Saturday, 3 January 2009

My Only Business Enterprise Ever

I was once a "snacko".

In military terms....this is the guy who rigs up a office snack fund, keeps it stocked, and takes care of the "profit". The office I was in, had run a snacko fund for six months...lost money each month....and finally gave up. Six months later, I've arrived and my boss would like to restart the fund. So I said I'd run it. She gave me $50 and simply said to give her the $50 back in two months....and either the fund made it or it didn't.

Four weeks later, I gave her the $50 back and I was making a profit. Within three months....I had a $120 as snacko profit. Rather than get into the mess of rules that the Air Force has....for profitable snacko operations...I tossed $75 toward a office bar-b-q and cooked up burgers on one Friday for everyone (twenty participants).

I decided to dive into frozen food offerings and odd snacks. Within sixty days....I had almost $200 as profit, and then started bar-b-q's every two weeks to dump the profit. I had the BX drink truck start pulling up to front door and buying bulk. I got to know the commissary guys and the various sales that they ran....and would buy cases of Pop-Tars and various snack foods. In the summer months, I had $15 a week profit just on ice cream. When the Micheal Jackson Mystery Drink came out (ever so brief), I bought a case of it and even tried to sell it (the only thing that I ever lost money on).

Over a period of five years that I was in the military there....I ran this fund and probably arranged for forty Bar-b-q's. I had the most profitable unprofitable snacko fund that you could imagine. Almost every single soda that I bought over the last three years....was on discount price...so I barely paid 25 cents for it at the BX, and resold it at 50 cents. I once bought three entire cases of Pop Tarts....at 60 percent off (yeah, it was within 30 days of expiration, but they were "safe").

So when I came to retire from the Air Force....I handed the snacko fund over to another NCO....and in less than three months....it dissolved. They couldn't sustain the profit....they started accepting IOU's (a habit I refused), and they were buying mostly diet drinks (don't ever let the healthy folks operate a snacko fund).

It was my brief play into business operations and the one thing that I could brag about. Every profit I made.....dissolved into burgers and grilled chicken. In the end....I was still worth zero, but I had enhanced the morale of the office by leaps and bounds. I never lost a penny....which is kinda remarkable (well....except for the Micheal Jackson Mystery Drink).

One Trillion Dollars

Whatever bailout you were upset with over the banking industry or the car companies....its nothing compared to what comes at the end of January. It is believed now that 41 state governments are desperate straits....and will come forward to ask for a bailout package of $1 trillion. Yep, that's TRILLION with a T.

Rather than cut budgets...which is what you'd do at your house....they want the federal government to simply pump more money into the system.

Most of us would find a dozen ways to save $1,500 off our yearly home budget. We'd find various ways to stretch a dollar....buy used clothing for the kids....drink strictly milk or water (no sodas or orange juice).....and even buy the cheap dog food at Wal-Mart for Rover if necessary. The state guys? Nope....can't make those cuts.

At the top of this list is California....where they pay a guy who is chief of police at some town of 60,000 almost $225k in salary and benefits. You go to Idaho or Mississippi....and the guy likely makes $100k in salary and benefits. You go and look for a city clerk in some town of 40,000 people in California....and the guy is making $60k....while his friend in Oklahoma is pulling in $20k for doing the same exact job.

When I suggested two weeks ago that we've yet to reach the bottom of this economic pit.....this was part of the pit I was referring to. And even with this state issue....it still won't be the bottom of the pit. We have much to go.

Here's the thing....just to pause and think about. This $1 Trillion? Its for 2009. You're get a notice around October that things just haven't improved much....and for 2010....they need $1.2 Trillion. So these folks will come right back to the bucket and ask for funding. The question is....just how much is in the bucket? You might want to start thinking how much you can bailout before you can't bail anymore.

Wanna bailout drug companies? Wanna bailout beer companies? Wanna bailout hotels and casinos? Wanna bailout Larry King and CNN? Wanna bailout pig farms in Iowa? There's a limit, if you ever sit back and think about this.

So settle back for January and await the Trillion dollar moment. I'd open up a bottle of tasty brew....get some chips and dip.....and enjoy it.

The Imaginary East and West that Still Exists

They had a poll this week in Germany. It didn't really surprise me when the results came out. The topic was happiness since East and West Germany merged....almost twenty years ago. I've known for almost this entire period....that folks just weren't happy. If the topic ever comes up....most Germans I know....are unhappy and will voice their opinion very heavily.

So a Berlin paper.....the Berliner Zeitung did their poll of 1,000 folks.....and not even half were happy with the "union" of sorts.

Barely 46 percent of the eastern part of the country....thinks life got better since 1989. That really says something. Almost twenty-five percent.....are thinking of a dismal situation existing today....bad enough that they'd almost accept the old communist government back in operation....rather than enjoy their freedoms of today.

The interesting thing is that a tax had to be put in place immediately after the wall came down and they were united....roughly 4.5 percent of the sales tax....goes to East German construction. They've rebuilt roads, streets, bridges, and basic infrastructure. If you go across the imaginary border today....you see either ultra modern or ancient.....there is no in between.

I've made two trips through the region. The roads, I have to admit....are in great condition. I surprised at the upkeep of historical sites. But then you start to drive through small towns and see houses that are in terrible condition....no businesses.....no growth.....and people waiting on some miracle to occur. You know you are in Eastern Germany when you come to a interstate exit, and there are two businesses....one on one side of the exit area and the second on the opposite side. Its always a gas station and a porn shop. I kid you not. I have yet to find anyone to explain this to me, but it would seem like that the locals all have a passion for lusty stuff since the communist government disappeared.

Changes? I really doubt it. There isn't much you can do except wait this out....maybe two generations. Eventually....maybe at the end of this century.....things might be even. But thats a heck of a wait.

Just NCAA Commenting

I rarely if ever comment on football…especially college football. Not that I’m anti-NCAA….but it really doesn’t interest me very much.

Today, there is an interesting development, which kinda perked me up. About fifteen years ago….the Auburn folks went out and hired this very young coach….Terry Bowden. They were on two years of probation and couldn’t go to a single bowl game. They weren’t expecting a lot. They had two significant winning seasons, then no probation with pretty winning seasons for the next three years. Then…came the problems….accused of bad recruitment and questionable relationships within the alumni community and in the midst of a high loss season, he quit (1998).

For the past ten-odd years, he’s been an analyst and commentator. Recently, he’s been with Westwood One and been the commentator for the college game of the week.

Yesterday, North Alabama….the university where I grew up in north Alabama….a division II school….suddenly announced that they’d hired Terry Bowden. It was a fair shock. A division II school, but likely one of the top ranked football teams in that division. Last year, they finished 12-2 and actually got to the semifinals of the division II playoffs. They aren’t that bad off.

I suspect that Terry Bowden has spent the last decade quietly sitting there and facing facts that he moved up the chain of life very quickly…perhaps too quickly. By his early 30s, he was already a head coach of a major school. By his late 30s, he was at Auburn. There are a lot of lessons in life that he simply missed.

Could a normal school like North Alabama afford a guy like Terry Bowden? No. That’s the curious thing. I doubt that they can afford more than $100k a year for his services. Why take the job? Well…first he can relearn the recruiting game…and frankly, this name association with North Alabama….will bring a dozen guys in from this state and Mississippi, who will be very talented at what they do. The winning only improves over the next three years. My guess is that he’s quietly redeveloping his strategy to win, recruit and handle the press.

Around January of 2012, he’s going to be hired away for a major college program. He will have made it full circle….learning how to do it the right way.