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National and Global, United States

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.

Some Thinkers