Saturday, February 20, 2010

Business Schools Tap Veterans' Potential

There's a growing effort among business schools to attract former military members into their MBA programs. Veterans are often prized for their leaderships skills and alternative perspective. In addition, "they've been responsible for lives, which brings a gravitas to classroom discussion," says Deirdre Leopold, director of admissions at Harvard Business School. Harvard, which relies on students' personal experiences to drive the school's case study method, reports that veterans comprise 3% of the class of 2011.

Even though business schools are seeking them out, veterans often have trouble paying MBA tuition, which can cost upwards of $150,000 for two years. As a result, schools have started offering large scholarships, often in partnership with the government. An increase in government funding through the Post 9/11 GI Bill, and the Yellow Ribbon Program, which gives a lump sum payment to each student beyond the GI Bill's offer, have also helped.

The same qualities that make veterans attractive to business schools have also caught the attention of corporate recruiters. "They automatically know how to work in a team and they have respect," says Stacy Blackman, an M.B.A. admissions consultant and president of Stacy Blackman Consulting in Los Angeles. Bill Brenton, director of the leverage finance group at Credit Suisse Group, says a recent internal study found that employees with military backgrounds tend to be very successful, often due to a sense of discipline and ability to build camaraderie.

Build a stronger business by utilizing people with transferable skills from non-traditional backgrounds.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Can Love Be a Science?

Is true love a science? Plenty of online dating sites say it is., which features a questionnaire developed by a biological anthropologist, is supposedly designed to predict a couple's compatibility based on traits of temperament and on brain chemistry., goes several steps further: they aim to use genetic testing to create that now-not-so-magical romantic chemistry (cheek swabbing kit, DNA processing, and a criminal and bankruptcy background check are all included in the $1,995.95 lifetime membership).

Both sites are an extension of the idea originally developed, which suggests that certain areas of compatibility – like values and important experiences – are solid predictors of relationships success. "In the long haul, you want to be able to manage conflicts, celebrate positives and get through the day-to-day relationship. Our system is there to take care of that so you can now focus on who you find really attractive, that you feel really passionate about, says Gian Gonzaga, eHarmony's senior director of research and development.

Online dating is a $976 million annual industry in the U.S., according to estimates from the research firm Marketdata Enterprises. Sites like and eHarmony are building brand identity when they target people who are looking for relationships instead of just dating. In turn, they are able to charge more per subscriber.

Creating a positive business relationship with your customers and partners also involves managing conflicts, celebrating wins, and making progress through day-to-day issues.

Build a stronger business by being aware of how you structure and maintain your business relationships and being open to constructive feedback.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A New Way to Pay

If you're ten years old, you can't use your own credit card to buy dog food at the local store. But now you can buy digital dog food for a online pet in much the same manner - using Kwedit. As reported in The New York Times, a new payment option has just become available to anyone, no matter how young they are. In the new system, a "Kwedit Promise" is used to buy items in games by FooPets and Puzzle Pirates. The items can be paid off later using a regular credit or debit card; with cash sent in a provided mailer; or by printing a barcode, taking it to your local 7-Eleven, and paying cash there.

FooPets, which has over a million active members and signs up 20,000 to 25,000 new members each day, lets users adopt lifelike digitally animated pets and then buy virtual goods for them - everything from a bag of puppy chow for $3 to a bungalow for $333 - using Kwedit. "Buy now, pay later" is always a seductive marketing tool. Users are encouraged to pay the actual funds they owe by the fact that they accrue a Kwedit score, similar to a regular credit score, and more Kwedit is extended to each user based on his or her history of repayment. But since the marginal cost of virtual goods is negligible, there's no serious risk of major financial loss if the promise is not repaid.

Like FooPets and similar systems - considered "nurturing games" that encourage responsibility and other adult lessons - Kwedit is a way to introduce young people to important ideas in a relatively safe environment.

You can build a stronger business by applying the "nurturing games" concept to your customer service.