Month: March 2013

Those Were People Who…

This Sunday for many is the most important day of the year. Of course I’m speaking of Easter. For many others it’s just a holiday celebrated with no time off of work. Then there are others who bristle at such a thing and go out of their way to not pay attention to anything religion based. Fair enough, it’s a free country which I believe is one of our great strengths when put into proper perspectives. Only people comfortable with who they are can tolerate or accept others for who they are. At least that’s how I see it.

Regardless if your observance of Easter is religious or not. One thing is irrefutable. This Sunday is based on a death, and what that death means to us. I believe even for the most religious avoiding person alive there have been people we knew, loved, and more that were here today – then gone leaving us wondering why?

For some of us, a lifetime of reflection and wondering. All through life we remember them at certain times thinking “What did them dying really mean to me? Do I take something from this and apply it? Why them and not me when I was right there? Was I lucky? Was there a message to be taken for me from this tragedy?” I could go on, and on. I believe you get my point.

Over my life I’ve personally watched friends, family members, business associates, and more die in meaningless tragic ways more than I care to remember.

Growing up and through many of my adult years I watched from a friends store front on the main drag of our city as people we went to school with (both girls and guys)  as well as others we knew that were once considered pillars of the community, or a wealthy business owner, walk the boulevard like zombies turning tricks as prostitutes because they became what we referred to as “dopies.” (If you said that word to describe anyone, they knew exactly what you meant.) It was more than heartbreaking at times to say the least.

Then there are the ones that stamp time in one’s world. The one that you consistently think about throughout your life. The one that still to this day seems to have locked within it more insights, more reasons to keep going, reasons to make you think more deeply than you’ve ever thought about most other things. I have one. I believe many others do also.

We don’t talk about them to others. They seem to be just a little too private. However, in light of this holiday celebration I’ll share one of mine. Because, in the end. As much as it is about a death. It is about renewal of life. The life and the path – we the living – will now choose to walk.

In the late 70’s like most young adults I was searching for direction. I had grown up pretty fast, and doing it in an unforgiving city. I was then going on 19 years old, quit school, and had 3 years bar-tending as well as manager experience under my belt in one of the largest biker bars in the city. (drinking age was 18 back then and id’s were a joke) I had an apartment on top of the club, and couldn’t remember when I had spent more than 4 hours in actual day light. My world was basically – a gin mill.

I tried to break out of the lifestyle because instinctively I knew it would be the end of me sooner rather than later so I made arrangements with a family member to get out of the area, and I left.

I returned a few months later and was desperate for work. (I didn’t want to go back to bar-tending at that time.) A close friend of mine whose name was Raymond said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get you a job where I work and you’ll start Monday.” I said, “Ray, please don’t say something you can’t deliver. I really need work. Don’t get my hopes up saying it’s a given.” He shrugged me off saying, “I promise. Don’t worry.”  And he did. I started the following Monday.

Ray and I were the same age. We grew up together. Hung around through our teens, and Ray was one of the first of us to get married and start a family. The company he worked for was called Kenney & Co. I had never heard of it but who cared – it was a job!

Ray had worked there for a while and was looked upon as one of the family. He basically could do no wrong. (within reason of course) So much so that when Ray was involved in a traffic accident with the companies largest and most expensive truck. The owner gave him his new Cadillac to use for an errand to show he still had faith in him.

For the record this accident involved Ray rolling a loaded box truck packed with tons of cargo end over end 3 times (Yes, end over end!) on a major thoroughfare as he tried to avoid hitting another car. He walked away exiting the truck by walking through where the windshield once was. No one was injured. Not even Ray. The State Police all said something or someone had his back because they never seen such destruction and no one had as much as a scratch. In less than a year from this miracle – Ray would be dead.

As life takes its turns with all of us. Ray left the company for greener pasture. Like many who married so early troubles became commonplace and Ray and his wife split. And, as with most cases now a baby’s involved.

Ray’s wife started dating another person we all grew up with. (His house actually shared the same back fence as mine.) Ray for his own reasons was incensed about him being around his child. So much so many of us knew something was going to happen. Not if – but when.

As I said Ray and I were friends. He was asking me what I thought, what I would do. Should he confront the both of them with his thoughts. etc. This discussion came up this night because Ray was leaving the area in just two days. He had met a great girl and they were by all signs in love. They were moving to Florida as to start a new chapter in their lives.

They both had jobs lined up and more. Everything seemed to be breaking the right way. I kept telling Ray, “Don’t think about it. You’re going away in 2 days to start a new life. Put this out of your mind. Nothing good will come of it. Promise me Ray…I mean it…Promise me!” He said I was right, and promised me. We parted ways and said we’ll see each other tomorrow. Tomorrow came, but life would never be the same.

I guess his rage got the best of him because he went to where both his ex-wife, boyfriend, and baby were. And for reasons I won’t get into here, all I can say is there were words, an altercation, and in a moment of stupidity – Ray was dead. It still is without question one of the saddest, emotional, gut wrenching days or times I have ever been through to this day.

However, as much as times like this can be the saddest, it’s what you decide to do with that sadness that is the real question. For you see that job Ray obtained for me was the very company that allowed me to acquire most of the skills and attributes I applied over my business career.

Kenney & Co. was a meat company. And, although at the time I didn’t know the difference between hamburg and ground turkey. It was that very job he spoke on my behalf to be hired that launched my career before retiring at the top in that industry.

So in the light of this Sunday’s celebration. Whether you celebrate the Pentecost, or other ways. I would like to leave you with this thought. As much as we mark death, in the end it’s really all about life.

It doesn’t matter what path is opened. It’s meaningless unless you choose to walk it. Paths are about choice. And choosing is about living.

I’ll finish with something that reminded me of all this and made me reflect a couple of days ago. I was thinking about another friend who was also like a brother to me, but for reasons I can’t go into here is no longer around. He played in one of the bands that the singer/songwriter/author Jim Carroll used as support when he was touring.

I think it sums up things in way most of us feel, then just shake our head in dismay trying to figure out.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

FFOM’ers Audio Book Update

We just wanted to let you know the audiobook version of Mark’s “A Fist Full of Mark’ers” is taking shape. The only issue has been time and timing. We’re looking at a release date sometime this summer. (Maybe even sooner if we can just get Mark to not change something…Again!)

Unlike other books on business or entrepreneurship, this truly is a re-design of the whole idea of just how the message, thoughts, premise, or ideas will be expressed in today’s new world of delivering insights. The style, format, presentation, and more is absolutely unlike anyone else on the world stage of success or business today.

We as well as Mark are fully aware some will love it, some will hate it, and some will shrug. All we know is this: You won’t confuse Mark’s work with anyone else. Which is exactly the point.

So in that light here’s a sample of what it’s shaping up to look or sound like. We hope you enjoy and, if you like it please feel free to share it anywhere you like. (Please don’t spam anyone!)

It’s both our hope as well as Mark’s you’ll share it with others as a way to invite them to visit Mark’s blog. With the closing of Google’s Reader™ many are searching out new ideas or content they can use. And it’s people like you that continue to be on that cutting edge and we feel it doesn’t matter what we say about us rather, it’s what you say about us. And, in the end – that’s all that really matters.

Sincerely,

V.V. -StreetCry Media

IM000251.JPG

They’re Just Not That Into You
from – A Fist Full Of Mark’ers

©2013 Mark St.Cyr
in association with
StreetCry™ Media
All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Can’t see the audio player on your mobile device? Click here.

Stop Talking Price and Start Screaming Value

Everyone is price conscious. Everyone wants the “Best price.” They want pricing so low that if it takes you going out of business to acquire it – so be it. After all, “It’s just business.” Right?

Talking price in today’s environment is a fool’s errand yet, it seems all the rage. In truth – it’s always been in vogue. Rather than being the second or third thing a potential client will ask you in negotiations, it’s now not only the first – it seems the only thing.

From companies to individual sales people think “this time it’s different.” It’s not. It actually never changed. The only thing that’s changed is how hard one has to initially defend the race to the bottom commodity pricing game. Nothing more.

If you think I’m off base let me express it using this example:

Is it easier to get in and try to switch or start selling a company a product or service in the best of times when business is good and everyone is happy, and their current supplier is their “In-Law?” Or: Is it easier to try the same when business is horrible and you’re the 27th person to call on them this week telling them “You’re cheaper and better – than their In-Law?”

In reality, only your perception of the economy at hand is the driving influence on whether they should hang up – or invite you in. Nothing more.

Price is meaningless today. Price is all about “total delivered value.” The world is littered with pricing gimmicks where the product is free “Just pay additional handling charges.” If you’re immediately spitting out prices every time you’re asked in a Pavlovian fashion. You too might only get as far as the salivation point.

It takes more work to prove value. It’s also where most won’t put the effort. Effort which can leapfrog you ahead of your competition when they least expect it. Yes, believe it or not.

So important is making your case based through value if for no other reason than when a competitor calls on that very customer. (and you know they will) It can be your first line of defense where your customer wont be so ready to throw you to the curb when they state a price lower than yours.

Your customer will immediately think, “Yeah, but what’s the catch?” Because if you’ve spoken and shown your value proposition properly. That’s all you can ask for. In business and in sales, you really can’t ask for any more. Customers have every right 24/7/365 to make sure you’re not taking advantage of them.

We don’t like when our customers shop us against the competition. That’s normal. What’s not normal is running around scared to death they might. Your customers are going to shop. You shop. Don’t you? So stop acting like your customers shouldn’t either.

If you’re delivering value as well as explained your value proposition in clear understandable terms to your customer that’s all you can do. Period.

You should not be uneasy if you’re alerted by your customer to a competitors sale and more. You should be explaining to them why this looks like a good value – but isn’t. Of course being truthful using real examples they understand. Not some spiel that leaves your customer wondering if they should check to see if they still have their watch.

Remember customers hate paying higher prices however, they detest giving up value even more. In a world where most are fixated on price alone. You can separate yourself from the crowd if you forget about talking price, and start showing clients you’re a screaming value at current levels. And, should probably be charging even more.

After all what’s more interesting? A load of junk at a discount? Or an opportunity to get a real deal on value?

Before you raise your prices.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Let Them Eat Caviar

There are moments in history when events seem to take on a world of their own. For most people they see events, calamities, wars, depressions, and more in total. Most never look (or even bother) to do some form of epidemiology to current events. It all appears too distant to contemplate ever having any real impact on them.

Just as the world seen by Alice was on the other side of the looking-glass so too does this resemble that fictional story. Everything today seems to be on the other side of the glass whether it be a smart phone, tablet, computer, or TV. However, unlike Alice who had to venture thru the glass, this version of reality may just envelop one without needing to go thru to the other side because – we are the other side.

Let’s forget about remembering fictional stories and focus on the real. Anyone with even an interest in history realizes: “The largest events in history began with what appeared minuscule in comparison. It’s not the size of the first event rather, it’s how the escalation takes place afterwards.”

This past week we saw European officials impose by a dictatorial fiat the confiscation of people’s bank deposits in Cyprus. This is not something one can chalk up with a misunderstanding in legal language. If you had money in a Cyprus bank that you believed was yours – you don’t now. Period.

Along with the not knowing how much might be left, they also have no access to it because the banks that were at first to be closed for a “holiday” have been ordered to remain closed until further notice. From holiday, to extended stay, and now they’re on to “vacation.” All with depositors money paying the traveling costs. I wonder if one gets an additional appliance to go along with the toaster? But, I digress.

One thing I could not clear out of mind this week was the absolute oblivious presence this event had on nearly everyone I either came in contact with, as well as the so-called “smart crowd” across the media. I watched with utter amazement as Fed. Chairman Ben Bernanke was questioned during his scheduled press conference Wednesday by the financial media.

With Europe in complete political disarray where 10’s if not 100’s of thousands are taking to the streets in protest against governments, bank bailouts, and more. Then to be followed with a stunning seminal event where monetary officials by decree confiscated ordinary people’s money (along with so-called dirty laundry) possibly setting off an Archduke Ferdinand moment in terms of a monetary crisis. Not a single question referencing it was asked till about 15 minutes in. As if it was: “Oh yeah by the way – what’s the deal with this scuffle in Europe, any thoughts?” I said to myself – “Really – I mean really?”

The questions from my standpoint were ludicrous in terms of importance. One needs to think: “What in the world could have more importance today to the Chairman of The Federal Reserve? The Fed’s responses (whether one agrees with or not) have arguably been the sole reason for any stabilizing effect for most (if not all) past European monetary crisis. So how in the name of sanity is what’s taking place in Cyprus not only the first question – but the only question?!” Then I received my answer.

One of the final questions started off with (I’m paraphrasing): “Mr. Chairman, I could finish this meeting and ask you what are your “brackets” (in reference to college basketball) but I’ll ask this instead.” Everyone in the room including the chairman laughed – ha, ha, ha, then went on to answer some pointless question in regards to other events at hand. I was left shaking my head in absolute disgust.

It was quite evident for anyone who’s developed their cognitive skills as to be able to read people in real-time (which I am one) and watched the Chairman’s meeting, one could garner he appeared to be far more nervous in his mannerisms and speech. To my eye noticeably so than previous meetings. You may not see it as I do. Or you might be inclined to think I’m projecting. Yes, it’s only my gut reaction however, I’ve been proven right more times than wrong so, I’ll let others judge for themselves.

Again what is really at issue to me is just how unnoticed or oblivious this event has gone by the public at large. So much so it’s almost frightening on how misinformed or ill-informed many people in general are, and once again seemingly relying on the premise that “It couldn’t happen here.” Given the back drop of 2008. As scary as I find that, I find it equally fascinating.

Of course this exact scenario might not happen here. However, that doesn’t mean the ramifications of what does happen “there” doesn’t have implication for what does happens here. Yet, that’s very hard to get across to someone today because if they aren’t following events along as you or I might. Any attempt to condense what has transpired; and why you believe the dangers are so onerous – you begin to sound like you’re crazy! Or, someone who’s watched a few too many doomsday prepping shows.

You can’t give a thumbnail sketch of the situation that just transpired in Cyprus along with trying to explain or express the ramifications it could have on the political powder kegs happening in Italy, France, Greece. and more. Let alone the monetary crisis if Cyprus is seen as the shock that scrambles millions upon millions of depositors in banks across Europe to begin withdrawing money because, “If it happened to them…”

Put that along with the Geo-political ramification of Russia announcing they’re sending a “permanent fleet” to the Mediterranean within hours of the decree of bank deposits being seized. Then add how Christine Lagarde head of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) had her home raided by French police the very same week as the body she heads mandated this confiscation in Cyprus.

Follow that with reminding one she holds her position because the person originally in that post, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (aka DSK) was roiled in a sex scandal of epic proportions squashing his bid for political office as well as everything else. Then was cleared as if: “Ooooops, sorry. Carry on.”

All of this amidst a backdrop of Greece in turmoil nearing insolvency while protesting against being in the European Union and threatening to leave. Italy having 100’s of thousands by some reports filling the streets in protest of their government along with cries of interventionist outrage against the EU and more.

So disgusted were the Italians with their political class they voted for Italian comedian Beppe Grillo and he won political office with a shocking amount of support. All to the dismay of the so-called “smart crowd” that originally brushed his calls for change off as “carnival like.”

Maybe I’m the one who just doesn’t get it. Maybe the most informative thing to come out of the Chairman’s meeting was the very thing which I scoffed at?

If we put the events of the last few years into some form of “brackets,” would people be paying more attention? Seems to me if you don’t follow brackets in March – you’re not informed. And, this weekend politically has all the making to be more spectacular than any final four in recent memory.

I just wonder if Ms. Antoinette would agree with Ms. Lagarde et al in their thinking? For as she recommended cake, caviar is a much more serious finger food. And, may have served up a can of worms.

Not a canape’s.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

The Problem With Leadership: Are The Leaders

The problem with leadership in all stripes is not that there isn’t any. It’s that most lead others down ruinous paths that they themselves wouldn’t dare to venture. Or worse – don’t care what happens to the ones they send down these perilous paths.

Just imagine there were actual people who thought their confiscatory actions as to relieve people of their money from their bank accounts in the middle of the night. Then to close the banks under some guise as a “holiday” was a good idea. As we just witnessed happen in Cyprus. And, this would have no repercussions except that the dictate would have to be followed because, well – they thought of it, so it must be fair and right. Right?

As crazy as this sounds: The people who came up with this nifty idea probably thought they were brilliant. The reason why is that most leaders (especially in the political class) sit around big desks, in closed rooms, and believe they are exempt from anything they decide. i.e., “We have no money – so confiscate theirs. Quick before the champagne goes flat!”

Same type of thinking happens in business at boards everywhere: “We need to reduce the workforce by 35% to get expenses in line. And make it quick. I have to pick out the art work for our new corporate suites!”

To lead effectively you don’t need to be buddy buddy with everyone on the staff, or a first name basis with every constituent. However, what you do need to know is that there are real people who will have real circumstances to deal with caused by your actions as a leader. Most leaders fail at this with near disgusting regularity.

I remember a meeting where we were discussing a new payroll system being implemented. In the meeting that was made up of top management the CFO said there would be an issue as the system was implemented with the withholding taxes, and could fluctuate for some reason. (I just don’t remember why but it was valid I remember that) This would result in some employees possibly having an extra $10 or $20 extra with held till the system caught up then it would be refunded.

My colleague at the time said: “We should make available any money to personnel that might be needed by that error in withholding so people could borrow it till the bug was fixed.” The CFO responded quite smugly. “We’re only talking $10 or $20 dollars here.” My colleague responded, “That’s not a lot of money to you, but to some families downstairs $10 or $20 dollars throws their budgets into turmoil.” I never forgot it and he was absolutely correct in his thinking, as well as his correctly placed empathy.

Leadership is just that – to lead. Far too many forget that. They also forget the people they are leading implicitly trust the rules being made, or the circumstances to be burdened by everyone includes the leader also.

It’s not about “Go that way!” True Leaders shout: “Here!…Follow me!”

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

The Courage Of Your Convictions

One of the hardest points to make people understand is the reasoning behind the term I used for the headline. Far too many use this term as if it means: Making a choice and sticking with it yet, changing it once your shown new evidence or proven wrong. Actually that’s not it and in some ways demeans the integrity the mantra is truly meant to imply.

Your grit as it pertains to a decision to do something or not i.e., quit smoking, is not the same as a conviction. i.e., I will not steal, nor be associated with people who do because, if they will steal from others – they will steal from me.

The example is intentionally broad and simplistic. And there’s many right now thinking, “Sure, but that impossible in practice.” If that’s you, I’m sorry to say you’re missing the point. I’ll also state (yes I am that bold) “Unless you truly understand what it is to live and work by convictions, you’ve probably had more things happen to you – than you make happen.”

For I’ll intents and purpose I’ll use myself to illustrate this point unlike most who’ll say, “Do this because I read about it in a book written by this person who heard someone say they saw someone blah, blah, blah.”

Late in my career I was in the middle of a leveraged buy out where the owner wanted to retire. Then for reasons I was only able to piece together years later, the negotiations not only fell apart – they turned ugly. So much so it came down to contemplating law suits and more. I decided in the end it wasn’t worth pursuing for my own reasons – even though I had a case . (For those thinking I probably didn’t have a good enough atty. Let’s just say my lawyer which has been my personal friend since he started practicing, and still represents me has argued in front of the Supreme Court and won.)

After the dust settled I decided to leave the corporate world and start a deli styled butcher shop. I opened with great fan fare, was covered by the press, put on the front page of the papers, and more. I had decided to open one in a city that was developing with what many have seen as “downtown revitalization districts.” I was heralded by both other owners as well as the local political crowd. Then after a period of time my B.S. meter began to move.

To make a long story short the head of this downtown development corp. was making statements about allowing this or that with my establishment. (It was always about parking) Then a prime piece of property came available for sale which I intended to make offers on. After inquiry it became evident something was amiss with the parking restrictions that neither I or anyone else doing legitimate business could overcome. However, it became apparent there was a “chosen” business that all the rules that applied to people like myself were not only nullified, but were contorted in such ways a circus performer would blush at the dexterity.

I was incensed on what I was seeing and made it known. So much so I called quite a few people on the carpet and said in no uncertain terms “I knew it was all B.S.” I went on to have a show down with the head of this so-called downtown development corp.” in my establishment and told her: “Not only was I serious in what I was saying. But, I would close my business in 90 days because I know B.S. when I see it.”

Nobody, and I mean – no body thought I was serious. Yet, that’s exactly what I did. It cost me dearly at the time. But right is right. And, I have the courage to live by my conviction. Whether I’m proven right in the end doesn’t matter. I have to live with myself first. Period.

Two years later I’m sitting in my office when my wife comes in with a newspaper. She said “Merry Christmas” and dropped it on my desk. It seemed the person I had my argument with who ran the downtown corp. was arrested. Turns out she was pocketing all the money she was collecting from everyone and had a nasty on-line poker habit. She embezzled some $250K from the downtown assoc. and who knows what else more. She went to prison and I believe she’s still serving time today. As for that downtown? It’s not in shambles. but it isn’t as pretty as it was is all I’ll say.

Later in 2005 I achieved a very lofty goal many dare not even contemplate for it seems so unrealistic. I retired at age 45. And, like most, I looked to the markets as a place I needed to be. Then – the rumblings began.

While enjoying my new residence and free time I began to notice things weren’t adding up to what I knew or felt instinctively based on my past business acumen. Unlike most I began researching and more to see if I was justified in my thoughts. One thing became empirical as I watched and read the financial media. They had no clue – they were grasping at straws. Then 2008 began.

Unlike most as 2008 took the nation and markets by storm I not only side-stepped it, but I was also able to capitalize on it in many ways. Not just financially rather, with new-found knowledge and understanding. With my time now available as a resource, I was able to ascertain the equivalent of a Doctoral program in financial markets. No, I didn’t learn every jargon term, rather – my B.S. meter was now second to none.

During the crisis people I knew both personally and in passing were just losing their minds amid the turmoil. For many – their hopes, dreams, and wealth was nearly, if not all but gone. Retirement for a great many was not only to be postponed rather, now seemed unrealistic. (For the record retirement as most envision it was expressed none better than by Ozzy Osbourne: “Retirement – Sucks!” I can’t agree more. But again, that’s another column.)

Currently the markets are achieving heights never (let me repeat that) never seen in their history. Many I know are breathing a sigh of relief that just maybe they can once again pull those goals or dreams out of the lower drawer and contemplate the possibilities again. But, (and it’s a very big but) if the markets for what ever the reason begin to tailspin again, not only are they back where they were mentally, emotionally, as well as financially in the throes of 2008. They might be even worse.

What the markets do in relationship to my retirement, sanity, time, or what not, is no longer a concern for me. Yes, I understand what markets are, do, mean, and everything else. However, what I’m trying to point out is I had the power of my convictions to put myself through all the difficulty of understanding, then putting those convictions to work as to be able to continue my life as I see fit without the nagging or gnawing feeling of, “Oh man, what happens if it’s 2008 all over again – or worse?”

My conviction was: “Learn – then do – what ever it takes to be free of market turmoil.” How many thought that was a good idea also – but didn’t follow it with the conviction aspect?

Working my way through both of these scenarios was not easy – far from it. However, it was only the courage to stand by my convictions and do what I believed to be the right thing even though the right thing is usually never the easy thing. But sometimes – It’s the only thing.

Courage of your convictions will allow you the discipline to pursue what you should pay attention to as well as what not to. To not live a life of angst but rather to get the knowledge or training that allows you to sidestep a spinning wheel while everyone else is clung to it for dear life.

Have the courage and conviction to do what ever it takes that if the markets or whatever keep rising or fall apart its just a matter of degree in opportunity to you – not life or death.

I’m still convinced retirement sucks – but, it does still yield advantages.
Like writing my articles by the pool.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…Get this!)

You never know when or where you might be right or wrong. Either way being in my position one thing became clear years ago when I first began putting myself out there publicly with my opinion or thoughts; and how they might transpire. What you learn quickly is whether right or wrong – someone is going to tell you, or remind you – guaranteed!

So in that light I was notified by someone today that the latest thoughts expressed in my article Linked Into What Exactly? just may be expressing itself sooner and, in a larger way than I first wrote.

It would seem the overall theme of what can potentially happen to people, and what can happen when it’s at the upper echelon of users. And just how quickly they might feel a little queasy about exactly; what they have posted out there – with whom – and where – as to now wonder exactly “whom” will be using all their “free posted data.”

It would seem in one fell swoop not only did the “sleazy side of recruiting” become manifest but, the “$100K” type earning job seeker was also included.

Yesterday in a U.S. District Court in New York a complaint was filed against The Ladders™ the website that offers job help for those earning $100K and above. In the complaint it’s charged they did exactly what I warned about.

You can read the complaint here that was filed. It comes from the web site of “Ask The Headhunter® Nick Corcodilos” who has done a well documented job of expressing warnings and arguments against this company and others like it and deserves kudos.

Also: Below is an article I wrote back in 2010 that holds just as true today as it did when I first penned it. I offer it because I feel it might be more relevant to today’s market than back then. However just for the record – my last line on “How this ends” still stands. Not some lame attempt to try to give cover for being right years after being wrong. There is no category for right or wrong if the rules or laws have been adulterated to the point of no longer resembling true markets. To quote some one much smarter than I: “It is – What It Is – Till it Ain’t No More!”

Don’t Be Confused Be Dazzled

Original post 12/07/2010 ©Mark St.Cyr

Feeling a tad confused lately? Don’t be confused, be dazzled should be the mantra that describes the year 2010. All and all it has been breath-taking to view. I have always been fascinated with the sleight of hand, or the artful misdirection plays. The team of Penn & Teller is one of my absolute favorites. One of the reasons I find them so fascinating is right before they perform the trick or immediately after, they show you in stunning detail just how the illusion is created, and yet it loses none of its magic.

If I were to tell you about a performance I witnessed and I want you to see it also, I might start out something like this…It opens with a scene showing  2 short years ago the wheels coming off the economy, and there is a terrible crash in the stock market rivaling the plunge of 1929. It also shows the value of people’s homes  in some places dropping 50% or more, some  losing fortunes, retirement accounts being devastated, and unemployment would be almost double and moving higher. When might you feel you’ve heard enough? What if I  also said, but wait there’s more….much more, we’re not even at the good part. The most interesting and dazzling part of this will be how we “recover” from it. It’s a show that can’t be missed, here’s a few of the highlights.

First…What they did was state over and over again we need to cut back on spending, but then they spent double and doubled that…it was fantastic.

Second…Just when you thought employment was a measure of the economy, they turned it around and stated publicly that Unemployment benefits were the way to grow the economy…that was amazing to behold.

Third…I thought the Fed buying Treasuries was the equivalent of monetizing the debt, or printing money. How foolish I was on that one. I obviously forgot what the meaning of  “is” is. There was a standing ovation on that one.

Fourth…The European Union is beginning to unravel once again, N.Korea has sunk a S.Korean naval ship, fired missiles  killing and destroying a fishing village prompting the US to place an aircraft carrier group along with the S.Korean navy to perform war drills off the coast of China who protests, and they’re our banker now. Just stunning in every detail, well worth the price of admission alone.

I can’t tell you everything about the show, you have to actually see it for yourself. It’s one thing for me to try to explain, but if you really want to get the “Full Monty” just look with open eyes and an open mind. You won’t be disappointed.

Oh I almost forgot one of the best parts, towards the finish, they were able to raise the stock market back to levels not seen since before the crash of 2008! It’s a balancing and high wire act that rivals anything Cirque du Soleil has to offer, I mean I’m talking spectacular, but I don’t want to ruin the show for you, see it for yourself and be dazzled.

I don’t want to be a spoiler and tell you how this performance ends.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Will Google Get Cook’d?

If you listen to most talking heads today you can’t help notice it seems whomever is in charge of writing for their teleprompters has just replaced Google for Apple in the story line. It would seem they’ve rehashed near word for word last years “in-depth analysis” and let the prompter role as to explain why Google is today’s darling of Wall Street. So much so it’s not near comical: It is comical.

Personally I can no longer listen to most market mavens the financial media cabals are currently parading across both screen and print to give their synopsis on why the fundamentals of this or that are sound and, will result in the land of milk and honey for years to come.

For me, if the term fundamental isn’t used in the context to explain these markets as fundamentally flawed. i.e., Adulterated by the interventionist money pumping programs underway via the Federal Reserve I turn it off because here’s my analysis: “Take away the Fed – you’ve got jack.” End of analysis. Period.

Which brings me around to thinking about the implications for these two titans vying for world consumer domination.

Tim Cook is currently in a very interesting position in the context of Apple. (Funny how the term interesting fits more than the term used less than a year ago – enviable. My how things change.)

If you’re a current Apple share holder you probably shouldn’t read any further. Apple’s stock currently being pummeled just might be the best thing to happen to both Cook as well as Apple. Yes I said that, re-reading might be painful yet – that’s what I truly think. However, as wallet shredding as this may sound, Here’s why…

When Jobs passed they were in product development cycles unlike any company before. iPod™, iPhone™, iPad™, were not just new – they were game changing in every way. Only references similar to, before electricity, before the internet, hold sway to these developments. To paraphrase Jobs: “They truly (dented) changed our universe.”

I will contend that one of the reasons why these products were such a break though, along with unrelenting commitment in their standards for design excellence came down to one thing: Jobs courage for demanding the breaking of boundaries was forged in the absolute repudiation he took when he was publicly banished to what many refer to as his “wilderness period.” (I know you’ve heard it before but it’s not trivial.)

I’m here to state both from personal experience as well as witnessing this phenom first hand with others. There is nothing more freeing – nothing that illuminates and emboldens ones spirit of determination to playing or competing than coming from the standpoint of: “Nothing to lose.”

You might think too simplistic, too cliché. However, how many “rags to riches” stories can you think of where musicians, politicians, companies or more blast onto the world stage surrounded in what seemed as glowing lights of sheer genius – only to dull and fade into the darkness the moment it seemed they began worrying about what the record labels thought, would they get re-elected, or what share holders thought?

Did Dylan listen when fans, labels, and the press told him he was finished because he went “electric?” Most artists that have a career longer than 20 minutes let alone over 20 years fall into this type of category.

Think Dave Grohl the former drummer of Nirvana. How do you think his idea of “I’m going to start a band, write the music, play guitar, and be the lead singer for my next adventure” sounded to both friends and fans? Or, more importantly “the music industry” itself?

As I’ve heard Grohl explain: (I’m paraphrasing) “If I had taken this project seriously in the beginning. I would have come up with a better name than, The Foo Fighters.” Yet, isn’t that exactly why their not only a great band (for my tastes anyway) but more or less have now surpassed the very same band everyone I’m sure told him he could never replicate in impact? He had nothing to lose. If he would have tried to replicate anything “Nirvana-ish” I believe it would have just been another story for some “Where are they now?™” series and not the current selling out of Wembley Stadium sized venues success he is today.

Cook as well as Apple itself I believe are also facing similar parallels for what comes next. Remember when Cook first took the reins? Near immediately he seemed to want signals sent so Wall Street could see he was going to be a little softer, a little more tolerable, a little more “Wall St.-ish” to the demands of the financial community. A seemingly more inclusive Apple with dividends and more. And, what did he get for all this new-found openness? Insert Newton’s gravity revelation for stock price simulation here.

As I alluded to earlier this might be exactly what someone in his position needed. Here’s where Jobs truly rose above the rest: Concentrate on the product – not Wall Street. Wall Street will sort itself out on its own if you develop groundbreaking products that people want to buy.

In other words: You now have nothing to lose. You’ll only lose if you play trying not to lose. (or trying not to lose any more.) Think this thinking isn’t as powerful as it sounds? Here’s another analogy to ponder: Ever watched a sports team dominating so much so that nearing the end of the game they begin – playing not to lose? Then lost! Playing not to lose is the surest and fastest way to do that very thing – lose.

Apple recently was again hit broadside by the wonderful tolerant players of Wall Street. Notably the David Einhorn lawsuit along with the whaling and gnashing of teeth of those wanting a “special dividend” paid. It would seem at first blush Mr. Cook has become a little more stand offish than when he first took over.

The lawsuit was decided in court rather than just an “OK, yeah sure” from management. And, the demands for giving back cash in reserves? Ah, no…Apple will use this as it sees fit. That is a 180 from what Cook and company seemed to telegraph in the early days of his position as CEO.

I believe another great indication showing that team Apple might just be on their way back to tending to their own knitting rather than listening to outside forces is the rumblings in the speculation Apple is pursuing some form of watch.

It might seem ho-hum or so what for many. Yet, wouldn’t it have been both logical as well as strategic for Apple to somehow, or some way give the financial media what they’ve been clamoring for in both story and speculation? Apple TV®.

This story is constantly bandied on by salivating Apple analysts or media types as to not only revive Apple enthusiasts – but, rekindle the love affair they had for Apple. Oh if only Apple would only talk more about Apple TV. Then they could be happy.
But – Apple isn’t.

I don’t think this is an issue one should brush aside. Yes, it could mean absolutely nothing but then again, looked through the prism of a Jobs set of glasses. I think there’s more to it than what might go unnoticed through the medias haze of “Apple’s best days are over.”

Maybe their days of being the most capitalized company in world is. But, I don’t believe for a moment it is in regards to product design, function, or break through. After all the design team is still there. John Ive in particular. And, I don’t think he’s calling it quits any time soon.

Google stock on the other hand is now currently screaming higher and higher. And, if not for the rehash of what seems more in line with an Apple retyped teleprompter read, this escalation in stock price is supposedly also a result of ideas attributable to (wait for it…) glasses? To me it seems more attributable to Fed fueled hot money out last years romance with Apple – into this years budding tale of Google’s innovation prowess.

Say what you want. Google enhanced glasses my sound cool for the geek crowd but for the rest of us? Not so much. That doesn’t mean there’s no use, or need, or want. Maybe military? Who knows. Possibly applications worth even more than consumer glasses. I’m just saying people going out and sporting glasses of any kind has never been in vogue. People want to shed glasses. Regardless if cool or not. I could be wrong, only time will tell I guess.

As Google’s share climb higher and higher; just what other “gotta have” products in the pipeline does Google have to offer in the way of products people consider “must haves?” Google is already announcing massive cuts in Motorola® personnel. Is that bullish for Android®? Who knows.

Search? You would have to disregard or intentionally not be paying attention to the implications players like Facebook®, Twitter®, and more have to rock Google’s bottom line. (Much easier than Apple’s I’ll contend.)

Of course all of this is anyone’s guess. But, nonetheless a guess or thought experiment that’s intriguing as in what happens when… or if?

Can one help but wonder what the financial media will begin asking or printing when Larry or Sergey seemingly don’t have the answers Wall Street’s Fed induced hot money investor wants to hear when the first question after explaining the glasses is: “Yeah great, what else?” Or delivers record-breaking profits only just not record-breaking enough for this “investment” cycle? Could they be victims rather than winners of Apple’s lost fortune?

With this downfall in stock valuation Cook actually has the opportunity to break free of the founders curse that still looms at Apple. However, Larry and Sergey as founders might find themselves once again having to run and compete with something originating with Jobs and Apple. Only this time its not a ground breaking innovation, rather – its their stock price.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Avoid The Sales Stumbling Block

Far too many sales people whether new or seasoned stumble more often than someone leaving a bar after a few too many. Mostly it’s for the lack of belief in themselves. They forget or don’t believe that they are the professionals in most sales environments. Not their customers.

Here’s my argument: “More often than not, your customer whether current or potential have convoluted beliefs about what they should receive as far as discounts and more based on a myriad of misinformation – misplaced beliefs – or unrealistic presumptions.” And, most salespeople crumble at the first indication they might need to confront these positions.

You are the professional. It’s your job to make sure the customer understands what is available in way of discounts or lack there of. You should be their resource. Not their “Yes man.”

Case study:

I was called by an establishment where I was asked to come out to their establishment and supply them with quotes on a product. I was informed by the caller, “Make sure you bring your sharpest pencil because we use ‘a lot’ so we need competitive bidding if we are to entertain your offerings.” Fair enough I thought and hopped in my car and proceeded to the establishment.

When I arrived I was surprised at the size of the establishment. It had definitely been around for a while yet, I had never seen nor heard of it. I knew at that time to never judge a book by its cover from past experiences. (I had a hole in the wall client that did volume on an unbelievable scale!)

As I sat down with the owner we talked a little small talk. Then he asked me “What’s your price on X? We go through ‘a lot’ here so give me your best shot.” I replied: “Sure, but may I ask what “a lot” is? He leaned back and said “Oh sure, well we have to go through at least 10 to 15 pounds of X per week.”

At the time, this represented less than what I lost when cleaning the machines that made it. “A lot” in all fairness started at levels that ended in tons – not pounds. However, to this customer their references were with companies about 2 levels down from mine. Companies that I would supply. However, to their way of thinking they were growing and it was; “time to cut out the middlemen.”

I didn’t get angry, or make this person feel foolish. I just went on to say how I understood the choices to consider as one gets larger and more. I left them with a better understanding of how the market worked and who – what – and when to consider for X, Y, or Z. (Then I returned to the office and immediately called one of my customers and informed them their customer was out shopping.)

On the other side:

I received a call from a potential customer who wanted to discuss volume pricing. I knew of them and once again jumped in my car and flew over to take advantage of the opportunity.

Once I arrived we sat in a conference room where as always a little small talk began the process. Then I was asked abruptly by the owner: “We currently use trailer loads of X per week. We have expansion plans in the works and we believe we’ll use “a lot” more after the expansion. What types of discounts do you believe you’ll be able to offer on such an increase?” As above I asked: “Sure, but can I ask you to clarify what ‘a lot’ means?”

I was by myself seated at a conference table surrounded by both the owner and what seemed like an army of surrogates or “yes men.”  It felt akin to being in some form of inquisition process. When I asked my question – you could hear a pin drop as in “He’s questioning us?”

The response came back from one of the inquisitors (as if signaled and now allowed to speak) they were looking to double current usage. Then another spoke up (again is if signaled by telepathy)  and said: “Others have already suggested possible savings of 10% or more.” I replied: “Based on my knowledge. I don’t believe you’ll save anything. I actually believe your costs will increase – not decrease. And your whole pricing models might be flawed if you are going to consistently need this amount of tonnage.”

Forget hearing a pin – you could now hear heartbeats.

I went on to explain that many at their level of volume mistakenly think because they’re going to use even more that just as they’ve experienced in the past their volume increase will warrant even better prices. It doesn’t. (Also being very cautious as to not allow any of these surrogates to look foolish since obviously none of them had realized this themselves.)

I went on to expound: When you get to certain levels depending on the business, increases in product or higher demands along supply chains can hit a tipping point where the guarantee of product supply and availability gets harder hence; demanding premiums – not discounts.

It’s counter intuitive and they wouldn’t be the first company I dealt with that wasn’t surprised by this phenom in our supply chain demands. Also, for the companies that may have said or implied they can offer discounts along with approximate numbers – I would question their assumptions. This situation would take far more time to research than the time you’ve allotted at this meeting. (cue the theme from Jaws here as I sat and waited for a response)

The meeting ended there and I was politely told thank you for the information then escorted to the door. I drove back thinking. “Oh well!”

A week later I was called and asked to come back for another meeting. After arriving I was informed (only 2 people met with me this time) I was to not only price out the original scenario they had first proposed but, also asked for current pricing as to start using my services as supplier immediately.

Later I was informed that out of both their current suppliers, as well as possible suitors, I was the only one who didn’t respond in some knee jerk way as to infer if they went with me “They’d be discounts to be had!” I earned credibility.

Know your product. Know your service. Know your limitation. Find and argue your value proposition in an honest manner and you’ll get honest business.

Business not only you can bank on. But pays legal tender you can put in the bank.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr