Business Essays, Blogs, and Musings

Lance A. Glasser

Topics

Finance and budgeting

Investing

Product development

General Management

Research

Strategy

Marketing and sales

Operations and Manufacturing

People and culture

 

Business

© Lance A. Glasser 2007-2011

All Rights Reserved

Recommended reading. My favorite business authors are Michael Porter, Geoffrey Moore, and Clayton Christensen. See the complete list of the best of the best. From each of these books you will likely learn at least one new thing.

Queuing Theory and Product Development. A discussion of why focus is one of the magic elixirs of business. Discusses the math behind everyday product development planning and execution issues.

Customer Equity. The value or market capitalization of a company can be ideally thought of as either the net present value of the future profits from all of its products or the net present value of the future profits from all of its customers.

Let the Games Begin! A tongue-in-cheek essay on budgeting and budget reviews. You will surely recognize many of these budget tricks.

A Model for Return on Engineering Expenses. A generalizable model of a high-tech business that shows the connections and constraints between today's engineering investment and tomorrow's product revenue and profit. Could also be used for sales or marketing expense analysis. Includes company growth rate and discount rate factors.

But thinking makes it so. Hamlet does strategic planning, with apologies to William Shakespeare.

Growth, Profitability, and the Stock Price. An analytical model for trading off growth and profitability percentages based on net-present-value (NPV) calculations.

What does a CTO do? Assure that the company has the best technology, create options, take care of the technical community, and more.

The Essential Product Investigation Phase Gate. What must be done before you start product development.

The best and worst job in the company. Or what it means to be a general manager.

My years at DARPA. A discussion of research funding lessons from one of the greatest research funding institutions of the last 50 years.

Industrial research management. This article by William R. (Bert) Sutherland, re-printed with permission, is a classic on R&D management in an industrial research lab. I think it is one of the most insightful essays on the topic around. William R. Sutherland retains all copyrights.

The experience curve. “When a person with experience meets a person with money, the person with experience gains money and the person with money gains experience.”  Anon.  The virtuous dynamic of high market share leading to more experience leading to lower costs leading higher market share has been demonstrated in many industries.  This analysis shows why. 

Tricks of the trade. A handful of practical management tricks the old pros know for handling special situations. They are not very noble, more like drawing a foul in sports, but definitely usable if you also use judgment on when to try them.

Woe be the average man with his head in the oven and his feet in the freezer.   On average, he is quite comfortable.  Averages lie—look at the data; graph all the points. 

Metrics for cyclical businesses. By examining the scatterplot of profit from operations vs the revenue for a profit and loss unit, one can learn a lot about how the business manages through industry cycles. The discussion includes fixed and variable costs and gross margin. Attached is a presentation I gave on the subject.

Magic elixirs for business. As one explores the dark and dangerous corridors of business one sometimes chances upon magic elixirs that can reduce monstrous challenges to a more manageable size.  A few of these elixirs are illuminated in this essay.

Mommy, it's not fair! Here we discuss some ways to defend a differentiated business from a low-end attacker.

What goes around. Over my career I have been blessed by the many people have coached me, helped me, and given me a break here or there.  In the vast majority of these cases, reciprocity is impossible because of our unsymmetrical positions and these angels have helped me out without any realistic expectation that I could return the favor. What is the obligation?

You can have it all. Most high-tech businesses have three imperatives.  One is continued leveraging of global resources in order to have access to the best people world-wide and to save costs.  Another is continued outsourcing in areas where we are not the best in the world.  We need to have access to the best technology at the lowest cost in order to remain competitive and to be able to grow the company, our stock price, and opportunities for our people.  A third imperative is that we need to develop ever deeper competencies in areas critical to our business.  I think about this as trying to bring the company into ever sharper focus, understanding what we need to do, who can do it best, and where to do it.  The sharper our edges, the more competitive we will be. Outsourcing is clearly part of this equation and that is the subject of this essay.

So you want to ship the product early? The most common alibis for shipping a product before it is ready are competition and learning. But it is usually a very bad idea.

Attacking the entrenched competitor. The short answer is, "don't." But if you want to try anyhow, here are some strategies to consider.

The Silicon Valley melting pot.

Thank you Japan. A reminiscence of what has stayed with me twenty years after my year in Tokyo. 

Bah, humbug. ’Tis the season for holiday cheer, max’d credit cards, and joyful gatherings. And every year around this time we hear at these gatherings of some poor soul who has lost their job in the run up to this merry season. What should we make of the Scrooges that wrote out pink slips in the season of red and green?

One of the more central concepts in product marketing is the minimum viable product.  Especially when entering a new market, the question of what functionality to include in a product and what to leave out is critical to a timely and successful product launch. The most stunning recent example of a minimum viable product is the Apple iPhone. Here's why.

How to get laid off. When you get laid off it is because the company has decided that it needs to avoid the costs of your compensation more than it needs the services you are providing.  Whatever the cause, you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.  How does this happen and what can you do to avoid it?

Stock buyback strategy. We are seeing an optimally bad stock buyback strategy being implemented by many high-tech companies.

Yet another Year of the Black Swan. Whenever I lose more than a million dollars I feel compelled to sit down and think about what lessons I learned. I paid for them. The year of 2008 was, alas, highly educational. I remember the story about Solomon to whom God offered the choice of either great wisdom or great wealth. As we all know, he selected wisdom. When God granted his wish, Solomon reportedly slapped his forehead and exclaimed, "I should have taken the money."

Definitions of common financial terms.

 

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The opinions here do not necessarily represent the views of any past, present, or future employer.

I am particularly interested in comments and stories related to my business essays and on pointers to original or insightful references. Thank you.

Lance

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