Monday, January 30, 2012

How To Evaluate A Business

In business school I learned an easy way to evaluate a business from Rob Wiltbank - an awesome teacher and co-author of the book The Catalyst. He called them the "6-ables". If a business passed each of these 6 "ables" then it was a good idea. Here they are:

1) Feasible - Can you actually do it? Sometimes there are limits of money, nature, technology and laws. This is really mostly important for starting up a company.

2) Reachable - Can you talk (reach) to your customers? You could have the coolest product or service, but you also need to be able to tell people about it.

3) Valuable - Do customers want what you're selling? It's not enough for YOU to think it's cool, your customers also have to think it's cool too.

4) Scalable - Can you do it a million times almost as easily as the first time? This is why Microsoft is so profitable: They write their programs once and then sell it over and over again. The more you can do this, the better.

5) Durable (secret sauce) - How hard is it to copy your idea? This is your secret sauce that will keep you different from everyone else. To me, this is probably the most important part, but it is especially important when looking to invest in a company. Another term for this would be "competitive advantage". Apple's secret sauce used to be Steve Job's vision for sleek designs and seamless interfaces - you can't copy him. We'll see how Apple does without Jobs in the future.

6) Saleable - If you want out, will someone buy you out? Or, can you get others to invest in your business? This means your business is valuable to someone else.

Bonus 7) Traction - Prove it (for new business ideas). Do you have any currently satisfied customers? How many? An idea becomes much more compelling if people are lining up to hand you their money.

Pretty cool, right? When talking with people, I work through this framework. It's fairly comprehensive and doesn't get bogged down in the details. Clearly executing on an idea is also critically important, but this is the first step to see if it's even worth pursuing.

For creating our property management company, we worked through each of these too. Here are our basic answers so far:

1) Feasible - Yes, lots of businesses do it. Getting properly licensed seems to be a challenge, but it's very possible.

2) Reachable - Craigslist makes it super easy to find new tenants. Property owners are a little different though. One possibility is going to the county property record books. Another is talking to friends and real estate agents. So yes, our customers are reachable.

3) Valuable - Definitely, especially the bigger places and for owners who live far away. Plus, we've got the training and time to keep owners out of trouble with tenants and the IRS.

4) Scalable - Kind of. It isn't like software where you write it once and sell it a indefinitely, but in a way it is. For example, we can use the same tools for multiple properties. There is definitely a time requirement that can't be scaled since this is a service type of business.

5) Durable - The secret sauce. :) I honestly don't know if what we have is durable. One factor will be our properties (and their locations) which can't be copied. Another will be our systems/policies and interpersonal skills. These are soft things, that if done right will be very hard to copy.

6) Saleable - Maybe. I hope so. That will all depend on how profitable we are.

7) Traction - We've already had a couple people talk to us. So there's interest, but no paying customers yet.

So, when you're thinking about starting a business, or joining one, run through these "ables" and see how it stacks up.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Who Has Control of the US Government?

I was working on a fun project which involved taking a look at who controlled the House, Senate and Presidency each year for the past 50 years. Since I had the data sitting around, I decided to make a quick graphic of it. You can click on the picture to see a bigger version of it.

My goal was to convey who had control (the majority), but also show that often it's a very narrow majority each year. I'd love to hear your feedback on how to make it better. I'll make sure to share my final project too when it's done.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Passo del Furlo attraverso la Gola del Furlo e la Galleria Furlo

English Title: Furlo Pass through the Furlo Gorge and the Furlo Tunnel

My last name is Furlo. When spelling it out I say: "F. U. R. L. O. That's it. It's Italian." I feel that helps justify the lack of a "W" or "OUGH" people commonly want to tack on to the end. According to, back in the 1,400s it became necessary to add a second name to distinguish between individuals with the same first name. Italian last names are especially easy to recognize because most end in a vowel and many are derived from 4 major sources:
  1. Patronymic - Based on a parent’s name (Pietro Di Alberto - Peter son of Albert)
  2. Occupational - Based on the person’s job/trade (Giovanni Contadino - John the farmer)
  3. Descriptive - Based on a unique quality of the individual, these surnames often developed from nicknames or pet names (Francesco Basso - Francis the short)
  4. Geographical - Based on a person’s residence, usually a former residence (Maria Romano - Mary from Rome)
"Furlo" is a geographical name.

Perhaps the coolest part about "Furlo" is that it actually comes from something historically significant in Italy. Plus, it's still around! I'd like to share that.

Gola del Furlo (Furlo Gorge)

Furlo Gorge is in the Marche region of central Italy (see map below), where the Candigliano River passes through it. describes it as "an overwhelming chalk formation which the Candigliano River cuts through in order to later join with the Metauro River. The drive from Acqualagna to this natural phenomenon is truly a thing of beauty. The mountainous terrain surrounding this gorge also offers challenging routes for hikers and mountain bikers. Their efforts will certainly be rewarded with spectacular views."

That does indeed look like it would be awesome to hike around. Here's the map of where everything is within Italy.

Passo del Furlo (Furlo Pass) aka Galleria Furlo (Furlo Tunnel)

Unfortunately, the pass couldn't be completed without building a tunnel.

The South Entrance
According to Wikipedia, the Roman emperor Vespasian had the Furlo Tunnel (or Gallery) built to facilitate passage on the Via Flaminia in the narrowest point of the Furlo Gorge. The tunnel has a length of 38.30 meters (~42 yards) and a height of 5.95 meters (~20 feet). During the Gothic Wars (6th century), the Ostrogoth King Totila had the pass fortified, but his troops were ousted by the Roman general Belisarius. The Lombards conquered the pass between 570 and 578, and destroyed the fortifications. In the 1980s, traffic in the Furlo Tunnel was bypassed by the construction of two highway tunnels, but maintained the same name "Galleria Furlo".

The Furlo Tunnel was dug by hand through rock using chisels, which you can still see the marks of today. Here's a close-up picture of the plate they put up (left hand side of the picture above). Since Vespasian ruled between 69-79AD, I'm going to guess that 76DC = 76AD. This makes it the 5th oldest tunnel dug.

Fun fact: I looked up "gallery" on and apparently it can mean a long covered area, narrow and open at one or both sides, used especially as a walk or corridor. It even says it could be an underground passage. So that's cool.

This map below shows the tunnel location (the dotted part). It's only 42 yards long. The yellow lines above are the new highway tunnels. If you follow the white road South (down), you'll notice that the road is called Via Furlo. That road leads to a town called Furlo, which looks to be a suburb of Acqualagna.

Here's the town:

Here, you can take a little virtual trip around the town compliments of Google Maps. You can see the gorge in the distance.

Given the way Italy generated their last names, there's a VERY high probably that my name comes from this very town. I like to think of this as my last name's "home town". ha ha. If you'd like to visit, I recommend checking out B&B Casa Furlo. It looks like a nice place to stay.

 It's pretty amazing how technology allows us to really dive into a place without actually having to go (though I still want to). It also helps that it has a fairly rich history (thanks Romans!). Thanks for letting me share where my last name comes from.

Image sources (which the photos above are also linked to):

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Disneyland Half Marathon Sign-ups Start Today

I just signed-up Jessi and myself to run in Disneyland's Half Marathon on Labor Day weekend. My Mom, sister, and brother will also be participating. Exciting!

We'll get to run through the parks and I'm sure it'll be full of Disney's magic the entire time.

I'll probably start training in earnest in May. Until then I just need to figure out all the logistics surrounding the event.

You can learn more and sign-up here. Last year they sold out in 48 hours, so clearly this is a popular event.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

PC vs Tablet Shipments: Fun With Data

So, I got into a debate with my brother during one of our Furlo Bros podcasts over whether or not tablets (ie. the iPad) should be counted as a PC or not. What re-kindled the whole debate was Canalys' decision to include the iPad in Apple's PC shipment numbers. Which brought about the headline grabbing conclusion that Apple would surpass HP as the leading PC vender in 2012.

Matthew thinks the iPad should be counted. I do not.

With the latest Gartner PC shipment report, I decided to do some digging myself to see what the data shows. Gartner makes it fairly easy to look up each quarterly report and grab the data in semi-copy-and-paste friendly data tables. See below for all the links**. Here's what I found:

A couple notable points:
  • HP is the current WW leader with 16% share of the market. Congrats team!
  • HP also has some vicious Q4 swings in shipments. I bet the supplies chain loves it (not).
  • I always thought Dell posed more of a threat, they do in the US, but not really on the world stage.
  • Instead, Lenovo is on a huge growth trajectory! It looks like Lenovo will actually pass HP in either Q3 or Q4 of 2012.
Interesting. Now let's layer tablet shipment figures from IDC to see how they compare:

And I thought Lenovo was growing fast! That's unbelievable growth. But if the iPad, which is 60% of those tablet numbers, is indeed a PC, I would expect to see some sort of decline. I don't really. I can hear Matthew now telling me that it's the same as "buying a secondary PC". Really? That's what netbooks were supposed to be, and their growth numbers looked nothing like this. Instead, these look more like smart phone growth numbers, which are decided NOT PCs.

I firmly believe that tablets and PCs are going to easily co-exist. Instead people are going to give something else up (an iPod Touch perhaps...). The current trends agree.

Now, one of the things I like the Mythbusters is they wouldn't stop here. They would say, "OK. The myth of iPads equalling PCs is BUSTED. But let's assume they are. What would that look like?"

Doing some quick math, I agree with Canalys' conclusion. In Q4 HP shipped 14.7M PC's. That's a lot. In Q3 Apple shipped 2.3M Macs in the US and 11.1M iPads WW (13.4M total). With all the talk of huge iPad estimates for Q4 (at least 20M iPads), it's very feasible that Apple beats HP in Q4 and will continue to do so in 2012. Again, that's IF you count tablets as PCs.

Finally, I took a bigger step back and looked at total PCs vs Tablets:

Clearly tablets are growing like crazy, but they're still a very small piece of the overall pie. It'll still be about 3 years before tablets over-take PCs. (Which is genuinely a long time in the tech space)

Will there ever be a time when tablet's start replacing PCs? Probably. I think there will be something of a tipping point. Once cloud storage and productivity apps mature more, you will then see people ditching their PCs completely for tablets. That isn't happening yet, and it still doesn't change the fundamental premise that iPads are PCs, in the same way that microwaves are not ovens.

** Data sources (Yeah, I know...):

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mortgage Payments Once A Month Or Every Other Week?

Last year I shared my DIY Loan calculator. It came in pretty handy for myself today because I was talking with a friend about the benefits of making half a mortgage payments every other week instead of the full amount once a month.

I'm currently on the once a month plan and wanted to know what level of savings I would get by switching to every 2 weeks. The idea is that instead of making a full payment every 1st of the month, you make half a payment on every other Monday (or whatever day of the week you choose). This has 2 advantages:

  1. The amount of interest calculated on the balance is technically smaller because it gets cut down just a little bit mid way through the month. Yes it's small, but it does add up over 30 years.
  2. A couple times during the year there are 5 weeks in the month. This means that at the end of the year you actually end up making 1 extra payment (26 half payments = 13 full payments). This dramatically reduces your principle.
Of course, there are also disadvantages:
  1. You really need to plan your funds carefully to be ready for when those 2 extra payments happen. It's not impossible, you just need to be ready for it. You also need to make sure you can actually afford the extra payments.
  2. The other disadvantage, especially for investment property, is that this reduces the cash-flow on your property. In the long-run (25 years later), it'll make a big difference, but you pay for it up front. When you first buy a building, there are often other repairs that need to happen too, so that money may be better spent elsewhere.

I was able to use my little calculator to figure out how much I would save. It is significant (~$30,000), and I'll pay off this property 5 years sooner, at which point the cash-flow becomes REALLY nice. The big question is whether I can afford it, and if the money would be better spent elsewhere.

I think my plan is to take that extra payment, divide it by 12, and put it into an ING savings account each month. Then, at the end of the year I can decide if I want to make a big dent on my principle, or use it somewhere else. Given my current low interest rate, I suspect I'll find other uses for it, especially since I own a new Jeep, but I'll withhold judgement for now.

Monday, January 09, 2012

2012 Goals: Work Diligently, Wait Patiently

It's time for me to share my goals for 2012. I've got 7 of them, and a mantra to go along with them: "Work diligently, wait patiently". This idea is that there are quite a few things out of my control for some of these goals. But if I work diligently and don't get frustrated, these goals can all be accomplished. I also tried to have a balanced set of goals too. Spiritual, physical, business, & family. I also tried to make each goal SMART:

So, here they are in order of importance:

1. Read all Bible reading plan assignments
I have the Bible app on my iPhone and signed up for the Life Journal reading plan. It's important to be in the Word consistently, and this goal will help motivate me to do it.

2. Manage 1 other property
I told you this one would be back. Here's what needs to happen to accomplish this goal.

  • Pass the RE exam test, which includes more studying
  • Fill out the paperwork and pay the money to become licensed
  • Finish writing the operating manual
  • Register our business/open accounts... more paperwork and money
  • Promote. Promote. Promote!

This is one of the examples were I need to be patient since much of the timing is out of my control.

3. Decide the fate of Univera: Fly or Die
First, I need to finish my education system, a sub-goal. Then I need to promote. My criteria for staying with the Univera business is > 10 new customers by the end of summer. If I can't find that many, I need to move on to something else. Univera is a great company, but it simply may not be the best match for me at this time.

4. Spend less money than last year
We spent too much last year. I already shared our "Great Experiment" and it's findings. Since we only have one large project scheduled (a new fence), we should be able to stay under last year. It should also help to not purchase multiple Jeeps.

5. Run 10 miles in <= 100 minutes
Jessi and I plan on running Disney's half-marathon during Labor Day weekend in September.  I don't want to be sucking wind the whole time, plus I need to get back in running shape. This goal reflects where I would like to be. To help, I'm going to try to walk/run on the treadmill every time I watch Netflix when Jessi isn't around.

6. Transition Bob the Autographer fully online
Remember Bob? It just so happens that while visiting family this Christmas, I got all the original designs from my brother. So the plan, when I have time, is to re-format and upload each design onto, commission somebody funny to write hilarious descriptions for each shirt, and rewrite the website to point to zazzle. Then I'll be able to sell all my printing equipment and free up some space in the garage. Plus that'll give me some cash to pay a comedian and promote the new site. This is cool because it'll take a significant burden off me to print the shirts while still allowing the dream of Bob to live on. There are some new Legos I wouldn't mind getting...

7. Teach Vinnie 3 new skills
This is something I've wanted to do ever since we got him, and setting it as an official goal with help. Here are the 3 commands I want Vinnie to learn:

  1. "Come": about 25% of the time he'll come and zoom right by me. This needs to get up to 95% - especially outside where it's' more like 5% of the time - AND stop in front of me.
  2. "Stay": This only works when he's waiting for food or to go outside. I'd like to be able to generalize this for any situation.
  3. "Lay down": He doesn't do this at all. I'd like him to lay down and stay somewhere. Inside and outside. This will he helpful in all sorts of situations.

So that's it! 7 goals which I'm really excited about. Each one will have a big impact on my life too, which is good. I just need to work diligently and wait patiently for God's timing on these.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

2011 Goals Review

So... 2011... A year with many ups and downs. At the beginning of the year when I shared my goals for 2011, I talked how it will be a year of hard work. In some ways it was, in others much less. Let's dive in.

Consistency, Persistence & Completion
These are the three words Jessi chose as our mantra for the year. Looking back, it was very appropriate because a couple of my goals took MUCH longer than I thought to make it happen, or not in some cases.

1) Connect with HS dudes . A+
I measured success on three things: 1) We find a regular time to meet as a small group. Yep. 2) We all know each other and say "hi" when we see each other. Yep. 3) I had a level 4 conversation with at least 2 dudes. This is harder to measure, but I've definitely had multiple meaningful conversations.
I'm looking forward to continuing my relationship with these dudes the rest of this school year, and beyond.

2) Manage 1 other property . C
Technically I didn't achieve this goal because we are still only managing one property, but it's not from a lack of trying! We finished our class, but haven't taken the test yet because... well... it's complicated... First, filling out, and processing, paperwork takes time. Second, we took the class online, and that simply takes A LOT of time. Third, the school we took the class from contracted out their online class. Then switched systems part way through the year, so they are in the midst of sorting everything out. We've been on the phone with them trying to figure it all out for the last couple of MONTHS!

  • So, class is done... Check
  • Getting to take the test is still being processes... lame
  • We did finish the first round of our operating manual (it's required)... check
  • We started talking with a couple potential clients... waiting for licenses before we can talk seriously
  • I tried to buy another property but it fell through... lame

I'm pretty sure you'll see this goal again since I really want to do this and we're still working towards it.

3) Run a half-marathon . A+!
Jessi and I participated in the Corvallis Half-Marathon and I created an infographic to celebrate. This was actually a little touch and go for a bit because Jessi hurt her ankle in January while playing soccer and couldn't train for a few months. Plus it took place right in the middle of all my traveling - literally the day before I left for India, after being home for less than a week because of another trip. Still, we did it and it was fantastic! We're planning on signing up for the Disney Half-Marathon that takes place on Labor Day. We managed to rope my whole family in too.

4) Earn blue belt in jiu jitsu . A+!
Done. Boom. I tell people all the time, "Don't mess with me. I have a blue belt in jiu jitsu." Clearly I intimidate people now because I haven't been in a single fight since earning it. Though, the high schoolers do jokingly threaten me... Actually, it's when they start impromptu wrestling and they try to egg me on. I simply tell them that, like Bruce Banner, they won't like me when I start "wrestling" because my goal will be to JOKE THEM OUT instead of doing something as pansy as pinning them.

5) Fly in a Fighter Jet . B
As I wrote about, I had to change this goal a bit because flying in a fighter jet is pretty much impossible unless you're in the military thanks to the events on September 11, 2001. So I modified it: Fly a small airplane. At a resume/interview workshop I met someone with access to a plane. I shared my goal and he was able to hook me up. While in the air I was able to take the reins for a bit and actually fly. So A+ for my modified goal.

6) Find 3 customers . F
I've been loathing writing about this goal. Here's what's going on: I read a book by Kim Klaver called If My Product's So Great How Come I Can't Sell It? which talked about getting customers only - not associates. I loved the idea! Unfortunately, Univera doesn't have any materials for only acquiring customers... So I decided to make my own. I read another brilliant book by Bob Burg called Endless Referrals. In one small section he describes a system for attracting people and I decided to try it out.

I wrote a report on how to live healthy. It's really cool and looks like a small professional magazine - I'm really proud of it. Then I created a website which does three things.

  1. First, it promotes the report, which I give away for only your name and email. I've also been saving up money to promote the site using classic advertising.
  2. Second, it acts as a supplement to the report. It will send out 5 emails with follow-up information and downloads to free tools I created (also every professional looking).
  3. Third, it also provides information on each product I sell. This includes a description and a video.
The idea is to create an education tool that genuinely teaches people how to live healthier - and provide tools to take meaningful action. Even if they never buy a product from me, they still find the information valuable. Plus, once they do reach out to me, I know they're serious about their health and the conversation is simply how I can best help them instead of trying to convince them to let me help them.

OK. Clearly a lot of activity, so why the F? I had a whole year and didn't finish the system. I actually have everything done except the emails, but I'm not a natural copy writer and so I procrastinated and worked very slowly. I suppose I could have hired someone but I didn't. I also didn't do any other activities to promote my business to reach this goal.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. Part of me wants to scrap everything. Part of me wants to push through and finish this system to see what happens. I really need to discover my internal barriers on this project and over come them.


So that was my year: 4 I am very happy with and 2 I wish I did better on. In a little bit I'll finalize my goals for 2012 and share those too.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Christmas With The Furlos

Jessi and I spent the Christmas break in California with my family this year. It was a blast! As is a Furlo tradition, we made sure to jam pack each day with fun events. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The day we arrived I got to help my dad move some construction equipment for work. There's something fun about driving around in big vehicles.
  • The day before Christmas Eve we went tree shopping. Home Depot was giving them away for free!
  • Christmas Eve at my Aunt & Uncle's house - thanks for hosting!
  • Christmas at home, church in the afternoon, dinner at my Aunt's house with a hilarious game of Telestrations. We also opened little fun gifts. Here's Vinnie wearing a crown.
  • Monday was shopping. The girls went early, the guys waited until later. Frustrated with a lack of iPhone 4S cases, we went home and used a Dremel tool to modify an old iPhone 4 case.
  • Tuesday we went up to San Francisco to go ice skating and hang out in the city.
  • Wednesday we went for a hike with my sister and then the girls went shopping for sewing materials and went to a sewing class.
  • Thursday the girls went shopping in Carmel all day. It's a dog friendly city, so everywhere is open to dogs! The guys saw Sherlock Holmes. We ate S'mores later that night around a camp fire in my parent's back yard.
  • Friday I met with a friend for breakfast, built Legos with my cousin, went on a long walk with my brother, visited Arby's to say hello to my old boss and went out to dinner with my family.
  • Saturday we did Jeep trailer research in the morning (for hauling things) and then watched Harry Potter in the afternoon/evening finishing up with a podcast that night.
  • Sunday we drove back home ready to take on the new year. Vinnie slept almost the entire way. And then other times he took matters into his own paws.

See what I mean about filling each day? It can be dizzying if you're not used to it, but I loved it! I'm glad we got to spend so much time with my family and I'm already looking forward to the next time. Now I just need to survive Oregon's winter weather... :)