May 28, 2009

Cutting the fat, Spa City style

Some random, free-form thoughts on the current disussion in Saratoga about the need to axe the budget of the Department of Public Safety as the most logical means of dealing with the city's looming budget difficulties:


In case anyone hasn't noticed; Saratoga is an upper-middle class community. It's daily life is dominated by:

a) Outbound commuters that vacate the town in the AM for jobs further south down the Northway.

b) Retired, semi-retired and minimally employed (by their own choice) folks who waste the days away walking their dogs, sitting in coffee shops and volunteering for community service groups.

c) Capital Region tourists during 9 months of the year, with the occasional influx of small-sized convention attendees and a large scale influx of regional/east coast tourist for six weeks in the summer.

Simply put, the above constituencies tend to be rather well-behaved.

Housing prices are such that individuals prone to breaking the law / committing crimes are 'priced' out of the city.


1. The above realities and facts are not conducive to the scale and scope of the public safety force that this city currently has.

2. Granted, the city has unique needs during that 6-week summer onslaught, BUT its public safety force should not be sized as if it were a 52-week setting.

And finally--to those of you that are confused over the cause & effect relationships between crime rates and police force size & presence:

Might I suggest you go take a Research 101 course at a local institute of higher learning?

Finally: please note that this city is generally recognized as being "one of the most vibrant" and "successful" cities in all of New York State. So why, then, is it experiencing fiscal difficulties that rival those being flet by less-fortunate local governments acrosss the Empire State?

A very simple answer: incompetence.


May 17, 2009

The Dumb Get Dumber

OK, class. Here is today’s business case study:

The Setting:

You own a 100+ year-old business with great historical significance. Unfortunately, your industry is in serious decline, brought on by matters both outside of your own control and matters under your domain that you, frankly, screwed up over the decades. Whereas you once dominated your field, you are now nothing more than an afterthought to the general public, described by some as an anachronism of another age. As a result, your enterprise is on the brink of total failure. In fact, you are currently in formal bankruptcy proceedings.

At your height, you were open for business six months out of the year, with crowds swelling your facility. Fast forward to the present day, and we find that you are operational for just twenty days a year. Even then, very few people show up, and those that do are the retired, the elderly and various incarnations of the derelict class. It’s not a pretty sight.

What keeps you going -- albeit by the slimmest of threads – is a single day within that twenty; a day that serves as the proverbial exception to the rule. By a beneficial fluke, that one spring time afternoon gathers you international attention and serves as an annual regional celebration for those within a ten-hour drive of your front door. And celebrate they do, over 100,000 typically show up for each edition.

Best of all; these attendees are the very target demographic that hold the key to any chance of your future survival – they are young, educated, energetic, and with enough discretionary dollars in their pockets that they will even toss you $50 apiece to walk through your gate for this grand party. Wow!

More people show up on this single day than on the other nineteen combined. They also spend more money – by a huge factor – than the other nineteen combined. Treat them right, and most of them will be back again next year. Hopefully, a smaller percentage of them will even make a return visit on one of those slower days on your calendar.

The Challenge:

What single action might this business take as a mean of leveraging this particular asset in its quest to improve it chances of survival?

Current Management’s Response:

Make a policy decision that is so utterly stupid that it greatly diminishes their desire to attend your annual event.

The Result:

2009 attendance was down dramatically, resulting in significant financial pain for the business. Goodwill has been seriously damaged, thus leaving open the possibility that this customer segment is permanently lost.


So what is the real world identity behind this fiasco? The answer: Magna Entertainment Corporation and its handling of Preakness Day at its Baltimore area thoroughbred horse racing track, Pimlico.

What was the action Magna initiated that resulted in this unfortunate turn of events? The answer: a new admission policy that forbids the entry of coolers and alcohol into the infield party on Preakness Day.

What was Magna’s rationale behind this decision? The answer: The infield party on Preakness Day had become an orgy of drunken excess that was creating a public safety issue.

What was the public’s reaction? The answer: “Let me get this straight: this event serves as my yearly reunion with friends and you won’t let me bring in a cooler after I pay $50 to stand in a field? We're outta here. There's a rock festival up the road”

The Conclusion:

Chalk this up as yet another example of a business – and an industry – that hasn’t a clue.

May it serve as a lesson to NYRA @ Saratoga .....

Update--the official attendance figures over recent years:

Year - Attendance

2009 - 77,850
2008 - 112,222
2007 - 121,263
2006 - 118,402
2005 - 115,318
2004 - 112,668
2003 - 100,268
2002 - 101,138
2001 - 104,454


May 15, 2009

Psssst: Who's Your Dealer?

OK, I need some help here on this:

Question: How is cutting the size of their dealer networks benefiting GM and Chrysler in theor quest to rise from the quicksand?

Granted, there might be too many dealers out there, with some of them encountering profitability concerns in these tough times. But that should be a problem for the dealers, not for the manufacturers. After all, these dealers are independent businesses, buying inventory from Detroit with the hope of re-selling it in their market and servicing their customer base. They are not on GM or Chrysler’s payroll.

Follow-up Question: If two Chrysler dealers are currently operating within a certain geographic range – each with 6 sales people – that makes for a total of twelve of them hawking this brand of vehicles. Knowing that the cost of this sales force doesn’t isn’t borne by Chrysler, isn’t having twelve sales people more advantageous than having six? Not to mention two separate ad budgets being put to work instead of one.

Finally: Doesn’t a smaller franchise network generally lower the value of the franchisor?

Just wondering…

May 4, 2009

The future of radio?

"AM/FM radio has about five good years left, if that. And what we consider to be radio today will be on the Internet. And the Internet websites will be media stations."

- Michael Harrison; founder and publisher of Talkers magazine, the talk-radio industry's trade journal

It sure is refreshing to find someone in this guy's position who's not denying reality for the sake of acting as his industry's cheerleader.