U.S. South menaced by storms as Mississippi cleans up from tornadoes

JACKSON, Miss. (Reuters) – Severe thunderstorms menaced the U.S. Southeast on Wednesday, with a small tornado and flooding reported in parts of North Carolina, while emergency workers in Mississippi surveyed damage from tornadoes that killed at least four people and injured 20.

Islamic State captures Jordanian pilot after warplane crashes in Syria

AMMAN (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters took a Jordanian pilot prisoner after his warplane came down in northeast Syria on Wednesday, the first captive taken from the U.S.-led coalition battling the jihadi group.



Words Of Wisdom From Entrepreneurs

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Over the years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and become friends with some incredibly successful entrepreneurs. I discovered many of them like to face a challenge head-on and will not stop at anything until their goals are accomplished. This is an admirable trait not many people have. I also had the wonderful opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a start-up. I must admit, it’s not all revenue and roses like some people think.

If you’re in the preliminary start-up mode of a business or even a few years in, these words of wisdom may come in handy. Here are 10 things I found to be some of the most important pieces of advice for an entrepreneur. When I walk the start-up path again, I will make sure to have these at the top of my to-do list.

Plan / Roadmap
Create the plan and work the plan is what I was told time and time again. Without a plan, business owners will not have a roadmap to get where they think they want to go. Yes, this plan will change over time, but at least there is a guiding strategy moving forward.

Ask
This can be a very difficult thing to do, especially if you don’t have an outgoing personality. However, entrepreneurs must learn to ask for the sale over and over again. This is an art unto itself. Learn how to do it well and make it your own. This will serve you well.

Creativity
Creativity comes in many forms. In this case, it means to think differently. Don’t do what everyone else does. Grab onto an idea, shape it, pull it, stretch it and keep doing that until it works. Also, talk to others who are going through the same process you are and leverage their creative process. You will be surprised at what you will be able to come up with for fresh ideas.

Focus
A laser sharp focus is what you need to push aside distractions. As a business owner, there will be countless opportunities for you to spend your time and energy on non-essential activities. Think of these non-essentials as a catalyst for failure. Stay focused on your plan and work it like crazy. Learn how to say “no.”

Communication
I like to think of this as the “differentiator” between a conscientious businessperson and a lazy one. In my years of leading creative teams and managing client engagements, I have seen that planned and purposeful communication that continually shows the client you are thinking ahead is a great way to communicate. Whether you are communicating to prospective customers or existing ones, clear, purposeful and frequent communication is critical.

Killer Office Space
This may not be useful for every business; however, I have seen it to be incredibly helpful in my years around creative agencies. If part of your selling strategy is your business image, creativity or intellect, you may want to think about jazzing-up your office suite. I have been part of companies that were not only selling services but were selling creativity, ideas and results. When the customer enters the office and instantly senses the “wow-factor” that surrounds them, that first impression is a great way to win them over without saying a word. Believe it or not, it works.

Know Your Prospective Customers
This should probably be number one on this list. Make sure your start-up team whether it is you as the owner or others as well, knows your audience intimately. Regardless of how good you think your company is, if you can’t identify customers clearly, understand their motivations, desires and DNA, your company will have a hard time getting off the ground. When you know your customers, you can develop a plan that focuses on creating an incredible customer experience at every touch point. Whether you focus on social, mobile or face-to-face, they matter and are highly relevant prospective customer touch points.

Competitive Advantage
Part of knowing your customers is also knowing exactly what you offer and how that is a competitive advantage in the market. Simply put, are you solving customer problems and making life easier for them or is your product just another option in the market? Conduct competitive research and find out what the opportunities are for your company to create distinct separation. This distinction will become a valuable differentiator for your company to launch successfully.

Reputation
My dad once told me, “work hard to keep your reputation squeaky clean, and it will serve you well.” As a young man, I remembered that and carried it with me into my career. As a business owner, your personal reputation is linked to your business reputation. Make sure to align yourself with credible people and create business partnerships with credible companies. It only takes one slip-up in the reputation department and soon your reputation will be in the toilet. A damaged reputation is extremely difficult to repair. Stay clear of the ugly side of business and your reputation will stay clean.

Keep Learning
This one just so happens to be my personal favorite. Because I am a lover of learning and all things digital, I take advantage of both of those and immerse myself in learning everything I can about my craft. Learning is no longer just in the classroom, at a tradeshow or training workshop. Learning is actually in your pocket on your smartphone every minute of every day. Take advantage of the easy access you have to content and invest in yourself as a professional.

Veteran entrepreneurs know their once clear vision and plan at some point can become uncertain. Words of wisdom from the veteran to a new start-up business owner are like gold and should be treated as such. Make sure your business has clear, guiding principles like the ones above. They are necessary for good decision-making and purposeful, productive actions that keep a business on the right track for sustainable growth.

Photo credit: Unsplash

The University of Michigan Will Win With Men’s Basketball, Even If the Team Loses

Big-time athletics at the University of Michigan haven’t been going so well lately. The football team recently finished with a 5-7 mark. This marked the third time in the past seven years the Wolverines failed to win half their football games. Prior to this stretch, Michigan hadn’t had a losing record since 1967.

After such a miserable football season, Wolverine fans were probably looking forward to another men’s basketball season. After all, the men’s basketball team has advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons. And when the 2014-15 season began, the Wolverines were ranked 17th in the nation.

In the past week, though, the wheels have come off of the basketball bus. After starting the season 6-1, the Wolverines proceeded to lose at home to the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Seemingly in an effort to prove that a loss to NJIT wasn’t a fluke, Michigan then lost at home to Eastern Michigan. And then on Saturday Michigan lost by 27 points to Arizona.

At this point it seems clear that Michigan has declined in the sport of men’s basketball. Unlike football — where very large interaction effects make individual player analysis difficult — we can actually look at the numbers in basketball to see which specific players are responsible for the team’s success (and/or failure). Specifically, the box score statistics tracked for the players can be utilized to measure how many wins each player produces (in a similar fashion to what has been done for the NBA).

In addition to measuring each player’s contribution to wins, we can also look at how much revenue these players are worth. According to the Department of Education, the University of Michigan’s men’s basketball team generated $13,636,966 in revenue in 2012-13 (the last year data is available). North American professional sports leagues — (like Major League Baseball and the National Football League) tend to pay about 50 percent of their revenue to their players (a similar story is told in the NBA and the NHL). If we argue that Michigan’s players are worth 50 percent of the team’s revenue — and revenues did not change in 2013-14 — then these players produced $6.8 million this past season.

This revenue could be allocated a few different ways. If the money is allocated equally across all 14 team members, then each player would be paid $487,035. For a less equal distribution, one could divide revenue in terms of minutes played or player productivity. As the following table indicates, either approach indicates that every player who played at least 100 minutes in 2013-14 was worth at least $250,000 in revenue. And since this number greatly exceeds the cost of attending Michigan, it is clear that the University of Michigan got a very good deal.

Player

Minutes

Played

Wins Produced

per 40 minutes

Wins

Produced

Revenue

(divided by

Minutes Played)

Revenue

(divided by

Wins Produced)

Nik Stauskas

1281

0.166

5.3

$1,172,413

$1,316,293

Caris LeVert

1258

0.146

4.6

$1,151,363

$1,137,412

Derrick Walton

989

0.151

3.7

$905,165

$926,689

Jordan Morgan

743

0.196

3.6

$680,018

$904,708

Glenn Robinson

1194

0.090

2.7

$1,092,788

$665,294

Spike Albrecht

546

0.188

2.6

$499,717

$636,566

Jon Horford

511

0.193

2.5

$467,684

$611,525

Mitch McGary

198

0.261

1.3

$181,216

$321,119

Zak Irvin

568

0.079

1.1

$519,852

$279,240

Andrew Dakich

24

0.141

0.1

$21,966

$20,982

Sean Lonergan

23

0.135

0.1

$21,050

$19,209

Cole McConnell

10

-0.013

0.0

$9,152

-$803

Max Bielfeldt

89

-0.004

0.0

$81,456

-$2,229

Brad Anlauf

16

-0.176

-0.1

$14,644

-$17,523

TOTALS

7450

NA

27.5

$6,818,483

$6,818,483

To understand what is happening this year, let’s start by noting that Michigan lost eight players — including Stauskas, Morgan, Robinson, Horford, Morgan and McGrary — from the 2013-14 team. These eight players produced 15.4 wins (or more than half the team’s wins last year) So unless the Wolverines found a collection of very productive freshmen (and/or transfers), it seemed likely Michigan would decline. And when we look at how the Michigan players have done after 10 games — reported in the following table — it seems clear that Michigan’s newest players haven’t been able to replace the players who have departed.

Player

Minutes

Played

Wins Produced

per 40 minutes

Wins

Produced

Caris LeVert*

361

0.214

1.93

Derrick Walton*

301

0.202

1.52

Spike Albrecht*

277

0.187

1.30

Ricky Doyle

168

0.175

0.73

Mark Donnal

138

0.189

0.65

Zak Irvin*

342

0.037

0.32

Max Bielfeldt*

85

0.100

0.21

D.J. Wilson

24

0.033

0.02

Kameron Chatman

207

0.003

0.02

Sean Lonergan*

12

-0.008

0.00

Austin Hatch

3

-0.321

-0.02

Aubrey Dawkins

53

-0.040

-0.05

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

31

-0.354

-0.27

Total

6.34

Wins Produced of Returning Players

5.27

Wins Produced of New Players

1.07

* – returning players

As one can see, Michigan’s six returning players have produced virtually all the team’s wins this season. And that means the freshmen Michigan has added really haven’t helped much. This group includes Kameron Chatman, the 38th ranked recruit in 2014 (according to ESPN). Currently Chatman is only shooting 28.3 percent from the field. So it is not surprising that he has not produced any wins for the Wolverines.

Despite these results, Michigan is still getting a good deal from this collection of players. Let’s imagine that Michigan continues to lose and this reduces team revenues (there is a link between wins and revenue in college basketball). For example, Penn State in 2012-13 only won 2 games in the Big 10 and the team’s revenue was only $10,386,880. If Michigan only brings in this amount this year, then the players are still worth $5,168,440. And an equal distribution means each player receives nearly $400,000.

If we focus on wins, three returning players — Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht — are projected to be worth more than $700,000 (assuming their current performance continues). This is far more than Michigan is giving these players. So even with the team’s struggles (which are not caused by these three players), Michigan is still coming out ahead with its men’s basketball program in 2014-15.

Of course, not everyone is happy. Certainly the fans are not happy. They are accustomed to an institution (that is supposedly devoted to higher education) providing them with winning sports teams. And the players, who are clearly underpaid by a very large amount, should also be unhappy.

Of these players, one should be even more unhappy. Caris LeVert has been named as an early pick in some very early NBA mock drafts. But since research indicates that college wins impact where a player is drafted, Michigan’s losses could cause LeVert to drop next summer. And that will cost him dollars in the NBA.

Obviously that is not really Michigan’s problem. In fact, as we have seen, the University of Michigan doesn’t have any real problems with respect to its basketball program. Yes, losing seems bad. But because the pay of players is restricted by NCAA rules, Michigan is a winner even when the team loses.

Former U.S. President Bush, 90, remains in Houston hospital: spokesman

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, 90, remained in a Houston hospital on Wednesday as a precaution after experiencing a shortness of breath, a spokesman for the 41st president said.

Sears says online chief resigns, key member of management team

(Reuters) – The head of Sears Holdings Corp’s online operations and a key member of Chief Executive Eddie Lampert’s management team has resigned and will leave the company in February to pursue a new opportunity, the retailer said.