Sunday, February 21, 2010

Small business finance advice from 1999

A few people have asked where they can find some of my decade-old articles on small business finance. Here are the links. They are drastically in need of updating, but also contain some advice that is always timely.

Defining Key Financial Ratios

Five Severe Warning Signs of Cash Flow Problems

Action Plan: Forecasting and Cash Flow Budgeting

Key Questions to Ask a Prospective CPA

Turning Assets Into Cash

Action Plan: Debt Management and Banking

Action Plan: Using Economic Forecasts

Choosing Accounting Software

Debt Management and Banking: Establish a Contingency Plan

Establishing Credit Limits

Collection Techniques to Avoid

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vinyl Record Musing

It seems like 1-2 million new vinyl records are sold every year....up some years and down others....and who knows how many previously owned vinyl records have changed hands. In the midst of all the arguments over which has the better sound, it's easy to forget a primary distinction.
Going back in time, people used to compare radio sound, recorded sound, and live sound. All of it was "analog," whatever that means.
Consider the vinyl record. Even though it is mass produced, the sound comes from grooves cut in the record. Compared to a CD, or mp3, or wav or wma, it IS LIVE MUSIC. The record is making that music. What happened before the record was made may have involved tape or even digital mastering, but the RECORD IS PLAYING MUSIC.
The digital file, by contrast, is re-constructing music which resides in digital code. And, it's truly amazing how this has become the primary way of listening to music. People love it, while at the same time, it has laid waste to the whole business of music distribution and live performance.
The art of the club DJ was once about the vinyl record. Now software can do just about the same thing.
Selling records since 1997, we seldom know the age or motivations of our buyers. We've been selling books the same amount of time and most years, records are more popular than books.
Records--- bulky, labor-intensive, delicate--- are a big export from the USA to other countries.
And perhaps many people play them only once.
But, the intensity of that one play experience cannot be denied. The record, the music, the effort that went into it, and its cultural significance are handy stimulants available to anyone for a dollar and up.
The most fun of records is going back in time. Most people do not realize that before the late 1940s, records were mostly documents of a performance, rather than a corporate concoction in a studio that started out with the "raw materials" of musicians playing.
Many record fans are eventually led back to the 1920s and 1930s when recording was often a game of 'catch as catch can'.
Perhaps one day digital re-creations will display their lineage of romance and culture. It's probably a matter of demographics.
One artist who worked well with the detritus of analog imagery, including records and TV, was Nam June Paik.
The vinyl record has earned its place in the fields of mass production AND art.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Toyota, chain saws, and war

I was going to put a picture of my Toyota and my chain saw side by side, but that's just dumb. You can guess which one prompted a visit to the "walk-in" clinic the other day.
I had been wondering about these facilities and how they advertise as sort of a convenience store for minor medical conditions, etc. As I walked in, around 9 in the morning, three people were having an office tete-a-tete around the water cooler in the reception area. They were drinking little paper funnels of water as fast as they could. They seemed to have come from the same workplace, but were surprised to see each other there.
One guy said, "last time, I had a week's notice." The girl said, "They just called me last night." Then she said, "I could sure use a beer right now."
That little encounter helped me speculate one use for the walk-in clinic. It helped me, too. Ever been to a walk-in clinic? First I was seen by an RN, who prepped me for stitches. Then came an MD, who declined to suture. Finally, an EMT, who gave me a tetanus shot.
The MD who wouldn't stitch together my palm wound said, "Chain saws are the next most dangerous thing to war."
Nice emphasis, doctor.
And, food for thought. Because he left out..... automobiles.
Having driven Toyotas since the early 1980s, I haven't lost any sleep over not being a "Chevy man" (default position in 1960s and 1970s) any more.
Others might prefer the safe haven of a Volvo or a Suburban but I drive "tin cans" because they use less fossil fuel.
Many Toyota owners are hearing about problems with this car company, voiced loudly by the current managers of General Motors--- the U.S. Government. It seems Toyota-- according to the U.S. Dept of Transportation-- was not too quick to take the blame for random acceleration of their cars.
Actually I applaud them for hesitating to put the blame on an inanimate object, considering tort reform is not happening any time soon. And, even considering that the inanimate object is of their own manufacture.
Word the wise: Internal combustion engines are the next most dangerous thing to war.
Stepping on a gas pedal is done by a human.
Lest we forget, there are not too many things a car can do by itself that are against the law. In some places, being in your front lawn without a current registration is one of them.
Most problems with cars seem to involve a driver.
I was sitting in front of an old glass-front 7-11 back in the 1980s, in a rented Ford Pinto. I was not very familiar with the car. I put it in drive instead of reverse, hit the gas, and you know the rest.
Got lucky and only broke the glass.
As busy as most drivers can be, doing things that do not contribute to driving, we are fair game for the notion of a "runaway car."
How do you tell if you have a runaway car? Perhaps if you turn off the ignition and it doesn't go off?
I had a fussy gas pedal once and I learned how to stick the tip of my foot under the pedal and pull it back.
OK, driving a car that is about to be recalled isn't for everybody. Nor is using a chain saw, even with all the necessary safety accoutrements.
Which I have now bought, by the way. Shout out to the folks at Windy Ridge in Tamworth.
And, I look forward to a real good deal on my next Toyota. Anybody got a Tundra they don't trust? I live dangerously.