What is your favorite baseball statistic?

As a fan of statistics, baseball is my unrivaled sport of choice. Virtually every facet of the game is measured and, in my opinion, half the fun is predicting outcomes based on match ups and history. A life long Chicago Cubs fan, at least a few minutes are set aside daily to read the latest updates on MLBTradeRumors and BleacherNation. Put a baseball in my hand and you’ve made a friend for life.

Regardless of your favorite team, I would enjoy hearing your favorite baseball statistic. Feel free to write a previously measured factoid or share your own unique story. To kick things off, I’ll share one of each:

1) Personal Stat: Hello Padres and Rockies fans. Were you one of approximately 12 remaining fans during a 22-inning game on April 17, 2008? Then we may have already met. Congratulations. We hold the distinction of witnessing, by number of innings, the 17th longest game in MLB history.

2) Baseball Stat: Want to know how often a major league baseball position player goes nine innings without touching a ball in play? The most notable occurrence actually happened during a doubleheader. This has happened just once in history. On June 25, 1976, Texas Ranger shortstop Toby Harrah played a doubleheader and never touched a batted ball nor had a single ball hit to him -no chances, no putouts, no assists.

Look forward to hearing your favorite story or stat in the comments below.

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Is this the best way to disrupt big business?

Do you have a great business idea or a small business ready for the next step? This small company is beating Walmart at the low price game and may have the blueprint for success. Better yet, a similar opportunity exists across industries and business types.

Walmart is a behemoth that operates 4,177 US-based stores (as of 12/31/14). They are masters of supply chain efficiency, crudely manage store costs, compensate employees with below market wages, and purchase inventory with volume-based discounts that thieves would envy. A recent comparison to Amazon shows Walmart beating the online giant’s prices by an average of 12-17%. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, Walmart has a glaring weakness that is enabling at least one competitor to frequently beat their prices.

Ever heard of WinCo? They’re an employee-owned grocery chain that competes directly with Walmart in the upper northwest. Operating just 98 total stores, WinCo often undersells its much larger retail competitor. An increasingly important metric in the social media age, WinCo achieves this while maintaining an employee satisfaction rating of 4 out of 5 stars (GlassDoor / Indeed). Even more shocking, employee earnings are far above average. Over 400 frontline employees have retirement accounts valued at 7-figures thanks to the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). That’s right – grocery clerks, stockers, and checkers with retirement accounts valued at over $1,000,000Forbes called WinCo a laboratory for capitalism, worthy of pilgrimages by the world’s greatest business schools.

How does the proverbial David beat Goliath in this retail matchup? I’ll argue that David isn’t fighting this battle alone. By giving minority ownership to employees, rather than outside shareholders, WinCo executed a blueprint that can be done over and over again. Walmart is the representative example in this article but a similar opportunity exists across industries and business types.

Thanks to Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO of Dell, for inspiring this article. Let’s discuss the differences between employee owners and outside shareholders:

a) Implement the Big Picture: Shareholders focus on short term gains. Results are reported quarterly and simply maintaining consistent revenue is often not good enough. Employee owners are more able to focus on consistent, long-term results without compromising ideals in the short term.

b) Deliver Great Service, Internally & Externally: Owner vs Renter mentality. Employee owners see the benefit of improving the workplace and are more likely to speak up or take action when they spot a process improvement opportunity. Rank and file employees rarely take the same initiative to benefit shareholders. Competition is fierce and service matters. Why not create an engaged workforce to drive your business forward?

c) Grow Your Business on Your Terms: An IPO is often used as business financing and the resulting expectation is continuous growth. Rather than the natural four phases of a business lifecycle (Formation, Growth, Maturity, Decline), there is pressure to grow, change, and expand in a way that may feel unnatural to leadership. Post-IPO businesses may lose site of their core expertise or cut too many corners to satisfy shareholders long after natural growth goals are complete. Alternative financing and partnership opportunities may be a better fit for your business.

business financing

There is pride in owning a business and you have the right to secure multi-generational wealth if you have the ability. You also have the unique ability to create great wealth for others. Would you rather give that wealth to shareholders, like me, or the people who fought alongside you to make your business a success?

Why is the baseball bat round and not flat like the cricket bat?

Cricket heavily influenced baseball and initial baseball bats were home-crafted so plenty experimented with flat bats, which was good for a ‘small ball’ approach to help players get their hits.

Many players in the early 1900’s, most notably Ty Cobb, sought bats that were easier to control and round bats became popular due to being easier to swing (referred to as MOI or Moment of Inertia). Round bats have less resistance during the swing.

In addition to feeling lighter, the additional control allowed players to spray the ball to all fields. Round bats do sacrifice some power compared to cricket bats but baseball bats evolved much faster than gloves so the philosophy was that you only need to put the ball in play because fielding errors were far more common, thus increasing your chances to get on base.

baseball.cricket

Heinie Groh holding an early version of the “bottle bat”.

Source: http://sabr.org/research/properties-baseball-bats

3 Keys to Career Success

As a twenty year-old undergrad, I learned a career lesson that guides me to this day. Rather than spend summer vacation playing on the lake, I chose to spend the summer selling books, door-to-door. It wasn’t expected to be extremely lucrative nor was it related to my goal career path, but it was an opportunity for a new experience.

Without a cell phone and with only a few hundred dollars in my pocket, my sales territory was a 940 mile drive to a town that barely registers on the map. Yeah, the car broke down along the way. Next order of business was knocking door-to-door to find a home while wearing a big badge that had my picture and simply said “Solicitor’s Permit”. Care to guess how many driveways had cars but, strangely, nobody answered the door? Finally, a nice couple offered me the upstairs room of a local funeral home. Yes, it was old and scary. Yes, there was a thunderstorm the first night. And yes, the one flashlight with a dying battery made it the perfect setting for your favorite horror film.

Pleased to say that despite my faith being tested a time or two, the summer was successful. I grew as a person, saved some money, and learned the lesson that you are reading today. What lesson? There are 3 factors you control that play a big role in your career success, regardless of your industry, role, or career aspirations.

Attitude Without the right attitude, it’s difficult to sustain success. It’s true that water cooler complaints are normal and may even be healthy in the right setting. That said, a consistently bad attitude is eventually going to limit your interaction to other underachievers. Like it or not, you are worth a professional dollar figure. It is the income you agreed to accept in exchange for doing your job and it is your responsibility to do that job well. One of my favorite ways to interact while door knocking was to ask about local landmarks and learn the story of the town. It developed into a fun game of collecting old t-shirts from people I met. If you’re the type of person who enjoys a comfy t-shirt on the weekends, this is a collection you would have loved. Whether motivating yourself for a day of sales calls or leading co-workers by example, choose the right attitude.

Hours We are talking about hours spent on productive effort. Sitting idle at a desk does not count. Neither does texting during a meeting or shopping in one of your browser windows. On the flipside, if you are a work-a-holic, stop it. Nobody can give 110% all the time and you are not the exception to that rule. Effort is also an easy thing to read. Sit with me for ten minutes and I’ll have a pretty good understanding of your true work ethic. Others around you can see it as well. Thanks to Og Mandino, I defined an exact start and stop point for every day and stuck to it…even on Friday afternoons. That said, it’s not the right schedule for everyone. The number of hours you need to work may not even total 40 per week but when you are called upon, you should be fully focused on doing your job and doing it well.

Presentations Presentation comes in different forms. If you are in sales, it is simply the number of real interactions you have per day. You should be counting them and log whether it is a full presentation or an elevator pitch. If you are in a service industry, it may be the number of customers you assist in a given time. If you are a subordinate, it might look like sharing your efforts with leadership or volunteering for additional projects. If you are a leader, it may be opening your office door and leading by example. In short, you need to get in front of the people that matter to your career. You need to do it often before you can do it well. These 3 keys to career success are 100% in your control. Stop looking for things to get better and choose to make them better. At worst, the professional growth earns you sales, promotions, or recognition. At best, they serve as the launching pad for your greater career goals.

Starting is the difficult part but you’ll feel your confidence grow quickly. Have a success story? Please share it in the comments.

8 Reasons India Should Replace China as the World’s Manufacturing Hub

China did not become a global manufacturing hub overnight and neither should India. That said, there are value-based reasons India should be the next manufacturing frontier.

Importing to support U.S. Business

As a U.S. business, jobs matter. Local manufacturing is a good thing. Selling those products to the rest of the world is even better. When jobs belong in the U.S., we all want them here. When outsourcing is appropriate, it still provides a great return on investment to U.S. business.

Protectionism is the theory or practice of shielding a country’s domestic industries from foreign competition by taxing imports. This policy generally fails because a company unable to source the most competitive products is likewise unable to compete against global competition in the marketplace.

Manufacturing, exports, and imports all support U.S. jobs. The NCPA points out imports in just the apparel and toy industries created over 570,000 jobs in 2010, in the fields of transportation, construction, retail, and finance. Furthermore, 78% of total value added to the products was in the U.S. so just 22% of dollars generated were sent abroad. These are jobs and dollars created by leveraging international opportunity and would either not exist or be less competitive without imports.

Importing can provide access to regionally exclusive resources, leverage unique manufacturing expertise, lower costs, and, in return, make your business more competitive in domestic and international markets. Cooperative efforts make you better able to not only boost profit margins but continue to competitively expand your U.S. business.

us jobs by imports

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Wage Wars

Reduced production costs are often a leading factor when purchasing products or services abroad. Wages in China have increased an average of nearly 13% per year since 1999 and minimum wages in China are now two to three times the level of their Indian counterparts. The spike in manufacturing costs has left many small and medium-sized manufacturers scrambling to recover lost profit margins.

In India, the development of a large, yet young labor force with an average age of 23 is motivated at lower salary levels. China, with an average worker age of 37, has a higher labor cost gap due to increasing health care costs and a more mature market. China has reached a demographic shift where it is becoming a consumer market rather than a global manufacturing hub.

As a buyer, you have a right to demand greater price stability and India delivers by providing the world’s fastest growing middle class, even at current salary levels. 82% have mobile phones, 77% own a TV, and the average family has a 30% savings rate. India already has discretionary income at current salary levels so there is less concern over rapid wage increases and you are less vulnerable as markets adjust.

The current devaluation of the rupee makes Indian prices even more attractive and small/mid-sized manufacturers are likely to find incentives available at lower purchase volumes than China would demand. Combine this with a skilled, empowered workforce, and you get both a better labor and lower costs.

wages in china and india

Source: Dezan Shira & Associates

Rules & Regulation

Contracts in the USA are iron-clad. We like to walk in the door, figure out a deal, sign the contract, do the deal, and move on. Relationships are built through successful transactions. China’s view of contracts, conversely, is often referred to as “We Know Where You Live Capitalism”. Contracts are initiated after building a relationship, viewed as a fluid outline, and still open to negotiation after signing. Americans often experience frustration at the lack of value placed on signed contracts and many companies buy legal expertise to help them navigate contracts and legal implications of beginning a business relationship with China.

Both the U.S. and India have rules and regulations established during a period of British Colonial rule, which means there is more similarity in the value of contracts and a more defined beginning, middle, and end. British rule also brought India a parliamentary government, similar legal system, independent reserve bank, and fewer state-owned enterprises than China. An additional benefit that came during the British Colonial period is the infrastructure of a mature railway system that helps move goods more cheaply and easily throughout India so more sellers can competitively bid for your business.

It is easy to overlook rules and regulations when comparing China and India but these are business transactions and if you are failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. American companies find value and cost savings in doing business with a country that operates under similar rules and regulations as well as offers a judicial process that is similar to our own. India is also a democracy so you have legal recourse, if needed.

Scandals, Bribes, & Fraud

Due diligence is essential while doing business abroad and mistrust is a primary reason businesses are reluctant to reach international markets. The sacrifice of not reaching abroad is that your business misses out on new markets, more innovative designs, and the ability to sell to 2/3rds of the world’s consumers.

Scandals and bribes do happen, even in the U.S., where it often occurs as financial fraud or insider trading activities. Transparency International publishes corruption data, which primarily occurs at government and political levels. These are not prevalent in mid-market deals.

Fraud is the major concern for small and mid-size businesses. The popular Chinese site, Alibaba, has confirmed millions of dollars in fraud cases, which arise from an inherent conflict of interest. E-Commerce buying has evolved but has not yet reached a level of maturity where international buying and selling is properly regulated. Fraud is properly mitigated by bringing on a representative to assist you. Once there is a local presence, the risk of fraud is drastically reduced.

Mutual Buying & Selling Opportunities

China earned its position as the world’s exporter based on demand from Europe and the USA but continues to struggle creating internal demand for many of the products and services it manufactures. Select, high-end brands are succeeding in China but most companies struggle to successfully reach Chinese consumers. Much of the U.S. profit derived from sales into China is earned by just a few companies.

India is the world’s fastest growing middle class consumer base. U.S. companies like Starbucks and Subway are doing well. Fossil and Brooks Brothers have recently been granted approval to set up business. India is the world’s newest stage for business expansion and it creates countless small business opportunities.

India is on pace to have the world’s largest population in just 15 years and 80% of the infrastructure to support that population still needs to be built. India will invest $143 billion in health care, $392 billion in transportation infrastructure, and $1.25 trillion in energy production to support its rapidly expanding population.

The economic boom is creating a new class of buyers that are looking for quality U.S. products and trade between the two countries is surging over $100 billion annually. The secondary benefit of manufacturing in India is the greater likelihood of creating market opportunities to also sell your product to the Indian consumer.

The Power of Communication

I recently spoke with a company that spent $100,000 on equipment they believed was necessary for a project. The specs had been misunderstood and that equipment is now collecting dust. Verbal and non-verbal actions are the foundation of communication and acceptable standards vary by region and nation. The official language of China, for example, is Mandarin and a thin layer of fluent English speakers are relied upon for virtually all import and export communication. The challenge is that the translator may not be an expert in your industry, product specs, or relaying cultural nuances. For example, due to the non-verbal concept of “mianzi” or “saving face”, it is rare to hear a direct “no” when demands cannot be met. Phrases like “Yes, probably” can be interpreted as positive but likely should be interpreted as the word “no”. The challenges become even greater when trying to ensure understanding of difficult technical specifications. The constant check-in for understanding on your end is both time-consuming and expensive.

Due to being a British colony until 1947, the two official languages of India are Hindi and English. Rather than a thin layer of English experience, most well-educated people speak English in India. Many of us lean on negative experience with Indian telemarketers but the fact remains that we can both give and receive information with these agents better than we can communicate with most Chinese businessmen. The direct benefit is the ability to connect with experts in your industry and speak more directly with the teams handling your project. Culture and checks for understanding are still important but there is a much smaller risk of specs being lost in translation. Moreover, the Indian contact is more capable of providing ongoing feedback throughout your project which can improve processes and save both time and money.

Utilizing professionals to bridge gaps is important when manufacturing or buying abroad but the commonalities between India and the U.S. are more familiar than the language and cultural divide with China. Choosing business partners abroad is a relationship and, as it is at home, communication is key to building and maintaining a strong relationship.

Negotiating Features, Materials, & Pricing

Negotiation is a fun topic to discuss in the U.S. because many are timid with negotiation and others have a very strong “I know what I’m doing” attitude. The challenge is that negotiation strategies differ from country to country and the only universal rule is that you better have a plan.

Negotiation is China is often referred to as the “cold shower” approach to decision making. Displays of anger and artificial deadlines seldom work and patience is a virtue. A larger challenge is that you may find yourself negotiating against a team on the opposite end of the table where you might struggle to identify the real decision maker and influencers. The entire process can be painstaking and requires you to stop, think, listen, sleep on it, and then perhaps make your decision. US buyers typically prefer to move swiftly through negotiations so the Chinese approach to patience often means you leave money on the table. Most challenging of all is that contracts in China are viewed as fluid documents so negotiation may be ongoing even after the contract is signed.

Indian negotiation is no less shrewd but a few simple rules can prepare you for success. First, contracts are similar to the U.S., with a defined beginning, middle, and end so you have greater clarity regarding the points to be negotiated. Second, everything is negotiable. The true price of any item is what you are willing to pay. Many initial price quotes are inflated by 30% – 70% so your discount is dependent on your ability to negotiate.

A great tip regarding India is that every transaction is negotiated and even strong negotiators benefit from engaging a professional. Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia, a California transplant, credits his bargaining skills to selling at the vegetable markets in Bangalore. His bargaining tactics enabled him to push the Microsoft acquisition price from $160M to $400M vs. Bill Gates and his team. Still think you can do the negotiation yourself?

Big Data

Data is important and advances in technology make it easier than ever to present valuable information showing the value of choosing India over China for most purchasing or manufacturing projects. The good news is that you do not have to just take our word for it. Feel free to link to several bright minds in U.S. – Asia relations.

  1. Bloomberg Data Analytics
  2. Academic Research at Wright State University
  3. Dezan Shira & Associates
  4. Federal Reserve Bank of New York
  5. The Heritage Foundation
  6. National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Companies with Operations in India

US companies in India

Interested in more information or have a question about sourcing a product, component, or business service? Get in touch…will be glad to hear from you.

Alibaba’s Conflict of Interest

Let’s start this article by clearly pointing out that Alibaba is not a scam. In fact, it deserves credit for being such an incredible marketing engine that it makes international buying appear much easier than it actually is. The danger is that Alibaba is not a neutral site and directly profits by making it as simple as possible to become a “Gold-Level Supplier”. As a buyer, this means a high level of your due diligence is still required.

Gold Suppliers pay $5000 or more to Alibaba for the gold seal. In return, Alibaba verifies a trade name and office space. There is no additional checklist to pass. In short, for a few thousand dollars, you can receive full endorsement from a billion dollar marketing engine. Inherently, this has led to ID fraud, opening fake Gold membership accounts, and duping buyers out of millions of dollars (sources cited below). Even more scary is that over 100 Alibaba employees were also involved in a recent scam*.

Alibaba has generally been helpful in discussing fraud cases* and the Transaction Services Agreement (TSA) that you sign when you register for the site provides some legal coverage. The conflict of interest arises when you have an issue such as: Alibaba Case Study: Received Broken Products. Alibaba will support you but its primary interest is in maintaining a happy supplier, and earning ongoing site membership fees, so you may only receive a bare minimum level of support from your claim.

The US Commercial Service recommends escrow.com as an alternative payment method because it keeps your money with a neutral 3rd party until you have inspected and approved the order. The frustration occurs in that Alibaba only enables purchases via its own Alipay account (Alipay reviews here). By limiting buyer options, Alibaba is ensuring that your payment is not actually being held by a fully neutral 3rd party. As of the writing of this article, Alibaba prohibits the use of escrow.com.

As stated above, Alibaba is not a scam but its professional interests align with those that are paying thousands of dollars for membership fees. At the end of the day, there are safe, cost-effective alternatives to both ensure you are receiving quality goods and managing payment on your terms.

Have additional questions? Send a reply on here and I’ll either answer or share contact information.

Sources:

*Organized criminals in China use Alibaba to dupe buyers out of more than $6 million

*100 Alibaba employees involved in scam

*Alibaba Gold Supplier Fraud

*Fraud scandal hits China’s Alibaba

*Alibaba takes Ownership of its Mistakes

*Alibaba Terms and Conditions

*Alibaba Case Study: Received Broken Products

*AliPay Reviews

*Professional Import Assistance

Case Study: Understanding Alibaba Search Results

You’ve heard the horror stories of Chinese companies using unsafe (and cheaper) ingredients – allegedly without the knowledge or consent of their American partners. Examples include: tainted seafood, cancer-causing makeup, lead-based children’s toys, dangerous medicines, toxic toothpaste, and tires that unravel on the road. The risks of a lawsuit could not only bankrupt a business, but also cost American lives.

China wisely recognizes its reputation has been damaged yet simple math shows the problem hasn’t been properly confronted. Let’s review a completely random sample: Human hair trade is a $9B industry that has even inspired a Chris Rock movie. Let’s examine Chinese suppliers that claim to provide 100% pure Brazilian hair on the popular e-commerce site, Alibaba. We will further review only paid, Gold-level suppliers to rule out more obvious fraud.

As of January, 2013 there were 294,000 Gold-level supplier advertisements stating the ability to to supply 100% pure Brazilian hair in lengths of 10″ – 32″, at an average rate of more than 30,000 pieces per month. That’s over 105 billion pieces per year!

You’re free to do a deeper analysis but human hair grows at an average rate of just 6″ per year and the female population of Brazil hovers around 100 million. China is claiming supply-ability of more than 1,000 hair cuts per year from every female in Brazil!

There are likely some re-sellers in this list that sell from the same factories but the fact remains that additives and substitutes are the only way for China to meet its supply claims. Is the fake hair material safe today and will it be safe tomorrow? China has successfully exploited loopholes and lack of oversight across even the most high-tech industries, resulting in accidents, deaths, and PR nightmares.

Cheaper energy costs, more efficient manufacturing, stronger innovation, and transportation benefits are giving US companies additional incentive to explore sourcing alternatives. China is regarded as the ‘go-to’ location for manufacturing but it also has the world’s worst reputation for dangerous goods and counterfeit products.

Maybe China is the best source for your product and maybe isn’t it. Just be sure to do your research or reach out to a professional during the decision-making process.

Have additional questions? Send a reply on here or connect on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/ca345

6 Tips for Selling Your Product in the USA

There is no denying that North Americans are consumers. We spend money for food, sleep, exercise,  entertainment, health, and just about anything else. Personally, Bacon Floss may be the next product to open my wallet. Is there anything bacon can’t improve?

Despite the occasional decision to eat a chunk of pig fat, North American consumers are intelligent, networked, and unwilling to accept sub-par products or services. This simple guide will help you decide whether or not your product is ready for the North American market.

  • North American culture does not rely heavily on personal relationships to sell product. Expect less interest in discussing personal or family life prior to product sales than you would find in many Asian or Latin American cultures.
  • Quality is important. Even lower price products should not feel ‘cheap’.
  • Good price is important but buyers will often pay more for new technology. Learn the market for your product as well as for your competition.
  • Customer service is valued. Say “thank you” and offer a discount on future purchases. If something is wrong, make it right.
  • Contracts are final. While some nations use contracts as a guideline, the U.S. expects performance exactly as the terms are spelled out. Make it specific and expect to abide by contractual terms.
  • Hype sells. A picture is great but buyers will search for reviews and ask others about the performance of your product or service. Make products simple and easy to understand because confused customers do not provide strong reviews.

Don’t expect that just throwing money into a new market assures success. Develop a plan, consult a professional, and make sure you are ready for the US market. Consumers may only give you one opportunity.

Best Ghost Town in the USA?

Bodie State Historic Park is located east of Yosemite, near the Nevada border. It is a mining town from the 1800s that is now in a “state of arrested decay”. If you want to travel back in time, this is the place. Bodie has a railway, mines, gas station, saloon, general store, homes, and other structures. It is incredibly well-preserved and you can safely walk into or very near most attractions.

It’s rare to find so many intact structures available for tour but the most amazing thing about Bodie is that it is not crowded. The area is large enough that you can take photos without capturing the latest Ed Hardy design in the background, something I think we can all appreciate.

Bodie may seem out of the way but if you’ll already be in a place like Reno, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sacramento, or Tahoe, the trip is worth the time. Just make sure your vehicle is prepared for the long, slow, dusty, and bumpy 13 mile trek off highway 395.

Please leave comments below if you have visited Bodie or share info about your other favorite locations. Hope you find the photographs, ghosts, or gold you’ve been seeking.

Hello WordPress World – Introduction

Residing in Colorado, the outdoors are a personal sanctuary. Interested in hiking, half marathons, camping, fishing, photography, or sunny days on a Denver patio? We will probably get along well. Reach out for discussion or local meet ups anytime.

Professionally, I have a career I thoroughly enjoy. As a six sigma consultant, I use data to make decisions and improve processes. Projects include maximizing workflow efficiency for more than 300 technical (IT) resources, centralizing finance roles to increase spend visibility, and building sales teams that produce over $100M annually. I take pride in keeping my customers (internal and external) at the forefront of each project and strive to leave things better than I found them.

Have also been fortunate to travel quite a bit and this blog will occasionally reflect upon those experiences. While not dedicated to specific topics, this blog will strive to only include topics where I have a level of confidence discussing. Your conversation is very much appreciated but bad attitudes are not. Look forward to interacting with you.