Monthly Archives: July 2015

Should big business run the school system or Universities?

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I am tired of the idea of college. Everyone in America thinks that “you should go to college.” It sounds more authentic if you say it in a nasal tone. Now, the democrats are promising to send everyone to college for free. The problem with college is that it takes four years out of your life. You study all types of non-essential subjects that enrich you culturally. At the end of the ordeal, nobody will hire you because you don’t know how to do anything useful. I think that a four year college program is appropriate for the upper class. But, for the rest of us, learning a trade might be more appropriate.

Which jobs matter?
These days, the important jobs are computer programming, engineering, nursing, and robotics is a growing trade that will define the future of the United States. If we have good robotics engineers we might maintain our economic lead in the world. Without them, the Asians will swallow us up very quickly. So, what is the solution? There are many big businesses which have all types of jobs. The problem is that Americans are so dumb, that it is hard to fill the complicated jobs. Smart people know that the solution is to hire a smart Asian kid. But, we are running out of smart Asian kids. Now, what? We need to teach our home grown kids how to do intelligent jobs — and perhaps have a few additional Korean and Chinese kids with technical skills immigrate to America as well.

Imagine if the large companies had universities…
Big businesses can teach people how to do technical jobs. They could teach advanced level math, and engineering. The problem is that the technology keeps changing every few years or every several months. In my mind, the important learning is the logic of the programming. If you know one programming language well, you can most likely learn another one in a quarter of the time if you know the logic well. Big businesses can teach all types of robotics technology, programming, and other skills to children. The real benefit is that college kids would be able to get a job from the host company immediately after graduation or better yet — they could intern while they were studying. Nothing beats work study as you get technical skills and get to use them too. Nothing beats being in practice.

The world is changing
The world is always changing. Economies change, technology changes, and global power structures charge. In the long run the Asians will be in charge. Right now it looks as it China is falling on its face in many ways, but in the long run they are hard workers with a strong desire to succeed and they will get far ahead of America. The only way America can compete in the long run is to have smarter children who know how to do some very potent jobs and do them really well. This can be achieved. It is just a matter of America deciding to succeed instead of slacking off as usual.

Inventing weird words for the workplace

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“There’s no place like Google, There’s no place like Google” was a line in the Internship about a school that Google created for its interns. In the movie, there was a weird outdoor game where people rode broomsticks like witches and tossed a ball around. I loved that because it was so childish, delightful and creative. But, the most creative thing was all the weird terms they created that were integral to the game which is called Quidditch. There were terms such as quaffles, bludgers, snitches, and seekers.

But, how can you make your company culture more like Google’s? Should you make up some weird words?

A samosa seventeener…
Research shows it is good to take breaks regularly. Some feel that seventeen minutes is optimal for peak performance. But, what if you have a samosa during your seventeen minute break? What would you call that type of break?

My daily rick! My scuffle?
The commute to work is an arduous task. But, what if this part of your daily routine had a different name? Since in India, people take rick-shaws, your commute could be referred to as your daily rick. I heard one British born India talk about his commute in Mumbai as “Two ricks and a train!” In any case, don’t forget to ask your co-workers, “How was todays rick?” If you don’t like “rick” you could call it a teleport to prepare yourself for life in 2050! Or you could just scuffle your way to work unless you are Yiddish speaking in which case you might schlep!

Lunchquet time anyone??
What could a weird term for lunch be? Perhaps a twist of words relating to banquet or feast? Perhaps lunchquet.

What about tasks around the office? In my business we have welcome calls, second welcome calls, newsletter calls, and calls to verify if someone is still alive. There there is order processing, email time, and blog writing in the evening. How can we come up with fun terms for these boring activities? How about, “Red carpet time” for welcome calls, and “Order time” for order processing?

Creating an atmosphere of innovation at your workplace might make your day more fun, and more productive. It could change how you think and make your business a lot more successful too. Part of innovation deals with the types of words we choose to use, and another part has to do with modifying processes and routines that we take part in daily. What’s your new word of the day?

Learning to profile the accounts you follow on Twitter can triple your growth!

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I used to have a simplistic following strategy
I just experienced something of a miracle. It was actually an example of the effective use of simple analytics for Twitter. In the past, my strategy was to follow people on accounts that typically got me a high follow-back rate. Since my main Twitter account focuses on marketing, my best “follow” accounts were mostly business, marketing, and one guy who did business, social media marketing and travel all in one. He had some very interesting and lively followers as you can guess. After a while, I wanted to pump up the volume a bit and follow even more people per day. Twitter allows a single account to follow up to 1000 people per day. I was getting about 500 people a day to follow from my best accounts and followed some less than optimal accounts for the remaining 500. The results were not very efficient. I was getting only 50-80 new followers per day after a lot of work!

I crunched some numbers
My number crunching was very unsophisticated and very ball park in many ways. I wanted to take a closer look at who was following me back on Twitter and who was retweeting me. I learned that marketers showed the highest rate of following me. Now, I did not take a close count of how many percent of the people I was following were in marketing. I estimated that perhaps 10-20% of those I followed mentioned marketing while about 25% of my new follow-backs were in marketing. I also noticed that CEO‘s represented about 3-6% of those I was following but about 7% of my follow-backs. I also learned that Entrepreneurs liked to follow me and accounts that were business profiles of various types of businesses liked to follow me.

The other day I had an argument with a friend about what an entrepreneur is. He claimed that an entrepreneur has to invent some new methodology or technology and learn to market it as a sole proprietor. I disagreed and insisted that any sole business person is an entrepreneur, although perhaps in pop culture, his definition might be more glamorous. My stats told me that entrepreneurs were fast to follow me, but didn’t retweet my content hardly at all. After seeing the dismal underachievement in the entrepreneur sector of my followers I began to doubt the way the word was used. I began to associate entrepreneurs as “wanna-be’s,” failures, or pretenders. People who were real business men portrayed themselves as founders, co-founders, CEO’s, or had other more formal titles. I also learned that those who followed Entrepreneur Magazine were not as “deep” in many ways as the followers of some of the other more serious business publications such as Bloomberg or Harvard Business Review. My bottom line is that I want people to retweet my content and entrepreneurs were not doing this. So, now I stopped following entrepreneurs altogether even though my biggest passion in life is entrepreneurship!

I tripled my growth rate
Now, I am getting 150-200 new followers after an active day of tweeting and following others. I am much more selective about who I follow. I follow business accounts as they tend to be more active. Business accounts are recognizable because they have a business name as their twitter handle account name. I am not sure which type of business favors me most, but I do know that the Real Estate crowd is the most dormant even on content that is specific to their industry!

How can you analyze your followers?
There are various ways to profile your followers. You have to break them into groups somehow. You also have to assess them in a kind of a level playing field. If you notice that 50% of your followers are web designers, but 80% of those you follow are web designers, then web designers might be a reasonable profession to follow, but not the most efficient. However, if you notice that managers of Flash programmers represent 20% of those who follow you, yet represent only 3% of those you follow, they would be a group to pay attention to. Identify your best segments for following you and retweeting or favoriting your content. You can triple your growth rate for obtaining Twitter followers too! You might be surprized.

The water crisis — an international problem

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s you know, there is a huge worldwide water crisis. My spiritual guru has been warning us about this for decades. He said the wars of tomorrow will be fought over water, not oil. The irony is that some parts of the world have too much water while others have almost none. The Middle East has almost no rainfall and the rivers there are drying up. American rivers are running dryer too, but we are not having a life or death crisis yet and probably won’t for another twenty years. Israel is smart and has desalinization planets. They create their own water and use it with very sophisticated irrigation systems. Israel has the most water efficient agriculture in the world. Meanwhile in India, parts of North India are very dry while in Kerela it rains eight months a year and rains hard. So, what should India do?

India and its wealth of water
India has tons of water. Unfortunately, India’s water is not where the agriculture is. Kerela gets more rainfall than any other part of India. But, they are stuck in the Southwest of India while the agriculture is inland, with much of it far up North. If India could figure out how to store all of the water that falls in Kerela, they could sell it to the Middle East or pipe it up to other parts of India for a fee. Creating a pipeline is expensive, and India would probably take decades to finish such a project. Neighboring China can put up a 50 story building in weeks. Perhaps India should hire China to teach them how to get things done quickly.

China and India — water wars
India has several rivers running near the Tibet border in Assam and Kashmir among other places. It is my hunch that one day India and China will go to war over these rivers. A war would be devastating to the world. I hope they find a better way to deal with their water shortages.

California gets more rainfall than Arizona, yet Arizona knows how to store its water in underground tanks. California has an aqueduct system spanning the entire state to get water from one part of the state to the other. But, the source of much of our water is the Colorado river which deposits water into Lake Meade which is low this year. Hmmm. If it rains in Colorado, the water comes to California farms. But, if it rains in California, the water just seeps into the earth and is lost. California needs to get rid of its lawns, and invest more in the type of irrigation technology that Israel has. That way we can grow the same plants using only 15% of the water (more or less.) Learning the ropes of desalinization would be another smart step so that California will be ready for the future. California’s population keeps growing fast as immigrants love California as their initial landing point and people from other states love to come here. But, how many people will continue to come if there is no water? We’ll have to find out. Perhaps only the rich will be able to live here one day and the others will flee to Texas where it rains constantly.

Egypt has 82 million human souls, but only one source of water — The Nile. When the Nile dries up, or when the Sudanese hog it all to themselves, they will have a war. However, there will not be any water for the locals in the mean time. Many scientists feel that many rivers will completely dry up. So, how are 82 million of some of the world’s poorest folks supposed to survive under these conditions? Will they just die out? It will be very unpleasant to find out. My prediction is that Egypt will become a barren wasteland one day. Only the pyramids and a few of the mummies will survive.

The rest of the world?
The other countries will also have water issues. Water will be an issue of world concern and people will be fighting over it and killing over it. Countries might redefine their borders based on water rights rather than on linguistic or political reasons. Or, we might have a world government that governs how water is shared. It will be interesting to find out how our water catastrophe is worked out, but probably not pleasant!

The Rupee Mentality

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Do you have the rupee mentality?

Some people start thinking about all the small details. They calculate exactly to the penny or the rupee what someone is charging them. It is really annoying when people count every rupee. They end up annoying you so much that you don’t want to do business with them in the long run. Penny-wise and pound-foolish is an English proverb that applies to those who lose important business deals because they were stuck thinking about pennies.

Some companies save money by hiring the cheapest employees who can’t even function. Others save money by not training their employees. They don’t even realize they are saving money because they never even considered investing in training. Others count the exact price of something without taking a deeper look at the value of the offering. Sometimes the value is not easily discernable which makes it hard. But, the exact price means little if you don’t know the worth.

I notice that when I am in India I start thinking small just like Indians. I argue over ever last rupee with the cab drivers. I count every penny I spend on tip. And I am paying extra attention to anyone who is gauging me and generally fire them immediately if at all possible. Even if you don’t talk to any misers, just being around them is enough to get you thinking like one.

As a general rule, at this stage in my life, it is more about the long term of a business relationship. I don’t care exactly what I am paying someone as that has no reflection on anything. I care more about whether or not this person will be true to me and helpful in the long run. If I have to hire and fire and hire and fire, I am losing a lot of my own time. My personal time is worth about triple or quadruple what I pay an experienced beginner to work for me, so the main thing is to conserve my own time while getting the job done right. Unfortunately, most service providers are not appropriate, and I end up doing too much myself. But, on a brighter note, I no longer have the rupee mentality. Now , I am counting the minutes I waste rather than the pennies I lose!

How Forbes & Harvard Business Review shoot themselves in the foot on Stumbleupon

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Forbes and Harvard Business Review are two of the largest and most interesting business publications out there. Yet, every time I visit their blogs online there are annoying intermediary pages that I have to click the “skip” button. I am on about ten social media platforms and I visit them each several times a week. I found that an article I published on Twitter about how meditation changes your brain became very popular with a crowd that was interested in marketing of all things. So, I published yet another article about spirituality with a title including the word “mindfulness” and how it affects your brain. Another success. The very next day, I decided that my Stumbleupon followers would love to read about meditation and the brain, so I sourced some articles from Google.

The first articles that showed up were from Forbes and HBR. Unfortunately, the page that first came up from HBR was completely black with a “skip” button and a pop up. I think they were trying to strong-arm me into joining their newsletter. When I published the article on Stumbleupon, the photo section showed a black page — how unattractive. HBR might be getting lots of followers on their newsletter, but they are basically outcasting themselves from having a chance to ever make it on Stumbleupon! Forbes basically does the same thing except they make you wait twenty seconds before you skip their advertisement. How annoying.

As with any other business decision, you gain in one place and you lose in another. But, ruining your chances on social media is not a good decision in 2015, especially when the networks are focusing so heavily on photos! If I were running a huge blog, I would have very expensive and clear photos that appear before anything else. You might ask why I am not doing this now. The answer is that we are a very small blog and our budget doesn’t permit for that — yet!

Going to India was good preparation for what the USA became

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My Maiden Voyage to India
I went to India several times in the last thirteen years. My maiden voyage was back in 2002. I had some bizarre experiences with people who kept asking the same question again and again and again. I kept saying no, no, no, no, no. It was like dealing with people who had part of their brain shut down. What I came to realize is that India is a land of extremes. There are people who are extremely smart, and many who are completely clueless. There are very moral people, and others who don’t have any morals. There are many different religions and castes who normally have almost nothing to do with each other. We see India as having “a culture” while in reality it is more like a patchwork of opposite societies forced to live with each other.

Sorry, Meter Broken
What bothered me most about India was that there was so much negligence and backwardsness almost everywhere. I have never been to Punjab, however, I understand that is the most organized part of India. This is because there are many Sikhs there, and the Sikhs are a very meticulous people who also have a very military attitude. 90% of the Indian army consists of Sikhs who are local to Haryana and Punjab. But, in the rest of India there are leaky faucets, piles of bricks left for months by the side of the road, police who take bribes, broken things of all descriptions, potholes, people who don’t drive in lanes, rickshaw drivers who have rigged or broken meters, and other types of nonsense.

What the U.S. Became
America has never been a perfect country, and we have never been as meticulous as the Japanese about keeping things clean or fixed. However, I have noticed that things have gone downhill in the last twenty years. There is more negligence and Unreliability here. When I hire American programmers, not one is able to meet simple deadlines or get back to me. In my apartment complex, the cement used to repair the sidewalk seems to break within a few weeks of its installation. We have to make multiple requests for the sink to be fixed. When I had my car repaired at Toyota for a noise, they fixed one noise and then didn’t double check the car for additional noises which resulted in me having to bring the car back and get yet another free rental car from them for a few days. We both lost a lot of time and money because they didn’t check their work — which reminds me of most of the programmers I hire.

India in 2002 Prepared Me for America in 2015
Since India prepared me for what I term “abject negligence,” I am more tolerant of it. However, if you run a business, you should make sure that you don’t do anything negligent and that you tolerate very little negligence on the part of your workers, especially those higher up. If you choose to not do certain tasks which are less valuable in your priority list, that is fine. However, if you neglect critical tasks, the consciousness of neglect will mirror itself into the others who you deal with. I have seen this spiritual principle manifest itself in real life so many times that I look for it to happen and try to analyze how the other person’s behavior is similar to mine. In my opinion, India is on its way slowly up and America is on its way down. I am not convinced that America will ever become as backwards as India and I doubt that India will ever become as nice as America. In the long run I believe that China will run the world and the rest of us will be their servants!

Does your business behavior mirror itself in others?

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Taking Classes in Feng-Shui
I studied feng-shui for many years. I read books, attended classes, and did studies on my own. I learned that where you put your furniture is merely one aspect of feng-shui and the affect it has might not be as predictable as what the book you read might say. However, I learned that there are serious effects for having broken things around. There are bad consequences for being too busy to take care of things. There are also magical results for spending an hour or two in a charged up environment.

I Feng-Shui’d my Room
I remember that I cleaned up and rearranged my room a few years ago. After that I got more business. I’m not sure what the connection is. Changing your surroundings changes you on the inside. It changes your brain in a sense. Of course you could argue that the change within occured before you changed your surroundings. Perhaps a little of both is true. When I have dinner in wealthy fast paced neighborhoods, my sales are often much higher the next day for my e-business. I analyze this affect as it is a critical part of feng-shui that has nothing to do with where your sofa is placed. But, what about behavioral mirrors?

Behavioral Mirrors
I always complain that my programmers don’t get back to me or do what they are supposed to. They also rarely finish anything on time and let simple projects drag on for months. But, when I look at my schedule, I realize that I do not make dealing with them a priority. I put off dealing with them sometimes for months. Part of why I don’t deal with them is that it can be very exasperating to deal with someone who delivers flawed work every time you check your work. It is disappointing and depressing as well as a waste of my limited time. Perhaps it is not the time factor as much as the fact that dealing with uncooperative people is draining and a source of anxiety. I just can’t deal with them. So, is the sluggishness of the programmers a reflection of my own sluggishness in getting back to them? Or am I slow getting back to them because I know that whatever they did will not be on time or correct? Or is the problem that I need to be more vigilant in trying out new programmers and mastering the art of hiring?

Perhaps my inability to get programmers with slack in their schedules is because I also rarely have any slack in my schedule.

My sales lady is often accused of not answering messages. I realize that I too do not answer messages. I do so because most of my messages are from people who don’t have a purpose in calling me. They call me back and leave a message saying, “Duy, you called me?” Perhaps I should filter through my messages every day and call back the good ones, but I am already behind on my work. Perhaps the bigger issue is that I have failed in personal time management. It is hard when you keep having new tasks you are adding into your schedule and old tasks you are phasing out. If I had less to do, I could answer messages and get back to programmers and really be on top of everything. Many of the big business blogs claim that less is more. Focus on priorities and farm out the less consequential work!

Does Your Behavior Rub Off on Others?
Do you see your employees having the same flaws as you do? Do you try to correct it in them before you correct it in yourself? Or do you not even notice your employees flaws since you have identical flaws? Perhaps you overload your personal schedule and your workers are all overloaded and unable to focus on priorities. Take a look at all of the flaws your employees seem to have as a group. I’m not saying that every employee has the same flaw, but look for patterns. Then see if you have some similar type of flaw yourself. You might learn a lot and change your life as a result!

Envisioning the long-term growth of your company in addition to the short-term

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I always get stuck on this. I study analytics, I figure out my next move, I take action and measure the results. I’m good at this and I like it. I do well with my business because I am analytical and enjoy analytics. I do well because I work hard and have vision, plan and take action. But, in my quest for growth, I tend to lose track of the long-term picture. The long-term baffles me. As a child, I had grandiose long-term strategies about how I would become a multi-billionaire like Warren Buffet, dominate industry, and be world famous. It didn’t quite work out like that although I am famous in my tiny industry. I am loved by some and despised by others because I implement policies for advertising that affect other people’s lives! But, I un an advertising site, so that is my prerogative!

As a realistic adult, it is harder to look at the long run. As a child, we think that life will go the way we plan it to go. We reject the idea that things beyond our control will happen. We don’t understand that relationships can ruin our lives, or that illness can cripple us. We are oblivious to the fact that an uncontrollable turn in the market can reduce our income to pennies overnight. As an adult, my problem is that I know to much, and have been through too much. I have lost my ability to be unrealistically optimistic. But, I need to look to the long term future. I need to envision some realistic ways that my business could grow and blossom into something bigger. Growth is the goal of any business (or Twitter account) and I want mine to grow.

Since I run directories, the only way to grow is to start new directories which is relentlessly time consuming and expensive. Dealing with programmers is nearly impossible these days as they are all overloaded and completely irresponsible. To get ahead these days you need good social media, and I am already spending half of my time on blogs and social media. If I try to hire others to help me with these tasks, their performance is usually so dismal that they get fired right away. Going into the unknown to grow is the problem.

I decided upon a solution for long-term growth of my outsourcing directory. I decided to go from writing 15 blog articles a month to 80. I meditated on this business problem while at the beach, and of all of the various solutions to the growth problem that I pondered, this was the one that would have the greatest results in the next year. I have never written so many blog articles before. This is going out on a limb into a new work strategy. Will the new help I hire do a good job? Should I use my existing people? Will I even have time to do half this amount of writing? I guess this little experiment will unfold. I’ll become almost a full-time blog writer. Wish me well.

Do you have a long-term strategy for your business’ growth over the next ten years. I think that both of us should meditate on this reality!

Working as a team with programmers

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Working as a team with anyone is very critical. But, the problem is that most people are not team players. Let me rephrase. Those who work for fancy large companies by definition have to be team players or they will get fired immediately. However, those who can’t cut it with a fancy job, work for smaller companies and usually do not have adequate team playing skills.

The problem is, that without team play, programming work cannot get done. As a manager, you need to coordinate with workers to check their work. If you can never schedule time to see them, how will you check their work? If two programmers are working on different parts of the same project, they need to coordinate to make sure they finish at the same time with work that has been checked.

Most programmers at smaller companies have no clue how to be a team player, so the trick is to manage them. I fantasized about sending programmers out to get samosas at a designated time. That way they could get used to getting work done at a specific time. Of course there is nothing technical about samosas, but the being on time aspect would be the critical factor. If the programmer was assigned to have samosas on the manager’s desk at 3pm and just didn’t do it, the programmer would get in trouble.

My experience with programmers is that they just don’t do things. You ask them to do something and they don’t. You ask them again and they don’t. You pester them day and night for a few days and suddenly they produce results. Unfortunately, if you run a company with 25 people, you will not have time to run around bugging everyone day and night. It will tire you out. So, the solution is to train people on simpler tasks how to communicate their progress, and get things done by the deadline every single time.

Training people to “touch base” as Americans say and get things done on time will make your BPO amazingly better than the others. Most workers at outsourcing gigs just don’t care, just don’t get back to people and just don’t finish work on time or finish it correctly. If you aspire for greatness, you can achieve it, so have someone get you some samosas today! But, the secret is in the tamarind sauce!

Giving people a chance to lead

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When thinking about cultural differences, people look at superficial things first. Indians eat samosas and have arranged marriages while Americans love hamburgers and freedom. Although there is a lot of truth to these statements — or at least there was a few years ago as Indians are now mostly having love marriages and Americans have given up the idea of due process in favor of having the government engage in kidnapping and torturing suspected threats to national security. But, putting aside my snide remarks and cheap blows to American values, culture is complicated. One could say that culture is an evolving body of commonly embraced ideas and practices in a particular geographic area or social circle — or both. Cultures influence each other as they merge and the study of how they influence each other is quite complicated.

In any case, what I found in India — samosas aside, is that there is a vast shortage of leaders and followers. Few in India lead, and even fewer follow. So, how does business get done? Many companies have self-managing employees. What a concept. Is there a system of checks and balances? Additionally, there is very little question and answer as it is bad manners to question your authorities in India. Unfortunately, sometimes you need to question your authorities to clarify their instructions, ask for opinions if there are multiple ways of tackling a task, and sometimes it is good to criticize them when they are off base. As India is a very authoritarian culture (the opposite of America) it is hard for the locals to ask enough good questions and to have meaningful interactions between people of different levels in a company.

So, just how do people interact in Indian companies? I am not so familiar since I have only observed as a customer. They seem to like to get together to have chai time every day as I also do. I have heard that the lower level employees like to huddle around a higher placed employee or boss. Perhaps they think that their physical proximity to him/her will help the greatness of the boss rub off on them. Or perhaps they feel they will gain more privilege at the company if they do.

But, what if Indian companies adapted a system of letting inexperienced employees lead the entire company? Most people think that their job lacks job satisfaction and meaning. I know a way to give your job meaning. You get to run the entire company for a day or a week. Of course you can’t just let anyone do that. You have to train them and give them smaller responsibilities first to build them up to the level where they can handle an entire company. Additionally, let’s try to remember back in time when we were taking driver’s education. I remember that my teacher had a brake pedal on his side of the car so that if I made a mistake, he could intervene and take over at a moment’s notice. What if running a company were like that and the boss could let someone else manage everything, but if he saw something bad happening, he could step in. It is an interesting concept and I think it would make great material for a reality show, blog, or just plain meaningful gossip. I bet Donald Trump would love a scenario like the one I just described. But, if you mess up…

“You’re FIRED!”