Free Form Friday: The REAL Keys To Success



(1) To distort: To make something appear different than it is

He distorted the benefits to make them seem better than they really are.

(2) To work out: To have a good result

Unfortunately, the campaign didn’t work out and we had to start again.

(3) To reproduce: To copy, create the same thing again

I love the product, but it just costs too much to reproduce. We need to lower our costs to be successful.



1. For success, what’s more important than passion?

a. A creative idea

b. Good goals

c. A good business plan

2. Why is a system more important than a goal?

a. Goals have no value

b. Systems create good results

c. It’s difficult to succeed at reaching goals

3. For luck, what does it mean to keep your hand raised until its your turn?

a. You need to just wait for luck to come to you

b. Luck doesn’t always happen, so just work hard

c. Keep going and after time you’ll get lucky

7 ________________________

Free Form Friday


dilbert By Jeremy Schaar

Scott Adams has recently written a book and you can read a chapter from that book here. There’s also a video interview.

What does it take to be successful? Often people will say “follow your passion” and “set good goals.” But according Scott Adams–the creator of the popular comic Dilbert–those things are exactly true.

In today’s lesson, you’ll learn about Scott Adam’s ideas on how to be successful. You’ll prepare yourself to read a longer article on the topic. You’ll also learn some important vocabulary. He has three ideas in the article. Here they are:

First Idea: Passion isn’t so important He writes that “it’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion.”

What he means is that when things work well, we get excited. But if things don’t work, then we aren’t excited. So, it seems like passion creates the success, but actually “Success caused passion more than passion caused success.”

He gives the example of a loan officer. He says his old boss told him to give loans to people with good spreadsheets and a desire to work hard.

Second Idea: Have a system instead of a goal

In the video, he says “Goals are OK, but what you need more than goals is a system, a process.” This means you should think about how to be successful more than what success really means for you. Don’t say, “I’m going to make a million dollars.” Instead, say “I’m going to write a new program every month for one year.” You should then hope that one of those programs will make you a million dollars.

The example he gives is losing weight. You don’t want to say “I’m going to lose 10kg.” Instead, you should say “I’m going to eat better and exercise more.”

It’s more important to have a system because then you’ll be doing the things that lead to success. Anyway, you can’t achieve your goals without a way to get to them.

Third Idea: Keep going and you’ll get lucky.

Scott feels that luck is very important for success. However, we don’t get lucky all the time. Instead, we should have a system that makes it more likely that we’ll get lucky. He writes, “The universe has plenty of luck to go around; you just need to keep your hand raised until it’s your turn.”

In his case, he continued trying to create something of value that would be easy to reproduce. After many failures, he “got lucky” with his comic strip Dilbert.

What do you think? As always, if you have any questions, please post them on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

And, by the way, if you have trouble understanding, send me a message. We teach lots of students Business English and I’m sure we could help you too!


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Supply Chain Wednesday: S&OP



(1) Backlog: Too much of something

We have a backlog of steel frames. It’s a waste of space and money. What happened?

(2) To control: To make sure something is at the right level

Inventory levels are carefully controlled. If they get too high, we lose money. If they get too low, we can be short of what we need.

(3) Planning horizon: A horizon is the farthest you can see. It comes from the earth. The horizon is the place where you can’t see further, the place where the sun sets.

Our planning horizon is four quarters. Beyond that, it’s more strategic plans than a careful process.



1. What does it mean to create a production plan in the context of sales?

a. Sales and production influence each other

b. Sales influences the production plan

c. The production plan influences sales

2. What is an especially nice benefit of S&OP?

a. Everyone sees how their decisions influence the company’s other departments

b. Everyone sees how planning influences finance

c. Everyone sees how they can contribute to financial decisions

3. What’s the tone of “we need to involve marketing in this”?

a. Friendly

b. Direct

c. Worried

7 ________________________



Monthly_S&OP_ProcessBy Jeremy Schaar

Today on the blog you’ll learn about S&OP. You’ll also learn about some great links for further study. Finally, you’ll learn some real life expressions that you can use on the job.


S&OP means Sales and Operation Planning. What does it mean? Basically, a company decides how much they want to sell and how much they need to produce. S&OP is a process companies use to decide their manufacturing output and other activities in the context of the sales plan. Manufacturing output can also be called production plan. It decides production rates, controls inventories, and deals with backlogs. And everything should be done without too much hiring or firing. The planning horizon for the process is how far into the future the plan goes. To create a plan, companies use information from many departments: marketing, manufacturing, finance, etc.


Here’s a great link to see a few real world S&OP charts.

Note two things. First, Enchange divides the processes between demand and supply. Second, everything influences everything else. This is key. S&OP is wonderful because it forces everyone in the company to consider all the parts. They’ll see how their decisions affect different parts of the company. For example, demand for a product influences finance decisions, but so does the actual production. It’s a big circle with everything influencing everything else.

For a successful S&OP, check out John Westerveld’s blog post at Kinaxis. He writes about six key elements.

1. Executive Commitment and involvement

2. S&OP is used to run the business

3. Accurate S&OP data

4. Solutions – not just problems

5. Scenario driven

6. Run effective meetings and keep meticulous minutes

On The Job

“ I am responsible for preparing our divisional S&OP plans.”

Use this sentence to describe your job. It’s a good one to use at a conference where you’re meeting new people.

“Our major suppliers and customers need to be a big part of the S&OP process.

Here I wrote “major suppliers and customers”, but it could be anyone you think needs to be part of the process. This is a strong, clear sentence. It’s not polite, but it is very direct and people will listen if you speak like this.

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?


Answers To Today’s Questions

B, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Business Strategy Monday: Amazon’s Strategy



(1) Pillar: Something that supports, an important and basic part

The pillars of the economy are manufacturing, retail, and finance.

(2) Liquid Asset: Cash and other assets that can quickly become cash

Liquid assets are very important in acquisitions because they can be used to buy stock.

(3) On behalf of someone: For someone

All of our actions need to be on behalf of the customer. They can’t be for someone else.



1. Jeff Bezos says “your margin is my opportunity.” Let’s say you’re selling something for $5 and it costs you $3 to make it. What will Amazon’s price be?

a. $1

b. $2

c. $3

2. How does Amazon innovate?

a. By thinking about low prices

b. By thinking about the customer

c. By thinking about margin

3. What does it mean for something to be an article of faith?

a. You just believe it. You don’t worry about evidence

b. You worry about it before anything else

c. You believe it and try to make others follow you

7 ________________________



By Jeremy Schaar

In today’s lesson you’ll learn about Amazon’s strategy. You’ll study a few quotes from Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos. You’ll learn some vocabulary and some strategy theory.

A Quick Overview of Amazon’s Strategy

Amazon is the world’s most important online retailer. In ten years, they might just replace WalMart as the world’s biggest retailer. Their strategy has two pillars. First is to keep prices low. Second is to always focus on helping the customer. They constantly invest in new facilities and technology. They don’t worry at all about having cash on hand. Many people focus on Amazon’s net income which is always close to zero, but cash is just one asset. Non-liquid assets are growing at a remarkable rate.

Explore more AMZN Data at Wikinvest

Here are some great quotes from Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos:

Commitment to Low Prices

“There are two kinds of companies: Those that work to try to charge more and those that work to charge less. We will be the second.”

“Your margin is my opportunity.”

“We’ve done price elasticity studies, and the answer is always that we should raise prices. We don’t do that, because we believe — and we have to take this as an article of faith — that by keeping our prices very, very low, we earn trust with customers over time, and that that actually does maximize free cash flow over the long term.”

Staying Customer Focused

“We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.”

“If you’re long-term oriented, customer interests and shareholder interests are aligned.”

“When [competitors are] in the shower in the morning, they’re thinking about how they’re going to get ahead of one of their top competitors. Here in the shower, we’re thinking about how we are going to invent something on behalf of a customer.”

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, B, A


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Writing Great Emails: Polite vs. Direct



(1) Assertive: Strongly presenting your opinion

Be very assertive when you ask for a raise. Tell her exactly why she should give it to you. Don’t be afraid.

(2) Rude: Impolite

I can’t believe how rude he is! He asked how old I was and if I was on a diet!

(3) Grateful: Thankful

I was really grateful you were there. I would have done terrible without you.



1. What is a big advantage of being direct?

a. You know no one will be angry

b. You know you will be understood

c. You know they’ll like you

2. What is a big advantage of being polite?

a. You know no one will be angry

b. You know you will be understood

c. You know they’ll like you

3. What is one way to be polite?

a. Tell a joke

b. Say that something is possible

c. Ask if something is possible


Writing Great Emails


En-velop_bleu By Jeremy Schaar

Do you want to be more polite or more direct when you’re writing emails? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Of course, it’s not quite so simple. In a perfect world, your writing will be both polite and direct.

In today’s lesson, you’ll learn about the differences. Then you’ll study some examples.


Advantages: Direct writing is confident and assertive. You’re acting like you know what you’re writing about very well. It’s also very clear.

Disadvantages: Direct writing can be rude and uncaring if you’re not careful.


Advantages: You’ll be friendly, likeable, and caring.

Disadvantages: By focusing on being polite, it might not seem like something is very important to you.

Let’s look at a situation. The first sentence will be direct. The second will be polite. The third will be a combination.

Situation: You need to request 500 extra units of something at the last minute. You’re writing to your supplier.

Direct: Please send 500 extra units. We will need them by Friday.

Polite: Do you think it would be possible to send us 500 extra units by Friday? We’d be most grateful.

Notice that the direct version is very short and clear. No one would misunderstand you. However, you’re giving an order here. Do you want to order your supplier? What if they can’t do it? What if they’ll feel bad if you don’t ask nicely? Maybe you’ll offend them.

The polite version could be misunderstood. It doesn’t seem important. However, by saying “do you think it would be possible,” you’re being very kind. “We’d be most grateful” means that you’re thanking them in advance. They haven’t even done anything, and you’ve already thanked them!

Best: We really need 500 extra units by Friday. Can you help us out with this order?

This is best. You’re being direct, but polite. You still ask a question, but only after you’ve been direct. (Questions make English more polite.) Also, you don’t thank them in advance. Instead, you ask a short question and imply that you’ll thank them for the help.

Want more practice? Got questions? Comment on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.


Answers To Today’s Questions

B, A, C


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

Supply Chain Wednesday: Harmonized Key Performance Indicators



(1) Indicator: Something that gives you information on something else

The unemployment rate is a good indicator of demand for new cars

(2) Volume: Amount, level

As volume increases, we can take advantage of economies of scale

(3) To be in conflict with: When two things cause problems by existing together

The supplier’s order specifications are in conflict with our best practices. We need to adjust one or the other.



1. Which is least likely to be a KPI?

a. Sales Volume

b. Sales Leads

c. Sales Hires

2. What is a harmonized key performance indicator?

a. An indicator that works for all (or most) areas of a company

b. An indicator that increases profits

c. An indicator that is the same for the customer and for the company

3. How might a boss request more information?

a. I want everyone to mix up…

b. I want everyone to draw up…

c. I want everyone to move up…

7 ________________________



By Jeremy Schaar

Today on the blog you’ll learn about Harmonized Key Performance Indicators (KPI). You’ll learn about an example of how a company can create good indicators. Finally, you’ll learn some real life expressions that you can use on the job.


Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are metrics a company uses to check how well they are performing. Examples of metrics include volume and how well you stay on schedule. Many different metrics can help track and motivate a department. For example, if the metric is volume, the production team will certainly do their best to produce the correct volume. If the metric is defects, then teams will try to reduce the number of defects.

The difficult situation is when metrics are in conflict. Manufacturing might need to choose between volume and defects. That’s hard, but management can direct manufacturing to focus on one thing. The bigger problem is when the metric for one department is in conflict with the metric for another department. For example, sales might be trying to increase orders. At the same time, manufacturing might be trying to decrease defects. A company with this situation could easily have too many orders


Here’s a great link to a paper by Booz and Company. Scroll down to page seven and you’ll see a great example of a harmonized key performance indicator. Harmonized key performance indicators work well for all (or most) areas of a company. In the paper, they write about the cash conversion cycle. They write that this is “a single metric to focus everyone on the speed of moving things along the supply chain—a common theme that would impact the functional metrics of inventory, service levels, lead times, and quality.”

This should be the goal of key performance indicators. They should be metrics that work across departments. Ideally, they’ll be of use for your partners and clients as well.

On The Job

“ I want everyone to draw up a list of performance indicators that other departments could use.”

This sentence is a way to request people to think about harmonized key performance indicators. It’s something a boss would say to get more information.

“The problem is that our suppliers, our customers, and we all define the metrics differently. There’s no harmony among us.

The problem is that” is an easy way to start a sentence about a complaint. It clearly announces it. In this case the problem is about the harmony of metrics.

Got questions or comments? How about practicing some new vocabulary and posting your thoughts on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter?


Answers To Today’s Questions

C, A, B


You Can Do It All Yourself But You Dont Have To

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