November 21, 2008

Family Financial Memo

Filed under: Economics — marcstober @ 1:22 am

It think we’ve all been getting these sorts of memos at work lately, and I recently got one from my alma mater. So, I decided to write one of my own. I figure someone’s going to leak it to the blogosphere anyway, so I’ll just post it here in the first place. 🙂


TO: Stober Family Members, Newton Highlands Branch

FROM: Marc Stober, Chief Operating Officer

DATE: November 21, 2008

SUBJECT: The Financial Crisis

With the recent news on Wall Street, I have been hearing many concerns about our organization’s situation and wanted to take this opportunity to detail what we are doing from the top.

First, there will be no layoffs.

As you know, we are operating at a deficit this year, due to extraordinary child care and preschool expenses. It is important to note that this is unrelated to the general financial crisis, and these expenses are fully funded through school year 2008-9.

In terms of recurring revenue, our employers have indicated that they are committed to continuing at present levels on a monthly basis. However, they are also facing pressure, and, based on our discussions with them, we are budgeting for a significantly smaller increase in revenue compared to what we have seen in recent years.

At present, our greatest exposure is highly leveraged real estate debt used to purchase our primary residence. While related debt service is our largest recurring expense, the good news is that this is a fixed expense that will not increase until at least 2013. We believe our investment is fundamentally sound, and will achieve long-term growth while continuing to provide immediate benefits through use of the underlying assets, regardless of the current market.

Our extended family’s long history of continuous operation through difficult times–including the Great Depression–gives us the strength to navigate in the present climate. However, in light of the global financial situation, there are some measures we are taking to cut back expenses. We feel these measures are prudent to preserve cash flow in the face of uncertain growth and unfavorable credit prospects.

The most difficult budget issue is transportation, and we have not made any final decisions. As you know, our second car was scheduled for replacement at the end of this school year, and we may decide to extend its service life. The reason we have not made a final decision is that repair costs required for this course of action are yet unknown. While this is potentially disappointing, keep in mind that our primary car still serves over 80% or our non-transit transportation needs. We committed to meeting those needs, and through a program of regular maintenance (that has not been cut), we have not had any unplanned downtime for a primary car in over 4 years. Additionally, thanks to successful strategic planning undertaken by the Board, we are uniquely situated for a suburban family to be able to utilize the MBTA as a safe, cost-effective option.

In the Travel and Entertainment category, you will find that fewer requests to eat in restaurants will be approved, and requests for desserts in restaurants, particularly, will not be approved (unless they are included in the cost of a kid’s meal). In the case of Cabot’s or The Cheesecake Factory, where ice cream or cheesecake, respectively, is kind of the point, sharing is strongly encouraged. An additional benefit of this will be improved health. Netflix has been put on hold for 90 days, and we will reconsider that offering then; unopened red envelopes left on top of the TV indicate a lack of demand at present. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions are subject to elimination as well. Executives, including myself, are being asked to purchase regular coffee in place of more expensive coffee drinks while traveling, and to utilize meals from our on-site food service provider whenever possible.

Charitable giving will continue, primarily to organizations to which we have supported on a regular annual basis, and new requests will be considered individually.

All major vacations, home improvements, and furniture purchases are temporarily put on hold, unless essential. Pre-approved food and clothing purchases can continue as needed and may be subject to increased budget scrutiny.

Lastly, note that we have no plans to add human resources. Requests for non-human resources (i.e., pets) may be considered in a future fiscal year.

The bottom line is that while the coming years may not be everything we want, we will stay together and have great stories to tell the grandkids.

Happy Thanksgiving.

If only my memo-writing skills could get me a job as a real CEO….

November 10, 2008

Star Market considered kosher butcher in Chestnut Hill?

Filed under: Food, Judaism, Newton — marcstober @ 10:01 am

Cross-posted to

An article in Friday’s Jewish Advocate said that Star Market had been considering, but decided against, including a kosher butcher in their store being rebuilt in Chestnut Hill. The company didn’t comment on the plans in the article, citing only that they would be including a kosher bakery as part of balancing customer needs within the “footprint” of the store. The source for the article was Rabbi Mendy Uminer of Chabad Lubavitch of Chestnut Hill, who said had been in discussions with store management and he believed it was financial decision.

Of course, a kosher butcher, which would requires a whole second butcher operation, needs more room than a kosher bakery, where you are basically just certifying the same products you’d be selling anyway. The whole south of Newton seems to be under-served by grocery stores, probably a result of Newton zoning that makes it very difficult to build commercial structures as large as most new grocery stores, so it doesn’t seem like a problem specific to kosher-keeping Jews.

On a positive note: I noticed while shopping in Shaw’s in Newtonville yesterday the return of pre-packaged Empire kosher chicken along with Meal Mart kosher beef. A while back they switched exclusively to the Rubashkin’s brand, which has since gotten a lot of bad publicity for its labor practices. I’m not qualified to judge them, but I’d rather not buy a brand tainted by scandal. Still, a couple sections of pre-packaged meat really doesn’t compare in terms of price and selection to what you can get at a place like the Butcherie in Brookline.

I guess if Jews have waited thousands of years for a return to Zion and are still waiting for the Messiah, we can wait a bit longer for a place to buy kosher meat with adequate parking. 🙂

November 4, 2008

Voting Booth Fonts

Filed under: Information Politics, Politics — marcstober @ 1:11 pm

One of the things I found challenging about voting this morning is that you are confronted simply with the candidates’ names. There are no graphic clues to help you choose which one to vote for. They are not organized by party or any other characteristic.

Moreover, they are not in the font and color we’ve come to associate with the candidates: McCain in the Optima font with a gold device on a navy blue background; Obama with his rising-sun-over-fields logo and heavy use of the Gotham font on a lighter blue background (although I realized while looking for an image to place above, his name is usually in a complementary serif font). So, I have to stop and think about it, and I think there must be a certain amount of human error that this causes.

We are used to this from store packaging – if you are looking for Tide you grab a bottle with certain shades of orange and yellow, and if the store-brand detergent wants to compete they make their package as close to the same shades as possible. Maybe candidates should be allowed to submit a logo and their names in a specific font. While it might seem like too much marketing, it might actually help ensure people vote for the candidate they intended.