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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Loyal Pennings is the life of the party. The man behind some of Los Angeles’s hottest nightclubs, Pennings has become a fixture in the local scene. He has been partying with almost every A-list celebrity in Hollywood over the past two decades. He was there when Leonardo DiCaprio celebrated his rise to stardom as the great Titanic sunk again on the big screen. He was also witness to Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears’s love affair as it went public. Indeed, Pennings’s establishments are venues for almost every major Hollywood revelry. But behind the glitz and glamour, there is an entrepreneur at work.

Pennings’s involvement in the nightlife business began as a semester project, when a professor asked the then-young entrepreneur and industrialist to write about something he knew well. He chose to develop a plan for a mock restaurant night club, and later on decided to pursue this plan. He purchased a twelve thousand square foot space, borrowed some money from friends and relatives and put up his very first club, Loco Ranchero, when he was twenty years old.

Since then, Pennings has opened a series of hotspots that attracted the most popular figures in Hollywood. He admits that he’s had more fun throwing parties than partying himself, which is why his establishments remain afloat.

Pennings is well aware that any of his establishments can be it today and gone tomorrow. Throughout the years, the entrepreneur has reinvented strategies to keep his businesses in line. Instead of rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, Pennings mostly stays behind the scenes, observing and creating the winning formula for the right decor, music, and A-list clientele.

At the top of his game, Pennings sure does seem to have figured out the right kind of party mix.

During the economic recession, a man named Brent Peterson lost his job, along with forty thousand other Circuit City employees when the company went bankrupt. Focused on finding a new job, he spent a couple of months of intense preparation to secure a new job — and he succeeded.

In his new job, he was able to interview other candidates for job openings, and soon learned why great people weren’t getting hired. From that experience, Peterson sought to create something innovative to help people ace their job interviews and ultimately land their dream job. Thus, Interview Angel was born.

The idea for Interview Angel began in mid-2008. For the past three years, the company has helped over 100,000 prepare for their job interviews through the “padfolio,” composed of interview preparation worksheets, checklists, and templates useful during the application process. The company prides itself for creating something that all people with different professional experiences. Even those who have become a bit rusty will find this binder a useful partner when hunting for a new job.

As one of the seven small, innovative companies for 2010, Interview Angel has been contacted by local governments, universities, non-profit agencies, and corporations to empower students and current employees improve their chances of securing a career amidst economic crisis or severe competition. Private individuals can also avail the company’s product if they wish to make it on their own.

Offering a portable guide to being hired, Interview Angel is a socially relevant company which makes a significant difference in the lives of others through its product. The company has helped thousands of people change the course of career since 2008 and continues to do so until today. In this regard, Interview Angel is surely one of the most innovative businesses in the industry.

Seasoned businesswoman Lin Merage has served since January 2004 as the Chief Executive Officer and Business Manager of Solne Collections. Based in Denver, Colorado, Solne offers a wide range of eco-friendly products that work in harmony with the planet to heal it. As the leader of Solne, Ms. Merage spearheads the organization’s movement to transform culture and the world.

Lin Merage takes her role as a leader at Solne very seriously, and she has organized a wide array of initiatives to help the company achieve its missions, both ecological and business-related. Ms. Merage belongs to a number of professional organizations, including the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Green Building Council, Green America, Sustainable Industries, and the Organic Trade Association.

Lin Merage has participated in a variety of conferences and other gatherings related to business, including the Pacific Coast Builders Conference and West Coast Green, as well as summits promoting new ideas and green concepts sponsored by the AlwaysOn Network, LLC. Active in a broad range of arenas, she participates around her community and has joined the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce. She also supports the interests of young people, including education, literacy, and elimination of hunger. Ms. Merage runs a small foundation to support her various charitable concerns.

A resident of Denver, Lin Merage splits her time between her work as Solne’s CEO and her numerous hobbies and interests, including hiking, gardening, boating, and supporting the arts through organizations such as the Denver Art Museum.

Walmart

image via Jared C. Benedict

With thousands of stores located all across the planet, Wal-Mart is easily the largest general retail chain store in the entire world. It’s hard to imagine that only half a decade ago, this super store was just a small start-up business started by Sam Walton; but through Walton’s pioneering concepts, Wal-Mart became what it is today.

Walton was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma in 1918 but was raised in Missouri. He was exposed to retailing at a young age; his father operated a small store to support the family, aside from being a mortgage banker. Growing up during the Great Depression, Walton had to tend to matters at home as much as those at school. He earned extra money by milking cows and delivering milk and newspapers to people in the neighborhood.

After graduating from college, Walton served briefly during World War II. He took over his first variety store at the age of 26 after the war marking the beginning of his career in retailing.

The retail success story of Walton began in 1962, with the opening of the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas. His management style, coupled with effective marketing strategies, made the store a hit with consumers. Soon, a chain of Walt-Mart stores sprang across America.

One basic concept of management Walton first introduced is the “profit sharing plan.” This plan is made especially for Wal-Mart employees; he believed that happy employees meant happy customers, thus increasing sales. With this plan, employees can increase their income dependent on the store’s profit and become part of the company’s success. Walton also implemented a unique decentralized distribution system, which created the edge to further spur the growth of the superstore.

The discounting dynamo was able to turn Wal-Mart into the largest U.S. retailer by 1991. He passed away a year later as the second richest man in America, behind Bill Gates.

Even after a decade from his passing, Sam Walton’s legacy is still a benchmark for success.

If you want something done, sometimes you just have to do it yourself. Take the case of Darren Samuelson, who is so into large-format photography he built his own huge camera. Photography has been around for quite some time and is defined as the “art or process of producing images on photosensitive surfaces”.

Before photographs could be taken, the camera had to be invented. The camera’s creation was not a onetime event. Camera innovations go back hundreds of years. It took many different inventions and many different types of cameras to arrive at the modern camera. With advancements in technology we now have the digital camera, which is itself being constantly improved.

A camera is “a lightproof enclosure having an aperture with a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate”. With this knowledge, Samuelson, who is not an engineer but a sushi chef by profession, built a camera. It took him seven months to build and cost $1,800.

To be able to focus, the lens must be moved back and forth until the desired image is achieved. Samuelson’s camera lens is mounted on rails and is made lightproof with an accordion-type cloth enclosure. The result? A camera that can stretch up to six feet long, is around five feet all, and weighs seventy pounds! It had to be this large to accommodate the fourteen-inch by thirty-six-inch film he wanted to use. Since photography film gets more expensive with size, he resorted to an existing technology: x-ray film, which is one-twelfth the price of traditional large-format film.

To handle (or manhandle) this camera, you first have to focus it by looking through its grounded glass back. When the right focus is achieved, the lens is shut with a cap and x-ray film is inserted. Then the lens is opened to allow light in, hitting and exposing the x-ray film, and closed again.

The resulting photo is very detailed and will remain sharp even if it is enlarged to half the size of a volleyball court. His unique camera has enabled him to exhibit his work at the Inclusions Gallery in San Francisco.

We now know Samuelson’s definition of large frame photography: it’s a HUGE success!

Vision and ambition: two words that come to mind when remembering Steve Jobs. His passion for technological innovation sometimes came at the expense of compassion for human beings. His business practices left employees, industry rivals, and customers with wildly varied opinions. However, in the wake of his passing, one thing can be agreed on: Steven Paul Jobs was a shrewd entrepreneur.

In public, employees treated Jobs like a king. Anonymously, they called him a despot. Apple’s board of directors overthrew Jobs in 1985. The absence of his leadership and uncanny vision, however, proved detrimental. Jobs’ reinstatement a decade later marked the beginning of a new era for Apple. In time, the scorn he earned for his strict attitude toward business was replaced with admiration for “running a tight ship.”

Public opinion of Jobs ran the gamut. The introduction of his creative innovations (such as the iTouch, iPhone, and iPad) were invariably met with excitement from fans. Diehard Apple customers were known to camp outside stores the night before a gadget’s release. On the other end of the spectrum, open source advocates criticized Apples high prices and implementation of closed platforms.

Steve Jobs introduces the iPad. Image via Matt Buchanan

Jobs’ business acumen was indisputable. Under his leadership, Apple products set the standard all other electronic products aspired to reach. He also reversed the fortunes of a losing company, acquiring shares at a business as controversial as himself, Disney.

In retrospect, one can’t help but wonder about the future of Apple. Jobs hand-picked Tim Cook as his successor. But time will tell if Cook possesses the vision and ambition to keep Apple at the top.

In his role as Vice President of Outsourcing Services at Cameo Corporate Services Limited, Ashok Bagdy oversees the company’s Healthcare Outsourcing Division. He works closely with clients to resolve and follow up on issues and develops new business for Cameo, among his other responsibilities. Ashok Bagdy sat down with us to share the qualities he believes can propel anyone to success in entrepreneurial or other business ventures.

First and foremost, Ashok Bagdy recommends that individuals pursue work they enjoy. A technology and business expert, Mr. Bagdy enjoys the challenge of increasing efficiency. His interest in technological solutions to ongoing business problems led him to introduce speech recognition products at Cameo Corporate Services Limited and cut production costs by implementing new processes. Ashok Bagdy’s strong belief in the superiority of these solutions assisted him in communicating their advantages to his clients and other Cameo executives.

Planning is equally pivotal to corporate and individual success. Before executing any initiative, Ashok Bagdy thoroughly researches the existing situation, hypothesizes the likely positive and negative outcomes of each potential course of action, and considers what hurdles may occur en route. For a company of any size, failure to plan can seriously affect financial stability and potentially threaten the business’s continued existence.

Similarly, Mr. Bagdy encourages readers to remember their first priority: the customer. Without customers, no comprehensive plan or bold initiative will bring greater renown, stability, or success to any company. To attract customers, Ashok Bagdy focuses on projecting a professional image that will please current clients while attracting new ones. Creating a favorable impression carries greater potential to generate lasting business than any other technique.

Some women might not easily recover from the unenviable situation of being released from a top executive post at one of the largest banks in the world. But the former president of Bank Of America’s (BofA) Wealth Management division cannot be routinely dismissed under the label of “some women.”

Until her firing from BofA last month (resulting from an internal power-clique reorganization of her operations’s executive structure), Sallie Krawcheck was largely acknowledged as the most formidable female executive presence on all of Wall Street. In so many words, it’s been speculated that Krawcheck never fully penetrated the “old-boys” executive network at BofA.

Despite her sudden departure from her lofty position at that bank, however, American Banker magazine still ranked Krawcheck among the top twenty honorees at its annual Most Powerful Women In Banking awards ceremony held in New York earlier this month. She can add that distinction to the other awards that have been bestowed upon her in recent years by Fortune magazine, U.S. Banker, Forbes, CNBC, and Time magazine, among others.

Krawcheck is notable for her accomplishments outside of the financial industry, as well. Bucking the stereotypes of a typical aspiring executive-cum-parent, Krawcheck wears  her status as a working mother that managed to make it in the cutthroat industry like a badge.

Never one to back away from a heady challenge, Sallie Krawcheck is certainly likely to land on her feet in a new capacity with another major player in the banking sector at some point in the near future. It only remains to be seen when and where.

As the Great Recession lumbers on, and Wall Street circles the proverbial wagons to counter a growing grass-roots protest movement against the global financial sector, a diminishing segment of its industry peered cautiously toward its future this month — and crowned a new queen in the process.

The Bank of New York Mellon

Karen Peetz, Vice Chairman of Bank New York Mellon, ascended from bridesmaid to bride at American Banker magazine’s annual Most Powerful Women In Banking awards ceremony, held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Peetz assumed the top spot in 2011 after placing third in last year’s ranking.

Peetz’s bona fides are nothing to sneeze at. In the wake of the initial financial market crises of Autumn 2008, a do-or-die moment for many a tenured veteran of the Street, Peetz headed up the operations division within her bank that won the coveted bid to run the federal government’s massive Troubled Asset Relief Program, charged with stabilizing the shaken financial industry. Her leadership tactics proved effective enough to land BNY Mellon an even greater share of responsibility in the aftermath of the crises — both in the United States and abroad.

Prior to 2008, Peetz engineered a major operations swap between BNY Mellon and JPMorgan, which had served to firmly place her on her industry’s radar of up-and-coming executive talent.

With the numbers of women chief executives on the decline in the financial industry, the recognition of Karen Peetz as the top woman in the banking sector illustrates that the representation of her gender in her industry may be down, but it’s certainly not out.

The financial industry is all about money. Not just money in the sense that it’s what the industry deals with, but also in terms of personal wealth.  Heads of large financial institutions receive annual salaries and compensations that are in the millions of dollars. Even lower ranked executives can earn annual compensations in the millions of dollars range.  Well. when you are in charge of millions or billions of dollars in assets perhaps it’s only fair to get such large sums.

It is a bit ironical that being in-charge of an entire country’s financial system doesn’t earn that much. As a public servant the orientation is a bit different from those in the private sector.  You are there to serve the public so money should not be such a big consideration in taking on the job.

This very well describes the role that Timothy Geithner has taken.  As head of the U.S. Treasury Department, Geithner has a huge responsibility.  The U.S. is still the world’s largest economy and actions taken by the Treasury Department affects the fortunes of billions of people around the world.  He also took on the challenge at the height of a financial crisis that not only affected America but the rest of the world as well.

His recent predecessors were all multi-millionaires, with his immediate predecessor Henry Paulson worth over half a billion dollars.  When he took on the job he even had to take over 50% in salary cut since his previous job as head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York paid more.  He did receive a severance pay of $434,668.00.  This is small compared to what others in the private sector would have received.

Forbes lists him as the 28th most powerful person in the world for 2010.  A net worth of around $2 million and an annual salary of $191,000 is not small, but compared to the task and responsibility at hand, it’s certainly not the compensation that attracted him to the job. Some believe that it mostly has to do with being able to serve the public.

There have been many questions whether he made the right decisions during such difficult times, but one thing is certain, Timothy Geithner belongs to a rare breed of men who believe that money isn’t everything.