Tuesday, October 28, 2014

9 Awesome college football hashtags

There are a lot of hashtags but when it comes to college football these are my favorite.

Please follow @SportSetOrg on twitter if you can name all the schools or want a shout out for your favorites.

Fear the fork
8 clap
Hell in a shell
Load the musket
Poke em
Anchor down
Birds up
Hook em
Roll tide roll

Sunday, October 26, 2014

8 Areas to change your business

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope.”

Management by hope is not good.  Managers need to be proactive.  Managers need to try new ways but with a calculated and systematic approach.   The choices are unlimited but here are eight areas you should consider:

  1. Physical work environment – If everybody is constantly moving around try a new resting space.   Couches are great.  If everybody is constantly sitting try putting in something to encourage movement.  A ping-pong table comes to mind.  If your space is too cluttered try removing items.  If your space is too sterile add some color with a painting or poster.  The opportunities exist no matter what your physical environment or budget.  Delegate a team to make improvements.  Do not look for policy on what you can do but simply be cognizant of what culturally you cannot do.
  2. Meetings – Look for some to cancel and look for some to add.  Look for ways to place meetings in a weekly chronological order.  Change the invitees.  If the content is not confidential consider adding a junior member of the team.  Watch for opportunities to use time of day for bringing out the best in people.  I like brainstorming meetings in the morning and work review meetings in the afternoon.
  3. Data and reports – Go through what you receive on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis and look for opportunities to pare back.  If you can’t pare back simplify the reports to something shorter and more meaningful.  In contrast, look for reports to add.  Look for opportunities to buy instead of build and build instead of buy.  Ask yourself if any industry source you receive could be improved if you had your own resource to track and build the data or report.
  4. Systems and tools – Big data is certainly a trend in business however, I have rarely seen companies that do not have opportunities to create their own spreadsheet models to better analyze small data.  Keep in touch with vendors and look for ways to influence them.  If a system is large and misunderstood try training more users to uncover misconceptions and to build succession and redundancy.
  5. Processes – These can be small or large.  Changing them requires understanding the steps.  Look for things you and your team do that are routine and ask yourself if you can list the steps from memory.  Then ask a colleague if they agree.  If you cannot and they do not here is an opportunity to document, reflect, and change for the better.
  6. Goals, KPI’s and Responsibility – Make sure you know the differences.  Indicators need to be the warning sign that a goal will not be met.  Try pushing responsibility down the organization.  Make sure you have reports to measure and monitor.   If you cannot count them on two hands then you need to reduce the number.   
  7. People – Start by reviewing the attitudes and skills you value. Make sure the attitudes and skills are known.  If you have long review periods look to shorten the cycle.  If you have ever complained about Human Resources look for one or two processes to own internally.  Ultimately people will come and go.  Try to build a cycle of ramp-up, plateau, and ramp-down.
  8. Culture – This is the hardest of changes.  It cannot happen quickly but only over an extended period where habits and ways of doing things are challenged and corrected.  The build up of the seven previous areas can get you started but to truly understand cultural change Google “The Monkey Story”.

Your company probably does not to change all of these areas.  Your company may not consider any of these suggestions useable.  However, thinking is the first step to change and if any of these suggestions made you think then you are on your way to change.  Change is good.   Change is inevitable.  Hope is unreliable.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The journey of a wandering baseball fan

I love sports.  I love baseball.

In 1969 the Miracle Mets won the World Series and my father bought me my first hat.  I was hooked.  Four years later and mildly coming of age I wanted to make my own decisions.  I decided to look for a team to replace the Mets.

We lived in Buffalo New York so there was no logical team to choose. Toronto did not yet exist as a baseball franchise; Cleveland was the closest in distance.  Of course, the Yankees were from the same state as well as the Mets.

I wanted to be different. In the early 1970s, prior to ESPN, the only source of news for West Coast teams when they played at home was the day after newspaper.  This along with a country still dreaming about California led me to look at the teams on the West Coast.  The one I fell in love with was the California Angels. I always liked pitching, a good reason to stay a Mets fan was Tom Seaver, but now the Angels had the combination of Nolan Ryan and Frank Tanana.  My decision was made.

It took me over two years to find a California Angels hat. However, that did not discourage me from being a loyal fan of the Angels.  When the Yankees became really good in the late 70s, and Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle and others destroyed my Angels time after time. It was tough to be surrounded by a lot of Yankees fans.  I persisted.

I stayed loyal to the Angels through high school. College took me closer to New York City and Yankees and Mets fans were abundant.  The pull to become a fan of the local team was strong but it still did not take hold in New York.

Then my working career began, a string of cities across the USA. For some reason I chose to start following the local teams.

First stop Los Angeles, not Anaheim.  I was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan for three years.  This included the 1988 World Series win!  A friend offered me to choose tickets for either game one or game two. I chose game two because Orel Hershiser was pitching and had a shutout innings record in progress.  I still regret that I could've been there for that Kirk Gibson homerun.

Next stop. The Southside of Chicago for graduate school.  Let's go White Sox.  Old Comisky stadium was awful but I loved it.

An internship in Detroit for the summer of 1990 so why not become a Tigers fan.

After business school on the Southside of Chicago we did the normal thing of a newly married couple with no children and move to Wrigleyville.  It was impossible not to become a Cubs fan when you could hear Harry Carey singing from our front stoop.  But it was painful.

A new job opportunity in Houston. We now had a three-month-old son when the Astro season began. We took him to the home opener and bought him an Astros hat and I got one for myself as well.

Back to Chicago and back to the Cubs in 1996.  Then in 1998 my career took a turn towards the international world and expat life. What to do while in Italy, New Zealand, and Qatar?

I drifted until I discovered MLB.com radio in 2002.  Baseball became a joy again as I could listen to any game I wanted while enjoying the New Zealand sunshine.  Every game was an afternoon game due to the time zone difference.

While I jumped from broadcast to broadcast I realized I needed to choose a team. But which one?

I still liked good pitching. I also was never big on being a bandwagon fan jumping on a team when they were playing well. So I looked for a team with good upcoming pitching and a losing record.  In 2003 I found the Phillies.  I promised myself I would stick with them for five full years.  They played well, and pitchers like Cole Hamels came up from the minors.  They acquired other great pitching.  They won the World Series on my fifth year as a fan.

Having had such great success with the Phillies I decided to look for another young losing team.  I found the Kansas City Royals.

When the Kansas City Royals traded Zack Greinke my heart fell.  However, I stayed with them and today, even though it is the sixth year of my fandom, the Royals are in the World Series with a 2-1 game lead on the San Francisco Giants.  It has been tremendous watching them grow with the likes of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and others.

Whether the Royals win or lose the Series. Believe me I want them to win! I will start a new project and a new team next year.

Right now my front-runner is to return to my original roots and the New York Mets. Of course the Cubs are another losing team but oh can I do that?

Wait till next year.  The baseball journey continues.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My definition of entrepreneurship

I did not decide to become an entrepreneur by choice, entrepreneurship found me.   I was 49, had a fantastic job as a chief planning officer of a $5 billion company, and everything was going in the right direction.

Then it happened when I was listening to the Notre Dame vs Alabama NCAA championship football game. I wanted to see how far people would go to express the loyalty of their favorite team.  There was no platform in existence so I decided to build one.

Backing yourself to create a business in a market that does not exist is my definition of entrepreneurship.  Having an idea is one thing, executing it in the face of uncertainty is another.  It is almost 2 years later and what have I learned?

Real entrepreneurship is rare indeed.

You have to be willing to walk into unknown territory without any protection.  You leave your job and your income behind. You put a second mortgage on your house.  You leave behind an industry you worked in for 20 years, built contacts in, and gained respect.  You smile when people tell you that you don't know what you're doing.

One important note:

You also can benefit from non-financial support.  From a family that says go for it.  From a business partners who take similar risks with thier lives and careers. Note that the I's above quickly became we's.

Entrepreneurship has been far more rewarding than I ever thought it could be. Our company has still not made it big but the experience has made me grow in numerous ways.

Yes I would do it again.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


What does it take to create a start up when you are mostly blind? Of course the answer is vision. But vision is not seeing what is there it is seeing what is not there. That is why a blind person can be the most visionary person in the room. Think about it.

Butch Cassidy: [to Sundance] Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

7 Steps for airline route forecasting

1) Current demand - Collect origin and destination data on relevant markets.  The data is best collected at a passenger per day each way (PDEW) aggregation.  If possible the data should be broken into premium and economy with average fares.

2)  Current supply - Assess all the potential ways that relevant O&D markets can travel today.  The most common way to assess this information is with a Quality of Service (QSI) path build model.  These models will take into account nonstop flights, single stop flights, online connecting flights, code-share connecting flights, and interline connecting flights.  The QSI is a simple way to assign a value to each unique path to travel from O to D.  For example;

  • nonstop flights receive a value of 1.0
  • single stop flights (same aircraft/flight number) receive a value of .30
  • online connecting flights receive a value of .10
  • code-share connecting flights receive a value of .05
  • interline connecting flights receive a value of .02  
Calibration to historical data will give the precise values to use for your airline.

3) Build your flight schedule - Create the flights you want to forecast with a operationally desirable fleet type and block times.

4) New demand - Consider how demand will be changed by your new service.  The topics to consider are;

  • normal growth in the market since the last demand was captured.  This is mainly driven by population changes, income changes, and propensity to travel.
  • service stimulation due to the difficulty to travel in the market previous to this service
  • price elasticity if lower fares will be offered in the market
  • market substitution if this market has similar characteristics as other markets particularly if the market is a tourist destination
5) Market shares - The QSI model for relevant O&Ds is the primary determinant.  Other factors to be considered are;
  • reputation of airline
  • airline product preference (i.e. seats, IFEC, food and beverage)
  • connecting airport quality for connecting passengers
  • aircraft type
  • demand variation for time of year, time of day, and day of week,
  • elapsed time of journey
  • seat factors on competing services (if other services are full they can not carry all of the demand)
  • pricing
  • classes of service offered 
6) Cost allocation - Calculate variable and fixed costs.  Notable costs include fuel, aircraft ownership, crews, ground handling, airport fees, maintenance, and overheads.

7) Allocate revenue and calculate profit - Revenue on point to point travelers are easy to assign.  Connecting travelers revenue needs to be prorated across the flights used.  This is usually done on a distance basis but with more revenue being allocated to shorter flights.  Ancillary revenue also needs to be allocated.  The profitability calculations need to be done on a segment and network basis on both variable and total costs.  It is also important to consider how much of the revenue is incremental to the airline. 

Once you have completed these 7 steps use the correct profitability calculation to make your decision to operate, not operate, or recreate a better schedule in step 3.  The correct profit metric can vary based on the time period being assessed.  For example making a decision to acquire an incremental aircraft is different to the decision to allocate existing aircraft. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Airline Industry Structure

Structure, conduct and performance are the three building blocks of industrial organization. Structure is best thought of as those things which are mostly outside of the control of the industry participants. They are the things that are the same for everyone. They can and do change over time. Some become more important while others become less important. However, at any given point in time they set the stage to be performed on.

For the airline industry several structural elements are present:
Regulatory environment
Fuel prices
Foreign exchange rates
Interest rates
Aircraft technology

Structure also encompasses the relationships to other industries or averages. It is often said that the airline industry is capital intensive, or labor intensive. It is also said that the industry is highly leveraged or has high fixed costs. These statements are all true to an extent and the relationships do not move quickly over time.

The most important thing about the structure of the airline industry is that while management needs to understand and look for ways to address the inherent strengths and weaknesses it provides to their individual companies, structure also needs to be recognized in order to find those aspects of an airline that can be made truly unique in order to compete as differentiated players.

As the new decade begins the airline industry structure continues to evolve. Issues like security have become more important while new structural issues like the advance of social media are reshaping the stage. Good luck and hard work will determine the airline winners in this decade just like the past ones. To all my airline friends have fun and enjoy the twelfth decade of flight!