Taupe: It’s Not Just For The Oval Office Anymore

Whether it’s politics or business one thing remains the same: if you are designated or perceived as the leader, everything you say or do is viewed with an eye searching for obvious and hidden meanings. While at the same time the higher the level or more commanding the position, that search goes from the naked eye to one looking via an electron microscope.

Words matter, the way they are said can matter even more, yet what is just as important is the posture, and yes – that can include even your choice of attire.

Leadership can be very symbolic in its application for consumption. We hear all the time the running line “they wrap themselves in the flag” and so forth to describe politicians and others. So is it any wonder that when the leader of the free world takes to the podium during what by all credible standards is a world on the edge of unrest shows up wearing not the traditional dark suit and red or blue tie but – light tan, people from all walks say, “What the ____ is up with that?”

The reaction was near instantaneous across social media channels. The knee jerk over whelming first responses were (to be kind) a projection of weakness. The contrast between the surrounding stage set used in the press room and the tan suit was glaring. So much and so out-of-place did it seem that one couldn’t help to think of anything else but, why?  Was this just some fashion faux pas? Personally I don’t think so.

If people will remember one of the first highly visible changes of note made for all the world to take notice, was the complete gelding of the oval office and all its symbolic tones of color with a complete overhaul to neutral. i.e., Taupe.

It can’t be underestimated just how much of a message is being intentionally sent when one of the first acts is to take what is considered the most powerful and important office in the world, and completely change or strip away any essence of it and replace it with muted tones of taupe.

The oval office today is now a more neutered, bland, unappealing a washed in hotel ballroom-esque neutral tones of beige. It’s not what many are accustomed to remembering.

So bland is the office today that it seems we never see the president speak from it. In nearly 6 years I can only recall one. Taupe doesn’t make for good television, but the symbolic nature for people who are received in that office would be overwhelmingly obvious. The new red white and blue – is taupe.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this administration or not doesn’t matter. I’m not discussing policy here. What I am talking about applies to any and all leadership.

Symbolism matters, especially when you’re at the highest of levels trying to project or convey messages across oceans and cultures. And what I’m trying to convey is just my observations, for I’m in the “leadership” business per se.

When businesses or executives find themselves unable to move their companies or people in the direction they want more often than not it boils right down to the what, and how the leader of that organization is presenting themselves, and what mixed messages he/she are sending. Even if the company has thousands of people. The leader is the avatar, and their public behavior (good or bad) is what will be amplified by the ranks. Period.

The issue at hand is when this messaging gets mixed, or in other words, the very people you think know what you mean – take it as the opposite.

What makes matters even worse is when people who you believe won’t even notice , or you’ve overlooked their interpretation of it all together in your calculus amplify the worst of intended meanings. i.e., Not only did your intended audience read you wrong, but so too did everyone else with even more disdain.

Currently we have Russia by all accounts invading and engaging in real warfare with Ukraine. Add to this the threats from ISIS. (or ISIL if you prefer) China flexing its military in a thumbing of the nose fashion with air to air engagements with war planes along with telegraphed over tones of discontent with once seemingly undisputed areas of territory. (the islands near Japan and others) The ongoing and ever increasingly volatile Israel/Hamas engagement. Along with the myriad of other ongoing issues. e.g., cyber attacks, U.S. border challenges, civil unrest, just to name a few.

This is where leaders of any stripe need to show and convey the message that they are either in control, or project an image of that control via words or symbolism. And on the world stage – every detail matters and conveys a message. And, this is where academia (or academics) get it wrong all the time.

They play or convey their message as if only the people watching are the people they are trying to trying to speak to. They are stunningly tone-deaf and usually blindsided by responses to their messaging because they can’t see past their own noses. (just look to any Federal Reserve explanation of monetary policy as a reference)

I could be wrong but unlike most I don’t feel the donning of that taupe suit was a fashion faux pas. I believe it was a deliberate act for symbolic effect to telegraph a message they want remembered by whomever they were trying to reach.

From my way of thinking it fits if you look at it through what words or messaging accompanied it. Words and tones such as (I’m paraphrasing) “We have yet to define a strategy, Congress will be involved and they’re not due back till next week, we’re not sure if that is true,” and so on.

With the United States on the eve of a major holiday I believe a signal was trying to be sent that resembled,” Hey, we’re not going to do anything provocative, remember I’m/we’re the guy’s that toned down the oval office, remember? It’s the same color as this suit, remember? I want to assure you we’re not going to do anything provocative during this long weekend, and we want to make sure you remember we want to “talk first.” Remember?

This is the reason why I feel the color of choice for that press conference was taupe. (or subdued shades of beige if you prefer) It was sending a visual cue to all that we are not fiercely red, white, and blue. We are taupe. Just look at our most important room of honor and power to back this up was the messaging being conveyed in my opinion.

The real issue and problem with this messaging is if the people who it was intended to reach (i.e., other world leaders) receive it and view it the same way as the people the president represents. As “weak and embarrassing.”

Agree or not with the policies, but the decision for that suit in my opinion was anything but a faux pas, it was intentional.

What really matters in the end will be just how much of an error in judgment it turns out to be. For all our sakes, I hope it winds up to be no more than a detail on a Joan Rivers Fashion Police™ tape.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Sirius™ Mixed Messaging

Advertising and all it entails is a study in alchemy worth far more if unlocked than turning lead into gold if it can be repeated and applied successfully over and over again. You can only turn so much lead into gold until the gold would actually begin losing its value. (if it’s no longer rare its worth about as much as lead is it not?) However, if one could turn every advertising campaign into a world phenom pushing sales into the stratosphere no matter what the product or service, one might say that’s a process worth far more than the Sorcerer’s stone. Yet, what can turn a potentially golden opportunity into a lead balloon is advertising that not only misses the mark, it has the ability to sink a campaign faster than a stone thrown into the water. Hence, I give you today’s example – XM Sirius Radio™.

I have some background in advertising so it’s not as if I’m just criticizing for the sake of it. I look at all advertising through an eye as to see just how, and why, a certain commercial is formatted. Who is the audience they’re trying to reach? Why this vehicle? etc., etc. So I was a little taken back when for what seemed the 100th incarnation of “free service” for the satellite radio company came across my screen.

Here’s my take away and why I thought it was absolutely useless.

The commercial shows people either solo or in a family situation in their cars where they suddenly notice the satellite service is on. Then all happiness breaks out. Shouts of “yeah!” Or other expressed emotions of “all right this is great!” Great feelings of adulation was expressed by all. It is apparently a good time to be alive because, I guess,  until that moment – it was impossible to ever experience such joy in the car prior unless the satellite radio was on. Ohhhhh…Kayyyyyyyyy….

And here’s the rub: The cost of satellite radio for all intents and purposes is either in line, if not less per month than what many people (who are the target audience) spend for just one gourmet coffee concoction a day! And yet, the commercial sets up the argument unless it’s on for free they don’t use it. They know it’s there, they know how to activate it – but don’t or won’t for even the equivalent of a basic throw away item. And yet, if it’s on? Let the good time roll and fun times be had by all!

I’ll say it again: They know they have it in their car (or they would not know that it was even turned on) all the while not only do they see it, but they interact with it via the same user interface they use daily for terrestrial. And yet the commercial shows they obviously don’t or won’t spend a nickel to use the service – unless it’s free. Again, they show them experiencing great fun and joy. And for less than they spend on a gourmet coffee it’s obvious – they’d rather leave it disconnected. What a waste of advertising dollars in my view.

This ad campaign was obviously sold to executives within the company who have no clue about the value of their product from the customer’s side. This is what “they” think a customer would or should react. Not the other way around. This has all the hallmarks of that classic example used ad nauseam where the money is spent trying to convince everyone their dog food is great – yet the dogs won’t go near it.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

All thoughts for gainful pursuits or quests usually begin with a lone person sitting by themselves thinking about what to do, or not. What to try, or not. Then usually rounded off with: Why?

When the answers to one’s questions just don’t seem to be forth coming, or some form of frustration keeps getting in the way of a resolute answer to work with. Try thinking what, or where, or of how someone else may look at the same issue. Why not imagine how your questions would be answered if you had the ability to present them to Caesar, or Hannibal, or Alexander, or _________(fill in the blank)?

The thinking or the “act” itself is the same for all and has been the same since time in memorial. There is no difference for you, and the great that have gone before you other than: They are they, and you are you. But the thought, the decision to move, regardless of stature is where you are no different from them. They are you – and you are them.

If you were to stand on a beach gazing at the horizon, the only difference between you and those brave adventurers preceding you is you know there’s not a cliff beyond. The one’s whose name we remember looked out and saw the same view yet did not know. Yet sailed anyways!

How do you think they would answer some of the questions that are holding you back? And what’s probably even more important…

Do you really want to know?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Answering Some Questions

One of the most frequent questions we get about Mark’s blog falls around this question: “95 countries? C’mon, really?” And sometimes it’s asked like this: “95 countries? What – are counting spammers too?!” Or the inevitable: “You mean to tell me Mark’s blog is translated into countless languages? That sounds a little far fetched or at the least – exaggerated.” What many forget (and it’s very easily understood as to why) English is the predominant language used in and for business around the world. The higher one moves and is involved in the business structure globally the more one will find English as the common business language, and many are extraordinarily fluent.

Mark will be the first to say these and more are all fair questions. And as many of you that have been following him or his writings for a while know, he prefers to use himself whenever possible as the exemplar (or guinea pig) in most examples. So what we did was put together an info-graph of what traffic on the blog looks like at any given time. Below what you’ll see is what an average day (covering about 2 weeks,) an average week, and an average month. These aren’t cherry picked, these are roughly over the last 30 to 60 days.

Some might think “Huh, but why no visitor count? What are you trying to hide?” Again as Mark would say, “Fair question.” and I asked him if I should and here’s the response: “Putting a number means absolutely nothing. The best number for anyone who seriously wants to interpret reach or impact would be to think of every visit as only 1 rather than 100, or 1000, or 1,000,000. The number is irrelevant. Those concerned with only a number more often than not aren’t really interested in the “numbers,” for again they truly are irrelevant. Many times what these people are actually doing is trying to justify or reconcile themselves for their own lack luster performance on some social media site. This is the crowd that believes “likes” and the like means money in the bank. You won’t convince them otherwise and I’ve long ago stopped trying.”

So for the many of those that have asked here is that graphic and one last note: As of today, it’s actually over 100.


As always, thanks to all new and returning visitors to the blog. For without you – there’s no need for us.

V.V. StreetCry Media

© 2014

Amazon vs Hachette: And Why An Axe May Beat A Hammer

For those not up to speed on the war of words (quite literally) between Amazon™ and Hachette™, it basically revolves around one central theme: Amazon believes a price should be X, and Hachette believes it should be Y. So the question everyone is asking is, “Who’s right?” In my view that’s the wrong question to even begin with.

The reason being is this (and I’m not trying to be coy) both are correct if you understand what the real question and answer should be, and that is: Whomever owns the product owns the right to price. Whomever owns the distribution point (or the store) owns the right to carry it or not. Period.

For those who want to disagree you need look no further for a clear example of this than Apple™.

A distributor and a producer can agree to disagree on what their respective businesses should make in profit, but a distributor is in the distribution business, not the creation of product business. (Regardless if they create their own product within that very same business.) Their models, their strategies, their world view as distributors is not the same as what the producer or creator of a said products business model or priorities are – no matter how much they say, nor how broken they believe them to be.

There also lies within this great debate one of the greatest conundrums that no one (and I mean no one) is addressing. As broken as the publishing business model is debated and pointed to as the broken model of models, I ask: and Amazon’s model is perfection? Hardly.

I’ll follow that statement with this: It might be even more broken and in need of restructure more than the publishing industry. (Yes, I did just make that statement.)

Why would I say such a thing you’re asking? Easy: Let’s not forget Amazon has still yet to prove it can make or turn a profit worthy of its stock valuation. And that question is still up for grabs even though it just celebrated its 20th year since founded.

Some are asking why is this happening to begin with, along with why now? Many thought or believed Amazon was the greatest friend of book publishers, authors and more.

Yes they were, but as I alluded to earlier I believe something has changed in Amazon’s business model that now needs correcting. Something most just turned a blind eye towards as if it would never need to be addressed in the future. i.e., Amazon needs to start turning real profits in order to convince Wall Street that their investment in this retail experiment can actually pay dividends or profits which can be returned to share holders in the future. That future – is now here.

In my view this is just another one of the realizations I’ve warned about rearing its ugly head: Without the Federal Reserves QE pumping and the spigot almost closed, the once hot money now chases cold hard facts. i.e., “Show us the money!” If not – the hot stories will begin to get the cold shoulder, and the once darlings of Wall Street are not only far from immune –  they may have bulls-eyes painted on their backs. (Do you stay in Amazon? Or, do you move to let’s say the next greatest of the same story as in Alibaba’s IPO?)

For all intents and purposes Amazon is still “an experiment” in online retailing. And Wall Street is becoming increasingly incessant on wanting many of the “old” questions answered since the Federal Reserve has been turning off the spigot of free speculation money.

And the question that hangs over Amazon like the sword of Damocles is: Will they ever make money? Or, is this the best it gets?

One needs only look at a stock chart and notice the eery timing coincidence of its descending share price and the announcement that the Federal Reserve was actually serious in reducing the QE flow of free cash.

Remember, for as large and encompassing as Amazon is with all the wonderful things it can and has done to make shopping better; it can only last so long before selling at a loss catches up with it. And that has only been made possible as Wall Street stays committed to the story that “someday” Amazon will make money to justify their investment.

Without that narrative in place and believed, Amazon as we know it changes. Again getting back to “why this is all happening” my view and belief is that the real issue here for Amazon is: Many (including possibly Amazon itself) have forgotten it’s not 1999 anymore.

Just a scant 15 years ago the internet and everything we now take for granted was almost unimaginable. If you were placed in hibernation then only to wake now it would be the equivalent of being a Quaker suddenly transported to the deck of the Enterprise.

Smart phones alone are only 8 years old and the Blackberry™ (a what?) was at the time a marvel of marvels. Today? What is the same is Amazon’s business model. i.e., Sell at break even if not a loss, for as long as it can till they are the dominant (if not only) choice.

The “for as long as it can” part of that statement is what I believe is now jeopardizing that model. Amazon is still if not more convenient as ever as a first go to place to check prices and more. But (and it’s a very big but) it is far from the absolute price dominator on all items it was in respect to just 4 or 5 years ago.

You can buy securely, and find alternatives in about 2 keystrokes today from some of the very retailers Amazon was handily decimating earlier. Many have adjusted their own strategies and are actually beating them at their own game. Not on everything, but in enough places and in enough volume to cause significant concern for the once unquestioned king of margin reduction.

So in getting back to this debate let’s focus and use what’s being argued that currently has to do with eBooks and authors. (putting aside the ever-growing Disney® contention)

Authors create the content to be sold. Amazon distributes that content. But without Amazon authors can still create, still make product available, still have fans, still have sought after products. Amazon? Without authors – they are empty shelves whether tangible or virtual.

Adding more confusion to the mix is the cohort of authors demanding theirs, as well as other publishers, “should just suck it up and stop being greedy.” I can’t help but wonder: Where was the outcry when the price of Prime™ membership increased?

For all intents and purposes, that increase on a customer that only purchased eBooks and didn’t use any other service or purchased an item (for what ever the reason) over a year would be a 100% windfall of net profit to Amazon – not to any authors.

Would it have been “fair” for the publishing industry to argue that increase in price and profit should be distributed how they saw fit? How about the same argument reversed? i.e., The increase in your Prime membership is too much and will drive down customer participation getting less eBooks into customers hands.

Based on Amazon’s own argument – they had every right (if not even more so) to make it. For after all – they actually represented the product and authors.

What is also quite instructive (and much to my amazement) is the very public dealing with customers, authors, and the publishing industry. Not only is this in full view, but rather the distributor is inviting public participation into what is truly a pure business/profit argument.

Even more amazing to me is the lack of, if not deafening silence of what should be the very loudest vocal group of all: The competition!

This alone shows me how hunkered down, scared, lack of strategic vision (just to name a few) many of the businesses that were decimated by the Amazon model have become.

If I were the CEO or the head of sales/marketing let’s say of Barnes and Noble™, I would have a team of the best in advertising whether within my structure or hired out and making ad buys hand over fist and more using this public discourse as fuel why customers could get what they need right where they used to get it – with me or my store.

I also would have my purchasing, author relations, and other departments (as well as myself) on the phones, on planes, on what ever it took and start making deals. And I mean deals using this as a vehicle to cut once unimaginable deals where before they might have never been listened to. But now? All ears would be open.

However, what has been the response? (Insert chirping cricket sound here)

Personally these once formidable competitors are acting like the sheep they’ve become. (i.e., Book retailers of any sort, but not limited to them in isolation either.)

What an opportunity being lost for businesses that relish competition seriously. Here they have an opportunity to push back being handed to them on a silver platter by the very competitor they see as a nemesis, free of charge and – with free shipping. Absolutely amazing to anyone with business sense.

Remember: For as large, dominating, along with great service and free shipping. If you want let’s say Malcolm Gladwell’s latest work you’re not going to go to an empty slot and say, “Oh well, I’ll just buy Michael Sadwell’s latest. They’re probably the same seeing they’re in the same section.” Same thing for a Steven King novel.

Yet, the way this argument is playing out by both Amazon as well as the authors siding with them, one would think Amazon was “the only” place where one could by them.

As I alluded to earlier, if you listened to the deafening silence coming from Amazon’s competitors, it’s easy to believe that to be true. (Again just on the sole issue in a lack of a cohesive, strategic response that has been afforded them via this fight, I am still in absolute total amazement and bewilderment.)

The internet and buying via retail through it too say “has changed” since 1999 is of course an understatement. But, what seems oblivious to all players is Amazon today is more in the camp of “habitual” or “convenience” purchasing rather than what it was back in the early ’00’s where it was truly – in a league of its own with nearly no alternative.

Today there is not the hesitancy to purchase online at other places. As a matter of fact, you can find many items cheaper than Amazon with just as good of an experience from online retailers that have upped their games and learned how to use e-commerce far more effectively than they were just 5 years ago.

Credit card processing, checkout, customer service, and yes – prices can be found that are rivaling Amazon at their own game in many areas.

What might be more at stake and where I feel is the most important area to watch is if in fact Hachette holds firm, refuses to capitulate, and pulls its products or services out from Amazon. As I’ve said over, and over, Whether you agree with one side or the other, the fact remains – Hachette, and their respective authors own the material.

If they decide to pull while at the same time have the guts to increase the retail price of their offerings and distributing them via a more friendly vendor: it may be the first crack in the armor that Amazon has yet to ever face.

Remember: A customer not only can, but will go somewhere else and actually pay more because: The product has value, is worth it, and they want it. Now.

This is the true model that many have forgotten. And no one has forgotten it more than the publishing industry itself. If they can get back to understanding and relating to that basic fundamental principle – the publishing industry model can fix itself.

The reason they’re both in such straits is one forgot, while the other is forgetting exactly what business they are truly in. One business creates the product, the other distributes. The cost and business of creation is not the same as the cost of distribution. For if that were the case, why is there such a thing as copyright?

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Why It’s All Worth It

Presenting in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC
Presenting in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

Last week I gave a presentation in the boardroom at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center. This facility is one of the most vibrant as well as the largest of its kind in the country. At the event I wanted to push a few points that I’m defining in my upcoming book.

When you’re trying to convince or put forth ideas you never know what or if

Presenting at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC
Presenting at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center /photo courtesy of DEC

your message is getting through. Entrepreneurs are in my humble opinion the “Special Forces” of the business world. They are the elite of business and they should be proud that they are. I also made the statement: “There is nothing wrong with the economy. The only thing wrong is your relationship too it. The economy is, what ever it is, at any point in time. How you work in relationship too it – is all that matters. You have to be fearless in defining and stating your value proposition to people or businesses you can help with fearless abandonment!” After that statement you could hear a pin drop. Right there I was a little concerned that maybe I pushed too hard, but then again, these are entrepreneurs. That alone proves on its own merit they don’t need to be coddled. They’re looking for solid information they can use. If it didn’t resonate – that’s up to them to decide, they’re far from needing hands held.

Then later when I returned home I received the following message from an attendee:

“Although I congratulated you after you spoke yesterday at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center, I wanted to let you know again how much your message was appreciated! You were terrific!

Your consistent point about the importance of being fearless was precisely what I needed to hear as I move forward in my business!

Please let me know when you are speaking again in Dublin.

Many, many thanks for your inspiring words!” – A.R.

Entrepreneurs facing the challenges in today’s business climate are more than eager and are ready, willing, and able to move more now than ever before. For it’s in the worst, most struggling of times entrepreneurs are at their best. Because if everything was smooth sailing with rubber stamped meetings and projections – the bureaucracy of management for managements sake would forever rein supreme.

Meeting with all these entrepreneurs makes everything I’m involved in worth while.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

If Not Trusting This Market Makes Me An Idiot: Then Call Me Crazy!

I was left slack-jawed as I listened to an interview on financial media between the host and guest. I have always enjoyed as well as respected the host even though many times I may totally disagree. However, as for the guest being interviewed, not only did I disagree: I lost quite a bit of respect for.

During the interview the questions were posed as to why people (investors et al) harbor these feelings of angst as to whether or not they should get in, get out, etc,, etc. The guest then went on to use data points, math, trend references, and any other metric available within a snake oil sales bag as to prove his point: Where people not believing in this market rally along with those who’ve not participated are, (and I quote) “Idiots.”

I have only one answer to that statement: What you’ve just demonstrated is exactly why people with more than half a brain aren’t buying your message: You are insulting their/our intelligence.

Over and over again data samples were used as to fortify the argument why it is not only perfectly logical to be at heights never before seen in the history of the financial markets, but we’re here based on the sound argument of earnings and profits. (right here I nearly lost my coffee!)

So good are these earnings it was noted, “The analysts had to revise their numbers up!” This was stated as ipso facto the financial markets are ready to power on even higher.

I’m sorry, but I’m a businessman, not a “Wall Street-er.” And I know first hand: Data points, trend-lines, projections, extrapolations, and more can be made to look and sound more in line with watching a fairytale presentation about unicorns and rainbows. Add to this from actual experience and knowledge most don’t (or wont) stand up to the first truly hard reality based objective analysis poked anywhere deeper than superficial presentations and analysis.

When asked to define who constitutes the “Idiots,” the reply came back (I’m paraphrasing but not by much if at all) “The people who are giving into their worst human instincts allowing their emotions to control their perspectives and attitudes their comments and their portfolio are ignoring the data.”

No, we are not ignoring the data. We understand the what, where, and how the data that you are providing as proof positive is being created and cherry picked.

What’s glaringly obvious to anyone with any common sense is that all the data as to back up the position by the so-called “smart crowd” that it isn’t the Federal Reserve’s intervention moving this market willfully omits: None of their historic data contains the Fed., its direct intervention of balance sheet purchasing within the markets of today! I mean seriously – we’re the “idiots?”

What’s being completely ignored via the data is that you believe we are idiots for knowing the difference. It would seem we as investors, business people, entrepreneurs, mom or pops are looked upon as just not being able to understand fairy tales and fables. The issue for Wall Street is many of us are a lot smarter than they give us credit for.

I know it’s only in a Wall Street brokers office where I’ll be shown reason after reason why I should invest my money in their newest (ridiculous) scheme. For again, only on Wall Street can the case be made (with a straight face): “This company is now selling dollar bills at 99 cents. However, with improved efficiencies, synergies, a workforce downsizing and more: they’ll be able to offer even more of a discount creating even more top line growth. Currently using GAAP accounting, sure they’re running at a loss, but via their new accounting firm and restructuring their Non-GAAP earning shows them making money hand over fist next quarter! This company is destined to be the hottest thing since ________(add last greatest bankruptcy here) Just look at this chart! But you need to take the long-term approach here, you need to ride the waves, so don’t look to pull out at the first sign of trouble, as a matter of fact: that’s when you should buy more!” And I’m the one who’s an idiot?

Getting back to why we’re crazy for not buying in (especially at the highest level the markets have ever been in the history of mankind) to this financially engineered market can be precisely correlated to the very people who are in charge of it!

Speeches and more pointing to “over confidence” have been coming straight from some of the very people who are themselves Federal Reserve Bankers. (You know, the very people in charge of providing all this juice!)

Many are both publicly stating or eluding too in no uncertain terms that it is the very people telling others such as myself we’re “idiots” that are acting, talking, suggesting, and making recommendations with total abandonment and self-directed obliviousness to the potential dangers within the markets themselves.

Let’s just highlight for example why people like myself who the so-called “smart crowd” refer to as “idiots” won’t invest in the markets as they currently are.

First: Any (and I mean any) so-called “financial expert” that can sit there with a straight face and use metrics from one time period while glossing over the glaringly obvious that most of those very same metrics have been completely adulterated, and are representative in name only of what they first reported.

If an “expert” wants to defend how today’s unemployment headline number is comparable in representation for what it was in all the charting periods they want to hang their hats on as proof positive employment is getting healthy – I have some ocean front property in Kentucky I would love to sell you. Or, better yet – for you to “invest” in.

Next: If the markets at present heights are representative of a “healthy” economy and not a product of the Fed.’s intervention (Aren’t financial markets supposedly a form and representative of economic health?): Then why in the world can’t the Federal Reserve not only end all the forms of QE currently in the markets, but end them early? (Oh the humanity!!!)

Why can’t the Fed. right now announce it is stopping all its programs, give dates as to when so the market knows, begin immediately to reduce its balance sheet, and raise interest rates say by some staggering amount of let’s say 1/2 of 1%? That would bring us up to (wait for it….) 1%!

Everyone knows the reason why: It can’t or the markets would freak out – and everyone on Wall Street knows it.

It’s in that statement above where the crux of all us “idiots” issues lie with the so-called “smart crowd.” If it can’t be done, that alone proves ipso facto that all the facts, figures, trend lines, charts, sentiment, blah, blah, blah that are thrown at us to muddy true objective analysis are worthless. Period.

We have never had this type of interventionist monetary policy actively participating within the capital markets. So much so that again I’ll state: Some of the very people responsible for it (at the Federal Reserve itself) are calling for the manning and lighting of the signal fires for caution.

There is nothing wrong with someone turning from a bearish posture to a bullish posture as far as market positioning for the reasons that: They’ve been wrong – for all the right reasons.

There are those times where educated and savvy investors and individuals can and will put money to work where they need to hold their nose. The difference is: if it all blows up, we’re adults, we understand, we knew the risks and can live with the consequences. We might not agree on everything, but it’s a pragmatic use of both money and investment guidance that’s truthful. e.g., Hugh Hendry’s flip in market position and candid explanation.

Again, I may not agree with everything he might espouse, but if everything blew up and went to zero, my door and checkbook would remain open if he were looking to start again. The people who seem to disparage my thinking as an “idiot” for not trusting their view? I’ve never taken such pride or felt as smart in being called an “idiot.”

It is absolutely unimaginable to me as one who has both ran businesses as well as started them to hear someone who’s income is derived from the very customers they need to refer to them as: “Idiots.”

In business that is absolutely the worst of all sins. Again to blatantly, unabashedly, disparage, and demean the very people needed to make both the markets stronger as well as grow their own business: I can’t put into words how utterly foolish and stupid it sounded.

If not listening, let alone putting my money to work in the hands of the likes of these people makes me an idiot? Than sign me up for the crazy train: For listening to this trite has become an exercise in futility. Or better yet – idiocy.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

A Thought For Today’s Entrepreneur

Some forget that entrepreneurship is an inclusive club. Although there are differing degrees requiring different thought processes and decisions, just because you work for someone else doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the club. Taking control of your own life and defining your own path of destiny utilizing the vehicle of working as an employee is far too often overlooked by many.

Here’s a statement I still believe today for I was the one who both wrote it – and lived it.

“The moment everything changed was the moment I decided I no longer worked for the company.
The company now worked for me.”

If you can use and apply that statement to yourself I only have one thing to say…

Welcome to the club.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Are You Playing Your Odds Correctly?

Many entrepreneurs as well as those in the corporate suite discuss the odds of success in terms of “It’s a long shot. 1 in 100” or “Chances are 50/50 we’ll have success in this market” and so on.

Rather than verbally limiting your odds of success to some numeric phrase of chance that does little to inspire others ( let alone you,) why not use numbers and phraseology where both you as well as others can see the potential gains and rally around?

Who cares if success is 50/50, 8 in 10, better than 80% and so forth where possible gains whether it be in net profit, market share, ______________(fill in the blank) can be exponential.

Do you think the people in your next meeting would react differently if you made a statement more along the lines of, “If we’re successful with this project we could see a dramatic increase in net profits. We have the potential to not just increase but to increase exponentially!”

Or, do you still think it’s best to have the same probabilities yet frame it as, “We have a better than 7 in 10 chance of increasing our profits by 300%.”

If odds are on the table, it’s up to you to play them effectively – in your favor.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Muddled Messaging Ripe For Opposition

One can’t help when looking at all the geopolitical as well as threats of non-containment of the deadly Ebola virus and wonder: Who’s in control here?

Here’s a hint – it’s not the people lining up to give the message via oratory salvos. In fact, the clearest of messages coming out of the geopolitical realm are happening rapidly, methodically, and very much with blinding clarity allowing deeds to speak rather than words.

Just one example of this can be shown when the more one looks only for the outbreak of war, the more one misses other acts which can have just as dire consequences down the road. i.e., Developing friendships of rivals where the focus of that relationship is to oppose – you.

And as for the Ebola virus? It seems the message for now is just as clear: The more they talk of containment, and not to worry, the more light gets shown there is still need for concern.

The muddled messaging on the Ebola virus alone coming from political leaders and agencies is breath-taking. As of this writing we’re still wondering why it takes 24 to 48 hours for test results to be known for a patient in New York when in Columbus Ohio the all clear came in a matter of hours. With no clear report or clarification as to why.

And now just days later we wake to hear one of the most densely populated places on the planet (Hong Kong) just detained a person for you guessed it – Ebola.

If it’s found this deadly virus has reared its ugly head there, then once again all bets are off: for the messaging of late has been paradoxical to say the least.

The only clear thing will be is that people will begin acting in their own self-interest in ways no one yet knows let alone predict. These are the instances where the phrase, “A person is smart, but people are stupid” comes to mind.

As if something such as this would be enough to worry about, we also have what again seems to be more in line with the Keystone Cops of messaging in regards to the Middle East.

We’ve had messaging which seems so utterly convoluted, trying to diagram a flow chart of just recent events is more like trying to paint a picture Jackson Pollack could appreciate rather than framing anything of clarity.

What has been made abundantly clear is that through all this hand wringing and muddled messages of: “These are the people to support. No wait these are. Oops sorry no these are. Wait….” has allowed those with visions of opposition as to cause harm the room to both inflict that harm along with doing it in the very places we just left. And with our own equipment!

What has been the response to this? After the relentless, incessant media campaigning and messaging of we’re pulling out, guess what? We’re going back in.

Albeit it’s now said or stated emphatically “No boots on the ground.” Yet, I thought the previous message told was we were all done? So what does all this now mean or what message are we to take away? Yes, just not done yet?, Or this time? Or ________ ? (you fill in the blank for I can’t keep up.)

But wait you say: “This re-engagement was for a limited strike as to help prevent a genocidal act.” Fair enough, but I’ll point you to the messaging that came out just hours later. “Bombing in Iraq could take weeks.” And, “Bombing is no quick fix.” Just what form or type of clarity does one think it gives the opposition, let alone us?

If you don’t think they’re watching, listening and thinking along the lines of “Maybe we can wait them out again?” Or, “Maybe they’ll drop even more equipment that we’ll commandeer and fight even harder!” You’re not thinking clearly yourself.

They are clear on one thing – destroying you, me, us, and everything we represent. Our response of clarity? Muddled messages followed by the score keeping of Mulligans on some course following near every speech: Rather than some coherent resolute statement defining clear objectives that people can rally around.

So far the only thing of concern is whether or not there’s still time to play another round. And I haven’t even touched on Syria, Ukraine, Israel, the South China Sea and more.

What has also been absolutely clear is when it comes to the strength of our financial markets, the strength or value in nations continuing to use the U.S. Dollar as the reserve currency, the messaging there has been the message of – dead silence.

One would think it would be in the interest of a nation to at least once in a while give a some form of a pep rally in this arena. Yet, there’s a silence so deafening it would make a pin drop envious. No messaging, no rally cries, no nothing. So what you say? I’ll say nothing and just point.

In the vacuum of any clear messaging about a nation’s currency (especially the world’s reserve currency,) and the abandonment of attention by political leaders in its defense, as well as the obligation to speak, define, and lay out clear visions for why trading partners, as well as other nations, should feel confident in using the U.S. Dollar as the currency of choice – we hear absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

This is one of the first times in history I can remember where political leaders seemingly don’t even acknowledge there may be any form of issues even facing the dollar. Yet…

China who by all accounts both the political as well as business class keep pointing to as “a nation on the rise” lines up and strikes a deal with none other than Vladimir Putin as to trade and settle in (wait for it…) non U.S. Dollar settlements. Then Mr. Putin seemingly expanded that coalition to encompass even more countries into this fold.

I thought from all the messaging we had isolated Russian interests and made him a world pariah? At least that’s what the lines recited have told. Looks like someone’s not following the script. And with chilling clarity of their intentions.

One thing has now been shown in vivid detail: The more messaging put out along these same lines will only make it abundantly clear to any and all opposition that those in charge haven’t a clue.

If how the opposition responds going forward is anything like the way they have been, might I suggest getting off the course, and getting a clear coherent message back on one.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr