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

[For those who say I just don’t get it…Get This!]

There are people who just love to tell you that you’re wrong. More often than not when I’m speaking or I’ve written something that doesn’t fall into their own viewpoints they can’t wait to tell me how I’m not getting something. It’s not an honest discussion with most, its more of an argument based on grade school reasoning. ( an example is “well because!” as an answer to a rebuttal) More often than not I’m proven correct because if you’re ahead of the curve, it only makes sense to them when they finally reach the curve! And nothing gets this group hotter than if I follow-up with “That’s why you need me more than you thought.”

So to this point I’ll post this from Bloomberg which ran today. I use it as exhibit A on my comments yesterday on the Occupy Wall St. crowd. (Please save the political emails. This has nothing to do with who’s in the office now or not.)

Here’s an excerpt from the original article on Bloomberg written By Frank Bass and Timothy R. Homan – Oct 19, 2011 12:00 AM ET

Embracing K Street

In recent years Washington has attracted more lobbyists and firms with an interest in the health-care overhaul and financial regulations signed into law by President Barack Obama, according to local business leaders.

“Wall Street has moved to K Street,” said Barbara Lang, president and chief executive officer of the DC Chamber of Commerce, referring to the Washington street that’s home to prominent lobbying firms. “Those two industries clearly have grown in our city.”

You can read the whole original article here: http://tinyurl.com/5vk2tvp

I am starting to think this might be a new category for the site. I would ask for their opinion first, but that would just tick them off even more.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Occupying the Wrong Street?

By now you have to be living under a rock if you haven’t seen the “Occupy Wall Street” phenom on the news. For me, the more I watch or listen to the gripes, and demands from the protesters I have to wonder, is it me, or do they really have no understanding of what they’re really doing?

Let’s cast away who’s right or who’s wrong for a moment. Let’s actually take what seems to be the overlying theme and try to make sense of it. Here’s how I interpret what I see, and hear from this crowd.

  1. Most are in their 20’s and feel burdened from debt. A debt that was created from student loans to attend school. That’s not a Wall St. issue. That’s an issue for the Universities, and the Federal Government. Besides, no loans are made in the private sector any longer. The current administration ended all private companies from loaning for education.
  2. They shout “Banks got bailed out, but they didn’t.” As true as this seems at first blush if capitalism was able to work as it is intended to, none of these banks would have been bailed out. They would have failed, been liquidated, and put out of business. It was the current administration that not only approved of the bailouts, but argued for them.
  3. More shout the injustices of foreclosures on homes by banks. As this is heartbreaking for many, not all foreclosures were unwarranted. Some people were not ever going to be able to pay the mortgage they thought they could once afford. It’s a sad fact. However, refinancing, new home purchases, and alike are either underwritten by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or they don’t get done..period. All mortgages in the country (last was over 97%) are underwritten by these government agencies. If they’re not, it doesn’t get approved. There currently is no true private lending any longer.
  4. “Wall Street is the home of greed.” Well even I can agree with that to some extent but one has to wonder if they understand without Wall Street there is NO Twitter to mobilize their friends, NO iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or other smart phone to call others in solidarity. I won’t even go into no Google or web. It seems they just have no comprehension.
  5. Others are worried about their 401K’s, so they protest the very spot that if it is disrupted, it hurts their own pocket-book even more.
  6. As we watch in the news we see more and more signs that have nothing to do with the first set of gripes, but now are world philosophies that they want imposed. Philosophies that if they were to get what they wanted, would have them all unable to even demonstrate the way they are currently. I mean forget who’s right or wrong. This whole thing is a mess to anyone who can critically think. And hence lies the question of the day in my opinion. Is critical thought what is truly missing?

There was a time that I thought I might have been at a disadvantage because I didn’t take the time and pursue a higher education. But the more I look at what goes on for what some are calling educated people, I now think it was a blessing I didn’t.

At least I don’t need a GPS to tell me I’m on the wrong street.

Mark

© Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Gratuity Entitlement aka Adventures In Stupidity!

The latest round of entitlement thinking is coming from not only those who demand services, but now it’s coming from those whom render service. I mean at this point it’s all a joke.

Like many who’ve climbed the ladder of success, I’ve worked such jobs as bartender, waiter, and others in my life. The pay structure for many was our first real entry into the world of pay based on merit. If you want to experience first hand a true example of “the entrepreneurial employee” there is none better. However, it now seems that the “I deserve” mindset is not only creeping into these entrepreneurial laboratories, but are being validated by the very owners of these establishments. This calamity can’t come about unless the attitude of both is “the customer be damned!”

Many establishments in the New York area [and also peppered throughout the country] are including the charge of a 25% tip to your bill. Automatically! Regardless if the server was the equivalent of being a contestant for “Worlds Greatest” or “Worlds Worst.” Not only are you going to be billed, but more than likely you won’t even be told. It’ll just be there as a line item along with your martini, steak, and dessert. The line item will give you a whole new meaning to “finger food” I’ll bet.

Wait staff of any order has always been a low waged salary because of the opportunity for the server to supplement their pay with tips. The word tips is attributed as an acronym for “to insure prompt service” whether or not that’s 100% correct is irrelevant. The underlying definition or meaning is the same. It was a reward for quality service above or beyond what was expected. If someone gets only what they paid for, well then why would a tip ever be necessary?

Over time it has been customary to tip 15% there or about. This was the equivalent of a server living up to expectations. If they were courteous, prompt, and pleasant, the customary gratuity was the reward. Over and above was up to the patron. Horrible service was of course discounted from the average. [I have never deducted from the wait staff for something coming from the kitchen when obviously it was not their fault. A piece of undercooked fish is unknown till served as an example.] Large parties such as multiple tables or family settings of 8 or more were treated differently. Gratuity was added at the customary level, but was stated “before” you ordered whether posted at the bottom of the menu or somewhere else. This was done to ensure not only the wait staff, but the house, and the patrons themselves some level of expected service because you were taking a person away from the ability of making money since they would now be relegated to serving only one party instead of many. This also stopped the party from deciding they wanted to be cheap and stiff the wait staff because they think $10 should be more than enough for 2 people to serve 20.

In tough economic times everything gets discounted. Gratuity based employment seems to get hit hardest first. However, owners can’t raise a salary by forcing or tricking someone else to pay. It is also just as foolish of servers demanding a fixed level of gratuity. If these establishments want to continue trying to force patrons into paying their employee costs than both are going to lose in the end because patrons will not go along regardless how extensive the wine list.

Check Please!

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Protests at Home or Abroad and What it Means to Your business (repost)

Originally this post ran in February when Greece was in turmoil. At the time some scoffed at needing to think in this manner. Others gave me the obligatory “Yeah, makes sense.” Then went right on to other subjects as if it was unimportant. With protests now on Wall Street and taking place across the country while seemingly growing. (and yes it’s even taking place in my own city in KY!) I would hope some actually heeded my call for action. Waiting too long can leave not only yourself with no options, but also customers, and employees. I’m used to being ahead of the curve so slings and arrows come with that territory. But once facts prove my prescient warnings, you need to act before verbal slings and arrows turn into more literal sticks, and stones.
Below is the original post:

Protests at Home or Abroad and What it Means to Your Business

This is not about whose right, wrong, or anything else of that nature. This is about your business. Doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re a CEO of a large global corporation, or an employee with an entrepreneurial mind-set. Either way you have to look at these events in a very different manner than most. No, not to capitalize on them, but how to avoid possible financial ruin or other disruptions because of them.

As we’ve seen over the last few weeks things can change at any time, and for many reasons that seemed near improbable. The problem for many in business, is they can find themselves smack dab in the middle of protests, fighting, looting, and a host of other things that one never dreams of happening, till it does!

Many coveted retail or office locations are right in the heart of any city and that’s usually where any gathering or protests will be. What happens to your business, your employees, your retail stores, your customers if for no reason than just being at the center causes damage to your infrastructure, or people?

We are seeing today like at no other time in history technology has enabled connectivity en mass. If you’ve been following the news as of late, you can’t help but be awed in the speed and power of such demonstrations. But I need you to change your thought process and water cooler subject from, “Have you seen the news?” to “Do we have a contingency plan for our business if disrupted?” Trust me, I’m not trying to be callous. The reason for the events are for others to discuss, I want you to be pragmatic in how you can protect either your people or business. If a protest broke out in front of one of your locations would you or could you shutter it down? Who would be in charge of such an undertaking? Would you be reliant on the cleaning crew to make sure the doors were locked? Would you send senior staff, or a combination there of? I hope you’re getting my point. If you have, or are in business, you can no longer leave such a discussion as, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” because what is being demonstrated is there may be No bridge!

As professionals one must always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. That’s not to say you create some committee derived, bullet pointed, and bound code book that must be signed off by top staff and the cook who carries the secret decoder ring. What is far more important is that you have an honest roundtable discussion with either yourself, or some pertinent staff members that can theorize some sort of outline. It needn’t be perfect because situations such as these are always fluid, but it’s far easier to direct the water if you have an understanding where the banks might be.

If technology can demonstrate how fast it can bring about disruptive change, than the same must be viewed on how you can use technology to step aside of that disruption and try your best to protect your people, or your property.

Not only might you be thankful for being ahead of the crowd, but so might everyone else that depends on your products, or services. And that’s smart business.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr  All Rights Reserved

Will Air Travel go the way of the Post Office?

It might seem like a ridiculous question, but is it really that flighty? Was it imaginable just 10 years ago that the Post Office as we knew it for decades could actually find itself on the verge of not only bankruptcy, but irrelevancy?

American Airlines is just a breath away for bankruptcy. Although in the business of air travel this seems like a common occurrence. I feel this time however it might be very different from years gone by.

Usually some airline would implode and there would be one or more of the competitors waiting on the sidelines to purchase the assets. It just doesn’t look or feel like that will happen this time. I understand that someone will find a need for some of the assets, but it won’t be because they think the business is a win-win purchase. It’ll be more of an asset purchase to offset minor anticipated market share. And that will be a major deviation from the old model of “growth for growths sake” that the industry has evolved around since its inception. And if I’m correct it may fundamentally change air travel in the future as we now know it.

Let’s look at the Post Office for some possible clues. This is a dominant player in today’s world but not near the monopoly player it once was. With the advent of email, on-line billing, FedEx®, and alike, the Post Office has been pushed far down the chain of choices in what used to be the “only” choice. Currently it keeps open distribution centers, retail locations and others that service either unprofitable routes or products. People act as if the services they are accustomed to are going to go on just like before. It can’t, and it won’t. At some point the whole model has to change. Could be that a stamp goes to $1.00. Maybe deliveries go from 6 days a week down to 3. You get the idea. It will need to become a business that delivers a product that people will pay the price that’s needed. If an item needs to be delivered in an envelope in a physical form the price will reflect what that true cost and value is. If it doesn’t, then you can send it for free in an email. But the choice will be one or the other and the price will correspond. It has to because there is no growth model that’s profitable. Downsizing is the path to profitability growth. Airlines I feel are in the same situation.

If you look at airlines through the same prism as the Post Office you’ll see the similarities are acute. Distribution facilities mirror airports. Retail centers resemble ticket counters, and so on and so forth. Video conferencing is an alternative more and more replacing the need for having to travel by air. Granted that’s just one example, but one passenger less on any given plane can mean the difference between break even or loosing money. If these routes continue to be unprofitable, they’re going to be cut or reduced regardless what people want or think.

You can’t deliver first class mail everyday, everywhere, come rain, sleet, or snow for the near price of an email. (Yes I know email is free but you still have to pay for internet service) And you can’t deliver first class passenger service and seating with on time guarantees nearer to the cost of taking the bus. Something has to give.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

The Buffet Rule…Better Known as Adventures In Stupidity

I find it both laughable, and appalling to hear views on the latest slogan known as “The Buffet Rule.” It doesn’t matter who’s pontificating, 99.9% of all the rationalizations are in my view dribble.

First let me state right off the top, sheath your political swords. This rant is not about ideology, it’s about idiocy. Whether you think it’s right or wrong is irrelevant to this conversation. So with that out-of-the-way let us continue…..

I find it absolutely laughable that the person who wants everyone else to pay higher taxes because he thinks they should is himself in arrears! Yes my friends old “Uncle Warren” doesn’t like how much he has to pay so he himself is quarreling, and refusing to yet pay over a BILLION dollars in taxes that were due in 2002. I sure hope he doesn’t have the same occurring issue happen for 03,04,05,06,07,08,09,10,11. That would add up to some serious coin would it not? I mean a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon we’re talking real money as the saying goes. But I digress. What’s just as laughable is the way some are using this verbal diatribe as some sort of moral high ground to assault reasoned thinking. My response to most “Please, Spare me.”

First off, if old “Uncle Warren” wants to be a good example, he can just start by paying his own. He doesn’t need to pay more, just pay what they say he owes, and to stop fighting for that discount  he claims he’s entitled to. Second, I find it hilarious that this same person has the audacity to make sure his net worth of Tens of Billions of dollars won’t go to the government, instead it will go taxed free to the Gates Foundation. A good cause of course, but “Do as I say, not as I do” is obviously once again one of old “Uncle Warrens” sticky points.

Another revelation to this blather of idiocy is how others of wealth have contorted themselves into knots that would make a yoga instructor blush. If I hear one more time from someone stating, “Well I do think I should pay more since I’ve made so much.” I swear I’m going to throw up. It has absolutely no bearing on whether they should or shouldn’t. It’s just an exercise in “Let me tell you how I’m oh so much better than everyone else.” again please spare me. What I’m listening for that I never hear stated is that magical term that puts their money  (and their altruistic overtones) where their mouth is: ” I add x% to the total, and send it along with my return.” Yep, there’s a line on the form for one to do just that, but I’m not holding my breath.

What’s equally comedic is the way people with little wealth are holding up the most iconic hypocrites with wealth as their shining beacons of truth as reasoning why we need to take them seriously. Is it me, or is this not the most revealing case of why they aren’t wealthy themselves? These are more or less the same type of crusaders who lash out at some company for charging them an extra .50 cents on a latte because the price of coffee beans has risen 200%, but in the same breath want everyone else to pay more in percentages of their income because they think they should. I mean really, I guess the best mantra for this crowd was uttered back in the day of that true financial genius Forest Gump.

“Stupid is, as Stupid does.”

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

Lifting a Finger to Big Brother

If you’re like me, you’ve probably shrugged off a lot of the Orwellian types who have repeated ad nauseam the perils or pitfalls from all this data that’s being collected on us. I’ve always figured it’s not unreasonable for a credit card company or others to have the data of your purchases and correlate it to better suit your spending habits or credit limits along with others. However, I’m starting to get a little concerned or to put it a bit more strongly…ticked off at just how far this all seems to be going.

What’s troubling today is the new-found revelation that opting out doesn’t actually mean you’re out. The collection and correlation can still go on. I don’t think any company has the right to follow me after I have clearly stated No by either discontinuing their service, or I have logged off their webs site. The idea that I haven’t said no by entering 3 different request forms or some other hurdle is not only ridiculous, it’s unethical, and damn near criminal also. Would it be assumed OK to stick a tracking device in my pocket when I’m leaving a store? Would it be assumed OK instead to stick it under my car if I said no to putting it on me? Under the rational being used by companies such as Facebook® or OnStar® you said no only to you, not the car, and we have yet to receive all the paperwork stating we can’t put it on you so be thankful it’s just the car.

Years back there was a court case against companies that would send out products to people who never ordered. The companies thought they were oh so clever in sending these items out while stating “If you don’t like it, just send it back, and they’ll be no charge” However most didn’t send it back. Either they threw it away, kept it, gave it away, no matter the reason they never ordered it. All of the sudden people would begin receiving notices from collection agencies looking for the money for the products. It was all a scam to legally obligate people to pay for products they never ordered. The courts agreed. It’s also why you can now throw away junk mail in confidence, no one can obligate you without your consent. Just imagine if it wasn’t!

When I discontinue a service or I sign out from some web site, am I not doing the equivalent of stating “No more, we’re done as of now?”  Since when does anyone or any company feel they have a right legally or ethically to continue gathering information by watching me either electronically or physically after I have stated No! I don’t know about you, but this whole Orwellian overhang is starting to irritate me. So from now on when ever I get the chance, I will not lift a hand to help these companies in gathering more information about me.

I’ll just raise a finger!

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved

 

 

You’ve Reached Your Goal…Now What?

Setting and reaching a goal you’ve set is a wonderful experience. Regardless of the size, just setting it and actually reaching it deserves applause. But this is where the applause now stops. From here on in, it’s an inside game. It is here so many either get frustrated or get what I like to call “Goal Fatigue” because they will now continually seek or wait for some external force to validate their new goal or progress.

After you’ve reached your first goal the rules for setting your next goal in the chain changes. If I’m wrong then why do so many people make the same New Years resolutions over, and over again? Many start the gym membership but quit within weeks. Some start the diet but never stay on it. And others sign up for the school but never get the degree. I could go on but you get my point. And that brings us to, Ok…Now What?

More than likely you set your goal then gave yourself a reward for finishing which is as it should be, that’s step one. Step two is the exact opposite. You are going to get the reward first. Yes I said that, first! The second part of goal setting is an inside game, it’s between your own two ears, any kind of validation from the outside world is extra. This is a point the so-called “Guru’s” and others get absolutely wrong. Let’s use quitting smoking as an example. You did step #1 which you should be praised and commended for. But now you have to continue. Step #2 is not to  repeat step #1 over, and over, and over again. You won’t do it, nobody would. So step #2 should look something like this. I spent on average $ _____’s a day. That totals $______ per week, or $_______ per year. As a reward, and reminder why I am doing this I am using the money I would have spent smoking and purchasing _________ today!

If you notice I said today, not tomorrow, not next week, not I’m saving up, but today! You need to remind yourself why, not others, but you. Others may also benefit but from here on out it’s all up to you. No cheering crowd a month or one year from now is going to help in keeping you in pursuit of your goal as the tickets for a vacation, jewelry, watch, or other item you have in your hands now will do. If you wait you won’t do it, and the same will happen to the goal. It too will go unfulfilled. The excuse that I don’t have the money right now doesn’t fly either. You would have found somewhere somehow to smoke right? Then get a jar and put the actual money in it daily. See how this is getting to sound serious? That’s because it is, and the reason why so many stop after step one.

You can do this with anything you want, just fill in the blank. Diets?.. Sure… start with step #1, at step #2 go into your closet and weed out every article of clothes that is one size too big. Regardless if new! On your way home from Goodwill® stop at the mall and buy one article 1 size smaller than you are now. You can repeat step #2 as long as you like. See the difference?

You can do this with anything you want in life from habits, to jobs, or anything else. Just once you truly understand that the true applause you’re working for is coming from you, and not everyone else, goals become fun ,entertaining, and a lifetime of fulfillment for you.

Now go set a goal, and have fun!

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

Customer Service better known as Adventures in Stupidity

Today’s adventure comes from a wonderful experience I had with a company I have been dealing with for years. The name is irrelevant, what’s poignant is this company was a bastion of commitment to the customer. From the top down this company demonstrated over, and over again to me that they “got it.” They went from tiny start-up to being one of the premier companies in their field in record time. They earned awards, recognition, and a lot of respect. What they also earned as they grew was the watchful eye of a much larger entity wanting to buy and merge them into their own organization. Maybe there’s symmetry in operations for the merger, but not so much for the customer experience.

Not that long ago I had an issue that needed to be resolved. I had called the original company and the phone was answered by none other than the owner and CEO himself. At this time they were very successful, had many employees, doing millions of dollars in business. He could have effortlessly switched me to the department that would have handled my issue, but he didn’t. He personally handled it as a matter of fact. It wasn’t for someone else to do, it wasn’t now beneath him as head honcho, the phone was ringing, he picked it up, and he could resolve it so he did. And that’s pretty much the way the whole company functioned.  Front line employee empowerment to fix a customers issue regardless of title was the culture, and it showed. It also forged a bond of loyalty with me. For a customer, dealing with a company like this is just about as good as it gets. Then, it gets sold. Cue the music…“Bring on the clowns.”

When full integration happened you could see the difference instantly. There were issues like there always are, but the customer service aspect went from the gold standard, to that lead balloon feeling. I mean it was noticeable to everyone. I watched customers I had been talking to over the years leave in lockstep because the so-called “new entity” had a customer service department that gave the impression that the now merged companies customers were some how second class. For someone like me it was like watching a film of what not to do. It has been breathtaking to watch in real-time. In less than a month they did everything a company could do either by design or sheer stupidity as to make one feel the original company they were loyal to, was not the company they were now dealing with. They even changed the color of the logo…twice!

Personally I had a small issue which I needed resolved yesterday. My problem was since the integration I needed access to prior information that was done last year before the completion of the merger. However the portal to my information was no longer available on the company’s website. (yes the website is still an active, and promoted portal for the original company.) So I decided to use the “Live Chat” window since I was logged into my account, here’s how I was greeted…

Please wait for a site operator to respond.
You are now chatting with ‘******’
Them: hello how may I help you
Me: Hello *******, I can’t find the portal for access to my statement for last year..Can you help me?
Them: sure please go to www.*****************.com
Them: and login there
Them: go to accounts<history/statements
Me: Even though I was with ***** all of last year?
Them: pardon?
Them: we are now **************** sir
Me: I understand..all my past data is now on the ***** site?
Them: yes
Them: not all
Me: records for 2010?
Them: go to ********
Them: under accounts
Them: this is all the info you will need

I don’t know about you, but I could feel the indignant tone right through the screen. The other point is, if not “all” then where is the rest? It was clear she wasn’t going to tell me, or cared. I’m glad she knew that what might be available was all I’m going to need. Maybe premonition is now part of the new improved customer service. What a shame is all I can say. As for me, what did I do at the end of the conversation?

Closed my account.

Mark

© 2011 Mark St.Cyr   All Rights Reserved