Month: March 2011

The Death March of the Debate Teams

I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little tired of the assaults on reason by what I like to call “The Debate Team.” More, and more these armchair quarterbacks who can do nothing more than verbally contort statements, facts, or data points act as if they are superior because of their verbal jujitsu skills. What they’re superior at doing is doing nothing while allowing themselves at any time to be able to take credit if there is any to be had while skirting blame if things don’t go their way. I have dealt with this adversary all my career, and I bet a lot of you have also. However I have what I believe will be good news to many, but not so much for the debate crowd. Their time has passed.

In good times the debate crowd wins favor everywhere. Unlike most they require the luxury of sitting back watching, and planning so at just the right moment they can intercede with all the fury they can muster into any situation spouting theoretical statements or ideas that are just vague enough to never be wrong, or cloaked with enough superficial hypotheses that if there will be a shred of credit to be had, they’ll get it. It works for a while when everything is rosy, not so much when the wheels are coming of the wagon.

In times of crisis or situations that demands action, the so-called debaters find themselves in very troubled waters. They don’t understand why others no longer look on their verbal skills with reverence. They look like deer in the headlights when asked to be specific. They just don’t understand why their arsenal of very expensive words, and phrases have no effect. Imagine their horror when realizing after marching all that way their weapon of choice is now as useless as a rifle with no bullets. I can’t help but think “Welcome back to the real world.”

The damage this army of mouths inflicts on unsuspecting businesses, and everything else under the sun can be tremendous. However there is a light in the proverbial tunnel. The rise of the DO’er! Yes my friends, your time has once again been placed squarely in front of you if you wish to enlist. Action is the word of the day. Doing, moving, selling, fixing, are what’s going to win this battle. You needn’t wait for marching orders, you create them yourself. The enemy of doing is on the ropes, and you can win back the higher ground by solving, and creating.

Personally, I love the smell of opportunity in the morning!

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Impending Perils of Bubblicious Bernake?

Just as your dentist warned you to stay away from those sugary foods. I’ll also contend they more than likely said if there’s only one thing that you can go without, “Stay away from the bubble gum!” This is analogous to the free money being printed by the Federal Reserve. And it has the same consequences for the economy at large as the bubble gum has on ones teeth. Eventually, the pain will come from the degradation, and the expense needed to repair the damage will be frightening.

As I write this article we are now involved in 3 conflicts (we haven’t declared war since WWII even though we put our treasure in harm’s way which to me is unconscionable) the Middle East is basically on fire, riots, protests, bombings, and too many others to list. Sovereign Debt issues such as Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain, and others have once again reared their ugly head. US economic data is coming in much lower than the analysts predicted. ( who’d a thunk it!) Japan has experienced one of the worst disasters in their history. Nuclear contamination issues abound, thousands dead, untold suffering in this the worlds 3rd largest economy and number 2 holder of US debt. All this happening at the same time, and that’s only a partial list. So guess what? The stock market is bouncing back up once again flirting with even higher prices! Sorry folks, but somethings wrong with this picture, and anyone with any common sense knows why. It’s called manipulation pure and simple. Its when free money as in the case being supplied by the Federal Reserve for the banks to purchase equities, so that in the words of the Fed. chairman it “produces a wealth effect” All I’ll say is, you had better make sure you have good insurance, because not if, but when the so-called “effect” wears off, there’s going to be quite the doctor bill. And who or how that gets paid is another problem!

Here’s a great comparison of what I call the “manipulation” effect being played. Everyone is just enthralled with how China is growing, Every talking head will tell you how, its China, China, China that will help grow the US out of the doldrums. I still argue it’s all hogwash. It’s all smoke and mirrors. And I also contend the now famous Fed. Chairman Ben Bernanke will end up at some point more infamous for his manipulations in the economy than his predecessor Mr. Greenspan. It’s only a matter of time.

To give some credence to my assertions I’m posting a link to a Dateline video that aired in Australia this week. You wont see objective financial reporting like this anywhere in the US at this present time. Everyone here is on the Koolaid train and it’s just as dangerous as the bubblegum express. If you think you have a true understanding of the China story, just watch this short presentation.

If after watching you don’t get a little bit of a tingle in your teeth, just keep chewing is all I can say.

http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/watch/id/601007/n/China-s-Ghost-Cities

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

The Death of “Stars”

Have no fear, the heavenly bodies that grace the universe never lose their luster. What does explode with the destructive power unrivaled on the earth is the final collapse of dignity that goes hand in hand with former Hollywood stars. Let the telescopes peer back in time on this ungodly manifestation so we can reveal its secrets. But wait you don’t need a telescope. A TV is the tool today. Just tune into the newest “Reality Show” and there you’ll see it in all its former glory.

As the song goes if “Video Killed the Radio Star” then reality TV must be the equivalent to a genocide of former tinsel town has-been’s, and wannabe’s. I don’t know about you, but I am a little tired of all this reality garbage.

Some of my thoughts came to me as I watched a commercial for a DVD collection of roasts for past Hollywood stars. It’s as ancient as silent movies seem, but they had an appeal because they seemed to be a window into a world unable to be seen by the public. It was a glimpse of how they joked to each other within the closed walls of their castles. You caught a glimpse of what it might be like if you were invited to a private party with them, and they were able to let their hair down without the fear of being taken out of context, or saying something foolish because they had a few too many. Has that ever changed!

Call me old-fashioned, but I want to remember how a heavenly body looked on the screen years ago. I don’t care to see how with time, booze, drugs, marriages. divorces, jail time, (just to name a few) caused it to turn into something so toxic that science still can’t classify its destructive powers.

It used to be joked that you went from being famous to infamous. Now I think you can switch things around and add a few too it. The natural progression of the stars in our universe still follow the rules of nature that govern them. The so-called “Stars” on this earth are following a path that makes them look more freakish than anything else. It’s all rather a pathetic spectacle in my book.

I find it hard to think John Wayne, or Johnny Carson would have a reality show, even if they were alive today. Just saying.

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

If I Don’t Need You for 3 Weeks…Then Maybe I Don’t Need You

Those ear jerking words were told to a colleague of mine back in the day. I never forgot them for why they were said, and the implied meaning they conveyed.

Believe it or not the planning for vacations has arrived for many. The birds maybe chirping, grass is getting greener, and the thoughts of you by the pool are becoming more, and more clear. But in good economic times or bad, exactly how comfortable do you feel when you leave the so-called “rat race” to don a bathing suit?

I have both family members, and friends who would plan vacations in the longest stretches of time possible. If they had 6 weeks vacation time, they would plan a trip to Europe or something on that basis. I know others who take time off from their job every single time they accumulate just 1 hour of so-called “sick time.” If the place they were working were to be in sheer chaos, to bad, they were leaving. Period. And if the boss or anyone else didn’t like it, too bad, they would shake their time sheet saying, “It’s MY time!” I know this first hand because it was usually me they were shaking their sheets at.

I’m all for one taking time off. Everyone has things to do, people get sick. But, it’s really not “your” time. It’s an agreement between you, and your employer. Just because you have accumulated time that’s in a so-called “bank” for you to withdraw when needed, doesn’t mean you can do whatever, whenever, you so please. Yes, you may get away with it at times. But that might be because there is no one yet available to replace you. Yes, there’s that word. Replace. And you had better be aware of it in times like these much more than in the past. Entrepreneur’s, and the entrepreneurial style employees live among these views all the time. And as a matter of fact, they thrive in it. As everyone is concerned with taking time off, they seize the opportunity to be of service right when it’s needed most, and gets the most appreciation.

There uses to be a great commercial a few years back for a just in time accounting service. The ad featured someone calling in sick, and the employer replying, “Not a problem, Bob is here to help out!” Which came the reply, “Where is Bob sitting?” Only to hear “At your desk!”

As your thinking about how marvelous your vacation will be, and or you have little to no regard of what you might be leaving for others to handle because it’s “your” time. If you can demonstrate to me by your own actions that I can get along without you for long periods of time, or in times of crisis. Then maybe, I don’t need you at all.

Or maybe Bob can do it for less, just saying.

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Has Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “Jumped the Shark?”

This article is not about Facebook. Nor is it a slam on Mr. Zuckerberg. What I’m writing about are the cross winds, and undertones that might seem harmless to most at first blush, but are deadly serious in the world of business. Here’s what I mean…

Facebook is currently the newest and greatest interface the web has seen since the early days of AOL. Remember “You got mail?” However what Facebook is now navigating that is different than ever before since its inception, is the world of “Big Business.” And that my friends is the real story to watch.

Facebook today is estimated to be valued at more than 60 BILLION dollars at the time of this article. Just a month or so earlier it was valued at approximately 30 to 40 BILLION dollars. No matter how you slice folks, we’re talking real money here, and money from people who will not ask, but demand that every single waking moment of your time be dedicated to not only give a return on their investments, but what is your exact plan to make even more money tomorrow. Trust me, they don’t care about how Mr. Zuckerberg public profile page on Facebook is doing. Neither do they care about his new-found puppy love. He is now swimming with sharks. Need I say more about their feelings?

Since the movie “Social Network” came out, Mr .Zuckerberg seems to have taken a lot of criticism for either being cold, single-minded, ruthless, and many other choice terms that are for others to discuss. People are people. And after a while it gets to anyone. But when you’re in the public eye, you get your share served on a much colder plate, cut with a much sharper knife. So what’s one to do? Public relations 101 says…Do something that makes you appear warm and fuzzy to the public and to help silence your detractors. So without further ado  (camera please) a warm, and fuzzy puppy. All we need is the puppy eating apple pie out of his doggie dish and one could argue brilliant! But I think maybe not. Whether getting the puppy was a real heartfelt endeavor or a publicity stunt doesn’t matter in my argument. It’s how the “Sharks'” view the waters, not how Facebook fans feel about it.

Investors are a fickle bunch, they have this peculiar way of pulling the rug right out from under the feet of founders. Most founders think they’ll be able to deal with theirs differently. However history shows they can’t. You can go down the list of internet giants where the founders were either asked, or it was implied they had better let someone else be in charge or investors (money) would be leaving. A few examples are Google, and Apple. Remember how brilliant Steve Jobs is? Didn’t matter a few years ago. Enter Mr. Scully. Google brought on Eric Schmidt to quell investor fears, and as of the last few months since the founders said “we’re in charge once again” have you seen Google’s share price? When you are dealing with a company that is growing in dollars exponentially, you had better have warmer and fuzzier feeling for the sharks than you have for a new puppy, because the fish have much sharper teeth when they bite. And they don’t care about your status page. They only care about what you did for them today, forget about yesterday, and what’s your plan to do even more tomorrow? Oh? You had to take an hour off to bring the puppy to the vet? What did you do to make sure that hour was made up for in Facebook business? Sounds over the top, but trust me, the inferences are not that far off when you are dealing in the realm of “Big Business.”

Make no mistake about it. As the “Jump the Shark” analogy was made famous from the last-ditch effort to revive sagging rating of the TV show “Happy Days.” Like it or not, in todays’ world, more attention would be garnered if an update was of someone not clearing the shark tank, but actually falling in.

Big business is a dog eat dog world, or sharks eating……oh well.

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Playing With Tops…This One’s Not for Kids

Spinning tops are the mindless time wasters of old. All you do is give one a spin and whammo, instant mindless distraction. But you had better pay attention when tops in markets are being spun so fast in the verbal realm of the “smart crowd,” that even the toys themselves get jealous.

As some of you know I’ve said more than once I feel this whole stock market move over the last few years has been suspect. Although I’m absolutely comfortable in being proved wrong of late. It’s a cross I gladly bear. Yes I don’t mind being wrong, but I’m not wrong in how I came to my conclusions. I’m being proved wrong possibly in my timing, but my reasons why are still in play and have yet to be erased to the point of irrelevancy. How I came to my decisions, and why I wont turn my back on such conclusions is where I differ from most. (Some are utterly gleeful if they can point and say, see…see!) It’s too long to go into here, but it’s all in the archives on where I stand. I wont run and hide. But happily being proved wrong in this case means side stepping the possible chaos for markets, business, wealth, and so on. Trust me, I don’t want to be right. I live here too!

Imagine yourself trying to explain to someone why they shouldn’t step onto a frozen lake because you believe the ice is far to thin. Everyone you warn says “C’mon your wrong. Nothings happened. We do this all the time.” But you’ve been watching the thermometer. the glare from the sun, the way it hasn’t frozen all the way to the edge, and more. But, as long as no one has fallen through, even though everyone hears the cracking underfoot, you’re wrong! So I ask, do you want to be proven right?

Today the market feels like its hitting its head against a top. Who knows. Maybe we race to Dow 15 thousand, 20 thousand, a million, who knows. However when I start hearing financial guru’s and alike lining up on television to spout why no one should worry about oil prices, bond markets, inflation, and more because, (hold on to your seat!) “This time, it’s different!” I begin looking for the fall out shelters. Call me crazy, but it sends a chill up my spine. It’s the same wonderful insights they all gave right before oil went to $147.00 a barrel. They said don’t worry then also. Dow was around 15 thousand or so back then. Remember how that all worked out?

Maybe I better bring a yo-yo, and a top to the basement if they’re saying don’t worry, be happy again. But that’s just me I guess.

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Why Advertising Models need to Change

The more things change, the more they stay the same, and stay that way far too long. If there was ever a needed caveat to the old mantra, I believe I just said it. In today’s world of niche marketing, niche markets. micro-markets, and on and on, one thing seems constant, businesses of all types will try to attract clients based on models that either worked once before, or they’ll try and apply it to their business regardless of the absurdity. What seems obvious to me is just because some form of advertising seems inexpensive, (or should I say cheap) they think it’s better than no advertising at all. I firmly, and thoroughly disagree. Sometimes none is the better choice.

Television, radio, and print advertising is all in a state of flux. No longer can your prized commercial or ad be placed in full view of potential customers and quantify the ROI. (return on investment) Google proved the real value of mass advertising over the last few years. It worked at first, but as the internet is growing in age, so too are the ROI’s of buying banner ads and most other ways of drawing attention. They just aren’t worth it. (and they are really, really, really cheap now!) However most think theirs will be different so they spend anyways. In the end they find out they weren’t. But they feel like they did something, and you have to do something. Right? Besides you can always say to someone, “Did you see our ads?” You have that for a consolation prize.  Makes you feel like you did something useful I guess.

Here’s an example of what I think brings this point home. I received a mailer the other day. It came from a direct marketing campaign done by no other business than my local funeral home. Here’s an excerpt from the mailing:

“Win a Free iPad! Come visit us at ___________Funeral Home for a buffet style luncheon, and cocktails. We will have live entertainment featuring the ___________ String Quartet. Just register, and view our facilities for your chance to enter and win a free iPad the week of………”

If for some strange reason you think this was money well spent, and the message was helping the underlying business because you are saying to yourself, “I bet someone went!”, my guess would be you’re in the direct mail business. But wait, that’s a dying business so I guess they really are a good match. Right?

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

The Danger of Self-Imposed Isolation

People or tastes changing from generation to generation is of course a given. But today here’s what I find strange. As instant connectivity has brought people together in ways unimaginable just a few years ago, it seems more and more these same people are choosing to live and interact in isolation. Here are just a few examples: Cars, social networks, personal stereos, smart phones, etc. And now to bolster my thesis, Discos with headphones! Yes, a disco where everyone has their own set of headphones so one can tune into their own music mix. Take the headgear off and all you’ll see are people dancing, and all out of step with one and other like a bad dance film. Scarier still is the dance hall is glaringly quiet. It’s an odd scene to say the least. It would seem the shared experience appears to be morphing into the experience of synchronicity. And that’s a problem.

I can hear some of you saying, “Hold on. How can social networks be used as an example? That’s interaction. How can that be isolation?” Well, here’s how I see it. Just because you post or text a message to someone doesn’t mean that what you’re doing is the same as talking across a table to one and other. Social interaction is a face to face experience, not something connected by wires. Oh sure, you can tell your friends about last nights party, but you can also put embellishments on the details without the questioning of validity that you would get in a face to face conversation. That’s a polite way of saying, you can lie easier. The flip side is you can be much more vehement in your dislikes of someones opinion on a subject, or of their tastes or beliefs. Again that’s another polite way of saying, you can be a jerk much easier than ever before. Another thing that seems to be prevalent is the act of vicariously living through ones home page on these networks. Everybody seems to  have some story book life by what they’re posting, but I believe it to be more fairy tales than anything else. Call me cynical, but I bet I’m closer in my observation than the people actually posting their own “status.”

The ability to interact is not something that should be looked upon as some old tradition. It’s a necessary skill that must not only be developed, but continually honed. Manners, proper attire choices, small talk with strangers just to name a few, are skills that can make all the difference in moving up the ladder, or sliding down the chute. They’re not only important, they’re paramount in mastering if one wants to get ahead.  You can not learn or practice these skills in an isolated environment, you must interact face to face and put yourself in there no matter how uncomfortable you might feel. Personally I still feel uncomfortable at social events, but I can interact with anyone I meet regardless of the venue. It’s a necessary life skill not to be taken lightly. Besides, as you learn and get better in these interactions, you can always update your wall stating, “Had a great time, can’t wait to do it again!” even if you didn’t.

No man is an island, nor should any dance floor sound like a morgue.

Mark

 

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved