Be Afraid…..Be very, Very, VERY, AFRAID!

First off….Let’s get this right on and off the table. I could care less what political class, side, lover, hater, race, gender or ________ ( you fill in the blank.) you’re on. This post and discussion is for what IS, not what it is not, or what one might hope it to be, or not to be, Period!
We were just made aware that we now have in the United States of AMERICA a person who is…
1. Not in an ELECTED POSITION.
2. Does NOT…Repeat..Does NOT have accountability to Congress.
3. By his OWN WORDS..Stated that..The President of the UNITED STATES whom appointed him has NO..Repeat NO awareness or Influence on his Decisions.
4. And this persons decision is both BINDING, and FINAL by the Law. (and if you think it isn’t just ignore him right?)
5. We were also told that his decisions apply only to 7 companies…That’s correct now however not the complete picture. Less than 24 hours later, you have the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake release a speech where he believes it should apply to 25 companies. Tax Payer Money should no longer be the trigger….It should be whomever they believe is a RISK to the Financial System. Rep.Barney Frank (D) Massachusetts stated, (I’m para-phrasing) We should look at ALL companies we feel needs this act.
So what company is next?
Yours?…..Mine?…any new Start Up?…How about if we apply this type of logic to that fancy college tuition you’re paying for? Where’s your child going to find the job their studying for? Oh that’s right, If you accept or apply for any college loans, they can ONLY be made through the Government. That’s a new law that takes effect next year. So if the same rational applies for the Government in using it for their decision-making process. If they need people to run these companies because it’s in the good of the Tax Payer, and is needed in the eyes of the Government, what’s to say that in order for YOUR child to finish their degree, or receive one, they’ll have to do some Government Service working at one of these companies, hospitals,_______(again, YOU fill in the blank!)
Gives a whole new meaning to government intervention doesn’t it?

© 2009 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Dow 10,000…Great!….Now impress me Without the Training Wheels.

This post also appears in Forbes.com…………CEOnetwork (R)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a level that every pundit and analyst on TV wanted to scream for months now…DOW breaks 10,000! All are saying it’s a “milestone” it’s this…it’s that…….It’s Hog Wash in my book. That’s a pretty big statement so I’ll elaborate without getting too technical.

First off, let’s remember…..Television Financial Show ratings go DOWN when the market goes down. That’s not an assumption…that’s a fact. Viewership decreases as people feel worse about the market or are losing money..They just don’t tune in to hear how much money they lost.That’s why you see commentators on Financial Networks putting such a positive spin on everything, and anything. CNBC as this year is down in viewership over 20% to 23% this year. ( I can’t remember the exact # but it is close to what I stated…You can research it yourself to make sure.) Television is like a bakery if you think about it…You always have to have fresh bread in the window…No matter how Bad sales are. So it’s no surprise that the spin would be as if the market was on the “Bull Run” of a life time as it is being portrayed. It’s NOT!

In 1999 when the DOW first broke 10,000..It was a great, and historic event, but it was also done without training wheels. The only reason the market is at these levels currently is from the Trillions….Yes…Trillions of dollars allocated by the Federal Reserve to keep Banks, and other institutions from completely collapsing. Analysts are falling over each other showing how “Earnings” are beating expectations. If anyone cares to notice…..It’s not really beating …It’s just Not as Bad as expected?……..Huh? Or another way to say it might be…We were expecting Famine…but it’s only another year of Drought….OK I feel much better now.

Just a few other caveats to ponder as this “Bull Rally” continues….( I believe it to be on its last leg myself.)so I’ll list a few.

Did anyone on TV as this market kept going higher state that another “historic event happened just month and a half ago…..Goldman Sachs on 1 trading day accounted for…..34% of the TOTAL NYSE trading volume. (Welcome to your new Wall St. the old one doesn’t exist.)..and it’s your Tax dollars….Not Bad for government work I guess.

Did anyone on TV state as this market was going higher that over 44% of 1 trading days total volume was allocated to just 2 stocks? Those would be the governments Fannie and Freddie Mac….Who by the way, were about to be de-listed that week…If their market share didn’t increase by that week’s end. Wow… Good thing they were on sale Ay? That surely was historic..from so many angles.

Are you an older CEO..or a newly appointed CEO….either way…How’s that Climate Bill…and Health Care Bill that’s passed and about to be voted on and become LAW soon making you feel?….Don’t worry…..everyone said either bill would never see the light of day……Oops….Those commentators got it wrong again. Well it’s not like they have to deal with the implications….Right?

One last thing that you wont hear on TV…All this so called “Bull Run” we’re on…Well the total volume on just one of the exchanges…the CME…that’s the place you see on TV most of the time with the Futures Pits were Traders make the markets….So far Volume for the futures is less than 1/2 of what it was just a year ago. So much for everyone jumping back in.

I heard Steve Forbes say it clearly when asked on one of those Financial Shows..( I’m paraphrasing but not by much.)…. Until the Fed gets out…The markets are broken.

I agree.

Mark

P.S.

Just a correction…I made a mistake…the 44% also had 2 other stocks……Citi..and AIG…I just wanted to make sure when I was pointing out the government involvement…I wouldn’t be accused of doing government quality reporting.

If you want to “Lead”…You had better be ready when “Everyone else Can’t…or Wont!”

I was speaking to a group yesterday on a subject when I was asked…”How can you be so sure?”……My response was….”I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do what I feel is prudent.”

Leading is about making hard calls, hard decisions. You’re NOT going to be right all the time ( Read that line once more for emphasis.) but that’s not the point. You have to LEAD if that’s the position your in. Whether you chose to be there….Or not. If you want to be the leader, then do so…..Period!

I made a very tough call on August 22, 2009 ” ( see Aug. posting “On the Record”)…many said to me I might be putting my reputation on the line if wrong. That’s irrelevant in my book. I’m not a martyr, nor aspiring for that position, but since my call on the 22nd…Everyone, and I mean everyone I talked with was almost giddy in trying to demonstrate how I just didn’t get it, how I’m not just as tuned in as they were, and on and on.

So I just thought it fitting since the stock market has now retraced all the great gains everyone was touting, and saying I wasn’t getting it,and the so called “experts” had almost guaranteed the worst was over. I say to them….”How’s all your data treating you today?”

Mark

The proverbial “Shot across the bow” that may prove Fatal for the shooter.

This post also appears in Forbes.com………….CEOnetwork (R)

Just when you think that maybe….just maybe…things might be getting back to a more “normal” business environment, you are reminded how fragile they are. That is…If you truly want to see, and not rely on the so called “Smart Crowd”

People like myself, and a hand full of others have been writing and speaking about the perilous state of affairs we currently find ourselves. The talking heads and other pundits are proclaiming “Victory” over the financial debacle that plagued the economy just 18 months ago. So too are the politicians taking credit for being so “Smart” and enacting policies that in their words..” Brought us back from the brink of a Great Depression.”  This is exactly the kind of self grandeur that leads to the thinking one can’t make a worse mistake than before.  But ohhhhh contrare…….

First off save the emails, and letters. This is not about which politician, or  what party affiliation, or one person, or____________ (you fill in the blank) etc.,etc. It’s about ALL politicians, and ALL government actions, past, present, and future that I’ll encompass here.

One of the little understood reasons why this country has been a force for prosperity unlike ANY nation before it, was the  unique ability of the American Free Enterprise system to take its lumps no matter how severe the beating, and then Move On! American business, and entrepreneurship had a  propensity to deal with business upheavals the same way a forest remains healthy, by understanding you sometimes let the underbrush burn, so that new start ups, (think real green shoots) and other types of creatures (think vultures and others) cleanup the waste in order that the forest remains healthy. Nature has been doing this for all of time, and when business followed Mother Nature in her ideals business prospered.  Sound a little esoteric? It’s not really, take the perplexing reaction of the stock market over the past decades when a major problem was being dealt with at any company listed. Some would shake their head when a company would, Fire a CEO for an outrageous scandal, or sell 1/2 the company because of poor profits, or layoff a large part of its work force because of poor implementation of employee resources, and what would happen? The company stock would RISE!…Why?…because they were Evil, Greedy business people?…NO!..because unlike most other business centric countries, we understand in our Core Business Acumen that if you truly make the hard but necessary changes,  the business may not only survive, but might move on to thrive. Politicians, and governments Don’t do this, nor do they think this way. Just take GM, Chrysler, the Banks, and the others. (just to name a few) They are the equivalent of keeping the charred and burned lumber not only within the structure, but using it as the foundation to add additions to. It’s a disaster just waiting to happen. One small storm, one small unseen shaking, and it can collapse with devastating consequences. And that’s why I’m very, and I mean very concerned about politicians being involved in the free markets today. They are showing if one dares to look, just how foolish they can be, and how little understanding they have of both business, and money.

Friday afternoon (the time used most to alleviate scrutiny or coverage .)  on September 11, 2009 the administration declared that it was imposing a 35% tariff on Chinese made tires in the U.S. at the behest of the unions to help level the playing field for U.S. made tires. Think what you want on whether they are right or wrong. Business is about the economics, and strategic implementation, and timing. Politics is about the social mood, and votes are the currency.

This warning shot can backfire to point of the shooter originally firing a cap gun, and the other side returning fire with the equivalent of a howitzer. here’s a couple of items to ponder…..

1. China is our largest debt holder. (Like it or not, they’re the bank!)

2. China has already signaled that it is “Uncomfortable” with our spending, and might not purchase as much of our debt as before.

3. China is known for retaliatory one up-manship in economic affairs. ( Close one of your markets…They’ll close ALL of theirs.) etc.

4. Protectionist signals in times of economic distress lead to Trade Wars.

5. You signal to the “World of Business”…..Political doctrine will supersede current understandings of economic fundamentals.

Big events unlike what most pundits will tell you, start with a very small trigger event, then escalate quickly, sometimes very, very quickly. I hope the itchiness to secure more political favors, doesn’t result in the unintended firing of a fatal shot on a hair trigger to the shooter.

Mark

The Perilous Dangers of ” A False Sense of Security”

If one wants to know why more people are having difficulties in life, you don’t have to look far, but you do have to take notice. The clues are everywhere, but you have to extrapolate to see the root cause.

America has been blessed over the years of providing a level of security in both life, health, and wealth unseen in most other parts of the world. ( This is not a political discussion,  so save the emails.) We take for granted the basic necessities of life, but what we also take for granted in this day and age is that everything works, all the time, everywhere, no matter the conditions or mathematical odds of a failure. People blindly trust that no matter where they are on the planet..The Cell Phone will work…Internet access is available, etc., etc. But what has become blatantly obvious to me is peoples false sense that “Bad things” only happen to others on the news.

I say these things because of a sight seeing ride my wife and I enjoyed over the holiday weekend. We went to spectacular scenic location in Kentucky called ” The Natural Bridge”, a stone bridge carved from a single rock atop  a canyon that appeared to be 1000 feet below us. Sheer cliff like  faces throughout the canyon, all were breath taking. OK you’re saying…nice but what does all that mean? Well………..

This State Park seems to have been able to dodge the wrath of Liability Law Suits that plague businesses today. You needed to take a cable ski lift chair to get to the bridge. There were NO safety devices to stop you from lifting up the bar, and jumping off to the valley below to your own demise. Have a small child…better hold on to them, no special seat for them regardless of age. Put the teenagers in the lift in front of you while Mom and Dad enjoy the peacefulness, better hope they behave or someones going for an unpleasant fall. With that said, you arrive at the top and find after walking down a narrow pathway alongside the mountain you come to the bridge.  After taking a few steps out onto it you become abruptly aware that you are on a massive stone, suspended hundreds of feet in the air, and there are NO..repeat..NO safety lines, ropes, warnings, rails, nothing, and I mean Nothing, to impede, or stop you from slipping or falling, To Your Death!

I watched with bewilderment people walk right to the edge nonchalant, turn around and say ” Hey take my picture!” A mere gust of wind would have been enough to send them over. The bridge itself was a solid stone with a smooth surface. There was sand in some places that had been blow around making way for even less traction…Right at the edge!…But some people were oblivious to this fact. It was so perilous that if you had your back turned and someone bumped into you by mistake. It would be you to have the accident.

We walked to another part of the site where you could view the bridge from afar to see it in all its splendor, but this view was a rock plateau that jetted out from the canyon wall. It was just as magnificent, and just as dangerous as the bridge. No safety restraints of any kind, fall off the edge, call the Coroner, forget the Doctor! Once again, I watched people allowing their children to swing on branches of some trees, where if the limb snapped, at a minimum the child would roll down hundreds of feet down the valley wall. I watched a woman 6 or 7 feet from the edge of  the cliff with her back to the edge holding her camera up to her face trying to take a picture of her family who were sitting on a bench Watching her unsteadiness in her footing on the cliff rock. Maybe they didn’t like her decision for food that night, who knows, but she was making ME nervous!

Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not calling for OSHA or the Safety Police to come a calling to the site. In fact..It was refreshing to be able to see nature in all its splendor, without the obstructions from the so called  Do Gooder Police that have to protect me at every turn. I’m an adult and understand risks and perils. It’s up to me to be careful, not up to someone else to do that for me. But from what I witnessed this day with so many oblivious to the real dangers, or seemingly not caring, It’s only a matter of time when you wont be allowed to be an adult here also.

Mark

A forecast “On the Record and For the Record.”

Many will look at the above headline and say..What do you mean by that?

So I’ll explain, and state why I think this may be one of the more important columns I’ll write for at least the immediate to near future. So here goes!….

I’m at my desk just after dinner on Saturday, August 22, 2009 writing this column. I ‘m stating the date on purpose so that whether I’m correct or I’m wrong in my forecasts or assumptions, I can be judged on empirical evidence. Most people who want to be taken seriously or have people make decisions based on their recommendations always seem to leave themselves a way out, or a way to spin the results if they’re wrong. I don’t. I say what I mean based on my experiences, and what I know from previous decisions or circumstances I’ve had to deal with in the real world. Not the hypothetical world of the so called “Experts” ..who leave things so vague they can appear right, no matter where the chips may land.

The Stock Market has just put in a new year record high across all the major blue chip indexes.  Nasdaq, S&P, Dow Jones, and Russell 2000. To date not only has the market been skyrocketing up since the lows from March of this year, but now Everywhere You Turn, someone is trying to tell us that The Recession is Over…The New Bull Market is Here….Dow 15,000 Here We Come!…and that just covers the Friday night talking heads. ( And most of these are the fill ins because most are on vacation this week!)

On Thursday it was announced that jobless claims once again rose more than expected. The weekly number was just over 585,000 New Claims. The continuing claims were also higher than expected…just over 6.2 Million. But once again…The experts all touted…” A sure sign you’re in a new Bull Market is when it can shake off bad news.”…..I say…Oh Really?…I heard others stating…” Well the stock market is a forward looking indicator”….again I say ” Oh Really?’….When the market was falling at a rate not seen since the Great Depression, what was it predicting then Hmmmmmm? I guess I’m suppose to not believe the account statements, and 401k statements my friends were howling about because…The market didn’t understand then…It’s sorry now, and wants to make amends….I say Rubbish!..I know you want to ask so I’ll state it so you don’t have to……No. I didn’t lose ANY money, and I actually made money, by taking it out of someones hands ( A Fund Manager), and placing it where it belonged…In Mine! I was scared and nervous at the time that I did it…I was not a so called Trader..or so called  Stock type guy, but I had recently retired, and moved to another part of the country.( I was 45 at the time!) when I thought the so called Stock Market which was at its all time high in the Dow Jones over 14,000 that things were looking and feeling very shaky. I had an uneasy feeling about what I was watching in the economy..( Though Every single talking head was talking about Dow 20,000 that year!)  I decided if I couldn’t tell why I should be in, or why I should be out at that moment…I needed to get schooled, and get schooled Fast, and the only way to force that decision was to put ALL, yes, ALL my monetary stock decisions of any size or shape directly under MY CONTROL! If I couldn’t defend any of my decisions right, wrong, or indifferent, then I needed to not be involved, or at risk. No Matter How Much Money I could miss out on making! Thank God my decision worked out, but it’s not intended to impress…It’s to try and show I actually live by what I say, which is what more of the so called “Experts” need to be doing. I’m alarmed by the cavalier attitude in which they are all  shouting the “All Clear!” signal.

In 2004 I was invited to speak at a major conference for some of this nations largest food companies for their National Marketing Campaign. I found many of the so called “Industry Experts” and others patting themselves and anyone else who would listen on their backs stating  “How Great” everything was….How profit’s were at an all time high, and going to continue for years. I heard them state this source…give this example…and on, and on. When I was called to speak I decided to shoot from the hip, No written, or prepared text, just straight from the gut on what I felt and truly believed. I stated the exact opposite of everything they were believing to be true. I stated that if the things that all were ignoring were not dealt with immediately, there would be a shake out that would bring many near bankruptcy. I stated and tried to remind the attendees that it was only a short 18 months prior when most were wondering if their business would even be around for the conference that was taking place at this time. ( The  average company size attending were $500 Million to $10 Billion and above annually.) When I was finished you could hear a pin drop, I was given a complimentary applause, and could feel the heat of the stares as I  left the conference. ( A couple of attendees later came and thanked me for speaking so direct and agreed with me, but for other reasons felt they could not say it.)

Within weeks of my speech and forecasts the market not only tumbled, but it crashed. The value of most of the products that we sold fell 50% in 2 weeks, then another 50%, then another, ending in approximately a 80% DROP in value for the industry. It wasn’t millions…It was Tens of Billions of dollars, and to this day has never recovered. 4 of the larger companies in attendance no longer exist in the same capacity that they were in. They are less than 1/2 the size the were in 2004…2 more of the companies in attendance that day made National Headlines when they called for Bankruptcy protection in a press release that ” Shocked the Experts”….I bet it did.

By now if you’ve read this far your probably saying to yourself…OK..So what now?

I feel the same way now as I did then…..I’ve written time and time again on things that I see as not looking right. ( See archives..Party 1999…On TV Right…The world has changed…and others posted on this Blog.) But now…It’s becoming more pronounced to me than ever. Since retired I still speak, and write with  CEO’s and business leaders on what I think is relevant to their future. But if you want to be taken seriously, and be paid the big bucks…You had better be willing and able to make a call, and live by, and be judged on that call. That’s what you expect from a professional, anything else is left for rookies, and wanna bees….Period!

So am I saying the world is going to end tomorrow?..No!….However, what I am saying that a day of reckoning is not far off the horizon, and I mean weeks to months, ( so not to be confused of playing of Nostradamus.) that can fundamentally change the business landscape for decades, and if you read my post with the headline…“The problems not the pendulum” you’ll understand why I’m so concerned, and why this may be a critical point.

If I’m wrong…Well I can handle that….But if I’m right…I want too at least be on the record as trying to warn of the perils that may be near. Life is tough already both in business and in family. This is one time I hope I’m wrong.

Mark

P.S. The federal government announced late Friday afternoon that they underestimated the Federal Deficit over the next 10 years…They projected $ 7 Trillion In DEBT!…….Oooops ….It’s going to be $ 9 Trillion!

Or to make it a little easier to digest.That’s $ 1.00  x 2,000,000,000,000

Want to visualize it better OK…..The experts, and analysts only missed by  a stack of……. $ 1000.00 bills..Ready?…..135.8 Miles High!

Close enough for government work I guess.

Also reported Friday, the value of US equities  ( Source Bloomberg) lost     $ 7 Trillion dollars of value since 2007.

But whats a few Trillion Dollars amongst friends, Right?

A level playing field is great…..As long as the players aren’t crooked.

We have heard time and time again from business leaders, government officials, economists, pundits, and on and on tell everyone who’ll  listen that government intervention into the private system was ” the only way to avert disaster.” Some chase down every microphone or television camera to scream the virtues of their decisions. They mouth platitudes and pat themselves on the back, all the while the consequences of their meddling are coming to bear for anyone who truly wants to see.

I have written in past columns along with others that the so-called “Yellow Brick Road” to recovery is not gold at all. It’s more like some phony imitation prop on a third-rate Off Broadway production. True theater goers (business leaders) can’t help noticing that every time the actors step on the “Yellow Brick Road”…it creeks from being made of plywood and gold paint. While everyone may seemingly be enjoying the show, some theater patrons are overlooking the serious flaws and enjoying the moment….But experienced patrons will not pay “On Broadway” prices for anything that’s not up to the caliber demanded at that level…period!

Investment capital, real money, real businesses, all have real rules and expectations. When Uncle Sam became involved in the private sector with all of its alphabet soup programs e.g.; TARP, TALF, SMAF, RALF, ( yes some pun intended.)  I stated that if you’re in business of any size…How do you know what the rules will be going forward? Who will be your competition? Will they have the same accounting standards as you? Will your product still be legal…1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now? If you own or start the business…Is your salary going to be capped if you employ more than 1 worker? How can one answer these questions based on history?….All these questions are prominent in a new era of business rules, and a new government philosophy of what it believes your business responsibilities should be regardless of what you think. Another big question that seemingly no one is thinking about…Will businesses, and or talent that have the ability to move out of the US and avoid these trappings move?…Or will they just sell, close, retire or something else. And are any of them your customers, employees, bankers, or suppliers? All very visceral questions, all very serious, all very real in today’s “New World of Business.”

Ok your saying to yourself….Give me an example ….You can always find answers if you look…That’s what business leaders do right?…That’s why we get paid the big bucks, because we can forecast, and deal with changes, that’s where opportunities are. Right?

Well, you would be correct 24 months ago, but today, it’s a very different landscape.  I’ll give one example and you be the judge. Let’s say hypothetically you need the answer to this question because you have to invest real money in a project that demands you knowing the answer. Your personal, and or business fortune would depend on your decision. Then after contemplating you must be truthful in stating …“You know the answer…not assume…you know! But if you’re like me…You’ll find that very hard to do.

So here’s the question…JP Morgan Chase is lending the State of California…1.5 Billion Dollars today so it can end the states IOU program early. That means that the State can continue paying who ever, or what ever person or business that it owes in real dollars once again. OK, good for that, but what if your competitor was one having to accept the IOU’s….Your competition just caught a life line Per Se. Good for them, not so good for you, especially if you just invested considerable capital for the additional business you thought you could gain from a beleaguered competitor. But why would JP Morgan do that?…Wasn’t the bank having the problem accepting the IOU’s…. Bank of America? BofA had stated it was no longer going to accept them as cash for payments on their loans. That would have put a world of hurt on BofA in more ways than one, both financially, and publicly. Why would a competitor bank step in and seemingly stop the bleeding of a rival? Also it does this at a time that saves the State of California from issuing more IOU’s…early!…before it had needed to. And last but not least..Why would JP Morgan want the prospects of loaning money to a borrower who has shown that it can’t repay the loans (it already has) in the traditional sense therefore opening its shareholders to possible catastrophic losses?

Hmmmmm….State Government needs money, one of the banks it deals with is already in a financial hurt, news about other things are dominating the headlines,  and it’s summer so most of the scrutiny is gone. What’s one to do?….Maybe..just maybe….They get the Healthy bank to loan the State the money, They own the banks through TARP…so they can give a wink and a nod to the healthy bank that the loan is good. Saves the State, Saves the face of one bank, makes the other bank look like a hero. They’ll be very little press coverage if any.(Bloomberg was the only one I seen report it.) and Congress along with others needn’t be involved because it can be done by fiat, and no ones the wiser. Sounds like they have a plan! OK, now your turn, where to invest next, or should I say, what’s your next business plan?

Like I said before, things just don’t seem as straight lined as they once were, but hey, we’re only talking your money, and your future as a CEO. Welcome to Business 101.2a I guess.

Mark

Party like it’s 1999 only a decade later? I think not!

This post also appears in Forbes.com………CEOnetwork (R)

Here we are in August of 2009, if you went by what is being said in TV and elsewhere, you would think there was never a 2008. Airwaves crackle with the pops , and pings of the stock market hitting record highs!…..Yes….I said record highs..( but I mean you can only account for this year )..Last week the stock market had its best performing month in over 2 decades…( The source were commentators on both CNBC and Bloomberg, and a few others.) Statistically all were true, but do you really believe the worst is behind us? I personally think not, and here’s why……..

The rise in the stock market is dramatic because of the sheer size of the near collapse it undertook just a brief 12 to 18 months ago. Both the S&P, and Dow were racing to new highs…BUT..not anywhere near this rate, and that was when if you didn’t have a job, didn’t have any savings, and a few other so called trifle things, guess what? You could buy a New Home, a New Car, and probably one or two credit cards with 10K spending limits. ( 10K at first, but after you made your first minimum payment, you might get raised to 20K but I digress.) Some  commentators on the financial talk shows have now declared ” We have entered a New Bull Market!”. I heard one state… “Dow 15000 here we come!” and on, and on. So now you’re asking, but didn’t I see on the cover of a national magazine that they declared the recession over?….Yes you did!…and that’s why I feel the worst is yet to come.

If you really pay attention to all this so called great news, all you have to understand are the terms, Not as Bad…Is the New …..Beating the Street. Here’s an example to illustrate my point.   If you were broke, but I said the computer you were reading this column on right now was worth 5 times more than what you paid for it originally, are you Richer Now? What if I said it’s worth 10 times, a 100 times, a thousand times, what then? Most would say, of course!….Sorry, not so fast. It’s worth that value as an accounting option, or change in a loop hole. You can’t go out and sell it for that, of course No One would pay that, but as a Tax Loop hole go right ahead. Of course that is, if you have made any profits to declare it against, if you don’t have any profits, well it’s all just a fools errand. But right now, this is exactly how most banks, and other entities are so called…Beating Wall Street Analyst’s Expectations!…you know, the same people who never saw the great debacle that was unfolding in their so called area of expertise.

The velocity of the most recent rise of the stock market is from managers, and large portfolio funds who must put money to work in the market at certain levels. For many, their bylaws state they Can Not remain in Cash positions for extended periods of time. They MUST be in the market. This means for many, holding their nose and buying on speculation, or as others would say…Pure Hope!…..But expectations will have to be met, or there will be a very, very dear price to be paid.

Unemployment is currently at 9.5% and most are calling for it to go higher in the very near future. Some are calling for much higher. The so called saving legislation that every politician wants to proclaim has saved us, is showing month after month, that less than 12 to 15 percent of it has even been put to work. ( That includes mortgage refi’s, and other programs also.) The Fed is holding together the financial system the best it can at the present time with the equivalent of Duct Tape. It has to keep interest rates at ZERO regardless of what it can cause in the future, because right now….No Ones Lending!…Think I’m wrong?….Try getting a loan for operating expenses from a bank?…I don’t think so….Also…If you already have a revolving line of credit..you’re doing everything in your power with the exception of cutting your bankers grass yourself to keep it open, or not being reduced. ( Some people might even cut the grass if it meant they could get the loan!)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a doom and gloomer. Far from it, I’m an optimist. However, optimists that can take advantage of staying in business by not falling into the traps that the competition seems to be falling all over itself to embrace, just might be the cure for the financial blues that I feel are sure to come. If it’s inevitably going to rain on someones parade…..I want an umbrella in case it rains purple.

Mark

What happens when 1+1= What ever you decide?

Numbers are a funny thing. We’re taught growing up that math is either right or wrong. Don’t try to imply some gray area in your answer or you’re going to fail the test. That is…unless you’re in politics.

Politics is a serious matter but some view it as a game. The game of President, Senator, Congressman, Mayor,et al. (You fill in what ever fits your fancy) to many is only to get their guy or gal elected to win the game. Numbers and statistics are looked on with the same reverence as fresh clay on a potters wheel to be molded and crafted into whatever vessel  desired. But, and this is a very big BUT, not all will hold water.

In the world of business 1+1=2…..period! You are either making a profit or you’re not…..period! Only in the world of politics can you lose money, but make it up on volume. So what does it all mean?

In politics….Mr. Politician can bloviate on how he has created this, saved that, told those dastardly businessmen to do this, and the crowds cheer him on. But as time goes on you find yourself unemployed. You’re told not to worry, but the Bank or Landlord doesn’t accept that as payment. You hear the stock market is up over 50% this year….you think.. Great I’m back to even!….Not so fast….You’re still down 25% ( Funny thing that math stuff.) You hear the price of housing rose this month making a short term bottom…Once again not so fast….It fell 17.3% as opposed to an estimated 17.8…That’s a whopping .5% less. If your counting on selling your home as a retirement asset that equates on a $250K home to around …Drum Roll Please!….$406.00. I feel richer already. Wait you say…They said a 3% rise!…Oh yes, that’s correct….but it was 3% in the rate of change…NOT, your total asset price. Once again, funny how that math stuff works.

Years back there was a great analogy made in all the marketing circles that always brought things in perspective. To some it maybe tired, but  some need to be reminded. It goes something like this…….

Company X calls an all hands on deck meeting to figure out why sales are in the hopper, and cash is bleeding from the coffers at an unsustainable rate. The CEO screams and demands answers. The best marketing has been put on TV, Radio, Print, and others. Huge amounts of money in free give a ways and product samples. Buyers and vendor liaisons have been wined and dined at some of the finest restaurants and venues to court sales. The finest research teams, and consultants to formulate and implement the sales strategy. But low and behold……No Takers…No Buyers…..Why?

As all the so called experts scratch their heads for an answer, a poor beleaguered average employee not invited to the original meeting of the minds says in a very low voice that resonates like the sound of thunder……..

The product tastes so bad…Even my dogs wont eat it….and they’ll eat anything!

Remember business and money is a 1+1=2 game. You have to break through the static to read the numbers. It’s up to you, and you alone to find information to back up the claims spewed everywhere throughout the media. Opinions are free…but more often than not…useless.

Relevant, reliable, actionable information is usually costly….but when used effectively……..It’s Priceless!

Mark

The “Free” debate heats up…..But who will “Pay” in the end?

This post also appears in Forbes.com……CEOnetwork (R)

The latest publication of the new book Free by Chris Anderson is causing quite a stir in the so called “Guru Community”.

CEO’s and business leaders alike have been been falling over themselves in trying to figure out who they believe has the right commentary on the subject. You would think that someone was trying to figure out how they could gain access to their bank accounts or something….Oh wait a minute…Maybe that’s what is actually happening!

I’ve read from Seth Godin, Malcom Gladwell, Mark Cuban, and others their take on the subject. It is quite interesting that even these experts on the subject are at odds with one and others views. Usually they’re ahead of the curve, and more often than not  they’ve been proven right for their prognostications, and usually from a similar point of view. ( Not on everything, but the general transformations of media.) I find this raging debate, and everything that it seems to have lit off …fascinating!

Free, and everything it implies is a death knell, or at least a massive coronary to everything profit, is it not?  But what if just maybe it’s not.
One of the main reasons why you, me, and others are listening and chiming into this debate with such an intense want of understanding is because we want just that….understanding. Everyone who owns a business or intends to own one, or is responsible to the bottom line to pay salaries, taxes, start up costs, and more looks at free as something that can’t be competed against. To some free makes an already nervousness feeling in their gut feel more like an ulcer in these economic times. One of the first things that you say to yourself is “I’ve just reduced the widget by 20%, what if someone now offers it for free?…Then what?…How can I compete with that?”  I believe those are exactly the wrong things to think and here’s why.

What we are now experiencing in this economic climate is what I call ” Paradigm Upheaval” Everything that we thought was so, is no longer , but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Take radio, and television for instance. Radio screamed they would not be able to compete with television. Radio was free, but they didn’t have moving pictures! Business leaders said they would be dead in a year. Sorry to say, but radio is probably stronger now than it ever was. Why? It now needed to find what it was truly better at than TV, and make itself even better. Take the flip side of that argument on another level. Who was that crazy masked man who had to propose that…… “Not only are we going to compete with free TV,  we’re going to charge for it! Not only are we going to charge a minimum just to watch TV, but were going to compete so well we’ll charge extra! Can you imagine the poor guy pitching that idea at the boardroom. The poor schmuck probably ended his presentation with having to tell a panel who wanted everything to be wireless, and over the airwaves …….Clearing a lump in his throat as he said…..”and we’ll call it Cable TV!…..Oh how foolish he must have seemed….Yes… tongue and cheek, but I think you get my point.

Free will become part of the equation to increase profits. Yes…I didn’t make a mistake…It will be a very intricate part of making profits, just where it fits in the marketing dynamic is right now unclear. But that’s a good thing because that also means no one…and I mean No One, is yet late for the party in figuring it out and then monopolizing, or monetizing it into their own business. Matter of fact the party is probably just starting, and when it gets going, the ones who are actively involved in looking to see how “Free” can work for their bottom line will find they didn’t need to be invited. They’ll have already found a seat and be enjoying the music, while others are waiting and wondering why they didn’t receive an invitation.

Mark