Month: September 2009

The proverbial “Shot across the bow” that may prove Fatal for the shooter.

This post also appears in Forbes.com………….CEOnetwork (R)

Just when you think that maybe….just maybe…things might be getting back to a more “normal” business environment, you are reminded how fragile they are. That is…If you truly want to see, and not rely on the so called “Smart Crowd”

People like myself, and a hand full of others have been writing and speaking about the perilous state of affairs we currently find ourselves. The talking heads and other pundits are proclaiming “Victory” over the financial debacle that plagued the economy just 18 months ago. So too are the politicians taking credit for being so “Smart” and enacting policies that in their words..” Brought us back from the brink of a Great Depression.”  This is exactly the kind of self grandeur that leads to the thinking one can’t make a worse mistake than before.  But ohhhhh contrare…….

First off save the emails, and letters. This is not about which politician, or  what party affiliation, or one person, or____________ (you fill in the blank) etc.,etc. It’s about ALL politicians, and ALL government actions, past, present, and future that I’ll encompass here.

One of the little understood reasons why this country has been a force for prosperity unlike ANY nation before it, was the  unique ability of the American Free Enterprise system to take its lumps no matter how severe the beating, and then Move On! American business, and entrepreneurship had a  propensity to deal with business upheavals the same way a forest remains healthy, by understanding you sometimes let the underbrush burn, so that new start ups, (think real green shoots) and other types of creatures (think vultures and others) cleanup the waste in order that the forest remains healthy. Nature has been doing this for all of time, and when business followed Mother Nature in her ideals business prospered.  Sound a little esoteric? It’s not really, take the perplexing reaction of the stock market over the past decades when a major problem was being dealt with at any company listed. Some would shake their head when a company would, Fire a CEO for an outrageous scandal, or sell 1/2 the company because of poor profits, or layoff a large part of its work force because of poor implementation of employee resources, and what would happen? The company stock would RISE!…Why?…because they were Evil, Greedy business people?…NO!..because unlike most other business centric countries, we understand in our Core Business Acumen that if you truly make the hard but necessary changes,  the business may not only survive, but might move on to thrive. Politicians, and governments Don’t do this, nor do they think this way. Just take GM, Chrysler, the Banks, and the others. (just to name a few) They are the equivalent of keeping the charred and burned lumber not only within the structure, but using it as the foundation to add additions to. It’s a disaster just waiting to happen. One small storm, one small unseen shaking, and it can collapse with devastating consequences. And that’s why I’m very, and I mean very concerned about politicians being involved in the free markets today. They are showing if one dares to look, just how foolish they can be, and how little understanding they have of both business, and money.

Friday afternoon (the time used most to alleviate scrutiny or coverage .)  on September 11, 2009 the administration declared that it was imposing a 35% tariff on Chinese made tires in the U.S. at the behest of the unions to help level the playing field for U.S. made tires. Think what you want on whether they are right or wrong. Business is about the economics, and strategic implementation, and timing. Politics is about the social mood, and votes are the currency.

This warning shot can backfire to point of the shooter originally firing a cap gun, and the other side returning fire with the equivalent of a howitzer. here’s a couple of items to ponder…..

1. China is our largest debt holder. (Like it or not, they’re the bank!)

2. China has already signaled that it is “Uncomfortable” with our spending, and might not purchase as much of our debt as before.

3. China is known for retaliatory one up-manship in economic affairs. ( Close one of your markets…They’ll close ALL of theirs.) etc.

4. Protectionist signals in times of economic distress lead to Trade Wars.

5. You signal to the “World of Business”…..Political doctrine will supersede current understandings of economic fundamentals.

Big events unlike what most pundits will tell you, start with a very small trigger event, then escalate quickly, sometimes very, very quickly. I hope the itchiness to secure more political favors, doesn’t result in the unintended firing of a fatal shot on a hair trigger to the shooter.

Mark

The Perilous Dangers of ” A False Sense of Security”

If one wants to know why more people are having difficulties in life, you don’t have to look far, but you do have to take notice. The clues are everywhere, but you have to extrapolate to see the root cause.

America has been blessed over the years of providing a level of security in both life, health, and wealth unseen in most other parts of the world. ( This is not a political discussion,  so save the emails.) We take for granted the basic necessities of life, but what we also take for granted in this day and age is that everything works, all the time, everywhere, no matter the conditions or mathematical odds of a failure. People blindly trust that no matter where they are on the planet..The Cell Phone will work…Internet access is available, etc., etc. But what has become blatantly obvious to me is peoples false sense that “Bad things” only happen to others on the news.

I say these things because of a sight seeing ride my wife and I enjoyed over the holiday weekend. We went to spectacular scenic location in Kentucky called ” The Natural Bridge”, a stone bridge carved from a single rock atop  a canyon that appeared to be 1000 feet below us. Sheer cliff like  faces throughout the canyon, all were breath taking. OK you’re saying…nice but what does all that mean? Well………..

This State Park seems to have been able to dodge the wrath of Liability Law Suits that plague businesses today. You needed to take a cable ski lift chair to get to the bridge. There were NO safety devices to stop you from lifting up the bar, and jumping off to the valley below to your own demise. Have a small child…better hold on to them, no special seat for them regardless of age. Put the teenagers in the lift in front of you while Mom and Dad enjoy the peacefulness, better hope they behave or someones going for an unpleasant fall. With that said, you arrive at the top and find after walking down a narrow pathway alongside the mountain you come to the bridge.  After taking a few steps out onto it you become abruptly aware that you are on a massive stone, suspended hundreds of feet in the air, and there are NO..repeat..NO safety lines, ropes, warnings, rails, nothing, and I mean Nothing, to impede, or stop you from slipping or falling, To Your Death!

I watched with bewilderment people walk right to the edge nonchalant, turn around and say ” Hey take my picture!” A mere gust of wind would have been enough to send them over. The bridge itself was a solid stone with a smooth surface. There was sand in some places that had been blow around making way for even less traction…Right at the edge!…But some people were oblivious to this fact. It was so perilous that if you had your back turned and someone bumped into you by mistake. It would be you to have the accident.

We walked to another part of the site where you could view the bridge from afar to see it in all its splendor, but this view was a rock plateau that jetted out from the canyon wall. It was just as magnificent, and just as dangerous as the bridge. No safety restraints of any kind, fall off the edge, call the Coroner, forget the Doctor! Once again, I watched people allowing their children to swing on branches of some trees, where if the limb snapped, at a minimum the child would roll down hundreds of feet down the valley wall. I watched a woman 6 or 7 feet from the edge of  the cliff with her back to the edge holding her camera up to her face trying to take a picture of her family who were sitting on a bench Watching her unsteadiness in her footing on the cliff rock. Maybe they didn’t like her decision for food that night, who knows, but she was making ME nervous!

Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not calling for OSHA or the Safety Police to come a calling to the site. In fact..It was refreshing to be able to see nature in all its splendor, without the obstructions from the so called  Do Gooder Police that have to protect me at every turn. I’m an adult and understand risks and perils. It’s up to me to be careful, not up to someone else to do that for me. But from what I witnessed this day with so many oblivious to the real dangers, or seemingly not caring, It’s only a matter of time when you wont be allowed to be an adult here also.

Mark