“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

What if it’s a preview for what’s coming, and Not a one day wonder!

For anyone who has read this blog or heard me speak understands that I am quite willing to take criticism for being either wrong in my conclusions, or appearing wrong because I was early in my forecasts. Often when I am speaking to a group or an individual I will repeatedly state…” I could not only be wrong, but I might be dead wrong, however that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research it for yourself and try to prove it either way. The more skeptical you are of my conclusions which leads you to research it yourself, the better it is not only for you, but also for me.” As I stated many times, my statements have more validity when you understand them to be correct, not just because I say so.

I have been stating over the last year that I felt we were in the middle of a financial hurricane. Every single so-called “expert” has been stating that the worst is behind us. I still believe the worst is ahead of us. I have made my calls and posted them right here on this blog, some of my writings have appeared in such places as Forbes.com…CEOnetwork (R)…and even on a professional Futures trading service for international traders. (SquawkTrader.com) Just click through the archives, they’re all right there. No hiding, no running, no hemming or hawing. That’s what you do if you want to be taken seriously. State what you think is correct, and let the chips fall where they may, Period.

Below is a link to an audio recording from May 6th, 2010. It’s from a service I currently subscribe to. It’s Ben Lichtenstein the owner of TradersAudio.com. To put it into a picture for you, Ben overlooks the S&P trading pit on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He calls out the trades that are happening on the floor in real-time to help traders understand what is going on in the pit at any given time. They do not allow cameras there, but they do allow this service to be broadcast. It’s subscription only. You have all likely seen on TV the shots of the exchanges with all these guys screaming Buy….Sell. Well here’s a link provided courtesy of TradersAudio of what that fateful 15 minutes of panic sounded like.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mC4tu1NhUA


As I stated earlier, if this is not a one day wonder but the beginning of a much larger storm, many will be caught not only off guard, but without a life vest… or worse. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. It’s still the best advice I know.

Mark

© 2010 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

If selling was a mistake…Why is Nobody buying?

Last week the financial markets were all a buzz trying to explain why the stock market sold off in such an extreme manner. I have heard one commentator after another give this reason, that reason, but no true reason why. I’ll give you my take, ready? People were selling…No one was buying. I know, too simplistic right? That’s the problem most times, people want a different answers to what they perceive as complex questions. Sorry, even some of the most complex questions or problems can be answered with a simple answer. Why do you think the most powerful words in business have 3 letters or less? Remember these? Yes…No. Need I say more?

If the panic selling that took place last week was just a so-called “fat fingered event” (that’s Wall St. jargon for entered the order wrong.) Why wasn’t the pricing error of Good Stocks Cheap been completely retraced? Why was it only retraced by a little over 65%. I was listening to the financial channels all day after the sell off. One by one they commented on the breath-taking buy back the market was now engaged in. They were tripping over themselves to be the first one to recite the words…”Today we experienced one of the biggest up openings on record!”  Wow! I guess that settles it then, it was just a bad order entry. However, what should be nagging at your ear, and what you should be focusing on is why didn’t it go back to where it started? Why only back 65%.

That would be a good question, but maybe a little late. The question you need to be asking yourself now is, Why did the biggest 1 day higher opening get completely erased 4 days later? If the event was a mistake, why aren’t they buying at even a larger discount? Or to use an analogy… You had dollar bills mistakenly priced at 70 cents… People came and bought them en mass, but no one was willing to pay any more than 70 cents, and just 3 days later, no one will buy them for 65 cents. If it was a mistake, how can the price be going lower?

It’s because people feel that buying is a mistake, no matter how good someone else thinks the price is. Will it still be argued that the sell off was caused by someone incorrectly placing an order, even when no one will buy at the level they said was a mistake? And what will the correct response be then? I can hear them on the financial news now…“Welcome to the Financial News, leading our discussion is our top market experts!…In today’s markets the……..”.

I just love a good sit-com!

Mark

© 2010 Mark St.Cyr All Rights Reserved

Anything times ZERO, is still ZERO

Remember that old sage? Well, the airlines are increasing their size by buying each other out to fortify their dominance. Problem is, not only are most airlines demonstrating poor service, it’s more akin to zero service these days, and as the sage goes…OxO=O. Even if one of the companies had just a fraction of customer service left, well you do the math.

As airline companies announce yet another giant merger of 2 companies, it’s at best only a merger of the mediocre, and if history is our guide, mediocre will be a kind reference. Think I’m over stating it?

My wife traveled over Mothers Day weekend and had nothing but difficulties with her flights, and what was worse, no one seemed to care. Not the ticket counter agents, the flight staff, not the telephone help. The last leg of her trip ended with her having to sleep overnight in the terminal. Every company has problems, but it’s how you handle them by which you are measured. When all your employees have a standard answer of ” We can’t help with that, Or I don’t know why, or Sorry not my job…Next” the math will catch up with you also. Remember the math? Zero customers means Zero profits = no more company, no matter how big you are now.

One reason given for a delay was announced over the loud speakers that the mechanic brought the wrong tool, and had to go back and get the correct one. You just can’t make this stuff up!

If old sages are powerful reminders, here’s one that will demonstrate how I now see your industry, and will make every attempt to use other forms of transportation, regardless of price. The picture below was taken using my phone camera as I waited for my wife who spent the entire night in the terminal waiting for a flight to be cleared only to be canceled once again.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark

Were you surprised?

The financial markets plunged last week, the Euro Zone is on the brink of financial Armageddon, and the country of Greece is in the middle of civil unrest with riots, looting, and yes even killings. Wall St. witnessed a historic 1 day plunge in the Dow Industrials of just under 1000 points. It is estimated in the 15 minutes of free fall that 1 Trillion dollars of wealth had evaporated.

Everyone and anyone has an opinion for why this happened in the markets. You’ll hear it was a glitch, you’ll hear someone entered the wrong trade as the cause, some are even contemplating a cyber threat. It’s unclear which might be correct, or if a correct explanation will ever be given or found. What does matter will be how you react to the obvious, ” We’re not in Kansas anymore!” and all the so-called “experts” want you to believe that you still are. Once again, did they see last week coming, or the crisis overseas, and how that would impact everyone and everything? Once again, NO!

Here are a few excerpts from my column in Dec. 2009  that I titled “Forecasts and Predictions in 2010. ”

“I believe 2010 will be in direct contrast of 2009, as 2009 was to 2008. There has been both subtle and glaring changes in everything from what your personal choices will be, to the choices you’ll be looking at in business. Everything is in flux, everything is different, and nothing, and I mean nothing can be taken for granted. The rules of the older paradigms are no longer valid, and in places where there was the illusion of rules, trust me there gone.”

“Many are forecasting that 2010 will be a return to the norm, and will be a meandering path that will bring us back to the days of just 2 years ago. I am of the exact opposite view, and still contend that not only will upheaval be the norm, but the financial crisis of 2009 will pale in comparison to 2010.”

” If the dollar gets above 77….It will rally  for months and catch most by surprise.”

“In Dec. Greece, Spain, and Dubai rocked the financial markets. Italy is in trouble and some in the Euro Zone are calling for financial reform, I believe this to be the beginning of a much more serious nature.”

“The Euro I believe will fall apart. As the economy in different countries get worse…Finger pointing will be all the rage in Europe..and Blame for struggling on others will be the new parlor game of the EU. It’s not just our economy that will be in trouble…but the world as a whole.”

As I’ve said before, Take nothing for granted, and do whatever you can to stay on the safe side. Risk is one thing, but not understanding the risks will  not only be risky business, but could spell the difference between prosperity or poverty.

Don’t get surprised.

Mark


Crisis Management…some advice.

Managing in a crisis, and managing a crisis sound similar, but trust me they are two different animals. I say this because not only do I have experience in both, it’s also a forte of mine. Not only have I been there when they occurred, but I’ve also been the one who receives the call when someone is needed to turn it around. So my advice comes from experience in the moment, not from conjecture or theoretical hypothesis. That said, in moments of crisis remember…

1. The people you need the most to help you, have a B.S. meter that can detect indecision a mile away, and in moments of crisis it gets amplified. Don’t try to B.S. them.

2. Don’t try to calm peoples fears by taking credit for things that only worked out because of sheer luck. People will stop listening, and start playing a game of  I can get out of here before you do.

3. Don’t make speeches, or state to the crowd that what you’re doing is delegating the appraisal of the crisis to subordinates so they can brief you 30 days later. In 30 days, there might be nothing left to fix.

4. Don’t publicly state the whom, their title, and their responsibility, or the time you are allowing for review. You are announcing to the same people who if something else goes wrong, you’re probably going to blame them.

5. True crisis management dictates, everybody’s job and title is on the line, including your own. You have to be willing, and you must have the where with all to move, hire, and fire anybody. Yes, anybody!

6. If 10 things are going awry at the same time, ( crisis has a way of doing just that) don’t appear to be unaware of the other crisis. Acknowledge it, demonstrate how it’s being handled, and briefly explain why it’s important you have your best people there with their expertise to solve it, and not you. Don’t appear to be fixated on what you think is important. Others both inside and outside will only see mayhem in the most  generalized views. Remember, 5 fires, one being very big, one being small are seen by others as only one very big crisis. People want confidence and results, not explicit details on your management style.

There are more, but that’s a thumbnail sketch. Stop yourself from doing anyone of these listed, and you’ll have a head start on solving the crisis, instead of just trying to manage it.

Mark

Why a Mid-life Crisis today, might be the opportunity of a life time.

Some of you think I’m kidding. Some are waiting for the punchline. There isn’t one. I’m being quite frank about the opportunity of a life time, but you must have the courage to grab it, and it wont seem easy at first glance, but here’s the kicker…It is, and here’s why…

Look around you at all your competition who is under the age of, let’s say 30. Most have never held a job till at least the age of 18 if not 21. These once considered “Prime Executive Candidates” have more or less been in school, and continue to stay in school to the ripe old age of 24. The government has just confirmed that they can still regard themselves as a child to the ripe old age of 26. The collective general working knowledge of this group has no, and I mean no understanding of working with or during difficult times. The Savings and Loan crisis of the 80’s seems like something out of the history books akin to reading about Homer . Nice reading, but for them, who needs those ancient teachings in their minds. That’s like, so not today. “Like” Homer didn’t even have a GPS back then so who cares. (satire intended)

If you watch TV, or read interviews on this coveted set of new recruits, you’ll find one over arching theme. ” I want a corner office, 4 weeks vacation, 12 days sick time, and a retirement plan that’s just killer! I want to start in about 2 months because I don’t want to miss out on spring break, and it’ll take at least a week after that to sober up from all the partying dude!”

So I’ll say it one more time.If you have the courage to be honest with yourself, forget about the “age thing” you have in your head. Be ready to show a future employer what you can do, will do, and what you have done.  You’re now in the world of writing your own ticket. With a little more gumption forget about looking for a job, create it.

Who’ll  stop you? The competition?

Mark

A “Flick of the Switch”…could this be the next Nightmare on Main St.?

Everyone you speak with will tell you in one way or another that this time it’s different. It doesn’t matter if they’re talking about personal or business experiences. Doesn’t matter if they’re talking about marriage or divorce, kids or grand kids, TV, radio, or anything else. The line always comes up, but this time it’s different. Well, I’m here to say it’s a lot different from what anyone thinks, and it can get a whole lot scarier than anyone might dream about it also.

Most have never heard the term ” a flick of a switch ” used in terms that denotes a fundamental change in the way businesses can operate in today’s technologically advanced world. Anyone who doesn’t fully understand this term or its implications today had better start trying to learn everything they can about it right now. Its impact will be felt everywhere and time is not on your side.

A flick of the switch means if I have a business in location X, I can just flick a switch and operate in location Y. In years past most companies needed some sort of brick and mortar facility to conduct meaningful trade. That is no longer the norm. As a matter of fact, most of the newer successful businesses of the last decade have been ones that can operate anywhere. Take Amazon for an example. Where are the stores? Where are warehouses? Can you go to a store? No…and do you care where the warehouse is located? Again No.  So if they moved the warehouse to some other location would that impact your sales experience with Amazon? More than likely it wouldn’t, and if you didn’t hear or read about it you would never know.  More than likely as long as your shipment came on time you probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. However, for the thousands of people who work in the warehouse filling orders, or the myriad of other business interactions with other local vendors, one day it’s here, next day it’s gone.

So you’re saying to yourself, OK…that’s a retail business, I get that, but c’mon, we deal with that everyday in today’s world. Yes you do, but think about all the other businesses you deal with. Or all the others you know that fall into a similar category. If your interaction with a company is done primarily online, where the physical business is located is not much of a concern to you. It doesn’t become relevant unless you have the physical, and interactive business transactions with it (think grocery store). Here’s a few businesses that are fundamental to the US economy and think of the ancillary revenues they produce. Doesn’t matter whether you love them or hate them, just a list to make you think.  Imagine for a moment and play out the scenario in your mind’s eye if just this small list of businesses were no longer located in the US.

Ready?…all of Wall St, all Insurance Companies, all Banks, all Online Retailers, all Accounting Firms, all _________ ( you fill in the blank). All of these fall into the “flick of the switch”  type of businesses. They can relocate anywhere in the world in the equivalent of a New York minute. I’m just scratching the surface. I could list a hundred others and so could you, and that’s the scary part. If you think about it, it’s a gamble many are betting wont happen, but the odds favor it could. Think it’s hyperbole? On Friday Steve Wynn, probably the most successful developer and businessman in Las Vegas announced he is considering relocating his business empire to Macau. Yes folks, one of the United States premier businessmen believes he can be treated better, and prosper better in China than here in the US.

If that’s possible, you want to gamble on the rest?  Better hope what can happen in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

Mark

Why GM may never lose the moniker “Government Motors”

Perception is everything. You hear it over and over again, but most forget about its implications when they’re selling. Embellishment is fine, but there is a limit. Once when speaking to a group I stated… ” If it wasn’t for embellishment, people wouldn’t get married.” this caused quite a bit of laughter because people get the joke.

It’s fine to embellish a garment with rhinestone to give the appearance of diamonds. Remember perception is reality. However, if someone asks you if they’re real, only the truth will do. Anything else is a direct attempt in deception. Period!

Now let’s look at General Motors. As I’m writing this article, GM is running TV commercials stating they have paid back the tax payers 100% and with interest 5 years ahead of schedule. That is far from reality. Actually the tax payers still own almost $60 Billion in stock that the US government purchased in order to keep GM from being dismantled, sold off, and put out of business. This repayment equates only to just above 10% of the total commitment. It was the liquid part of the agreement, not the entire commitment of the loan. It’s the equivalent of saying, “The bank loaned us money to buy a business, 90% for the hard assets and 10% for operating expenses . We paid back the 10% so we are now “Paid in Full.”  So if someone asked whether you still owed any more money…what would be the response? And would the answer come from a car salesman, or a politician? I guess now it’s both, but don’t worry, maybe there’s a warranty. Or does that cost extra?

Once perception feels like deception, you’ll lose your customers forever.

Mark

“Experience”…Nice if you can get it!

I think experience will be worth more than the price of gold (or degree) in the coming future. I know, I know. Of course experience is the most coveted of all the attributes when dealing with life, as well as in business. But if that’s so, will someone tell me the answer to these questions, or more to the fact, tell them to the up and coming work force or tomorrows business leaders…

If a young adult can now be classified as a child until the age of 26, and will likely be in a school environment until age 24, that same young adult will not have been able to legally work till at least the age of 16, and more likely than not hold a job till they leave high school at 18.  Once they do get a “job”, more than likely it’ll be with a company that puts them into a “mindless” position ( Want fries with that? ). There they wont be able to go beyond very strict guidelines, or worse, just recite prewritten scripts to beleaguered customers. On top of all this, if one has any gumption at taking an interest in a challenging profession, even to do it for “No Pay” but for the experience to prepare oneself , that will now be just about illegal to be offered. Yes…”Internship” is also being eliminated due to interpretations in the law.

All this will be what both future employers, and  employees will have to contend with in the coming years. One side desperately needing experienced employees, the other side desperately seeking it.

No “higher education” can educate like experience. Worth more than a college education? Heck of a question for the S.A.T.’s of Life.

Mark