Amazon vs Hachette: And Why An Axe May Beat A Hammer

For those not up to speed on the war of words (quite literally) between Amazon™ and Hachette™, it basically revolves around one central theme: Amazon believes a price should be X, and Hachette believes it should be Y. So the question everyone is asking is, “Who’s right?” In my view that’s the wrong question to even begin with.

The reason being is this (and I’m not trying to be coy) both are correct if you understand what the real question and answer should be, and that is: Whomever owns the product owns the right to price. Whomever owns the distribution point (or the store) owns the right to carry it or not. Period.

For those who want to disagree you need look no further for a clear example of this than Apple™.

A distributor and a producer can agree to disagree on what their respective businesses should make in profit, but a distributor is in the distribution business, not the creation of product business. (Regardless if they create their own product within that very same business.) Their models, their strategies, their world view as distributors is not the same as what the producer or creator of a said products business model or priorities are – no matter how much they say, nor how broken they believe them to be.

There also lies within this great debate one of the greatest conundrums that no one (and I mean no one) is addressing. As broken as the publishing business model is debated and pointed to as the broken model of models, I ask: and Amazon’s model is perfection? Hardly.

I’ll follow that statement with this: It might be even more broken and in need of restructure more than the publishing industry. (Yes, I did just make that statement.)

Why would I say such a thing you’re asking? Easy: Let’s not forget Amazon has still yet to prove it can make or turn a profit worthy of its stock valuation. And that question is still up for grabs even though it just celebrated its 20th year since founded.

Some are asking why is this happening to begin with, along with why now? Many thought or believed Amazon was the greatest friend of book publishers, authors and more.

Yes they were, but as I alluded to earlier I believe something has changed in Amazon’s business model that now needs correcting. Something most just turned a blind eye towards as if it would never need to be addressed in the future. i.e., Amazon needs to start turning real profits in order to convince Wall Street that their investment in this retail experiment can actually pay dividends or profits which can be returned to share holders in the future. That future – is now here.

In my view this is just another one of the realizations I’ve warned about rearing its ugly head: Without the Federal Reserves QE pumping and the spigot almost closed, the once hot money now chases cold hard facts. i.e., “Show us the money!” If not – the hot stories will begin to get the cold shoulder, and the once darlings of Wall Street are not only far from immune –  they may have bulls-eyes painted on their backs. (Do you stay in Amazon? Or, do you move to let’s say the next greatest of the same story as in Alibaba’s IPO?)

For all intents and purposes Amazon is still “an experiment” in online retailing. And Wall Street is becoming increasingly incessant on wanting many of the “old” questions answered since the Federal Reserve has been turning off the spigot of free speculation money.

And the question that hangs over Amazon like the sword of Damocles is: Will they ever make money? Or, is this the best it gets?

One needs only look at a stock chart and notice the eery timing coincidence of its descending share price and the announcement that the Federal Reserve was actually serious in reducing the QE flow of free cash.

Remember, for as large and encompassing as Amazon is with all the wonderful things it can and has done to make shopping better; it can only last so long before selling at a loss catches up with it. And that has only been made possible as Wall Street stays committed to the story that “someday” Amazon will make money to justify their investment.

Without that narrative in place and believed, Amazon as we know it changes. Again getting back to “why this is all happening” my view and belief is that the real issue here for Amazon is: Many (including possibly Amazon itself) have forgotten it’s not 1999 anymore.

Just a scant 15 years ago the internet and everything we now take for granted was almost unimaginable. If you were placed in hibernation then only to wake now it would be the equivalent of being a Quaker suddenly transported to the deck of the Enterprise.

Smart phones alone are only 8 years old and the Blackberry™ (a what?) was at the time a marvel of marvels. Today? What is the same is Amazon’s business model. i.e., Sell at break even if not a loss, for as long as it can till they are the dominant (if not only) choice.

The “for as long as it can” part of that statement is what I believe is now jeopardizing that model. Amazon is still if not more convenient as ever as a first go to place to check prices and more. But (and it’s a very big but) it is far from the absolute price dominator on all items it was in respect to just 4 or 5 years ago.

You can buy securely, and find alternatives in about 2 keystrokes today from some of the very retailers Amazon was handily decimating earlier. Many have adjusted their own strategies and are actually beating them at their own game. Not on everything, but in enough places and in enough volume to cause significant concern for the once unquestioned king of margin reduction.

So in getting back to this debate let’s focus and use what’s being argued that currently has to do with eBooks and authors. (putting aside the ever-growing Disney® contention)

Authors create the content to be sold. Amazon distributes that content. But without Amazon authors can still create, still make product available, still have fans, still have sought after products. Amazon? Without authors – they are empty shelves whether tangible or virtual.

Adding more confusion to the mix is the cohort of authors demanding theirs, as well as other publishers, “should just suck it up and stop being greedy.” I can’t help but wonder: Where was the outcry when the price of Prime™ membership increased?

For all intents and purposes, that increase on a customer that only purchased eBooks and didn’t use any other service or purchased an item (for what ever the reason) over a year would be a 100% windfall of net profit to Amazon – not to any authors.

Would it have been “fair” for the publishing industry to argue that increase in price and profit should be distributed how they saw fit? How about the same argument reversed? i.e., The increase in your Prime membership is too much and will drive down customer participation getting less eBooks into customers hands.

Based on Amazon’s own argument – they had every right (if not even more so) to make it. For after all – they actually represented the product and authors.

What is also quite instructive (and much to my amazement) is the very public dealing with customers, authors, and the publishing industry. Not only is this in full view, but rather the distributor is inviting public participation into what is truly a pure business/profit argument.

Even more amazing to me is the lack of, if not deafening silence of what should be the very loudest vocal group of all: The competition!

This alone shows me how hunkered down, scared, lack of strategic vision (just to name a few) many of the businesses that were decimated by the Amazon model have become.

If I were the CEO or the head of sales/marketing let’s say of Barnes and Noble™, I would have a team of the best in advertising whether within my structure or hired out and making ad buys hand over fist and more using this public discourse as fuel why customers could get what they need right where they used to get it – with me or my store.

I also would have my purchasing, author relations, and other departments (as well as myself) on the phones, on planes, on what ever it took and start making deals. And I mean deals using this as a vehicle to cut once unimaginable deals where before they might have never been listened to. But now? All ears would be open.

However, what has been the response? (Insert chirping cricket sound here)

Personally these once formidable competitors are acting like the sheep they’ve become. (i.e., Book retailers of any sort, but not limited to them in isolation either.)

What an opportunity being lost for businesses that relish competition seriously. Here they have an opportunity to push back being handed to them on a silver platter by the very competitor they see as a nemesis, free of charge and – with free shipping. Absolutely amazing to anyone with business sense.

Remember: For as large, dominating, along with great service and free shipping. If you want let’s say Malcolm Gladwell’s latest work you’re not going to go to an empty slot and say, “Oh well, I’ll just buy Michael Sadwell’s latest. They’re probably the same seeing they’re in the same section.” Same thing for a Steven King novel.

Yet, the way this argument is playing out by both Amazon as well as the authors siding with them, one would think Amazon was “the only” place where one could by them.

As I alluded to earlier, if you listened to the deafening silence coming from Amazon’s competitors, it’s easy to believe that to be true. (Again just on the sole issue in a lack of a cohesive, strategic response that has been afforded them via this fight, I am still in absolute total amazement and bewilderment.)

The internet and buying via retail through it too say “has changed” since 1999 is of course an understatement. But, what seems oblivious to all players is Amazon today is more in the camp of “habitual” or “convenience” purchasing rather than what it was back in the early ’00’s where it was truly – in a league of its own with nearly no alternative.

Today there is not the hesitancy to purchase online at other places. As a matter of fact, you can find many items cheaper than Amazon with just as good of an experience from online retailers that have upped their games and learned how to use e-commerce far more effectively than they were just 5 years ago.

Credit card processing, checkout, customer service, and yes – prices can be found that are rivaling Amazon at their own game in many areas.

What might be more at stake and where I feel is the most important area to watch is if in fact Hachette holds firm, refuses to capitulate, and pulls its products or services out from Amazon. As I’ve said over, and over, Whether you agree with one side or the other, the fact remains – Hachette, and their respective authors own the material.

If they decide to pull while at the same time have the guts to increase the retail price of their offerings and distributing them via a more friendly vendor: it may be the first crack in the armor that Amazon has yet to ever face.

Remember: A customer not only can, but will go somewhere else and actually pay more because: The product has value, is worth it, and they want it. Now.

This is the true model that many have forgotten. And no one has forgotten it more than the publishing industry itself. If they can get back to understanding and relating to that basic fundamental principle – the publishing industry model can fix itself.

The reason they’re both in such straits is one forgot, while the other is forgetting exactly what business they are truly in. One business creates the product, the other distributes. The cost and business of creation is not the same as the cost of distribution. For if that were the case, why is there such a thing as copyright?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Why It’s All Worth It

Presenting in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

Presenting in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

Last week I gave a presentation in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center. This facility is one of the most vibrant as well as the largest of its kind in the country. At the event I wanted to push a few points that I’m defining in my upcoming book.

When you’re trying to convince or put forth ideas you never know what or if

Presenting at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

Presenting at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

your message is getting through. Entrepreneurs are in my humble opinion the “Special Forces” of the business world. They are the elite of business and they should be proud that they are. I also made the statement: “There is nothing wrong with the economy. The only thing wrong is your relationship too it. The economy is, what ever it is, at any point in time. How you work in relationship too it – is all that matters. You have to be fearless in defining and stating your value proposition to people or businesses you can help with fearless abandonment!” After that statement you could hear a pin drop. Right there I was a little concerned that maybe I pushed too hard, but then again, these are entrepreneurs. That alone proves on its own merit they don’t need to be coddled. They’re looking for solid information they can use. If it didn’t resonate – that’s up to them to decide, they’re far from needing hands held.

Then later when I returned home I received the following message from an attendee:

“Although I congratulated you after you spoke yesterday at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center, I wanted to let you know again how much your message was appreciated! You were terrific!

Your consistent point about the importance of being fearless was precisely what I needed to hear as I move forward in my business!

Please let me know when you are speaking again in Dublin.

Many, many thanks for your inspiring words!” – A.R.

Entrepreneurs facing the challenges in today’s business climate are more than eager and are ready, willing, and able to move more now than ever before. For it’s in the worst, most struggling of times entrepreneurs are at their best. Because if everything was smooth sailing with rubber stamped meetings and projections – the bureaucracy of management for managements sake would forever rein supreme.

Meeting with all these entrepreneurs makes everything I’m involved in worth while.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

If Not Trusting This Market Makes Me An Idiot: Then Call Me Crazy!

I was left slack-jawed as I listened to an interview on financial media between the host and guest. I have always enjoyed as well as respected the host even though many times I may totally disagree. However, as for the guest being interviewed, not only did I disagree: I lost quite a bit of respect for.

During the interview the questions were posed as to why people (investors et al) harbor these feelings of angst as to whether or not they should get in, get out, etc,, etc. The guest then went on to use data points, math, trend references, and any other metric available within a snake oil sales bag as to prove his point: Where people not believing in this market rally along with those who’ve not participated are, (and I quote) “Idiots.”

I have only one answer to that statement: What you’ve just demonstrated is exactly why people with more than half a brain aren’t buying your message: You are insulting their/our intelligence.

Over and over again data samples were used as to fortify the argument why it is not only perfectly logical to be at heights never before seen in the history of the financial markets, but we’re here based on the sound argument of earnings and profits. (right here I nearly lost my coffee!)

So good are these earnings it was noted, “The analysts had to revise their numbers up!” This was stated as ipso facto the financial markets are ready to power on even higher.

I’m sorry, but I’m a businessman, not a “Wall Street-er.” And I know first hand: Data points, trend-lines, projections, extrapolations, and more can be made to look and sound more in line with watching a fairytale presentation about unicorns and rainbows. Add to this from actual experience and knowledge most don’t (or wont) stand up to the first truly hard reality based objective analysis poked anywhere deeper than superficial presentations and analysis.

When asked to define who constitutes the “Idiots,” the reply came back (I’m paraphrasing but not by much if at all) “The people who are giving into their worst human instincts allowing their emotions to control their perspectives and attitudes their comments and their portfolio are ignoring the data.”

No, we are not ignoring the data. We understand the what, where, and how the data that you are providing as proof positive is being created and cherry picked.

What’s glaringly obvious to anyone with any common sense is that all the data as to back up the position by the so-called “smart crowd” that it isn’t the Federal Reserve’s intervention moving this market willfully omits: None of their historic data contains the Fed., its direct intervention of balance sheet purchasing within the markets of today! I mean seriously – we’re the “idiots?”

What’s being completely ignored via the data is that you believe we are idiots for knowing the difference. It would seem we as investors, business people, entrepreneurs, mom or pops are looked upon as just not being able to understand fairy tales and fables. The issue for Wall Street is many of us are a lot smarter than they give us credit for.

I know it’s only in a Wall Street brokers office where I’ll be shown reason after reason why I should invest my money in their newest (ridiculous) scheme. For again, only on Wall Street can the case be made (with a straight face): “This company is now selling dollar bills at 99 cents. However, with improved efficiencies, synergies, a workforce downsizing and more: they’ll be able to offer even more of a discount creating even more top line growth. Currently using GAAP accounting, sure they’re running at a loss, but via their new accounting firm and restructuring their Non-GAAP earning shows them making money hand over fist next quarter! This company is destined to be the hottest thing since ________(add last greatest bankruptcy here) Just look at this chart! But you need to take the long-term approach here, you need to ride the waves, so don’t look to pull out at the first sign of trouble, as a matter of fact: that’s when you should buy more!” And I’m the one who’s an idiot?

Getting back to why we’re crazy for not buying in (especially at the highest level the markets have ever been in the history of mankind) to this financially engineered market can be precisely correlated to the very people who are in charge of it!

Speeches and more pointing to “over confidence” have been coming straight from some of the very people who are themselves Federal Reserve Bankers. (You know, the very people in charge of providing all this juice!)

Many are both publicly stating or eluding too in no uncertain terms that it is the very people telling others such as myself we’re “idiots” that are acting, talking, suggesting, and making recommendations with total abandonment and self-directed obliviousness to the potential dangers within the markets themselves.

Let’s just highlight for example why people like myself who the so-called “smart crowd” refer to as “idiots” won’t invest in the markets as they currently are.

First: Any (and I mean any) so-called “financial expert” that can sit there with a straight face and use metrics from one time period while glossing over the glaringly obvious that most of those very same metrics have been completely adulterated, and are representative in name only of what they first reported.

If an “expert” wants to defend how today’s unemployment headline number is comparable in representation for what it was in all the charting periods they want to hang their hats on as proof positive employment is getting healthy – I have some ocean front property in Kentucky I would love to sell you. Or, better yet – for you to “invest” in.

Next: If the markets at present heights are representative of a “healthy” economy and not a product of the Fed.’s intervention (Aren’t financial markets supposedly a form and representative of economic health?): Then why in the world can’t the Federal Reserve not only end all the forms of QE currently in the markets, but end them early? (Oh the humanity!!!)

Why can’t the Fed. right now announce it is stopping all its programs, give dates as to when so the market knows, begin immediately to reduce its balance sheet, and raise interest rates say by some staggering amount of let’s say 1/2 of 1%? That would bring us up to (wait for it….) 1%!

Everyone knows the reason why: It can’t or the markets would freak out – and everyone on Wall Street knows it.

It’s in that statement above where the crux of all us “idiots” issues lie with the so-called “smart crowd.” If it can’t be done, that alone proves ipso facto that all the facts, figures, trend lines, charts, sentiment, blah, blah, blah that are thrown at us to muddy true objective analysis are worthless. Period.

We have never had this type of interventionist monetary policy actively participating within the capital markets. So much so that again I’ll state: Some of the very people responsible for it (at the Federal Reserve itself) are calling for the manning and lighting of the signal fires for caution.

There is nothing wrong with someone turning from a bearish posture to a bullish posture as far as market positioning for the reasons that: They’ve been wrong – for all the right reasons.

There are those times where educated and savvy investors and individuals can and will put money to work where they need to hold their nose. The difference is: if it all blows up, we’re adults, we understand, we knew the risks and can live with the consequences. We might not agree on everything, but it’s a pragmatic use of both money and investment guidance that’s truthful. e.g., Hugh Hendry’s flip in market position and candid explanation.

Again, I may not agree with everything he might espouse, but if everything blew up and went to zero, my door and checkbook would remain open if he were looking to start again. The people who seem to disparage my thinking as an “idiot” for not trusting their view? I’ve never taken such pride or felt as smart in being called an “idiot.”

It is absolutely unimaginable to me as one who has both ran businesses as well as started them to hear someone who’s income is derived from the very customers they need to refer to them as: “Idiots.”

In business that is absolutely the worst of all sins. Again to blatantly, unabashedly, disparage, and demean the very people needed to make both the markets stronger as well as grow their own business: I can’t put into words how utterly foolish and stupid it sounded.

If not listening, let alone putting my money to work in the hands of the likes of these people makes me an idiot? Than sign me up for the crazy train: For listening to this trite has become an exercise in futility. Or better yet – idiocy.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

Some forget that entrepreneurship is an inclusive club. Although there are differing degrees requiring different thought processes and decisions, just because you work for someone else doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the club. Taking control of your own life and defining your own path of destiny utilizing the vehicle of working as an employee is far too often overlooked by many.

Here’s a statement I still believe today for I was the one who both wrote it – and lived it.

“The moment everything changed was the moment I decided I no longer worked for the company.
The company now worked for me.”

If you can use and apply that statement to yourself I only have one thing to say…

Welcome to the club.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Are You Playing Your Odds Correctly?

Many entrepreneurs as well as those in the corporate suite discuss the odds of success in terms of “It’s a long shot. 1 in 100″ or “Chances are 50/50 we’ll have success in this market” and so on.

Rather than verbally limiting your odds of success to some numeric phrase of chance that does little to inspire others ( let alone you,) why not use numbers and phraseology where both you as well as others can see the potential gains and rally around?

Who cares if success is 50/50, 8 in 10, better than 80% and so forth where possible gains whether it be in net profit, market share, ______________(fill in the blank) can be exponential.

Do you think the people in your next meeting would react differently if you made a statement more along the lines of, “If we’re successful with this project we could see a dramatic increase in net profits. We have the potential to not just increase but to increase exponentially!”

Or, do you still think it’s best to have the same probabilities yet frame it as, “We have a better than 7 in 10 chance of increasing our profits by 300%.”

If odds are on the table, it’s up to you to play them effectively – in your favor.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Muddled Messaging Ripe For Opposition

One can’t help when looking at all the geopolitical as well as threats of non-containment of the deadly Ebola virus and wonder: Who’s in control here?

Here’s a hint – it’s not the people lining up to give the message via oratory salvos. In fact, the clearest of messages coming out of the geopolitical realm are happening rapidly, methodically, and very much with blinding clarity allowing deeds to speak rather than words.

Just one example of this can be shown when the more one looks only for the outbreak of war, the more one misses other acts which can have just as dire consequences down the road. i.e., Developing friendships of rivals where the focus of that relationship is to oppose – you.

And as for the Ebola virus? It seems the message for now is just as clear: The more they talk of containment, and not to worry, the more light gets shown there is still need for concern.

The muddled messaging on the Ebola virus alone coming from political leaders and agencies is breath-taking. As of this writing we’re still wondering why it takes 24 to 48 hours for test results to be known for a patient in New York when in Columbus Ohio the all clear came in a matter of hours. With no clear report or clarification as to why.

And now just days later we wake to hear one of the most densely populated places on the planet (Hong Kong) just detained a person for you guessed it – Ebola.

If it’s found this deadly virus has reared its ugly head there, then once again all bets are off: for the messaging of late has been paradoxical to say the least.

The only clear thing will be is that people will begin acting in their own self-interest in ways no one yet knows let alone predict. These are the instances where the phrase, “A person is smart, but people are stupid” comes to mind.

As if something such as this would be enough to worry about, we also have what again seems to be more in line with the Keystone Cops of messaging in regards to the Middle East.

We’ve had messaging which seems so utterly convoluted, trying to diagram a flow chart of just recent events is more like trying to paint a picture Jackson Pollack could appreciate rather than framing anything of clarity.

What has been made abundantly clear is that through all this hand wringing and muddled messages of: “These are the people to support. No wait these are. Oops sorry no these are. Wait….” has allowed those with visions of opposition as to cause harm the room to both inflict that harm along with doing it in the very places we just left. And with our own equipment!

What has been the response to this? After the relentless, incessant media campaigning and messaging of we’re pulling out, guess what? We’re going back in.

Albeit it’s now said or stated emphatically “No boots on the ground.” Yet, I thought the previous message told was we were all done? So what does all this now mean or what message are we to take away? Yes, just not done yet?, Or this time? Or ________ ? (you fill in the blank for I can’t keep up.)

But wait you say: “This re-engagement was for a limited strike as to help prevent a genocidal act.” Fair enough, but I’ll point you to the messaging that came out just hours later. “Bombing in Iraq could take weeks.” And, “Bombing is no quick fix.” Just what form or type of clarity does one think it gives the opposition, let alone us?

If you don’t think they’re watching, listening and thinking along the lines of “Maybe we can wait them out again?” Or, “Maybe they’ll drop even more equipment that we’ll commandeer and fight even harder!” You’re not thinking clearly yourself.

They are clear on one thing – destroying you, me, us, and everything we represent. Our response of clarity? Muddled messages followed by the score keeping of Mulligans on some course following near every speech: Rather than some coherent resolute statement defining clear objectives that people can rally around.

So far the only thing of concern is whether or not there’s still time to play another round. And I haven’t even touched on Syria, Ukraine, Israel, the South China Sea and more.

What has also been absolutely clear is when it comes to the strength of our financial markets, the strength or value in nations continuing to use the U.S. Dollar as the reserve currency, the messaging there has been the message of – dead silence.

One would think it would be in the interest of a nation to at least once in a while give a some form of a pep rally in this arena. Yet, there’s a silence so deafening it would make a pin drop envious. No messaging, no rally cries, no nothing. So what you say? I’ll say nothing and just point.

In the vacuum of any clear messaging about a nation’s currency (especially the world’s reserve currency,) and the abandonment of attention by political leaders in its defense, as well as the obligation to speak, define, and lay out clear visions for why trading partners, as well as other nations, should feel confident in using the U.S. Dollar as the currency of choice – we hear absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

This is one of the first times in history I can remember where political leaders seemingly don’t even acknowledge there may be any form of issues even facing the dollar. Yet…

China who by all accounts both the political as well as business class keep pointing to as “a nation on the rise” lines up and strikes a deal with none other than Vladimir Putin as to trade and settle in (wait for it…) non U.S. Dollar settlements. Then Mr. Putin seemingly expanded that coalition to encompass even more countries into this fold.

I thought from all the messaging we had isolated Russian interests and made him a world pariah? At least that’s what the lines recited have told. Looks like someone’s not following the script. And with chilling clarity of their intentions.

One thing has now been shown in vivid detail: The more messaging put out along these same lines will only make it abundantly clear to any and all opposition that those in charge haven’t a clue.

If how the opposition responds going forward is anything like the way they have been, might I suggest getting off the course, and getting a clear coherent message back on one.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Are You Focused On The Wrong Fix.

There are times when you believe you’re focused on the right problem only to find out no matter what technique, fix, or other deliberate action you take as to rectify the issue; it grows worse with every remediation. The problem many times is we’re trying to correct where we believe, rather then where the true issue lies. e.g. Searching for greater tire discounts because you wear them out far above the average rather than correcting and maintaining the issue of proper alignment.

Case Study: We were delivering highly perishable food products during a relentless heat wave. It seamed there were a few of our semi trailers that were not keeping the temperature within the ranges we set. Great care was taken by all to ensure proper loading, setting and maintaining all the mechanical and so forth. Yet, the condition and results were the same. No noticeable improvement.

It was argued we needed newer equipment. It was obvious to everyone that the older equipment just couldn’t handle it. Reasons were given, explanations were offered, and everyone had an argument why. And finance had a reason for why not. e.g. Too expensive.

Come to find out the resolution had nothing in common with the arguments nor the fix.

It turned out after watching the trailers being loaded on the docks I spotted the problem. A newer dock worker was using pallets incorrectly when loading.

In the case of refrigerated containers pallets serve two functions. One is the openings as to allow the fork trucks to lift them. The second is they also serve as the air flow returns much as the vents in your home freezer work. If blocked your fridge just wont cool correctly.

It was standard operating procedure for trucks to have 2 empty pallets stood up on their end as to allow air flow back to the refrigeration units for proper cooling. However, they must be sure as to remove one of the boards on the end of each, if not, they block the returning air making the whole exercise moot.

Everyone knew this as a standard practice, except this worker. He was not new to freight, but he was new to refrigerated freight. No one caught the issue because it was happening intermittently. (even the drivers of the trucks themselves who are usually quick to spot such things missed it out of some form of familiarity blindness)

With the proper removal of two boards the issue was resolved saving us hundreds of thousands of dollars in immediate upgrades that we truly didn’t need.

The most common practice that everyone believed was in place and when asked to verify were able to answer truthfully in the affirmative. However, in reality it was only an illusion.

What was not an illusion was the money saved by not spending on the wrong fix that would have only resulted in a waste of valuable resources.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.

Getting Hired By Showing Your Entrepreneurial Worth

I was queried on the topic of what advice I might give to first time job seekers. Personally I believe the response for first time applicants is the same I would give for any other applicant. I also believe the same argument can be adapted to any with the entrepreneurial mindset.

The focus of any interview should be all about what you can do to add value. No emphasis on the value you bring, no need to listen or go further into any other details is all they’ll be thinking. Period.

Here was my response:

When one is interviewing regardless of first entering a job market fresh out of college or a seasoned veteran, the issue on salary or pay will be one of the most determining factors on how you approach and answer than nearly all other questions combined. The way to approach salary as well as show your understanding of the bottom line and what you mean to it, is to ask the following:

If going for a sales or marketing position: “Is there an incentive plan for exceeding projections?” Or, “Is there a policy where one can go on full commission, and if so are there any representatives they can show as an example?”

If going into anything but sales or marketing you must understand you will always be viewed as “overhead” rather than an “asset.” No matter how politically incorrect it may seem. The way to move yourself out from one side of the ledger to the other in a hiring managers eye is to ask: “Are there any incentive plans that reward an employee for suggesting or implementing cost cutting, or profit enhancing measures, that increase profitability?”

Make the above examples your own and you’ll stand out head and shoulders above 99% of any and all candidates you’ll be competing against.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Clarifying Why With: What If?

Often times we get caught up in the asking of why rather than asking what if. It sounds like such a subtle distinction and for some it’s an exercise not worth pursuing. However, it is sometimes this very innocuous line of questioning that is the only thing that gets at the root of many issues facing not only business in general, but sometimes rooting out the answers one doesn’t want to actually face – never mind deal with.

Personally I made many of my marks in business by being the person who more often than not had to pick up the pieces or control their trajectory as to where they may land ahead of time during my tenure in the business world. Today the professional moniker is “an expert in Crisis Management.”

Expert is not for vanity’s sake. If I had done it once that could be racked up to chance, twice could be coincidence, but three times and more and you’ve distinguished yourself with a track record.

Although I have always been somewhat of a contrarian, it was when a friend of mine years earlier asked me a rhetorical question during a crisis taking place where we lived that shaped much of my reasoning and understandings for years to come.

Earlier that day the city where we grew up experienced a power outage causing a city-wide black out that was still not resolved as we were talking later that afternoon.

The outage occurred during the mid morning. It wasn’t as if the streets or neighborhoods were cloaked in darkness. Yet, in less than 30 to 45 minutes after the outage started looters began smashing windows downtown and stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down.

It didn’t start with just one, it was a mob from all accounts that started the spree.

As we were discussing the reasons for “why” and more he made a statement that sticks with me to this day: “You keep asking why would they do this so quickly. The question you need to answer is, what if this is what they were waiting for?” That subtle change in questioning changes everything both in how you address the “why” and more.

Again it changes the thought process in how one looks as to deal with situations in their heads while opening up lines of questioning that help one zero in and fix a true underlying issue; rather than addressing or wasting time arguing moot points. i.e., If you only think about why someone is looting in general terms you rationalize the intent (boredom, mob behavior, frustration, etc.) far different from what if the intent was as soon as opportunity showed itself – that was what was to be done.

His reasoning was it happened far too quick. He said, “People just don’t lose the power and begin smashing windows 30 minutes later unless that’s exactly what you were waiting for.

Whether he was right or wrong didn’t matter. His line of thinking in objective analysis was spot on and I never forgot it. Plus it has served me well these decades later throughout my professional life.

So what does all this have to do about the issues today?

Well, it has a lot to do with what has just transpired in Atlanta in the willful experiment in both transporting as well as containing one of the world’s worst known viruses to the United States.

I use the words “experiment” as well as “willful” deliberately for this has never been done here before.

As of right now the Ebola virus which has been separated from the U.S. populace by the fortune of geological positioning has not only arrived on our doorstep, but was flown in deliberately on its own personal G5. Many are asking questions of; why?

I was speaking with a friend where I pondered a “what if” rhetorical rebuttal to their questioning of “why” and they nearly froze. As I said before: Changing why to what if many times opens up far more doors than one first believed even available.

The what if question was this: “What if they need to bring them back because they had no choice? What if the reason they need to get them into better facilities is for the worst of all reasons? i.e., It’s all ready here.”

Of course this is absolutely nothing more than a thought experiment. I’m not trying to be an alarmist banging pots and pans out in the streets with a sign around my neck claiming “The End Is Near!” Nor, do I have, know, or pretend to know what we should or should not be doing. I’m just asking a question because the answers are far too important and meaningful to not only business, but for much, much, more.

Here’s why one really needs to think (and that means clearly and rationally) for there are just too many other things happening that no one wants to even consider, let alone ponder “what ifs.”

Here’s what we know as of today. Not speculation, not hyperbole, not innuendo, but fact.

First: We know as of today we have an out of control southern border crisis where tens of thousands of both children and more are crossing in droves. Many have confirmed cases of infections diseases such as tuberculosis and others that have been all but eradicated in the U.S. currently.

What we also know is: we don’t know who or all the identities of those that crossed are. We know the bulk, but what about god forbid just one terrorist mixed within carrying the deadly Ebola virus. What if that were to be true?

Second: We know that there were infected people with this deadly virus detained and isolated after being seen visually suffering from the virus at: an airport. Albeit in the country of origin, but as I said earlier the question to ask is “what if” one made it past?

Third: This could have far more impact to western civilization and its society than any conventional means of warfare could ever have. And the people wanting to inflict harm are more than willing to use any and all means to bring about that end. No matter how hard one tries to equate or affix the immorality as to why one wouldn’t or shouldn’t.

I’ve talked, debated, and down right argued with people many times over the years where they begin to get up in arms as to defend positions through the “why” frame of reference. Well, “why would people to do this?” or “Why would one do that when …..?” (you can fill in the blank.)

What has over turned their soap box over whether it be about business, or just plain discussions on life more often than not is when I posit the “what if.” e.g., What if it doesn’t work? What if that doesn’t happen? What if there’s another reason? What if what you think to be true is in actuality wrong? This is when and where the questioning, reasoning, breakthroughs and more have happened. I believe you get what I’m trying to convey.

Don’t take any of this as a slam of the poor victims we just brought back. I have great compassion as well as admiration for these doctors and others that have the courage of their convictions to walk head first into a truly horrific condition as to try not only heal, but to help foster ways as to prevent.

These people are doing work where statutes should be erected at every public square in their honor. I understand and can easily rationalize all of the “whys” these people would embark on such truly humanitarian work.

What I currently fear is that once again I’m near alone where no one seems to even be thinking, let alone contemplating the obvious…

What If?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Welcome Credit On The Card

I was just made aware I was quoted in an article in the Editors’ Picks section on leadership at American Express OPEN forum™. It ran on the 28th of this month titled: 5 Ways to Tell If a Risk Is Shrewd … or Stupid by Geoff Williams

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 8.26.07 AMFrom the article:

5. You’re Worrying About the Details—Later

While you may be a “big picture” kind of person, the devil is in the details—at least when it comes to running a business. Early in his career, entrepreneurial motivational speaker and author Mark St. Cyr says, “In the rush to start a project or close a sale, I would take chances and skip the procedure of first filling out the proper paperwork in order to get my foot in the door and not spoil the mood as the sale closed.”

Each time, by closing quickly and worrying about the paperwork later, St. Cyr thought he was avoiding the risk of putting a damper on things—but he was actually creating very risky situations that could have blown up in his face.

“I learned it was not only harder to get the paperwork or documents after the fact, it was nearly impossible and it cost me far more financially in some cases than if I’d lost the sale in the first place,” St. Cyr says.

 

I encourage all to read the article in its entirety and thank Mr. Williams and American Express® for the lines of credit.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

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