Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Looking for...Personal Finance, Management and....

Well, today is a good day. My wife and I have been anxiously awaiting the results of an arbitration hearing with a cabinet contractor with whom we, well, parted ways. Turns out we won and we're due some money. Of course, we still have to get paid, but at least we have the psychological reward of having gotten the award notice.

This experience has been interesting. I've learned far more than I ever would about California State Contractors law and my wife has learned there's a reason I often treat "personal" matters like "business" matters. After all, TZC is a family business but, more importantly, every family is a "family business." Because when you are doing business with a contractor or other service provider, you may be the customer, but you also have to approach it in a business-like manner. Cover your tail in documents and negotiations as you would if you were at work. Would you keep copies of every email of that important business deal? Well, why not the deal to sell your house? If that vendor screwed up, wouldn't you keep careful records of your attempts to get him to fix what he did? The same goes for that vendor at home.

All too often, people take less care in their "personal" lives than their business lives, and the truth is, your personal life is a business. It's the business of you and your family. Think of it as "My Family, Inc." Which brings me to the subject of this blog. I'm looking for....

  • Finance/Personal Finance
  • Management/Stories/History
  • Careers/Entrepreneurship
  • Globalization/Economics/Trade
  • Investing
  • Parables

Finance is an interesting one. When I hear the word, I think about MBAs and business school. And that's not quite what I'm looking for when I say that. I prefer books for the less technical audience. Maybe there's a middle manager out there who wants to get ahead. What does he need to know about finance? Let's say I'm a small businessman looking to expand. What do I need to know about finance? I might have just been promoted to Marketing Director, but what do I need to know about finance? That's what I'm talking about.

Personal Finance is another subject entirely. I have interns who come and go. But they all get the same speech: Lose your debit card. It was designed by the banking industry to lead you to overdraw your account and pay a pile of insufficient funds fees. Use a cash-back credit card instead, whenever you can. Then pay that credit card off in full every month. Next, balance your checkbook. Don't "look at it online." Actually sit down and figure out the outstanding checks or debits, etc., so you know how much money you really have. Get Quicken or MS Money and use it. If you have earned income, open a Roth IRA at Vanguard. Even if you just put in a few hundred dollars a year, it's better than nothing and will compound that much longer with low expenses. Yada yada.

I have no idea if they listen to me, but maybe in a year or five they'll be looking for a good book on the subject. I am looking for a good book on the subject to represent. Or several good books. How about a series? If you are a Certified Financial Planner or other suitably credentialed author, I'd be interested in hearing about your project.

Management/Stories/History. What's with all of the slashes? Well, let's just say I'm interested in Management Stories or Management History. Consider Henry Ford. Don't you think a book on his founding Ford Motors would be interesting? How about a book on his management philosophy? Would it be relevant today? How about the next Barbarians at the Gate or a book on the history of Google? Remember when all those books came out on the history of Macintosh? Are you a business journalist for the Wall Street Journal or New York Times? Have you appeared a dozen times on CNBC? If this is who you are, I'd like to hear about your book ideas.

I've read that the fastest growing segment of business is small business. More and more people are leaving or being let go from their big corporate jobs and end up launching their own businesses. And they need your help. Whether it's a new graduate trying to figure out what they want to do when they "grow up," or a corporate veteran caught in the last wave of cutbacks, there are always people looking for work...and for books on how to look for work, find a new job, improve their current career, or start a business. If you are a veteran career counselor, a specialist in human resources, have a rėsumė writing business, or other area of expertise that would apply in these areas, I'd be interested in your book ideas.

Ever hear about a little book called Freakonomics? How about Fast Food Nation? These are a couple of titles I wish I'd represented in the Globalization/Economics/Trade category. How about a book on the far-ranging impact of Wal-Mart or even Starbucks? Once upon a time, the most recognized American brand name was McDonald's. Now there are other countries making their global mark. What does that mean to the business world? What does outsourcing to India mean for the American consumer and American worker? Did NAFTA work, or is that sucking sound I hear my Gateway computer that was assembled in Mexico and never worked right? Again, if you are a veteran journalist or a professor who can write for non-academics, I'd like to hear about your book ideas.

I already told you about my interns and my investment advice to them. Now it would be great to find someone who can give investing advice to me. I need a "diet book" approach to investing, please. A few guidelines (no carbs!) and some recipes (Cream cheese roll-ups are yummy) and off I can go. So if you already write a column for Smart Money or Kiplinger's, and you want to write a book, please be in touch.

Parables are an interesting business phenomenon and I can't say I understand them completely. At least, I'm not sure why people buy them, other than that, perhaps, they put complicated issues into simpler terms. And by doing so, they make the reader look at the issues a bit more clearly. But I think you need a special kind of author for these. The author has to have not just the credentials to back up their writing the book, but also the ability to write well and communicate complex ideas in simpler terms. And that's a tall order. If you think you can fill it, please let me know.

More soon....

Z

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