Monthly Archives: February 2015

Create Your Own Care Package

Create Your Own Care Package Think about what you’d do to renew yourself with just a snippet—or more—of time.

  • When you have five minutes … lay your head down, put your feet up, and give yourself a moment to think and dream.
  • With a half-hour … start a journal or give that yoga DVD a try.
  • During an afternoon … take yourself to a matinee or walk in the park.
  • Over a weekend … visit a friend you haven’t seen lately or hang out at a spa.

Whatever your ideal break, do it!

Posted in Health and Fitness

The Secret of Creating Winning Brands

The Secret of Creating Winning Brands

Brands are a company’s most valuable asset. It is critical that companies have to value brands as strategic assets. They have never been more important than they are today. Media and social networking are becoming very complex.

In today’s fast-paced world of business, companies need to be consumer-centric, risk-inclined, nimble, opportunistic, and prepared for contingencies. Today’s brand identifiers are required to assume new meaning and context quickly and be potent in significance.

Consider these four techniques that he savviest brand managers have adapted to create a winning brand.

  1. Reflect on what should spring to mind when customers hear about your brand. Prudent branding is more about associating an identity with a strong and coherent significance. Polish up the intent of your brand to separate your company and its products from the rest of the pack. Belief and brand loyalty are no longer precursors of business success. Take account of points of differentiation.
  2. Winning Brands The branding process is no longer linear and consistent. Enhance the branding to promise value and ensure that it resonates with the organization’s best prospects. Diluted and weak branding results from trying to be cater to the needs of many a variety of customer.
  3. Integrate all your forms of communications and your messages to ensure that all channels interact with the customer consistently. Inventory all the current marketing communications to understand points of discrepancy in branding communications. Our forms of communication must directly reflect the quality and value your company deliver to our customers. Therefore, fashion all messages with the customer’s experience in mind.
  4. To work at the success of your brand image, broadcast your branding strategy to all employees to ensure that every element of your company remain authentic not only to your brand, but also to the people, products and services that it represents.
Posted in Business and Strategy

States with the Lowest Tax Burdens

States with the Lowest Tax Burdens

To rank the state’s tax burdens, the Tax Foundation compared the total taxes that state residents pay as a percentage of per capita income. Included in the total taxes are local taxes such as property taxes and local sales taxes.

States With The Lowest Taxes

The states whose residents pay the least in taxes are:

  1. Alaska at 6.4% of income
  2. Nevada at 6.6% of income
  3. Wyoming at 7% of income
  4. Florida at 7.4% of income
  5. New Hampshire at 7.6% of income

It’s interesting to note that none of these states have an individual state income tax.

States With The Highest Taxes

At the bottom of the Tax Foundation’s rankings were these states, with the highest tax burdens in the nation:

  1. New Jersey at 11.8% of income
  2. New York at 11.7% of income
  3. Connecticut at 11.1% of income
  4. Maryland at 10.8% of income
  5. Hawaii at 10.6% of income
Posted in Investing and Finance

Warren Buffet’s Big Gig: Capital Allocation

Warren Buffett's Recommended Books on Investing

Most of us know Warren Buffet as perhaps the greatest investor who has ever lived. Thinking about how to invest. But, behind the scenes, he also runs Berkshire Hathaway.

Warren Buffet is the CEO there at Berkshire Hathaway. No doubt, Berkshire owns stocks which Buffett himself purchased. But Berkshire also owns 100% of franchises whole bunch of other businesses. Including household names Diary Queen, Fruit of the Loom, Geico, Netjets, etc.

Warren Buffett started to make his living from investing on the stockmarket in 1951, and was deeply influenced by Ben Graham, who wrote a classic book on investment, “Security Analysis” (1934), and had been his tutor at Columbia University.

Berkshire Hathaway, for much of its long history, was only in the textile business. Using its very modest excess cash flow, Berkshire Hathaway in its present form was created. The morph of Berkshire Hathaway from a sleepy New England company producing men’s suit liners to the present day conglomerate generating more than $100 million of cash a week is one of the best business lessons of our age.

Bill Gates should take a close look at Warren Buffett’s business model at Berkshire Hathaway. Managers at the various Berkshire companies use whatever portion of the cash flow they generate to grow their respective businesses and send the rest to Omaha for Buffett to allocate as he sees fit. Net users of cash (like Executive Jet) get whatever cash they need from Omaha to continue growing their business.

Posted in Investing and Finance

Jeff Bezos’ Two Pizza Rule: Small Teams Work More Productively

Jeff Bezos' Two Pizza Rule: Small Teams Work More Productively

When you look deeper into teams within companies, one factor stands out as a predictor of success: size. There’s a right size for every team, and it’s almost always smaller than you think.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon likes to use the “two-pizza rule” for strategy and development teams: if it takes more than two pizzas to feed the team, the team is likely too big.

Bezos didn’t invent the term; it seems to have first appeared at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the 1970s. The surface reason most often cited for using the two-pizza rule is that it keeps teams agile and fast—and it does. But there’s a deeper reason it works. When teams consist of a dozen people or fewer, each team member is more likely to care about the others, and members are far more likely to share information. They are also far more likely to come to the aid of another team member.

  • Small teams are more entrepreneurial
  • Teams with fewer people move faster
  • People in small teams trust each other
  • Sometimes they’ll even sacrifice themselves for their teammates
  • Small teams can become more specialized
  • They don’t waste your human resources
  • Small teams foster mentoring
  • Mini teams weaken the glass ceiling

Recommended Reading

Posted in Management and Leadership

Why is Costco so Successful

Why is Costco so Successful

Costco established the warehouse club retail business model, which relies on bargaining power, a no-frills shopping atmosphere, supply-chain efficiencies, and customer-friendly typical markups on branded products. Now, Costco is transforming its no-fuss wholesale business into a global brand.

Membership Fees

Costco has become a significant shopping destination for consumers across all income levels, as well as small businesses. This is foremost because Costco derives approximately 75% of its operating profits from membership fees.

Costco derives nearly all of its profits from membership fees, allowing the firm to sell many of its products at little to no margin, and sometimes at a loss. These loss-leading capacities are reinforced by the firm’s deployment of gasoline to drive store traffic. When blended with membership renewal rates above 85%, these characteristics give Costco a defensible competitive advantage.

Succeeding Overseas

There is little room for more household penetration because Costco already has more than 70 million members; historical sales and earnings growth forecasts may not be justifiable.

In 1985, Costco opened its first warehouse outside the U.S. in Canada. Currently, Costco has 187 locations in Canada, Mexico, the U.K., Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Australia. Overseas sales more than doubled from 2008 to 2013. While other traditional American retailers grapple to stay competitive in international markets, Costco’s no-fuss warehouse-shopping model is a new experience for international consumers. Remarkably, people in Asian markets are acclimatizing well to shopping in bulk—although it means fastening pallets of toilet paper and enormous teddy bears to the back of their motorbikes as they whizz away from the Costco parking lot.

A Good Living Wage for Employees

Costco has long been known for paying higher wages and offering more liberal benefits than its rivals have—and generating greater sales per square foot, too.

Unlike most retailers, Costco does not see raising employee salaries and growing profits as opposing objectives. While the average hourly wage for a full-time worker at Wal-Mart is $12.81, Costco pays its workers an average of nearly $21. Costco sees the return on this investment in its low employee turnover rates: Just 10% in 2013 and 7% for employees who have worked at least one year. High employee retention permits Costco to reduce considerably on training costs.

Superior Customer Experience

  • A guarantee of quality. Their model promises fundamentally “100% satisfaction” and they mean it. Their return policy stands out among the best in many retail categories and they are exceptionally relaxed about fulfilling it. Costco will take back an empty package of any food, if you are not satisfied, and give you your money back.
  • A extraordinary selection of products that is a bit more refined than most but at a pretty good price. A typical Costco store only carries about 5,000 items, and there is a bunch of those items that rotate regularly.
  • The “treasure hunt” model. The store does have a layout, but within that layout, everything is rotated frequently to keep you looking. This would never work at Walmart or Target —because you’d get frustrated. However, at Costco, it’s part of the fun to “treasure hunt” a new find. They have a very wide selection of very different merchandise types which offers an unique convenience level as a shopper.

CEO Jim Sinegal once said, “If that stuff doesn’t really turn you on, then you’re in the wrong business.” Costco caps margins at a sacrosanct 14% on branded goods, pushes buyers to find creative ways to lower prices and add value, and gets store managers to crank up their efficiency efforts. Under Sinegal’s leadership, Costco has gained a reputation for bargain prices and surprise designer goods.

Posted in Business and Strategy

Fascinating Facts about Microsoft

Microsoft Campus, Redmond Washington

  • In March 2006, Microsoft logged its 5000th patent granted in the United States. This milestone patent covers technologies featured in Xbox 360 games, allowing consumers to tune into a video game much as they would a sporting event.
  • For the fiscal year starting in July 2006, Microsoft will spend over $1 billion on research and development in its MSN unit alone. Total R&D spend across the company is estimated to reach $6.2 billion.
  • Microsoft summer interns work for 12 weeks right alongside full-time employees on a specific group and are given real work with tremendous problems to solve, as well as benefits and salary.
  • Starting their first year, Microsoft employees enjoy 15 paid vacation days, the US holidays, and two personal holidays, along with 10 days a year for paid sick leave.
  • Over 7 million free sodas are consumed on Microsoft’s corporate campus each year. The top three drinks of choice are lemon lime talking rain, diet Coke, and natural talking rain. The least popular drink? Caffeine free diet Pepsi.
  • Ultimate Frisbee, flag football, soccer, cricket, dodge ball, volleyball, and softball are some of the team sport is played on Microsoft’s intramural fields.

Microsoft Shuttle

Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research has more than 700 researchers studying over 55 research areas. These areas include speech recognition, information retrieval, user Interface research, programming tools and methodologies, operating systems and networking, graphics, natural language processing, machine learning, and mathematical sciences.
  • Through the Microsoft PRIME program, employees can get discounts on brand-name products and services nationwide, including computers and electronics, restaurants, shopping, travel, and local attractions.
  • In 2005, the average number of people served per day in Microsoft’s 22 cafeterias in the Puget Sound area boasts 17,436. The most popular item on the menu was pizza.
  • In 2005, Microsoft donated more than $ 334 million in cash and software to nonprofit organizations throughout the world.
  • In 2006, Microsoft awarded half a million dollars in scholarships to college students. Over 50 students received scholarships, benefiting the largest number of undergraduates since the scholarship program’s inception in 1989.

Microsoft CEOs: Bill Gates, Satya Nadella, and Steve Ballmer

Recommended Reading

Posted in Management and Leadership

Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera: One of the Treasures of Europe

Manarola - The Heart of the Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera

The cluster of seaside villages along the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terre (five lands) is a UNESCO World Heritage site made up of five small villages, connected by a charming walking trail. Train or boat can reach each village, but the only way to discover the craggy coastline is by foot. The five villages of Cinque Terre offer us the opportunity to experience astonishing journeys as well as genuine destinations. Only two narrow, cliff-hugging roads lead to the coastal villages, which limits access—a characteristic that locals have preferred to keep. Each town is a unique destination carved rather amazingly into the steep terraced-vineyard coastline.

Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera Families tag along the Italian Riviera mountaineering between hillside fishing villages and paddling underneath the cliffs that line the Ligurian Sea. The southernmost village, Riomaggiore, was established many centuries ago as the wonderful location to plant olive trees and grapevines. The stone houses are built vertically, like multilevel towers, to accommodate the steep terrain. Vertiginous staircases let access between the homes and buildings. Here you will find the start of the famous Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Walk. This 0.6-mile paved trail links Riomaggiore with its nearby neighbor, Manarola. Cut into the rock face, the Via dell’Amore takes merely twenty minutes to walk and allows visitors impressive spectacles back over the village and out across the Mediterranean. The small town of Manorala is the second smallest of the Cinque Terre, perched on rocks above the sea.

The route from Manarola to Corniglia takes around an hour. The middle of the five villages, Corniglia, is surrounded on three sides by ancient stone terraces and lush green grapevines. Vernazza is a traditional fishing town with a natural harbor. It is accessible only by foot because the locals decided long ago not to build road access, in order to preserve the character and quiet pace of life. The final leg of the Cinque Terre walk stretches to Monterosso and takes around ninety minutes. This is the steepest and most challenging part of the walk, but also one of the most exquisite. The hike will lead you through snaky olive orchards and green vineyards, and will reward you with remarkable ocean views you will not want to leave. In 1997, Italy’s Cinque Terre was named a World Heritage site for its splendor and cultural importance.

Posted in Travels and Journeys

C/C++ Implementation for Longest Common Substring Algorithm

C++ The longest common substring problem is to find the longest string that is a substring of two or more given strings.

You can build a generalized suffix tree for a set of strings with multiple strings using this implementation. A suffix tree contains all the suffixes of the given text as their keys and positions in the text as their values.

string longestCommonSubstring(const string& str1, const string& str2)
  if(str1.empty() || str2.empty())
    return 0;
  int *curr = new int [str2.size()];
  int *prev = new int [str2.size()];
  int *swap = NULL;
  int maxSubstr = 0;
   string longest;
  for(unsigned int i = 0; i < str1.size(); ++i)
    for(unsigned int j = 0; j < str2.size(); ++j)
      if(str1[i] != str2[j])
        curr[j] = 0;
        if(i == 0 || j == 0)
          curr[j] = 1;
          curr[j] = 1 + prev[j-1];
          if(maxSubstr < curr[j])
          maxSubstr = curr[j];
          if (maxSubstr == curr[j])
            longest += str1.substr(i - maxSubstr + 1, i + 1);
  delete [] curr;
  delete [] prev;
  return longest.substr(0, maxSubstr);
Posted in Software and Programming

How Innovators Cultivate New Insights

Put Your Creativity to Work

If it were possible to discover the inner workings of the minds of the masters, what could the rest of us learn about how innovation really happens?

The habits of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and other innovative CEOs reveal much about the underpinnings of their creative thinking. Research shows that the four patterns of action help innovators cultivate new insights and distinguish the most innovative entrepreneurs from other executives.

  • Questioning allows innovators to break out of the status quo and consider new possibilities.
  • Through observing, innovators detect small behavioral details – in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies -that suggest new ways of doing things.
  • In experimenting, they relentlessly try on new experiences and explore the world.
  • And through networking with individuals from diverse backgrounds, they gain radically different perspectives.

For more on the role of luck in innovation, read ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ by Steven Johnson. Steven’s book centers around the idea that innovation comes about when ideas from different people interact with each other. The most inventive organizations will create an environment where diverse ideas are free to emerge, and connect, in unexpected ways in a matter of serendipitous connections where people, environments and ideas meet. ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ is full of with enthralling anecdotes from the history of entrepreneurship and scientific invention.

Posted in Leaders and Innovators Management and Leadership