Business Tips from the Music World

I attended an orchestra concert tonight for the orchestra I will be joining in January and it made me think about how playing in an orchestra is just like being on a business team. Here are some tips I thought about:

  1. If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired. This is a mantra I’ve heard from several conductors. Now, the last part of that may not be true for most orchestras not playing at a professional level, but for the most part, if you are playing in a professional orchestra, you will most likely be fired. Same goes for work. Show up late often enough and sure enough, you’ll be fired
  2. Follow the leader. In business, you usually have a boss. In orchestra, that boss is usually your first chair. The conductor is your one-over/skip-level (manger of your manager).
  3. Rehearse for that big presentation. Never go cold turkey into a meeting with a leader or executive.  Same goes for orchestra. Never go to a rehearsal without practicing and never perform in a concert without having at least one rehearsal.
  4. The final product is the only thing that matters. You may have spent a week without sleep working on that deck for the executive; five seconds into the presentation, he rips it apart. You spend months developing that new iPhone app, but the customer finds it overly complex and you end up making no money. Same goes for orchestra. You may have spent countless hours in rehearsal and self-practice, but the only thing that matters to the audience is that final concert. If you sound bad, they think you’re bad. No second chances.

I’m sure I’ll have more soon, but these are ones I wanted to record.

Business Rule #2: Accepting That You’re (Almost) Never the Smartest Person in the Room

I once had the privilege of hearing Peter Grauer, CEO of Bloomberg, L.P., speak about his career. Although the story of how he had met Bloomberg was quite intriguing (their daughters attended the same horseback riding class), the most important lesson I got out of the speech was that Peter Grauer knew he was never the smartest person in a room.

You are never the smartest person in the room.

If you start taking this approach when you come to meetings, work, or anything really, you will soon realize that you have a lot to learn from everyone else, regardless of how much you think you already know.

Using Dollar-Cost Averaging as an Investing Strategy

I have heard arguments both for and against Dollar-Cost Averaging, but I use it and have found it to be quite useful as passive investing strategy.  I will explain what it is and why you should use it for investing, especially if you have limited knowledge of the markets.

What is Dollar-Cost Averaging?

In simple terms, Dollar-Cost Averaging is a way of buying a stock index (think S&P 500) or an individual stock with the same amount of money at regular intervals (every month or every quarter) so as to reduce the risk that the stock market might go down.

As a new college graduate, you may be hearing people say you should be investing in your company’s 401K or some other sort of investment vehicle. But assuming you figure out how to do that, what should you invest in?

With the abundance of media nowadays, I’m sure that you know what the stock market is and have seen a stock ticker on TV. Let’s say you see that GE is priced at $20. What does that mean to you?

Unless you’ve been tracking the stock market for a while, that $21 is just a number. It has no meaning to you. You may know the number of stocks outstanding, etc and so can calculate the “Market Capitalization” of a company, but does this really mean anything to you? If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, don’t worry.

Now let’s say you invested $1000 into GE so you have 50 shares of GE stock ($1000/$20 per share) in January. You don’t check your stock for a few months and come back to see the value of your investment in October (10 months). Oh no! The share price dropped to $15 so your investment is now worth $750 (50 shares * $15 per share). You just lost $250!

Enter Dollar-Cost Averaging. Let’s say that instead of investing the $1000 all at once, you decided to invest $100 per month during those 10 months. Let’s look at the example below:

DCA Analysis GE
DCA doesn’t always give a better return than investing all your money in the beginning, especially when dividends are factored in, but it does give you a simple way to invest your money without having to worry when the market is going to take a dive. In fact, if the market does dive, you’ll be buying more shares for the same amount of money which will amplify the gains when the market does turn around.As you can see, with the smaller contributions every month, you actually only lose $38!

To learn more about the benefits and risks of DCA, just search Google. There are plenty of articles about it.

How to Start Dollar-Cost Averaging?

Investing along can be a daunting task when starting out, but it can become even more complex when trying to learn how to invest with DCA. First you need to find a broker. Search Google for one of these, or look below, and maker sure they support Dollar-Cost Averaging investing, sometimes called Systematic investing.

Once you have an account open, you must fund the account, making sure that the account will fund itself automatically for the interval you want to use DCA for, and then start using DCA.

Brokers who Support Dollar-Cost Averaging

DISCLAIMER: The investing ideas suggested in this article are informational only and I do not hold any responsibility for losses when using the method above or any other investing strategy. I currently hold positions in POMIX, DBMIX, and DISSX with no plans of selling in the next 60 days.

“News Style” Writing Format Provides Vehicle for Clear, Concise Communication

Concise communication can be achieved by structuring the communication in a format similar to a newspaper article:

  1. Headline
  2. Summary sentence with important details (who, what, when, where, how, why)
  3. Background and details

Last week at work, I helped facilitate a class on how to communicate effectively. The presentation was mainly about communicating in a manner that flows like a newspaper article in order to get the main point with crucial information across quickly.

I never realized that when you read a newspaper article, all the crucial information is in the first few sentences, if not just the headline. With the advent of cellphones, getting a message across in a concise manner is vital. After all  that’s the principal Twitter was founded on. I have often scrolled through the various news apps I have on my phone, zipping right by major news articles, yet feeling as if I already knew what the articles were about.  One of the most fascinating things I learned in this class is that newspaper articles are designed so that you can read up to any point in the article and still feel like you’re at the end, having already consumed all the important information.

During the presentation, we learned that you can apply this technique to business emails, but I have also realized its importance in verbal communication.

Applying News Style to Email

One way you can organize your emails using the news format is to include key information in the subject and quick bullets in the body.

Subject: Complete and Send Me Budget Spreadsheet before Annual Budget Meeting on Monday @ 10am



I need the following from you before Monday:


    • Complete budget spreadsheet
    • Vet spreadsheet with me

Next Steps:

    • Once spreadsheet is ready, I will distribute to meeting attendees prior to meeting

Thank you,

Applying News Style to Conversations

News style can also be applied to conversations by starting a informational verbal communication with a summary of the message followed by any details you wish to convey. This is perfect if you need to communicate an important piece of information without providing too much background in case the person you are trying to communicate to does not have the time for additional information.

Following the presentation, I noticed a conversation I had where I should have used the “news style” method. Here is what it probably sounded like:

Person 1: Have you looked into how to play three-player racquetball?
Me: Yea. I actually played on Friday. There were these two guys playing racquetball in the gym so I decided to ask if I could join. I actually had met them a week or so ago and exchanged numbers, but I ran into them again playing so I decided to ask if I could join them. We ended up playing a version called cut-throat. It is essentially where one player serves and the other two players receive it. However, once the ball is served anyone can return it.
Person 1: So it is not really two “teams”?
Me: No. That’s why it is called cut-throat. The last person who returns the ball gets the ball.
Person 1:Ah. The version I played was where there was one server and two returners and the ball had to be hit by alternating between the server and the original returners.
Me: Yea. That’s definitely not how my version worked, but we did change how we played it halfway through.


This conversation was actually a bit more in depth, but you can see the level of detail and disorganization that existed in our conversation.  I have a habit (that I need to kick) of not answering a question directly, instead feeding details into my conversations to form a story. At the start of my job, I was given the feedback that I need to frame conversations when I run a meeting with people who are unfamiliar with the topic. I think I took this framing too far recently, incorporating the concept into all of my communication instead of just in meetings.

A revised conversation of the one above using a modified “news style” format could have been:

Person 1: Have you looked into how to play three-player racquetball?
Me: Yea. I played a three person game called cut-throat last Friday with some people who live in my apartment complex. We could play a modified version of that game.”
Person 1: That sounds great. How do you play?
Me: Essentially one player serves and the other two players receive it. However, once the ball is served, anyone can return it.
Person 1: That’s different than the two player game I have played, but we can give it a go.

By summarizing the details into one sentence, I was able to eliminate the unnecessary details that provided no additional substance to the conversation. The co-worker did not care about how I had met the people from the apartment complex, he just wanted to know whether I knew how to play a three person game. I not only leaned the conversation, I actually answered the question.

I know people who are notorious for these sorts of conversations where they will often talk without even allowing interjections by other parties. In addition to being concise, you also want to leave plenty of “space” in the conversation to allow other parties to provide commentary so that a conversation does not become a monologue. As you can see, in the ideal conversation above, by eliminating the details and only focusing on the core point, I allowed my co-worker to ask questions, facilitating a conversation.

Favorite Sport

As I explained in my post titled “Where is your favorite place to innovate?”, my favorite sport has become racquetball because of the way I can “zone” and and think while playing it. I wanted to know what other sports you use to relax, network, or just have fun with.