Month: January 2014

Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: Not All Business Is Good Business.

One aspect of business that gets far too little attention is the need to cull the profitable business away from, then to jettison either the marginal or unprofitable customers. Yes – I’m in fact stating: You need to look at your current clients or customers and decide which you’re no longer going to keep. Regardless if they are paying, marginally profitable, or not.

I know this sounds like heresy in these economic times. However, if I’m going to sound heretical let me go all in and leave no doubt with the following: It’s exactly in times like these that demand this type of action and thought process!

You can’t be as servicing or as attentive as you want to be – to everyone. Or, much more importantly; as to what your best customers may need you to be, if you’re allocating valuable resources to marginal clients. If you want to move and grow your business, you should be looking to quite possibly crop 10% to 20% off your current business annually. (Personal services, i.e., consultants, financial planners, lawyers, accountants, et al usually fall on the higher side, where a retailer, i.e., grocer, clothing, furniture, etc. may fall to the lower)

Case Study: Part of my sales routine was to quote both current and prospective customers with pricing structures and specials for the upcoming week. This was a very time-consuming process along with time constraints and/or set appointments.  I had quite the amount of calls that needed to be made, and time was of the utmost.

I had some potentially very large customers that only placed minimal orders. They always “promised” they would buy more in the future. Yet, the smaller outfits were ordering 10 to 1 if not more week after week. The larger of the 2 sometimes took me twice as long if not longer to price out, for they sometimes required 100’s of items (or more) priced where the smaller would only ask 50 or so. Along with the caveat if there was not a change in price there was no need to quote. The other? Every week, every item, every line item, regardless. The larger client was capable of ordering millions of dollars of product from me easily but – never did. My smaller customers although 1/10th their size – always did.

I made the decision and told them I would no longer quote or call as I was doing. If they needed a certain quote on a specific item I would be happy to. However, I was just to busy and it hadn’t shown me any true benefits as far as added or increased business. Then I politely ended the call. (The people on the other end I knew were left slack-jawed for everyone they were dealing with begged for such a chance to quote. And here I was saying; thanks, but no thanks.

Needless to say, my customers noticed the subtle change in my ability to service their needs with more attentiveness. During this period not only did I see an increase in their orders, I had more time to effectively quote and seek out new business. As for those potentially larger customers that “promised” yet never delivered?

A few months went by when I received a call. It was the head of purchasing for one of my previously culled clients asking why I no longer would quote his underling. I reiterated my discussion when the phone seemed to go silent for days. He then stated: “You’re right. If you don’t mind, please resume calling and quoting. I’ll make some adjustments here on my end.” I said fair enough and resumed.

They moved from being a client not worth keeping, to one of our overall top grossing customers. And that would have never come to fruition if I hadn’t been willing to cut dead wood when it showed it needed to be cleared.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.

Audio Podcast from Mark’s “Prose Series”

The S.O.S. You Should Never Answer

This podcast and more available in iTunes®

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in association with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved

The quick hitting no holds barred series based on “Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!” Designed and delivered to be thought provoking and unique for its forget about edits and retakes format.

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

How To Structure Any Speech

One of the things I’ve been complemented with over my career, is I seem to have a knack for making the complicated simple or easier to understand. In that light I would like to share something many of you can use in either your everyday work environment or, if you’re ever in need to give that dreaded “speech” in front any group. (Quite possibly where your Mother might be in the audience also.)

Many of you will panic on what to say or how to say it and blah, blah, blah. Don’t worry, and what ever you do, don’t go buy the latest 12 new titles on “Speech giving 101.” Trust me when I say most of them will do you more harm than good.

First things first. Giving a speech looks easy however, it can be excruciatingly trying on one’s psyche or, play on your fears of anxiety if you let it. (Just do a search on the famous movie director Michael Bay to see this in real-time.)

The real reason for this I believe is too much reliance on one’s notes or, trying to read verbatim lengthy pages whether on paper or a teleprompter. Once you lose your place (and depending on length it’s nearly a given) a form of panic envelops most. There’s really no need for that if you just trust yourself, and trust your knowledge of what your stating. After that it’s just a matter of getting your thoughts into an understandable, linear flowing outline – and go.

Here’s a quick easy method I coined the 3-3-3 model. It goes like this:

Entire speech (60 minutes) 3 parts – Open – Body – Summation

Open (approximately 5 minutes)
Body (approximately 45 minutes)
Summation ( approximately 5 minutes)
Totaling 50 minutes

Body ( 3 Sub Topics approximately 15 minutes each)
Each sub topic ( 3 points each approximately 5 minutes each)

Example: 60 minute speech on Why Dogs – Not Cats – Or Why Not?

Open – 5 minutes on why you think this is relevant.
Then – the body 45 minutes (or evidence to support your thoughts)

  • Dogs can be trained – 5 minute point on training – 5 minute point on trainer – 5 minute point on leashes
  • Cats can’t be trained – 5 minute point – 5 minute point – 5 minute point
  • Why this maybe all wrong – 5 minute point – 5 minute point – 5 minute point

Summation – 5 minutes on what this means to both cats, dogs, and the owners that love both going forward.

If there’s any remaining time  – take a question or 2 if needed. If not say, “Thank you very much my name is ________ fill in the blank” and walk to the side of the stage. Done.

You can have all your bullet points placed neatly on an index card to keep you in check. You should be able to talk extemporaneously for 5 minutes at a time easily. (You do this in normal conversation) No need to write every word, just have your points and trust yourself.

If you’ve ended 5 or 10 minutes early yet stated everything you needed to say, and there were no questions, what ever you do don’t start trying to fill time. People will never hold it against you for finishing early but they’ll grow very tiresome of you if you go 1 minute too long.

If you break any speech down using this formula, you should be able to come up with a speech worthy of pleasing any Mom – anytime.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

You Can’t Binge Experience

Today one of the buzz-words used everywhere seems to be, “binge.” Everywhere from sitcoms to television dramas “binge” is the word.

Need to catch up on a series? Binge. Need to learn all there is about some formerly unknown face? Binge. Need to learn about a company or business executive? Binge. In other words, all one needs to do in today’s world of instant access to just about anything in order to “learn” about it, is to binge.

Yes, you may find a lot of information and consume it quickly with almost gluttonous intent. But (and its a very big but) that doesn’t translate or facilitate into what many believe…
That the gaining of knowledge alone can substitute as a gaining of knowledge via experience.

I see so many people today fall into the trap where they believe just because they have immersed themselves into a subject via the mere act of “binging” (regardless of topic) they believe they know all there is to know based on “volume” rather than experience. Only to then find themselves in situations they are inadequately trained for – or worse, unknowingly ignorant to the possible ramifications (good or bad) of the decisions and actions they must make.

Let me throw out a few examples to make my argument. (These are only to illustrate an analogy, nothing more.)
If you were confronted with a hostage situation and had to choose one officer over another where choice #1 was to send in an officer who never read a book on hostage negotiations. Yet, had successfully ended more than 5 episodes. Or ,would you send in choice #2 that was a rookie officer fresh from the academy, graduated with honors, and had read nearly every book on negotiations 101?

If you were confronted with a raging out of control fire where lives were trapped inside would you: Send in a firefighter who never read or attended a class on rescuing multiple victims simultaneously. Yet, had  personally rescued 12 lives in multiple fires. Or, the firefighter fresh out of school with this being their first encounter with an uncontainable blaze coupled with lives in imminent danger; yet, has read every book to date on search and rescue in a burning building?

I could post hundreds more of these types of analogies however, I believe my point is obvious. One may binge all they want on any subject matter yet that doesn’t mean it translates into instant or learned experience. Experience is experience. Period. A person who has gained true experience may binge as to immerse themselves further into their area of expertise and become wiser, better prepared, etc. The person without the hands on experience can’t do the same. Why?

It’s for this reason: The experienced eye can look through book based premises and assumptions with an understanding of what works in theory, and what works in practice. The book smart only knows what is in the book and what’s in the book may or may not only be inaccurate, it may even be hazardous to the reader.

This is where I see so many aspiring executives, budding entrepreneurs, and others wasting valuable time and energy. They are substituting the resource of gaining hands on experience (usually by avoidance or not engaging) via the act as to binge on a given topic, rather than doing what’s truly necessary.

Get out there and put what you currently have or know into motion and –  get on, with the getting on, of the matter.

You can learn, read, or binge on any subject you like. However, without gaining the most crucial element needed to help one become a leader or true entrepreneur; experience. You’ll be doing nothing more than the equivalent of someone at a discount, “All you can eat sushi buffet” restaurant.

They’ve read all the books stating sushi is wonderful, healthy, and delicious. However, only someone with experience knows “discount” and “sushi” in the same sentence is not a reason to binge. Rather, it means the exact opposite.

Think about it.

© 2014 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!)

I was just sent an article that was posted on Wired®. It seems my post on what I believe might be coming in regards to the idea of subscriptions and luxury was more on target than I first thought.

Here’s a very pointed statement from that article:
(link to original article here)

Internet Freedom Day: This Year We Go to War for Net Neutrality
By Marvin Ammori 01.18.14

“Because with the recent ruling, cable and phone companies like Verizon and AT&T now have the legal right to block any website, webpage, blog, video, web technology, app, cloud sync technology, or anything else running online through their pipes. Put another way, Comcast or Time Warner Cable can now block Netflix, BitTorrent, or even this article. They can choose to provide better service to some entities and not others, letting some websites load very, very slowly and others load instantly (for a fee!).”

As I wrote in my previous article:

“What if I can have all that access or benefits but under a branded pay for banner? One that’s decisively, or more importantly distinctively shows I have something, or better access to something – than someone else.

Hard to contemplate and more than improbable if by law every URL had to be treated equally. However, change that law as to invert it? Then contemplation turns into realization near instantaneously.”

It would seem my fear of sounding as if I was just throwing around hyperbole has been nullified.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

The Next Segment Of Luxury: Subscription Everything

If there’s one thing that will always be in fashion, or in vogue it’s this: Someone having something others don’t by one of two means – “in the know” or, they can afford it. Followed with the willingness to flaunt it.

Over the last decade or so brands have been the item du jure of this expression. Although having or using the “correct” branded item has always been sought since probably the cave days. Today we’ve seen just about everything that could have a brand – get a brand.

All one has to do is truly pay attention to what people are wearing or using, and you’ll see the branding everywhere. Yes I understand many are thinking right now, “well duh!” However, what I’m trying to express is when you really pay attention, really look for clues as if doing a science project, the amount of it and the relationship with the wearer or user is absolutely breath-taking. People it would seem have not only brushed aside, but rather – have eschewed their own singular identity for a culmination of brands as their identity.

So again is this a, “well duh” insight? It is if you don’t extrapolate where this phenom can move or morph to. If the basis for “branding” is formed from the tenons of having or using a product that is exclusionary by either price or knowledge, that would inherently suggest anything basically free or accessible to the masses isn’t worth branding or bragging about. Then as anything, that category will get overlooked until someone sees what others may be missing. (Yes, that’s an over simplification, but I’ll trust you get my point.)

So where would the next area of branding look if it were wanting to branch out? Another designer line of clothes? Car? Zip Code? Well, it could always add to, or improve a brand within a category. However, if you really wanted the explosive growth area that any self-respecting brand dreams of; it’s taking what once seemed worthless, and transforming it into something not only sought after, but has both exclusionary and aspirational characteristics contained as well.

Just look at previous everyday items for clues of this phenom. Can you say shoes? Handbags? Sunglasses? Computers? _______fill in the blank. (again either by price or “in the cool crowd”) Suddenly it seemed over night a great set of women’s shoes needed a red sole. A handbag now needed someone else’s initials to be sought after. A computer needed to have a fruit attached and so on.

So where could this next area or product category be? Maybe, its right under our very noses. (or fingertips might be a better example)
The entire web or internet as we now know it via the humble URL.
Let me explain…

The web and everything about it; what people have access to, the speed of that access, the curation of that information, along with the amount of it has been handed a serious new set of rules never before thought plausible. i.e., The web is (or will be) no longer an unenforceable, unrestricted vehicle in both information as well as speed.

For the first time the rules of the web as we have known it, have been inverted. i.e., The web and your access to it can be both restricted as far as what information, along with the speed delivered, with a now monetary enforceable pricing mechanism. It used to be if you wanted better, faster, more – you just bought the equipment you needed, hooked up, and you were off. Now? You still might need all that however, if you don’t pay or have the proper subscription it may not matter.

We live in a world currently under the guise that every URL (aka a web address) across the web is equal. That no longer is, or will be the case going forward. Depending on what today’s menu of search engine algorithmic criteria are ( and will change tomorrow) one may, or may not even wind up in the results. You can pay to be higher, i.e., sponsored ads. And, currently, more traffic means diddly. Just ask any SEO (search engine optimization) veterans.

Remember when the more traffic or search inquiries a URL received meant or implied a higher ranking given on a search page or inquiry? That’s been a misnomer for a while but, the vast majority of users have no idea.

How about just plain ole generic privacy? With all the new “privacy changes” and more happening on platforms such as, Facebook®, LinkedIn®, Google®, et al  or their products; how can one not consider deleting any and all accounts one may have with them? Unless you have to use them because they’re – free. (catch my drift?)

What if I can have all that access or benefits but under a branded pay for banner? One that’s decisively, or more importantly distinctively shows I have something, or better access to something – than someone else.

Hard to contemplate and more than improbable if by law every URL had to be treated equally. However, change that law as to invert it? Then contemplation turns into realization near instantaneously.

So where could all this be leading us, and why in the world did I use the word “luxury” in my opening line? It’s because of the ruling handed down this past week by the courts. Below is an excerpt from an article on Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality: What’s at stake and what comes next
By Cale Guthrie Weissman On January 16, 2014

“Earlier this week, a ruling from the DC Circuit federal appeals court was passed stating that the FCC could no longer regulate broadband Internet providers as if they were common carriers. In essence, this meant that Net Neutrality — the belief that all content diffused on the Internet must be treated equally — had been struck down.”
(Link to original article here)

So I’ll reiterate; what does all this mean? It means this: If content no longer must be treated equally, then ipso facto – one can now charge a premium (That’s enforceable! Remember that’s the big sea change here.) for not only what you get, but how much, and how fast. Think about the ramifications of that one revelation very carefully. It affects everything  you now know, or once took for granted, about anything and everything. And I mean everything!

Let me try to put this into an analogy of what I see on the coming horizon. Currently today’s social media darlings are based primarily on the assumption they’ll become profitable in the future based on advertising revenues. However, if ad revenues never materialize (which by all accounts they never do) how can these curators of information of any and all kinds make money?

In a world that’s no longer based on everything being equal, access will have its price, and that price will be a paid subscription. For if one no longer needs to treat every URL the same, by law, that means just as an advertiser needed to pay to get seen by the most eyes on a platform, so to will a URL. And if one can charge an access premium to a URL then exactly; who, what, and so much more will, or will not, be found or seen on the web as it currently stands?

The internet based on search engines as well as broadband providers can morph electronically into the same curation based models they decimated over the last decade: Brick and mortar businesses.

Hypothetically let me ask you this. Let’s say all you were allowed was to visit and shop at a Macy®’s department store. Then I suggested if you were bored with that choice just go on the web and search out other clothing brands. As you do what you’re not totally aware of is that this search only delivers (or shows) you the exact same brand URL’s in your results found in the store itself. Almost in the same order as if you were walking the aisles. So what have you gained?

Based on this ruling hypothetically, if those brands were chosen for what ever the criteria a search engine decides, based on how much it has to pay your broadband provider access to deliver that information to you. The results may be based on nothing other than your past search or buying habits, with those brands paying to be on that search – that paid the search engine – to pay the broadband provider – to then make it available to you.  As laughable as it may sound today. This ruling – opens that door. Think that has value to an advertiser?

Another is the amount of data you receive and how fast. Need a result quick? Maybe you need to pay more for that. Need more than only a limited amount of results? Again, maybe they’ll be a premium due for that also. Think of the “value” in selling that to an ad agency over some pop up.

With an ever more increasing disdain for intrusive ads popping in and off of one’s screens, if the suppliers of information can now charge extra for access and delivery? Just think about the implications. Want no ads? Sure, but (and its a very big but) you get limited access to X.Y. or Z.  Or, the results you get will probably be “paid” placed URL’s. (Can anyone say “native content advertising?) Want real information as opposed to Wiki? It’s all yours instantaneously and worthy of rigid scientific analysis with your paid subscription to _________fill in the blank.

Just one example of how deep and far-reaching the implications of all this goes is this: Why would any advertiser spend a penny of Facebook® or the like for an ad, when one can pay and have sole dominion via a search or subscription model?

Would you rather have full access to a free Wikipedia® if your child has a sudden ailment because it’s free with your service to Google? Or, would you pay to have let’s say Bing® as a paid subscription service if it comes with unlimited access to something like “www.Ask A Real Doctor” because only real doctors are allowed to post or approve text on the site?

Take away the theory that ads will supply the revenue of these platforms by allowing those very advertisers to move funds into what could possibly be the greatest bang for the buck customer interaction or engagement since the start of the web as we now know it, and $1 million dollar valuations seems too much for many of today’s Wall Street darlings let alone $40, $100, $200 Billion, and more.

The term “walled gardens” once attributed with distaste to companies such as Apple® and others might be just as brand centric and sought after as the very devices themselves. The world as we now know it could really change in ways unforeseen in shape and scope as smartphones and tablets themselves revolutionized everything digital. I think the implications are that great. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic. I truly believe the implications are staggering. Whether they turn out to be true is another matter.

I can just visualize the various commercials to accentuate all this:

Two people sitting at a desk or bar…
First person: Did you have a chance to look up that vacation area we overheard that couple talking about the other night? I couldn’t remember the name and it sounded great the way they were carrying on. But when I looked on-line I couldn’t find anything remotely near what they were talking about. I typed in what I thought was the name and where but still nothing. How about you?

Second Person: Oh yeah! I couldn’t remember it exactly either, but when I typed in what I vaguely remembered it popped right up. I couldn’t remember the name either but I guess I was close enough. They have everything there! Great shopping with designers like X,Y, and Z. Great restaurants, shows, and more. That place seems incredible! We should book something together with our spouses they’ll freak on how great the place is.

First person: Wait – what did you use for the name when you searched?
Second person: “vacation hot spot island paradise.” You?
First person: Same thing. Only all I saw were free Wi-fi addresses to use when on vacation, and liquor recipes for “island drinks of paradise.” Followed by cheap rates to motels with or without wi-fi hot spots.

Second person: Tell me, just how long are you going to keep acting like you’re 26 years old and get off your parents plan, and pay for your own? Or start realizing being cheap isn’t being frugal – you’re being left out. What good is gobs of free useless information? That’s why I use Bing-a-rooni. It may cost more but based on your latest “free” search on Google-riffic (or _______fill in the blank) you want a real vacation or know how to get free wi-fi cheap?

Fade to a logo followed with: Subscribe today at www… And join the rest of the adults. Corny? Yes. Plausible? Absolutely!

Who knows what, where, why, or how things transpire from here. However, what you thought you knew about the internet, branding, and their relationship to each other; as well as whom pays for what going forward just re-entered the great unknown in my view.

Yet if history is any guide. Once you allow anything to be “exclusionary” with a component for entrance to that club to be money:  Some, “gotta have brand” that people will pay for as to show they have it and you don’t will emerge – one way or another. And that changes everything.

Again!

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Answering A Yes and No Question

I was asked by a long time subscriber in reference to my latest series of posts, “Didn’t you once contribute to Forbes®?” Like I said in the headline, yes, but not to the magazine. Let me explain…

When I first retired I had decided to try my hand at putting thoughts to screen (aka, pen to paper). I wanted to also have those thoughts vetted while at the same time hear the opinions of others with similar business acumen. It was the beginning of the financial crisis or there about in 2007 and personally I was frustrated with the lack of both insight as well as true understanding of what was taking place throughout both financial markets as well as business itself.

Since yelling at the television had become not only boring, it seemed to have become the only way I was communicating or announcing my thoughts. (this is one of the reasons I am now so against the stylized idea most have of retirement, for this is what actually takes place more often than not, but I digress.) As I was looking for a true peer group where I might possibly hear or read some true insights from people actually in business whether at CEO or board level I stumbled upon Forbes.com…CEOnetwork®.

At the time this was a very exclusionary network. i.e., One couldn’t just “say” they were a CEO, they had to prove it to gain access to post. So diligent about keeping the standard of C level only participants I was not allowed full access till I sent them a copy of my articles of incorporation.

Personally I believed this was an important differentiation for that network. Nearly 99% of all so-called “business” sites are nothing more than glorified message boards where anyone and everyone not only post opinions, most of these opinions are self-evident to any business person they haven’t a clue of what it takes to be in business. Any true business person (especially C level) can’t be bothered with these, so when I found it, I thought this was a breath of fresh air.

I posted a few thoughts or articles and the debate was lively. Then what seemed like a month or two later I received notice the site was changing. I don’t remember the exact wording but from what I could garner at the time it was either discontinuing or something else. What ever the case, as I once knew it, was ceasing to exist.

Fair enough I thought, maybe it will reform into something even better, who knows. It has come back but for my take, not for the better. Now it’s basically the same as all the others.

I viewed it once over the last few years and that was enough for me, and I haven’t been back except for today. Now it seems dominated by all the other useless click bait trite I see everywhere. i.e., “10 Ways To Make Your Day The Best!” by Joe or Jane Schmoe ABC,DEFG,HIJK, LMNOP. “Entrepreneurs to the Top CEO’s”  It’s just another waste of time site now in my view.

This was when I recognized and decided I could care less about the once highly held brands. For I could feel in my gut, people who wanted real advice or insights would leave or shun those venues more and more over time. It seems once again I was correct. They may be growing, but they’re growing for all the wrong reasons.

Volume of eyeballs over the quality of eyeballs may work temporarily for short-term gains. However, CEO’s don’t want to read or listen to people posting insights that have no true understandings of what it takes to actually run a C level business. i.e., Payroll for 50, 100, 1000+ employees, tax implications, healthcare, union, non-union disputes or strikes. Capital investment, financing, and a myriad of others too numerous to list here. More than that what they really shun is the enumerated articles found across the web today designed to entice a “click.” “10 Ways to Make 10 Million!” etc.

I made the decision back then I could do – or be – one of two things. Try writing my insights and seeing if people found them useful while using myself as a gauge for others where “I not only say it, I did it, and do it. So…so can you!” Or, I could do this all for vanities sake and focus entirely on getting my name or articles into the established media channels. So I decided on the former and here I am.

Currently, I don’t use social media, I don’t tweet. I don’t do any of the so-called “must do’s” you’ll read in the enumerated articles across the web. i.e., “10 ways to get more viewers!” I don’t do comments, I don’t comment on other blogs, and more. Yet…

My articles have been in or referenced by some of the biggest web sites found across the globe. This blog is routinely read in over 60 countries; when I released my first book the documented results are comparable to many known “best seller” releases while being downloaded in over 30 countries the first 72 hours.

All with no PR, no ads, no nothing except word of mouth spread or sharing. With provable math comparable to any ratings agency, my work can be in front of 250,000 viewers or more, anywhere, anytime, around the globe. Again, all this while at a time where “social media” shill’s are stating email subscriptions are dying, this blog still adds to. (I have lost less than a handful over the past 5 years. To me that means a lot.)

It seems the more I stayed away from what everyone told me to do. The better I’ve done. However don’t get me wrong, there is a place for all the above.

Maybe someday in the future I might see things different because the truth be told: I’m just getting started.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Gauging The Gauges (Final Thoughts)

(Links to Part OneTwoThreeFour)

I started this series with the stated goal as to make not only entrepreneurs, or people with an entrepreneurial mindset rethink, or realign their thought processes. But more importantly; to get what I believe are far too few as to question exactly where, and what, true relevancy their data points provide.

Whether I’m speaking to a crowd or speaking with someone one on one, I have come to believe the most disrupted area regardless of the subject is this: It’s not for a lack of information, it’s the overload of useless information. Not only do many not know what they should pay attention to; rather, it’s what they should avoid altogether!

I found it quite humorous that during this week when I decided to make these arguments and push this point home nearly every example I opined has landed center stage across the media landscape the very same week as never before.

Suddenly Twitter®, China, the unemployment report (UE), and others were covered both in main stream media, as well as the financial, with an eye seemed stricken by jaundice. Suddenly this past week all the unicorns and rainbows were being questioned. For instance: When did (or has) the media ever questioned the impact of,  “good news” in the UE# going down? Suddenly everywhere good – was bad.

The real reason I believe is this: The report was so blatantly misleading, even a preschooler could see you can’t get 1+1=2 using their formula. Also it seems that suddenly China came into question across the media where even stories from George Soros and others are now questioning everything China. I thought we were told anyone questioning the China narrative of saving the world economy didn’t know what we were talking about? Looks like maybe we knew (or smelt) more than anyone thought.

Today’s issue at hand is this: Information is only that – information. It’s one thing to use information to gain an edge. However, if you don’t know what questions to ask about that information; it can turn that edge from a useful tool in hand – to a hand with an edge at your throat.

To be successful in this day and age as an entrepreneur where the web has not only obliterated information scarcity, it’s transformed it into information overload: Understanding what you need to pay attention to, as well as what not to – is just as imperative a skill as knowing whom too listen to, as well as, who not. Followed by – where to find it.

Just because someone’s on television, radio, or print means absolutely nothing in terms of credibility today as it did just 10 years ago. The sometimes illusion of credibility we bestow comes from the “legacy effect” where previously most figures in media had a near unquestionable authority, or credibility. i.e., Did we question Walter Cronkite’s sincerity? Or 60 Minutes® reporting?

Whether we should have doesn’t matter. Back then if it were stated by them we took it on faith it was accurate. If a person appeared on, with, or was even mentioned by them, we took it on face value there was some form of reputable vetting process going on behind the scenes for creditability while more often than not, there actually was. Today? I hope you see my point.

If you want a glaring example of this just look at the stories that can be found if you wish to look, where financial media personalities actually receive monetary bonuses from their networks for news or generating news that moves the financial markets. Can someone explain to me why this is a good thing? (Actually don’t. I mean it. Pleeeease – don’t!)

Forget financial how about just plain old media itself. At one time if one read it in Forbes®, The NY Times®, and more there was a certain sense of implied “excellence or content authority” awarded. Yet today?

With “native advertising” now the buzz phrase and all media desperately seeking dollars anyway they can garner it for their very survival – never mind relevance. Is it any wonder Steve Jobs insight just before he passed has more meaning today than when he first made the observation? (I’m paraphrasing) “What will be more important than the content of the future – will be editors. We need editorial more than ever.”

Honestly ask yourself: If it’s on television, radio, or print. Is it truly factual, credible, or relevant any longer? Or, is it just spin spun by whomever?  If it’s in the Times, does it mean what it once did? Forbes? My view is absolutely not. Today these publications are destroying their once highly held brand cache’ by allowing virtually anyone with a keyboard to contribute content. What’s more troubling is the way they are viewing the “editorial” process.

What is informative news, or insightful information you can act on if more and more of what you read is just a story that’s paid for, then placed as to look like real news? Can you always know what is insightful or truthful as opposed to just shilling? Welcome to the new world aka, “native advertising.” (for more on this subject I recommend beginning with some great insights written on this exact topic at PandoDaily.com)

So as I end this series what is it that I’m trying to say in the larger context? One person expressed: “For a person who’s in the motivation business, you sure don’t sound all that motivated about the future.” Actually nothing could be further from the truth. Besides, being motivated to pursue one’s goals based on seriousness and truth, trumps rah, rah, rah, along with unicorn and rainbow thinking. Just ask any former multilevel marketing participant.

In contrast to the sheer ridiculous readings and interpretations many are inferring from today’s gauges, or what many still regard as a “gauge.” I believe we are entering one of the greatest times in probably a generation or more where opportunities for real advancement, real growth, real wealth and riches are going to bare themselves in front of entrepreneurs that can see what everyone else is missing. Let me illustrate using one example.

If one were to take the UE# and use it at face value the way it has been presented both previously, as well as today by all the “intelligentsia.” Then use it as a gauge on what, where, or why to start a business or more. Those projections, formulations, and reasoning could end up being disastrous, or worse.

How does one contemplate moving, expanding, taking on more debt, or gearing up in the direction of supplying gadgets, do-dads, clothing, housing, and more based on these reduced roles of the unemployed? Just 5 years ago the number had some informative value. Today? It’s so adulterated if it were a movie it would need an X rating.

The Great Wayne Gretzky famously said (I’m paraphrasing): “I don’t go to where the puck is, I go to where it’s going to be.” Though many believe they are watching the proverbial puck (all the so-called “smart crowd”) I believe they’re oblivious to the fact they may be watching the wrong game!

This is precisely where: The understanding of conditions, not looking where everyone else is, reading information correctly, and verifying their accuracy or relevance, is what will both define, as well as make the average entrepreneur –  into the extraordinary.

You must not only know how to read the writing on the wall, you must also verify the message written is both intelligible, and actionable.

Not the equivalent of graffiti where people see what they want to see as if it were painted by Hermann Rorschach himself.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Gauging The Gauges (Part Four)

(Links to Part OneTwoThree )

If there’s one gauge a great many are convinced is “The” gauge as to whether or not a company, person, idea, or anything else is relevant, along with the equivalent powers of a sorcerers stone: It’s the phenom of social media. Along with the metrics used by the companies responsible for it.

This is where I believe many in the end will find not only was it never as it seemed or claimed. It will make the term, “smoke and mirrors” blush.

Not only are the giants like Facebook® and others showing underlying issues, the ancillary platforms such as Twitter®, LinkedIn® and more seem to be having difficulty in delivering (or describing) all that “value” promised to both investors or advertisers. However what seems glaringly obvious to my ear is the near exclusionary lack of focus for pleasing – the customer.

To give you some indication of just how removed from the end-user experience I believe these social darlings to be, I sat here for minutes debating with myself whether using the term “customer” above would be inferred as I meant it because: who really is “The customer” in the social space?

When I state “customer” do you know definitively whom I mean? Is it the user as in Dick or Jane posting? (Which is who I wanted to show) Or, is it the big data purchaser, advertising company, or Wall Street? Just having that pause as in needing to actually think or choose which, should be a tell-tale sign to anyone truly looking for understanding of the whole social space, along with its value as an indicator.

Currently all that matters across this spectrum is having the proper story to tell (eyeballs for ad dollars) as to please (or quell) Wall Street in justifying current outrageous market caps and stock prices.

When a firm needs, or feels the need, to place Wall Street concerns over their customers user experience or privacy concerns, you may have a business model, but that model is destined for failure. Time is all that’s needed to bring on the inevitable. Sooner or later – you’ll run out of it.

If this business model is the end all be all, shouldn’t we all be, “Liking” – “You’ve got mail?”

How about Twitter™. The now newest, greatest, revolutionary new platform to come along since sliced..I mean FB. In under 3 months since its IPO (initial public offering) its jumped from the hopes of making money, to a company worth some $40 BILLION dollars. (remember it currently doesn’t make a profit)

If one listens carefully, they now seem to be desperately jaw boning any and all types of advertising plans to justify why all this new-found wealth (share prices) needs to remain there in this increasingly nervous market.

This may be more difficult than first imagined with it being reported across the media space, the tweeters themselves are expressing down right contention to any so-called advertising pushed into their tweets. If that’s true where’s the model to support $10 Billion let alone $40 Billion?

Problem with all this is the very real fact that all the “free money” being pumped into the markets fueling speculation by investment funds from the Federal Reserve is suddenly being reduced. All these speculative bets fueled by “hot money” will be the first to suffer à la 1990’s style. And anyone with any financial acumen knows it.

I have stated for years: “The only ones making money from social media, are the ones selling people the idea they need social media.”

Just look to, or remember all those stories that are consistently thrown across the financial media and others. All those buzz terms like: “user generation, followers, likes, connections,” and more? All touted as “The” metrics of relevancy for anyone using or purchasing. Now? Seems what’s needed for tangible, reliable, clear metrics is moving from the asking stage – to the demanding stage.

Advertisers and users want to know exactly what they are getting. As well as – what they’re not. Just a few years ago that was looked upon as only something the “uniformed” would ask. One had to just have “faith” in all these concepts for it was such a new industry. Well – not anymore.

One of the fastest growing sectors within social media oddly enough are companies whose sole purpose is to prove all those ads the social media giants say is being seen by real people actually are. Along with verifying (or trying to) legitimate users as opposed to fake.
What a nerve, where’s the trust I say! Oh the humanity!

Don’t get me wrong, social has its place. However, that place must be put into its proper context. Along with real, understandable, verifiable metrics to warrant the allocation of real money.

Just remember this if nothing else: As of this writing, I know of no bank that accepts, “likes, followers,” et al as payment, deposit, or legal tender to pay the mortgage. Period. And what shouldn’t be lost on this is neither do these companies.

Yet, if you would like to purchase a “Like,” well, you can buy them for pennies by the thousand. Need Twitter followers? Again, no problem – about $10 per thousand. Or, if you need that big time, look like your someone important – you can get a million, for around $600.00.
You can read a ZeroHedge™ condensed view on the latest from an AP® article here.

It seems all these business models based on anything and everything advertiser related will be coming under even more scrutiny. It seems “big media” may all of a sudden be realizing their getting smoked by these new kids mirroring or taking a page from their old tactics.

With such revelations now being reported, exactly what takes place when “big advertising” no longer accepts social medias metrics?
Ad placements and revenue allocations are based on these very (now highly questionable) metrics they’ve been touting or using as to bludgeon their competition in enticing ad dollars away from them, and into their coffers.

They’re not alone in questioning current models, IPO’s, acquisitions, and more. It seems since we are in this new blood chilling climate, aka “QE tapering.” The very crowd that cheered the cheers the past 5 years, is now pondering the “brilliance” of their earlier calls. Along with a more pointed glare towards the “brilliance” of some others. Just look at what was shown and hailed as evidence to support the brilliance or prowess of these titans of social.

Another gotta have company of social media? Well Instagram® was bought by Facebook for $1 Billion because? Well, I guess you gotta have it so no one else can. Right? So scared it seemed that users were leaving FB for Instagram the need became self-evident. Or, so was reported.

What else has been reported? Well, its been stated by reputable sources after the purchase of Instagram they began losing nearly half their daily users per month over a privacy backlash, a fury over ad placements, and more. Hmmmm.

So, what is the touch stone of all social media giants to do with not only a diminishing base on its newly acquired platform but, is once again losing the narrative? (the narrative, they are the model because, they are FB)

Well don’t spend another billion dollars. Go full-bore in offering $3 BILLION for a company that seems even more implausible to turn a profit based on logical (verifiable) metrics: Snapchat™.

All I’m going to say on the matter is this: Tell me, in this day and age of the NSA and all that suggests. Does anyone believe there’s going to be “no record” of your snap or chat? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn and I’m prepared to make a deal if you act today, and you’ve got cash. (Sorry no “Likes” regardless how many)

Yet, the media were all abuzz regarding the prowess of the Facebook hierarchy in offering such a buy out and the implications for growth. All this backed by the astonishingly obscene disregard for cash money shown in the face of – well – cash money by the CEO of Snapchat.
Again in Groupon like fashion – he turned down the offer.
(I’m still shaking my head in disbelief as I’m typing this)

The so-called “smart crowd” across the financial media landscape hailed both sides for prowess and brilliance. But – something happened.

It seems before the ink was even dry on the rejection letter Snapchat and its reason for existence, i.e., privacy without a trace. Was hacked and made public via a data breach exposing if not all nearly all its users private information. What could possibly top such an awkward embarrassing (along with devastating) issue to also be revealed?
Seems they knew about the possible threat and took it as, no great threat. I’ll bet they wish that story had gone “poof” like their products were supposed to.

Did I also mention FB is currently denying or countering reports teenagers don’t like using them any longer? Funny to have to defend something which only yesterday was a given this demographic would grow ad infinitum. But hey, it’s not like the business model was based on that demo right? Wait…

Now sure, I’ve thrown a lot at this space and some of the largest players involved here. And yes, maybe I could have cut this article in half. However, I thought it was far more important to bring back into light a couple of scenarios within a sector for which there are too many people running around seemingly trying to shut anyone down or brush them off as nay-sayers who questions their story, metrics, or anything else in this space.

I also believe social media is in danger of ruining itself by its own hand by the outrageous over-promising, and under delivering taking place by the very companies stressing why, “it’s different this time.” Again, it sure sounds a whole lot like, and looks a whole lot like the 90’s to my eye.

The entire social media space I believe can become something greater and better for everyone going forward. But only if everyone dumps the unicorns and rainbow treatment – and gets serious about where it goes from here.

It’s both fair, as well as prudent, to understand and question everything – and anything – in this space. Even though you may be looked at as some “doubting Thomas” or worse, some “social illiterate.” For if you’re going to put both your hard-earned money,  as well as your time, and more importantly, reputation into this space. Understanding these gauges along with the ability to read them correctly, then use them accordingly isn’t heresy. It’s called business.

And being an entrepreneur should demand you treat them as such.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr