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Last updated 12/31/2013
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It is with deep regret that we announce the passing of Ray Howard, better known on this page as Uncle Wisdom. After a long battle with prostate cancer, which he fought with every breath and weapon at his disposal, he moved on to the next part of life's journey on Saturday, October 26th, 2013.

For more about Ray's life and accomplishments, and the future of the Uncle Wisdom website, click here.

Nationwise

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ZIPPO PLAN FOR CREATING AND KEEPING GOOD JOBS

George Blaisdell created the famous flip-top lighter during the depths of the Great Depression. He built a factory in Bradford, Pennsylvania, and created good jobs for American workers. Eighty-one years later, American workers in Bradford still make Zippo lighters with nary a job migrating overseas.

Creating a successful business during the Great Depression was a miracle. But keeping all the jobs in America for more than 80 years was an even bigger miracle.

How did George Blaisdell, his son and grandson accomplish what most pundits say is impossible?

First, Blaisdell designed and built a uniquely high-performance product. The Zippo would light a cigarette during the kinds of winds, which would blow out the flames provided by competing lighters and matches. This made Zippos ideal for all outdoor activities from tennis to golf to hunting.

Second, Blaisdell built an extremely durable product – one which would last a lifetime or two. Zippos have been passed down from grandfather to son to grandson.

Third, Blaisdell promoted the quality of his product with the promise, "If it breaks, we will fix it." There was no time limit on the offer. (Compare this with today's typical warranty of three months of labor and 12 months for parts.)

Fourth, Blaisdell created a broad market for the Zippo by restricting sales of his product to the military during World War II. Soon the Zippo found uses far beyond the lighting of cigarettes. Zippos became miniature furnaces, heating soldiers' food in their helmets. Zippos were used to signal friendly troops during night attacks. When flack knocked out instrument panel lights, pilots flicked on their Zippos to provide the light for reading their instruments. Next to a letter from home, the Zippo became a soldier's best friend.

And when the troops came home, they all brought their Zippos, creating a huge civilian demand. Today the Zippo is sold in 120 countries. During 2012, its 80th anniversary year, Zippo manufactured its 500 millionth lighter.

Today when jobs migrate overseas, the pundits are quick to blame unions and high wage rates. But that doesn't explain why Zippos are still made in Branford, Pennsylvania, where workers are paid many times more than workers in China.

We can still create good jobs in America – and keep them here. All we have to do is follow the Zippo plan:

1. Create a product that solves an irritating, emotional problem. Self-sealing tires are a current product example. But a nation of aging, aching backs could do with adjustable heights for sinks, wash basins and other appliances which require too much bending over.

2. Create a uniquely high-quality product. One that lasts and lasts. This worked for Mercedes, Honda, Toyota and Honda in the car business. It worked for George Forstner of Amana, who created the first truly durable refrigerator during a time when the national complaint was "the fridge is on the blink again."

3. Promote the product's unique performance, quality or durability. The "million mile Mercedes" and the "Energizer Bunny" are good examples.

4. Get the product into the hands of a thought leader group which will popularize it with the masses. Forget TV advertising. Make it popular with the people who blog, use Facebook and YouTube. And don't forget the military. Look at the popularity of desert and jungle camouflage-style fabrics and clothing. And assault rifles.

It is important to note that doing one or two of the above will not assure success. To find business success, create new American jobs, and keep them here requires the execution of all four elements of the plan.

While this may seem like an impossible plan to execute, some have done it.

Ford is a good example. In 1985, Ford decided to throw the Lincoln Town Car on the scrap heap by 1987. Research said the big lumbering car was "a dinosaur." The CEO despised the car and refused to let it be displayed at auto shows.

But a Zippo-headed consultant was brought in. He headed a team whose job was to preserve a car that accounted for the good jobs at Ford's Wixom, Michigan plant. The team developed and sold Ford management on a four-point plan to make the Town Car's sales boom.

1. Downsizing at Cadillac and Chrysler left the Lincoln Town Car as the last big car standing. This gave the car a performance advantage in cabin comfort, especially when driven over pot-holed city streets.

2. The size uniqueness was promoted with the famed "Valet Commercial," which showed that a restaurant valet couldn't tell the difference between the downsized Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile. But he was able to quickly retrieve the much longer Lincoln Town Car. (When that commercial was shown, several Cadillac dealers threatened to come to Detroit and kill Cadillac managers.)

3. The price of the Lincoln was increased several thousand dollars to enhance its image of uniqueness and perceived quality.

4. Ford attacked the limo market, where Cadillac held almost 90 percent share of stretch limos. Within two years, Lincoln captured, and retains, the dominant position in stretch limos. This prestige, thought-leader market washed over into the retail consumer market and enhanced the status of Lincoln.

In the following years, Town Car sales revived and prospered. Some analysts claim that the Town Car accounted for over 25% of Ford's worldwide profits during the 1980s and early 1990s. Most important, the good jobs at Wixom were preserved for twenty additional years.

Sadly, the plant is now closed. Ford management ignored the Town Car, blinded by their infatuation with trucks and SUVs.

But the Lincoln Town Car still soldiers on, more than 20 years after it was to be killed off.

The Lincoln Town Car example demonstrates that the Zippo Plan will work – even for a lackluster management.

If anyone is serious about creating and preserving good American jobs, they should look to Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell as an inspiration and example.

(click here for a printable version of this article)

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Lessons for Life, Told with a Light Touch

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"HOLY TAMALE! THE MEXICANS ARE COMING!"

Vigilantes are manning the border. Politicians are wringing their hands. Two governors have declared states of emergency. The unions are up in arms. Some economists are using the "C word" (crisis). Homeland Security says we should immediately "go to red."

What's all the furor about?

Illegal Mexicans are pouring across the border. The latest estimates put more than six million illegal Mexicans living and working in the United States. American workers worry about losing jobs. Unions fret about losing members. Americans want to stop the influx. Many want to wall off Mexico.

But against all the obstacles stands business. Business wants workers. And illegal Mexicans want work. So the President and Congress dance about, trying to placate both sides.

So what's new?

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Livingwise

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LIFE IN THE TIME OF CHRIST

There’s one more big thing you have to be thankful for this holiday season: That you were born in the 20th century and not the first century.

This article will take you into the homes and shops of Bethlehem during the time of Christ. We are able to do this with the tremendous help of the hard-working members of the North Naples (Florida) United Church of Christ, who each year build the village of Bethlehem as it existed two thousand years ago.

How many of us could have survived in the middle-class lifestyle of first-century Bethlehem?

The typical Jewish home is built of dark volcanic rock and wood. The roof is made of wood, palm leaves and clay. It must be rebuilt each year. Wealthier people plaster their walls with mud and straw. A wall surrounds your small garden to give you shade. You grow nuts, dates and grains because you cannot afford the water and space necessary for flowers.

Your kitchen has a domed oven heated by a fire made up of animal dung, pressed olives and small branches.

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A NEW YORKER COMES TO PIKE COUNTY

He first saw Barry, Illinois (population 1100) at the Apple Festival a dozen years ago.

While watching the parade, he heard a terrible scream which seemed to last forever. Glancing to the left, he saw an aluminum chair slowly collapsing, the metal shrieking as it disintegrated. A lady ended up flat on her back, her face flushed with embarrassment.

Suddenly a man rushed over, looked down at her and yelled, "They sure don't make these suckers like they used to." At his urging, the very hesitant New Yorker helped lift the lady up onto her feet.

He was shocked that this man, a banker, would be so considerate and helpful. In New York, no one rushes over to help anyone. The first guy to go to a fallen person in New York is likely a personal injury lawyer prepared to sue anyone who touches the injured.

Before the New Yorker could recover from that shock, someone mentioned the next pickup truck to appear in the parade route, which ferried the Pike County Pork Queen.

Pork Queen? In New York, the words "pig" and "porker" are derogatory terms for unattractive women. No woman in her right mind would want to win a pork queen contest. But there she was. Lovely to look at. And not at all anorexic-looking like leading New York models.

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Worldwise

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THE MIRACULOUS LITTLE ISLAND IN THE NORTH

There's a nifty little island about the size of Kentucky, located northwest of Britain, that could teach us a thing or two on getting along in the world.

They don't worry about global warming, being located between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic. A little warming couldn't hurt.

In 1975, when the New York Times was ferociously promoting the dangers of global cooling, the islanders didn't pay a bit of attention. They already had more glacial ice than all of Europe combined.

While the USA talks a lot about alternate fuels, the islanders have established geothermal and hydro power as energy mainstays.

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WHY GAS COSTS SO MUCH

We are into $4-a-gallon gas, moving rapidly toward $5-a-gallon, and more and more.

Are we running out of oil? Has oil peaked out?

No, there's plenty of oil around, under the seas and in the ground. But its like "Water, water everywhere and nary and drop to drink."

We face "oil, oil everywhere, and nary a drop to use."

The problem is not oil reserves; it's oil production.

Why can't we produce the oil we have?

There are eleven reasons:

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Moneywise

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GETTING RID OF THE MIDDLEMAN HELPS CHURCH

Consumers and business know that when you get rid of the middleman, prices go down and sales go up. Two good things.

Churches, however, have never learned that lesson.

They solicit funds which go to the Church treasury to be dispensed by various boards, committees and the ministers – middlemen all.

In these times of financial stress, when collections are down in the face of increasing financial demands on churches, the middleman is an untenable burden to bear.

But one minister saw the light and got rid of the middleman – with incredible results.

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LET CAPITALISM SOLVE WORLD POVERTY

The critics are after the United States again. This time it's about our “low” foreign aid budget.

United Nations studies indicate that over one billion people throughout the world live below the poverty line. Citing this tremendous problem, the critics point the finger at America and claim we are giving too little to solve the world's dire poverty problems.

They claim that our total contribution is only about $7 a person, or less than the cost of one discount CD. Every American should rightly hang his head in shame, according to those who believe that government can end world poverty by throwing lots of money at it.

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Humorwise

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THE MAD, MAD ECONOMY, PART 529

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THE MAD, MAD ECONOMY, PART 528

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Chinawise


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WHAT'S HAPPENING IN CHINA THAT WILL AFFECT YOU?

For the answers, just peek into a Coach.

There’s a bag full of answers and implications for you inside.

First, Coach announced this year that it is now getting 13 percent of its sales from China.

This is important because it indicates that China's growing middle class is now able to afford a high luxury brand. This means that China's rapidly growing middle class will be demanding more and more of the world’s scarce materials, ranging from food to metals to oil.

This will affect the prices of everything you buy. This trend will accelerate as Coach moves to rapidly expand its China store count from 55 to well beyond the 174 it has in Japan.

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IS CHINA SAVING CHRISTIANITY?

Although the Christian movement is shrinking all over the world, China may save Christianity from disappearing.

That may seem strange to you since "the Chinese are all a bunch of Communists," according to many Christian preachers in the USA. The robed ones believe that all Communists are atheists.

But the preachers are wrong on all counts.

First, the Chinese are not all Communists. Out of about 1.3 billion people, there are only 70 million Communist Party members. That's just five percent of the people.

Second, recent surveys indicate that "37 percent of the Chinese people believe in a higher, spiritual being." That's 485 million people of faith – or seven times the number of Communists.

Third, experts believe the Communist Party is lying about the number of Christians in China. (Beijing has outlawed the word "Christianity." It only recognizes "Protestantism" and "Catholicism" as official religions.) The government says there are only 5 million Catholics and 16 million Protestants in China at this time.

But that lie is exposed by the following facts:

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Newswise

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WHY MARTHA STEWART SHOULD BE VERY ANGRY

When Martha was investigated by the Feds over the issue of selling stock based on insider information, she allegedly told a fib or two. When the case against her fell apart for lack of evidence, the Feds went after her on a charge of "lying to Federal Investigators."

Martha was charged, tried and sentenced to 10 months in the pokey. Just for telling a fib or two.

What must she think now in reading about the current FBI scandal? A scandal that involves more than lying.

It seems that between 2009 and January 2010, FBI agents were tested to determine how well they understood the law and the rules governing surveillance of American citizens. At the end of the test, all were required to certify that they had taken the test without any help from anyone.

But a great number of them cheated by using their computers, crib sheets and software that contained both the test questions and answers. Yet they "certified" they had taken the test without help.

In other words, they lied. They lied to federal investigators. And they cheated on top of lying.

Making matters worse, several supervisors were caught lying and cheating on the exam.

What they did was far worse than anything Martha allegedly did.

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THE REAL REASONS FOR BODY SCANS AND PATDOWNS

Washington tells you it invades your privacy at the airport in order to protect you from terrorists who might pack explosives in their shoes, socks and underwear.

Unfortunately, the highly submissive American public has been conditioned over decades to play omega dog to Washington's alpha dog.

You have been told that your choice is between submitting to the Government's wishes or being blown up.  And trusting souls that we are, we believe those are our only two choices.

This pattern of government intrusiveness on our privacy is reflected all over Europe – Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, etc.  The West has succumbed to the false argument that you have only two choices: submit or be blown up.

But there is a third way, and it is practiced by Israel.

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The Best of Uncle Wisdom

DIETING MISDIRECTIONS

The weight gain road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Even good, common sense ideas can turn out badly. For example, the experts have long recommended some silly stuff:

  • "Drink a diet cola; it has fewer calories than a regular cola."

  • "Eat many small meals a day, not the traditional three squares."

  • "Portion control, buy smaller packages."

  • "If you must eat junk food, don't let your children do it."

But alas, all of these suggestions have proven to be dead wrong.

Some even cause you and your children to gain unwanted weight.

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THE DIRTY, STINKY, SMELLY RAT

The Pratenjaca brothers were born in Cleveland, Ohio, during the Great Depression, when things were really bad. It was a time when the boys would pull their sled down to the coal yard to pick up a bushel because the family couldn't afford to fill its coal chute all at once. On a sunny winter's day, the house might reach 60 degrees. On balmy days like that, Joseph and Michael would happily daydream of the possibility of buying an all-day sucker or two.

From their earliest days, the two boys were different. Joseph felt bathtubs were designed to make wine in. He was never called "wet behind the ears" because he rarely washed them. His mother would scream, "Don't you know that cleanliness is next to Godliness?"

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