Free Today…Gone Tomorrow?

When I’m speaking with someone either at a conference, or strategy session, I’m always stunned on how business plans are thrown out in willy-nilly type fashion. Most businesses don’t plan 3 months in advance never mind a longer view, but what really catches my attention is when they state the foundation of their business model is using what is now “free” on the web, or what is the newest “fad.” Then an assertion will come that not only will the “free” aspect become even better because of increasing usage from the market place, but will always be assessable for their use. From my perspective, all this leads to pie in the sky pricing where fixed costs, revenue generation, and functionality becomes not a “business plan” but a fairy tale.

At the time that I’m writing this the newest craze of course Facebook. Everyone is running, and dashing to build their new business based on it. It’s quite possible that some will build great business models, however, what happens if it goes away tomorrow, what then? Crazy you say? It’s a fair point so I’ll offer the example of MySpace. I know..MyWho? And that’s my point. Remember when MySpace was the “Facebook” at its inception. It was revolutionizing that segment of the web, but now it’s rumored to be on the verge of shutting down. It’s as relevant as that other great never to be toppled  juggernaut AOL. There were many businesses, and entrepreneurs that based their whole structure on using these platforms as their foundation. As they withered away, so too did most of them.

What many fail to remember is what they now take for granted as “free” is all based on speculation that at some point it can become profitable on its own. All the hoopla one hears across the media is more akin to tabloid reporting. MySpace was backed with billions in resources via Rupert Murdoch’s vast holdings. Time Warner and AOL joined forces to become one of the largest media deals ever. Both are now unprofitable, and irrelevant. MySpace never became profitable, Facebook is still in the “we’ll see” category. If at some point investors become disillusioned, or don’t see the “big payday” coming soon, they’ll take their investment capital and move on. At that point most adjunct business models are left along the side with a pile of AOL spam cd’s that are also worthless.

Using these platforms to enhance your real business model is well worth the effort. There are new, and ever-changing things going on right now that can be leveraged in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago. The trick is, if it’s an enhancement then you are in control, or at least to the highest degree one can be, but if these models are the very basis of your business foundation, then not planning for possible disruptions or alternatives just might leave you out of business.

Music stores never saw iTunes, classifies ads never saw Ebay, AOL never saw Yahoo, Microsoft never saw Google, book stores never saw Amazon, and none of them saw Facebook,or Groupon. Who knows what we could see next.

Most of the above happened in less time than it takes a landlord to terminate your stores lease to rent out to a higher bidder, but you at least thought about that in your business plan…didn’t you?


What?……..Me Worry?

There are times I just can’t help myself. I feel that I am once again dealing with groundhog day. So in the spirit of this time-tested pseudo holiday. I would just like to place on the record once more a little something that everyone (and I mean Everyone!) seems to have forgotten. It’s an oldie from the past. It was a real bell-ringer when it first aired, but now it seems it can’t get the listener line to ring anymore.

It’s a recording from way back in 2010, May 6th I believe was the date, alas I have a hard time remembering. I wrote about it back in the day. It’s quite possible I might be able to get it to play on this post, however I’ll make no promises. I am dealing with much older technology, were talking 8 months ago, I mean c’mon.

For those who like the classics the link is posted below. I’ll also post a link to the original article for those who like working with ancient text. (at least it’s not hieroglyphs) Back then, we heard the same things they’re saying now. “Don’t Worry, be Happy!”

I believe that is from a much earlier time, maybe even pre-GaGarasic or something.










Below is the link to my original post….

Thinking Aloud… Episode 3 “The Best Laid Plans”

Thinking Aloud is a new addition that features spontaneous insights (or rants) hosted by Mark on current events. They’ll be posted here once or twice a week. Maybe more…maybe less, but for those who’ve asked, “I wonder what Mark thinks?”’s the place to find out. These are short, poignant off the cuff podcasts, or vidcasts that are delivered in typical Mark fashion. No holds barred, no retakes, just …

“Mr. Engineer….Please Hit Record!”

Making Sense from the Nonsense!

Sometimes you can’t help but shake your head. At other times you just want to scream. Then there are the times you just have to walk away. I feel this is once again one of those times.

As many of you know I have both written, and spoke on the so-called “Smart Crowd.” (for anyone new here’s an archive link) and why I believe it’s  hazardous if you take your cues from them. Television, radio, and print hold some of them at such lofty levels that all should be wearing oxygen masks. Personally, I have now donned a gas mask, because it’s not the lack of air I’m having trouble with.

If you have been following the stock market as of late, all looks just fantastic, but there’s a hidden more sinister side lurking, and none of these talking heads will mention it. It’s reminiscent of a Harry Potter plot. That which can not be spoken. (The numbers just don’t add up!)

Every Financial outlet I read or watch is using stats, reports, numbers, data points, and many other references to bolster their argument why the stock market not only wont go lower, but it can’t because it’s smooth sailing from here on out. That in my delicate way of putting things is just drivel. The market has been going up for many reasons, but I counter, not for the reasons most are citing. Here’s how I respond when I’m speaking with someone who uses the media as their reference material.

“That does sound great, it might be that the worst is behind us, and you would think that by just looking at the stock market today, however. What troubles me is that all are now calling for not only higher gains, but new records to be set, possibly this year. The old records set just 2 years ago were with…

  1. Unemployment under 5%
  2. If you were could get a loan. (and that was optional)
  3. Houses had morphed into personal ATM machines with no limit
  4. Overseas growth in emerging markets would never slow.
  5. Europe was turning back into a juggernaut.
  6. America had its financial house somewhat in check. (at least we hoped.)

I could list more, but just those would need to be inline once again to warrant such lofty targets, would it not?” That’s when the blank stare, glazed eyes come back into focus with a response that would rival an elementary schoolyard fight…”Well…that’s what they’re saying on TV, and if they’re on TV they must be smart, right?”

The economy may be on the road to recovery, it also might not. It’s quite possible we could fall right back to where we were back in 2008 in the blink of an eye. It’s also possible that the worst is behind us. Either way for all of you, neither matters because you will prosper no matter what the circumstances because you are the doers…and with that comes the intrinsic value of self-reliance. Look through the data, make decisions, chart new courses, make new goals. Use both good information, and bad information to your advantage.

You are the movers, and shakers. You have no time for nonsense.


My catch phrase for 2011..Keep Your Head on a Swivel!

Well everyone it’s finally here. The new year is officially on, and there are many new opportunities coming along for anyone who will take the time look. Personally I have many new things in the fire that will be rolled out as the year unfolds. I probably haven’t look forward to a new year with as much anticipation as I have this one. More details on projects will be posted as they get closer to roll out dates so stay tuned.

So what do I mean with “Keep your head on a swivel?” The phrase comes from the military when you need to be on high alert. In other words scan, look at everything, and then look again. Is it a threat, something to be concerned with, or something to ignore. I suggest opportunities are going to be far more plentiful, and far more profitable for those who will be looking, than to those who will be looking…down.

The fantastic technological wonders that brought us the “Smart phone” has now morphed the users of these devices into smart phone users posting, and watching the dumbest of things. They also do this all day, everyday, taking time for only when nature calls, and that now seems to be a place where they call Mother Nature because who else could they possibly be talking to in the restroom?

Just look around. Look around but try to see what’s going on around you. Most people have their heads down, you shouldn’t! Yes these things are wonderful, they are magical in what they can do to help you, but they have a far, far , more brainless, time-wasting side to them that most either don’t notice, or worse, don’t really care.

As everyone is updating their Facebook status, I would hope you are looking for opportunities, because they’re not. As everyone is watching another really stupid YouTube video, I hope you are looking for a new business opportunity to capitalize on because, they’re not. As everyone is texting each other why they can’t get something done because they’re too busy texting each other, you’ll be organizing plans to launch that new idea you’ve been working on because……They are not!

I still believe 2011 is going to be more turbulent in many ways than the last few years, however, that’s where opportunities present themselves. Real opportunities that need real solutions. To these problem solvers the world will be your oyster.

Remember, the true movers, shakers, and wealth creators reside in only the Top 5%, regardless of what others try to tell you. Just remember your competition all have their head down posting why they shouldn’t be in the other 95%

Think I’m exagerating?…Just look around.


Under the Power and Influence of Moore’s Law

Power and influence is usually attributed to the stature of people in various positions, or occupations. Today it seems that one of the most compelling and far-reaching life changing influence is not coming from any so-called “Power Player” it’s coming from a very simple formula that has become so powerful, it’s changing everything…again. Welcome to Moore’s Law in real-time.

I need not remind anyone on how the world has changed in just a few years, however putting it into perspective is what I do, so here goes.

Just a little more that 15 years ago in what was also considered spam-mail were the millions upon millions of little cd’s you found in your mailbox from….AOL. Remember when “You got mail” was all the rage? How about this one…an iPod was just becoming in vogue way back in 2004…yep, that’s just 6 years ago. I could go on but you catch my drift. We take these things for granted now, but they weren’t even understood let alone conceived just a mere few years ago. And guess what? It’s getting much,much,much faster.

Look around you. Look at your children, your neighbors, people in cars, people you work with. Everywhere you turn you see it. Instant video, instant communication, instant TV, instant quotes on anything, now it’s all taken for granted. If you have to wait for a video to load more than 2 seconds, you have to hold yourself back from throwing the hand-held device into the garbage, and walking 30 feet into the new gadget store to get the newest 4G, 5G, 6Z…who knows how fast is next?

My own case study happened this weekend while setting up a new computer my wife gave me for Christmas. As I was moving things around I came across the paperwork of the one it was replacing, it was only a few years old, but needed repairing and wasn’t worth it. The new computer is…ready? 10 times the speed, 8 times the memory, less than 1/4 the size, and……….less than 1/2 the cost of the first.

I know, I know, you’re all saying…”Right..big deal…everybody knows that” but that’s where it gets interesting. Everybody knows…but few understand the implications. Just imagine the mobile phone that you have today, even if it’s the latest and greatest. In just a little over 2 years it will be 10 times faster, and smarter, and probably able to do that in less than 1/2 the current size. The numbers are just staggering at the levels we are now at.

Industry, business, people, and just about everything else will change even more rapidly in the next 5 years than they have in the last 20. Just a fantastic time to be alive is all I can say.

Maybe the flying car thing isn’t that crazy after all.


Don’t be Confused be Dazzled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(For more information click the links below for viewing in browser format)

Celebrating the Holidays….Jetson style!

As traditional as the holiday season is, I was jolted into how far technology has changed it at my home, and quite possibly yours as well.

Like most we enjoyed the traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. As always it was a fantastic meal. As the day lumbered on with all the other trappings that go with the event such as movies, football, and more. I was walking across the living room when something just struck me that at first I never really gave a second thought. I was walking across the house wearing a set of wireless headphones listening to a news program that was coming out of Asia. This broadcast was playing on my computer where the visual portion was playing on  HD monitors in my office. My mother in-law was with us for the holiday. She flew in from New England for the holiday and was watching a television show that was being recorded live  so that she could pause every so often to see if another family member had called without missing any part of the show. The call she was waiting for was not going to come over the telephone. That would come over the computer via Skype where they could converse face to face seeing that the other was in Costa Rica. My wife at the same time was sitting in the room, but she was on her iTouch surfing the net, and emailing, and texting her friends. Moments before we ate, we had a face to face video chat with her brother back in New England in real-time. We were showing him how the house was decorated for the holiday and such. All in real-time via a mobile phone.

It hit me like a ton of bricks how we now take a lot of the conveniences of today as if they have always been there. Just think, it was only a few years ago there were no such things as DVR’s, Smart-phones, Live Streaming video, High Def, or wireless anything. But now we seem to act like it’s always been like this. It’s all just simply amazing when you really give it some thought.

So in that spirit is where I truly found thanks. Not only for the blessings I have in my life such as family and friends, but also for being able to have the other blessings that I now take for granted.

Now if we  can only get that flying car thing happening, that would be something.  Maybe next year.


Texting the World Away

I am amazed on a daily basis watching how many adults ( never mind the teenagers) who seem oblivious to their surroundings. Seemingly intelligent people walking with their heads down flailing away on a keyboard built for ants trying to alert the world on some sort of social networking platform what they ate for dinner, if they just showered, or posted their 2,375 picture of themselves in a compromising pose or situation. They Tweet, Twit, Post, Paste, Share, Spread, etc.,etc.,etc. But ask them a question about a relevent subject that might impact their future, and all you’ll see is some form of soul-less expression of bewilderment. You know that look, it’s the same one you get when one of these clueless figures walks straight into you almost knocking you down as they’re tweeting, texting, posting, pasting, sharing, or talking. Do they say sorry, or excuse me?  No…you’ll just get that animatronic look that says ” Were you not watching where I was going?”

This is the attitude now coming from people who put more effort into exercising their texting dexterity than they’ll put into educating and informing themselves. It’s even becoming apparent there’s something a foot when you start seeing it parodied on TV. One of my favorite commercials currently running that brings the point home is where a a person is viewing the Christmas decorations on his neighbor’s house. He texts the owner making backhanded insults on his phone, yet he is standing right in front of him. After two or three one liners the home owner yells at him saying..”Look me in the eyes!”  That one little quote sums it all up for me. No longer are people addressing one another face to face. There is no conversation, no interaction, no listening, only people stating comments oblivious to any true discourse. People are losing the ability to interact face to face, and I feel it’s a troubling new reality.

The trouble with this new reality of communication is this. What are you going to do when the power is out or the lines are down? Talk? Think? Write? Hope you remember how…It’s not the same as riding a bicycle. You stop using the former skills, and you’ll look pretty foolish once again needing training wheels.

But then again, when the power comes back on, just post the picture of you trying , you’ll remember how to do that right?


The Holiday Shopping Experience…more pathetic than ever

Cutting right to the chase I am not a Grinch, actually I love the holiday season like most, but as of late it’s hard to be anything but annoyed when you go to any store recently. One of the most glaring things both my wife and I notice on a disturbingly frequent basis is how messy stores have become. At some of the more famed holiday retailers who are synonymous for putting on the holiday cheer it’s not only pathetic, it’s down right disgusting.

Retailing has been an art form since the dawn of time. Put your merchandise in the best possible spot, and if there is a theme to be exploited, exploit it, pure and simple. That formula has worked brilliantly, but now…not so-much. The main culprit? Bottom line  numbers only mentality, no more empathy for the season. Playing Christmas music over the store speakers while allowing the atmosphere within the store to seem like Bastille day is not what the holiday season is all about.

Here are just a few particulars that I see with glaring regularity that are not only obvious to all, but are darn right pathetic.

1. More than one seasonal decoration up at one time. Seriously, can you take down the witches and skeletons before you put up Ole Saint Nick?

2. Can I please find at least 1 item on a shelf that is priced?

3. If you’re going to send me coupons because you value my business, please don’t send me a 50% off any single item only to find that there is only 1 single item I can actually use the coupon for.

4. Does anyone go through the shelves any longer to straighten out the merchandise? I’ve seen more organization in a kids closet than in most stores.

5. If every transaction seemingly needs to be approved by a manager, can you either hire more managers, or allow staff to possibly make a decision?

6. If you’re going to decorate, then decorate. Putting up decorations that are left fallen down, or came unglued from the wall and are dangling like a rope, or even worse, look like you rummaged through the lost and found bin of holidays past, please stop. Nothing would be better than the something you have up. Trust me on that one.

7. Make it a punishable offense of maybe life imprisonment without the possibility of parole if a customer approaches an employee to ask a question, and they are either texting or talking on their phone only to say  ” Hold on I’ll be with you in a minute.”

8. Clean the store, clean the store, clean the damn store! I have never in my life seen such filth in so-called upscale retailers. The first thing to cut is the cleaning crew when trying to hit numbers, and it not only shows, it’s on full display.

9. Buy one get 2 free, only to see the next week buy 3 get 7 at half off, only to be replaced the next week with buy 1 at regular price and 50% off the next then 75% of the next 2 is really putting my math skills to a test. It also leaves me with the feeling every time I come back that I really didn’t get a bargain, as a matter of fact, I think I actually got hood-winked and payed more than not on sale prices. Just makes me feel cheery when that happens.

10. Why have this charade of ” Black Friday” only to see it offered before the date as a  “Pre-Black Friday” or some other foolish new stunt. I’m needing a day planner just to keep up with the sales planner, and as far as I’m concerned, they can’t plan.

I could go on and on with this list, but you get the picture. The holiday shopping season has been morphing into some ugly monster for decades. It just seems to be so revealing lately that it’s too hard to gloss over any longer.

Maybe that’s why they leave the Halloween decorations up so long. To remind us of Christmas shopping past, because the holiday spirit of late is frightful.