Magazines “On Sale” for just a Buck!

Some said I was off base when I wrote the magazine industry wouldn’t catch on to the new ways of media. Some laughed when I said the magazine industry will more or less fall the way of the music industry. That they’ll complain about everything, blame everyone else for falling revenues, and loss of customer interest, and worse yet….fail to recognize the possibility that new and better models might be available for their brands (remember Tower Records before the introduction of the iPod and iTunes store?)

Well it looks like some in the magazine business are going back to a tried and true thoroughly tested marketing plan of generations past. It’s putting their magazine on sale and from what I can tell, is far below the coveted subscription rate. The magazine is being sold for just $1.00 . Yes that’s right, just a buck. But don’t expect to find the current issue on the news stand for that price. We’re not talking an actual issue. We’re talking the …..wait for it………Whole entire company! Yes folks, the iconic brand NEWSWEEK…was sold this month for a buck. Had I known that was  possible, I might have offered 2 Bucks …..well …..maybe not.  Why pay for anything than no one is buying, but I digress.

Here’s a headline that I feel even NEWSWEEK could find humorous. The same year they run a cover story stating “We’re All Socialists Now” the company gets sold for just $1.00, and sold to the husband of a sitting US Senator.

You gotta love the irony of truth can be stranger than fiction.

Mark

You can’t make this stuff up!

Just when you think there might be some sanity returning to  the world, something comes to slap you upside the head to make sure you’re paying attention. Ready?…………….

General Motors, yes, the same car company the Federal Government had to take over. The same company that made bad deals, over-loaded its books with unsustainable debt, and much, much more, is now really going to boost its sales. How you might ask? The same way we had such a great housing boon. GM announced today that it is buying a finance company, not just any finance company, but a company that specializes……wait for it……….. In “sub-prime” auto loans. Loans so that people with less than perfect credit can purchase a car more easily. Wow, is all I can say.

I wrote an article before on why GM might never lose that “Government Motors” moniker. How prescient is that now.

If it all goes the way of Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. Looks like Fannie and Freddie will  be able to use the drive-up window to get at the ATM machine (American Tax  Money) because they’ll be seated in a new Cadillac.

And you thought Green Cars meant fuel efficient……Silly You!

Mark

A “Reality Check”…by Walking Around

A few years back one on this countries well-known and for my money one of its best business guru’s Tom Peters coined the phrase…”Management by walking around.” In layman’s terms, it basically meant get out from behind the desk and get out there and talk to your employees and customers to find out just what really is happening. Not just what you “think”, or what others are telling you. I’ll just add my own 6 words to this often overlooked basic truth of business philosophy…Look, notice, ask, implement, verify, repeat!

Over and over you hear conflicting data from one source or another stating, “The Recovery is on track!”…or another stating, “The end of the world is here!” Today it’s hard for anything to make sense when this is all you hear. So I’ll add a data point that hit me with what I believe is the equivalent of religious clarity.

When I was growing up as a kid and pretty much through the rest of my business life, one thing I always took notice of was that I could tell how well the economy was moving along by how many churches would open in vacant stores. When the economy was poor or getting worse, you would see churches of all types from many different faiths or followings opening in the now vacant store front. Usually it was a small retailer, or a small store. Maybe it was in a downtown building, but they were usually modest in size. The severity of the economic stagnation or decline would usually govern the amount or size of vacant property available. It’s in these times that a landlord will rent to just about anybody that can pay the lease or rent. Whether it’s a retail business or something else. If you can make the rent….It’s yours….Period!

Well by walking around in my own city this weekend, I just found out that a local, …wait for it……..Mall, that is now vacant will be leased or sold for the purpose of becoming a church. Not a store front, not a section, not a strip mall, an entire MALL! Yes an entire mall, one that you think of when you picture one in your mind’s eye. The same size and scope of a major city mall in any well populated city in the US. If this doesn’t give me a little clarity on the economic times we are in, nothing does.

Looks like this economy may truly bring us to our knees.

Mark

They’re wearing me down!

Yep, they are!    And guess who?

It’s the front line person most of us meet when we make a transaction or ask for help in just about any business commerce today. I used to not let it bother me, but I’m getting very tired as of late. Here’s why…..

This weekend I took my family to a local State Park. It’s a beautiful park where the World Equestrian Games are being held later in the year. My wife and I usually purchase season passes but we haven’t had the time as of late. I have my niece visiting for the summer so we thought we would just wait until she came and renew then. Not thinking when we entered, I just paid for a day pass for each. When I went through the gate my wife asked me how much. I had to look at the tickets, and to our shock they were considerably high-priced. My wife asked…”Didn’t you get season passes?” I said “no,” I just didn’t feel like going through the rigmarole. She gave me that look that only your wife can give. I gave that look back that said, Please don’t make me go back…I don’t care….I don’t want the hassle. Well, I lost. That would be enough if that were the end….but wait…there’s more!

First time back I said to the girl, “I made a mistake, we should have purchased season passes can we fix this?”……She replied……”Ahhhh No. It’s too late, you can purchase them next time, Sorry.” (I’ll just remind you that I haven’t entered the park, but have only gone 5 feet past her desk before realizing the issue.) I start to fume, but I say I am not in the mood for this and head back to my wife where I tell her they said “No.” You guessed it, I’m immediately sent back to ask for a manager, which is exactly what I should have done in the first place, but I was worn.

When I get back to the desk, the original girl is waiting on another family, so I go to the desk directly aside of her and speak to a girl there and explain my dilemma. She replies, ” Sure, I can take care of that. It’ll take a minute because I need to get a different piece of paperwork to proceed.” This is all within earshot of the first girl. She never blinked, nor appeared to care. I was really taken back by the whole episode. Right there you could see why work ethics matter to both customers, and employees. Without them you wont have a business for long in this economy.

In the end, I was more mad at myself for allowing it to happen. When I accept poor service, I’m the root of the problem. Not the other way around.

Mark

The “Keynesian” end point.

” When an Economist makes a wrong prediction, they just go on to make another. When a Businessman makes a wrong prediction, they may be out of business!”………………………..Mark St.Cyr

For nearly the last 2 years, some of you have noticed I have a cynical view of the so-called “Smart Crowd.” It has been demonstrated to anyone watching them that over and over again most of their forecasts and predictions have been (I’m being kind here) far off the mark.

I’m going to cut right to the chase. Trust me when I say, I could care less about the political nature of what I’m stating. This is about business, period! So do yourself and me a favor, save the emails. Trust me they wont get read.

When the economic crisis first reared its ugly head back in Oct. 2007 everyone said it was just a blip, by March of 2009 we were told the Earth was coming to an end. It was then stated to everyone that if we spent record amounts of money in a Keynesian plan that not only could we stem the tide, but we could “jump-start” the economy into producing millions of jobs, and raise our GDP levels back to pre crisis levels. Well guess what? Trillions of dollars spent, and you didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt.   But wait………….There’s more! At least that’s what we’re now being told. Oh no, not that you’ll get more out of what has already been spent, they want to spend more! How silly of you to get those mores mixed up, you mustn’t be as smart as they are, silly you.

Here’s the part of all this hand wringing by the forecasters, and economists that put all these lovely plans into play that’s driving me crazy. Every single one of these plans not only didn’t produce what they anticipated, but they failed miserably. The only ones that don’t seem to get it are the Keynes devotees. The mantras of spend, spend, spend, is starting to seem a little, dare I say…..spent?

I don’t like to use names, but you don’t need to look very hard to find one of the loudest voices on this subject writing today that we now could be on the verge of a 3rd Great Depression because not enough money is being spent by everyone . The argument may have made sense once before, but it has now been employed twice, and at such a scale this time, that you could look at hard data to see just what you got for the effort. Well………….Survey Says…………………………Squat!

So to sum up my take on the benefits of the Keynesian model of economic theory, I’ll end with this parable……

You said in order for us to get fish, we needed to drain the pond, but since we drained the pond there are no more fish. You said don’t worry about the pond, it will rain and fill the pond back up, and we’ll be back to fishing in no time. If you haven’t noticed, not only has it not rained, but it’s a drought, and even if it did rain, there’s no fish left to repopulate the pond.

Next you’ll tell me about “Green Shoots.”  Sorry…but I know how that went also.

Mark


Why GM may never lose the “Government Motors” moniker. (update)

I wrote back a month or so my take of the whole GM takeover. I said then as I say now, it’s not a good thing, from both a business perspective, and competitive view, never mind the political, that’s another can of worms.

Here’s a view that GM has now taken to help get itself back into shape, and restore the competitive edge it seems to have lost. Ready?….wait for it….

GM has announced it is no longer allowing employees to refer to the Chevrolet brand as…Chevy! The executives at GM feel so strongly about this, that they have instructed management to place…again wait for it….Cuss jars in the corridors so when an employee is heard stating the word Chevy, they will be pressured into putting money in the jar as a so-called fine for cussing. Yep! I wrote that statement. Calling a Chevrolet a Chevy is now considered swearing. I heard it reported on one of the” Financial News” shows yesterday. I never knew getting back to brand dominance was that simple. I guess that’s another college credit class I missed. Here I am thinking branding, market position, new technology, customer service, and customer focus were some of the ways, boy was I wrong. I wonder what the competition like Ford is doing? Oh that’s right, they building, better cars, have better customer satisfaction numbers, have better customer loyalty, and didn’t take any hand outs. The guy’s at Ford must really be kicking themselves. Ya think?

Real companies doing real business focus on customers, and better  products and services. Government tends to focus on changing the way something sounds, while selling you the same old same old. Usually at a higher price.

Maybe it’s just another way to help in paying back the tax payers. Or did they do that already? Their commercials say they did, but that was only the…wait..they said, but they didn’t, but now their, Wow…sounds more like a political campaign than a……………….business?

Need I say more?

Mark

“Poor Service” why it not only won’t last, but Can’t!

Nothing brings out friendly faces to the shopping or showroom floor like no customers. Yes, you read that right. Oh I can hear you laughing right through the screen, and I agree with your first impulse at such a statement, but there is a view over the horizon. It’s very hard to see. In some way, you almost have to just close your eyes and pray that someday this madness when you walk into a place to spend your money you’ll be treated with at least the same dignity as they treat the refuse when they are putting it into the dumpster. I know I’m asking for a lot here, but I can dream can’t I?

Here’s a small glimmer of hope that I saw today while out shopping with my wife. We went into one of the traditional box stores for housewares. ( I don’t want to name names just yet…It’s far to early in this quest for sanity.) and we were greeted, and asked several times if there was anything we needed help in finding, and when I asked one person if they could look up a price for me, not only did they do it without hesitation, I got an, “Can I do anything else for you?”…and a smile to boot! ( Be still my aching heart.)

Funny thing to all this nicety I experienced. I understand something that most don’t. Once again, customer service is not a luxury to the shopper, or shopping experience, it’s the only way to even try to survive in today’s economic climate. With half off sales and discounts being offered out the wazoo, if you don’t treat a customer with the general affection that you know without them, there is no you, well let’s just say most don’t care about customer service at the “Going Out of Business Sales.”

Now if only I can get back to relating to a service person by their name, instead of having to say…”I was promised it would be ready by Friday from….I forgot his name, he didn’t have a card, you know, the guy with the green hair and nose ring that works here.”

Mark

What if it’s a preview for what’s coming, and Not a one day wonder!

For anyone who has read this blog or heard me speak understands that I am quite willing to take criticism for being either wrong in my conclusions, or appearing wrong because I was early in my forecasts. Often when I am speaking to a group or an individual I will repeatedly state…” I could not only be wrong, but I might be dead wrong, however that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research it for yourself and try to prove it either way. The more skeptical you are of my conclusions which leads you to research it yourself, the better it is not only for you, but also for me.” As I stated many times, my statements have more validity when you understand them to be correct, not just because I say so.

I have been stating over the last year that I felt we were in the middle of a financial hurricane. Every single so-called “expert” has been stating that the worst is behind us. I still believe the worst is ahead of us. I have made my calls and posted them right here on this blog, some of my writings have appeared in such places as Forbes.com…CEOnetwork (R)…and even on a professional Futures trading service for international traders. (SquawkTrader.com) Just click through the archives, they’re all right there. No hiding, no running, no hemming or hawing. That’s what you do if you want to be taken seriously. State what you think is correct, and let the chips fall where they may, Period.

Below is a link to an audio recording from May 6th, 2010. It’s from a service I currently subscribe to. It’s Ben Lichtenstein the owner of TradersAudio.com. To put it into a picture for you, Ben overlooks the S&P trading pit on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He calls out the trades that are happening on the floor in real-time to help traders understand what is going on in the pit at any given time. They do not allow cameras there, but they do allow this service to be broadcast. It’s subscription only. You have all likely seen on TV the shots of the exchanges with all these guys screaming Buy….Sell. Well here’s a link provided courtesy of TradersAudio of what that fateful 15 minutes of panic sounded like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mC4tu1NhUA


As I stated earlier, if this is not a one day wonder but the beginning of a much larger storm, many will be caught not only off guard, but without a life vest… or worse. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. It’s still the best advice I know.

Mark

© 2010 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

If selling was a mistake…Why is Nobody buying?

Last week the financial markets were all a buzz trying to explain why the stock market sold off in such an extreme manner. I have heard one commentator after another give this reason, that reason, but no true reason why. I’ll give you my take, ready? People were selling…No one was buying. I know, too simplistic right? That’s the problem most times, people want a different answers to what they perceive as complex questions. Sorry, even some of the most complex questions or problems can be answered with a simple answer. Why do you think the most powerful words in business have 3 letters or less? Remember these? Yes…No. Need I say more?

If the panic selling that took place last week was just a so-called “fat fingered event” (that’s Wall St. jargon for entered the order wrong.) Why wasn’t the pricing error of Good Stocks Cheap been completely retraced? Why was it only retraced by a little over 65%. I was listening to the financial channels all day after the sell off. One by one they commented on the breath-taking buy back the market was now engaged in. They were tripping over themselves to be the first one to recite the words…”Today we experienced one of the biggest up openings on record!”  Wow! I guess that settles it then, it was just a bad order entry. However, what should be nagging at your ear, and what you should be focusing on is why didn’t it go back to where it started? Why only back 65%.

That would be a good question, but maybe a little late. The question you need to be asking yourself now is, Why did the biggest 1 day higher opening get completely erased 4 days later? If the event was a mistake, why aren’t they buying at even a larger discount? Or to use an analogy… You had dollar bills mistakenly priced at 70 cents… People came and bought them en mass, but no one was willing to pay any more than 70 cents, and just 3 days later, no one will buy them for 65 cents. If it was a mistake, how can the price be going lower?

It’s because people feel that buying is a mistake, no matter how good someone else thinks the price is. Will it still be argued that the sell off was caused by someone incorrectly placing an order, even when no one will buy at the level they said was a mistake? And what will the correct response be then? I can hear them on the financial news now…“Welcome to the Financial News, leading our discussion is our top market experts!…In today’s markets the……..”.

I just love a good sit-com!

Mark

© 2010 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

Anything times ZERO, is still ZERO

Remember that old sage? Well, the airlines are increasing their size by buying each other out to fortify their dominance. Problem is, not only are most airlines demonstrating poor service, it’s more akin to zero service these days, and as the sage goes…OxO=O. Even if one of the companies had just a fraction of customer service left, well you do the math.

As airline companies announce yet another giant merger of 2 companies, it’s at best only a merger of the mediocre, and if history is our guide, mediocre will be a kind reference. Think I’m over stating it?

My wife traveled over Mothers Day weekend and had nothing but difficulties with her flights, and what was worse, no one seemed to care. Not the ticket counter agents, the flight staff, not the telephone help. The last leg of her trip ended with her having to sleep overnight in the terminal. Every company has problems, but it’s how you handle them by which you are measured. When all your employees have a standard answer of ” We can’t help with that, Or I don’t know why, or Sorry not my job…Next” the math will catch up with you also. Remember the math? Zero customers means Zero profits = no more company, no matter how big you are now.

One reason given for a delay was announced over the loud speakers that the mechanic brought the wrong tool, and had to go back and get the correct one. You just can’t make this stuff up!

If old sages are powerful reminders, here’s one that will demonstrate how I now see your industry, and will make every attempt to use other forms of transportation, regardless of price. The picture below was taken using my phone camera as I waited for my wife who spent the entire night in the terminal waiting for a flight to be cleared only to be canceled once again.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark