Month: December 2009

Year end wrap up, and a few calls for 2010….

Talk about a year of change. Just when you thought you could get a handle on something, you look to find someone moved the pot, never mind the handle!

I believe 2010 will be in direct contrast of 2009, as 2009 was to 2008. There has been both subtle and glaring changes in everything from what your personal choices will be, to the choices you’ll be looking at in business. Everything is in flux, everything is different, and nothing, and I mean nothing can be taken for granted. The rules of the older paradigms are no longer valid, and in places where there was the illusion of rules, trust me there gone. But is that so bad?

Upheaval and cosmic change can spell doom and gloom for those who never prepare, never think it will happen, never think it could happen, and if it does happen, it will never happen to them.  Then there are the ones who believe luck is made by applying the old sage…”Luck is when opportunity collides with preparedness.” I am firmly  in the camp of the latter.

Change can be scary, but for those who can use it to their advantage they’ll find themselves presented with opportunities that otherwise might not have been available. Let me clarify my thought on this just a little. I could write a book on this ( I’m thinking about it at this moment!) but for this column I’ll keep it to a couple of points.

1. Just because someone has a diploma, or knows someone, or is young, or old, or___________(Fill in the blank.) will mean less, and less. What will only matter will be results. Period! If you can demonstrate you can sell, you’ll be hired. If you can demonstrate you can solve X, you’ll be employed. If you have a degree from an Ivy league school, young or old, and can’t demonstrate your value or worth in black and white terms, YOU will have a problem.

2. All business models are in flux…repeat….ALL business models are in flux. Opportunities to create new revenue streams, new business models, new business relationships are all on the table to be exploited. There are more blank slates being created than ever before. You can paint your own canvas, but your going to have to be bold and grab the brush quickly because if you don’t, someone else who thinks like me will. Rest assured on that point.

3.  Money woes in business. Big or small, new or established, everyone has financing issues at this moment. It can no longer be an excuse for complaining why one can’t compete because of financing. Everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is challenged. That creates opportunity. Forget “Pie in the Sky” projections….”Build a Better Model that can be Demonstrated!” should be your new mantra. Build it and demonstrate it, and they will come. and so on, and so on.

Those are only a few points to get you thinking. Now I’ll give you a couple of ideas on what, and why I think 2010 is going to be so different.

I originally was going to go through a list of things I had forecast, and do an “I was right….I was wrong” but that seemed to be boring. Any of you that have read my posts, or heard me speak understand my thought process. For those who might be new, you can view them in the archives. This way you can see for yourself what I was saying, when I was saying it, and how I came around to my thoughts. Anyone can say they said this or that, but if you want to be taken seriously, you had better be able to prove you said it when no one else would, or could.

Many are forecasting that 2010 will be a return to the norm, and will be on a meandering path that will bring us back to the days of just 2 years ago. I am of the exact opposite view, and still contend that not only will upheaval be the norm, but the financial crisis of 2009 will pale in comparison to 2010. Yes I did say 2010 will be much worse that 2009. Why? Because no matter what you’re reading in the news, or what you’re watching on TV…This time, It’s different. (I wrote a column that you can find in the March archives titled..The Pendulum”) but a better way to describe what I see is the hurricane. I firmly believe that we are in the equivalent of the “Eye of the Storm” and not just any storm. This storm is far worse than many that have passed before, and Oct 2007-2009 was just the front. The real damage I believe will soon be realized when everyone begins to notice that there really is more to go in this storm. That it wasn’t just a passing thunderstorm, but a part of a much large front. People,politicians, and business alike are doing the equivalent of removing the plywood from the windows only because they can see the sun. As anyone who has lived through a hurricane will tell you….”That’s the most dangerous time, because you let your guard down, and you don’t replenish you survival supplies, only to find yourself in the strongest, and longest part of the storm left to go.”

Back in August I said that I felt the stock market was about to turn down, and other things were getting ready to fall out-of-place. (See Aug.archive “For the Record”) I am still of the same thought process. Many thought I was way off base ( some are saying I’m just plain wrong.) but I’ll let you be the judge, and here’s how I’ll do it.

In August I was at the Jack Daniels World Invitational BBQ Championship with a friend of mine who was competing..( He came in 3rd for one of his recipes. If you’re into BBQ you know how big of an honor that is, and it was his 1st year!) While I was in the pits enjoying the competition I had a great conversation with his father who I’ve known for a while, and is a very smart owner of a very good business he has had for years. We were discussing what we both thought of the economy and where we thought it might be going. At the end of our conversation I wrote on a card 4 things to watch for. I told him to take everything that I was stating as having the possibility of being totally wrong. But….If these 4 items started to line up, he should give some credence to what I was advocating. The reason being  was …NO ONE…and I mean No One, on TV, Radio, or newspapers were calling what I was, and since no one was, then if I’m wrong…I’ll be dead wrong, and nothing I said to follow would be able to happen. But if what I said to watch for starts happening, the balance has to shift away from them, and onto what I’m advocating. Not that one should disregard everyone, and only listen to me. Just that what I’m stating becomes more possible or probable  as hurdle, after hurdle gets cleared.  Don’t listen to anyone who is telling you there are no hurdles when you’re looking at a track and field event, and can see them in the distance. Maybe they aren’t racing that day…but if you start to see runners warming up for the hurdles…You just might be inclined to see for yourself before you take someone on TV’s word just because they’re on TV. ( See April & July archive  “They’re on TV” for more on that subject.)

So I’ll leave you with the 4 items I gave to him, and they’ll prove themselves to be right or wrong. They’ll be a good judge, and a good indicator if someone is looking for signs that the worst might just not be over.

1. If the dollar gets above 77….It will rally  for months and catch most by surprise.

2. Don’t buy Gold at this time….I think it will collapse…Once it gets back into the $700 range..Then I would think about buying.

3. If the Stock market falls back to Dow 9000…it will go quickly to 8000…at 8000 start thinking the unthinkable and prepare yourself as best you can…don’t take time for granted.

4. The Euro I believe will fall apart. As the economy in different countries get worse…Finger pointing will be all the rage in Europe..and Blame for struggling on others will be the new parlor game of the EU. It’s not just our economy that will be in trouble…but the world as a whole.

Remember…These predictions were in August of 2009, and only a couple of months later if you had invested in Gold in Oct when everyone was calling for Gold 5000…..it took less than 15 days..(10 if you only count trading days) you would currently be Flat..To a small LOSS in Gold.

The Dollar was at 75 and Everyone was sounding the death knell of the dollar. It is currently at the time of this post over 78

Currently the Dow is at an All time high for the year. I believe that it reached its peak in late Dec. 2009 and will quickly retrace all of the gains of 2009 and break the lows of March 2009 causing a panic.

In Dec. Greece, Spain, and Dubai rocked the financial markets. Italy is in trouble and some in the Euro Zone are calling for financial reform, I believe this to be the beginning of a much more serious nature.

Well there it is, quite a long column but none the less on the record. I still feel it’s going to be an exciting year to say the least. It’s always exciting when you understand the risks, but you prepare as best you can.It’s called life…and we only go around this way once. Besides….You wouldn’t want to go skydiving without a parachute….but even worse would be to skydive with a parachute packed by someone who only packed knapsacks…..It didn’t work for Wile E. Coyote…..don’t assume it could be different for you. Just prepare and take in all the thrills that skydiving as in life can put in front of you. Life is all about getting out on the wings.   Have a Great New Year…and I’ll see you in 2010.

Mark

Chicken Little, or a Canary in a Coal Mine?

There are many analogies we use in our daily life. We hear one say this, another say that, then you hear another use one that seems not to fit, but goes unchallenged in a conversation.

“Birds of a feather, flock together” is an analogy that many of us use, but there is a very big difference in the two birds that I used for the title of this article.

Chicken Little we all know runs around screaming, and constantly telling everyone and anyone “The sky is falling!…The sky is falling!” only to have the message fall on deaf ears. Even as the old saying goes  ” A broken clock is correct twice a day.” might imply you should heed the call of Ms. Little because she just could be right someday, most will just ignore, never even looking up once to even question the possibility.

The proverbial “Canary in a Coal Mine” is a much different bird, and is far more relevent to today’s happenings. The Canary as the saying goes is brought along with the miners and kept with them in the chance event that undetected toxins might be about which could cause great peril, or even worse, a fatality. The canary is more susceptible to toxins, and in the sad case of the canary, it will perish before the toxins fatally overcome it’s human partners in the mine giving them a chance of running to safety before disaster strikes.

The danger that runs through both scenarios is if you ignore Chicken Little totally, and never question her reasoning on why she thinks the sky is falling, the odds are slight, and however minute, she might be right. On the other hand, If you never look up, or back on the canary, chances are that you might not see the indication that you could be in peril. The odds are better in the canary case, but you still have to look up to notice.

No one wants to be thought of as a “Chicken Little”, and even worse, is someone who calls disaster after the fact. Both are as useless as…..(Feel free to fill in your own analogy.)

I made some calls earlier in the year, and posted some of them in this blog so that I could be judged whether my forecasting was in line, or I was way out in left field. My views have not changed, and I’ll post my final entry for the year, and point out where I might be correct, or where I was wrong.

I don’t want to get Ms. Little, or Mr. Canary nervous by crying wolf too soon.

Mark

CEO Wanted….Well not Really!……Final entry.

Originally I wrote this article to provoke some thoughts on what others felt about the subject. I received comments from current CEO’s, and I was really taken back a couple of steps. ( I don’t post comments on this Blog. The comments I received were from an article I originally posted in Forbes.com…CEOnetwork (R)

It seemed over, and over again, as I read the comments, the same theme ran through. One person wrote…..” In today’s economic climate the new CEO would have a tremendous amount of pressure on him or her. Once the economic pressure changes, I’m sure they’ll have many applying for the position, and who wouldn’t want a multimillion dollar salary?”  Once again, the comments were All along those lines. Like I stated, I was a little taken back. It puzzled me that other CEO’s were acting, or speaking like being a CEO was just another job with a different title. When did being a CEO become a “Job” with good pay, and benefits, paid sick time, retirement, and not having to dump unused vacation time? When did being a CEO mean, ” I’m in charge as long as everything is going well.” When did being a CEO become a job that should be posted on CareerBuilder or Monster.com?

I wrote in the articles preceding this one why I felt finding a CEO to fill the Bank of America position was going to be hard for not only that company, but any other that followed a similar path. In just a matter of  weeks after publishing, low and behold we not only see the quandary BofA has , but GM the other corporate entity with government intervention states their CEO resigned.  Wow…who would of thunk it?

To make the point in my articles about what a true CEO desires, BofA announced it is repaying all its TARP loan to the government so it will not be hindered by the politics of its hiring or compensation of  its most important position. Once again, proof of my point that talented people want, and deserve all the benefits of their expertise. If they can’t have that…They’ll go where they can. No matter where….where is.

I’ll leave off with one final example of what I believe illustrates a true CEO. There are many, but this person is very relevant to today’s topic, and is Leading his company in real-time, and in the public eye through a very tough economic climate, and is doing a few things that are trailblazing in what to most is looked upon as too risky for them.

Throw out any political, or ideology you might have, this is about Leadership, and why people deserve to keep what they earn, no matter what the dollar amount is, whether it’s $100 dollars, or $100 billion dollars.

Rupert Murdock the famed business mogul is currently in the so-called “worst of times” when every other business is hoping, and praying that revenues wont fall, or that the turmoil is subsiding enough for them to make the case why they shouldn’t be fired, Mr Murdock is taking the boldest of action stating in no uncertain terms to such juggernauts like Google and others that if you want to carry anything linked to his business, you’ll have to PAY…or stop linking to it…Period! That is just a thumbnail sketch of just one issue, but if you’ve been following the story at all, it’s breathtaking in the scope of such a decision. He is running a business, and he is going to have it run to his satisfaction, and to his business model. Whether it wins or fails is His decision, and the companies, and employees that work for him will either benefit or not, but it will be by His decisions. Others are now joining him, but most would not take the risk of such a brazen business move. No matter what the business climate….You either Lead….or Get run over by the Leaders! I think it’s also worthy to make note, of all the competition within his field, his business holdings are the only ones  gaining share, and turning profits!…All the others are withering on the vine. Maybe there’s a reason for it…Ya Think?

Mark