Last Christmas I was fortunate enough to receive a Nook reader, the device sold by Barnes and Noble which competes directly with the industry-leading device, Kindle. Not only did I begin reading books on my Nook device, I also downloaded the Barnes and Noble reader software for my PC, later retitled in a later release, “Nook for PC”. During this most recent software update, I experienced a number of changes in the software — mostly positive.
BUT… I have found that their new PC reader software no longer allows copying of text!! In the past, you could select a sentence or passage that stood out to you, press CTRL+C to copy the text, and paste it where else you like.
If I am reading through a book and find a particularly good/memorable passage (as is happening often as I read through Stuart Vyse’s Going Broke: Why Americans Can’t Hold On To Their Money right now), I am not able to copy a sentence or paragraph and drop it into a word document, blog post, etc. for further reference. In the past, this was possible, but it appears they have removed the technology from the reader. No doubt this was due to publisher concerns around plagiarism, copyright issues, etc. Though I don’t own a Kindle, out of curiosity as to how this works in the Kindle for PC software tool, I downloaded that software, downloaded a free book, and encountered the same thing – no “copy” function on any of the menus, available via right click after selecting text, and no CTRL+C functionality available.
So what’s the solution?
In both the Nook for PC and the Kindle for PC software, a “search” feature of some kind exists on the menu that appears after you select text from a page and right-click on the selected text. In Nook for PC, it gives you the right-click menu option to search Wikipedia for that text, and in the case of Kindle for PC, without even having to right-click it pops up a menu after you select the text which includes the option of searching the book itself for instances of the text you have selected. Selecting either function results in the corresponding search being triggered, and viewing of those search words (or paragraph as it may be) in the search tool. So, while this solution lacks elegance, these search features do get the text, long as the passage may be, into a editable, copyable input box in your browser (the Wikipedia search in Nook for PC) or into an editable field (search box in Kindle for PC).
After the search has been triggered, you simply go to the field where the now-editable search text is located, select the text, click CTRL+C and your text is now in the clipboard, ready for pasting into a blog posting, word document or whatever. As always, make sure not to violate copyright laws and to follow proper procedures for citing the source of the quoted text.
For those interested in giving and philanthropy, you should be aware of http://givingpledge.org/ — this website describes what began as Bill and Melinda Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s joint challenge to some of the wealthiest people in America to give away much of their wealth.
Specifically, the website describes The Giving Pledge this way:
The Giving Pledge is an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.
Some of you may be shocked by the aggressiveness of this goal, and others may be unimpressed, emphasizing the fact that we can take none of our money/wealth with us to the grave — but one thing we must all agree on is this: wealthy people committing to give away their money is a great thing and is significantly in contrast with much of the
On The Giving Pledge website, each of those who have made the pledge have a letter posted, describing why giving is important to them. But you may also find it interesting to read a pretty good summary of the reasons that come through in many of their letters, in this article written about The Giving Pledge’s participants.
Just read an article on CNBC today that confirms what I have learned myself– though I rarely act on it. (Full article at http://www.cnbc.com/id/38815496/).
Read this paragraph from this article discussing the effect of “digital input” on thinking:
Cellphones, which in the last few years have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections, let people relieve the tedium of exercising, the grocery store line, stoplights or lulls in the dinner conversation.
The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.
When I spend time away from my iPhone, my laptop, electronics, media, and people — even for a short period of time (30 min, 2 hours) — I solve problems and re-focus in a unique way that has a dramatic impact on my effectiveness when I “return” back to my noisy world. And this is my experience as an extrovert myself, who can generally handle a pretty steady stream of noise and activity.
Just this past Sunday afternoon I had about 3 hours of silence as the three other members of my family took long naps… I came up with ideas and thoughts in a way that I had not done in quite a while. The challenge for me — and probably for most of my readers — is to make this time priority, so that all of our other hours of the day or week will be that much more productive.
I am in the process of returning to blogging on a more regular basis again (two boys under the age of 2 can really tax your schedule!), but for the moment I wanted to at least share a few productivity tools that I have found and fallen in love with over the past year…
And not only are all 3 tools very useful, they also have basic, fully functioning versions that are completely free!!
1) LastPass – http://www.lastpass.com
This password-memory tool appears to be the industry leader. It bills itself as the “last password you will ever need” — you do, in fact, log in once and then worry no more about remembering passwords. LastPass is smart– when you are in a website sign-up page asking for a username, password, etc., Lastpass offers you the choice to have it generate a unique, secure password that it will remember in its database. If you decline and enter one on your own, as you successfully hit submit/continue/etc on that page, it gently prompts you at the top of your browser to ‘Save site’ if this a site whose username/password you would like to retain.
LastPass has a lot of different features- AutoFill, AutoLogin, and even multiple form-field profiles to save common sets of information you may find yourself entering on websites of all kinds (think ‘home address’, ‘business address’, even payment info, etc.). There are plug-ins for multiple browser types, and even an iPhone version. Though I’ve not yet tried the iPhone plugin, I imagine that it will be immensely helpful. Not only is entering usernames/passwords in iPhone’s Safari often cumbersome, it’s an even more grueling process if you have to go through a Forgot Password routine! LastPass helps you avoid both scenarios.
2) Adolix split and merge PDF – http://www.adolix.com/split-merge-pdf/
Talk about a paperless office has been almost constant now for the last 10-15 years — and yet, from my own experience, it has just been the last 2-3 years that the mainstream business world is really grabbing hold of this concept. True, digital signatures have not yet taken over as a preferred method of signing over a signature, but on the few things that still require signatures, the printed and then signed document quickly becomes digital again for the purpose of emailing over to a colleague, customer, vendor, or other party expecting the quick arrival of the signed document. In this new world of electronic documents – largely dominated by MS Word format documents in the sphere of ‘editable’ formats, and especially in the world of imaged documents dominated by the Adobe PDF file format, there is need for easier management of not just files, but also PAGES.
How many times have you needed to pull out pages 3-4 of a 20-page pdf contract to email to someone? What do you do? You probably either email them the whole file and hope they can find the sections you need to emphasize to them, or you laboriously print out the relevant pages out of the larger PDF, scan them back into your computer, and email the new, smaller PDF file. Painful, eh?
Enter Adolix. They have created a very helpful utility that allows you to quickly split out pages of a PDF document.
How about combining PDF’s? Or combining pages 1-2 of one PDF file, and then pages 7-10 of the next file? You can use the utility’s split tool to first pull out the relevant pages, and then use its MERGE tool to combine the two newly formed PDF’s into one new file. And, if you use this tool in conjunction with a PDF creator such as Adolix’s own “PDF Converter” utility, or my personal favorite CutePDF (http://www.cutepdf.com/), you can easily take a number of files in different format (a Word document here, an Excel document there, a PDF document there), convert the non-PDF files into PDF’s, and then combine them withoT Adolix!
3) Mikogo - http://www.mikogo.com/
After being tired of essentially being tied to GoToMyMeeting, GoToMyPC, or WebEx for years, I finally spent some time googling around about a year go to find a free solution for screen sharing and web conferencing. I was very happy to come across Mikogo. Mikogo was developed by a company that sells high-end virtual conferencing solutions — a company that now appears to have moved into the GoToMy____ space.
Again, the Mikogo product is FREE, and I have found works just as smoothly as any of the other solutions out there– additionally, I found that the app that runs resident in the system tray does not bog down your computer’s memory or processor, and the features that come in Mikogo are equal to or even better than those found in comparable and more popular utilities.
Now if they could only change their name to something less nonsensical…
I hope that this review of these tools has been helpful!
I came across this article by Clifford Stoll from the Newsweek magazine issue dated February 27, 1995. I couldn’t help but laugh at the opening lines of the article:
After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.
Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.
Admittedly, he makes some great points later in the article about electronic interaction not completely replacing human interaction, which is true but not as true as it appears he thought. The entire article is worth a reading and can be found by clicking here.
Recently a certain line of thinking has been promoted by realtors and other various professionals primarily in the real estate and mortgage community. The idea is this: an increase in mortgage interest rates can be much more unpredictable, and at times more devastating, than an increase in home prices… so stop waiting, buy NOW while interest rates are low!
A good example of this type of messaging can be found in this article just published by the NY Times. I also received an e-mail from a friend of mine recently who works as a realtor who was essentially making the same argument.
While their logic is not entirely flawed, those who encourage the purchase of a home NOW rather than later in this manner are really only taking into account two factors – interest rates and home values. But in a home purchase decision, there are a variety of other factors involved that should be taken into consideration.
From a financial perspective, probably the most important other factor would be the amount of down payment a home buyer has ready as they buy a house. I performed an analysis below where I demonstrate that if a prospective home buyer does NOT have a substantial down payment to bring to the table but, at the advice of the real estate gurus in the market rushes to buy a home now in order to take advantage of stellar interest rates, what happens? Well, in that case their monthly payment and total amount paid for the home will be HIGHER than if they had waited to save a 20% down payment and suffered a 1% higher interest rate as a result of waiting.
Examine this chart closely, which takes a hypothetical look at the purchase of a $200,000 home in various down payment and interest rate scenarios:
Scenario 1 represents a buyer who rushes to buy a house in order to take advantage of current low interest rates (which are around 5%), but buys the house with little down (5% in this example, likely the minimum down payment their bank required). It is the most expensive option on the chart, as illustrated by the highlighting of the payments/costs in red. The least expensive option is Scenario 3 — by all means, take advantage of lower interest rates now if you do have a substantial down payment saved up (20% in this example). But note that Scenario 2 assumes the worst with interest rates — a full 1% increase, something that recently hasn’t happened very quickly — and yet demonstrates a strong 20% down payment on the part of the home buyer. And yet Scenario 2 leads to a lower monthly payment and total home cost than Scenario 1. My point is proven!
There are two other factors to consider that I believe make my case even stronger:
- Although 5% is a common current conventional 30-year mortgage rate, a higher rate would normally be charged for a non-conventional loan (a loan with less than a 20% down payment), and/or mortgage protection insurance would be required by the lender, making the home buyer’s cost even higher, further reducing the benefit of the lower rate they are receiving.
- The higher the cost/value of the home, the LARGER the gap grows and the MORE advantageous it becomes to save up a down payment INSTEAD OF jumping in now with little down payment but at a lower interest rate. Above, the difference in the 15-year mortgage monthly payment in Scenario 2 is $153/month ($1,503 minus $1,350). But purchase of a $300,000 home, with the same percentage down payment and interest rate assumptions, will increase that gap to $229/month!
Although unrelated to the down payment issue, I think it’s also important to point out that my chart (for simplicity’s sake) assumes the same interest rate for a 15-year and 30-year mortgage, even though in reality you can get about a 0.60% LOWER interest rate on a 15-year mortgage than on a 30-year mortgage.
I hope that I have sufficiently demonstrated that one must tread carefully when taking the advice of the real estate community in regards to the timing of when you should you buy a house as it relates to interest rates, home prices, etc. When do I think someone should buy a house? Outside of home market price considerations, my answer would be to buy when they have saved up a substantial down payment and have demonstrated by doing so that they can live within their means and afford the monthly payment of the house they wish to purchase.
For a more exhaustive treatment of the argument behind saving up a substantial down payment, see my blog post “Saving for a home down payment: 4 BENEFITS”.
As I opened my blog control panel last night to work on (and hopefully complete) a few blog posts, I was frustrated to find that I have more unfinished “draft” blog postings that are not completed or posted within my blog site than I have actual, published postings (and I’ve posted 56 blog postings so far!). To my regular blog readers, I’m sorry that new blog posts haven’t appeared particularly “regularly” as of late.
So not only was I frustrated to be reminded of my many started but not yet finished blog posts, I was also amused — because it reminded me of my “Idea Productivity” blessing and curse.
Let me explain.
Thanks to the generosity of a relative of mine on one of my birthdays a couple of years ago, I had the privilege to take part in a leadership development and personality assessment comprised of two individual assessments: the MBTI-II (Myers-Brigg Type Indicator II) and the Highlands Ability Battery. This was a perfect gift for me, because those who know me well are aware of my fascination with personality studies, leadership profiles, and other personal characteristic evaluative mechanisms. My interest in that world is strong enough that I’ve even thought about spending the time and money to become a licensed Myers-Brigg facilitator so that I can officially administer and interpret the Myers-Brigg test for others.
Anyhow, on the Highlands Ability Battery that I completed a year ago, one of my highest-ranked “driving abilities”, as it calls them, was Idea Productivity. It explains Idea Productivity in this way:
Leaders who score high in idea productivity (Brainstormers) generate ideas continually. A measure of the quantity of ideas produced, and not of their quality, high idea productivity results in a continuous stream of sometimes-related and frequently-unrelated ideas and in multiple streams of virtually simultaneous thought. Brainstorming leaders excel in roles that draw on their strength in producing their own ideas, inducing others to produce theirs, and motivating the discussion and selection of ideas that lead to a concerted plan or solution.
Because one idea tends to trigger another, leaders with high idea productivity often work on several projects simultaneously; they may actually have difficulty maintaining a single focus for prolonged periods of time. If they have 10 tasks and ten days in which to complete them, these leaders will devote some time to each of the tasks every day and may or may not complete them by the deadline. (Source: tHAB Leadership Report for Phil Murray, January 2009)
I was thrilled to get a better grasp on this part of my personality and approach, and I constantly (and annoyingly) pointed out the many wonderful examples of this Idea Productivity to my wife ad nauseum for weeks after completing the assessment. And you can probably understand why this attribute is such a strength and yet also such a weakness. As a strength, it makes me a great contributor in a brainstorming session, it allows me to multi-task, keep a lot of balls in the air at once and accomplish work quickly across a broad spectrum of subject areas. It provides me with a constant stream of ideas, and makes it relatively easy for me to see solutions to many difficult problems. On the flip side, it’s also the attribute that will get me producing new things at such a high rate that I don’t bring projects to completion — such as my 59 started but unfinished blog posts as of tonight!
In a work setting I am very cognizant of deadlines and accountability needs and so generally this does not create a huge problem — in fact, in my role I’m often the individual laying out the deadlines, holding people to them, and all the while trying to lead by example. But in my personal life, it keeps me spread thin across many projects, books, and relationships and often keeps me from being as effective as I could be. It’s also the attribute that doles out a bit of insomnia to me from time to time as I often awake in the middle of the night just to let my mind kick into high gear.
To be clear, this is not a personal rant or complaining session. Rather, I thought it would be a good way to expose more people to this strength of Idea Productivity. This may help many of you better understand the constant flow of ideas that seem to pass through your mind, or better understand how your spouse or co-worker “thinks”.
And, like any strength, it has a “weakness” attached to it on the other side of the coin. But remember, thanks to “Idea Productivity”, you just read another blog post from me. Happy brainstorming!
This past November 2009, a fresh benchmarking study was released that provides valuable insight into the finance and accounting operations within U.S. businesses. The study, entitled “Benchmarking The Finance Function” (see full source info at the bottom of this post) was developed by The Financial Executives Research Foundation, the research arm of Financial Executives International (FEI), in collaboration with Robert Half International, the well-known national finance/accounting recruiting firm. The study’s methodology appeared sound and the sample seemed reasonable, with the 200 financial executives surveyed representing dozens of industries and a good mix of company sizes.
Obviously, the report is copyrighted by its creators and so I will not attempt to reproduce significant portions of the information found within the report, but rather I will examine a couple of key findings of the study and discuss possible implications that could be drawn from those findings. Here in part 1, I will examine the report’s findings related to accounting department staffing and staffing costs. In part 2, I will examine the report’s findings related to finance/accounting ERP and financial systems usage.
Accounting Staff & Costs
The average total cost of internal finance/accounting staff as reported by the FERF’s report respondents, as a percentage of their sales revenues, was 2.63%. At first glance that percentage may seem reasonably small, but let’s dig into this a bit further.
Of those costs, the largest segment (8.76%) was spent on transactional processing staff.
Approximately 34% indicated temporary staff was used, but over 68% of those companies utilizing temporary staff spent less than 5% of their total staff cost on that temporary assistance
Of all the groups within the accounting/finance staff world examined (Accounting-Transaction Processing, Accounting-Analysis & Reporting, Planning & Analysis, Payroll/Benefits Management, Tax, Treasury, Credit), the Credit group was surprisingly the lowest area of cost. Given the way the groupings were arranged, combined with tight credit and cash flow realities that have prevailed in many industries over the past couple of years, I was truly surprised that businesses are not spending more on their Credit staff.
Incidentally, 48.12% of respondents indicated their payroll function was outsourced. This is not surprising as ADP grew into a giant by moving years ago to dominate this function which many financial leaders find to be the most obvious and easiest outsource decision around.
Source: Benchmarking The Finance Function, 2009. ISBN # 978-1-61509-0222-8, Financial Executives Research Foundation, http://www.ferf.org
This recent article highlighted the irony in the credit crisis and the home mortgage crisis. There has been almost endless talk over the past couple of years about mortgage re-works, government assistance to struggling homeowners, and a variety of efforts to reduce foreclosures.
Not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves, but I think it may have planted some ideas in the minds of mortgage-burdened homeowners that were likely not intended.
As explained by this article in the San Francisco Business Times, a TransUnion study found that the percentage of homeowners deliquent on their mortgages but were current on credit card obligations increased, while the percentage of individuals in the opposite scenario (current on their mortgages but delinquent on credit card obligations) increased.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom that individuals will tend to favor secured loans/credit (such as debt secured by a home or a car) over unsecured debt (credit card debt, for example) when it comes to staying current on payments. But this new evidence suggests that the trend is reversing.
Why? There are a few reasons this could be occuring:
- The speed of creditor retribution is much slower and much less dramatic with a mortgage than with a credit card. A deliquent mortgage payment may result in phone calls, but the ultimate penalty (foreclosure and the eviction that comes with it) is literally months away from the first missed payment, and with banks eager to avoid foreclosure in many cases, homeowners know they will likely have many opportunities to make things right. On the other hand, credit card companies quickly hit cardholders with late fees for missed payments, not to mention the ongoing interest charges on their balance, often which are at a very high percentage.
- Credit cards are “helpful” to meet ongoing living expenses. If their ability to spend via credit cards is cut off, desperate consumers may be unable to buy groceries or put gas in their vehicles. It makes a lot of sense in the short-term to make a minimum credit card payment and keep the card open for ongoing spending if they are struggling to meet base-level needs such as food for the family.
- Homeowners deliquent on their mortgages are beginning to “call the bluff” of the banks. As mentioned a moment ago, all of the press coverage on the issue of mortgages gone bad and looming foreclosures may have made many homeowners disbelieving that their bank will ever actually foreclose on THEM.
- Homeowners have lost hope. With home price depreciation not reversing any time soon in many markets, recent owners of highly-leveraged homes don’t see any path to getting into positive equity territory any time soon. It could be argued that many homeowners consider foreclosure inevitable, so why continue to make payments?
As much as I loathe and discourage consumer (credit card) debt, vehicle debt, and highly-leveraged home ownership, the trend indicated by the TransUnion study is not surprising.
Creditors and consumers alike would be wise to think through the implications of this trend on their current and future practices.
I am not a sales or business development professional by trade. However, I am passionate about networking with sharp people in business and I think that long-term relationships are the most valuable relationships for anyone, whether they be personal friendships or business relationships that develop over time.
Somehow, after attending a webinar on a related topic, I found myself on an e-mail list from Wendy Weiss, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Cold Calling” who dispenses her advice at http://www.queenofcoldcalling.com
Anyhow, I received an email from her today (advertising a webinar) that contained some statistics that I thought were intriguing. I think there is a lot of truth to be revealed in these statistics about networking and relationships in general. See what you think:
• 48% of sales people never follow up with their prospects.
• 25% of sales people make a second contact with their prospect and then they stop.
• 12% of sales people make three contacts with their prospect and then they stop.
• Only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts with their prospects.
• 2% of sales are made on the first contact with a prospect.
• 3% of sales are made on the second contact with a prospect.
• 5% of sales are made on the third contact with a prospect.
• 10% of sales are made on the fourth contact with a prospect.
• 80% of sales are made between the fifth and twelfth contact with a prospect.
Source: E-mail distributed by Wendy Weiss, http://www.queenofcoldcalling.com, on February 1, 2010.
Having been in a “buying” role inside of a business (a buyer of insurance services, banking services, consulting services, employee benefits, payroll providers, etc.) I have to agree with these statistics, particularly the second set of information above.
I recall one salesperson in particular who probably emailed me once every 3-4 weeks for almost 2 years before I bought from him. His contact with me was very professional and appropriate. He would email me from time to time when he encountered an article related to my business that I would find of interest. In this way, he stayed in contact with me without being a “pest”, and also without making me feel pressured to buy from him. But, sure enough, when I wanted to make a change in our commercial insurance brokerage, I picked up the phone and gave him a call.
I hope the above items are substantial food for thought for all of you out there working on building relationships, whether it be in a sales capacity, job seeking capacity, or other business or personal venture.