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Financial Planning > College Planning

Showing up is 61 percent of the battle!

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I was sitting in the Orlando International Airport one day waiting at the gate to board my departing flight. By the way, the acronym for the Orlando International Airport is MCO. What the heck is that? MCO? Shouldn’t it be OIA? The airport in Hartford, Conn., is BDL. Orange County, Calif., is SNA, and Newark, N.J., is EWR. As a frequent traveler this drives me crazy. When you go to an airline web site to book a flight, you can’t just type in your travel destination, you have to enter the secret code. And if you don’t know the secret code for your travel destination, you have to go to the airport secret code link and look it up. And I’m pretty sure if there’s an acronym in airport manuals for the airport secret code link it’s not ASCL.

Sorry, I needed to vent.

Back at the MCO departure gate, a guy sat next to me and I was temporarily blinded by the sunlight reflecting off of a huge, shiny, platinum luggage tag attached to his computer case that read, “President’s Sales Club.” Wiping the tears from my eyes, I asked if he was in sales. He said he sold mobile equipment storage containers for use at construction sites. You’ve probably never really noticed those big metal boxes at construction sites. They look a lot like the big 18-wheeler trucks that pass you on the highway, without the truck part on the front or the 18 wheels underneath. And you don’t see them on the road; they’re typically located at construction sites. In fact, I guess they’re really not much like those 18-wheelers at all. Bad comparison.

Anyway, we talked for a while about the storage container business and how he became so successful in sales for his company. Suddenly, his cellular phone rang and he became engaged in a conversation with his teenage daughter about going off to college. He looked confused and frustrated when he hung up.

He loosened his tie, looked into space, shrugged his shoulders and began to ask, “Do you have a teenage …” and then tried to rip his mouth and chin off with his bare hand.

I raised two fingers and uttered, “Whew, ah … whoa!” I looked at my shoes and shook my head.

“Man, so sorry … me … just one,” he said as he rolled his eyes up, “… deserve a medal.”

“Last week … got her grades … well I … and she … you understand?” I sputtered.

He gritted his teeth and responded, “Same thing with … but … hid them … oh man!”

We sat there looking at each other until finally we were able to speak in complete sentences again.

There’s a nonverbal language spoken between fathers of teenage girls. I think it’s known as NTDL, or would that be MCO? I’m still in airport secret code mode! We don’t understand our daughters, have difficulty guiding them and lose the ability to put together a coherent sentence when challenged by them. We love them dearly, but alternate between wanting them to be with us forever and wanting them to go off to college. And I know from experience that no matter how much you offer to pay the University of Georgia, it isn’t willing to enroll a 13-year-old girl.

My new best friend, Rob, told me his daughter just finished the process of applying to college. She was afraid she wouldn’t get into her preferred schools because of her grade-point average and College Board scores. At one point, he said, she became so upset she gave up hope and decided not to apply at all.

Rob shared some wisdom with her that gave her renewed hope and enthusiasm. He told her that after he graduated from college, he went to work as a sales representative for an office equipment company in Chicago. He was scared to death about having to sell against the seasoned salespeople who worked for his competitors. As a brand new salesperson, he admitted to her that his sales skills left a lot to be desired. In addition, the copy machines he sold were better quality and more expensive than most of his competitors’, but he didn’t know how to justify the higher price to his customers. To top it off, 10 other companies sold similar products in the region.

One morning he received a formal request for pricing from a local hospital. The request: Submit his price for 20 copy machines. Rob told his daughter he jumped up from his desk and ran down the hall to his sales manager’s office in a panic. His sales manager told him to calm down and proceeded to give him a lesson in human nature and statistics he would never forget.

“Rob, I’ve been selling for a long time, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned about responding to formal requests for pricing,” his manager said. “First of all you don’t need to worry about all of the competitors, as only about 80 percent of them even are likely to respond to the customer’s request.”

The manager continued, “And of the eight who respond, probably only 75 percent of them will submit their responses on time. The two late ones will be disqualified for missing the deadline. Finally, only 65 percent of the remaining six who respond on time will include everything the customer asked for. Two will forget to include something like the cost for extended warranty, installation, customer power requirements or an accessory the customer will need.”

“To win against six of your competitors,” his manager concluded, “all you need to do is turn in a complete package on time. You’ll beat them before a single response is reviewed. Then focus on competing with the other three. That’s assuming, of course, you’re one of the final four and not one of the other six.”

Rob suggested to his daughter that statistics regarding high school graduates applying to college probably follow a similar pattern. If 1,000 high school graduates begin the application process online, only about 800 will finish, only 600 of those will submit on time and only 400 will send everything the college asks for. He told her to be sure to apply on time and make sure her SAT and ACT scores, as well as her essay and letters of recommendation, were included in the submission. Rob finished by saying she would wind up beating out all of the kids with better grades and scores who were in the group of 600 who didn’t even make the first cut.

Eight weeks later she was accepted to three of her five choices of colleges, Rob proudly reported. She was on cloud nine until today, he added, when it dawned on her she would be leaving her boyfriend behind and losing her nonrefundable gym membership and six months of prepaid tanning sessions.


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