Friday, March 27, 2015

About Time, VA Edition

Although I no longer live in his district, I receive Mike Coffman (R) 6th Congressional District news letters. He is the VA’s harshest critic. He has introduced legislation, "No buildings, no bonuses” that should be a model for all Federal Agencies.

From a recent newsletter.

First and foremost on reform, the bill I introduced makes sure this never happens again by stripping the VA from having any authority to ever manage another major construction project again. Under my legislation the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will manage all future VA hospital projects. Building large-scale projects on time and within budget is their core competency. It is clearly not for the VA.

Secondly, my bill is deficit-neutral by prohibiting VA bonus payments until the Aurora VA hospital is fully operational. Currently the VA is authorized to spend $360 million a year on bonuses and in the 2 1/2 years it will likely take to finish the Aurora hospital, the bonus funds can cover the entire shortfall that exists due to cost overruns. This provision protects taxpayers and focuses the VA’s mission on where it should always be — veterans, not itself. 

What a concept. Your agency isn't doing it’s job, you don't get any bonuses.


Last election cycle, he was the only candidate who received a campaign contribution from me.

Maybe some day I will figure out this whole font thing. 

My representative? Ken Buck. As a freshman he seems determined to suck up and go along 100% with the RINO leadership. Glad I didn't vote for him. That was one race choice I left blank.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rocky Mountain High

With pot now legal in Colorado people from other states ask if things have changed. My observations are hardly a scientific study. Pot use is a lot more open.

Case in point. About 1:30 am last night I stopped by the Post Office and found a check waiting. The credit union, which is in a strip mall with a Safeway Store, is nearby so I stopped and deposited the check. Three individuals were lounging outside the closed Safeway. As I drove by, it was easy to tell they were toking (is that current slang or am I showing my age?) Ages seemed to be twenty to thirty. The store is across the street and two blocks away from the main city police complex. Seemed rather bold to me, legal or not.

What is disturbing is to smell pot while sitting at a red light. I often drive with my window down and at least once a week I smell it. Personally I don't much care what people willingly do unless they involve others in their behaviors. Sharing the road with an impaired driver goes way past my tolerance level. But, what can you do?

One misconception I had was corrected by a neighbor. I thought the street price was lower than the legal stores. He says an ounce at the store is around $100 and on the street around $150. Damn. That kind of money will buy a lot of sour mash.

We don’t seem to have a great increase in traffic accidents attributed to pot. Decreasing the cash flow to criminals seems to me to be a benefit. The drug that is causing the most harm is meth. Maybe it is the circles I move in but I know far too many people who are impacted. It is usually a family member or an entire family. So sad when infants and young children are harmed by the actions of the adults they should be able to depend on.


While there are no easy answers, it seems to me the “War on Drugs” has caused far more harm than the drugs themselves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Austrinken!

Juvat has a amusing post  involving  foreign objects in beverages that dredged up a memory from Army days in Germany circa 1965.

http://oldafsarge.blogspot.com/2015/03/hercules-and-rangers.html

All units have their weirdoes (anyone in them, depending on your point of view) and we were blessed with PFC Hua (Head up ass).

He had a collection of perfume samplers. Each night before sacking out he would put some perfume on his upper lip with the hopes it would induce a wet dream. When successful, he would try to share his dream with us the next morning.

His job was Operations Clerk and the E-7 who ran operations protected him or he would have had a daily ass kicking. He was a pussy. He was also a snitch. Our NCOs knew we were a bunch of hard drinking assholes but, unless something was brought to their attention officially, they didn't want to know.  PFC Hua wasn't liked by the NCOs. They didn't much care for his drunkard boss either.

His worse characteristic was latching himself to our rowdy group as we hit the strasse on pass. One of our miscreants came across a plastic dog turd. You can probably guess what happened. PFC Hua was at the bar in one of Hanau, Germany’s finer drinking establishments boring some unfortunate German civilian when the turd was slipped into his beer. After his next swig, he noticed the turd. He didn’t just spew, he projectile vomited on the unfortunate German civilian. Rad (comrade) was pissed and proceeded to kick PFC Hua’s ass. In the uproar, the plastic turd was recovered and saved for another day. After a suitable time, we pulled the Rad off PFC Hua.

That adventured cured PFC Hua of any further desire to tag along with us.

I was one of the unit’s Pathfinders. (Pathfinder was a term used in our Engineer Group. Real Pathfinders are kick ass Airborne troopers) As such, I had to work with/for PFC Hua and his drunkard E-7 boss. We were a float bridge company with around 100 vehicles. A road march was a major undertaking in that we were using civilian roads and went through small towns with narrow streets. A five ton bridge truck with a tilt bed trailer doesn't fit in a lot of places. The various routes had to be driven, mapped out, and directional signs posted. A time block had to be arranged with the civilian police. Worse, Army MP units would use our road marches as training exercises. That, along with dumb ass Lieutenants making “command decisions”, could result in enormous clusterfucks made worse by us highly trained Pathfinders mapping the wrong routes. Of course, I was never one of the Pathfinders who screwed up. It was always the fault of PFC Hua and his boss. Their circus, their monkeys.

During a road march, we Pathfinders would be stationed at critical junctions. If you were unlucky, this meant you stood in the elements in the middle of nowhere for hours waiting for vehicles from your unit to pass. If you were lucky, you posted up in a small town. Give it an hour or so and some German frau would bring you something to eat or drink. Then it became something of a local competition. We couldn’t accept alcohol but everything else was ok. I remember fondly some of the delicious treats those ladies gave me. Soups and pastries were the usual. Worth standing in the rain with the wind blowing under your poncho, they were.

I have no idea where PFC Hua went after the Army but he would have  been perfect at torturing people and coworkers at a DMV office.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

ATK Engines Saga

Sometime back I mentioned ATK Engines in a blog.


What follows is a very long rambling dissertation on marketing and lessons learned over the years. It will bore many of you. Consider yourselves warned.

My employer at Cowboy Corral, Steve Lance, and Peter Buttterfield, former president of Kia America, remained good friends after he left Kia, and are to this day.

ATK Engines was the oldest remanufacture of automotive type engines in the USA. At some point, Vege of the Netherlands built a plant in Mexico and acquired control of ATK. Peter Butterfield was the new president. I don’t claim to know all the details. Way above my pay grade and, bluntly, I didn’t care.


http://www.atkvege.com/content/

One day Steve was loading some ATVs we were selling along with used cars and Miles electric cars on a tilt bed trailer while I was photographing inventory for our website when he got a call from Butterfield. Seems he wanted Steve to get involved in kick starting a somewhat morbid sales effort. Steve continued to load the trailer with his cell phone in his ear while agreeing to this new scheme. He then hollered at me,

“I’m going to help Buttefield with his sales. You, Johnny and Cody (his sons) are going to do it. You need to come up with a plan.”

Not the most bizarre assignment he ever gave me but a few details would help, don’t you think?

We spent two days in California touring ATK’s operation and meeting people. ATK used a half dozen manufacturer reps for marketing and an inside telephone sales desk with another half dozen employees.

Some of you may have experience with manufacturer reps, or have spent time as one, but I've always found them a breed apart with a high bullshit component. I speak as someone who has used them, worked with them, and performed their functions. It is a challenging way to earn your daily bread.

In any sales force, there will be one or two throat ripping killers. I prided myself on being able to spot them. At ATK, the alpha killer was a thirty something woman. I made it a point to have her be the one to “show me the ropes”.

“What do you need from the outside sales force”, I asked her?

“Make the phone ring”, was her response.

Aha! The bedrock need. Now to plan ways to make it happen. The first part we put together over a long lunch at Hooters. The rest Steve and I put together in the back of the airliner taking us back to Denver. Very sophisticated, it was, written down on a lined yellow pad. What would you expect from cowboys?

The first principal you learn in selling is:
  
   Know your product.
   Have a plan.
   Work your plan.

So simple, and so seldom performed.

Let’s take knowing your product. Critical, yes, but more important is being selective. Don’t take up someone’s time telling them how to make a watch when all they want is to know the time. I had a thirty second presentation, a two minute presentation, and a five minute presentation for my cold calls. My goal was to plant the ATK name in their mind, have my little phone number sticker go on their wall, and create enough curiosity for them to look at my sales literature at their leisure. ATK had a great website with many videos for those who wanted to know if the boring machines were CCM speaking Livonian process code with Chinese symbolism. Me, I didn’t care. Were we ISO 10,260 Sigma 21 certified. Damned if I know but I can look it up for you if that is important to you. Did I mention our free 48 hour shipping? Is that important to you? How about the three year unlimited miles warranty? Can you use that?

Your plan. My belief the best way, and ultimately the best return on you effort, is belly to belly. In the case of ATK, we mapped out every possible place someone might be turning a wrench using Streets and Trips and search engines to identify the wrench turners. I spent long hours setting this up but we were able to make 20+ contacts a day in urban areas. Not so much in rural areas but I wanted to identify as many targets as possible before we hit the road. Plan hard, sell easy.

Work you plan. If you were still at the motel at 7:30 am, you wouldn't be working for me much longer.


Now Peter’s core managers were automotive manufacturer people. Six to seven figures a year compensation level people. I have the highest respect for the people who can do this, the discipline, and the people skills it takes to get there. That said, you may be able to run a supply chain with thirty two vendors, eighteen of them foreign, and use nine banks to get the job done but that doesn't mean you can run a forklift. They didn't understand what we were doing. Once a week they held a teleconference with the manufacturer reps. Such self serving twaddle I've seldom heard. I told Steve I wouldn't be part of it, and it was in his best interest to keep me away from that bunch. As I once told one of the top level managers, “I’m thrown out of more places by 1 pm on Monday than your reps see in a week”.

My response to all the criticism? The phones are ringing. The inside sales people are happy. Income is keeping ahead of expenses. You want to be Debbie Downer? Go somewhere an fuck yourself because I’m not listening.

One call will always stand out in my memory, the LKQ company. LKQ is the major automobile dismantler and seller of used parts in the country. They also sold our engines. We were asked to give an early morning presentation to their inside sales force. Cody Lance and I were tasked. Remember my remark about one or two throat ripping killers? How about a room full? Never have I encountered so many top people. It was a privilege to give them a fifteen minute presentation followed by twenty minutes of intelligent and pertinent questions. I think we did an ok job. A year later LKQ bought control of ATK Engines.

Our major competitor was Jasper Engines, a fine company with a fine product. Their spiffy sales force drove new Dodges and were well dressed. I wore Wranglers and a long sleeved shirt. They proudly parked in front of the business. I parked far away from any potential customer parking spots. Think, dammit! You want to separate the prospect from his money. Yeah, you are giving value. He is looking for a customer to come in and give him money. Think he will love you for filling up his customer parking spots? Are you that damned important? 

Over the years I've made important sales because I was willing to walk a half block. Sitting on the other side as a manager, I can tell you the person who tied up my customer parking better be the best salesperson in the world because they were starting way behind while the ones who showed some respect and consideration by where they parked were people I wanted to talk with. They had something on the ball and maybe they had something I could use to make money.


In sales, you must be strong enough to occasionally show the customer the mistletoe on your coat tails. A vivid memory is from a NAPA store in Levelland, TX. Smart ass thirty something grandson of the owner kept me waiting. Ok, part of the game. Then he said, in a snotty voice, “I get my engines from……, so???????? (Implying why don’t you turn tail and git?)

My response? “NAPA is a major customer, but not our only customer. As a courtesy to NAPA, we always call on the NAPA store first. Be assured, before this day is over, I will find someone in Levelland, TX interested in my engines”. 

After that reset, we had a two minute conversation. I can only guess what conversation the grandfather had with the grandson after I left.

All things come to an end as did Steve’s deal with Butterfield. I had other things that interested me and moved on. Still, it was an experience. I was in places as diverse as Fargo, ND, Alpine, TX, Cortez, CO and Jackson Hole, WY.

A word of caution to those who might be foolish enough to emulate me. I would have been far more “successful” in business by being more cautious and cunning. I always operated about one needle width off redline with little care for what others thought of me. Money was never my God, and never was my primary motivator. I never agonized over decisions. Rather, I shot from the hip. If you were to summarize my business career with only one word, that would be “unbalanced”. At the end of the day, I can say I’m at ease with how I've lived and what I've done. My motivator was, and is, results. YMMV

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Poodle Shooter

This is my problem. I have macular degeneration in my right eye since 2005. It hasn't worsened but I’m now left eye dominant.

Since I was never much good with a handgun, this is no big deal. I’m still able to hit a paper plate at twenty feet.

In 2014 I needed, and received, a pacemaker in my left chest. The cardiologist says no to shooting a long gun left handed, anything with recoil. Does this mean I’m restricted to a poodle shooter?


I would like to hear from others who may have this problem or anyone with good suggestions. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Three Cheers for Boring

The things I hear from people I’m around continue to surprise me.

   Family members in jail/prison/probation.
   People with ignition interlocks (DUI).
   Family members dead from drug overdoses.
   Family members having babies with no wedded father.
   Households with a mix of boyfriends, nieces, nephews, grandparents.
   Children growing up with a revolving door of adults in their lives.
   Children moving from household to household.


Damn, I lead a boring personal  life, and I am thankful I do.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Down the Rabbit Hole

Where I compare anti gun (P)regressives with anti gay zealots.

A friend from high school days and I have coffee from time to time and discuss politics. While we seldom agree, we disagree without being disagreeable. In fact, I admire and respect the passion she brings to her points of view. She has literally put both her physical, social, and professional well being on the line many times. Once I was talking about firearms rights and she interjected, “What about my right to feel safe”?

That is precisely the problem. One person’s rights ends where someone else’s feelings begin. We are a nation of some 310,000,000 or so with a firearms death rate, minus suicides, of around 20,000 a year. That is statistically insignificant (unless you or a loved one is among the 20,000). Yet enormous funds and efforts are expended to ban firearms. Let us not delude ourselves, “common sense” firearm control measures are just a step towards outright bans.

Homosexuals make up about 3% of the population from what I read. From what I read, their orientation is hard wired; that is the way they are. Although I can’t find hard numbers, say another 10% of the population is gender ambivalent. Yet again enormous funds and efforts are expended passing laws that are not enforceable. Again, not to delude ourselves, religious beliefs are behind most of the anti homosexual efforts.

What is wrong with just leaving people the hell alone to get on with their lives? Answer?  Hate.

People seem to have a need to gather themselves into groups where hate is socially acceptable, even worthy of praise, within the group. They are not content unless forcing dominion over others and demanding everyone embrace their values and world view. Usually mixed into the brew is a financial benefit to some in the group or the ability to operate without getting shot.

An armed society is an egalitarian society. 

I cannot say homosexuals have directly impacted my life. Could be I’m just not that attractive. What has impacted my life through relations with family and friends are pedophiles. Strangely, most of the pedophiles were bent heterosexual.


I believe I have a right to defend my physical safety to include others who may be around me. I have no right to not feel uncomfortable when someone else’s rights are in question. Tolerance is the principal here.  YMMV