Playing by Your Own Rules

Eventually no matter who you are, no matter where you are in the cycle of life or economic scale, the day comes when you will have a decision to make. The decision will not be small. As a matter of fact more often than not it will be “The” decision. If you haven’t experienced it yet, trust me you will. For some it’s  happened more than once, but no matter if it happens once or even more, you’ll remember it like it was today, forget about yesterday!

Life has a peculiar way of putting you in places you either never dreamed possible, or a place that was originally a dream that has become a nightmare. It happens, it’s life, period! Regardless the outcome for good or ill, the question that must be asked of yourself in retrospect analysis should be, “Did I make the decisions based on my rules?”

When you play by your own rules remember that it’s only you who has the power to adhere to them. Life and everyone else playing this game are using their own rules, not yours, and they could care less about the referee in your game, and that would be you! As harsh as that sounds, it’s also one of the most fulfilling, energizing, and freeing conditions you’ll ever experience. Once you understand in your gut that it’s not others playing by your rules, but you adhering to them for yourself,  the game of life unfolds with all the advantages of a rigged game.

And you’re holding the winning hand!

Mark

Thanks!….”I Feel Much Better Now!”

As of this post, the S.E.C. ( Security and Exchange Commission) came out with its final report on what has become known world-wide as the “Flash Crash.”

It took nearly 6 months of investigations and countless interviews. Guess what? They found ( I’m paraphrasing here ) that the event was caused by a legitimate “Sell program” implemented by an account as a device in a hedging strategy. It found that it was not a mistake, it wasn’t a so-called “fat fingered” order, nor was it the act of intentional manipulation. Get ready, because here’s the kicker…..Although they have put some newer safeguards in place, they can not confidently say that it might not happen again! Just makes you feel warm and cozy now doesn’t it?

After the panic that happened that day, I speculated all the hand wringing, the jawboning, and everything else said about it being a mistake was a load of road apples. I stated having watched the market in detail that afternoon what I witnessed was the result of what happens when no one is buying, regardless of the price. I also stated that if it was a so-called “mistake,” why hadn’t the market gone right back up to that level? Would it not then have been a bargain bonanza?

The market since then has recovered, but it has taken months for people to forget about the implications of that day. I have written extensively that the market has been on shaky ground and could fall under its own weight even as everybody in the media is lauding it. Even during all this rally of the last 6 months my views have not changed. (Actually I’m more convinced than ever.) Some have tried to convince me otherwise, but their argument is based more on what I call “hopium” rather than facts. Only the market in the end will tell us what the truth is, so we’ll have to just wait and see. As I’ve said before, I could be totally wrong, but I’ll let my batting average speak for itself. Always remember in trying to prove if you’re right or wrong against the stock market…”The market can stay irrational much longer than one can stay solvent.”

Be rational…Stay solvent!

Mark

For those who forgot what the S.E.C. said could happen again at any time, Here’s the link from my original post.

“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


“Lip Service” Please make it STOP!

Here’s some advice. I normally charge for advice, but I’m in a giving mood today. This advice is for any manager, owner, or anyone involved in some type of customer service implementation or strategy. Ready?…………

If it’s more than 5 questions, and takes more than the click of a mouse to answer e.g,  “Click 1 for Horrible or 10 for Outstanding”  you’re kidding yourself and should get what you deserve, Nothing! If you have a follow-up “Customer courtesy call” and you don’t shop your own call center, you’re wasting my time, your time, and everyone’s money. So please I beg of you, Stop! The longer this facade goes on, the more damage it does to any company offering true customer service. You’re giving your peers a bad name and it’s embarrassing.

Here are a few examples I’ll use that yours truly came across within the last month. Remember, I’m a repeat customer, I buy often, and I pay for membership privileges to these accounts. One would think they truly want my opinion, but oh the “Lip Service” makes them prisoners of their own fate. So here we go…………….

“Please take our survey to tell us how were doing, it will only take 20 minutes to fill out.”………..You’ve got to be kidding me…20 MINUTES!..I’ve also had others only ask for 10 MINUTES!  So I guess some brainiac believed they’re improving my condition by cutting the misery in half?  Yeah, that’ll do it!

“Please type your answer in the box provided. Please answer in detail to your overall experience”…….Sure, hold on while I review my notes. Should I include how aggravating getting this survey is to the experience also? How many words can I type here, this could rival War and Peace.

Here’s a great follow-up call I received from my cable company after an “Upgrade” I just purchased…..Hello Mr. ah Street..ah Sirey…I know my name can be hard for some at first glance..but anyone with experience in meeting or talking with people will tell you, Trick #1…Say who you are and why you’re calling…then politely say, I don’t want to get the pronunciation wrong, can you say you name for me? It’s not that difficult and should be known by anyone dealing with people!  Here’s the rest…….

Caller : You had an upgrade to your equipment yesterday, how’s it working?

Me: So far it seems OK…but I was supposed to get another service also, but it’s not available.

Caller: Oh..That wouldn’t be us…You need to call this phone number..1 800 blah blah blah…

Me: Excuse me, but aren’t you calling me to find out if I have any problems with the equipment?

Caller: Yes but I’m just calling about the equipment, you know, the new box the installer put in, how’s that working?

Me: OK..well..Yesterday when your installer came, the poor guy went through 3 boxes that all of them were junk and didn’t work. It wasn’t until he went through hooking up a 4th box that it finally seemed to work. I felt embarrassed for the installer, he apologized, and I understand it’s not his fault, but whoever is putting these boxes out for delivery and……….

Caller: Sir, that wouldn’t be me who would handle that, you would need to call this other number..1 800 blah blah blah….

Me: What is the reason why you are calling me again?

Caller: To check on how the equipment is operating.

Me: This is the most useless call I have received that I can remember in a Long… Long time…goodbye…and don’t call again……click.

Epilogue: Ten minutes later, my televisions went blue screen stating..”Your service has been temporarily suspended for Non-Payment..Please contact..1 800 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ “. I called and the issue was resolved, I told my story to this customer service agent…The response?  “Oh My!”    The result…just more lip service.

Mark

The Impending Resurrection of…”The Middle Man”

I can hear you all now…“He has lost his mind!”…but I don’t think so, and here’s why……

Anyone who is able to remember the wonderful tones of a dial-up modem connecting to the internet can also remember when a company offered true customer service. Not the so-called “customer service” that everyone encounters when they have a real issue, e.g, “Hello…You’re call is important to us, you are number 453,264 in line. Your expected wait time is…14 months, 22 days, and 13 hours, So please stay on the line….” Gives me a headache just typing that line, but I digress. Before that time you more than likely made your purchases through a so-called “Middle Man.” Before Wal-Mart it was  the local retailer, before Amazon it was the local bookstore, you catch the drift I’m sure. Now it’s the internet, with just about everyone buying something whether it’s a dog collar or a 5 bedroom home on a beach. You want it? Just enter your credit card number….done! However, what you can’t do is experience the product and have all the minutia explained in ways you truly understand. What’s even more valuable than that? The true customer service that came with dealing with the local retailer.

In a world that’s now acutely aware that you can instantaneously compare prices from around the world, what you can’t do is experience true customer service unless you’re face to face with the merchant. The beauty of this model is becoming acutely aware to both retailers, and customers once again. It is a fact, you can not give superior customer service at bargain basement prices. It just doesn’t work, and it never has.

The entrepreneurs that are seeing the value that has always been in the true customer service model are finding that there is, and will always be a market for this service. The beauty of the model if you dare to embrace it, is the fact that you might not be the “biggest”….but you might surely be the “best,” and that will lead you to higher profits, better employees, and loyal customers. That’s a strategy worth aiming for rather than trying to be the cheapest. After all…..It’s hard to compete with “Going Out of Business” sales…..So why try?

Mark

From My Perspective…9/11…Life and Death

In remembrance of  Peter Hashem…Flight 11,  Seat 20A…Struck the North Tower at 8:46:40 am EST.

This column is different for me, this one is a little more personal. Unlike my usual columns, this is to give perspective for not only myself, but maybe for you also. The only thing I can say to start is…. Life is precious, and when it ends for what ever the reason at any time, chances are you will not have any control of the timing or the circumstances. So live to the fullest everyday regardless of where you are in life, because the unexpected, and the horrific can also happen to you, not just someone else.

When the tragedy on 9/11 happened, it changed many of us, if not all. Like most, I remember exactly where I was. I remember also standing in line at my local bank moments after it happened, and watching the televisions while waiting in line in utter disbelief along with everyone else in the bank. For all of us…time had stopped.

The days and months that followed with the heroism and the outpouring of help and support is well documented else where. Living in New England at the time, you either had gone to Ground Zero yourself to try to offer any help, or someone you knew had. I owned a local Deli at the time. The owner of a company who supplied me with breads went back and forth to GZ to pass out muffins and pastries to the rescue teams at night only to come back up to New Hampshire and then start his deliveries. No one complained, no one said how hard it was to do, no one was looking for credit, it was just done….period! It’s just the way it was.

On that day many of us changed. We viewed life a little bit different. It suddenly hit you with laser like focus that life is precious, and death can come at any moment, from anywhere. No longer was this an esoteric exercise. This was life at its core, and it was playing out in front of our eyes leaving no gray area to ponder. You either got it…or you didn’t.

In honor of that tragic event, I myself set new rules, new guidelines how I was going to go forward in life. I decided I would live life my way, by my rules, and if I was to die today, so be it. I could say that because I was going ensure I was  living, not just trying to exist or just get by like so many other do. That was not why we’re given life. It’s for us to live!

September 11, 2001 changed my life forever, but in honor of that tragic day, I decided to use it as a reminder that while on this Earth, I should live. Live everyday, take nothing for granted, take no one for granted, and live to chase today, the dreams of tomorrow. For if I do that one simple step, whether I reach those dreams or not…I will have Lived!

You see, Peter was not only someone who tragically died on that day…He was the younger brother of my close friends growing up. Life doesn’t just happen to someone else. It happens to us all.

Mark

© 2010 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

 

Drifting Backwards vs. Moving Forward

Let’s cut right to the chase. Things are tough, they might get worse, they might get terribly worse…..So what!

Everyday since man has been on this little rock we call Earth, stuff happens. I could sugar coat it. I could get out my dictionary and look for the perfect word to capture it, but it doesn’t matter. I think the word “stuff” just about captures what is going on right now without getting vulgar. Let’s remember one crucial point most forget in times like these. Crisis creates opportunity to those who view it as such, and are prepared to act, rather than drift.

Drifting is easy, it takes no effort, but the effort you might need to regain your original heading maybe unattainable, depending on how far you’ve allowed yourself to drift. Here’s an example why you need to be aware and to be continually on point moving forward in times like these……….

Alan Weiss, Ph.D. Pres. of Summit Consulting Group introduced his 1% Solution® a while back. It a great, easy to understand formula that yields results. I’m paraphrasing here …..Improve by 1% a day…and in 70 days…you’re twice as good. That’s an important formula that is achievable by anyone, in any profession, in any economic climate, if your serious!….And in tough economic times like these I’m convinced it will yield even greater returns. Why?  Everyone else is drifting! Don’t dismiss the significance of those last four words….Think for a moment…..most are just waiting to be rescued, waiting for the boss to promote them, hoping for the raise, hoping for a new client, hoping it’s not them that gets canned next, hoping, wishing,………..drifting.

If the power of Dr. Weiss’ 1% Solution ® can be employed to move one forward. Just think about the multiplier effect it can have on a person or company who is committed to moving forward 1% a day…while the competition is allowing itself to drift backwards 1%.

Sometimes simple math can set you free!

Mark

Have you noticed the spin?

Now that the stock market has once again entered into what the geniuses on the financial channels are calling ” correction territory” it’s amazing what else you’ll see on TV. Oh you’ve seen them, the ones that line up in front of the cameras elbowing each other to make sure they’re the ones in the center shot of the so-called “smart crowd.” Doesn’t matter if they’re in this country or another. From politicians to economists, Nobel Prize winners, financial analysts, columnists. Just  name one and you’re guaranteed they’re right there bloviating on why you should pay attention or heed their callings. As if this time they’re right……. Yeah…sure!

I almost fell down laughing this morning when I heard a financial reporter  state over the airwaves…(wait for it)……”Economists are changing their forecasts on their current economic projections because the current models seem to not be adhering to their original forecasts.” Wow! Is that like a professorial Mulligan? I was never aware that do-overs were now being taught in the Ivy League. A do-over when I grew up meant repeat the class or term over again because you didn’t quite get it, and you need to get it before you go into the working world. Now I guess it’s a credit course, my  how things have changed.

Think I’m just spouting hyperbole like the so-called “Mulligan Mania” crowd?  Here’s just a sample to ponder…

Gulf Oil Spill…..I’m in charge, No they’re in Charge. We’ll let you know who’s in charge at some point, and charge them. You can be sure of that!

Financial Markets….The Crash Sell Off was a mistake, a bad order entry…..The markets have now sold of more than the mistake. Is it now a mistake to buy? Or are more discounts coming? I do love bargains.

Media Outlets….We’re No. 1 in our time slot….But we changed the time slot from Prime Time to…. Is there anyone awake at this time slot. We went from 2 viewers to 3. That’s a 50% increase in viewership! It’s Emmy time!

So-Called Guru’s…. I can make you millions in, Real Estate, Stocks, Bonds,Music, Dancing, Cattle, heck…even the processed cattle feed coming through the cow!…Just send me a check, or better yet, your credit card and we can get started today!…But wait there’s more! I get rich..you don’t. Remember to read the fine print. (it’s also very, very, very small)

Remember….If your washing machine appears to be blushing when the TV is on, you’ll be more productive if you put down the remote…and pick up the hamper.

Mark

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