Tutorial Guide to Financial Statements

Do you think a balance sheet is a parlor trick involving bed linens? Do your eyes glaze over when your accountant hands you the financial statements? Are you curious about what all those numbers mean?

Then, check out Baruch College's Guide to Financial Statements - Online Tutorial for a step by step, easy to follow, informative overview of the basics.

You need never fear an annual report again.


The Transformative Power of Thanksgiving

"Gratitude can be a powerfully transformative practice...Practicing gratitude can actually improve our emotional and physical well-being...

Here are daily practices anyone can try.

1. See the giver behind the gift...

2. Ask yourself three questions every day... 'What have I received today? What have I given? What trouble have I caused?'...'As we become aware that we've received so much more than we've given, not only does that cultivate gratitude, it also cultivates often a sense of wanting to give something back to the world.'

3. Practice even when you don't feel like it. 'One of the mistakes people often make in our culture is thinking you have to feel grateful to practice gratitude...You can practice anytime'...

4. Make thank-you your mantra...

5. Create a simple family ritual. 'In our family, every evening when we have dinner, we say our thank you's...I's not a formal prayer of any kind, but just what we're grateful for in the moment, and that's all. It brings us back, it's a touchstone to the miracles of life that we may have been overlooking.'

6. Bow to life. 'I do three bows in the morning...The first bow is to my self as part of the universe. The second bow is to my family, children, and friends to acknowledge and appreciate them. The third is bowing to the universal life force and what is. Doing this helps me let go of controlling, and instead open to the flow of life...'

Read more in this article from Beliefnet.com.

Happy Thanksgiving to All


Establishing Outsourcing Contract Service Level Measures

"Properly identifying and developing service level metrics is a major factor in building a successful outsourcing contract. The development and governance of these metrics involves tasks that must occur while the contract is being negotiated (pre-contract) and tasks that occur after the contract has been signed (post-contract).

Far too often, the customer and the provider agree to incorporate service level "place holders" into the contract. Their intent is to revisit the assignment of service level measures at some point after the commencement of the engagement. However, once the contract is signed, it is very difficult to bring everyone back to the table to negotiate additional terms and conditions. The lesson learned is obvious: establish your service levels prior to contract negotiation."

Read more in this article from BNET.com.


Ten Schools of Strategic Management Thought

"The Ten Schools of Thought model from Mintzberg is a framework that can be used to categorize the field of Strategic Management.

1. The Design School...sees strategy formation as process of conception
2. The Planning School...sees strategy formation formal process...
3. The Positioning School...sees strategy formation as an analytical process...
4. The Entrepreneurial School...sees strategy formation as a visionary process...
5. The Cognitive School...sees strategy formation as a mental process...
6. The Learning School...sees strategy formation as an emergent process...
7. The Power School...sees strategy formation as process of negotiation...
8. The Cultural School...sees strategy formation as a collective process...
9. The Environmental School...sees strategy formation as a reactive process...
10. The Configuration School...sees strategy formation as a process of transformation..."

Read much more in this article from 12manage.com.


How To Build an Effective Board of Directors

Fred Wilson has been sitting on early stage company boards for over 15 years. He shares ten keys to establishing and working with an effective startup board of directors.


To Patent or Not to Patent, that is the Question

Guy Kawasaki recently posted:

"The most valuable outcomes of a patent are often impressing your parents and filling up space in your MySpace profile. (The exception to this rule is biotech, chip design, and medical devices where a patent really means something.)

As a startup, it’s highly unlikely that patents will make your company defensible because you won’t have the time or money to do battle with a Microsoft-esque competitor. Sure, every few years you hear that Microsoft has to pay a company tens of millions of dollars, but 'suing Microsoft' isn’t a viable (or attractive) business strategy."

Guy Kawasaki then asked the intellectual property attorneys at Rethink(IP) to respond to his comments. They did, noting that:

"Sometimes, you've got to realize that 'patent everything' is not the best strategy...and then develop a big-picture intellectual property strategy that is custom-tailored to the startup and its industry. Be brave and accept the fact that patents just might not be the whole enchilada in that picture."

Read the complete Rethinker's response here.


Honor the Fallen in Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

"The poem 'In Flanders Fields' by the Canadian army physician John McCrae remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

The most asked question is: why poppies?

Wild poppies flower when other plants in their direct neighbourhood are dead. Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, but only when there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity (for instance when someone firmly roots up the ground), these seeds will sprout.

There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil. So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him bloodred poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before."

Find much more on this poem and its author here.

"When You Come Home" Honors Troops

Beliefnet honors the men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan with this presentation featuring photos from Beliefnet readers.

You may also with to visit WhenYouComeHome.com to share your pictures, video, audio, and messages. You may find yourself or your loved one in one of Beliefnet's upcoming tributes.


Must Be 77 Ways To Motivate Your Workers

This NebGuide by John E. Barbuto, Jr.
identifies five sources of motivation and suggests 77 (yes, seventy seven) strategies leaders can use to get the best performance from their people, stating:

"What separates exceptional leaders from ordinary leaders is the ability to inspire and motivate employees. In recent studies, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln examined sources of motivation of Nebraska workers in urban and rural settings. The results have demonstrated that five unique sources of motivation exist:

Intrinsic process - motivated by FUN
Instrumental - motivated by REWARDS
Self-Concept-External - motivated by REPUTATION
Self-Concept-Internal - motivated by CHALLENGE
Goal Internalization - motivated by the cause or PURPOSE

Each of the five sources requires different organizational and leadership characteristics to tap into them.

Exceptional leaders will find ways to tap into each source. Those who tap into just one or two will motivate only a small percentage of their workers and be less effective. However, leaders who understand the different ways that individuals are motivated will be able to effectively motivate their workers."


Transition Services Agreements Often Key to Carve-Out Success

"In a carve-out a company will sell a small stake (usually less than 20%) of a division in an initial public offering, while keeping the rest. The division will then become an independent company with management and a board of directors, but will, in effect, be controlled by the parent. Generally, the company will eventually sell the remaining shares in the open market or otherwise divest itself of the remaining stake at some later date. This is what occurred in the...spin-off of Palm by 3Com.

Carve-outs sound easy in theory; in practice, they can present incredible transition wrinkles...These can range from payroll to employee benefits, IT, procurement, marketing, branding...the list goes on. And then there are legal matters, like taxation, shared intellectual property and whatever else you can think of. The result is it is not always easy, and it can be extremely time-consuming, painstaking and costly (which can lower profits) to separate out the various functions, especially in a computer era, where everything is in one electronic database or another...

The solution to these problems is the "transition service agreement" (TSA). These agreements make the seller responsible for whatever functions the parties deem necessary. Then, during the transitional period, the buyer has to "get its act together," so to speak, in order to be ready to assume these functions when the TSA expires."

Read more in this article from PLI's The Pocket MBA.

Working with Word Tables

"The basics of using Microsoft Word are easy; everyone can bold and italicize text and print documents. But there are many more functions that you [and I] never use and never take time to explore.

These BNET downloads will help you master new Word skills with a focus on using tables. Pick one file to read right now or download them all for future reference. The next time you're wondering how to do something within Word, you'll know where to go to find out."


Kiva.org - Loans that change lives

I want to let you all know about a cool non-profit that is doing great things: Kiva.org - Loans that change lives

Kiva.org allows individuals to make $25 loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world (microfinance). By doing so, individuals like you provide affordable working capital for the poor (money to buy a sewing machine, livestock, etc.), empowering them to earn their way out of poverty.

It's a new, direct and sustainable way to fight global poverty, and the way I see it, I get a higher return on $25 helping someone build a future than the interest my checking account pays.

Anyways, if you have a minute, please check out the site: http://kiva.org. If you need more "reputable" validation than my recommendation, know that they have received great press in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to NPR to BusinessWeek, including FRONTLINE/WORLD Uganda - A Little Goes A Long Way that will be re-broadcast on PBS stations over the next two weeks. If you missed the program, please check the schedule of your local PBS station for programming details.

Hat tip to radical congruency for the links.


Building an Open Source Business

"There are many great open source projects that have dedicated developers, users and admirers. But only a few have the possibility of becoming legitimate businesses. The trick is to figure out the market, the business context and the viability of sustained revenue...

Here is a short list of tips to consider when funding and building an open source business...

Get Your IP in Order...
Any open source company seeking backing has to be as clean as possible with its code ownership. This means knowing exactly what is in the product it distributes and who wrote it...

The intellectual property aspect is also very important in relation to an acquisition. No one wants to be negotiating terms of a buyout only to find that the code they have based their whole company on is in violation of licensing terms.

Leverage the Community...

Keep Keeping Costs Down...
Cost control can be accomplished through a variety of means, including community development and communications programs, but the underlying mission is to keep your cost of goods sold (COGS) very low. If you don't control your COGS then the whole open source model goes up in smoke.

Find the Right Price
Pricing remains one of the great mysteries of any business. Open source companies tend to look at the cost of their nearest competitor and price their offering at some percentage discount.

While this pricing method is helpful for marketing purposes, it doesn't build an effective business model. Pricing must be thought through and tested amongst friendly parties who will give honest feedback on the value of the service or software.

Get Help with the Never-Ending Legal Stuff
One aspect that continues to recur is the need for sound legal advice and contracts. Open source is still very unknown to many large and small companies. The best thing an open source business can do is find knowledgeable and trustworthy legal help..."

Read more in this excellent article from Sandhill.com by Dave Rosenberg, CEO of MuleSource, and co-author of InfoWorld's "Open Sources blog.


Tech Startup Do's and Don'ts

Here is an interesting list of 30 Lessons From an Early-Stage Startup that includes the following gems:

1. Do demonstrate passion, intelligence, and determination when talking about your ideas.
2. Don’t outsource the prototype...
10. Do be honest about your skills and abilities. If you can’t do something, hire someone that can...
13. Do develop a thick skin for facing rejection.
18. Don’t be worried that someone will steal your ideas. If your idea is great, 8 startups are working on it already.
19. Don’t be intimidated by more established competitors. They’re no more smarter than you think you are...
27. Don’t compromise your ideas based on a “proven” business model...
30. Do build something that users want.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Seconds & Inches Measure Life & Death

My daughter teaches at an international school in Chaing Mai, Thailand. During her fall break, she participated in a Charity Bike Ride to raise funds for the relief of tsunami victims. What follows are excerpts from her account of the trip. Also featued are her photographs. If you wish to contribute to the relief effort please visit http://www.pierssimonappeal.org/v2/

Day 1 & 2:
Starting in the busy streets of Chiang Mai, we biked north along the Ping river valley and into the "land of a million rice fields." As we passed by small villages, workers and especially children frequently turned their attention to us to smile and wave in the typically warm and friendly Thai manner. "Hello! Sawadee ka!" they yelled as we cycled past or paused to take pictures. We climbed the foothills of the nearby mountains and ultimately reached spectacular views of limestone mountains.

A few of the off road trails led us past remote hill tribe villages. The hill tribes are an interesting and colorful ethnic minority in Thailand who live in rural mountain areas and have preserved many of their traditional ways. The hill tribe children were interested and mesmerized by us - our bikes, our cameras, and especially our food.

Day 3:
The purpose of our trip was to raise money for the Piers Simon Appeal. My friend Luke was vacationing on the island of Koh Phi Phi in December 2004 with his brother Piers and three friends, including one friend, Ben, who was also on the bike trip.

They were sitting in a café near the beach when a few people came running through the café and out the back door, knocking over chairs on their way. Following their instincts, they too ran out the back. They found absolute chaos in the streets, people running in all directions with no idea what was happening. The reality was beyond imagination.

They followed the crowds and ran away from the water that they could now see approaching. They ran hand in hand but the panicking crowds quickly and hopelessly separated them. Luke managed to climb onto a roof, Ben and the others found safety, but Piers went missing. One moment he was there, and the next he was gone.

It was all a matter of seconds and inches. Seconds and inches determined who managed to find something to hold onto and who was carried away, who was hit by passing debris and who was left without a scratch, who lived and who died.

Luke spent five days conducting the search for his brother and finally found Piers, his body having been taken to a Chinese Morgue in Krabi. Luke launched the Piers Simon Appeal soon after. Its mission statement is "To aid the regeneration of communities and alleviate suffering and hardship caused by disasters worldwide regardless of race, religion, or politics."

Today we were introduced to, or for Luke and Ben reminded of, the potentially destructive power of water. We traveled off our route to reach the small Chinese village of Bang Yang which was devastated by a flash flood about a week earlier. We walked through the muddy streets, past houses missing first floors and empty lots where houses used to stand. In the village of about 250 houses, almost half were destroyed or severely damaged in the flood. The villagers luckily had some warning of the oncoming flood so most reached safety, but they had no idea what a toll it would take on the village. Five people lost their lives.

It was difficult to walk around the town, faced with so much devastation, clearly sticking out as a "farang" (foreigner) in spandex, camera in hand. What made it different was that we went to the village with the purpose of finding a reliable contact so that some our own fundraising money might be used for rebuilding the village.

It's an irreplaceable experience to see this kind of destruction with your own eyes. There's a duality that invariably exists in these kind of trips that separates the long-term charity side from the daily bike riding and socializing. Today these aspects were united, and while it created a more somber tone, it reminded us of both the devastation that can occur and our ability to help.

Days 4, 5, & 6:
Today we biked 20 km and then took a long-tail boat down the Mekong River. After another 7 k of off-road biking we took a side trip to a small village where we fed elephants and held an enormous snake that weighed 120 kilograms and was about 4 ½ meters long! On the fifth and final day, we biked 100 km, again passing breathtaking scenery of mountains and rice fields along the way. We finally arrived at ourdestination- the legendary Golden Triangle, with views from Thailand of both Burma and Laos.