Month: June 2013

A Moving Post To Move By

As many of you know I’m in the process of moving to my new residence. With all the wonders that entails (yes, sarcasm is present there) I thought a post I wrote earlier this year would be fitting for it garnered a lot of attention with so many lining up to tell me I should just “Move on! Well, I have. It also seems – so has the Fed. Although quite possibly breaking the “lease” everyone thought was iron clad. Moving words, moving statements, moving markets. One has to wonder: “What’s the next move? Or, better yet: ” Who’s move is it?”

Right For All The Wrong Reasons
(Original post January 2013)

One can’t help but look at the financial markets close as of Friday and not shake their head in bewilderment. For anyone (including myself) that has expressed caution since the beginning of this historic rise we are left scratching our heads. The mantra of “Don’t fight the Fed” has just been spot on. However, that saying was used far before, and for other reasons than to explain what we are currently witnessing today.

Some only read the headlines trying to extrapolate any discernible information for what we see taking place. Others just use a “going with the flow” type strategy because they don’t know what else to do. It can work for a time however, it can set oneself up to do exactly the wrong things at the wrong times.

There’s nothing wrong with being wrong if; your decision-making process was based on sound principles. You can adjust your strategies and tactics based on execution. Yes, there are also times you must just take a “guess.” However, it’s in the knowing of which you’re doing that’s crucial.

Currently across the media there’s the clarion call that the Fed is completely in control. That presumably around some table sits a gathering of people far smarter than any other mere mortals pushing and pulling levers with effortless efficiency controlling the monetary system like an athlete in top form.

People will point to the markets recovery as proof of their gold medal performance. From the outside it’s sure hard to argue with that logic. However, something transpired this week that for anyone that takes business or financial matters seriously; we finally have a glimpse into the window that so far has been sealed shut.

We had in many news outlets writings on, or reporting of, the FOMC releasing the actual meeting transcripts from 2007. Here’s a sample in which you may have seen reported elsewhere across the web:

A conversation as per the recently released FOMC transcripts from 2007. Emphasis added:

Aug. 7, Mr. Dudley: “We’ve done quite a bit of work trying to identify some of the funding questions surrounding Bear Stearns, Countrywide, and some of the commercial-paper programs. There is some strain, but so far it looks as though nothing is really imminent in those areas. Now, could that change quickly? Absolutely.”

Aug. 7, Mr. Fisher: “No amount of rewriting of history will exonerate us if we are not prepared for the more-dire scenarios that were presented by the staff. I would ask that we do some scenario preparation in terms of, should we encounter increased financial-market turbulence, what actions we might take to deal with it.”

Aug. 7, Mr. Bernanke: “I think the odds are that the market will stabilize. Most credits are pretty strong except for parts of the mortgage market.”

So, many of you might be saying, “Yes, and so what. Doesn’t change anything in my mind or the markets.” To which many would agree. However, that’s exactly what you don’t want to think.

When you’re truly serious about business and financial decision-making with real money and or livelihoods on the line. A headline or excerpt is the last thing you’ll use to formulate any decision or strategy. You need context. How was it said – in reference to what or why. You need to know the whole discourse. Anything less – and you’re just guessing.

As I said earlier that window of critical information that many like myself have been clamoring for as to get some glimpse into what is going on behind the curtain was released. The Federal Reserve made public in full detail their meeting from August 2007 in PDF format. You can read it here.

With the beauty of hindsight this document is a must read for anyone serious about the markets and or business. This is a glimpse into the real conversations, and thinking process of the key players that currently “control” the financial markets in a way that is unprecedented.

You need not have sat on, or answered directly to a board. That’s irrelevant. These minutes read as they should. They are laid out where you can read them as if you’re a fly on the wall listening in. They’re not a quick study – nor should they be. There are over 100 pages. Yet, I believe as I’ve said before they are imperative if you wish to get some context as to what is going on within the hallowed halls when the train gave its first signs of coming off the tracks. And, how the key decision makers viewed what was happening and how to deal with it.

I believe for a great many of us it will provide some clarity to what we felt all along.

Not only were we right for being so cautious even as the markets continue to rise. But, the higher the markets rise; the more justification we have for being even more cautious.

Because, to what can be deciphered when one reads what was going on within the minds and how they perceived what was happening. It’s this very same cast of characters that are supposedly still in “control” of what we are currently witnessing.

Maybe we aren’t worried enough.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

The Double Edged Sword Of Double Speak

Life is complicated. Yet, we all know it’s pretty simple. Or, it’s as complicated as you make it. Am I trying to be coy? Well yes, and no. Alright I’ll stop, so I can continue.

The above is to express a point. I can always be right (on the question of life) if you try to tell me I was wrong or, vice versa. Even if you use my own words as proof. I’ve covered all my bases. Same with trying to be funny or, continuing or stopping. What ever you say I did or didn’t say, I can quite easily change or, pick whatever definition suits me as to what I meant. I’m covered.

From politicians, Wall Street, and more one thing is crystal clear. Double speak along with complex definitions for simple terms, (along with my favorite) – responses to yes or no questions in a manner that would make Rube Goldberg blush have become the norm. At one time I could be dazzled in the audacity of the complexity. Now? I’ve moved past frustrated (not collecting $200) going directly to – annoyed.

The problem today is where this was once a limited practice left to highly skilled practitioners of language. It has now taken over the body politic, business, sports, and more. Only thing left to figure is: “Does that dog’s bark or cat’s meow really mean what we think it does?”

There has always been complexity in language. Many times it’s needed to express explicit ideas or intent. However, today it has taken on a life of its own. Again, in shapes, manners, and forms that makes one question if someone saying “Hello” actually means Hello. Think I’m kidding? Need I remind you of the grand daddy in recent history? “”Depends what the definition of “is” – is.” (I’m still in awe of that one.)

One can’t help but watch the political stage today and wonder. “What did he say?” (both sides left or right) Or, better yet, When one is queried on what they said previously while as to make no mistake – is read actual verbatim text.  The response comes back, “Well I did say that but,  you misinterpreted what I said.” Really? I mean….Really?

Wall Street is also notorious for this type of talk. Whether it be the use of jargon, complex models, or down right lying. i.e., “This thing’s a sure bet!” One is hard pressed to get straight answers to pointed questions.

There always seem to be cover or wiggle room (i.e. excuses) between the technical terms, formulations, complex graphs, models, forecasts, and reams of paperwork to show why their prognostications are worthy of (all) your money.

One thing will become crystal clear when it doesn’t work. They won’t mince words to tell you, “Well, there is no guarantee.” Along with everyone’s favorite, “It does state right here in the paperwork I supplied that risk could equal losing EVERYTHING.” (and then some)

Media has fallen into a similar trap. Instead of the telling or reporting on stories, they are in a never-ending quest for “buzz words.” Some form of headline grabbing, SEO encrusted synopses formulated for one thing: Enticing the algo’s of search engines for coverage across social media in all its forms.

Although using crafty double speak, and more has been the tool de jure. There seems to be a new twist.

Where as all this has worked previously. It now may have morphed showing previously unforeseen negative consequences.  Enter – The Machines ( High Frequency  Trading or Algorithmic Trading aka HFT) and the communication strategy between the Federal Reserve and markets.

Wednesday of this week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held his scheduled press conference as to explain the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting actions, while simultaneously answering questions for the press. However, if one was paying attention to the markets. They were doing exactly the opposite of what these press conferences were created to alleviate. Instead of calming markets – they were panicking and, remained panicked throughout the day. Not as an isolated incident rather across all markets. Equities, bonds, etc. Why?

I’m not exactly sure however, I do think I have an answer. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

For whatever double speak or, linguistic gymnastics the Fed. might use as to offer offense or defense within communications, one thing was a constant. Explanation of what was meant (or insinuated) was relegated to or for interpretation by – human beings. That game has now changed in ways we are just beginning to notice. The effects can be unnerving the closer one looks.

“Fed. speak” as it’s referred to has always been regarded as an art form. Both in interpreting as well as stating policy by the Fed. itself. Legal art, legal ease, and more have been hallmarks of economic academia. Yet, the people who are listening closely today are not people at all. They are HFT computers.

Computers, with awe-inspiring levels of sophistication. While simultaneously dumber than a box of rocks as to interpret intended or hidden meanings within human communication. i.e. “That loan is Bad!”

What’s a headline reading, word actuated, HFT computer to do with that line? Does it engage the Buy program? Or Sell? You and I both know “Bad” (however dated) can mean great. Computers? Not so much.

I believe this, “between a rock and a hard drive” is where the Fed. finds itself. I also believe it can (and will) morph into far more of an issue than the Fed. or markets fully comprehend to date.

If the chairman of the Federal Reserve (and the entire body for that matter) believe increased communication with the markets is a paramount pursuit as to calm (or preempt reactions) when or if policy matters change. How does one anticipate or formulate communication to markets that are now visibly controlled by HFT?

Markets now vulnerable to attacks by algorithmic programs initiating buy and sell orders within nano seconds of a word or phrase used. Whether it be in speech, print, or any other form – 24/7/365 world-wide. This is not something that can be continually ignored by the so-called “smart crowd” throughout the financial media landscape.

Government bodies are filled with academic intelligentsia. Kings and queens of double speak. Many have been elevated to their positions in direct proportion to their linguistic skills. They live and breathe on their literary acumen. This is not a bad thing per se.  Just as a carpenter has their bag of tools. Language, communication, and elocution (as well as confusion and non-communication) are requisite tools needed there. Whether it’s for communicating to the masses, or to each other.

However, today’s listening audience for the Fed. are no longer human – they’re machines.

The real issue here is whether or not the urgency in adaptability will be forthcoming to address the concerns when it comes to how the Fed. continues to communicate with the markets. For as what was expressed on Wednesday, it’s obvious the machines know only one thing.

“Double Speak” means: Speak, Speak.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Unplugging From The Static

I received a professional query as to give my thoughts on the idea or benefits for unplugging sort of speak from social media. Below is my response:

Today’s social media tends to allow one the excuse of looking or feeling busy when what might be needed is exactly the opposite: To sit quiet, uninterrupted. To think, or be alone, immersed in ones thoughts. Far too many are missing this important part of life.

To borrow from the adage of Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
In today’s all-encompassing world of social media the issue hasn’t changed. It’s still:  The illusion something worth while or profitable is taking place.

There is a need more than ever to unplug from “Social Media” as to allow oneself to ponder insights or other variables uninterrupted. Free from distraction. Time to contemplate business objectives, life directions, and more. Noiseless private time alone with one’s self.

If one can’t go the day without checking into their social network. Then it’s quite obvious one has moved their most important aspect for validation from inner – to outer. If you think I’m wrong try this simple test:

If you go the day without checking in to any form of “social media” what were your thoughts constantly focusing on or, switching to? You? Your life? Or, what you’re missing or missed?

If you find at the end of the day “checking in” seems akin to feelings of relief. Well – need I say more?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Conquering The Globe!

I was made aware and sent the following screenshot from one of my readers.

My article in Belfast Ireland(Although I’ve found my articles either referenced by or, on the pages of major media sites across the globe, this one is special to me. Having grown up with Great Grandparents who were first generation Irish. I found myself laughing inside thinking of their reactions if they saw the above screenshot.)

As I’ve expressed in some of my workshops on the very topic of writing. You can’t be afraid to put your intellectual property (IT) out there worrying that someone is going to “steal” it.  There are ways to protect your IT such as attribution guidelines, copyrights, etc. However, if you have something to say, why say it and not let it be heard by as many people everywhere? As Seth Godin espouses relentlessly (and pretty much pioneered the idea) you need to allow ways for your ideas to spread easily.

Does it mater if you dot all your i’s perfectly? Then cross every t using a ruler and square for perfection only to have it sit on your desk, hard drive, or worse – only in your mind? Never to see the light of day because you’re worried it may get criticized, laughed at by some English major for typo’s or improper usage of a word or phrase? Or the dreaded – “They’ll steal my idea or thoughts!” Rubbish. If someone “steals” something which you can prove is yours, there are legal remedies available. So stop hemming, hawing, and worrying needlessly. Start doing. What ever that doing might be. Just start.

Remember, this is all being written by a person who can’t spell kat without engaging spell checker. Doesn’t use social media. i.e., Facebook®, Twitter®, et al. And, skipped English class so repeatedly that when I finally showed, my English teacher made me stand so she could see who I was before sending me to the Principal’s office.

All I’ve done different from others who are; far smarter, skilled, connected, financed, younger, older, better looking, and more is this:

I started. That’s all.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

And So It Begins, Or…

There’s that moment that one believes they are watching the start of something far greater than what others perceive. Some see this or that and shrug like the many times before thinking; “It’s all just consequential living in our “new normal.” However, for many paying attention, certain happenings don’t fit right at the altar of happenstance.

You may not be able to articulate exactly why one feels this way. Yet, in your gut something just feels odd. Yes, even more odd than the markets themselves over the last few years. (if such a thing is possible.)

I like many are watching all that’s taking place in the markets, as well as the political. Making heads or tails out of most of it is at times bewildering. Yet, that’s what we have to do as entrepreneurs.

One way or another we have to go with what we believe might take place and try to plan accordingly as to unseen disruptions that can take place at a moments notice. We can be right, wrong, what ever. What we can’t be is willfully ignorant. So, on that note I’d like share what’s making me think. (This is postulation. Not prediction.)

On May 22nd I penned an article about what one should pay attention to following a speech being delivered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. (full article here) I concluded it with the following statement:

“Watching the reaction in the Russel 2000 (aka The RUT) both during and after the chairman’s speech might be the first tell as to what we might expect over the coming months in the markets.”

What came next was not only intriguing, but – informative. As I proposed in that article the thesis was to watch how “hot money” would react. What I didn’t take into account was just how much disruption might be taking place in markets globally where reactions could be far larger and quicker than in our own at the present moment. Which by all accounts infers the ripple effects of QE (quantitative easing) are now morphing into tidal waves elsewhere in the global financial markets. This is a dramatic change with consequences indeterminable or better yet – unstoppable (in my view) by the powers that be.

Below is a chart of the Russell® 2000 Index (aka RUT) leading into the chairman’s eagerly awaited speech. The left side represents the markets anticipation in an hourly chart. As you can see the index hit new lifetime highs at the open. The right side shows the market’s reaction during the day to what he said – or, didn’t say.

Market reaction 5/22/13

Market reaction 5/22/13

As impressive a reactionary sell off as this represents at first blush, it’s not where you should continue to focus. Just as in magic – your focused attention on the wrong area can lead you to miss what’s really going on.

As I stated previously, watching the reaction to this index both during and after the chairman’s speech might give us a “first tell” of what we might expect in the markets. I expressed it’s all in reference to “hot money” or speculative, or any other term one wants to use. (a favorite of the “smart-crowd” is yield seeking)

This form of capital doesn’t care about you, me, business, share holders, governments, and more. It only cares about one thing – itself and any offspring (profit) it can produce. Period.

It’s money – not a living being to be reasoned with. Self preservation is all that’s cared about. Confusing it with anything else can be perilous to both your health as well as financial future. And yes, am I insinuating “hot money” is akin to say a virus? Yes, yes I am. If I’m wrong, then why is the word “contagion” so prevalent as a market definition?

Want a real life example? Enter the Asian markets. Both Japan’s Nikkei™ as well as the Chinese Hang Seng™.

These two markets are at the forefront of what’s known as “hot money” inflows. It can work both for, as well as against, if it deviates too far from the “Goldie Locks” scenario. And, as of May 22nd – everything there changed with a brutal force of consequences.

Japan’s market (aka Nikkei) has been heralded in the financial media as of late with the introduction of what’s referred to as “Abenomics.” The Nikkei much like our markets took off in an unprecedented Japanese Central Bank fueled money printing bonanza. Stylized after our own Central Bank’s model.

All the so-called “smart crowd” across the financial media couldn’t say enough about how this was going to do nothing but help solidify the reasoning for buying the markets because “they’re fairly priced if not under valued.”  (All based on some convoluted amalgamation of acronyms, jargon, and down right stupefying of the so-called  “fundamentals.”)

Here’s my sophisticated rationalized market analysis of all they’re saying: “Mo-money means, Mo-money!”

With that said, I offer an exhibit for why I constantly pound my keyboard (minus any buzzers or whistles)  stating “they haven’t a clue.” And, why you need to watch for yourself as to make decisions in your own enterprises.

Below is a chart of the Nikkei futures market. The left side shows the market on a tear following Japan’s Central Bank interventionist monetary policies. The right? Shows you the peak on what day? Yes, May 22nd. What follows is when the real “hot money” begins looking for cover.

But they all said "Buy, Buy Buy!"

But they all said “Buy, Buy, Buy!”

The above shows alchemy at its finest as far as markets are concerned. Just as turning worthless metal into gold is a fool’s errand, more so is turning fundamentals into “funny-mentals.” Fools gold is fools gold no matter how one tries to sell it. Period.

All those gains based on Central Bank policies nearly evaporated overnight when the Central Banker of Central Bankers says  – or – doesn’t say something the “hot money” wants to hear.

As I’ve stated many times, “There is no market without Ben Bernanke.” The above is manifest of that point. You don’t have such violent reactions across world markets lining up as precisely as the above demonstrates if this “down-draft” as the media likes to say is caused by anything fundamental. The only fundamental fact is this: “If Ben’s in – they’re in. If Ben’s out – they’re out.”

Remember in 2008 when our own indexes fell multiple percentages day after day with no let up? That’s what the Nikkei is now experiencing. Over a 20% decline in about a week. Last time we experienced the same, we were in free fall from what was believed a “fundamentally” based bull market bonanza.

Unlike today, during 2008 there was so much happening in the economy that when the fall out first showed its hand it could easily be glossed over as a hi-cup or something else as to try and make sense of the market fluctuations. However, now? It can almost be pointed at with certainty where the Chairman himself experienced one.

Think I’m off base or making assumptions where there are none? Fair enough. So let’s throw into the mix that dynamo of unmitigated love by all the so-called “smart crowd” where the “fundamentals” are not only to be marveled. Rather, we should throw out the old because – this is the “new model.”

Two things happened in China lately. First: The Hang Seng market out of nowhere began declining in multiple percentage moves. The moves down were blamed on a multiplicity of topics. However it seems a little odd does it not that the real declines begin when? Yep, May 22nd. (Are you noticing a pattern here?)

Chart courtesy of Yahoo™ Finance

Chart courtesy of Yahoo!™ Finance

Once again, moves like this would be called “horrific” or “stunning” across the financial press had they occurred here. But, it hasn’t so….keep whistling right?

As if the first was bad enough the second point is where things are really both telling as well as troubling in my view. This week the Chinese government had a failed bond auction. It seems there wasn’t all the “hot money” around to buy up everything like there had been.

One may attribute this to the Chinese Central Bank deciding not to “participate.” with its own version of monetary policies. But, (and it’s a very big but) does it not make one wonder why such a thing seems to happen exactly at the time Ben’s policy is under scrutiny on whether it will continue or be subject to the much maligned “taper” policy implied by the press?

All of the sudden (like magic) there seems to be a “liquidity” shortage. Or, in plain parlance – no money. What happened? (I say again -magic?)

All of the sudden when our Fed chairman hints there might be less “hot money” excuse me, I mean a tapering of QE – markets around the globe panic? I’m not a “financial analysts” (although, I did stay at a Holiday Inn® once) something seems worrisome in the bigger picture.

Then to top all of this off it was announced Thursday we are basically going to go head to head in some form of proxy war again in the Middle East. Whether you agree or disagree with the policies is irrelevant to this discussion. (so please – save the emails) The only thing that is relevant are the facts. And one of those facts is both Russia and China are more aligned in policy than we are. (as witnessed through stated policies and meetings throughout the media)

As we once again begin to flex our military in another regional battle does monetary policy flexing via Central Banks become just as volatile as armed conflict?

Lest we forget Central Bank’s are currently far more involved and influencing control of economies and markets than anytime in prior history. What exactly may result in the financial markets for the future is anyone’s guess. Yet, that’s all it will be – a guess. For this is uncharted territory.

For how it began will not be as important near term as how it may end. While as entrepreneurs only one thing is known to us:

We need to pay attention as to adjust accordingly if need be.
Regardless of which way it may go.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

How To Make Sales That Influence The Bottom Line™

Selling is one thing. Completing a sale is quite another matter. It’s not a solo affair.

Far too often many salespeople assume that once they’ve finalized agreement of a sale their part of the process is complete. It’s not. You can lose a sale, customer, and reputation in near moments as compared to the time one put in to make it.

Let a brand new customer be greeted with a delivery worth thousands of dollars by a delivery driver that not only is having a bad day – but doesn’t necessarily like the idea of adding this new customer to their already busy day.

Or, just imagine how a new customer is going to react when out of that large delivery your company has just delivered, the one item they depended on receiving that will make or break their day is marked “back ordered.” Here’s a hint: RTS – Order Refused.

There are a myriad of things that can and many times will go wrong after one has made the sale. It’s up to you the salesperson to be in touch with or to help co-ordinate with every part of the process or people involved to complete it.

Of course you can’t do everything or guarantee everyone will do what is expected. However, touching base with a driver, purchasing agent, credit department, receivers, banks, and more that can come in contact with your sales and discussing or informing them with what’s new or, just to be cordial is smart business regardless if you own the company or not.

You own you. And in sales – You are the company.

You need to always act like it.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

What Happens Next Is Meaningful For Apple

Monday will not only be an interesting day as to see what Apple® is going to roll out at its annual World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC). It could be one of the most significant days in its post Job’s history.

Unlike politics there comes a point where you can no longer lay blame or receive continued praise based on the length of coat-tail left from your predecessor. In business there’s a moment where everyone including you understand – It really is your baby now.

Conversations and more about the way someone else ran the company or, the way this, that or what “they” would do is dead and gone.

I’m not trying to be coy or infuse a form of pun here as in Apple’s case. At some point all questions, conversations, scuttlebutt, and more transform without warning. Near instantaneously everything changes. All of the sudden it’s as if there never was anyone else before you in the position that you now hold.

Every single question, insinuation, and more feels like the sword of Damocles is raised before being asked:  “What are you doing? What have you done? What are you going to do?” As scary as it is when it’s realized – it is the moment one has waited for. It will make or break you.

You know this to be true in your gut. However, so does everyone else – and they’re watching. (Some with champagne if you do well – others with theirs if you fall) Athletes experience this in that “give me the ball” win or lose everything moment. In business, this – is that moment.

Personally I’ve had that moment in my career more than once being involved in turn-around situations. You don’t know nor can you anticipate when it’s about to happen. Only that when it does, you had better be ready because, if you’ve asked for the ball when everything’s on the line. Trust me – it’s coming. (whether you still want it or not)

I believe Tim Cook is entering that moment however, so to is Apple the company. Once again both the CEO as well as the company itself – together. Funny how the more things change the more things stay the same on some levels is it not?

At this moment in time one will not come out of it better or worse than the other. If Mr. Cook bombs – so does Apple as a whole and vice versa. (again, for this moment in time – who knows what the future holds on a longer time frame)

Currently Apple products are hands down the product to own. Period. They are like owning a Mercedes® as compared to any top-tier domestic brand. Many like their current or new devices. But (and it’s a very big but) – they’d like them even more if they sported an Apple logo.

Apple is now a luxury brand as well as device. It is an aspirational brand like it or not. You may wish to throw cold water on such a thought all you want yet denying it, doesn’t make it so. Keeping it – is now the task.

Will Team Cook deliver what both current as well as future customers need to continue viewing Apple through the aspirational lens? This is what is at stake in my view. Again, in my view, all other questions are irrelevant. Everything rides here. It is Team Cook’s “here’s the ball” moment.

It’s win or go home. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic. I do not believe this dynamic or moment can be over played. Downplaying, or poo poohing the importance here is missing the bigger picture in my estimation.

The tech media and more are all a buzz with what to expect from operating system revamp, device changes, to the much maligned or outright hatred of skew-morphism. (For those not familiar with the term, this is where the application takes on the appearance in the digital world of its real world equivalence. i.e., A note taking app looks like your typing onto a yellow legal pad and so on.)

Although I myself never put that much thought into such details ( I just cared if the thing worked as I wanted it to) this is where we will get our first glimpse from the man whose impact both changed or developed the design of all these devices in the physical form. Enter Johnathan Ive (Now Sir Johnathan to be formal) design extraordinaire of the physical product to the digital side.

This is where everything changes – or doesn’t.

I know there will be a ton of people who will shake their heads in outright disagreement in what I’m about to say next. However, I’ll say it anyways. (because that’s what I do)
Right now the outside, the casing, or screen for that matter is irrelevant in as far as needing a design make over. It’s ALL about the interface. With what’s “under the hood” running a close second. i.e., processor speed, brand, blah, blah, blah. For technophiles yes. The rest of us – not so much.

This is exactly the spot where Mr. Ive will be able to prove to both skeptics as well as current or future customers that Apple not only hasn’t lost its way rather, is once again forging new and exciting paths. Incidentally, this is precisely where Microsoft® just had its chance with “the ball” and not only missed, they threw as if blindfolded. (enter the Surface® and New Windows® interface)

The cutting edge design that made people aspire to purchase Apple products in the first place can be laid directly in this mans wheelhouse. In most cases it’s his design prowess that’s responsible for making many of the attributes associated as being Apple – Apple. Now his design and influence encompasses the software or interface side bringing it under his tutelage. This really is a game changer to what it may or may not bring forth in user experience.

If the design of applications (or whatever you want to call the place where you actually interact with your device) can morph or change in both elegance as well as the simplicity as first demonstrated with iPod® then through both Mac® as well as iPhone®. You may not only beat your competition – you just might crush them.

For those who never purchased an Apple product before iPad®. The one take away heard over, and over again with astonishment from users were, “I could not believe there was no instruction manual!” That was a game changing moment as the iPad itself. We could be at an even greater milestone in the development of operating systems (OS) whether it be mobile or desktop. We will soon find out. (or at least get a hint)

I truly believe it’s now more imperative to focus on experience/interface and branding than anything else. Yes, the media is hemming and hawing about competitors pushing out offerings at a far more rapid rate than Apple. People are also implying this is a tell-tale sign that Apple is unable to come up with new ideas. Personally, I think that view is misplaced or, could be a complete misinterpretation of what might truly be taking place. Let me express it with the following analogy.

Years ago I had a discussion with my father. He drove Lincoln Continentals® pretty much all his life. When the Lincoln Mark VII was introduced it was a radical design change for Lincoln. So much so I asked him why would they come out with something so radically different from what Lincolns are known for? (Big square heavy behemoths) Are they trying to attract Mercedes buyers? (more round, driver orientated, etc.) He said, “No. You’ll never get a Mercedes guy to buy a Lincoln. It’s Lincoln’s attempt to keep Lincoln owners from switching to a Mercedes.” I never forgot the importance of that statement.

Current Apple owners are not going to switch anytime soon in my opinion. Once you’ve made the switch from PC to Apple there is no going back. (At least at this moment in time. Windows 8® sealed that opportunity for the near future.) Sure Android®, Samsung®, and others are growing more, and more. However, they don’t have the cache’ or that je ne sais quoi that people just want to own.

It’s now all about how Apple becomes more like “Apple” and all that entails. That’s not a play on words. Apple needs to push further into what it means to own an Apple device and reside under the now ever-present Apple logo-ed umbrella.

The real profits to be made now and into the future might not be with how many “new” devices one sells. Rather, what interface will continue to draw the people with both money to spend – and more importantly – that will spend it.

Apple’s ability to construct its brand into the aspirational genre has been second to none in this regard. They need to continue as to give customers a reason to reach for (as to buy) – not make excuses as to offer lower quality products or standards as to compete on # of devices sold metrics. That’s a race to the bottom where the winner usually ends up the loser.

If Apple truly is at a game changer moment as I believe they could be. Monday’s WWDC could go down being just as important of a day as when Job’s announced he was changing Apple Computer into Apple as we now know it.

The importance of that day wasn’t realized till much later when the Apple brand which culminated out of that conference began to exert itself into the mainstream. Apple has that chance once again in my view. And this well could be just that moment for those that are watching carefully.

It really is all up to Team Cook now. It’s their game to win or lose. Because…
Here comes “the ball.”

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

If You Were Wondering What I Was Thinking

With everything that is currently taking place in the political arena. One thing went by the wayside which gives my stance on a topic where not only my position seems correct rather, is a text-book example that many should point to as absolute empirical evidence where one should not comply when one is ordered or required by some authority.

Next time one is asked to attend or take part in any HR (Human Resources) driven Leadership, Motivational, or other boondoggle by any other name. Just point to this latest government scandal and, with indignant self-determination in a loud voice state, “No! I will not go!”

Of course I’m talking about the now maligned conference meetings, and charges that just came public where the government once again seems to have spent lavishly on speakers, meetings, and so forth. However, I have a different take than most as you can tell by my opening lines.

Although part of the current outrage seems to be pointed where speakers fees are concerned. For me it’s not about the dollar figures. I looked at the roster with interest to see just who might have been asked to speak and at what price. (After all it is what I do so how could I not?) Here’s what I found and, what I took away from it.

In as far as speaker fees were concerned, they were not “high” by any means in actual dollars. In my estimation they are what you see in the so-called “market” for speakers. In actuality the highest fee paid to any of the speakers listed would probably only be enough to secure a date as a deposit for most noteworthy speakers on the circuit today. (Which means about 50% or half of what is expected)

However, the amounts are not what should be questioned. The amounts paid are a side-show. It’s the value question that should jump out when looking at it. What value did the attendees receive from seeing these presentations? From what I’ve seen rolling across the news shows my take is – not much – to nothing at all. Or, in other words – most likely a waste of money and resources. Not out of budget dollars. Rather, out of actual time wasted on senseless “motivational” theater.

When one goes to a meeting – any meeting. The last thing one wants to do is reach out and touch someone, sing in public, play acting theater on stage, do the stupid fall backwards trust thing, and a whole lot more. This type of nonsensical, lame brained, down right personally intrusive type of requests don’t belong in meetings, conferences, and more where real intellectual ideas or skills of exchange are to be taking place. Period.

Maybe if you’re discussing “love,” or “theater,” and such. (even then it still might not be appropriate) However, for the rest. please…spare me is all I can say.

As soon as I see or hear some speaker shout from the stage: “OK, now turn to the person next to you and…..” I cringe. People (I include myself here) have a disdain for this type of stuff. Personally, inside my head I will be screaming: “I didn’t come to have my personal space violated, be readied to act like a trained seal, or need to hug the person next to me who smells like they haven’t showered a week prior to attending this talk because this clown thinks I should. Where’s that exit again?” As soon as this type of clown show begins I, and most others – tune out/and turn off.

However, this is exactly what one gets when HR departments are put in charge of these types of meetings. HR is notorious for “group think” programs. And, if it was presented somewhere on the planet in some other company by their HR dept. Well then. It must be great! Which is exactly the reason you get what I like to call, “The New and Improved Seminar/Meeting of Left Brain, Right Brain Thinking For the Dumbest” Think I’m being too harsh?

Just think of the last HR implemented “employee” anything you’ve endured. “It’s company take your pet hamster to work for meet and greet this Wednesday!” Yep. It’s exactly this type of “group think” on steroids when it morphs into the conference arena.

To deliver actual ideas or skills from a stage that attendees can find useful and implement with immediacy is not only hard to do, it’s also twice as hard to find people who can actually do it. And the ones that can – charge for it. (Yes, I’m including myself here.)

HR departments are focused on prices paid as in some form of showing other departments how cheaply they paid for X than others. Which is exactly the wrong focus because, it’s not about the amount charged. It’s about the value they can create when the attendees can put to work those ideas in the real world and produce real measurable results. However most HR departments don’t see it that way.

They want production – not value. Which in turn produces exactly the results witnessed in the news. i.e., You have 2 speakers competing for some conference. One speaker can deliver measurable value to the buyer over and above their fee for a 1 hour talk. However, will only do 1 hour at their price.

The other speaker doesn’t talk of value rather, will stretch their canned 1 hour talk out to 4 hours. Will throw in a meet and greet, key chains, pens, and paper, a magic act, and a singing rendition of “Amazing Grace” all for the same price as speaker 1. Guess who’s getting the gig? (Some are now thinking…Hey, I attended that monstrosity!)

Again, think I’m being too harsh? Just look at the current issues facing these agencies now with the knowledge they just attended all these nifty conferences on Leadership, Motivation, Vision, and more. Money and time well spent?

Even if it was all free wouldn’t mean it still wasn’t a waste of both time and resources. Which is the real issue in my view.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr

Elon Musk Doesn’t Care What You Think

Although the headline might conjure up the impression of someone “not caring” in an elitist sense. It’s not the case at all.

What I do want to express is this; Mr. Musk doesn’t care that nearly everyone thinks or thought he couldn’t do, or get done, the things he has. By his own actions and track record he has proven the only thing that matters is whether he thinks it can be done. And that my friends is a point far too many miss. More people place too much time and energy on what they believe can’t be done. Which in turn produces that exact result.

As of this writing Mr. Musk’s newest endeavor has been making headlines. What was once thought decades away seems to be within arms reach. Not only are there now Tesla® charging stations for owners to replenish on their sojourn. It can rapidly charge giving owners virtually the same full tank refill in the span of a lunch break. (As opposed to overnight)

This not only makes driving a fully electric car feasible in today’s world. It takes it to another level. People who currently drive Tesla’s are creating by virtue of their purchases the framework and blueprint for what Billions upon Billions of both dollars and corporate bureaucracy have failed to do. Make totally electric ownership and drive-ability in real life both feasible, and enjoyable.

Vision and determination produces a Tesla Model S.
Billions, and Billions of dollars, subsidized incentives, corporate management focus group think produces, “The Volt®.” Need I say more?

Here’s an intricate part of the current Tesla story that in my view is quite salient. If you want to be part of a movement that doesn’t care what others think rather, one which allows you to participate in the both the dream or vision of the founder because you feel the same way. You buy a Tesla.  You want to drive a car that only you seem to be on road with? You buy a Volt.

It would appear Tesla drivers are in the same developmental stage as early Mac® users were. Tesla seems to be emulating the same aura of culture Apple® instilled in its users. Today’s Prius®, Volt, and others in my view represent the tech ghosts of IBM®,HP®, of the early tech revolution days. I don’t think this dynamic can be downplayed. I believe this is the same phenom that took place with Steve Jobs and Apple users.

People who aspire to create and bring their visions to light as entrepreneurs should pay very, very, very, (did I say very?) close attention to what is transpiring both within as well as the increasingly expanding parameters under the Tesla umbrella. If you think it’s just a car story – you’re missing the big picture in my view. This my fellow entrepreneurs is entrepreneurship 101 through 101.201 in real-time. (Yes, I truly believe it’s that important)

OK, so you’ve read this far thinking, “Blah, blah, blah, electric car. Who cares.” Well, let’s look at another instance where Mr. Musk didn’t care what others thought and went ahead bringing into fruition what many of us now take for granted. (Along with the countless other new start-ups that owe their opportunities to one of his creative visions.) PayPal®.

Is Ebay® worth using without PayPal? Of course we know how important it was to their success because they purchased it outright making Mr. Musk wealthy from its proceeds. I also believe PayPal is the most profitable side of the whole Ebay – PayPal mix. Without PayPal, Ebay is near useless is it not?

How many people do you think told or implied to Mr. Musk every time he mentioned he was trying to create this PayPal service that it wouldn’t work? How many times do you think he heard: “You’ll never compete with Mastercard®, or Visa®.” “The banks will never allow it,” and more.

However, it seems we are the benefactors of him not listening. Do the countless new credit card alternative acceptance companies such as Square®, and more see rapid industry and user adoption without the ground breaking success of PayPal? (Again, I believe these questions are very important to ponder if you’re an entrepreneur of any stripe.)

So, again, you’ve read this far thinking. blah, blah, blah, credit cards, electric cars. So what.” Fair enough. So how about we shoot for the moon in what it means to be true to your own thoughts and, not care what others think. Both literally, and figuratively. Another Musk vision: SpaceX®.

As one of my favorite comedians Joan Rivers would say, “Can we talk?”

Is there anything more awe-inspiring than the visions we hold in our minds as humans than our longing for space exploration? After all, it has yet to be expressed more nobly than by Captain James Tiberius Kirk – “Space. The final frontier…”

It boggles our minds because of what risks both financially as well as the human costs entailed. This is territory not for the faint of heart. Instinctively we know this. Along with that we have come to “think” it can only be achieved through the government apparatus. Only the government has the financial funds, manpower, training, infrastructure, and more to contemplate such things. It seems once again – that’s not what Elon Musk thinks.

Many including myself were heart-broken when it was decided NASA was shuttering the space program. No longer would it seem that we the United States would be at the forefront of space exploration. Now in order to get to the International Space Station the US needs to hitch a ride or else – we can’t go. (deplorable in my opinion)

For someone who still vividly remembers playing outside in a park with his friends then, out of the blue one of our mothers calling and rushing us into their living room (there were 8 to 10 of us if I remember) to watch Neil and Buzz touchdown – this was tragic news. I myself thought, without NASA how or if ever will it happen again? Again, Mr. Musk didn’t care what even people like myself thought.

Enter SpaceX. A space exploration and technological company founded by you know who. In May of 2012 SpaceX made history as the world’s first privately held company to send cargo to the International Space Station. (The day this happened I myself wrote and cheered its accomplishment)

Forget the electric car. Disregard all the alternative banking, credit payment system doom and gloom professors. What do you think the conversations were like when he first began discussing things such as, “I think I want to start a space company now that NASA thinks it’s too expensive.”

I’d wager dollars to doughnuts the first responses were not, “Great..Lets go – how much do you need?” I’ll contend at first it was much like all the others. “It’ll never work,” “Too expensive,” “Hey, maybe you better stick with that car thing first.” However, like the title to this column. He didn’t care what others thought. And, I thank him personally for it. Even though I could have easily been one of the doubters myself.

This is the true entrepreneur in action. Action almost larger than life. We have been the recipients of people with this type of vision before. Remembering Steve Jobs, and others before him is one thing. Watching it transpire once again in real-time across multiple platforms or venues differing in their markets at such extremes, is only rivaled in the chutzpah of the person needed to carry them into fruition.

Honestly, I am dazzled with his current accomplishments. Not to mention, he only turns 42 this June. What other things are left on his “to do list?” The possibilities, and the surprises seem worthy of anticipation in my opinion.

It’s been rumored that the screen portrayal of Tony Stark in the current Iron Man (Marvel Studios) incarnations is a reflection or adaptation of Elon Musk. Whether true or not doesn’t really matter. What really takes the cake in my book is the implications of something happening like this:

If a man encased in a metal suit was flying overhead on his own power. Then landed in Times Square in front of thousands. Lifted his face mask to reveal it was Elon Musk. There would be a great many of us impressed – however, we would not be surprised.

And that is something remarkable in itself indeed. We often say, “The sky’s the limit” when expressing what’s possible. However, for Elon Musk. It seems he thinks even bigger.

Why don’t you?

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr