Business 101: Everyday Reality
Everyone who has ever owned a radio at some point has heard Mick Jagger tell the tale of "Satisfaction," or lack thereof. The singer croons about driving around in his car hearing soap and cigarette sales pitches telling him why he can't achieve the objective of the song's title. Of late, I've been driving a lot, too, notably to deposit my eldest to his chosen institution of higher education.
Everyone who has ever owned a radio at some point has heard Mick Jagger tell the tale of "Satisfaction," or lack thereof. The singer croons about driving around in his car hearing soap and cigarette sales pitches telling him why he can't achieve the objective of the song's title. Of late, I've been driving a lot, too, notably to deposit my eldest to his chosen institution of higher education. Walking around his campus flooded me with memories, particularly of all the would-be business majors I met during my own first freshman weekend. At the time I was frankly baffled by what exactly those blue pin-stripe wannabes would learn and what they would do postgraduation. I very much envisioned Chandler-like characters from Friends plotting some crazy chart the neurotic TV character called a WENUS—Weekly Estimated Net Usage Statistics—whatever that means. All I knew was that wasn't going to be me. I was going to be the guy writing or helping produce TV shows. How wrong one can be. Not so much because I veered from TV writing to newspaper writing to trade magazines, but because a big chunk of my daily responsibilities involve running a business. You see, even though my title has "editor" in it, the "chief" part means I must account for the whole enchilada—sales, production, visiting customers, paying freelancers, etc. In other words, the company I work for, like most others, is here to make money and save money executing its business—tasks I never envisioned when I made fun of those "suits" back in the day. Ah, Ute...
Anyway, considering halcyon college days, I'll bet many of you, similarly, never envisioned being tasked with these kinds of duties—budgets, marketing, client presentations. Unknowingly, we all became businessmen. To help you, we've recently launched a new e-newsletter, "Business of Engineering," with tips and strategies that will hopefully allow you to get a better handle on managing the commercial side of things. If you're not already receiving it, log onto www.csemag.com and register. Past editions can be found by clicking the black bar labeled "Management Practices."
Back to college musings. Now that I'm old—at least according to 18-year-olds—I'm wiser, but not necessarily any more satisfied. Much of my motivation in writing this month's column stems from a specific business-side chore I loath: assembling our editorial calendar. It's not that it's a lot of work—such a yearly plan is essential in keeping the ship on course—it's because of all the business-side conditions that go with it: limiting page totals, having to plot content friendly to the goals of our sales staff, yet still produce a product that serves you, our readership. In other words, as Mick and the boys note in another tune: "You can't always get what you want ... You get what you need" (at least from management's perspective).
Anyway, quid pro quo, I'm asking for help. Please e-mail me your suggestions as to what you'd like to see covered in the magazine in 2005. I've got lots of ideas. I just need to figure out how they fit in the WENUS.