Month: May 2011

Don’t Worry I’m a Professional

I remember when “Don’t worry, I’m a professional” was everywhere. It was a catch phrase in movies, and was even cited by others like the plumber right before he was about to cut a 3 foot trough out of your kitchen floor. It was said to ease your concern. You know, that look of concern you give that says… “Are you serious?”  (for some there maybe a few colorful adjectives thrown in also.) But it was all in all meant to show there wasn’t a need for worry because of their expertise in such matters. However there is another professional but they want the exact opposite effect for you. They are the “It’ll never work” crowd.

You might think this group does it more as a hobby, or some might say a blood sport, but you would be incorrect in those assumptions. Oh yes, there might be a few, (family members fit into this category) but the vast majority are at every pay scale in business. More often than not they’ll be right along side you because many will either be people you work with, or just associate with. And as you climb up the ladder the faces may change, but their job description won’t. It seems they can work in any given occupation because when it comes to reinventing a program, changing protocols for efficiency, or looking at new ways to do just about anything, the first words out of their mouths are “It’ll never work.”  And as long as they are able to collect their pay check on Friday it can be chalked up to another job well done by this group. These people are paid professionals and they take their job very serious. Think I’m kidding? How well have you done in trying to change their viewpoints? How well did you do in defense of your idea so that one changed and stated  “Hey! That’s fantastic! Lets do it right now!” Not too often would be my first guess. But lest we forget, we are dealing with professionals here.

There is a key defense for the person who is surrounded by this seemingly endless onslaught of professionals. Don’t listen to them and start making plans today to bring your thoughts and visions to light. You may need to change jobs. You might need to move. You’ll have to consider if hanging out with the same crowd is helping or hurting regardless of the years in association. These are choices only you can decide to act on, but they are your choices none the less. If you want to make the world pay off on your terms, (and you can!) then it’s your job to not take their advice and do it any way.

You can trust this information is sound. After all, I’m a professional.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Didn’t I move here for the weather?

As some of you know I moved from New England a few years back, and relocated in Kentucky. Anyone who asks us why we picked KY is stunned at the answer I give, “Basically, we threw a dart at the map.” Sounds made up, but trust me it’s the truth.

Weather is usually the main reason some people move I believe. Especially if you lived your life with snow. Snow is a beautiful, wonderful experience. I have had the pleasure of having my wife’s family on a holiday who have never in their life seen snow. ( They’re from Costa Rica) It’s amazing how grown adults can become almost childlike when a thick white blanket of powdery snow falls for hours. It truly is a sight to behold. But when the festivities are over, and its time to break out the shovels, snow blower, ice pick, rock salt, hook up the plow, clear paths for the cars, mailman, garbage men, meter readers, and so-forth. It gets old fast because just after you’re done, it either snows again the next day or the city plows come every hour like clock work to block your driveway once again with snow you swear they imported from another street just to tick you off. Anyone who has dealt with it are reading this and nodding thinking “yep!” So you decide enough is enough, and off you go for greener pastures…literally!

When we originally moved here the weather was better than we ever expected. It was warm during the day in March, and we didn’t even need to turn our heat on until almost Thanksgiving. For us our previous normal was…Quick..it’s Memorial Day you can leave the parka at home for 10 weeks till Labor Day. And so went the cycle again of another 42 weeks of cold, snow, rinse, repeat. But a funny thing has happened since we’ve moved. The beautiful weather we enjoyed our first year has turned into what one can only describe as Geeeeeeeeeez! What’s up with this?

Over the last couple of years we have had record freezing temperatures. We have also had unprecedented ice storms, drought, record rainfall, tornadoes. and a slew of other weather phenom I believe I’ll need a meteorologist degree to explain. Just in the past 2 weeks our weather emergency radio has gone off more times than our alarm clock. Yesterday we had our 346th severe warning alert for this year. Need I remind anyone its only May! Last week my wife and I watched the forming of a tornado that was approximately no further away then a 1/4 mile. For all intents and purposes to us it looked like it was across the street. What amazed us both as we were readying ourselves to run for the basement was how still and quiet everything was. Luckily it never touched down, but if you’ve never seen it first hand, words can’t describe the sight nor the feeling we had standing there. Something I hope never to see again. All that said I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Weather patterns change, then they change again. At least for us most snow storms here are 3 inches, and time after time it put the locals into a panic. Being from New England, that doesn’t even qualify for gloves.

Shoveling, plowing, keeping paths clear now a days? No thanks, I’ll take rain, wind, ice and a maintenance crew on call any day thank you very much!

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Just to give you an idea of what I mean……

This picture was taken the day I left my hometown in April. Just 2 day later I was in 83 degree weather signing on my new residence.

This picture was taken the day I left my hometown in April. Just 2 days later I was in 82 degree weather signing on my new residence.Snow can beautiful, or a pain, need I say more?

Is the Future Rhyming with the Past once again?

Back in the 1990’s many will remember the glory days of the NASDAQ. Computers were basically new, and everywhere you turned someone was starting a company, and then selling out for a gazillion dollars. It was a great time for many, and there were great advances. But then came the companies that “seemed like” they were the next big thing. We saw a plethora of companies that were getting money thrown at them hand over fist just because they had a great domain name. (remember Pets.com?) A great sounding name was the key because if you had the catch phrase, easy to remember .com spelling, and a memorable mascot or icon, well success was then guaranteed right? Business model be damned. Don’t worry about that. This is a new era, and demands “New” thinking. All that other “business” stuff will work its way out over time. And shortly after that we all remember what happened, don’t we?

We once again might be looking at history repeating, or shall I say rhyming? I don’t know if I’m correct, but my observations of a few critical factors are telling me there is something very, very, very important to watch coming up.

LinkedIn will be offering its IPO to the general public Thursday. It will be greeted by all the press with great fanfare. However, there are a few keys that may demonstrate the fallacy in the valuations for not only LinkedIn, but the whole social media company genre. Valuations for these companies are based on linear extractions of the prices paid by the so-called “Smart Money” who invest first, and is not open to the general public. The IPO is not based on the business model, but more on what the smart money thinks you will pay. So far, they have raised the price up, and increased the offering because they believe people will be clamoring to get in. What if it doesn’t go as well as thought? What are the implications? Here’s where it could get a little tricky just like the 90’s. Why? All the “Big Boy’s” are right behind it like Facebook just to name the obvious. Currently Facebook is said to be worth gazillions of dollars. But again, those valuations are based on what someone “thinks” its worth. Not what people have actually purchased in shares. And just like in real business, it only matters what someone will pay, and that the check clears. All else is irrelevant.

Remember General Motors IPO? That went off with great fanfare. It was said to be worth so much more than they were going to let you the general public get in on. They set what was heralded as such a fantastic buying opportunity that if you didn’t get in now, you would never get a chance again because people were lining up to buy. Well they did buy…and then they sold, and they’re still selling. You can today buy GM shares as of this writing at a 10% discount than the price they said you might never see again. There just might be more truth in their statement than at first blush.

If LinkedIn goes well, they’ll be partying to be had like it’s 1999. If it goes badly, it will be tears around, just like 1999.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

What the “King’s Speech” should mean to You

Movies can be entertaining of course. But there are times although not by intention, they can shine a light on subject matter that bears reflection.

In the movie the King’s Speech, the dynamics between the main characters  (the King, and his speech therapist) reflects an underlying state of contention in the real world that one side (because of title) is an embodiment of superiority, while the other who has demonstrated talents is regarded as inferior because they lack some moniker of worthless alphabet soup following their name. Let me be clear before some of you with degrees starting yelling at your screens. There are times when actual legal attributes are necessary. If you’re a doctor than yes. However, if you’re the “Love Doctor” you can’t (nor is it legal) use the title of Dr. preceding your name unless you have the requisite degrees, and licenses. This of course goes for lawyers, and others that society has required must pass a degree of proven competence with testing, and certifications before interacting with the general public as to protect that same public. If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or architect just to name a few, and I can either go to jail, get crushed in a building, or die by your advice, you can bet I not only want, but will demand to see your credentials. However, most get caught up in “looking like” they are something they’re not, rather than demonstrating what they are, or what they can do to solve a clients problem. Joining some organization (or paying for most) for the sole intention of adding letters to your title so you may appear smart is just plain dumb in my book.

In the movie there is a dramatic scene. There is a confrontation between the King, his therapist, and the Bishop. This analogous scene plays out in more boardrooms than one can count. It’s also where most who have been in the position of the therapist fold like a cheap suit. Why? Because they invest more time in how their business card appears, or how important their title sounds rather than demonstrating what they can actually do to help a client. This is nothing more than an inferiority complex for most acronym seekers. It also cuts the other way for clients seeking results. Many think just because there is some alphabet soup after the person’s name they are competent. And if not, and are later called out for not hiring someone of “caliber” by their peers, they’ll  have what they believe to be some form of defense for their decision. Both situations come from the same convoluted weighting on the importance of monikers, or worthless attributes. In the real world today, yesterday, and tomorrow only one thing has merit, Results!

You must be ready to argue your value proposition to the client. And that proposition must be something that is deliverable, or transferable. Not some pie in the sky no matter what happens you can spin it as a job well done, and collect a check. You should be ready to defend your dignity, reputation, and repute to any mudslinging or any self anointed elite no matter where you are, and more importantly no matter who they are. It is irrelevant that someone holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and you may have never graduated high school. If the subject is about selling, and you’re a skilled and competent salesperson with a track record, the smartest person in that room will be You! And you had better get rid of the inferiority complex that allows you to be intimidated if the Ph.D. crowd at the board meeting start demeaning your lack of schooling. You need to argue your value, and demonstrate your skills, or decide that you’re wasting your breath, and politely end the meeting, and leave. If you don’t see yourself as a peer, and an expert in your own field, just as capable, just as competent to argue the good, the bad, and the ugly in your chosen vocation, then no amount of letters after your name will make a damn bit of difference.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

The Unthinkable?

Here we are one year later almost to the day from the proverbial “Flash Crash” that rocked Wall St., and its beginning to look very similar today.

I wrote back then the “Flash Crash” was far more sinister in nature than what was being touted across the financial networks. If you can’t remember that day, the audio in my article should help remind you why I stress my points to anyone who asks. One of the points I stressed was, if it was a so-called “mistake,” why wasn’t anyone buying at what would now be considered discount prices? If anyone remembers back to that time (1 year ago) the stock market was trading LOWER than the lowest point of that down spike. Many were worried of another leg down after we just seemingly recovered from the abyss. But have no fear…Mr. Bernake is here! That was when Bubblicious Ben gave his now infamous “Jackson Hole Speech” stating he was going to buy $600 BILLION worth of bonds (that’s paying 1 credit card with another, but that’s for another column) and we were once again off to the races.  So Ladies and Gentlemen, place all your bets on Benny’s number one horse “Leverage.” He’s the one sporting the red white, and blue silks! It sure has looked like Benny bred a winner over the past year, but he’s now looking quite frail.

Back then I had also been stating that the Euro Zone was in the beginning stages of disrepair. I felt, and argued that it was only a matter of time before the Euro fell apart. People called me crazy, I was told by some in the financial world that I had no idea of what I was talking about, and used the last 12 months trying to pound my thoughts into submission. Just for the record, 12 months to the day the UK Guardian reports, “Euro plunges after reports Greece could leave currency.”  Will it happen? Who knows, but were you one of the ones saying never? Or did you just figure the so-called “Smart Crowd” would know first, and alert you.

The stock market as I said earlier has been running a race that even Secretariat would wince at. But its seemingly more like groundhog day than a derby. And once again nobody thinks the unthinkable could ever happen again. I wrote earlier in a column titled “Bubblicious Bernake” just what was taking place, and the consequences of such manipulations. Well in what seems like again almost on cue of the anniversary, warning signs are to be seen by all who care to look. And there are no clearer details expressed of what may happen than in the silver markets this past week. Welcome to the wonderful world of “Margin.” (also known as Leverage) The exact same process that caused the plunge on Wall St. in 2008 is taking place in the commodity markets. This genius of chasing higher, and higher yielding “investments” backed by leverage are once again front and center because everyone, and I mean everyone thinks that was in the past, and it couldn’t, or wouldn’t possibly happen again because that’s what the “Smart Crowd” has been saying. How’s that working out with today’s news?

If one truly stops to think (fewer, and fewer can actually critically think these days) how can one reconcile the data from the releases of Government statistics that are touted across all the major news outlets, and financial channels with the reverence as if they’re quoting the Rosetta Stone. GDP as just one example was supposed to be 3.5 to 4%, and some were stating even higher numbers. It came in under 1.8%. Folks, that’s less than half! Oh, and by the way, these same brainiac’s are stating we’re going to make up for the loss in the next quarter. Welcome to the “Smart Crowd” is all I can say.

The real problem that underlies this dilemma is the fact we’ve already maxed out the proverbial credit cards. This is where things begin to look very dicey everywhere one looks, If you’ll look!

Consumer spending once again is being reported as “Great News” because it’s showing an increase. But a while back when the Government Data reported a drop in outstanding consumer debt they were touting then it was “Great News” because consumers were getting their households in order by paying off debt. What they weren’t telling was the drop came not because people paid off, but that banks wrote off 93% of the amount reported as “Noncollectable.” That’s not the same as paid off in any common sense language. If you owe me a dollar, and don’t pay me back, and I chalk it up as “I’ll never loan you a dime again!” the Government will tout that as you being more fiscally responsible. (Yep, I would re-read that line myself.)

If we are now in the beginnings of a back swing from the proverbial pendulum, I feel most will be taken off guard far worse than before. The problem with a pendulum is not that it swings. It’s that once you’ve been hit, it’s not the first strike that will get you, it’s forgetting there’s inevitably another swing to come, and you had better be ready to duck.

And yes, I wrote about that possibility also when everyone said there is no pendulum.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

In case you’re wondering what I think….

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge — and more.”

                                   John F. Kennedy (Inaugural address 1960)

Nothing more needs to be said. God Bless America!

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

(on the announcement that Osama Bin Laden was dead May 1, 2011)