Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Don’t Let Title, Position, Or Familiarity Dull Your Prudence.

It’s tough to be on guard all the time. We want to trust, it’s in our nature. Yet, there are times where we allow our prudence to be overshadowed either by being familiar with someone, or, they’re what we might think of as “a person of stature.” e.g., A doctor, lawyer, dentist, CEO, and more. The issue many times is: It’s not that someone may intentionally be looking for ways to capitalize on your trust for the wrong reasons. It’s that many times it is us making the availability all too present, and obvious. Where the other party just can’t help themselves because the temptation was too great, and far too easy, as to be exploited. Remember the old adage: Why does a rattlesnake bite? Because that’s what they do.

Case Study: Not all that long ago before the digitizing of everything was so prevalent physical checks were the mainstay of business transactions. A normal practice was to initiate the checks (i.e., write them) upon arrival of any invoice, then to hold those envelopes in one place, container, drawer, etc. till the appropriate date within the terms. (To clarify: You might receive a bill 3 days after a delivery but your terms were 21 days.) Usually these bills would be kept unsealed as to allow viewing (usually by the owner) of how much was being paid and when due. As funds became available usually the owner would then signal which to send out. It was a crude way of controlling payables, however, before the advent of total reliance on computers, it worked rather well.

As with everything this assemblage of payables were always kept within arms reach of the owner or fiduciary responsible. Many times it was nothing more than a 12×16 inch box holding dozens of envelopes. Yet, many at times consisted of rather large amounts. It would not be unusual for a majority of checks at any given time to be not only five figures, but six or more.

One day the owner of an establishment which I was working instructed me that he had a guest arriving. The guest was the head-chef of a very prominent 5 star restaurant in town. He was having a one-on-one meeting with this chef as to help solidify the new relationship we just acquired with his restaurant, and asked if I would show them around the plant then sit him in his office till he returned. I said “of course” and posited that I would remain in his office with him till he returned. I was told I needn’t stay with him, just make sure he was comfortable for he wouldn’t be more than a few minutes.

I asked again, and once again, was assured there was no need. Almost in an incredulous tone I asked (more – implied forcefully) that the container holding the envelopes of payables should be removed from his office. Or, at the least put out of sight. For they were right there in full view and who knows who this person may be.

In an almost condescending tone my prudence was brushed aside while stating, “Mark, this person is the chef of The XXXXXX. Trust me, you don’t get that position without the owners there knowing who you are. And besides, there’s nothing in there that isn’t already where he is. You worry too much. Don’t worry, he’s fine.” And so over my best protests I did as required leaving the payables nearly within arms reach of anyone inside his office.

Less than 12 weeks later we were informed there was a shake up at one of our clients. The client? Yes, it was the same 5 star establishment the owner tried to make feel so comfortable just weeks prior. And the shake up? It was none other than the very chef he entertained and allowed to sit in his office alone in a trusting manner normally reserved for only the closest of personnel. And the charges?

Embezzlement.

© 2015 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.

The Test Of Central Bank Omnipotence May Be Upon Us.

Suddenly what was discounted as a potential “isolated event” has come full circle to show just how contagious it may very well be. e.g., Greece.

Over the last few months the financial media has not only turned deaf ears to the drama, (out of boredom) they have also blindly discounted any contagion effects as “isolated” at best – relative periphery contagion at worst. In other words: Any and all problems can be contained, mitigated, or solved by none other than your friendly neighborhood Central Bank. After all, if you listen to the so-called “smart crowd” these bankers have powers even Zeus would envy.

So why worry about a little turmoil at the foot of Olympus? After all, the gods haven’t been seen nor heard from in millennia. Central Bankers give press conferences live and in person. Thunder vs a press conference? No contest in today’s role for proving omnipotence. All one needs to remember for proof is Mario Draghi’s now famous chortle of “having a bazooka and willing to use it.”

However, just as in any hero-worship endeavor one thing must remain constant or it all falls apart. Those that worship can never witness any event regardless of how minor: that the gods are not all that they portend to be. In other words: Allow just one moment of truth to be witnessed showing frailty instead of omnipotence – and the whole ruse falls regardless of the size and strength of the monuments and temples built to honor. For they will be abandoned. Sometimes slowly. At others: all at once. It doesn’t take much.

A great analogy to express this was portrayed in the movie sequel Iron Man 2 (2010 Paramount Pictures) when the characters played by Mickey Rourke, and Robert Downey Jr. are conversing in a cell about the who, what, and why of Rourke’s rampage at the speedway. Everyone in the room seems content with the idea or fact they contained or stopped Rourke’s character Ivan Vanko in his tracks. Yet, as Rourke explains to a mystified Tony Stark played by Downey. He had already won and it was Stark who didn’t understand as he explains: [laughs] “If you could make God bleed, people would cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit back and watch as the world consumes you.”

This onerous theme as well as implications just might be playing out in Greece. Only this time, it’s not in a fable, or on the big screen. Rather – it’s in real-time with real consequences for the financial markets as a whole.

In my opinion the utter faith in Central Banks has never been more enshrined within not only Wall Street, but the world as a whole by media, politicians, business leaders and in some ways the general public at large. For it’s no longer seen as “what a politician will do to enhance the business environment” rather it’s what the Central Banks are doing. Central Banks have morphed into exactly what they were supposed to be the antithesis of: The political.

Central Bankers can disavow till their blue in the face that they don’t engage in politics. However, it is not lost on anyone that a president or other political leader can discuss all they want about their nation and their economy. Yet, for all intents and purposes – its moot. Today, it’s the Central Bankers that move markets, garner headlines, as well as carry a bestowed political relevance with their proclamations. Not the other way around.

One doesn’t need any more proof of just how high of a pedestal Central Banks have been put on than the meme that is now recited in style and reverence resembling a chant or incantation when any potential market hiccup occurs: “The Fed’s got your back.”  Now that meme as I inclined before has shifted from the financial markets – to the political.

I use as example the following headline from Bloomberg™ this past week: “ECB Has Your Back If Greece Breakdown Tips Markets Into Turmoil.” Or said differently: The fate of nations will rest upon the shoulders of the Central Banks.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Greece’s financial predicament within the Euro Zone (EZ) one thing is clear above all else. It is not the political will and discourse that will decide whether or not the European Union will hold together. It will be whether or not the ECB can save the political from itself. i.e., Ring fence any potential contagion effects to the periphery.

This was once the place of the politicians. Not any more. That is now subjugated to the monetary policy arm. And it’s a dangerous switch in my opinion for this reason: Banks or bankers omnipotence (or faith there of) rise and fall on one thing – and one thing only: their ability to respond and project control of the money. But (and it’s a very big but) money is only one part of the political arsenal. Important of course. But again, it’s only a part. On its own it can cause more problems than it can solve.

Politicians (as a general rule) control so much more that can be used to bluster or fortify a meme or intent. i.e., the people, the laws, the nation as a whole, the taxes, it’s war machine, etc., etc. It’s not a distinction without a difference. An example can be: You can have all the money you need to buy off an adversary – but without an army willing to protect you, they might come back and take what you have left. Or worse, convince your army to join them and split the bounty.

Pure monetary warfare or monetary political maneuvering is more susceptible to unforeseen consequences that can backfire more than almost any other. Remember my example earlier from the movie: All one needs to do is show “they can bleed” and everything changes. And I do mean everything!

Whether or not Greece defaults or exits the Euro Zone is an unknown as I write this. However, no matter what one thinks about whether or not it is right or wrong is inconsequential. The real underlying issue that has other nations within the EZ itself watching is whether or not Greece inflicts a wound to the Central Banks for all to see. Because Greece, for all the hardships it may entail will still be a nation one way or another. Possibly with new alliances (e.g., Russia) in which bankers miscalculated the political ramification focusing only on the monetary as if it were the only issue to be considered. Greece may in fact make alliances that benefit it far greater. It’s an unknown. However, it will be watched very carefully by others.

Italy, Portugal, Spain, and who knows who else will be looking and watching carefully for the slightest showing of injury that may rock the Central Bankers (particularly the ECB) back onto their haunches. And if that were to happen the shift in intellectual thinking (i.e., political gamesmanship) as well as monetary positioning will ripple through the financial markets in ways none of us may be able to comprehend at this time. Especially the bankers themselves.

Add to this the perfect storm that may be brewing elsewhere in places like the once “savior of the world economy” China. Where it too may need to put its own central bank through the test of omnipotence with a potential stock market meltdown of near biblical proportions now brewing. Where a decline of 50% would be seen as a godsend rather than what might be building. Not to say anything about the impending implications of a raising of rates in the U.S.

So much for the meme Wall Street mavens have recited ad nauseam “China will lead us out of the economic malaise.” Sure they will. How’s that been working out? Banks in China today are scrambling trying to quell jitters reverberating within both the markets of Asia as well as the political. And now there’s potential on top of this for an EU break – as well as contagion fears? No problem if you’ve been listening to the financial mavens: “Just be diversified.” Yeah, sure.

Already this weekend only hours in FX brokerages have already began issuing “close only” mandates to account holders in preparation of a final EU determination on Greece this weekend.  A lot of good “diversification” is if you can’t put on the trade to begin with because out of the blue brokers in the most liquid, and vast market place begin gating their doors. But the pontificates via the next in rotation fund manager on (take your pick of networks) never eludes to such a possibility.

And speaking of gating, don’t forget that little line along with its new regulation you now see on every “money market” statement where you have “money” or “cash” allocated. The market that basically controls and is intertwined within all the markets globally. Probably the most important single market to structure stability as a whole. e.g,  The Money Market.

And to what line(s) am I referring to you ask? Well for those that don’t remember (or don’t bother to open their statements) let me highlight it here. To wit:

“Money Market funds are not insured or guaranteed by FDIC or any other government agency and although the fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose by investing in the fund.” Ah, yes, as important as that line might be, the more important yet overlooked is the new regulations that allows those funds to “gate” your ability to access. Gate as in – No… you can’t get at it.

If the markets for whatever the reason do suddenly show signs of contagion fears (or actual contagion) and things once again startle even the most prevalent Central Bank devotee. Don’t be surprised if people begin eschewing the knocking of their heels three times repeating “I believe, I believe, I believe.” And instead take steps to not only walk, but run to that dispenser of truth not found in any confessional booth. i.e., ATM machines everywhere.

For the true test of Central Bank omnipotence may be upon us. All once again, a test that’s held at the foot of Olympus. What irony.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Gaining Market Share Via Asymmetries

Whether you’re a solo-practitioner, or a Fortune 100™ global conglomerate. All products and services need a market. How to go about entering or creating those markets is serious business indeed. However, it has been both my experience as well as observation that many fail to achieve either penetration into, or, creation of with any staying power for one generalized reason: They only see the market through the prism of the over-referred to “business pie” model.

Sometimes I believe it’s overused because of the simplicity to draw it in a PowerPoint® presentation. Rather; than simply showing a true strategy and tactics presentation. But I digress.

The most overused yet misunderstood dynamic in my opinion is: the expansion of the business pie. Yes, when the business pie (i.e., an increase to the overall market as a whole) expands there is not only more business to be had, but also more market share to be gained by the savvy. However, Only If: they are truly aware and set about using proper tactics to achieve that market share. For if not – they might be creating market share to only have none other than their competitors regroup to take it from them if they aren’t careful. Let me elaborate…

Below is a diagram of what is generally accepted as the business pie. As you can see, the inner circle represents the existing market divided up into different competitors share of that pie. All are represented as equal for simplicity of this exercise.

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

What far too many will assume next is that they need to do two things. First: Compete with every competitor within the pie (i.e., their current market-share) as to try to either convert existing customers to their offerings. Or, convert unrealized customers into new customers without stealing from the current market share holder.

So what’s the issue one might ask. Or to say it differently “If the pie is increasing, and I’m not taking share from the my competitors, just an increasing of the pie and holding it as my share. What’s at stake?” To which I’ll answer: “Your entire business. Because you just might be setting the table for your competitors to dine at – with no seat left at the table for you. A table you provided the bounty for.”

Why is this? It’s because what many will do is expend valuable resources competing with everybody. They’ll go in with their great new doodad, or their “new or improved super-service” spiel only to find just at the most inopportune time (usually once those valuable resources have been depleted to near nil) they find themselves in an onslaught of competitive knock-offs or repricing structures (as in near giveaways) leaving them unable to continue the competing process. Only then to be left needing to look for a way to either sell out to the existing competition, or close shop.

The problem is they went into the market looking for expansion; and did little more than expanded the competitions market awareness. Along with raising their presence on the competitions radar to high alert status.

Sure the “pie” might have been expanded, but creating the slice or expanding the size and eating it – are two different things. And fighting a battle on all fronts from all sides with well entrenched competitors more often than not is a losing recipe. Especially for a “business pie.”

Let me share a different tactic: Expand the pie via an asymmetric approach.

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

So why is this approach so different you may ask. Well, the main reasoning is: It allows one to decide and implement tactics for market share in, or around, one or more of the current competition. Leaving others to possibly not pay any attention to your insurgence into the market place. (i.e., If they don’t perceive you as a threat – why allocate resources to halt or impede you?)

What this also does is allow you to dance gently on you competitors edges where you may receive the same “blind eye” treatment from others. However, the biggest difference here you’ll notice is the entire space has been both created, expanded, and occupied by you – and you alone. Your market cap as opposed to your competitors in the above example is about the same. And – it is only in direct contact with a few. In theory – half the market doesn’t even know you’re there and you may be just as large as they are.

Below is to show just how valuable as well as instructive just this small change in perception can work to one’s advantage.

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

Here you’ll see “you” are penetrating or converting current market share of a competitors into your own. Slowly, but surely without taking on the entire market all at once. Again, why this tactic may be of an advantage is for how it may allow one to not only compete, but use those valuable resources selectively and allocate them to acquiring business in a much more disciplined, as well as prudent manner. A seeping into a competitors market share sometimes is far more cost effective as well as defensible (as in keeping those conversions) then just some bold onslaught of “Here we are everybody! Free this, that, or whatever if you give us a try today.”

Showing in the next example is how one may enable themselves to suddenly be a force in exponential market gains. Rather than just gaining by slow infiltration process into the existing market. For with this now more dominant size and scope, one may look to acquire the proper resources to purchase outright a competitor that never realized just how much of force you had become. This is where exponential growth as well as sustainability can evolve from. Remember, It’s one thing to gain or create market share. It’s quite another to keep it.

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

© 2015 MarkStCyr.com All Rights Reserved

Now as one can see. Not only have you increased the pie – you’re consuming that pie. Much better than to create it, only to then not have a seat or plate left to enjoy it because – your competitors took it all back from you – and then some.

Gaining market share as well as market creation is not only about how you deploy your own resources. It’s also about whenever possible getting the competition to hold back on using theirs – till eventually it’s too late to be of any good.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Is This Complacency, Idiocy, Or Both?

If one listens to the financial media mavens give their detailed analysis of late, you would have thought the The Onion™ decided to try its hand at TV and radio.

Since last Friday as they anticipated the most recent “jobs” report with bated breath to be announced, into this week that just ended. I have been left slack-jawed more times resembling the cartoon characters I grew with up as a kid. However, at least back then the cartoons were trying to be funny. Today, what is being touted as “serious insightful analysis” is so much more comedic – its tragic.

As I awaited this months version of the report. I had playing in the background one of the financial shows that were parsing, and mincing the usual data points. When suddenly I heard a few statements that made me do the double-take of “wait…what?”

As usual the schpiel is basically the same or formulaic on all of these program types. The host plays the sounding board as the guest plays “the seer of all that’s unseen by us mere mortal schlubs.” On this day in particular; replace “mortal” with “idiot” and you are closer to the truth of how you, or I, are looked upon by these masses of the so-called “smart crowd” perusing Wall Street today.

And just to clarify; the word “idiot” is in quotes not in some air quote manner. Rather: that is the exact word used to describe people like myself (and maybe even you) that question their insight. So if you’re reading this – now you know where you may stand within Wall Street’s loving and caring mind. (I know it’s satire) For question their glowing analysis of dog crap? And it’ll be your nose they’ll attempt to rub in it. Elitist insight at its best.

One of the reasons given why this guest could tell “the economy was doing much better than perceived” was: As he traveled about the country to places like the West Coast, and a few others. (The list was what anyone with half-a-brain would understand are at the epicenter of a pick your bubble flavor expansion) From his observation “These places are doing very well!”

As I listened to the list of places that were ticked off where they had visited (as to speak.) One thing was quite obvious to anyone who was actually listening. The examples were from what one would infer to be: Silicon Valley (proper.) New York City (proper) etc., etc. My reaction was along the lines of, “Well – Golly! Who’da thunk that!”

It makes one wonder exactly who do they think (or believe) we are when we hear these words of insight. I just can’t for the life of me understand the arrogance of so many on Wall Street today that take to the airwaves or print and talk down to others (especially those of us that presumably are their customers!!!) when anyone with a miniscule of business acumen can see they are nothing more than bloviating meme-of-the-momement pontificates. And people like this have the audacity to literally call people like myself (as well as you dear reader) “idiots” or “data deniers.”

I could go on to list even more revelations in absolute meaningless insights I bared. I mean truthfully; how much financial “insight” or “analysis” to notice that places that are currently in a real estate or Silicon Valley bubble are doing “Very well?” Idiotic would be an understatement.

How about what’s happening just outside these areas? Never mind 100, or even 50, rather, just 25 miles outside? Do they not want to venture (or speak) there? Or, is it for just as their analysis implies; as in that untold or unmentioned dirty little secret. i.e., Mom and Pop have no cash left to invest – so why bother going to a financial desert? Which so happens to be spreading almost as fast as the desert is reclaiming California. Both with no relief in sight on, or over the horizon.

After all, just venture to any mall, Sears™, JC Penney™, Macy’s™, Walmart, McD’s™ and a cadre of others you’ll find just outside, and it’s hard too miss they’re having serious issues with either half filled shelves, sparse foot traffic, falling sales, revenue killing markdowns, adjacent retailer vacancies, or worse: the pre-vacant with their “going out of business sale” signs that stay up till the very end giving every other business within eye-shot an uneasy feeling to ponder daily. i.e., Am I next?

They’re not “doing very well” as their neighbors like Tiffany’s™, or Louis Vuitton™ might seem to be just a stones throw away. But one has to be willing to go for a burger outside of town rather than the steak at the hotel. Or else, well you know.

As stupefied as I was listening to all this dribble, just when I thought I heard it all, the coup de gras of “wait…what?” was spoken.

In an explanation for clarifying their now informed insight, the reference given for what we all need to contemplate today is: “What the Fed. thinks is now bad or good, and what they’ll do about it.” i.e., “Does bad still mean good for stocks, and is worse still terrific?”

I’m sorry. Maybe it’s me. However, weren’t we told by this crowd “to not believe the data – we were idiots?” For if that data is to be believed: What in the world does The Fed. have to do with stocks? Unless of course the undeniable truth is, that since QE halted 6 months ago – the markets have done little more than zig zag in a pattern reminiscent of (you guessed it) the birth of QE itself. Meaning: The Fed. is the market. Period.

All you need to know is right there. For years people like myself and a few others were labeled as “idiots” or “data deniers” when we made the case there is no “market” in equities if not for The Federal Reserve and its interventionism. And for years we were told “the data states otherwise.” And now we are being told (or sold): All that matters is that the data remains bad, for if not, the Fed. may react in a way that fells the market! Again – you can’t make this stuff up. Personally I had to make a conscious effort as to not spew my coffee.

The data (we said) if looked at through an eye of “truth be told” rather than the Three-Card-Monty version of “specious to be sold” there is no fundamental, financial, or any other reason these markets are to be at these levels (never-mind never before seen in history highs) other than a financial bubble being blown and fueled by the Fed. to proportions; that an impending “pop” could result in making the last crisis look like a cake walk.

Now, suddenly (just to reiterate it’s only been some 6 months since the spigot of QE was shut off) as the markets have gone nowhere fast. Their “analysis” is now changing faster than a “double seasonally adjusted” data point. And we’re the idiots?

Now persistent sell offs (which for years were all but forgotten) are followed by out-of-the-blue volume-less miracle rallies fueled by HFT stop seeking algos in the “most shorted” arena of stocks driving the main indexes from the ledges of scary cliffs – back to the heights of euphoria.

This has now become common place as opposed to the one way market of just 6 months ago. Yet, this in turn still supplies headlines for the main stream media such as “Dow rallies impressive triple digits” or “The markets set another record today” on ___________ (fill in the blank with anything you wish like “a cat was petted today” because it just doesn’t matter. And will probably be closer to reality than what you’ll hear from the “experts.”)

But the headlines mask the onerous implications underneath. For zag-zag patterns enable just what they imply: zigs to euphoria followed by zags to a portending abyss. It’s when the next zig after the last zag fails to show is when all heck breaks loose. And the last time we saw this type of action? QE1 was implemented. Not too worry though because – “This time it’s different!”

Remember, if the economy was doing as well as we were told the “data” states: Why do we still need interest rates held as zero? Again – If housing is so swell, and employment is near statistical (cough, cough) full employment. And the markets are once again within their never before seen in the history of mankind highs. A raising of 1/4 of 1% is cause for concern? If not outright panic?

Think this through with me…

Why should anyone be concerned about the markets if the Fed. raised rates a miniscule 25 basis points? Or why should one ever question the omnipotence of the Fed. to save the markets at anytime regardless? Are they omnipotent or not?

Just look at what was expressed via this Friday’s market reaction to the impending concern, as well as more probable than possible Euro Zone train wreck that could very well be coming apart at the seams. Not only with an exit by Greece, but also a default on their debt. Debt that by all accounts is intermingled with far-reaching tentacles within the financial markets, currency area, CDS markets, and more. All while Spain, as well as Italy look and ponder their own issues concerning the EU and more.

Our markets not only didn’t care – they didn’t even shrug, blink, or wince. Talk about complacency. This is complacency turned up to 11!

I ask again: How can it be implied that the markets are too fragile to deal with an unexpected raise of interest rates to (gasp) 1/4 of 1%, if all the “data” we were told has been showing signs of all this “improvement?” Or better yet: How can all that good data we were told (or sold) to accept as “truth” now mean it’s bad for the markets? Is this idiocy? Lunacy? I can’t tell, I guess I’m just too dumb to figure it out.

And that reminds me. For if memory serves me correctly. We were told at the end of last year, as they began to contemplate this year. They (The Fed.) were most likely going to be ready in June based on what the “data” was showing then. And June came and went while they’re now singing the line “See you in September la, la, la….

At the end of last year as we were transitioning into this one. All the hand-wringing was about a possible rate hike in June based on the improving data. Now that data showed (to both the Fed. as well as demanded by Wall Street) June needed to be off the table and Sept. is more likely of a probability. (key word again – “probability”)

Some interject another reason for no hike at this past meeting was in reaction to the whole Greece thing, and the impending possible ramifications. However, we’re also told (by nearly every next in rotation fund manager on TV or radio) the impact to the U.S. for anything Greece related would be near nil for “We’re just not that exposed.”

Let’s see: The Federal Reserve does have limited exposure I guess. I mean, they only deal directly with  “a few” European banks like those that are listed on the coveted “primary dealer” list. But is it lost on this so-called “smart crowd” those lowly few just happen to be the biggest banks in all of Europe! With probable derivative exposure of countless trillions of not only €uros, but Lord knows what else.

Yeah, I guess they’re right. Nothing to see here. Move along, thanks for coming by! It’s not like our banks or markets may have intermingling exposure of trade derivatives, currency swaps, or anything like that I guess. What could possibly go wrong?!

Talk about convoluted, nonsensical logic chains. And we’re referred to as “idiots” if/when we refuse to accept such nonsense as fact!

So now I guess the question still remains: How does any Ivory Tower prognosticator, or Wall Street talking head, square all these circles?

Simple – they don’t. They just act as if it they didn’t or won’t happen. Or, just continue to act as if we’re too dumb to answer.

This is complacency, idiocy, and more – all turned up to 11!

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Understanding Your Own Numbers And What They Mean Too You

There is probably no other subject that stirs up emotion so vehement than that of anything related to Search or Social Media. Doesn’t matter whether I’m in front of a room of 20 somethings, a room of over 40 somethings, or in a private conversation with just someone. All I know is almost to a person – their conceptions of their metrics don’t align with their conception of reality.

In other words: what they think they are, what it will do, and what they want it to do – are usually not even close.

The problem more often that not that will (or currently is) frustrate them is: when they look at their #’s whether it be Likes, Followers, Views, whatever. If it isn’t based in the hundreds of thousands, or the millions. All they see is failure. It’s absolutely ludicrous as far as I’m concerned. And it stupefies more people into fits of inertia far more often than into bits as to move forward.

I wrote an article that is also in my first book called “Beware Of The Hit Men.” In that article I explained why you need to understand (or to know) what a “click” or whatever it is you’re counting means too you. i.e., Is it better to have 100,000 clicks that don’t purchase a thing? Or, 1 click that does?

There are arguments for why both have value. Understanding the difference between the two as well as knowing what they mean to your bottom line is what’s important. Yet, far too many I find really have no idea. It’s purely based on assumptions with no real basis of business reasoning.

Believe it, or not. That one simple question has stopped more people in their tracks like a deer in the headlights than almost any other question I’ll ask. And the reason for it is: Most (if not all) have never really given it much thought. It’s just some vanity metric they have in their head formulated by looking at other people’s sites, or social pages. Then inferred: this is where they need to be – or they’re a failure.

It’s rubbish in my book, and if you don’t have clear meanings and ways to verify if you’re truly hitting your marks. The general numbers associated with all those metrics; will be the end of you; or make the end of you, in short order.

Over the years I’ve written and posted results, formulations, the how and why, etc., etc., using myself as the example. I’ve shown the good, the bad, and the ugly because if I’m going to have any credibility for what I profess – I had better be able to demonstrate it myself in real-time examples. I’ve received great pleasure over the years from readers, and more, when they’ve expressed an “ah ha!” moment where it finally “clicked” for them. (pun intended)

I also find the need to make clear for there are some that think I’m bashing everything “social” or I believe there’s no use in any of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I am saying: It has its place. Just don’t kid yourself in both the using, as well as – not to use the medium. Just like in all businesses. Everything has a cost, and a pay back. Just make sure you’re getting out of it whatever it is you decided is an equivalent pay out for what you need to put in. That’s all.

So, with all that said. Let me give you another quick relevant example (again using myself) as to demonstrate if you don’t know exactly what you’re trying to do, and what a number (any number) truly means too you. You may be fretting over some number (or metric) when in actuality – you’re wasting valuable time and resources over something meaningless. And you don’t even know it. Or, worse – can’t tell!

As of today the amount of intellectual property (articles and so forth) I have on the web has not only increased two-fold (if not more) in volume over the last 3 years, it is also been spread far further.

During a discussion I had yesterday the topic of “SEO” as in search engine optimization came up. As many of you know I have railed against this as being a top-level concern for most unless: you have absolute metric numbers that need to be met as to prove it adds to the bottom line in a definitive way. For I’m about business metrics, not vanity numbers.

As I’ve said, I use myself for these examples. So I asked V.V. at StreetCry for a search metric from previous examples as to show how if one was concerned about “increasing” their web presence using the numbers today could (or would) fool them. To wit:

Here’s a screenshot (the top) I was using for an example at a talk I was giving in 2012. As you can see this search resulted in nearly 4 BILLION hits. Of course they aren’t all me. However, they are looking for any and all with my name in it proper. At that time I did have a lot on the web, and I showed, spoke, and explained: “When you can go 10, 15, or 20 pages deep – and it’s 90%+ all you and from differing places. That’s how you begin doing true assessment and not kidding yourself.”

Far too many I expressed were looking at the 3.8 Billion result (of what ever theirs were whether higher or lower) in their own metrics as some form of confirmation of doing good, well, poor, or worse.

Now the screen shot right below it was done yesterday using the same criteria as you can see. The result? 12,700. Should I pack it in? Pack it all up? 3 years of work and I lose over 3.8 BILLION search hits?! All that work and all I could manage was get my website to the top of the search! What a failure I must be, time to throw a pity party, for what else is left!
(On an aside. At the time of the first example I was explaining why everything you did for SEO at that time could be useless with just one algo change via Google. And the example below not only proved that point it shows in stunning detail 3 years later just how far ahead I was at the time in 2012. A time when everyone was more than happy to express to me that I had no idea.)

Google Search Me 2012 1 0f 2 Screen shot 2012-08-06 at 5.39.11 PMGoogle Search Me 2015 2 of 2 Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 3.09.44 PM

You need to understand your numbers, where they’re coming from, what they mean, why you need them, etc., etc. Otherwise you’re not only going to drive yourself crazy – but probably nuts! However, the worst thing it’ll do is make you focus valuable time on things that either don’t matter – or lose money. And if you’re in a business, vanity is nice – but it don’t pay the bills. Period.

I could go on about this subject and in some talks I do just that. But for the sake of brevity I hope you’re getting what I’m trying to express. And to help drive this point home further let me illustrate one last point, again using myself. As of today, although my work is at times re-posted or carried on other sites of note in multitudes of a few years ago. The only web notification I receive from Google™ stating my name or work has shown up on the web is – from my site alone. No where else.

I have yet to still receive a notification of my name posted anywhere else on the web – in years!!

And here’s a bonus for those who feel they really need those “vanity” metrics or people won’t think highly of their work. Next time you see someone with metrics you long for, or dream that you could have. Here’s a screen shot I took that shows how you can solve your own dilemma.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 3.07.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-27 at 3.07.57 PMAs you can see. There’s a price to be paid for vanity. You can find where to buy them just like the above shows across the web in any search engine that you choose. And if all you want to do is look good, and it makes you feel good. Then by all means maybe what you should do is buy whatever it is that you think will make you confident – and be done with. This way you can spend your time trying to get 1 happy customer to spend $1 with you more than once. After all – that’s what you’ll need to do so you can pay them. For like I’ve said many times…

“The people making real money in Social-Media. Are the people telling (and selling) you Social-Media.”

The only important metric in business is : Sales and Net profits first. Vanity second.

Not the other way around.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

The First Canary To Fall In Unicorn Valley Won’t Be The Last

An odd occurrence took place this past week in the “Land of Unicorns” aka Silicon Valley. The first of what was once described as the “future of social media” canary’s Twitter™, was suddenly struck by the “Where’s The Money” kingdom aka Wall Street. Suddenly, what was once the dulcet tones for acquiring investment capital “eyeballs to monetize” is now being answered by the investment crowd in a much more sobering tone of “Where’s the monetized money?!”

This isn’t just some play on words. As I’ve stated over the years you’ll know that everything has changed when you see the first of these so-called “darlings of Wall St.” within the social media space called out on the carpet (i.e., investors will begin selling or dumping their shares) and their management teams will be pressured to either be; replaced, or the company sold, spun off, or any combination there of.

It’s a little bit ironic that the first would be fitting the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” analogy. Yet, although it’s the first, it’s going to be far from the last. For if awareness, with a reinvigorated quest for generating real profits are not followed immediately by others within this space – the enveloping hazards now forming around, and within the Valley are going to catch a whole lot of them flat-footed with the possibility for disastrous results. For there’s real tragedy beholding for a great many of today’s Unicorns around every bend. (or Quarter)

Many in Silicon Valley for the last 5 or 6 years have felt (as well as acted) with somewhat of a near invincibility not only for their enterprises, but also to the idea that their “social metrics” matter more than basic economics. i.e., Eyeballs trump actual net profits.

This was the storyline that worked when “free money” flowed via The Fed’s QE open spigot. However, since that source has now been closed? The only story line investors want to hear is an answer to “where’s the money?” It’s a far cry from what Silicon Valley has come used to these last few years. And this narrative as well as tone is going to get a whole lot harsher, as well as quicker for anyone who forgot, or never went through the last dot-com bubble.

Many believe because they are the current, Chairman, CEO, Founder, Social Media personality/Superstar, ___________(fill in the blank) that’s been the focus of buzz or rage (past or present) across the media space as today’s Silicon Valley kings and queens, with front page spreads on magazine covers, or “in-depth” cover articles why they’re so “brilliant,” or learning how to speak other languages. Or, now they get to hang out with musicians, hob nob with today’s political figure of the moment, or throw lavishly themed parties, etc., etc. That somehow they are above the fray of fundamental business principles.

In regards to all the calls of “brilliance” or “special.” All of it. And I do mean – all of it – means squat when they’ll be sitting in on future conference calls, and the only thing they can point to as “improvement” in their business is to try and spin why: A smaller than expected loss via Non-GAPP is great news! Rather, than being able to at the very least state; an actual net profit via GAAP that met expectations.

This simple and subtle change will be earth-shattering for some, and for others it’ll usher in annihilation of past heralded performance spin. Regardless how many languages they now speak, clothes they wear, currently hangout with, or magazine covers they may grace.

For years when it came to building businesses that need to produce real profits. Most in Silicon Valley felt this was beneath them, (i.e., they’re changing the world) and expressed it with a tone of: They breathe rarefied air from where they sit.

Little did they realize what they believed was “rarefied air” was actually their own exhaust. And the onslaught of headaches that will result from all this time spent focusing on “eyeballs” rather than actual profits has only just begun.

And about all those eyeballs…

Another story that received little fanfare and in my opinion should send shivers down the backs (as well as potential monetization hopes) of every “unicorn” social-media enterprise, was the story in the WSJ™ on March 31, 2015 stating “Walmart ratchets up pressure on suppliers to cut prices

At first glance it’s another “Yeah, what else is new.” Yet, if you read into the article you notice one of the main line items arguing to be cut by both the retailer is: advertising. The implications for the bottom lines of many of today’s Silicon Valley unicorns have just monumentally been shifted from under their hooves. And I believe many don’t even realize it.

So why is this such a big deal you might ask? Simple. In the world of advertising there are two types. One is the: Will pay X amount per 1000 viewers. Regardless of interaction. They fall into the “impression” group. The other is the: Pays per click type. i.e., There must not only be an interaction, (e.g., a click) but also a verifiable sale linked to it. There are others but for simplicity these are the easiest to understand.

The former (the impression type) is the life blood of many in social media. This is where eyeballs matter to the calculus. But there’s also a catch. Most of the largest players in this ad spending realm are also the most price sensitive. i.e., Just like Walmart they’re in a race to the bottom to sell for the cheapest because to their customers – price, and only price matters.

In today’s world of the internet, along with the relative fearless shopping on whatever the website. If all that matters is price: one doesn’t need to spend precious ad dollars by either Amazon™, Walmart™, or Who-Cares-Where.  Because price is searchable. e.g., Why pay for ads placed on social – when I can pay or maximize search?  Maybe with better odds for results. Hello Google™, or Bing™, or ?

Again, if all that matters for the sale is the price. What good does advertising on social do for them? Easy: Nothing. And not only is that a fundamental change to the current ad spending structure or ecosystem. Rather, it changes the whole premise of paying for eyeballs under a totally new light. A light that Silicon Valley has precariously avoided these last few years at all costs – literally. Suddenly, what was thought of and used as “a selling point to sell investors” might have just turned overnight into a selling hurdle that many Unicorns may find impassable.

With a company the size of Walmart openly stating that they’ve come to this same conclusion, (e.g., ads aren’t selling products price is) this shot across the bow should raise concerns for everyone in Silicon Valley. For the model that was touted as “the future” may now be long past its expiration date. And it’s not stopping there because Walmart will far from be alone. This new “meme” is just starting in my opinion. And it will grow is size and scope.

Just to show how quickly things can change when no one expects it. There seems to be another “oh so subtle,” yet “oh so large white elephant” once again entering the room that all too many believed either couldn’t – or wouldn’t be an obstruction to their ad space formulations: Apple™.

As much as a sea change the Walmart example can have and the possible implications going forward for many social media models. The same in-kind is now happening with Apple’s foray into streaming music. Here again, whether or not Apple is, or is not, better than others is inconsequential. What matters is Apple has a history of making real, verifiable, unquestionable net profits. Not only that, they have billions upon billions of those net profits sitting around the globe just looking for ways to be utilized.

Theoretically, all Apple has to do is sit back and offer a similar service to anyone else’s and the investment dollars are going to roll out of today’s “haven’t been able to make a profit yet” and right into “if I’m going to sit and wait, I’m going to sit and wait with a proven money-maker.” Just a rolling from one into the other purely on the basis of “what the heck, can’t do no worse” can start a stampede of nervous bulls running from one pasture to another purely on where others in the herd are heading. Just a 10% shift in ad dollar allocations can have Richter Scale type connotations for this space alone.

What does the above do to the memes of let’s say a Spotify™, or Pandora™, or ___________? And that’s just streaming. What happens further to the value of “eye balls to monetize” when Safari™, the web browser of the Apple ecosystem becomes the predominant ad-blocking portal? Which by the way happens to be installed on the worlds most dominant mobile device that social is trying to hang on to. Not to forget Apple is also partnered with Bing so its reach into search is already established. So possible growth there is certainly plausible needing only a small percentage of “making no money in social now. Why not just pull it from there, and try it here” argument entirely plausible. And it’s not just Apple; but now Mozilla™ is said to be doing the same. i.e., Dedicated ad-blocking web browsers.

Who cares one might say,”Browsers are so 90’s. Everything today is done via an app.” And it’s a fair point. However, who controls the largest and most used app platform? This point shouldn’t be over looked. I’m not saying that Apple is the best, nor will rule in the end, However, what I am stating is what was the dominant meme just 1 year ago i.e., “Eyeballs or users rule first over net profits” is now reversed. i.e., “Net profits rule first over eyeballs or users.” And that is what felled the fate of the first canary in my opinion. And it’s will be far from the last.

At the same time remember, this is only one scenario I’ve toyed with for this writing. I would bet dollars to doughnuts there are thousands of competitors that were previously shut out of ad dollars by the “everything-social-meme” chomping at the bit ready to re-engage with vigor for those precious ad dollars. The coming changes as well as the speed and voracity as to how they’ll be applied will shake the very foundations of what is today known as both Silicon Valley, and the budding unicorns that currently inhabit it.

Add to all of the above many of today’s private valuations for “unicorn” status entities (e.g., BILLION dollar valuations) have been allowed to be touted as “real” and have gone unchallenged. Even though most informed or business inclined people know, and understand, the numbers have more in common with fantasy-land than anything else. For their formulations make Non-GAAP look real. Yet, one thing in business never changes: Sooner or later, whether it’s an Angel Investor, Wall Street, or your sister Sally. Everyone comes back around looking for their money. Everyone.

And with the pool of “free money” tapped out and shut off at the spigot, it seems many of Wall St.’s former darlings are going to be asked one question and one question repeatedly at every future conference call: “Where’s the money?”

If you’re a unicorn in Silicon Valley watching the current debacle at Twitter. And it doesn’t make you worried? You’re not paying close enough attention. Because in the mine – there’s only one canary to warn. After that, it may already be too late.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

The Fed and Most Economists Are Nothing More Than Glorified Weather Rock Analysts

I must make one statement before I go on any further, for I believe it needs to be said as to clarify my intentions in writing the above headline. Let me first express my sincere apologies to weather-rock weathermen everywhere. At least you understand why the rock may, or may not, show signs for contemplation. The others have demonstrated far too many times by their own proclamations of analysis – they have no clue.

Let me put out another premise that should not be lost on anyone trying to figure out what they’ll both do in their business, as well as – with it. Because, unlike those of us that live and die by the decisions we need to make when it comes to pricing, inventories, labor, location, etc., etc. An economist not only is usually not on the same page as you or I. In most cases one can argue: they may not even be on the same planet.

“You know what the difference is between an Economist/Analyst and a Business-owner? When a Business-owner makes a prediction on his or her business and predicts wrong: The business as well as they could wind up in bankruptcy. When the Economist/Analyst makes a wrong prediction: They just make another prediction.”

So why the use of the proverbial “weather-rock” analogy you may be asking as it pertains to something so complex as the economy. Well, in many cases the economy is just as complex with just as many unknowns and misunderstood relationships as the weather. (Please, for the sake of this discussion refrain from interjecting any “climate change” arguments . Please! I’m begging you!!)

What was once a joke (e.g. the weather-rock) now seems to symbolize what today stands for “serious analysis” or “markers” as to base monetary policy decisions on. Today, forecasts of nearly any sort are adjusted more times as well as their initial direction of strength or lack of it making TV weatherman everywhere ask – “Dang! And they say we’re not reliable?”

Far worse, these predictions are made using data in every way that resembles the known use for proper analysis of the weather-rock. i.e., If it’s wet – it’s raining. If it’s cold – it’s cold outside. And as ridiculously obvious as the aforementioned example is. What seems lost on most economists (as well as the financial media as a whole) is that their version of a weather-rock is being manipulated as to be wet not from rain – but from someone dousing it with a garden hose or other source whenever needed.

Nevertheless – their resulting analysis would be the same: The rock (or data) is wet, therefore it must be raining.

It’s one thing for those who want to express their “brilliance” in professing this style of insight and/or analysis. We can pay attention, or not. It’s a far different thing when monetary policy that will affect not only your business or personal finances – but quite possibly the sovereignty of the monetary system as a whole I’ll argue – is quite another.

Today, the world of Ivory Towered Economists (ITE) and their prognostications have taken on an aire in quite the opposite direction as well as tone of what we’ve now come to expect when watching a local or even national weather broadcast. If a typhoon, monsoon, hurricane, you name it, is somewhere visible on the planet, whether it’s reached land or is 2000 miles out at sea. A diagnosis and analysis of the impending potential havoc will be strewn across your preferred media consumption device in a never-ending cycle of breaking news alerts with more force and rapidity; than the actual wind speeds of the rotating storm front itself.

As much as we may laud or laugh at the coverage, the fact is – at least there is a case to be made for the potential of such predictions coming to fruition. i.e., there is an actual visible storm. On the other hand, the ITE acknowledge more often than advisable prudence would allow for, that there is no need for concern. For after all – the “rock” is not wet. All in a reticent tone implying: No need to worry – “They’ve got your back.”

Then it’s up to you as to infer exactly “who’s” back do they indeed have? Yours? Or the banks and insurance companies? And if it’s the latter – does that translate into help for you after any such storm clears? If you want any clues on how much help the latter may provide – just ask anyone still trying to put their lives and homes together since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Same goes for anyone trying to prudently protect their savings after the 2008 financial crisis.

The issue at hand is: far more people have discovered whether by chance or direct analysis of their own, both the Fed., as well as their gaggle of cohorts throughout academia, as well as in the financial media, are all watching and gaining their clues – from the same “rock.” Furthermore: It’s now self-evident to anyone willing to look. It’s not to see if the rock is wet, dry, or anything else. It’s to make the rock wet, dry, or anything else needed for the narrative. Because today; narrative trumps reality in today’s economic disciplines. For “Fake it till you make it” seems to have become the most dangerous expression of monetary policy group think the world has ever known.

GDP numbers not what you would like? (i.e., the rock is dry) Simply allow for some “double seasonally adjusted” garden hose operator to make it so. “Jobs” numbers showing too much, or too little, conflicting the narrative of why, or why not, raise rates? No problem. Put a hairdryer on it today, and the garden hose tomorrow. After all, wet is wet, and dry is dry, regardless of how, right? Caught in a quagmire of trying to fend off accusations that the rock is clearly visible? Again, no problem. Order up a fog machine and take to the podiums and pronounce: The data is a little murky. We’ll have to just wait and see. After all, who could argue with holding off any policy adjustments without clear visibility, correct?

As ludicrous as the above sounds. If one truly looks at just how the articulated views from both the Fed. as well as most other economists. I would venture to say it’s not that far removed as they would like one to think. And there’s also one other small truth that looms quite large in the annuls of their predicting prowess. Just like the weather-rock, the damaging effects as well as the outright disastrous implications are unseen by this crowd until the actual catastrophe is upon them.

One would have thought being in an Ivory Tower might have supplied a better advantage or viewpoint. Oh well!

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Not All Business Associations Have Your Best Interest

There are many good trade associations as well as select business advocates that take your business interests to heart, and through the power of association in numbers try to address issues, lobby law makers, offer assistance through red tape and more. Then there are those that try to bridge the gap between public and private enterprise for the sole purpose of being the middleman. Where having one foot planted firmly on both sides of the spectrum makes prudent sense for everyone involved. The problem occurs when the “middleman” forgets their role and acts in its own best interest rather than its raison d’être i.e., They are there for the other parties benefit – not their own.

Case Study: In and around the years of 2000 after an LBO fell through I decided to shed the corporate world and instead go back to my roots and open a free-standing sole proprietor based enterprise. I hadn’t decided exactly what till one day I was driving down the main drag of a town I once lived and saw they were revitalizing the downtown district. As I looked around I thought “this would be a great place for a deli” and then proceeded on the road of a more formal inquiry.

My proposal and ideas were met with open arms and within a few months I indeed went ahead and made the investment and opened its doors within 6 months. At the time I was the talk of the town and things were moving along slow but steady with future prospects looking well. However, within about a years time I began to notice odd talk as well as deeds coming from the entity whose sole purpose was to help and be a liaison for this downtown district as they made moves that seemed anything but.

Many things that were said to be impromptu began taking place, however I felt differently. Over the course of about another year this “downtown director” seemed to be acting as if they owned the downtown rather than worked for it. The warnings signs began to scream danger as I watched with discerning interest. Suddenly a move was made by this director that I could not let stand. The move was in direct violation of any business principles where the well-being of the downtown members should be first. And I made it known just how indifferent to it I was. Then I went around to a few of the other members, as well as a few elected officials, and informed them that something stunk to high heaven. I didn’t know exactly what, but something was wrong, and I was sure it had repercussions for the whole district if this person wasn’t looked into.

It fell on deaf ears, but not the ears of this director – they heard every word and approached me at my place of business. I was told I was off base, didn’t understand the way these types of developments work, etc., etc. I would have none of it and stated why everything they were professing was the abject opposite to not only my business but the downtown as a whole. I followed that with; I felt so strongly on these issues that I would close my business in 6 months and leave this area because anything less would not be good business. Which I subsequently did. However, as I said: anything less was not business in my eyes, and I would be kidding myself to think I could “work through it.”

A few years later I was sitting at my home around the holidays when my wife handed me the local newspaper with a smile saying “Merry Christmas you were right!” As I opened the paper there on the front page was that downtown with far more closed storefronts and was in disarray. And the reason for the story?

That “director” had been arrested and subsequently sent to prison for embezzling 6 figures plus from that downtown development to fund an internet gambling addiction.

© 2015 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.

Should We Raise The Voting Age?

I know at first blush the above headline reeks of “click bait.” However, that’s far from my intention. The reason why I used it, is exactly for the stopping power, as well as attention grabber I needed during a recent conversation. (If it could be called that)

During a discussion amongst people of varying ages the discourse became heated and focused more on “who was to blame” for the current economic malaise throughout the country. As well as “who the fingers should be pointed at” as to fix it. Neither side seemed willing to budge or relent any ground. Yet, the side that seemed the most adamant was the “younger” of the two sides (although younger was not by much).

They were also the most vocal in professing why “they were correct” as well as the one’s that were listening the least – and talking the most. Countering, or getting a word in edgewise without seeming to (or in reality) yell was near impossible. So I interjected with what I felt was a question that needed to be addressed if the “finger-pointing” argument if either side was to have any validity.

Although I’m not going to touch with a 10′ pole the arguments of left vs right. Or, who vs who. Or who should pay more or less. What I am not afraid to state, as well as remind anyone of is this: When it comes to taxes – everybody pays them in one form or another – nothing is free. And just like death – taxes (regardless of age) will at sometime need to be settled with the “ferryman.” Pure and simple. And by taxes I mean all – everything. i.e., taxing in all its forms be it business, personal, wealth, education, speech, freedom, safety etc., etc.

You might want to debate they’re too high, or too low as to influence what one decides in the privacy of the voting booth. There’s nothing wrong with that and ideas should be expressed. However – knowing the implications; where they come from; the potential burdens on the young, old, neighbors, themselves, their families, the country and more is what has to be contemplated. Otherwise the arguments are nothing more than an assemblage of moot points only for the sake of verbal jousting.

It’s not my place to say one is right or wrong. Again, that’s not my gist here. Nevertheless, when the argument falls between two sides and one of those sides has no experience in the effects of their decisions; and can only speak as to why in reasoning’s of platitudes, sound bites, or less? (i.e., Just because they think so.) Someone has to be the adult in the room and stop the merry-go-round of nonsensical reasoning or accusations. Which is where I found myself, as the appointed “ring master.”

So when I interjected with the supposition “Maybe it’s time we need to raise the voting age?” Both sides stopped and took notice. Suddenly there was an argument on the table (which is what I’m known to do as to get to the real issue) neither contemplated. I believed it was a central (as well as clarifying) question that should be addressed by both sides if they were to continue further. For it opened the discussion more towards a tangible cause and effect both sides could, and did, have equal standing. Along with opening (hopefully) more reasoned arguments to answer for.

This question focused and demanded qualitative answers. There could be no “just because” type answers from either side without making it blatantly obvious that’s all one had. (i.e., No real defensible argument. For “just because” type answers are just that.)

I also elaborated the following in a true questioning manner. While at other times some bordered (and some were purely) the rhetorical. Whether or not any side agreed with the premise I stressed was not the case. However: knowing and understanding the intents and consequences contained within couldn’t go unanswered if: they wanted to continue on and try to reach an amicable conclusion. Whether it would be in half agreement, full agreement, or the willingness to agree they completely disagreed till more evidence or facts could be contemplated. But whatever the case: the talking (or half yelling) at each other had to cease. For as I’ve said many times “The best way to stop a headache is not with a stronger aspirin. It’s to first stop pounding your head against the wall.” And I could see the only thing everyone was contributing to was the severity of this “migraine.”

(I started with asking the following as a premise for further insight and discussion. I wasn’t taking one side or another. The premise was purely for pushing the discussion forward where thinking and true reasoning needed to stem from. Nothing more.)

I began with: Currently you can vote at 18. However, some of you are currently still in school (college), while some of you have recently just graduated. Others have since graduated and have yet to enter the work force. And, there are some that have since entered the work force yet, they are working in fields other than their chosen degree. And many combined still live at home. As a matter of fact, statics imply the number of college graduates that go back and live at home (i.e., parents or other family members) and remain there for years for whatever the reasons is quite high.

On average, it takes about 3 or 4 years after the day you leave high-school to obtain and get yourself adjusted to enter the labor force with an associate degree. Yes, it’s a two-year “in school” thing. However, when you total up all the incidental time you’ll spend i.e., the summers in between, then graduate and settle back home time, get your bearings and start applying to businesses. It runs around 3 to 4 years. For a graduate degree, it’s about 5 to 6 when all is said and done.

The average age after high school is about 18. So in essence, after an associates program you’re about 21. After a graduate somewhere around 23-24. And if a post-graduate about 25 or so give or take. The vast majority might not ever had, or may never hold a job of any type during this period.

Not only that, they will live in a sheltered environment where all the rules are known, visible, and the only competition they’ll face is to answer taught, and known variables that will be asked during testing assignments. Where a mediocre score, if not an outright 1 point above a fail allows one to be included, as well as on the same stage or platform, as one who receives above average scoring. (e.g., This can be shown in the old joke that really isn’t: “What do they call a med-student who graduates at the bottom, and is last in their class? Doctor!)

Add too this many of this same group have fought to be classified today as “children” until the age of 26 as to remain on their parents health insurance for the explicit reasoning that they “can’t and shouldn’t be made to afford it otherwise.” Also while remembering one isn’t considered legally as an “adult” to even drink alcohol till they’re 21.

Yet, at the same time many (and many is just that: a vast preponderance) have taken on suffocating amounts of student debt in the pursuit of degrees or studies that when looked through the prism of prudent financial analysis shows; repayment (if even possible) may cripple one’s ability to move forward in pursuit of the things so many take for granted. i.e., Qualifying for a house, raising kids of their own, and more in the not so distant future.

Does it seem this side should have equitable standing at the ballot box when their decisions will have the weight of enforcement by both law, and force under penalties of imprisonment or monetary damage when they may have never experienced a day in the real world outside of school?

Think hard about how you address these points. For they are not only valid arguments – they are also very real. And although one may not feel the ramifications of these decisions today. Rest assured, they will – once they too enter what is known as real life.

From the point of one side vs the other answer this question to yourself: Who is in the midst of what I just outlined? And should they be granted the right without any true understanding of the consequences of their actions? i.e., To vote for candidates, and laws to be passed where the ramifications will be borne by others? Or, those consequences may in fact backfire resulting to be far more devastating to they themselves in the future for they willy-nilly, or haphazardly voted them in – never contemplating the true ramifications.

Again: Should a person or group that has never experienced what is known by all as “real life” while simultaneously being seen by many legal standards as not having the full credentials to be recognized as an “adult” have the ability to vote directly for, or vote for candidates responsible in the setting of the nations wage laws, tax laws, business law, national debt, business tax structures, business mandates, international trade policies, monetary policy, or most importantly – whether to send their brethren off to war where people die for real – not in some video game or movie? All the while they’ve never been responsible for anything more than “school” and in many cases not subject to feel the direct consequences of their votes until some 8 years or even longer after the age of 18?

Not withstanding showing an inadequate fiduciary responsibility to themselves, never mind others, to pursue degrees that may in fact have no value in society for gainful employment? All the while taking on ever more burdensome debt that may never be paid back in their lifetimes without needing their own form of bailouts or debt forgiveness in the future? All this as they rail about “Wall St.” bailouts. Again, both sides should take a real hard look at not only these questions, but also the mirror.

At the end both sides were a little taken back and knocked of their own self-appointed pedestals (which is what I hoped for). For as I stated earlier, The “younger” side wasn’t all that younger than the other. Many fit into the above from both sides. And you could see the wheels turning in their heads as they contemplated what I had just proposed.

So now, with all that said, do I think we should raise the voting age? No. Of course not. Again: That’s not what I’m trying to argue.

What I am trying to bring to light is: Far too many today are acting like children when in fact they are older (I’ll contend much older) than the many that not all that long ago set out and made a life for both themselves, as well as others. If I may be so bold I’ll use an example in which I played my own part.

At 18 not only had the majority left school, many left at 16 or 17 never finishing (which is where I fell) and were out working odd or whatever jobs they could find. And trust me they were scarce in the 70’s. Sometimes we worked as many as we could handle at once with little to no sleep in between because if you wanted to eat – that’s what it took. (Many times I slept in my car, in the parking-lot as to not miss or be late. For a miss could mean being fired.)

There was no “going back home” to live with your parents. Many at 18 were confronted by very loving parents and asked point-blank “So you’re 18 now. Have you thought about where your going to live?” Why? Because you were considered an adult in just about every aspect of life. And you had better of understood that or else life was going to get a whole lot tougher – sooner.

For many by the age of 19 to 21 they were married, and most had their first child. They had apartments they were responsible for paying rent, utilities, food, as well as upkeep in household chores. Whether they could barely afford it or not. Want to eat? You had better learn to cook and make a meal of whatever you had on hand. A lot of times what was “on hand” was more like a finger. But we all did just that. There was no complaining because – there was no alternative. And for every generation going back it was the same if not more harsh. Want an example? Compare today’s employment prospects for a 20 something today as compared to someone the same age in let’s say 1938?

By 25 most were in jobs that would turn out to be careers in one form or another. By 30 you were contemplating school districts for your kids, neighborhoods to raise them through high school and more. Today, there are more just shy of 30 (if not over) still living in their parents home with nothing more intense as to compare against a real word “family life” than a relationship that maybe lasted a year or so since college. The same may be for a job if that. All while under the guise of “Unless they can get a corner office with a title along with a smokin’ hot spouse – there’s no rush because – they aren’t settling.” As they remain in their parents home unemployed – and single.

Before: the case for voting at 18 could easily be argued. For at 18 you were directly at the receiving end of consequences for your votes. Today? At 18? Answer that honestly. Especially if you are one that fits into the above scenario that I outlined in the beginning.

Never mind what many deem as “the older generation.” If you are right now 25-ish. Do you want any 18-year-old today that you know voting into law something that can directly impact you for what ever the reason? Especially if they seem directly indifferent to anything you may hold as dear? And there would be nothing you can do about it (whether you like it or not) because it would be enforced by all the power that comes from being law. Are you starting to understand why knowing the consequences and truly weighing them against alternative scenarios is important? Important as in say…voting?

Again, don’t let this point be lost on you. It truly is the crux of my argument. Think about it because what one thinks today as unimaginable can turn into reality tomorrow. If you think I’m trying to fear monger, or use the ole “when I went to school it was uphill both ways” argument. Think this…

The most influential group coming up the ranks that may contemplate whether or not the voting age should, or should not be raised out of respect for future generations may very well be the next batch of newly minted 18 year old’s. Where they may decide to form a movement pursuing, pushing, and mobilizing their own grass-roots and numbers for its passage. Many think the argument only resides or will be borne from some organizing “old geezers” constituent. But history shows us surprises can come from where one least expects it.

It’s quite possible (and perfectly lawful) it may very well be borne by some active and vocal group of 18 year-old’s the nation has ever seen. Remember, no matter what one thinks, or how hard one tries to escape it. The newest crop of 18 year-old’s at any time may take the sanctity of voting and its repercussions on the future more to heart than any predecessor – and decide for themselves how and when the “ferryman” in both death or taxes will be paid. After all – they will have to live the longest in what ever world they’re in, and may look at today’s constituent of 20 or 30 somethings – in the same light they look at their elders. Changes the whole landscape of who has the moral authority argument when put that way does it not?

At the same time let’s not forget the reason why you or I can even sit here and contemplate these current arguments was made possible in no small part this weekend in history by a group of individuals younger than today’s most recent graduates. Those that stormed into the teeth of a relentless and unrelenting foe with thousands upon thousands of lives lost and even more wounded, so that we can contemplate (as well as vote on) the issues of the day going forward.

If you want to impress upon yourself why voting in this country is looked upon with such reverence. Remembering D-Day should help you in that quest. Don’t take it for granted. Young – or old. And if you want more proof the world at any time could belong to someone 18.

Alexander The Great conquered the known world at about age 18.

How do you think he’d view talk instead of decisive action from many of today’s “adults?”

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

New Episode: Insight Uprise™ Audio Series

The newest episode in my audio series Insight Uprise™. Like other projects I’ve done this is in the “No holds barred, quick hitting and to the point” genre. Topics and subject matter will vary.

It’s intended to be straight to the point in both subject matter, as well as delivery, unlike anyone else.

Love it of hate it one thing will be certain: They’ll be no mistaking me – and someone else.

This Episodes Topic: Living With Your Decisions

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© 2015 Mark St.Cyr in association with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved.

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