Lessons We Can Learn From Wall Street

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket Magazine week of March 11th)

Everyone today wants to rant and rail about anything related to “Wall Street.” Doesn’t matter if they have money at work or not, they have an opinion. But what really intrigues me is the human condition in relationship to it. I contend if you know how to look at things you can gain insight that will bust many myths about people we hold dear. And many myths that might be holding you back in business. Here’s a quick point to ponder:

“People are more informed, rational, and will only pay for value.”

That is a myth and is shattered everyday the markets are open. People will pay on what they “perceive” is value. Not whether it is or not. To use basic numbers that are for demonstration purposes only, use the following example. The S&P 500 was worth $1,500 per share at 20 times earnings. Now it’s worth $1,300 at 10 times earnings. If it’s making 1/2 the earnings why not 1/2 the price? Or better yet tell me what the real price is supposed to be? You can’t because there is no “real” price. It’s what someone else thinks it’s worth and what someone else will pay. The final value is a perceived value. (You really need to read that last line again and let it sink in.)

How many of you are pricing your goods or services based on what you believe the perceived value is instead of what the market place wants or is willing to pay? I would contend most are struggling on their bottom line because they are under charging and over delivering. Many entrepreneurs make this classic mistake. However, it is correctable — it’s just when you decide to correct it will be the difference whether you stay in business or not.

The first sale you have to make is to yourself. You must be able to state your value unflinchingly. That goes for whether you are selling a widget or selling you. Don’t make the mistake of reasoning that your time is free and whatever you charge by the hour is gravy. It’s not! Time is irreplaceable and a diminishing resource. Start viewing and treating it as such.

If you can save someone $1 million dollars by advising them to do or not do something that no one else either is or can what should be the final value that you charge? Do you charge them by the hour? And if you did at what rate per hour would you use? $100…$500…$1000…$10,000? There’s no widget involved just your brainpower, so it’s all free right? All gravy, correct? Some of you are thinking, “Well how many hours would it have taken? If I have that equation I could figure out what the bill should be.” I say to that…wrong! If that was entering your mind then what I’m trying to express just was manifested by your own thinking. You would be looking for a figure you are comfortable asking for, not what the real value of what you should be charging. Think I’m off track? Fair enough. Here’s how long it took: Under 45 seconds and it was all said in nearly one breath. Now what’s the answer? Now what would be your bill? How much would you feel comfortable sitting down right now and writing out an invoice with your letterhead, submitting it, and if it weren’t paid for within terms would sue for collections of non-payment? Answering that exercise while being honest with yourself in your answers will tell you volumes about what you are doing and where you are going.

Want a widget-based example? Apple’s iPhone® makes more in profit per phone than the total selling price of its nearest competitor.

Think about it.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Only the Best Need Apply…Yeah Right

For many this sounds like heresy. Usually the first ones to visibly demonstrate their contempt at this line of thought is anyone within an HR Department in any corporation today. Problem for most is when I begin to use their very department as my first reference to validate my thesis. (This is also where the gnashing of teeth begins.)

Let’s look at the economy as a whole today. Whether you are currently employed, seeking employment, or self-employed, you should always be on the lookout on how others are trying to attract talent. In today’s world talent, and innovation aren’t merely buzz words. They are imperative to sustainability or growth especially in today’s economic climate. Yet, how are most corporations dealing with attracting or hanging out the welcome sign to this finite resource? Well, one glaring example can be shown in one of the most important positions any organization can hire, sales! Many companies desperate for sales will openly state don’t apply for the position unless you have some alphabet soup letters after your name. If you don’t have an MBA or a BA don’t apply regardless of your track record. What a bunch of BS is all I can say. And if you dare apply they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more!) on the newest technology where a computer will just delete your resume to trash. I have been shaking my head at this idiotic way of thinking for decades. If there was an award for blatant foolishness as this, I fear we would run out of marble.

The thinking that allows this to take place and continue comes from the “corporate culture” mindset. HR gets to argue that if they didn’t apply filters then they would be over-run or burdened with the stress of having to actually read resumes and evaluate them. (Oh the horror!) However no one ever questions how or what they do in order to ensure a salesperson with a proven track record of sales at a competitor but has no degrees doesn’t slip through the cracks? Or a salesperson that has quantifiable results on being one of the best ever in their field, yet has no degree? There’s usually a lot of “ah, um, well,” at this point. But they have the answers at the ready to rationalize why they are extremely busy, and need to spend time sifting through the best of some new or improved  “Left Brain-Right Brain Hiring Procedures” to ensure they are attracting “qualified” resumes. All the while the very people who can’t get an interview contemplate starting their own company to become their greatest competitors.

It would be ironic if any contemplating that turned to starting found their competitive edge was to jettison any HR department for outside recruiters. But that’s off the top of my head, not left or right.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Thinking Aloud Audio Commentary: iPad

A quick hitting no holds barred series. This is a “Mr. Engineer, please hit the record button and let’s go!”  Unique for its “forget about edits and retakes” format. Designed and delivered to be thought provoking.

Some thoughts and observations about the device and the media that needs it most.

(Can’t see the audio player on your mobile device click here.)

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in Assoc. with StreetCry Media, All Rights Reserved

Don’t Show Me How Much You Care, Please!

Nothing sticks in my craw more often than hypocrisy. Doesn’t matter whether it’s in politics, religion, or anything else. So many times one side picks an argument saying this or that, but when no one is looking (or they think no one is) they do something to show they really don’t care about anyone else but themselves.

Many of you know from time to time I have said openly that my current residence is on par with one of the best kept properties I’ve seen. The attentive nature to provide the residents with a feeling of living on an exclusive property is proven daily by the management of the property, and by the staff from maintenance personnel to contractors that visit the property routinely.  I have been on resort properties that should take a lesson from the manager of this property. She is a walking textbook example of what a property manager should be. If you think I’m overstating my case I’ll use just one example for you to draw your own conclusions. This property once again this year won the coveted award for being the “Best.” As other properties that are also considered “exclusive” and are very desirable, many of these communities need to advertise with banners, and signs or freebies to lure in residents. Our property has up to a one year waiting list, and I know has actually been longer. Normally we are at 100% occupancy and has been that way since I personally have lived here. I know this because I routinely have casual conversations with the staff when our paths cross.

In today’s day and age of companies over promising but under performing it is refreshing to not only see the opposite first hand, but have the pleasure of living with it as a customer. But it appears not for everyone.

In an attempt to be accommodating to residents with pets there are really no restrictions for where you can walk your dog on the property. The properties only request is that you pick up any waste left by your pet. In an effort to make this chore easy to comply with, the property has spared no expense to install pet waste stations where you can easily drop it off so you needn’t walk around carrying a plastic bag full of waste as you enjoy your pet. The staff will take care of it from there. All one has to do is toss it in and no one will see it again let alone step in it. But for some, they could care less. They want the address, they want the beautiful property, they want everything that comes with it, and to show you just how much they care about you having that also, they will allow their pet that must be the size of T-Rex the privilege of leaving his waste just about in front of your door. Not their door, your door, or a neighbor’s door. What an absolutely disgusting human being this person is as far as I’m concerned. (It’s the owners fault not the pet.)

A one time instance in the middle of the night in an emergency is understandable. You can always go back later, but this is now more than once, and is being done continually even as the management is sending notices, pleading, and neighbors are now becoming outraged. But they don’t care. It continues with a brand new present today out my door. The only reason it continues is because they have yet to be caught in the act, but that window will eventually be closed.

It’s truly reprehensible when everyone from customers to providers try to show how much they care about service or respectability of living with one another, as others who say they want the same thing show everyone exactly the opposite.

Just more proof that you can’t buy class. Their actions show their classless.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

What “The King’s Speech” Should Mean to You

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket Magazine week of March 4th)

In the movie The King’s Speech,the dynamics between the main characters (the King and his speech therapist) reflect an underlying state of contention in the real world that one side (because of title) is an embodiment of superiority while the other, who has demonstrated talents, is regarded as inferior because they lack some moniker of worthless alphabet soup following their name.

Let me be clear before some of you with degrees starting yelling at your screens. There are times when actual legal attributes are necessary. You can’t (nor is it legal) use the title of Dr. preceding your name unless you have the requisite degrees, and licenses. That also goes for a lawyer, or architect just to name a few. However most get caught up in “looking like” they are something they’re not rather than demonstrating what they are or what they can do to solve a client’s problem. Joining some organization (or paying for most) for the sole intention of adding letters to your title so you may appear smart is just plain dumb in my book. This is nothing more than trying to cover some inferiority complex.

In the movie there is a dramatic scene where there is a confrontation between the King, his therapist, and the Bishop who is questioning the competence of the therapist for lacking credentials he deems as important. This analogous scene plays out in more boardrooms than one can count. It’s also where most who have been in the position of the therapist fold like a cheap suit. Why? Because they invest more time in how their business card appears, or how important their title sounds rather than demonstrating what they can actually do to help a client. In this scene anyone who truly wants to make a living by achieving results that improve the client’s position must take note that the therapist never wavers in expressing what he can do, and what he has done. As far as the so-called monikers, they are useless, and he is unwavering in his argument on why he can help and not how he has a title that makes him sound like he can. In the real world today, yesterday, and tomorrow only one thing has merit, Results!

You must be ready to argue your value proposition to the client and that proposition must be something that is deliverable, or transferable. Not some pie in the sky no matter what happens you can spin as a job well done and collect a check. You should be ready to defend your dignity, reputation, and repute to any mudslinging or self-anointed elite no matter where you are, and more importantly no matter whom they are.

It is irrelevant that someone holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics while you might have never graduated high school. If the subject is about selling and you’re a skilled and competent salesperson with a track record then the smartest person in that room will be You! And you had better get rid of the inferiority complex that allows you to be intimidated if the Ph.D. crowd at some board meeting starts demeaning your lack of schooling. You need to argue your value and demonstrate your skills or decide that you’re wasting your breath and politely end the meeting and leave. If you don’t see yourself as a peer and an expert in your own field who is capable and competent to argue the good, the bad, and the ugly in your chosen vocation, then no amount of letters after your name will make a damn bit of difference.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Why I Don’t Allow Comments and Maybe Why Others Shouldn’t Either

If the unwritten rule of civil conversation starts with not venturing into the subject matter of religion or politics. I would also contend that an addition to that duo in today’s modern world would be the discussion on whether or not comments should be allowed or encouraged. These conversations themselves can turn just as laughable or just as vile as the comments you see today everywhere across the web.

As many of you know from day one I have never posted or allowed comments on my site. Many have asked why? Others have suggested maybe I’m afraid of negative comments. And others think no matter what the reason I should just open it up because in their words it’s just “dumb” not to. All are valid questions or points of view. The truth of the matter as I believe is this, “There is no one correct answer.” With that one statement I can set a table of bloggers, entrepreneurs, columnists, authors, media consultants, brand or business developers into a verbal combat free for all. Which is exactly the reason why I stand by my statement. This decision should be thought about and implemented with the same tactical reasoning you would deploy any other part of your marketing or business plan. It’s a strategic, and focus decision. Not just something to allow or disallow as an afterthought.

To use my own sites as an example I made the determination to not allow or display comments because first off as many of you know I reject unsolicited feedback in any form. Unsolicited feedback is meant for the giver not the receiver regardless how it’s defended by the giver. Other reasons consist of examples such as the boiler room operations that post on any site of record with vague or quasi agreements then follow-up with some call to action statement such as “I found another great resource on this subject also at BlahBlahBlah dot-com you should check out!” If something like this is appearing on your own site but you’re leaving it up because you think it shows others that people agree with you and what you have to say, I would suggest you look at it again with fresh eyes. Then there are the ones that to me defy logic and at the same time bolster my views. I was going to post these in a screenshot format,  however it was too difficult to hide their names to protect their identities from ridicule so I’ll just quote them here, “I’m not educated enough in this group to fairly comment. I’ll edit this comment when I know more.” and this one “I will have to wait until after the first meeting before I post an opinion on this group. I sure hope this is what I have been waiting for in a networking group.” Thanks for letting us know is all I can say.

Then there are the down right rude or vile ones left with no other agenda than to serve some form of release or craving that screams a need for professional help. I believe everyone knows exactly what these types are so I needn’t go into details.

Not having to waste any of my own focus or sanity dealing with or paying for and providing the platform was a strategic decision. My work is very public and also appears on many other platforms or sites where comments are encouraged. Also, I felt strongly that being referenced on other platforms carried much more weight than culling and displaying on my own whether good or bad.

As I said earlier I feel there is no true right or wrong answer. The correct answer is exactly where this very powerful medium fits into your overall strategic plans. And exactly where and how you’re going to use it and why.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

F.T.W.S.I.J.D.G.I.G.T.

(For those who say I just don’t get it…Get this!)

When you conduct your business on the public stage as I do there are many that always look upon anything you say with great suspect. I understand this and unlike most I encourage it. Just because I say something is or is not doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look upon it with a healthy dose of skepticism. Most so-called “Guru’s” want to express that they know something you don’t and now consider themselves “experts” because by some form of osmosis or voodoo logic they have gained insights you may or may not have. The motivational genre is notorious for this. Most are no more than “Snake Oil” sales people. As I’ve declared many times, I have no use for most of them. To that point I just wanted to give a clear example for you to ponder because as I believe, “You either have credibility you can prove, or it’s just bull.”

I’ve been asked about my Bio from time to time. Some are either puzzled or intrigued that I offer two and not just one. Which in some cases is why I did it. But when it comes to the more, lets say edgier version, some question why I would include a reference to another persons work and include it with mine. It’s a good question and I don’t mind answering at all. The reason why I did it was to really show that, (1.) These aren’t people I had (or paid) to have a picture taken with and now trying to state we’re “friends.” (2.) They’re real people I know and were close enough that when we were all going through difficulties we at times asked each other what we thought about this or that and what we would do. (3.) I could not think of a better line to describe where we were starting from than the line one of them put as a sub heading on his book. I wish I thought of it, but unlike most, I’m not going to try to steal it and say I said it. And (4.) I was trying to push a point I’m not unique, and here’s proof I can show first hand that if we did it, so can you regardless of where you’re starting from.

Most believe it’s hyperbole. Something either ourselves or publicists made up to make it sound worse than it was. It’s understandable but I would like to share something that sets that record straight to show it’s not and it really doesn’t matter where you start from. Just start! You can make the changes necessary to do what you need to accomplish your dreams, and never let someone suggest you can’t because of where you come from, or the odds are too great to overcome. Tell them stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. Because if people like myself or friends can dream about grabbing the brass ring where we started from and get it, then so can you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Period!

As I write this we have just about settled my mother in law into my residence. She moved in just before Christmas because our hometown is now out of control. To add to my accounting of where I started from and to disprove any thoughts on hyperbole I offer as exhibit A the following headline and story released this week:

Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned
“Crime  is soaring, schools  are  failing, government  has  lost  control, and  Lawrence, the  most godforsaken  place  in  Massachusetts, has  never  been  in  worse  shape…”

By Jay Atkinson
You can read the full article here. It appeared this week in BostonMagazine.com Feb. 29th 2012.

It’s a lengthy article, but as I’ve said to others, “If myself and a few others can make it against all odds starting out from one of the most depressed cities in the country, don’t ever let anyone say you can’t!”

You have my permission to flip them off and keep chasing your own dreams.

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Listen, Question, Observe, Repeat

(My column as it appeared in Upmarket magazine week of Feb. 26th)

As I move along through life I am amazed at how much I know now, and just how stupid I was a few weeks ago. The trick in life and business is of course to grow and learn. However I am more often than not astonished at how many people assume they have the answers to every question asked on any subject no matter whom they’re talking to. If it were a discussion on health issues they start quoting terms so full of jargon I’d notice a real Doctor looking up terms on his smart phone to follow along. Another thing I see so many do is the proverbial “judge a book by its cover.” If someone doesn’t look the way they think someone should look, well then, they must not be! Just gives them one more reason to keep talking.

One of the greatest things I learned early on is you can’t judge a book by its cover nor learn by talking. You have to listen, and listen carefully. If you feel the need to speak it should be to ask a question. Then what is just as important but many forget is to observe. Do the words, actions, statements, or other things make sense? An example might be: Listening to the person whom is bragging about constantly attending lavish formal dinners yet observing they’re holding their knife and fork as if they are to enter mortal combat, or their boasting about their wealth or jawing on about the car they drive. Are they really what they claim to be? Just because everyone in a room is driving brand new luxury cars, the richest person in the building might be the one driving the oldest. And you’ll never find out unless during a conversation you ask questions, listen, or observe. Never ask questions that set up an opportunity for you to answer. (Which by the way so many in business do.)  People often prejudge or qualify a person by the way they’re dressed or a myriad of other factors only to find themselves embarrassed or worse insulting. True listening is the only moderator I know of that can help one avoid these situations. In business it’s an imperative skill that must always be honed. There is no substitute.

Years back I was living in Texas with family after moving from the Northeast. One day I was with my Uncle and he was discussing business to a gentleman by the name of Junior. He was a scruffy looking older man in dusty jeans, worn boots, and driving quite an old pick up. I paid no attention to the conversation but when it was finished I asked my Uncle, “Who was that guy a hired hand?” He went on to tell me he was a very wealthy man who buys and sells oil equipment as a hobby. His “hobby” usually means making deals to buy the equipment for cash anywhere from $500K to a few million dollars depending. I never looked at someone wearing an Armani suit in a Beemer the same way again.

So many of us want to be the center of attention in all situations. In business it can cost you dearly. Never assume your potential client doesn’t have the resources or the capacity to possibly be your greatest client. You’ll only find out by listening, questioning, and observing. I used the term honed earlier because it’s a skill that can dull on you if you are not constantly aware. How do I know this?

A few years back I was at one of the premier recording studios in the country. The studio is actually on a working horse farm. As my friend who was recording there was showing me the grounds we were approached by this gentleman in jeans, a plaid shirt, and looked a little scruffy. He had a short conversation with my friend and when it was through we started walking about once again. I asked him “Who was that guy, one of the stable hands?” He responded, “No Mark, that’s Mick Jagger’s manager.”

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr

Work Progresses

Just a sampling of some behind the scenes of what’s coming up later this year.
(Go ahead..Turn up the volume…Nobody will notice..wink,wink)
Re-Defining Motivation™

© 2012 Mark St.Cyr in Assoc. with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved