Miscellaneous Writing Projects
A friend pointed out to me many years ago that it's one thing to be able to write and quite another to have something to say. I've never forgotten that counsel, whether writing for assignment or on my own. As I have told schoolchildren from time to time, the writer makes a bargain with the reader to inform, inspire, challenge or entertain--connect to both mind and heart. I remember this each time I conduct a client interview or scratch out ideas while waiting in line at the bank ... and, of course, during the writing process. So, if you're looking for someone to write for a strategically challenging project (with a challenging deadline), contact me for a discussion about objectives, deadlines and other issues. You will receive a prompt proposal in return. -bf
Last Stop Garage
It was just before closing time at the Last Stop Garage. A biting wind snatched a fresh handful of the day’s snowfall from a drift that had been building outside the front door and whirled it around as a wheezy old car slid to a stop. About four steps later, Frank Murphy blew himself into the waiting room, accompanied by a gust of fresh winter and a torrent of complaints, some of which were unprintable.
“Daggone car! You’d think it would bust itself up on a Wednesday instead of Friday, and here I am set to take the kid to college and now this – can you help me, Bub?” (Frank called everybody Bub and wasn’t shy about expressing his frustrations.)
“What’s wrong this time, Frank,” Buck asked, without glancing up from inside the Mercedes he was about to hook up to the ignition analyzer.
“It’s going ‘PSSSST’ and it smells like stink -- I hate cars,” the man said almost in one breath.
“They’re OK if you take care of ‘em,” Buck pronounced as he lifted the Mercedes’ hood. “Have a seat over there by the stove.”
Frank didn’t sit, choosing instead to shuffle around in front of the stove. Buck hoped that by the time Will got back the old wood burner that helped keep the Last Stop toasty from 'round about mid-October ‘til the dregs of March would have warmed Frank's chilly disposition a bit.
Frank had frequented the garage since before automatic transmissions were invented – at least it seemed that way, and despite his lengthy driving experience, cars were of little concern. They were like wheeled appliances to the old man, conveniences to be driven until something breaks. But today something apparently was broke, and Frank was venting about it.
“Got to be in Cap City tomorrow, in the A-yem for second semester – my granddaughter. And this old car, too, so whadya think, eh Bub?” he intoned, bouncing from one foot to the other.
Buck pried himself away from the Mercedes, grabbed the keys from his customer’s hand and launched himself into the brisk wind that still battered at the building. The car, a nearly 35-year-old in-line six cylinder Chevy Malibu, was about as old as the garage, Buck thought, as he coaxed the cranky automobile into Bay 2 and the big door clanked down behind it.
“Sounds about right, Frank,” Buck proclaimed, lifting the hood amid a rising plume of steam and a hissing sound that gradually died away after the ignition was turned off. A small puddle of dank water formed beneath the car and trickled onto the shop floor ... (continued)
© 2013 by Brian E. Faulkner
Rep-Net Application Letter
Corning, Inc., the leading specialty glass producer worldwide, had a problem in their Fall Brook, NY plant. They called on their Fairchild rep, Chuck Prey of Keller Industrial Products, Inc., to solve it.
Chuck went to the plant and watched the problem machine, a glaze wheel, in action. At first, he said, it was difficult to see what was happening. A series of TV picture tube necks (glass cylinders) were indexed into a fixed position, where each was slowly turned within a crescent-shaped flame that heated it to molten consistency prior to being shaped by a forming die. It was important for the neck ends to be heated evenly, and, therefore, the rotation had to be constant.
During indexing, however (as the necks moved in and out of position), they did not rotate, causing hot spots to develop on some of them as they passed through the flames and moved down the line. The result was an unforgiving scrap rate. Because of the glazing machine's inherent flaw, Corning had to continuously reprocess a high percentage of the picture tube ends.
How to keep the glass cylinders rotating evenly during the indexing cycle.
Corning's supervising engineer recognized that a phase shift differential might solve his problem. Chuck knew that just the right combination of shafts and speeds could do the job.
The next step was to submit Corning's rough sketch (pictured above) to Fairchild for analysis. Senior Develop-ment Engineer Dave Parker noticed that during indexing, tube rotation was effectively cancelled (rotation
was being driven by a separate belt, channeled through an indexing chain). He concluded that the Fairchild product that could best solve the customer's problem (with some custom engineering) was one of the company's oldest and simplest lines, a TD bevel gear differential.
This application turned out to be almost "textbook differential". The merit of the differential is apparent. If the speed of any two elements is controlled, the speed of the third can be varied progressively from a designed maximum in one direction, through zero, to a designed maximum in the other direction.
In short, Dave's TD design inserted the transmission in the indexing drive line, producing 1:1 power transfer from the input to the output shaft, which then drove the rotation. The compensating shaft monitored the indexing process via another belt. As indexing began and rotation slowed, the differential automatically ... (cont.)
Naked Strategic Truth
Premium Federal Savings Bank is a bank without walls. The Gibbsboro, N.J. institution thrives because of its clear target marketing (50+ blue collar workers), severely limited product offerings compared to the typical thrift (CDs and money market accounts only, at premium rates), advanced data-based relationship marketing that matches bank products to customers, distinctly superior service attitudes and blindingly fast response to customer inquiries. The most intriguing thing about Premium, however, is that in their customers' eyes, the bank's place of business hardly exists. There is no brick and mortar; Premium has almost totally collapsed time and space, so it doesn't matter if there's no "bank" or tellers for customers to go to. Transactions are handled (courteously, cheerfully and expeditiously) by mail or phone, thereby extending that "place" that exists in people's minds, Premium's unique business model has no boundaries. They have the strategic elasticity to become whatever they want and to serve whatever market segment they choose while offering whatever products they decide to offer. They can decide what a savings bank should be and then become it without regard to category convention.
The founder was an industry veteran who believed "there had to be a better way to run a bank." His idea was elegantly simple: (1) give customers superior rates and superior services; (2) don't offer services that require a heavy investment in fixed assets - no loans, no checking accounts, etc. Premium's income derives from its portfolio of conservative investments, with safety assured by a capital-to-risk-based assets ratio some three times greater than required by law.
Without uniquely authentic market positioning backed by a competitive package of finely focused products and services, plus knowledgeable, caring and committed people, a bank is merely a big undifferentiated box with money in it. Of course, the same is true of any other business or product until it decides to break out of the commodity box, discerns its key competitive advantages and builds its value-added appeal around them - and then communicates that to their prospects, who are drawn to want to business with them.
Premium Savings Bank has done just that, without having to subscribe to the conceptual "walls" that seem to make one bank seem so much like another bank - brick and mortar aside. As a result, they have become uncommonly successful in a generally troubled business category.
(Note: This article was written for a proposed business strategy newsletter during the late '80s. It's fascinating to consider how Premium's marketing concept anticipated online banking.)
To contact Brian about potential writing and/or narration projects: