Graph Gross Margin



Mytwelve month moving average of your gross margin executive coaching clients and readers of this blog have found my quick and easy Trailing Twelve Month tool very useful. You can download the Excel spreadsheet for free here.

I also encourage my CEO clients to keep a close eye on margins. I have modified the Trailing Twelve Month tool to show monthly results and long-term trends for your business’s margin. The key difference is that since margin is a percentage it makes no sense to look at the sum of twelve months of margins. This new spreadsheet instead shows the twelve-month moving average of your gross margin. Download it by clicking here.



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Graphic Knowledge? How Infographics May Mislead

Pop vs Soda for USAWe all see a lot of graphics pretending to portray reality but we need to be cautious consumers of these images. They can bypass some of our analytic, linguistic centers and go right to our emotional brain, often leaving incorrect or incoherent impressions. The chart to the left is an excellent example of a graphic that overstates its case and obscures data.

I am a perennial proponent of graphically presenting financial data, so it was no surprise when a client emailed this graphic to the members of one of my CEO executive coaching groups. It purports to show where in the United States people prefer the words soda, Coke, or pop as a generic term for soft drink. “Soft drink,” of course, is a phrase only a bureaucrat would use in conversation, being a term better reserved for print. I grew-up in the center of “sodaville,” so I have often wondered as I traveled what the norms and borders are.

This graphic is more useful as an example of bad information presentation than as a guide to what to say in an out-of-town restaurant.

Notice that significant portions of the country are 50% or below in usage of the depicted term. Why then are then are these counties given a color very similar to the shade indicating the dominant term? The majority might use some other term for soft drinks, but then the map wouldn’t make it so easy for the viewer to draw (possibly wrong) regional conclusions. Also, why the odd choice of intervals: 30-50 (20% range), 50-80 (30%), and 80-100 (20%)? Suggests some cherry picking of data to make the map seem even more regionally coherent. The underlying data hardly merits such a powerful representation, since it is from a self-selected group of people who visited an obscure web page and bothered to respond, that is, people with nothing better to do. It is not random, scientific, or representative. Look at some of the responses in the “Other” category, for example: “headlice,” “Fizzy Giggle,” and “Kristina is HOT!!!”

A picture is worth a 10,000 words but may convey subtly inaccurate ideas. Stop, look, and think.

Recording Meetings and Podcasts



XLR3 cable connectors, female on left and male...
Image via Wikipedia

The problem is that consumer recording equipment is unshielded; cell phones, florescent lights, etc. radiate energy that can induce a current that becomes noise. My solution is to use professional equipment with laptop recording software. It is more money and trouble, but the quality is very high.

Step 1: Get a mic mixer for the PC, so that you can use professional mics. I prefer the ones that plug into the USB or FIREWIRE port so that I can bypass the internal sound card. Others connect to the “LINE IN” jack of your sound card, if it has one (not the computer’s MIC jack).

I no longer use the M-Audio MobilePre USB – 2 Channel USB Mic Preamp with XLR and 1/8″ Stereo Miniplug Mic Inputs

I changed to the Lexicon Lambda just because it works under Vista and Windows 7.

Step 2: Buy an appropriate mic. If the mic does not (more…)

Help customers find your business online

Several people have asked me how I got such high Google rankings for my blog so quickly. I would like to think it is due to the fantastic content but it may have more to do with following expert advice. I simply implemented tactics described in my CEO executive coaching client Raj Khera‘s blog and got impressive results.

Here are the details:

Practical SEO
and other online marketing strategies

Top Executive Coaching–Delivered

Click to see larger image

I have just added a new, free feature to this blog. You can get an email each time a new item is posted with a summary of the post and a link direct to the complete article. Each email also includes a simple, one-click unsubscribe link, so you can stop at any time. Your address is not used for any other purpose or shared for any reason.

Enter your email address:

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Just enter your address and click. That’s all there is to it–no other information is required.

Sharing your calendar

I no longer use this method.

I now rely on Schedule Once

I Click to see larger imagekeep a graphic representation of my calendar on the World Wide Web so clients can choose the best times to request appointments with me. It is just an image of my availability; I do not reveal with whom I am meeting. Clients still need to contact my office to set the actual appointment. Here is the link to my availability calendar:

Clients and other coaches often ask how I do this. I created a simple (more…)

Graph your results. Grasp your future.



I have been repeatedly surprised to hear from many of my CEO executive coaching clients that, of all the many skills needed for the top job, one area where they often readily admit weakness is in financial insight. They rely on their accountants or a “numbers geek” to watch and even interpret company results. A fundamental reason for this blind spot is, I believe, that so many CEOs are highly visual, intuitive thinkers. Rows of precise digits are not their preferred form of communication. It is essential, therefore, to display financial and quantitative data visually to have it used and absorbed by these executives.

A second flaw in most (more…)

Spam Text Messages

Here is a timely article from David Pogue of the New York Times on how to stop most unwanted, advertising and nuisance text messages:

AT&T: Log in at Under Preferences, you’ll see the text-blocking and alias options. Here’s also where you can block messages from specific e-mail addresses or Web sites.

Verizon Wireless: Log in at Under Text Messaging, click Preferences. Click Text Blocking. You’re offered choices to block text messages from e-mail or from the Web. Here again, you can block specific addresses or Web sites.

Full article and advice for other carriers is here.