over 55 years old have increased by 80%. Does this sound like a "party" you'd like to be at as a college student? Here is how Blend works: A theme is posted each day, such as "Tailgate Saturday, Library Shenanigans or My Pet Is Better Than Yours." Users post photos relevant to the themes. Other users can "snap" the photos they "like." Photo-posters can earn points based on the number of snaps received to be redeemed as gift cards for Blend advertisers. Ads are inserted between every six photos. Blend has set up 4 seasonal campaigns a benchmarks for advertisers. Student "influencers" approve potential advertisers, and act as their representatives on each campus. Observers have tracked steady growth for Blend. Where will it be 3 years from now? Source: " A Social Network That’s Just for College Students ," by Eileen Zimmerman, the New York Times--You're the Boss, February 6, 2014. Follow up: How much do you use Facebook? How about other social networking sites? Make a pie chart showing the relative amounts of time you spend on various sites. What is your reaction to Blend ? What do you think of its motto: "Share, snap, score"? Evaluate its business and monetization strategies. What are some indicators of Blend's future success or failure? To whom is the phrase "it's deja vu all over again" attributed, and why is it funny?
  • Tin foil hat wards off surveillance

    image by the.joberg/Flickr ...and reproduced in the article linked below Will this new product sell? Does it meet a need that cannot be satisfied elsewhere? Does it attempt to create a need that does not yet exist? Or is its creation just performance art? In any event, an Italian company has come up with a hat that claims to scramble brain activity if any scanning of that brain activity is detected--thus protecting the wearer's privacy. [View: :550:0] Anti-NIS Accessories from Caitlin Morris on Vimeo. Source: " This is not your grandfather's tin foil hat..., " by Ben Johnson, Marketplace: American Public Media , January 15, 2014. Follow up: Answer the questions posed above. What product might you be interested protect you from, specifically, what kind of surveillance?
  • Small business opportunities for 2014

    image from Thinking of starting a small business in 2014? Here are fields where some experts think there are significant opportunities: Social Media Consultant --Since many companies want to get on the social media bandwagon, but few have the skills to set up and manage social media, an opportunity exists for individuals who know social media advertising techniques. Application Engineer --or "App creator"--These professionals can design small single-function programs to be used on various mobile devices. Green Living Adviser --Companies and individuals need help to learn the skills of living and working in line with sustainability principles. Personal Coach --no kidding--this can be a lucrative career for those who truly enjoying seeing the strengths in others and helping them reach their life goals--and people are willing to pay others to help them. Professional Organizer --The TV program "Hoarders" has help boost business for professional organizers, who help people sort through their belongings and organize their lives and the spaces they live in. Retirement Services Provider --Many service opportunities exist for helping the "active" retiree who wants to learn new skills, or travel on trips that cater to their needs, or rent property in an up-and-coming retirement community. Elder Services Provider --As the baby boom generation ages beyond the "active retiree" stage, they will need more help with "activities of daily living" such as grocery shopping, driving to appointments, paying bills, pet care, food preparation...or help organizing a move to an assisted living situation. Personal Concierge --Busy lives mean that people are willing to pay others to do their personal business--shopping, errand-running, setting up appointments--whatever comes up. Specialty Food Supplier --A person who knows about food and logistics can either market online or provide help to smaller groceries who want to provide gluten-free or other allergy related foods for their customers. IT consultant --More businesses are going fully digital, so the need for professionals able to maintain and debug systems will continue to grow. I haven't personally researched most of these suggestions as a market analyst, but I have personally hired individuals working in 5 of the fields mentioned... Source: " Top 10 Small Businesses To Start In 2014 " by Amber Rose, Empowered Ezine, January 9, 2014, picked up by PRNewswire . Follow up: Do any of these suggestions look like a good fit for you? If so, research the start up costs and possible revenues. Which of these jobs seems to have the most potential--either in terms of money or in terms of personal fulfillment?
  • Body parts: an entrepreneurial business opportunity?

    image from OK...These are mannequin body parts. So I guess it isn't quite as gruesome as real body parts. But who knew they would represent an entrepreneurial opportunity? Actually, the business-- Mannequin Madness --has been in existence for 15 years. The revenues are modest but not inconsequential: they range from $500,000 to $800,000 annually...and the work involves selling, renting and recycling mannequins. The entrepreneur, Ms. Henderson-Townsend, says that she was perusing Craigslist one day...and came upon a person selling mannequins and parts. She bought the entire inventory for $2500. She first ran a rental business part time, but, when her employer went bankrupt in the following year, she pursued the business full time. She found that it was moderately easy to accumulate the non-biodegradable mannequin parts as inventory...which she then recycled to Sears, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren and Kohl's. The Environment al Protection Agency gave her an award for recycling more than 100,000 pounds of mannequin in a year. She hopes her newly independently-contracted "controller" can help her figure out how to manage and control her business and her profits. In addition, she ha s been reading: “ How Rich People Think ” by Steve Siebold. She is trying to develop her "million dollar mindset" in order to maximize her business potential. Sources: " Turning Body Parts--Mannequin Body Parts--Into a Business ," by Coleen DeBaise, The New York Times--Small Business, January 9, 201 4. “ How Rich People Think ” by Steve Siebold, published by London House Press, July, 2010. Follow up: What wacky business opportunity can you brainstorm, given that this one was viable? Check out the book “ How Rich People Think ” by Steve Siebold. Do you think it will help Ms. Henderson-Townsend achieve her goals?
  • Greatest Business Card Ever !

    Check out the details on this English-language business card of a Chinese entrepreneur. This card first caught my eye when I was perusing posts in Facebook, but it turns out that Guangbiao Chen is actually a serious contender for fame. His "flashy philanthropy" and his recent interest in buying the New York Times has brought him notoriety in many circles. I don't know about the veracity of the claims he makes on his business card, but third party sources can verify that Guangbiao Chen is one of the 400 richest people in China. Sources: " The Incredible Business Card Of The Chinese Millionaire Who Wants To Buy The New York Times. " by Adam Taylor, The Business Insider, January 8, 2014. Follow up: What does YOUR business card look like? Design a card for yourself with the same kind of hyberbole regarding your achievements that Guangbiao Chen has shown on his card. What are the pros and cons of exaggerating your experience and accomplishments? Perhaps you can list some unforeseen consequences. Can you debunk or prove any of the claims on the business card posted above?
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