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

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