Urban Dictionary for business terms

In chatting with folks from engineers to analysts, I’ve realized not all business terms are widely known, and so I’ve made an Urban Dictionary for a few common concepts below.

Impressions

An internet ad that has made first contact, but did not penetrate the attention bubble. For example, when I buy a television on Amazon, suddenly the internet gets the impression that that it’s the start of a collection of 55″ flat screen TVs.

CAGR 

Not to be confused with a kegger. During my MBA, I was very confused when I showed up for the Delta Sigma Pi party. 

CAGR stands for compound annual growth rate, i.e. the smoothed, average rate of growth over several years (like a bikini line after waxing). 

CAC (Sponsored by Blue Apron)

Customer acquisition cost. This is how much you’re willing to bribe someone to try your product. Think all those Blue Apron coupons you get in the mail, basically paying you to try it. 

ARPU

Did the bribes work? How much is each sucker customer spending? That amount is your average revenue per user.

VC Discount

The VC Discount is the amount of venture capital money a consumer burns through by happily accepting all the CAC offers without becoming a loyal customer. This is calculated as follows:

For example, you may buy a $10 per month MoviePass to buy one $15 movie ticket per month. With no theater subsidy, that’s a 33% savings (1 – 10÷15)!

Deliverable

No, it’s not a pizza. A deliverable is a thing that your client or manager swears to you, in a contract signed in blood, is precisely what they want and is *very important*. You then work on the project for weeks or months, countering with your own blood, sweat, and tears. Maybe you even miss a couple of your kid’s baseball games. And as soon as you deliver it, they smile and nod, and when you leave, they put it in a drawer, never to be spoken of again.

 

Introducing Index Card Book Summaries

90% Unnecessary

Most avid readers of self improvement and business books will have noticed a common thread among all of them: they are overly padded. Watch the TED talk or listen to a podcast cameo by the author, and you’ll have absorbed 90% of the book content already. Naturally the anecdotes, statistics, and gritty details give more color and life to the author’s premises that support learning styles of every type. But for folks with limited time and considerable ground they’d like to cover in the practical learning department, I think an index card summary would suffice.

Why an Index Card?

Of course I am not the first to make the observation that authors add some cushion to their content in their endeavor to build a brand, substantiate a product, and look good on a shelf next to other books. Harold Pollack first made this now widely accepted observation about personal finance books in a now famed article. Of course his followers asked “Where’s the index card?” He replied with a photo of a handwritten index card summarizing all the key personal finance principles, which went viral. And, of course, his summary was soon padded out into a book: The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

 

Get ready to get to the punch line

In an effort to conveniently aggregate the latest wisdom and research for navigating our offices and lives, I am initiating a new series: the Index Card Book Summaries. As I continue to read these books that I think shouldn’t be books, I’ll share the pithy version of the key findings with you. Happy not reading!

Say No to the Dress

We’ve all heard of Kleinfeld Bridal. Actually, I hadn’t until all my friends told me. “You’re going wedding dress shopping? Are you going to go to Kleinfeld? I’ve seen every episode through season 7 of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’!” So, of course, I had to add it to my dress circuit. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a maximizer, so rather than optimizing for speed of dress selection, I embraced my inclination to visit every store and planned the most efficient route between boutiques. 

First, I selected for density of shops. Racked.com gave me an excellent layout of the playing field. If clustered appropriately and combined with a clear schedule, I could fit up to four boutiques in a day, assuming 1.5 hours per shop and a minimum of 20 minutes of transit and transition time. I left the ones closer to work lower on the list, assuming I could find a long lunch break or a 5pm departure on some occasion. And for biggies like RK Bridal, I assumed a whole afternoon would be required to a) get there and b) sift with limited assistance through the thousands of dresses on offer of every design and designer. Then, I tossed out the options that were a poor fit for me. The easiest ones to de-prioritize were the custom houses and the department stores, as I didn’t have a vision to fulfill but did want some expert assistance.

By my fifth shop, I felt I’d found my dress. But as most of the luxury bridal businesses require bookings well ahead of time, I was still making doubly sure that I’d found the one, and enjoying the bridal shopping experience with more leisure when I arrived at Kleinfeld. 

Kleinfeld, I was expecting, would be the cherry on the cake. At Pronovias I experienced impeccable care, warmth, and charm. At Designer Loft, they put the Fashion in Fashion District, with elegant designs and balanced variety. At Kleinfeld, I met…a nose in the air. “How many will be in your party?” the receptionist asked as I made my appointment. Glancing around looking for mafia sized wedding entourages, I saw no such intimidating crowds and turned back to the receptionist. “Two,” I replied. 

As I waited for my room, I leafed through their album of blond women in gigantic dresses, cuddling with their new husbands on large suburban estates. My name was called, and my heavily made up consultant offered a hand and a strained smile. I realized I needed to break the ice of her wintery introduction. 

“Hi Veronica, great to meet you! How has your day been?” We settle into my fitting room. 

“So busy…people just don’t know how hectic bridal is. It takes nine months for the dress to arrive.” She paused meaningfully, and I nodded somberly. “And with alterations, you need one more month. So you need to find a dress at least 10 months ahead of time. Bridal is very busy.”

Really? That’s fascinating, because my friend who has worked in fashion his whole professional career tells me he can make an entire line in 10 weeks, and a made to measure wedding dress in 6 or less. Are you sending it to China and then back again for alterations? Or maybe you’re just trying to maintain a line like a hot club in Soho…

Maybe I’m thinking about this the wrong way, but that sounds like the opposite of hectic. That sounds deeply inefficient! Thinking back to Management 101 from my MBA, it seems that every other business in the world carries some inventory, and no doubt bridal in effect is the same, as the same designs and dresses are loaned to hundreds of bridal shops in the greater New York area alone. Now I understand these samples are used for marketing first and sold in “Sample Sales” later. There is no substitute for seeing fashion items in person, which is why our favorite Wharton all-stars Warby Parker got storefronts. But if it’s worth the investment to have a few floaters in showrooms, why not have a few in stock for purchase in season? It creates an operations nightmare not to be able to batch production and, instead, hand sew each item in the order that it was purchased. But if it’s for a weeeddding, everyone is suddenly willing to suffer slow and sometimes poor service, and pay extra for it. To the untrained eye, it rather feels like a marketing tactic of artificial scarcity. Brides are made to feel more grateful that we have the privilege of paying thousands of dollars, and are glad that we receive anything at all for it. All the while we are funding the inefficiency of the system. But that’s the cynical view. 

“What’s your price range?” Veronica queried.

“I’m taking a you-know-it-when-you-see-it approach.”

“Well sooome of our dresses are fif-teen-thousand dollars

Did you watch Austin Powers on repeat to get that effect? It was Dr. Evil with a dash of Sandy from Daria. Wait, I can’t answer a question with a question, pick a number…and something high, so that she still talks to me…

“I’d like something below $8,000.” She looked relieved, or perhaps willing to suspend disbelief.

After answering some more queries about style preferences, the parade of try-ons began. The other consultants cooed, “You look amazing!” to the second and third dresses as a strode into the hallway to get the feel of each dress. I took these complements with a shaker of salt. I’d gotten positive feedback from wedding dress consultants on all sorts of outrageous dresses by that point. I definitely looked like a piñata in one of the first dresses I tried on that the consultant glowed was “a show stopper”. Yes, but not in a good way, I thought after reviewing the photos. You couldn’t find me amidst all the tulle on another dress that a consultant thought was “the one”. But what’s wedding dress shopping without a blooper real? 

“Ooooh, I like that one – how much is it?” My friend asked a few dresses in.

“Probably $2,000” I ventured, as there were no price tags, and it was a less attractive version of one I’d tried on previously priced at $1,600. I spoke too soon. Veronica walked in.

“It’s two thousand, six hundred dollars,” she half glowered.

Maybe I should make this a bidding war to emphasize my price insensitivity… “I’ll pay $3,000! It’s less? Make it $4,000!” Yes, there’s the unspoken rule: if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it. And we’d already broken it, so screw it, let’s take this all the way down hill!

She presented another dress. “This one is a Kleinfeld exclusive.” 

Yes, you’ve said the magic word! Exclusive? I want to be a part of anything exclusive to feel meaningful! If you’re not busy later, can I join your Mean Girls crew? And no, you can’t sit with us.

I nodded with a weak smile, trying to feign continued interest. By that point, everything looked like a tackier version of something I’d already tried on elsewhere. I had reached my saturation point.

“Thanks Veronica. I’m not going to make any decisions today, I’d like to bring my mom back so she can see my favorites.”

“Could your mom not make it today?” She asked. She’d mastered that fine line between bored and exasperated.

Do you see my mom next to me? One would have thought that was apparent by the lack of my mom being here. “No.” 

Yup. I Say No to the Dress.

Those Three Little Letters Every Girl Wants

I’ve recently added three shiny letters to my name. Not MRS – though that’s soon to come – but MBA. And now that I have re-planted myself in a thriving habitat for my variety, I feel flush with observations about where my ninja-like business skills could give this town of small businesses more facelifts than Beverly Hills. 

My business juju was stirred as I was experiencing my first major life event since finishing my Wharton MBA: wedding dress shopping. The engagement itself was a close second. My love had that look in his eyes. Sneakiness. When I asked, “What are you up to…”, a diamond ring appeared from his sock drawer. (As this is an anonymous blog, the version told in person will be much more gripping. The Facebook version has him kneeling beneath a shimmering waterfall, with me looking gleefully surprised and conveniently camera-ready.) However, if wedding dress shopping could be as efficient as my fiancé’s proposal, several worlds would crumble.

Make no mistake from the beautiful bride photos you’ve all seen, there are layers upon layers of industries and middle men all ready to mark prices up 30% when they hear it’s for your “special day”. While some of this is side-steppable if you don’t say that dollar sign word “wedding”, there’s no getting around that when you’re picking a wedding dress. And I certainly did learn a few things from this catch 22.