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National and Global, United States

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Final Thought for 2009

Well, when I was a kid we would gather fallen leaves from the oak trees around the house. We'd play in them in mid-October, and then towards the end of the month, we'd actually burn them. Everyone did it. It wasn't a crime. It was then, an event!
The leaves burning, smelled good, as I recall. And it was total fun. The smell, the laughter, the community, the people I knew...all together to accomplish a simple task...burning leaves without interruption.

At Christmas-time, we'd take the old Christmas trees and put them in a field above the house. There were a few dozen trees. We light the fire, and burn them too. Everyone in the neighborhood would be there. It was wonderful. It wasn't a crime either. No police. No 911-calls. Just a few kids from the neighborhood. And everyone in the neighborhood knew what we were doing. Having a good time. It was legal.

Today, we have, where I live, 'no burn days'. Christmas Eve and New Years Eve among them. You can't burn in your fireplace. There's a fine from $50 to $250 if you do, and 'they' find out. Problem is, someone has to report it, and an official inspector has to witness it. How many fines? ZERO. Not one person complained.

My point: The federal government has got to stop 'the small stuff'. Yes, people who burn wood in their fireplace on Christmas Eve is not a crime. There are way bigger fish to fry in this world we live in. There are too many federal and state regulators. Too many organizations. Too many people. All attempting to inform me how I should conduct my daily activities "for the good of the people". I'm now attempting to figure out what that 'good' is and for 'what people'.

It certainly can get better. Just let me burn some old leaves from that old oak tree, and put a fire on, in my home fireplace, without someone, somewhere deciding to issue me a citation for not paying attention to the 'common good'. Whatever that is defined as. Please.

And with that,I'm going out to the desert to have an illegal Cuban cigar with an illegal fire, with a few illegal people, to usher in a New Year. You all have a great New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Telcos and Satellites Upcoming

In early 2009, AT&T finally put all of its satellite TV resale efforts behind one company, DirecTV. That made DirecTV the satellite resale partner for the three largest telcos, while Dish Network played the partner role for several smaller and independent telcos.

The AT&T deal initially provided a nice boost for DirecTV, and a slip in Dish's subscriber numbers, but by the latter part of the year, even DirecTV acknowledged that the biggest gains from their telco partnerships likely were in the past. Meanwhile, Dish sister company EchoStar won many deals with small telcos who needed programming and distribution help after SES Americom's IP-Prime wholesale effort ended.

For most telcos, satellite TV continued to be an important part of their offerings, regardless of how successful their own telco TV efforts were. Telus and Cavalier Telephone were among the telcos with existing TV services that also decided to resell satellite TV this year. Increasingly successful service bundles also leaned on satellite TV offerings, and though as DirecTV hinted, the honeymoon period of satellite TV-telco partnerships may be over, the marriage could be just beginning. Throughout the year, many observers speculated that AT&T or Verizon Communications could end up acquiring DirecTV (Verizon refuted the speculation). Such a buyout would be an interesting turn for this successful form of cross-market partnership.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On Federal Government Bailouts...

Did you know that The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies received massive loans from the U.S. government to build the First Transcontinental Railroad— However, Collis P. Huntington persuaded a friendly member of Congress to introduce a bill excusing the companies from repaying the money, amounting to $130 million (nearly $3 billion+ in 2009 money). Circa: 1866

Collis Potter Huntington (April 16, 1821 – August 13, 1900) was one of the Big Four of western railroading (along with Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker) who built the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the first U.S. transcontinental railroad. Notice also that Stanford, Hopkins, and Crocker were all Silicon Valley boys, before it was Silicon! The University, The hotel, and the bank...?

Huntington then helped lead and develop other major interstate lines such as the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which he was recruited to help complete. The C&O, completed in 1873, fulfilled a long-held dream of Virginians of a rail link from the James River at Richmond to the Ohio River Valley. The new railroad facilities adjacent to the river there resulted in expansion of the former small town of Guyandotte, West Virginia into part of a new city which was named Huntington in his honor.

And so...the bailouts started long before Obama came into power. Something to think about. Perhaps.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Happy Talk" Study...By State of the Union

6 of the Top 10 States in a Happiness Study Are in the South

OK. So happiness is not really defined in the study. Hey, it is a 'study' not a Phd paper.

WebMD says that there may be something to be said for southern hospitality and sunshine. A new study shows that Southern states are the happiest while coastal rivals New York and California are at the bottom of the list, actually with New Jersey in there somewhere.

Researchers ranked the happiest states (plus the District of Columbia) on self-reported measures of happiness as well as objective measures like sunshine, congestion, and housing affordability and found six out of the top 10 happiest states were in the South.

Louisiana topped the list, followed by Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona rounding out the top five.

New York ranked dead last at number 51 and California fared only slightly better at number 46.

"We have been asked a lot whether we expected that states like New York and California would do so badly in the happiness ranking," says researcher Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, in a news release. "Many people think these states would be marvellous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy."

In the study, published in Science, researchers took a different approach in ranking the happiest states. Rather than relying solely on surveys that ask people how happy they are or economists' measures of quality-of-life data, researchers decided to combine the two and compare how the states measured up.

They used information from a 2005-2008 nationwide life satisfaction survey of 1.3 million Americans and a 2003 study with objective happiness indicators for each state, such as how much rain and sunshine each state received, number of hazardous waste sites, commuting time, violent crime, air quality, spending on education and highways, and cost of living.

When they compared the tables side by side, they found a very close correlation between how happy people said they were and objective quality-of-life measures.

"We wanted to study whether people's feelings of satisfaction with their own lives are reliable, that is, whether they match up to reality -- of sunshine hours, congestion, air quality, etc -- in their own state. And they do match," says Oswald. "When human beings give you an answer on a numerical scale about how satisfied they are with their lives, it is best to pay attention. Their answers are reliable. This suggests that life-satisfaction survey data might be very useful for governments to use in the design of economic and social policies."

Oswald says he's confident the results are a true reflection of how happy the people in each state are, although some caution is needed in regard to the Louisiana findings in the wake of the turmoil caused by Hurricane Katrina, or foreclosures and unemployment in Arizona...or Hawaiians.

State Rankings for Happiness
Here's how states are ranked by happiness levels:

1-Louisiana -- great seafood and humidity make for #1
2-Hawaii -- Anything that looks like the South Pacific should be happy
3-Florida -- mostly older and happy (foreclosure heaven)
4-Tennessee -- Don't get it. If Tennessee makes it, why not Kentucky?
5-Arizona -- Hot.Hot.Hotter and too old to notice and foreclosed
Last and Next To Last: New York/New Jersey -- I think it's the roadway tolls

Other then that, it would seem that we are all 'happy campers' in the state of "Happy Talk".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mendocino, California

When I think of California I always think "Beach Boys". Help me Rhonda, Surfer Girl, Catch a Wave.You know. Songs that all brought us to California, physically or mentally.

Well, I'm in Mendocino, about 150 miles North of San Francisco, and the Beach Boys have never been here. A potential client requested my presence at a meeting, and I accepted. I didn't bring my bathing trunks. I've been to Mendocino in December before.

It's on the beach, but you can't see the beach. In fact, you can't see a thing. Fog all over the place. And if the sun does come out, it peeks out at you. It says 'wouldn't you rather be in Colorado...or Newport Beach...or Arizona? Why are you here, boy? Come back in August.

I guess it goes to experience: go where you gotta go, to get the job done. Now mind you, I've been in many worse places. But gee, if I go to a meeting 'on the beach' somewhere, I would certainly like to be able to see the beach. I suppose that's why the client had the meeting there. He promoted the fact of a 'beach meeting'.

All well and good. Except from what I could see, I could have been in Iowa. If I actually was brave enough to venture 'to the beach', I would have needed a rope hooked to my car, to find my way back. One of those experiences, where you 'hear it' but 'don't see it'? Yea, the Pacific Ocean was somewhere 'over there', just beyond that road sign that said 'beach access'. Who would have known.

The only Beach Boys music I was singing while there was Brian Wilson's "In My Room".
And so goes the life of a management consultant.

Good note: The fish is excellent at some very good 'fishy' restaurants, that I couldn't see until I drove up to the front entrance.

It is one of those rare places where you smell things first...and hopefully then see them. Something like being a consultant, don't you think?

Have a good one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Tree Indicator

One of the popular parlor games on Wall Street these days is trying to predict how the holiday shopping season will fare. If sales rise from last year, that may bode well for the economy heading into 2010. If sales drop, well, that's not such a good sign.

Like many things related to Wall Street investing, you could do exhaustive, detailed analysis to come up with a prediction, or, you could pick one indicator that has some historical significance and run with that. As it relates to predicting holiday sales, it turns out that, "Christmas tree sales can be a good gauge of the strength of the holiday-shopping season," according to The Wall Street Journal.

So far, this simple indicator looks positive. Christmas tree sales were up 6% the weekend after Thanksgiving and 3% the following weekend when compared to the year earlier period, according to ISI Group survey data as reported by the Journal.

Helping to corroborate the Christmas tree indicator, the Commerce Department reported last Friday that retail sales rose 1.3% in November, which was double the rate expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Consumers also seemed to be feeling a bit cheerier as the Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment for December rose to 73.4 from 67.4 the month before, according to Bloomberg.

The good news doesn't stop there. Credit Suisse and JPMorgan Chase & Co. both raised their fourth-quarter GDP forecast to a gain of 4.5% from the 3.5% pace projected at the start of the week.

The recommentation: Go out and buy two Christmas trees. But wait until Christmas Eve.
You can go to Home Depot and buy that $60. tree for $5.00...and there's no limit.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Yada from the White House to Wall Street...

President Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes" that "the people on Wall Street still don't get it. ... They're still puzzled why it is that people are mad at the banks. Well, let's see. You guys are drawing down $10, $20 million bonuses after America went through the worst economic year ... in decades and you guys caused the problem," Obama said in an excerpt released in advance of Sunday night's broadcast of his interview.

In his address, Obama contended that the worst economic downturn since the Depression wouldn't have happened if the rules governing Wall Street been clearer and enforcement tougher.

"Americans don't choose to be victimized by mysterious fees, changing terms and pages and pages of fine print. And while innovation should be encouraged, risky schemes that threaten our entire economy should not," he said. "We can't afford to let the same phony arguments and bad habits of Washington kill financial reform and leave American consumers and our economy vulnerable to another meltdown."

Obama has scheduled a meeting Monday (14 Dec) at the White House with financial services industry leaders to seek support for his effort to tighten federal oversight of the industry and to limit pay for top executives at institutions that accepted billions in bailout money from the government. Now, just read that paragraph again. He is meeting with financial industry leaders to get support to tighten federal oversight of...their industry! Now, what do you think the outcome of that meeting will be?
Break out the Jack Daniels on this one. Fact is, I don't get it. Do you?

And The Beltway Bandits Continue to Rake in the Dough!

These statistics should make you stand up and take notice. If you're like me, I'd sit down and have a Jack Daniels.

There may be 7.3 million Americans out of a job in this economy (in real terms, it's more like 20 million), but it’s happy days for federal employees. The number of civil servants making $100,000 or more has jumped over 46 percent since the start of the recession.

The most dramatic increase came in the Transportation Department, where the number of employees earning salaries of over $170,000 jumped from one to a whopping 1,690 in just a year and a half. The growth was triggered by rules that prevent top employees in a given department from making more than their bosses. In this case, when Congress raised the Federal Aviation Administrator's salary, it triggered raises for nearly 2,000 of his subordinates.

The Defense Department also saw a salary explosion when new merit-pay rules took effect—and there turned out to be a whole lot more merit around the Pentagon than Congress expected. The result was a five-fold increase in the number of defense officials earning $150,000 or more.

Across the board, the salary bonanza has pushed the average federal worker's pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.

Overall, the recession has been a boon for the Beltway crowd. The Washington metropolitan area received nearly 10 times as much stimulus money per capita as the national average, keeping the unemployment rate in the area at 6.2 percent, far below rates of other large cities—9.3 percent in New York; over 10 percent in Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles—and the national average of 10.2 percent.

Recovery Act funding alone has fed the creation of 407,000 government contract jobs—or two thirds of all jobs "created" under the Act—according to one independent analysis. And during a time when most businesses are downsizing, the federal government itself actually grew by 13,000 employees in the last year—the first increase since the 1970s.

And the trend continues. Last week's jobs report wasn't nearly so positive as it looked (because the stats were juked), but what little real job creation there was occurred almost entirely in the government and education sectors.

Another case were selfishness is not a VIRTUE. Make that two Jack Daniels...and hold the water.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From "Mentee" to Mentor...

During most of my career, I have attempted to reach out in a professional manner to people I considered 'mentors'. They were the people that, when I was young, just stood out. You probably know them too, from your experience. They had grace and humor. Oh, and they were smart. Not 'in your face' smart, but intelligent, pro-active, sensitive to their environment. A sense of humility without being a 'saint'.

They simply looked good, had presence, and seemed to know what they knew in an extraordinary fashion. They looked you 'in the eye'. They took only personal credit when it was appropriately due, and most often gave credit where it was not. They wore ties and drank beer (the local stuff). They spent time with you, even if you were not on their radar screen. And when they helped you get that first job, that promotion, that recognition, you responded with a 'thanks'. And you kept it up over the years.

Then, all of a sudden, you became the 'mentor'. People asking you for that same assistance, that contact, that introduction, that morning coffee.
And you accomodated them. You 'reached out' and attempted to help just like your mentors had done with you. Most times successfully. And they rose in the 'ranks'. They became VPs and CEOs and Partners. And then, you never heard from them again.

Simple Professional Communication

Can you figure out how professional business people think? I can't? I guess that's part of the challenge.

We recently (well, about a month ago) made a presentation to a major sports facility to assist them in generating 'off season' events/sponsorships for their venue.
Understand also that we are fully capable of accomplishing this task, and producing significant results.

On a personal level, I spent eight years as VP/Director Six Flags theme parks, two years as VP Marketing/Broadcasting for the Houston Astrodome and Houston Astros; two years as VP for a Hollywood production studio. All before I accomplished 10 years in Interim CXO of 10 emerging technology companies, including a Sports Publishing company in Los Angeles, where I was the President. And finally, another 10 years working in over 30 engagements in the development of new business opportunities.

After all of that experience, and spending the time and effort to develop the presentation, make the presentation, and answer the questions, we heard nothing. No 'thank you', no response.

Now, this goes against my grain. I respond to everyone either via phone or e-mail within 24 hours of the request. I, I demand the same attention that I offer.

In a minor way, it's simply another inconvenience, that goes with the territory. However, from a personal perspective, it goes to the heart of why American business is on the decline. It's nonsense at work, as a friend of mine would say...and does.

Here, we have a fully capable group of professionals with years of experience in the space,willing to put a major effort into the project, and you get no response and no follow from the potential client. Nada. On the other hand, I have potential clients in Asia, Singapore, who respond to my queries "overnight". Yes, overnight. Not always what I want to hear...but communicating nonetheless. Something tangible. Something 'real'. And Something is wrong. You should know what that is. American business in disarray. Disjointed. Selfish. Me too'ism. Selfish...and not in a virtuous sense.

And for the moment, that is disheartening, until it happens all over time, next week, next year.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

You Can't Take a Duck to "EAGLE SCHOOL"

Something I think is appropriate:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finally, My Job is in VOGUE!

Well, finally after 20 years or so, my professional career is finally coming into vogue. Yes, the Interim executive. I recognized the fact a long tme ago, that we are all 'interim' but nobody knows it. Whether the feds like or not, this new news is good news. Finally, control your own destiny. Forget the 'pecking order' and the workplace politics. The titles go also. We will all be better off in the long run.

According to Jody Greenstone Miller, in the Wall Street Journal, the White House is turning its nose up at last month's spurt in temporary work—the one bright spot in an otherwise grim jobs report. It claims that such work is proof that the economy is still malfunctioning. The truth is that this surge in temporary workers is not only good news for the economy, it's the future of the 21st century labor market. If Washington wants to jump start job growth for the 3.5 million white-collar workers who have lost jobs in this recession, it should start by scrapping the outdated legal and regulatory hurdles to temporary work.

Today, demand for high-end temporary business talent is not focused on cost-cutting projects, as some might suspect. Instead, firms use temporary executives to drive innovation. In uncertain times, firms are simply more comfortable with deploying talent on a flexible basis.

Temporary work also boosts economic efficiency because not all executive roles require permanent staff. The availability of temporary staff who can get the job done quickly means that firms can rethink how work is organized.

Which brings us to another case for temporary work: Top business talent increasingly wants to work this way. In one situation, a VP-level executive we placed was developing his own new business. He valued the way a part-time senior role allowed him to support his family while he worked on his own project. For others, working in a series of temporary assignments may be their preferred full-time occupation.

Given the contribution that temporary work makes to the economy, it's time Washington embraced it.

As we reboot the great American jobs machine, it's time to shelve outdated assumptions and accept that a portfolio of multiple assignments is what growing legions of companies and executives want. This new relationship between talent and firms isn't a failure to be stigmatized, but the latest sign of our economy's endless capacity for renewal and innovation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

HeadShots and Talking Avatars

Now, as a consultant, I'm certainly no expert at the manner in which people professionally display themselves. Nevertheless, I've recently noticed that people on social networks tend to display themselves, in what I consider to be, a less then eloquent form. Here's a few I don't recommend,but see often:
1) A picture of you and your dog -- what's that all about? Should I hire the dog, or does it come in 'combo'?
2) You are on the phone with someone -- why...and who cares? The phone in your ear is a distraction from well... you.
3) A 'head shot' taken with a stupid background. You know, a palm tree, at the beach, in your bathing suit.
4) Just your eyes. Or something worse, just your chest shot. That's it. Am I suppose to remember something here?
5) Holding a baby -- And I thought politicians were stupid.
6) Sunglasses -- I'm impressed by the tan, but the glasses? And I live in Minnesota.

Let's understand that in these situations, we are attempting to promote ourselves in the very best light possible. The dog, the phone, the beach, the bathing suit, the eyes, the chest...has nothing to do with anything.

And for the life of me, I cannot figure it all out. Someone pinch me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tech Firms Working to Reduce Energy Costs Via Green Initiatives

Our Firm, RCI Global Partners LLC, is starting to take a pro-active role and a position in developing business opportunities for those companies involved in producing technology that will enhance the 'green initiative' opportunities for enterprise customers. We find opportunity here today. Here's why.

According to Andrew Johnson, writing in the Arizona Republic, sustainability, already a buzzword in the real-estate and construction industries, is getting more attention from high-tech manufacturers.

Producers of computer components, radio equipment, solar panels and other high-tech equipment are among the world's largest resource users.

They eat up billions of gallons of water and kilowatt-hours of electricity to make semiconductors, display panels and other parts that make their way into millions of consumer electronics, appliances, industrial tools and automobiles.

For years, the high-tech community has strived to reduce consumption of resources, emissions and chemical usage. But those efforts are getting renewed attention as industry leaders look for ways to share best practices with each other and as guidelines for programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, become more defined for manufacturers.

Attention to global warming and climate-change issues also is driving the focus, said Sanjay Baliga, a senior manager who focuses on environmental, health and safety issues for SEMI, a San Jose-based trade group for semiconductor equipment and materials suppliers.

General Dynamics C4 Systems, a defense contractor that designs and manufactures networking equipment, radios and computer systems for the military, is pursuing LEED certification for one of two main buildings on its campus at Hayden and McDowell roads in Scottsdale.

The company is seeking certification under the "LEED for Existing Buildings" rating system, which focuses on the maintenance and operations of facilities already in use.

In 2005, General Dynamics received LEED certification for its other main facility, an existing 650,000-square-foot building. It plans to recertify that building under updated LEED standards next year, facility manager Patrick Okamura said.

That building was the first of its size to obtain LEED certification for existing buildings.

"When you consider the amount of square footage in the U.S. (of industrial buildings) that consume the amount of energy that they do . . . that's why we're starting to see this impetus toward the high-tech industry," Okamura said.

Such efforts also have proved financially prudent, allowing manufacturers to reduce costs at a time when many technology companies are trying to shore up their balance sheets.

Intel Corp., the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer, analyzes its projected returns when investing in environmental endeavors, said Brian Krzanich, vice president and general manager of manufacturing operations.

"We try to make sure the actions we do have a positive return on investment," he said.

Thus, as more and more industrial and high tech firms move to a more 'green initiative', either for profit, brand image, or conservation, it's time to look at those technologies that will assist in reaching those objectives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fat in the budget for Consultants....Whodaknown.

According to Consulting Magazine, given the current intensity over cost cutting, consultants are needed to advise where there's fat in every business function. And it is all the better if a consultant can add value to the process while cutting costs. Chop those heads. Is that worth a consultant?

Now what do you suppose that means? Headcount? You don't need to be a Ph.D to understand the outcome of that conversation. And you don't need a consultant to tell you. If you do, contact me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Grand Canyon Overnight Permits Need a Revamp

Getting one of the roughly 11,500 permits granted each year to backpack overnight in the Grand Canyon has become so competitive and "unfair" that park managers have decided to change the system.

Currently, those who want the coveted permits either show up in person or try their luck with mail or fax machines on the day the permits become available.

Those who go in person line up at the backcountry office early in the morning. People who try to fax often are in for hours of constant redialing because of the demand.
National Park Service administrators at the Grand Canyon have decided the system is unfair because it favors those who live near the gorge or have the time and resources to fly there to get a permit.

The agency is proposing to end the current system in February.

Here's how:
Have a knowledge test every third Monday of the month, sent in via computer.
Make certain the demographics are fair (women, minorities, etc). Answer that question about your background at the end of the form. Attach your resume and whatever fees there are. Attach your FedTax 1040 form. Then, after the feds pick their relatives and friends, wait 90-days for a 14657-Q form response, telling you that you forgot to fill in Line 6, page 22 sub-section 15, and therefore, you are rejected. You can call this 800# for more information, but if someone actually does answer after the 24 computer response options they give you, you will get a rude individual on the phone...and you still won't get the permit.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Investing in Andy Warhol...

WHEN IS MONEY A GOOD INVESTMENT? Back in 1962, artist Andy Warhol completed a hand-drawn silkscreen painting titled "200 One Dollar Bills." True to its title, the massive 7½-foot wide painting depicted 200 one dollar bills reproduced in tones of black on grey, according to Bloomberg. The owner of the work, Pauline Karpidas, a London-based collector, purchased the painting with her husband back in 1986 for $385,000. Last week, Ms. Karpidas sold the painting for - are you ready for this - an incredible $43.8 million! And we all thought the dollar was depreciating.

From $385,000 to $43.8 million in 23 years translates into an average annual return of nearly 23%. Not bad for a painting. By contrast, the S&P 500 index rose at a modest-by-comparison average annual rate of approximately 6.5% from mid-1986 to today, according to data from Yahoo! Finance.

As the stunning value of the Warhol painting shows, investment opportunities may show up in places you wouldn't normally think of.

"Money is neither my god nor my devil. It is a form of energy that tends to make us more of who we already are, whether it's greedy or loving." --Dan Millman

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Way Consultants Get a Bad Name...

Retired Officers Rolling in Dough Working for Industry and Military

USA Today reports that it's hardly a secret that retired admirals and generals are highly coveted by defense contractors, who often pay them a pretty penny for their inside expertise and contacts. They might also be paying them for their current inside information.

The Pentagon has hired at least 158 retired admirals and generals to serve as well-paid part-time advisers, or "senior mentors" as they're officially called. They make hundreds of dollars an hour as advisers, which can amount to more than triple the rate of high-level, active-duty officers, while at the same time they get an even bigger paycheck to be consultants and board members at defense companies. The vast majority of "senior mentors" have some sort of financial tie to defense contractors, but since they're hired as independent contractors, government ethics rules don't apply to them. There's nothing illegal about this system but it "invites abuse," as one government-contracting expert said.

And then there are the management consulting firms that are 'in bed' with the former military brass. The 'beltway bandits' all have one big (and rich) happy family at tax payer expense of course. And none show up as 'government employees' either, which helps reduce the official federal government 'headcount'. That in turn, makes the public believe that the federal government is reducing employees, when in fact, they just transfer it over, and define it as 'outside consultant'. Wonderful!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Consulting: Where are Today's Opportunities

It’s a brave new telecommunications ecosystem, and consultants are venturing into an increasingly competitive wilderness to help different breeds of companies adapt so they can survive and thrive, says Consulting Magazine.

The most highly evolved telecommunications consulting firms and practices understand the impact of ongoing economic, regulatory, competitive and technological change and respond by seeding their teams with relevant expertise to help clients adapt to these factors.

Nearly every telecommunications practice at mid- to large-sized consulting firms have renamed their practices now that clients no longer exclusively offer what industry veterans refer to as POTS, or “plain old telephone service.”

The convergence occurred because the capacity of pipes have greatly increased. Today’s increasingly ubiquitous broadband networks send voice, data and video streaming into an ever-increasing collection of nifty gadgets powered by equally nifty applications.

Fatter pipes also explain why cable-television providers now offer telephone and why traditional telephone companies and wireless companies offer video.

Overall, the nature of telecommunications consulting work appears focused on increasing customer value and devising innovative ways to drive more revenue. A media or entertainment company needs to figure out how to derive more value from its primary asset, content.

Despite the gee-whiz nature of much of their work, telecom firms and practices deliver offerings that break down along familiar lines: strategy, operational/management and technology consulting.

Other types of consulting work in demand in North America and Europe include:

Home entertainment
Supply chain management
Merger integration

Beyond industry knowledge, consulting leaders identify the following expertise areas as particularly valuable right now:

»Process expertise
»Business intelligence
»Technology architects
»CRM expertise

Change in the telecommunications industry has occurred so dramatically, that time travel seems less like science fiction and more like the next new service offering. Rest assured, if and when that capability crops up, consultants will work closely with clients and other members of their ecosystems to ensure that time travel is piped into all of our homes, businesses and nifty devices.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is a "Digital Concierge" Good for the Hotel Industry?

Hospitality Design Magazine stated that "As digital technology becomes further integrated into hotel design and guest experience, an increasing number of hoteliers are tapping a "digital concierge" to fulfill guest requests. These interactive displays allow users to order amenities and search for entertainment and restaurants. In short, they take care of a variety of tasks that had previously been handled by an attentive person at the front desk. As technology becomes easier to use and better able to meet a wide range of guest needs, hoteliers and designers are determining how to balance a sense of self-service while still providing a full-service experience."

One school of thought says 'yes' as long as the software integrates well into tht overall feel of brand, and there is a reasonable ROI. Still another school, says 'not so fast'. Does this 'digital signage' type of technology take away from the personal attention from the staff, that in this day-and-age seems to be missing at many locations. Is the technology in fact, a 'fad' or a trend? Can all but the most premium hotel sites even afford it, when calculating ROI on such an investment? And will other future, emerging technologies surpass what is presently available? Will these companies still be in business five years from now?

Then there is the question of IPTV/VOD (video on demand) as part of the digital concierge service. What's the eco-system's functionality, is there 'last mile' connectivity? Can the software companies even acquire the proper licensing for the entertainment content? Is there 'localization' in that content?

Not everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. With present economies and the downturn in occupancy-rates, it would appear that the investment in such technology will continue to be challenging for both the hotel and the software providers, let alone be able to embed the IPTV/VOD/linear programming into the offering, at a reasonable cost. And finally, do I really want to order my dinner from a flat screen panel?
Perhaps 'yes'.

Keeping your Eye on the IPTV Eco-System

With the IPTV market set to take off, the number of competing ecosystems means that STB (set-top box) developers have to keep their implementation options open.
Interoperability is key in today's market environment. High-performance DSPs provide the programming flexibility that can insure interoperability and versatility in changing IPTV ecosystems.

According to MRG Research, the IPTV industry will continue to grow fairly spectacularly. In its IPTV Global Forecast—2008 to 2012, the research and consulting firm predicted the IPTV subscriber base would increase from 20.4 million in 2008 to 89.1 million in 2012, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45 percent.
And every one of those subscribers needs at least one STB.

There are multiple players in an IPTV ecosystem. It involves service providers -- BSNL, MTNL and Reliance Communications -- who broadcast the content through their broadband networks. It has system integrators -- Patni Computers, Tech Mahindra, Microsoft and others -- who deploy the technology required for transmitting the content. It also involves middleware players, set-top box companies, security providers and content aggregators among others.

Though IPTV is one step ahead of the existing technologies, it still faces a lot of challenges. These are poor last-mile connectivity, low broadband penetration, unclear and outdated regulatory norms specified for cable TV and regionalisation of content.

Consumer demand for media-rich home entertainment services is driving innovation and new revenue opportunities in the set-top box (STB) industry. Next-generation STBs will integrate video content from multiple signal sources such as broadcast television, premium video-on-demand and Internet-based services, provide value-added capabilities like time-shifting, and allow content to be distributed to a variety of viewing devices including multi-room TV networks, personal computers, portable media players and other mobile devices.

In the evolving IPTV market, DSP-based STBs will be able to adapt to changes quickly and cost-effectively.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"It's Not Easy Being Green", said Kermit

Sally, you've never seen a street like Sesame Street. Everything happens here. You're gonna love it!

"Sesame Street" has educated and efficiently mesmerized children for 40 years now.
There are a lot of parallels to real life situations over those 40 years, and the people I've met "on-and-off" of Sesame Street.

The early years
In 1969, Grover smoked a pipe and hippies were part of the show. It had grown-up content for little people. Today there are no pipes or hippies that I am aware of.
Doesn't mean they don't exist. Just not in my business world.

Oscar the Grouch
Caustic and cantankerous from day one. He lives in a trashcan. He was the same then as he is now. Can't say that I'm any different. I've also found myself in the 'trash can' a number of times, personally and professionally. I've also encountered the 'rudeness' of some people. Too many "Oscars" to mention.

Elmo's English in referring to himself always in the third person is reminiscent of some of the people I come in contact with. Improper grammar, poorly written papers,etc

Bert and Ernie
Critics say the two are 'gay'. They share the same bedroom and wear color-coordinated clothing. The fact is, who cares. They are fun to watch. I surmise you can be 'gay and smart' at the same time, without it affecting your audience.

A muppet with AIDS
Did you know that there was a muppet, Kami, who was HIV-positive. He wasn't shunned.
He wasn't stereotyped. He became an integral part of the cast.

"Sesame" gives kids ADD
There was this fear that the show caused an increase in ADHD diagnoses. Blaming the show for triggering attention-deficit problems is like a business blaming the janitor for a decrease in profitability (which probably does happen)

Cookie Monster
Blame obesity on Cookie Monster eating cookies. The addiction to baked goods would lead you to believe that an entire generation of Americans grew up with a cookie in their mouth rather then fruits and vegetables. Which may be true.

The program's "liberal bias"
Trashing "Fox News" is just funny, if not somewhat liberal. And Fox complained about it. Sounds a bit "over the top" to me.

Kermit the Frog: "It's not easy being green."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Connect the dots after you read the Novel...Corporate Darwinism is here!

Vicious corporate Darwinism is taking over workplaces as recession pressure sets in, experts say, with people eviscerating each other over everything from missed deadlines to messy office kitchens.

Stress over impending or imagined layoffs, "survivor's guilt" for those who dodge the axe and a panicked need to appear indispensable is mounting, they say, creating dysfunction in all sectors and levels of the corporate hierarchy.

"When times get tough, people get tougher on one another. They start acting more as individuals looking out for their own skins," says Heather MacKenzie, a lawyer and president of The Integrity Group, a Vancouver consulting firm specializing in workplace conflict.

"I use the analogy of Survivor all the time: it's outwit, outplay, outlast."

So, how much fun is all of this?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recession= New Wave of Innovation and Corporate Growth

For consulting firms, THE UPSIDE TO THE RECESSION OF THE PAST TWO YEARS is that it may have unleashed a new wave of innovation and corporate growth that otherwise would have been buried in better economic times. When times are tough, companies are forced to work smarter, be more creative, and jettison old methods of business that are no longer working. The net result is a changing of the guard in the business world as those companies that are unable to make the switch get passed by their nimbler competitors.

A study by management consulting firm Bain & Company showed that during the 1991-92 recession, there was a significant re-ordering of the pecking order of companies in a wide variety of fields. Specifically, companies that were in the bottom quartile in their industry jumped to the top quartile of their industry at twice the rate during recessionary times as compared to non-recessionary times, according to the study as reported in The Economist. Other studies have reached similar conclusions that recessions bring out the best - and the worst - in companies.

From an investment standpoint, this suggests that the winners coming out of this recession may be quite different from those who went into it as winners. This "changing of the guard" may create new investment opportunities and we should diligently do our best as consultants to find the winners from among the wreckage...or the losers, for that matter.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Defining a "WEDGIE" in Executive Compensation

The Washington Post reported today that The Supreme Court this week will hear a case that raises bedrock questions about the ability of the market to set "reasonable" corporate compensation, and experts say its outcome could hold important clues about the judiciary's view of extraordinary interventions in the economy by the executive branch and Congress.

At issue in Jones v. Harris Associatesis whether investment advisers charged too much for their services to a mutual fund under their control. But it contains natural parallels to the current controversy over executive compensation at publicly held companies.

"The fact that the Supreme Court is looking at compensation again is in itself extraordinary," said Charles M. Elson, director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, adding that the court's history is to defer to the markets rather than to intervene.

It may also set up what could be years of judicial review of the measures that the Obama administration and Congress have taken -- and envision -- to deal with the worst collapse of the economy in 75 years.

"It's like the thin edge of the wedge," said William A. Birdthistle of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, who has closely followed the mutual fund case. He said the economic solutions of the Obama administration and a Congress solidly in Democratic hands will be judged by "the last of the branches controlled by conservatives."

The case is just one of many that the business community is watching.
Business-related cases will also pose an early and interesting test for the court's newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who was a corporate lawyer and has ruled on many business cases as a Manhattan district judge and as a member of the business-heavy U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. "She may have more corporate experience than the rest of the court combined," Birdthistle said, and the docket laden with business cases allows her "immediately to have a disproportionate impact" compared with a typical first-year justice.

"It is difficult to imagine a clearer violation of an adviser's fiduciary duty than when the adviser charges its captive fund more than others for similar (or lesser) services,"

"Executive compensation in large publicly traded firms often is excessive because of the feeble incentives of boards of directors to police compensation."

"I don't think that the court will use this case as a vehicle to send a message about executive compensation. The court's a judicial branch and not a political branch," said Richard Bernstein, a partner at Wilkie Farr Gallagher who worked with the Chamber of Commerce on its friend-of-the-court brief.

My response: Why Not? Give em a big wedgie!

Do I Really Need a Website?

Is a web site really a necessity for a business owner? I'm not certain that the answer is 'yes'. We don't have one. Used to. It didn't do much for our business, since our practice is really one of relationships...not web presence. And we deal in technology issues, as part of our offering. In fact, about 60% of small business owners do not have a web site.

Are those small business owners as naive as some very smart and witty technologists believe? I don't think so. Why? Because millions of business owners may know something that we're not prepared to admit. Some people don't really need a Web site at all. Oh sure, if you're in the Internet porn business, or sell things online, then this is an entirely different story. Or if you're looking to replace all of your marketing materials and send prospects and customers online to learn in detail about your products and services, then it makes sense to a have a full-fledged site. Or if you're going to use your site to provide customer service, manuals, videos, and a knowledge base, you'll want a vehicle to do this. A Web site's great for you, too.

However, many of the business owners I know—those pathetic, dismal, wretched losers don't necessarily have those needs. They are like us, consultants, gas station owners, restaurateurs, insurance agents, shopkeepers. They're CPAs, architects, plumbers, and electricians. They're not selling books online or running auctions. They're not distributing software or hosting phone services. They're not complex. They are ok without a web site.

If I want gasoline, I don't check out the Shell Oil site. A sandwich? I just go there. Most people who get on the podium for web sites, are the ones who....well... create the sites. Web sites are not an absolute given for your business to succeed.
In fact, in some cases, it could even be a burden: the costs, the attention, the Flash!

I don't really want to be 'cool and hip' by having my own web site. I'd rather be successful. And I'm not so sure that a web site necessarily adds to that success.
Then again, maybe it does. The fact is, I conduct relatively sophisticated business consulting and Interim Management without a web site. And I'm still 'cool and hip'...maybe.

The Book of Sweets and Tweets

A controversy is heating up among Mormons over a pinup calendar that toys with one of their core spiritual values: modesty. “Hot Mormon Muffins: A Taste of Motherhood” features 12 female worshippers posing provocatively in tank tops and Santa suits alongside recipes for baked treats.

There are a number of interpretations and positions taken:

1) The calendar is an insult to Mormonism
2) It helps break down stereotypes about Mormon women
3) It’s confusing … in a good way

On the other hand, I received a call last week from a group that wanted 'consulting' to publish a book of their "TWEETS". There too, you could see this effort as an insult to legitimate writing, a breaking down of the stereotypical opinion of 'tweeting', or just all too confusing.

The result and strategy: Bundle the calendar and the"Book of Tweets" into a single sales item:
The Book of Sweets and Tweets

That solves the issue.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two Mega-bytes (MB) of RAM in an *8 GB World...and AOL

OK. Let's get techie for the moment. RAM, as you know, is Random Access Memory.
In 1987, I had a MAC II. You do remember that machine. It had a total RAM of 2 MB. It was 'dial up'...and it was oh so slow.

To add some perspective, Today's average RAM is somewhere between 512MB and 8GB (gigabytes). Far cry from 1987.

In 1987, I was a beta of AOL, and probably one of its first 100 subscribers. I still use the e-mail: today. Yep, a newbie in the world of digital media. AOL charged by the minute usage at that time. It went 'off air' around midnight and didn't return, if it did at all, until sometime the next morning. If you recall, AOL competed against the likes of Prodigy, CompuServe, and GEnie ... all long gone.

Additionally, different management personas took the company at different break points, into areas not seen before in the new digital environment, without even knowing what they were doing actually.

Nevertheless, after 20 years I still remember a MAC II with 2MB of RAM talking to a software platform that could potentially change the world. In some ways it has. However, we all know that AOL is 'road kill' at the moment, milked of substance, corporate and personal abuse and ambition. Milked to death, so that individuals who knew very little about the new age technology, could take advantage, and take the money and run.

And that has not changed for AOL. Since its merger with Time Warner the value of AOL has dropped significantly from its $240 billion high. Its subscriber base has seen no quarterly growth since 2002. AOL has since attempted to reposition itself as a content provider similar to companies such as Yahoo! as opposed to an Internet service provider. And they have failed miserable at it. From my perspective an 'anolog mind' (TimeWarner) cannot not effectively direct a 'digital future'(aol).

As someone said: “It is an unsustainable economic model. AOL is charging limited rates for unlimited access to a resource that is essentially limited.” And aside from MB, GB, that is a R.I.P for a company that had everything going for it...including greed. Unfortunetly, there were a lot of gigabytes of that.

Extinct: A Return to Normal Business

Understandably, there are still some traditional executives who are waiting for things to return to "normal." It's not going to happen. Constant change is the new norm. You just can't decide to do it better. You've got to do it differently, whatever it is you do. The economy will not bounce-back in the traditional sense of 20th century corporate thinking. If you don't recognize that fact, you have a problem. You need to contact me.

That translates to an entirely new business model, taking into consideration the 'openness' of the digital age, with all its pluses and minuses. It's a redefinition of how business conducts itself, from research, to strategy, to tactical implementation.

It goes further to a transformation to a customer-focused perspective. Most companies say that they are 'customer focused' but in reality, they are not. Take a look at the airline industry, for example. Most companies don't embrace new CRM technologies. They say they do...but they don't. Take a look at the management consulting industry.

Companies still focus 'inside', when they need to be 'outside looking in'. They have no concept of expanding their capabilities, through strategic partnerships, for instance or sub-ventures within their own organization, tied to it, but independent of it.

Companies historically look at their skill-sets, and push them out, rather then looking outward at skill-sets and pushing them in. They retain their comfort zone, rather then asking their customers what they need and want, and going out and getting exactly that. That's uncomfortable for organizations. They are not good at bringing in that 'value add' that extends their brand and increases the effectiveness of what they do. They will tell you they do. They just don't.

In this regard, companies need to open up internal space for new ventures and new ideas. A subset of their core competencies. Instead, what normally happens is that any 'new' venture starts to look like what's been done in the past, rather then what is needed for the future. It still needs to fit the square peg in the square hole. And that, in this new business age, is a death knell for these companies. They think they 'do it' but they don't, and don't know how.

If you take a look at Lockheed's Skunk Works you'd get the picture. A subset of the corporation with a separate place of business and little ties to the parent. I worked as a consultant for 12-months for a satellite communications company in an attempt to work outside the company structure in developing markets and products for IPTV. They even called it 'skunk works'. But it wasn't. When the bottom fell out of the economy, this project was one of the first to go. And even when it was an on-going effort, little attention was paid to it, because the managers assigned to it were all internal, and had other priorities.This was not one of them. It should have been. That company will remember the day, they walked away from the 'skunk works'.

What the initiative needed was more space which would have offered the venture more freedom to move in new and different directions, but it became difficult to bring that learning and expertise back to the core organization because that group had no 'buy in' to the venture itself. They were responsible for it, but were distant from it.

The fact is, that if an organization is to move towards a true, transparent transformation, leadership must understand the pressures, commitments, and changes that need to be made to achieve that goal. Lip service won't do it. Lack of decision-making won't do it. And certainly not pro-actively allowing that decision-making to be addressed outside the traditional 'management box' surely won't do it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Monty Hall Problem

PRETEND YOU ARE ON A GAME SHOW WITH MONTY HALL and he offers you the following scenario as described in an article from the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

You face three doors and behind one door is a car, while the other two hide goats. Your goal is to pick the door that hides the car. Here are the rules. First, the car and the goats were placed randomly behind the doors. Second, after you choose a door, the door remains closed for now. Third, Monty knows what is behind each door. Fourth, he has to open one of the two remaining doors. Fifth, the door he opens must have a goat behind it. Sixth, if both remaining doors have goats behind them, he chooses one randomly.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Let The Good Times Role...for 10% of Americans

Gallup on October 15, 2009, reported the findings of a poll it conducted that showed that only 10% of Americans feel that now is a "good time" to find a quality job, reflecting no improvement since February 2009. While that stat is not astonishing, where the job creation should go, is more profound. We should be placing much more emphasis on building areas of digital media technology, alternative energy sources, and 'brick and mortar' businesses such as hotels, restaurants, electric cars. Instead, the government builds highways, capitalizes the banking and automotive sector, in hopes of bootstrapping these 'out of touch' and oh so traditional industries.

On the poll's findings, said Gallup:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Alienation of Middle Income Americans

There's a reason for "the alienation and radicalization of white America," said Pat Buchanan in WorldNetDaily, and it has nothing to do with the election of Barack Obama, our first black president. In their lifetimes, traditional, middle-class whites "have seen their Christian faith purged from schools their taxes paid for," they've been mocked in movies and on TV, and now they're watching Wall Street banks bailed out as they "sweat their next paycheck." No wonder they distrust the government.

First, I dislike the term "middle class".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

If You Want to Be A Great Consultant, Go Look at Your Dog

Go look at your dog. Go on, look—perhaps he is sitting by your side right now, lying on his doggie bed, with his feet in the air, or sprawled on his side on the cement floor, or sleeping under the bed, paws flitting through his dog dreams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Consulting: Take Advantage

Take positive advantage of all new consulting situations.

Reggie Jackson stated in his new book on baseball: "There are at least three kinds of advantages that the pitcher and batter contest. There’s the physical advantage, the strategic advantage, and also the psychological advantage. I didn’t want two out of three. I wanted them all."

And so too should we, when dealing in our business space. We need to demand the physical, strategic, and psychological high road. Not two of three. All three. We need to work towards that goal. Because when you get there, you are in control of your own destiny. It could be short-lived, like three-strikes-your-out; or it could go on for a very long time. It depends on how you position it all, and what kind of presence you have when you stand up to the plate, or walk through the conference room door. So, be prepared.

We need the mental toughness to take control of the uniqueness, the expertise. That 'stake in the sand' mentality.

Reggie also wrote: "When I was facing a great pitcher late in a ballgame, and the ballgame was close, I’d try to get really focused on doing what I do best."

And that's good baseball, or in real life.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Consulting Firms: Staff Attrition as The Economy Improves

According to Consulting Magazine, As the economy improves, most consulting firms will brace themselves for a spike in staff attrition. Firms that have sacrificed firm culture and employee satisfaction in the hopes of driving greater profitability during the downturn, probably have the most to fear. Other firms, who have remained focused on retention efforts throughout the downturn, probably have less to worry about.

So it would logically appear that firms that panicked and only looked at the erosion of their bottom-line, gave up their culture and employee satisfaction, for short term gain would be the hardest hit. And they should be.

They will suffer the most as the economy rebounds, and their professional staff decides they have had enough of the self-indulgent Partners, who selfishly looked at their own personal survival and cared less about their staff...and therefore their clients. Those are the firms that lost their focus, threw the strategy out (or never did have one), and began to lose their 'brand'. And goodbye to those firms, frankly.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I've Been Attacked by a Free Range Chicken...

Yep. I was shopping at Fry's/Kroger today. I was looking for a nice chicken. Well, I found one. A 'free ranger', not enslaved I would surmise. $17.00 for a chicken. That chicken should have stood up and danced for that price!

Have we all gone insane? A two-pound chicken at almost $8.00 per lb? Somebody pinch me please. Actually, I just wanted your average chicken... about two pounds for five bucks. I didn't need a gorilla on top of that! It's a chicken... last I looked.

In any case, in this economic malaise, with the unemployment rate above 10%, why in the world would anyone offer a chicken priced at $17? So, they let the bird run around the yard at his own pace. Only in America.

Free range or enslaved. A chicken is a chicken? Right. I still can't tell the difference.

Where the hell is John Wayne when I need him? Pass me that wing, will ya, Pilgrim? Is that a 'free range' wing? "Oh find me a home where the chickens roam", were his last words.

I gotta go now. I have a 'range chicken' on the phone who needs an agent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

On The Beach. West Africa. Digital Media

I received the hotel brochure from the client. By African standards this was a first class place. On the beach, great restaurant, balconies facing the ocean, swimming pool, outdoor bar, clean rooms, individual bathroom. “Great!” I thought. “On the beach in Nigeria on a great digital media consulting project”.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman

If “The Simpsons” have taught us anything it’s that two-dimensional characters are funnier than three-dimensional ones. And Playboy Magazine apparently thinks so too.

Marge: Homer! There's someone here who can help us...
Homer: Is it Batman?
Marge: No, he's a scientist.
Homer: Batman's a scientist?!
Marge: It's not Batman!”

"Even if you've only read Playboy for the articles in the past," said Tracy Pepey in iVillage, you'll want to check out the nudity in the November issue -- "cartoon mama Marge Simpson will appear naked(!) on the mag's cover." To celebrate The Simpsons' 20th anniversary, "Homer's honey" will do an interview and a three-page pictorial. No centerfold, though -- Marge is "too classy" for that.

Playboy has nowhere to go, it would seem. "Old and staid" I think is the term. What Playboy is doing by putting Marge Simpson (not a real person, BTW), is what I think I can get in MAD Magazine, or any comic book.

Is this simply a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the Simpson's, as well as create some 'buzz' for Playboy? Plus, did anyone check the demographics of the Simpson's compared to Playboy readers? The marketing genius who came up with this event, is probably a 30-something, who grew up reading "Green Hornet" comic books, and thought it was real life. What next, Wonder Woman?

Homer's response to all of this: "I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me, Superman."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lettuce Pray

Localization vs Globalization

Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local "look-and-feel." Ideally, a product or service is developed so that localization is relatively easy to achieve - for example, by creating food products which can be easily adapted to the local culture or even neighborhood, even if you are a chain or a franchise. Then you can “internationalize” the product, by moving it into the mainstream. Then the product becomes easier to ‘localize’.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage: With the economy questionable and no one exactly sure when the markets will rebound, it's a good time to invest in solid, verifiable assets. Banks in Italy take an even more pragmatic approach, accepting as collateral for loans something not only solid and verifiable--but edible, should it come to that. According to a Bloomberg News report, the warehouses of regional bank Credito Emiliano hold about 440,000 wheels of parmesan cheese, two tons of spaghetti, forty pounds of hot peppers, 40,000 pounds of meatballs, and 60,000 pounds of tomatoes. In this case, the economy better turn around fast. And for dinner tonight? Oh Emiliano, not again!

Just look at me! In most cultures, the guru is a special person. He benefits from unique access to the mysterious forces of chaos lurking just under the deceptive surfaces of our world. Thus, he has the ability to intuit the movements of the cosmos and so to foretell our destiny. He doesn't have to prove what he says-he has the luxury of using what the medieval theologians called "the argument from authority." The guru, in fact, ceases to be a simple human being and becomes a representative of his own brand. He may grow out his hair, dress up in underwear, retire to the hills, or otherwise cultivate eccentricities. I know lots of people who grow out their hair and dress up in their underwear. In my neighborhood, they ain’t called ‘gurus’.

“ You can't visit any time before your time machine was built”. This is not according to Yogi Berra. According to the Einstein Brothers (I know Albert, but who is Louie?) picture of the universe, space and time are curved and very closely related to each other. This means that traveling through time would be much like traveling through a tunnel in space—in which case you'd need both an entrance and an exit. As a time traveler, you can't visit an era unless there's already a time machine when you get there—an off-ramp. This helps explain why we're not visited more often from people from the future.
And certainly, I don't want to visit the past. And don't bagels go stale after a day or so?

Consulting Firms: Revenue Still In Decline....

Dante once said "that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of crisis maintain their neutrality”.

More than half of global business executives say that the current economic crisis has revealed shortcomings in their organization and two-thirds say their organization is using the crisis as an opportunity to drive change, according to new research by Celerant Consulting.

Nevertheless, Consulting Magazine reports that many public consulting firms continue to struggle. At least three companies reported double-digit declines in consulting revenue for the latest quarter.

Watson Wyatt: Firmwide revenue fell 13 percent, to $396.5 million, in its most recent quarter. More alarming is that profit fell 25 percent in that three month span, down to $31.2 million from $41.7 million a year ago. Analysts blamed the declines on the economy, stressing that many HR consultancies are seeing significant declines in compensation consulting work.

With the economy limiting the number of high level job openings, fewer companies are worrying about compensation competitiveness. While the earnings news is sobering, it’s actually better than Wall Street anticipated. And the firm’s stock price continues to climb in anticipation of its upcoming merger with Towers Perrin.

Hewitt: In its most recently completed quarter, Hewitt’s consulting revenue fell by 13.8 percent and profits sank by 7.5 percent. Overall, the firm’s revenue fell to $729 million, down a modest two percent after adjusting for currency effects.

The firmwide number was bolstered by modest growth from its benefits outsourcing business, which now accounts for almost 27 percent of the firm. The firm’s HR BPO business saw revenue decline by almost 12 percent in the quarter. The good news for that unit was that it managed to post a profit, a positive sign after a loss last year.

CIBER: CIBER’s consulting revenues took a hit in its most recent quarter, falling from just over $300 million in the three months ending June 30, 2008 to just over $250 million in the same three months of 2009. The year-over-year 17 percent decline comes after a 11 percent decline in the firm’s consulting business between the first three months of 2009 and the same period of 2008.

Costs associated with the consulting business accounted for about 75 percent of revenue in the three months ending June 30, 2009, that’s up from 72 percent in the same period of 2008. The challenges facing CIBER’s consulting practice speak to the highly commoditized nature of many segments of IT consulting. Average hourly rates fell from $89/hour to $83/hour. Consultant utilization dipped from 90 percent to 87 percent. As a result, the firm’s headcount has also been reduced, down from 7,445 to 7,150.

And now there seems to be an apparent disjoint here: Why would More than half of global business executives say that the current economic crisis has revealed shortcomings in their organization and two-thirds say their organization is using the crisis as an opportunity to drive change, while most large consulting firms are seeing substantive reductions in revenues (new/more work) and headcount? Why are consulting firms not taking this crisis (business/personal) and addressing it from a strategic and business development perspective? You can't grow your business by reducing headcount. There's no math in that. It doesn't resonate! More then that, it does not work.

Perhaps it is time for these firms to start to 'outsource' their strategy and business development efforts to smaller, more flexible, agile firms who respond quicker to market changes, and can deliver new business without the high overhead.

I think Dante also once said" "Give 'em hell, Harry!" Or perhaps 'go to hell Harry'... or something to that effect. Maybe not.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gas Station Television...

IPTV or Fun at the Pump? In the midst of a a cruel recession for Americans, there's a diversion: TV at the gas station.

The number of televisions atop gas pumps has skyrocketed since their introduction at a handful of stations in 2006. Now, three privately held companies have placed more than 20,000 screens at thousands of stations across the country.

"We try to bring some fun to the pump," says the vice president of sales and marketing for PumpTop TV, an Irvine, Calif., company that provides screens and content at nearly 600 stations nationwide.

The TVs are also bringing in added revenue for gas retailers, who have recently seen their margins shrink because of an increase in fuel-load costs and credit-card fees.

When the owners advertise anything from candy bars to car washes on the TVs, they say in-store sales rise compared to stations without the screens.

Gas Station TV says that in tracking its retailers' sales, stores with screens installed on pumps report selling 75 percent more car washes and 69 percent more snacks if those items are advertised.

TV programming at the pumps varies by location and provider.

One company provides real-time traffic, local sports scores, headlines and weather.

Another carries trivia and NBC content. Gas station TV broadcasts CBS programming and carried an American Idol-type search earlier this year.

These companies pay gas-station owners "rent" in exchange for placing the flat screens above the pumps, and the retailers also can advertise specials or products inside the convenience store.

Once a customer starts the pump, the TV comes on - and stays on.

There's no way to change the channel or mute the volume. So people usually tune in.

"The customer is tied to the screen with an 8-foot rubber hose for five minutes."

It also appears that people remember what they see on the pump TVs: According to a Gas Station TV and Nielsen Media Research study, 70 percent of the people who watched the ads remembered the products advertised, and 89 percent of consumers surveyed were willing to buy a product after seeing an ad atop the pump.

Finally, if I could just figure a way to vend prepared food at the pump...'Fun at the pump'.

California Needs A Consultant

"Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda". The "Beach Boys" and Rhonda are no where to be found these days. The former home of the "Beach Boys" is about to fail...and badly.

The Golden State is so tarnished, said Paul Harris in Britain’s The Guardian, that we can’t dismiss Kenneth Starr’s warning: “California is on the verge of becoming the first failed state in America.” This matters because California is the world’s eighth-largest economy: If it were a country, it would be in the G8. But that economy is such a mess, "if it were a company, it would likely be declared bankrupt.” What happened to the “California dream?” Where did it go? How did it evolve into this?

Liberals, said Victor Davis Hanson in National Review Online. Sure, there are the “usual symptoms” for what ails California—foreclosures, unemployment, “mega-state deficits,” layoffs—but also the things nobody talks about: High taxes with limited results, illegal immigration, overregulation, and rampant environmentalism that cuts off water to farmers.

Perhaps the state should look at "interim management" as a strategy. If it were like a business, the entire board and its Chairman would be unemployed, and the staff would be replaced.

Hey do-run-run, as the song goes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gourmet Magazine Hits the Garbage Dump...

"Gourmet will speak that Esperanto of the palate that makes the whole world kin..."
from the first issue, 1941.
In other words, pass me the cheeseburger, or in this case 'the McKinsey burger'.

Condé Nast just underwent a three-month study by McKinsey & Co. to see how it could cut costs (three other titles— Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, and Cookie—also will be closed). Well, tells you something about modern day marriage. There are "similarities between Gourmet and Condé’s other food title, Bon Appétit—and in this economy redundancy is death." You wanna say that again?

It's chilling (think refrig) to think what the food world will be like without Gourmet (you listening McDonald's), said Gabriella Gershenson in Time Out New York. "What will young people today who love food aspire to? Chinese tak-e-out-e, Cheaply won celebrity chefdom?" Reality TV? Blogs with nothing but restaurant gossip (did you see what's she is eating?). Let's hope people who "crave quality" find a way to fill the void, like dollar meals and KFC.

And here are some of the reader comments aimed squarely at McKinsey:

This choice was nothing but cheap cynicism motivated by a bunch of young semiliterate MBAs from McKinsey. Can you hear them? Nobody reads long articles. The type is too small. Cooking isn't about being a gourmet, it's about takeout food. A food magazine is about aspiring to set a nice table, not actually cook. When will somebody do an expose about McKinsey?

More than sad. Pathetic that publishing experts would rely on nonreading, nonpracticing, nonhuman MBAs who profess to know about magazines.

As we say, “Consultants are like the bottom half of a double boiler: They get all heated up but don't know what's cooking.”

IMS Research: Tier 1 telco TV in 40 million homes by 2014

It may not come as a shock, but IMS Research suggests in a new study that Tier 1 telcos are becoming the new behemoths of the pay TV landscape. These firms, such as AT&T, China Telecom and France Telecom, will serve about 40.1 million households with their TV services by the end of 2014, the study says.

According to a report at, Rebecca Kurlak, research analyst at IMS and author of the study, adds that "Tier 2 and 3 telcos will continue to experience subscriber growth as well. In 2008, tier 2 and tier 3 telcos comprised almost 46% of subscribers. Throughout the forecast, the larger telcos will essentially be stealing honey from the smaller telcos' bee hives by providing more services, deeper discounts and more compelling content from major studios. Hence the reason why the small telcos will only garner close to 23 million TV households by the end of 2014, half the potential of what Tier 1 telcos are anticipated to achieve."

If I'm reading that correctly--and tell me if I'm not--the suggestion is that Tier 1 telcos actually pose a competitive threat to the smaller telcos, a notion that may come as a surprise to the smaller telcos themselves, who I think perceive satellite TV companies and, less so, cable TV companies, as the obvious competitive threats to their young pay TV offerings. If anything, it has appeared so far that large telcos don't really care about either telephone or TV customers in the more rural markets usually served by the Tier 2 and Tier 3 guys.

Meanwhile, the Tier 2 and Tier 3 telcos are starting to see more affordable and accessible infrastructure and content choices to support their pay TV service, a trend which seems to stengthen the odds for their ongoing success in pay TV.

Clever People

The authors of 'Clever' show how organizations can better serve their most valuable employees. The authors of "Clever: Leading Your Smartest, Most Creative People" -- Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones make some points.

Clever people need teams in which to operate. They may not always be team players, but they cannot flourish as soloists either.

So managers must make sure their teams allow their clever people's talents to be exploited. "In our experience," the authors say, "the best clever teams are not designed; they find each other."

The challenge is clear. In the future, the authors say: "The most effective clever organizations will be collections of value networks, or . . . temporary value chains. These deliver a particular project or perform as a particular team and then, once they have completed their work, are reabsorbed in other places."

So this is the central task for leaders and managers: "Creating attractive places for clever people to express themselves."

The authors provide an insightful description of the anatomy of clever employees. Clever people know their worth, they say. They ask difficult questions. Cleverness is central to their identity. And they are not impressed by corporate hierarchy. "They claim they do not want to be led, and they are absolutely certain that they don't want to be managed," Goffee and Jones say.

Clever people do need boundaries and simple rules. Leaders should protect their "clevers" from "organizational rain" -- the nonsense, the politics and the aggravation of organizational life. If not they will leave, and form their own 'clever organization'.

Then again, "Sometimes I am so clever that I don't understand a single word of what I am saying. "

Monday, October 5, 2009

This Recession Lasted Six Years: Sound Familiar?

The Panic of 1796-1797 was a series of downturns in Atlantic credit markets that led to broader commercial downturns in both Britain and the United States.The recession lasted for six years.

In the US, problems first emerged with the Bubble of land speculation bursting in 1796. The crisis deepened into a broader depression when the Bank of England, which faced insolvency due to the exploding cost of the French Revolutionary Wars, suspended specie payments in February 1797. In combination with the unfolding collapse of the U.S. real estate market, the Bank of England's action had developing disflationary repercussions in the financial and commercial markets of the coastal United States and the Caribbean through the turn of the century.

By 1800, the crisis had resulted in the imprisonment of many American debtors including the famed financier of the revolution Robert Morris and his partner James Greenleaf who were investors in a large tract of land in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. James Wilson was forced to spend the rest of his life literally fleeing from creditors until he died at a friend's home in Edenton, North Carolina.

George Meade, the grandfather of the American Civil War general George Gordon Meade was ruined by investments in Western land deals and died in bankruptcy due to the panic. The scandals associated with these and other incidents resulted in the U.S. Congress passing the Bankruptcy Act of 1800, which basically ended this panic; the Bankruptcy Act of 1800 would later be repealed after its three-year duration expired in 1803.

Britain's economy was also hurt, as Britain was fighting France in the French Revolutionary Wars.

The names change, but not the circumstance. What goes around, comes around. And again, we can blame it all on the French and the EU. Why? I don't know. How about 'bad wine' that inhibited our real estate investment strategy.

REAL Unemployment rate: How about 20%

That's 20 million people 'outta work'. So, the logical question is, 'who is acutally working'? Do I need to be in the military, a 'beltway bandit', or in someway related to healthcare or solar; a collection agency? The stimulus package? What happened to that? The only stimuli I see is going to Wall Street, Car manufacturers, and in some strange way...road construction. The rest of us are up to our ears in boondoogle politics.

Friday's unemployment report produced growing economic concerns over the likelihood of an economic recovery that fails to produce job growth. Despite billions of dollars in stimulus spending that continues to flow out of Washington, the Department of Labor report pointed to job loss numbers that have failed to improve amid the spending.

The Department of Labor reported a rise in the adjusted non-farm unemployment rate to a new high of 9.8% after the economy shed another 263,000. However, beyond the adjusted payroll number lies a host of employment numbers including the disturbing reality that 1 in every 6 Americans is now unable to find full-time employment.

One in six out of work. That's probably not going to get any better anytime soon.

Economists also warn that if consumer spending does not recover prior the holiday season, then we are once again likely to see a drastic increase in January and February unemployment data and an adjusted unemployment rate approaching 11.0% by Spring. Subsequently, the real unemployment rate is likely to approach 18%-19% during the same period.

Frankly, I think it's already at 20%. And that's a problem for me and you. As a management consultant, potential clients are more difficult to find, and when you do find them, they offer a retainer that is less than adequate for the time.

One bright spot: Greeters at WalMart. Those jobs saw a 15% increase. Now, we know it is WalMart and it is part-time, and you wave your hand a lot. But hey, if you are a structural engineer looking to connect and add to your network, it might be a way to go. Just bring a sign and your resume. Hi, welcome to WalMart. BTW, here's my resume. Of course, one in six people you hand your resume to, will be handing you... theirs!

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