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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Vacation Week -- Microsoft, RVing, WSJ

So far, it's just been all work, work, work on this blog. But even the most dedicated of CEO's need some time away. So I thought I'd share some pictures and news from the past week that I spent with my family in upstate NY. Don't click away yet if you're just here to learn more about Tutor.com and have no patience for fluffy stuff -- lots of company news below.

Not all vacations are equal, and this one was definitely set up to be an adventure. My wife and I have three great kids, ages 11, 9, and 5. We packed all of us into a 28 foot RV and headed to campgrounds on and around Lake George for about 10 days. Neither of us had ever been in an RV before, but we got some books, checked out some online RV communities, watched the Robin Williams RV movie, and did a test a couple months ago with a short weekend trip that wasn't a complete disaster.



If you're looking for a vacation full of learning experiences and chances to get close (really close in a cramped RV) with your family, this one hits the spot. It was about as far away from an all-inclusive beach resort vacation as you could get. Everyone was put to work, but the work was often fun -- finding wood for fires, for arrows, for marshmallow roasting, making fires, making bows and arrows (my youngest in the picture on the left), lugging water, finding bait for fishing...


We dove headlong into the adventure, like this shot of me diving off rocks into the lake. I'll spare you the details -- we came out alive, unscathed, with some great experiences the kids will be talking about for years. But we're also ready for an all-inclusive resort for the next trip. :-)


Of course, time does not stop if I head off into the woods. I had my laptop and broadband Sprint card with me for when we had electricity and cell coverage in between campgrounds, downloading a few days of messages and replies at a time. I've got to say I have a great group of managers and staff -- an amazing amount of work was done while I was away, and critical decisions were made without delay, because everyone that needed to feel empowered was.


We broke some great news on my vacation week -- announcing a key partnership with Microsoft, Tutor.com becoming their preferred online tutoring provider. Among other aspects of the partnership, customers who purchase Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 through major retailers and online will receive 75 minutes of Tutor.com Direct. Press release can be seen at Microsoft or at Tutor.com. Note for a future post in more depth -- it is not easy for a smaller company like ours to negotiate a deal with a larger company -- negotiation leverage is skewed, turnaround time and legal review can be excruciatingly long, contracts are often one-sided. To illustrate the pain a small company can experience in such negotiations, I often use the story of the chicken and the pig who decide to go into business together -- the chicken suggests to the pig, "we can open a diner and serve bacon and eggs" -- not too fair a deal for the pig, and exactly where many small companies find themselves when working with a bigger company. Microsoft, however, was great in every way, an ideal partner and I'm not just saying that because they'll likely be reading this. The deal was done quickly, fairly, and in a way that gets both companies what they need to succeed.


And on the last day of my vacation, on 8/10/07, I found myself in the Wall Street Journal in an article that was appropriate for a vacation week, titled "Cutting Edge Executives", about CEO's that enjoy woodworking, primarily to get away from the hustle and bustle of business. George Anders did a great job in this piece of tying woodworking to the business world.


That's all for now, good to be back at my desk, well rested, and with reliable Internet access and electricity that I take for granted a little less now.


George Cigale, gcigale@tutor.com