Tag Archive: Jim Cramer


“The sales of Apple kept getting stronger, the cash position larger, and the products more creative than any company I can ever recall – all because of the genius of one man, the founder, Steve Jobs.

“When Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011, I told people on ‘Mad Money’ that Apple would never be the same…” – CNBC über-commentator and former hedge fund manager Jim Cramer

The Three Gees

When I joined the ranks of Silicon Valley PR directors/managers in 1995, the business media was obsessed with three CEO rock stars we called, “The Three Gees”: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Lou Gerstner (Itty Bitty Machines) and Andy Grove (Intel).

The Three Gees dominated (today’s legacy) media at the time, seemingly making every cover of the leading business magazines, namely BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune.

They respectively represented the software, manufacturing and semiconductor sides of the PC, and the growth of their stocks was something to behold.

jobsamelio

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple one year later – 11 years after being forced out by John Sculley and the Board of Directors of the company he created – the media coverage was breathtaking. The Mercury News above-the-fold treatment left one wondering what the editors would do for the “Second Coming.”

And yet Steve Jobs was indeed mortal. There was no OMG product that Jobs bequeathed to his successor, Tim Cook. Today, Apple is losing ground to Samsung. Will Apple ever regain its Steve Jobs-era glory? Most are betting the under.

Fast-forward to the present: Microsoft is offering new generations of Windows in the post-Gates era. IBM sold its PC division – the technology it pioneered – to China’s Lenovo. Intel and other semiconductor companies are now mere commodity suppliers to the new newsmakers, the social media (e.g., LinkedIn), cloud computing (e.g., Salesforce.com) and mobile technology (e.g., Google) firms or as Cramer says: social, cloud and mobile.

Bench Strength?

In the big four American sports, particularly beisboll, football and hockey you cannot win the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup respectively with just superstars. This is less the case with basketball, but players contributing off the bench are still needed. The point is champions must have talent, including superstars, but they also need deep benches, intelligent systems and solid coaching.

A team winning the Stanley Cup cannot just rely on one superstar center, left-wing, right-wing line, but also scoring from lines two, three and four, solid defensemen and lights-out goalies. There will be nights when the top line is not producing. That means that others must step up and contribute.

penguins

My former boss, Wilf Corrigan, founded custom-chip designer LSI Logic in 1981 and also served as its chairman and chief executive officer until he decided in concert with the company board of directors to step down in 2005. He surrounded himself with extremely talented lieutenants as mentioned in an earlier Almost DailyBrett post. They went on to serve as CEOs including: John Daane (Altera); Brian Halla (National Semiconductor); Moshe Gavrielov (Xilinx); Jen-Hsun Huang (NVIDIA); Ronnie Vashishta (eASIC) and Bruce Entin (Silicon Valley Communication Partners).

The most important point is that Wilf, despite his status as a captain of industry, did not want the LSI Logic story to be exclusively about him. He also wanted to feature his deep bench. Instead of the first-person singular (e.g., I, me, myself), he insisted on personally speaking in the first-person plural (e.g., we, us, ours). He wanted the same for those who spoke on behalf of the company team … that would be me.

The Imperial CEO

carly1

Just last week, The Economist cited Czarina Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, in a story as to why female CEOs are more likely to be shown the door – the glass cliff — as opposed to their male counterparts. The central reason offered was that female CEOs are more likely to be hired from outside to save the day.

The Economist cited the “disproportionate publicity” that Carly received in her rocky tenure, making her a media star and synonymous with her company Hewlett Packard (particularly during the Compaq acquisition debacle) and ultimately contributing to her demise.

mayer

Almost DailyBrett wrote earlier about glamorous Yahoo! rock star Marissa Mayer, and her decision to pose horizontally for Vogue. The question was asked then, and asked again now whether we care as much about Yahoo! as we do about Mayer? Maybe the coming $15 billion – $16 billion IPO of Chinese digital retailer, Alibaba, will bring some attention back to 13.6 percent part-owner, Yahoo!

We should also not lose sight that Mayer came to Yahoo! from Google. Is there another glass cliff in the offing?

“Tesla is Elon Musk”

Last week, a CNBC talking-head analyst declared that electronic car innovator Tesla was in reality an ion-battery maker in drag.

CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth replied that Tesla is Elon Musk. Guess the same would apply to privately held, rocket maker SpaceX. According to a recent profile on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Musk devotes three days of his typical week to SpaceX, two days to publicly traded Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) and two days to his relatively new wife and five sons from his previous marriage.

Can Musk petition for weeks to be extended to nine days?

As a shareholder of Tesla and as a public relations counselor/commentator for three decades, Musk comes across as a good guy and relatively modest. He simply calls himself an “engineer.” Whether he likes it or not, he is first and foremost a technology rock star.

So what should Tesla, SpaceX and Musk do?

At a minimum, they all should be thinking about succession planning even though Musk is only 42 years young. The comparisons made by 60 Minutes and others, comparing Musk to Jobs, should be seen as both extremely flattering and downright scary.

Tesla and SpaceX seemingly have extremely talented corporate lieutenants. We need to see them and get to know them. Will they replace Musk in stature? No. Having said that, there will be a future of these companies after Musk, just as there was a future for Apple after Jobs.

muskstraubel1

For example we could learn more about Tesla’s chief technology officer JB Straubel, who rebuilt a discarded electric golf cart at 14-years young. Today, the Stanford grad in energy engineering is now tasked at building an affordable (e.g., $30,000) Tesla electric car with acceptable range.

The same will eventually be true for the leading rocket scientists (they really are rocket scientists) at SpaceX, particularly if Musk decides to take the company public.

The Tesla and SpaceX teams need to remember that running a company is not a sprint, but a marathon. To make it for the long-run and go deep into the playoffs, you need a seasoned team and a strong contributing bench.

http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Cramers-Get-Rich-Carefully/dp/0399168184

http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/03/27/briefly-steve-jobs-1996-return-to-apple-depicted-in-rare-set-of-photos

http://www.economist.com/news/business/21601554-why-female-bosses-fail-more-often-male-ones-glass-precipice

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/mayer-vogue-nasdaq-yhoo/

http://www.teslamotors.com/executives

 

 

 

 

Launching a Second Career?

“From adversity comes opportunity.” – Hall of Fame Football Coach Lou Holtz

“Don’t give up; don’t ever give up.” – Jim Valvano Farewell Speech

“ … There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” – Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”

There was a real question for months-on-end about whether this particular Almost DailyBrett blog post would ever be written.

The reason is simple. It’s much more difficult than anyone would anticipate, launching a second act when one reaches the “difficult” age of 50 or above. This point is particularly magnified for the so-called “privileged” pale male of the species.

clint

No one seems to like these angry white males. Let’s marginalize this irksome demographic (e.g., put them out to pasture).

And yet there is hope for those – both women and men — approaching their Golden Years particularly those with plenty of gas in the tank with what can be called,  a sunny outlook on life.

Didn’t Ronald Reagan launch a second career at 69-years young after six years of uneventful long-term unemployment?

Aren’t the Rolling Stones touring the UAE, Japan, China, Australia and New Zealand in their 70s?

Judi Dench at 69-years of age couldn’t make the Academy Awards Sunday night because she was shooting a movie in India. You go girl!

The same is true for the author of Almost DailyBrett. Starting this September, yours truly will serve as a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Central Washington University, teaching public relations and advertising to college students.

Yes, this most likely is my incredibly satisfying encore after three decades in political-corporate-agency public relations.

For a wide variety of reasons the recession/economic downturn that stubbornly refuses to enter into full recovery mode, claimed literally hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomer victims during the course of last decade.

In many cases, their P&Ls simply collapsed. They were making five-figures or in some cases, six-figures and the first number was not necessarily a “1.” Despite their knowledge and experience …or maybe because of their knowledge and experience…they became too damn expensive.

babyboomers

It was time to cut expenses and to layoff those who were not going to be part of an organization’s dynamic future. These Baby Boomers reacted by thinking about simply landing another six-figure “position.” Surely someone would be grateful for their services…or surely, not.

After months of furtive searching, burning through inadequate unemployment checks and dipping into savings, joining the ranks of the long-time unemployed, some of these cashiered Baby Boomers came up in many cases with the wrong solution: Start their own businesses and burn down nest eggs. For a few it worked. For most it did not.

Putting out your shingle and being your own boss sounds appealing on the surface, but in most cases it’s a major pain. You have to find the business against strong competitors. If successful, you have to service the business. You have to retain the business. You have to bill…and hope that you will be paid in a timely manner, if it all.

Many took a hint and retired in their late 50s/early 60s, years before Medicare eligibility. As The Economist stated: “A growing number of the long-term unemployed find ways to qualify as disabled and never work again.” The number of DI beneficiaries in 1970; 1.5 million; 2013, 8.9 million. The disability trust fund is due to go broke in 2016.

Okay, acknowledging that an uphill climb still confronts the long-term unemployed Baby Boomer, what are some realistic strategies to launch a second career, get back into the game, and put more hop-and-skip into her or his jump?

Continuous Self-Improvement. Even though you may detest exercise, you need to dedicate at least 30 minutes daily, six days per week (one day off) for cross-training. That means reasonable resistance training with weights three days a week and aerobic exercise (e.g., running, elliptical, treadmill, spinning) another three days per week. This should be a religious experience, meaning you believe you are sinning if you miss a day. At a minimum, you will feel better about yourself and better project a more youthful demeanor.

crosstraining

Calories In; Calories Out. No one wants to hear this mantra, but that along with exercise is the solution to adipose tissue. Serve meals on salad-size plates instead of dinner plates. Think portions. Eat more veggies and fruits. Drink more water. Divide entrees with a significant other when you go out (you will still go home with a Bowser bag). Lose your convulations.

Lifelong Learning. Know what is going on in the world, even if Russia’s latest invasion or the massive U.S. deficit does not please you. Project yourself as engaged in your world, nation, state and community. Devour digital and conventional media.

Embrace Digital. That means as CNBC’s Jim Cramer would say: social, mobile and cloud. Those Baby Boomer colleagues of the editor-in-chief of Almost DailyBrett  that are agnostic to social media all have something in common: They are all unemployed. Write a blog. Participate in social media. Keep up with digital trends. Google yourself. Immediately clean up your act, if necessary.

Always Think SEO. WordPress, Wix and others give you free plug-and-play tools to build your own personal brand websites. LinkedIn provides you with the tools to incorporate your professional personal photos, presentations, glowing references and career accomplishments. Use them. And then employ social media to spread the word. Update your resume. If you don’t know what SEO stands for, look it up.

Build Your Network. Every LinkedIn connection is a friend. Every LinkedIn Group is a collection of like-minded friends. Don’t rely on the black hole of job boards. Develop relationships. Find the hiring managers. Ask for informational interviews. As you well know, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Consider Going Back to School. It may not be easy to be a Non-Trad Student as earlier reported in Almost DailyBrett, but attaining that elusive undergraduate or advanced degree at a minimum demonstrates tenacity, dedication and commitment. As Martha would say, these are all good things. My new position would not have been possible without my recently earned graduate degree, attained 34 years after my undergraduate degree.

Put Yourself in a Young Environment. The ultimate start-ups are college campuses. No one is thinking about retirement or long-term disability checks. For students, the future is now and it is damn exciting. Think of your future that way as well. If you are 60, you should be contemplating your next three decades of so on the planet…if you are so lucky.clint1

Avoid Starting Your Own Business … unless you really want to. Burning up your nest egg on a business that fails is a double whammy. Find something different that you want to do and can do with gusto. I am really looking forward to resuming my teaching, and in particular mentoring students as they transition from graduates to professionals.

Stay Away from Federal and State Assistance. Are you really disabled? Can you volunteer? Can you take a “job” rather than a “position” to get back on track? We need more taxpayers in this country, not more of those on the dole as evidenced by the record 46 million on Food Stamps.

Find Love. Having someone in your corner supporting you and willing to listen when the storm clouds are the darkest is indispensible. Being able to check the “married” box sends a very positive message, and may prompt someone important to look at your application twice.

That may be just the break that your second career needs.

http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2010/07/your-second-career-plan-on-it.html

http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-10-2013/reimagine-your-life.html

http://www.aarp.org/work/working-after-retirement/info-05-2011/ready-for-an-encore.html

http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/ronaldreagan

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21597898-if-barack-obama-wants-increase-economic-opportunity-he-should-embrace-ideas

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21597925-want-make-america-less-unequal-here-are-some-suggestions-memo-obama

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/the-courage-to-succeed-as-non-trad-students/

The words, “Public Relations Pros” and “Journalists” would be labeled by many in the Fourth Estate as either an oxymoron or an obscene contradiction of terms.

Emerging from Journalism school back in the desultory late-1970s, the author of Almost DailyBrett would have surely agreed. Walter Cronkite never flacked for anyone. Woodward and Bernstein might be interested in selling books, but they would never stoop to representing a mere politician or corporation. Analytical Thomas Friedman would never risk his reputation for impartiality by serving as anyone’s advocate.

woodwardbernstein

Yes, the perception is that journalists are reporters, editors, correspondents, columnists, anchors, news directors and managing editors. This thinking is oh-so-analog.

Let’s pose this question: Are digital bloggers for TechCrunch, Gizmodo, The Huffington Post, Politico and many other influential weblogs, journalists? Don’t think so?

Think of it this way: They have an obligation to get their facts right. They may not always write, complying with AP Style or using the inverted pyramid – heck many of their posts are feature “thumb suckers” – but they still must have a sense of what is newsworthy and what is not. Why? Because a blog is the most discretionary of all reads. No one requires you to read her or his blog.

Bloggers need to include in their posts the essential facts or the five W’s and the one H… What, When, Who, Where, Why and How…and one more: Who the hell cares? If these questions are not answered quickly, the reader will turn elsewhere. Isn’t that what a traditional analog journalist does?

Is Jon Stewart, a journalist?

Heck no you say? He is a comedian. Right? Or Left? Yes, he is…but in many respects he is a journalist.

stewartcramer

His 21-minute public undressing of CNBC’s Jim Cramer was masterful, and it went viral (more than 83,000 page-views). Harvard-trained “Mad Money” Cramer is a virtual encyclopedia of all things, Wall Street. If you are skeptical, just check out his evening “Lightning Round” or read his latest tome, “Get Rich Carefully.”

And yet Stewart nailed him with his careful research, facts and figures to skillfully argue that CNBC was essentially in bed with institutional Wall Street, and was not doing enough to protect the average retail investor, who relies on the market to grow nest eggs for future dreams through IRAs and 401k’s.

Another question immediately comes to mind.

Is the above-average Jane or Jack with a cell-phone camera and an internet connection, a journalist?

Your immediate reaction would be to the negative…and in most instances you’re right…but not in all cases.

Train Station Shooting

A cell phone camera turned BART’s world (Bay Area Rapid Transit) literally upside down when the fatal 2009 early New Year’s morning shooting of Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale station went viral. A passenger taking photos through a subway car window “covered” the story, providing many of the five W’s and the one H, prompting the mainstream Bay Area media to follow and putting the BART public relations operation into damage control. The “Who Cares” question was already answered.

Just as the binary code of ones-and-zeroes has forever changed the business models of analog media types (e.g., those still using a later generation of 1439 Gutenberg’s printing press), the definition of who is and who is not a journalist is changing as well.

Rarely does Almost DailyBrett speak ex-cathedra, but it will in this case: The public relations industry grasped digital communication – blogging, microsites, digital handhelds – much faster than the majority of conventional journalists, some of which are still kicking and screaming.

Naturally, traditional journalists and the newly minted digital journalists (e.g., bloggers) are skeptical of public relations pros. Why? Flacks are advocates. They have a point of view. They present the truth and tell the story in the best interest of their respective clients.

This advocacy position puts them in a synergistic relationship with the reporter-editor-analyst crowd, and in many cases these recipients of PR industry information are antagonistic to the provider. In the final analysis and there is no denying this point: They need each other. Reporters need public relations pros because they provide information. In turn, public relations pros need access to their target audiences.

And what about this information? It has to be researched. It has to be accurate. It should always be presented professionally (e.g., AP Style). It has to be newsworthy (or a credible newsworthiness argument has to be advanced). It has to include all the salient facts, including those five W’s and one H. And it must conclusively respond to the skeptical, bordering on cynical, who cares question.

Some have suggested that public relations should be taught in business schools rather than journalism schools. The reason is that the majority of agency and all corporate public relations professionals are working on behalf of business. That’s true.

Here’s where Almost DailyBrett disagrees. Public relations is telling the story on behalf of a newsworthy client. Even though PR pros are advocating, they still must research the story and get it right. They must present this information professionally (e.g., inverted pyramid, AP Style) and it must be newsworthy for news disseminators in order to reach target audiences. That requires the journalism taught in J-Schools.

invertedpyramid

Even if public relations pros are bypassing or not exclusively using conventional and digital media outlets, and strictly utilizing self-publishing instead, they still need to practice solid journalism and ensure the story is told accurately.

And what did Joseph Pulitzer write on the walls of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch? “Accuracy, Accuracy, Accuracy”?

This sage advice applies to public relations practitioners as well, particularly in our fast-moving digital age.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–1

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-pt–2

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Blame-in-Oscar-Grant-BART-death-may-shift-4713100.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg

http://www.apstylebook.com/

http://www.onlineconcepts.com/pulitzer/endow.htm

NASDAQ: WEED?

“Marijuana may not be addictive, but money certainly is.” – University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin

ben

How long will it be before publicly traded marijuana-producer/seller companies are listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ?

Will pot company execs someday be ringing the bell and/or pounding the gavel on Wall Street?

Will they be issuing SEC-mandated 10-Q quarterly earnings releases (how high can this stock go?), uploading 10-K annual reports, producing material 8-K filings about mergers, acquisitions and restructurings and holding shareholder meetings?

Will there be handouts for investors?

Preposterous you say? Maybe not.

“…Advocates have waged savvy campaigns…presenting a clean-cut, besuited image worlds away from the tie-dyed stereotype.” – The Economist, “High Time.”

The argument has been made for Amendment 64 (e.g., Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) in Colorado. Washington and other states that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated.

Does that eventually include the SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission?

How about the FTC, Federal Trade Commission? And maybe even the Financial Standards Accounting Board, FASB. Will publicly traded marijuana companies report quarterly earnings using both GAAP and Pro Forma accounting?

If there are sky-high profits to be made as a result of legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana, shouldn’t the Military-Industrial Complex crowd get its cut on the action?

marjijuana

If the trend continues toward nationwide marijuana legalization,(federal DOJ is not enforcing in states that vote for medicinal marijuana and other uses), logic dictates that after a few years in “test” markets such as Colorado and Washington, eventually companies may acquire these firms and add marijuana to their product portfolios.

Some may even decide to directly enter the production/marketing of marijuana sector, dominate market share and eventually spin out a marijuana division as a highly covered IPO.

Ready for NASDAQ: WEED?

What does this big profits specter mean to the backyard grower, who is looking to raise a few extra bucks? Has this person ever heard of the term, “economies of scale?” Once a Philip Morris … err … Altria Group, Inc. gets into the market with its legendary ability to produce and sell in massive volume could easily result in the dreams of these small growers going up in smoke.

Think of it this way, a company that markets cancer-causing Marlboros or essentially the burning and smoking of highly addictive doctored tobacco leaves is not going to have any moral qualms about the burning and smoking of pot leaves, particularly if there is a huge profit margin attached to these sales.

CNBC’s “Mad Money” Jim Cramer was posing the hypothetical question as to whether investors should add addictive “sin” stocks to their individual portfolios in 2014. Naturally, Altria Group or NYSE: MO was on the list. There was also Diageo plc (NYSE: DEO) that markets high-end whiskies, vodkas and liquors. Ditto for Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ: WYNN) that operates gambling resorts. Could these sinful companies be persuaded to dip into the marijuana market once the legalize-tax-regulate advocates have won the day?

Is the Pope, Catholic?

There may also be a genetically modified marijuana play for Monsanto (NYSE: MON) and a counter wholesome organic effort by Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM).  Think of the marketing and branding possibilities and the competing television ads during future Super Bowls. Move over erectile dysfunction.

Marijuana is not only consumed in smoked form, but in brownies and other pastries. There may be a great opportunity for General Mills (NYSE: GIS) that serves as the custodian of the Betty Crocker brand. Will this be the time to expand the reach of the company’s markets and upgrade the brand at the same time?

Marijuana brownies would completely change the way we think of the image of Betty Crocker with her apron.

Just as the fictional Nick Naylor from Thank You for Smoking embodies the image of the fast talking PR pro for the tobacco industry, will there be female and male counterparts for publicly traded marijuana companies? The legalize-tax-regulate crowd has already proven they can win the day, at least in some states, when it comes to marijuana. Surely future Nick Naylors can artfully defend the rising top and bottom lines and expanding gross margins of marijuana companies.

NickNaylor

Tobacco, booze, gambling and other perceived sinful companies have not only survived, heck some are very profitable with decent reputations and brands. Couldn’t the same be true for publicly traded and SEC regulated marijuana companies?

There is money to be made on Wall Street. Why shouldn’t SEC regulated publicly traded marijuana companies make big-time profits emanating from a newly legalized, taxed and regulated market?

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21593467-colorado-embarks-unprecedented-experiment-high-time

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains-1

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21573135-americas-first-market-recreational-marijuana-will-be-far-free-tax-and-tax-again

http://www.stockpickr.com/rhinostocks/portfolio/sin-stocks-january-2014/

http://seekingalpha.com/article/1156521-5-marijuana-stocks-going-crazy-and-this-could-be-just-the-beginning

http://time.com/4044698/willie-nelson-pot-brand/

 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

teddyroosevelt

Self-indulgent … Weak, unimaginative songs…” – Rolling Stone magazine review of Led Zeppelin I.

“(The first album) just went over their heads. Absolutely. Absolutely, so. It was way beyond them…” – Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page reflecting on the initial reviews.

Take that, critics.

There are no statues or monuments to critics.

Ancient and modern-day versions of the Pharisees have always been and will always be with us.

Will Tim Tebow make it in the NFL? If he doesn’t, is it because of his home schooling? His belief in a higher being? His long-time commitment to clean living?

You would think that he never won the Heisman Trophy.

Give him credit for one thing: He is a man in the arena.

In our digital society, our ability and our incessant need to calibrate, to crunch data to smithereens has never been greater.

Didn’t Intel get into major PR trouble in 1994 because the Pentium chip (floating point unit FPU) didn’t compute correctly four or more digits AFTER the decimal point?

When a big league hitter comes to the plate, we all know his batting average, average with RISP (runners in scoring position), home runs, RBIs…all the data that makes Billy Beane, as played by Brad Pitt, salivate.

In nanoseconds, we measure the direction of stocks, market capitalization of companies, price-to-earnings ratios and the “churn” as institutional investors or hedge funds move in-and-out of a security.

In God we trust; All others bring data. – Professor/Author William Edward Deming.

And yet, despite our unquenchable thirst for data, figures and factoids, our lives still remain largely subjective. And there are “Russian judges” that from time-to-time are thumbs down on even our best efforts.

Most sports have a scoreboard. You either win or lose, pure and simple. That is not the case for figure skating, particularly during the troubled days of the Cold War. An American skater would receive the following marks for her performance in the short or long program: 5.8, 5.9, 5.8, 5.7, 5.9, 5.8, 4.5…Wonder who gave her the 4.5? The Russian judge.

The point is the critics are still here. The world has never been more technologically advanced with 90 percent of the scientists, who ever lived, walking around the planet right now. Despite all of this innovation and advancement, we are still for the large part evaluated subjectively by our peers.

We live, and maybe always will reside in a subjective society.

This undeniable fact requires us to remember the most important public relations of all are personal public relations. How do you enhance your personal brand? How do you protect your reputation? Did you “Google” yourself today? Do you like what you see? Or do you need to change course?

Even though job applications with digital cover letters, curriculum vitae, portfolios and URLs are all submitted, and in most cases search engine instantly evaluated for desired “tag” words, the decision whether to hire or not is made by flesh-and-bones people. And of course, people can be political.

As CNBC’s Jim Cramer says, “I don’t care about a stock’s past, only its future.”

cramer

Interviewers are only concerned about whether you will add value to the bottom line. They want to know how you will fit into an organization. They want to know how you will contribute. They want to know whether you have the gravitas to interact effectively with management, customers and other stakeholders. They want to know whether you will be a team player.

How about romance? We might be able to devise a pithy profile with nice JPEG mug shots for Match.com or eHarmony or some other dating site, but whether you succeed or fail in the game of love comes down to the subjective opinion of another person. Are you immediately placed on the friendship track or the romance track? That is the mother of all analog decisions. At some point, there will be a decision whether intimate human contact is in the cards. The ones-and-zeroes play absolutely no role.

Even blog writers are subjected to…ah…subjectivity. Do these words work for you or not? Do you enjoy that picture on the wall? What about the architecture of this building? Or that outdoor landscaping? And how about Led Zeppelin I? Is it “self-indulgent”? Or does it go right over the heads of the critics?

Sometimes, we are talking about questions of taste. Sometimes a critic’s upbringing comes into play or pre-set political philosophies. And maybe despite your best efforts and effective personal public relations, the critic simply doesn’t care for you. It all comes down to eternal subjectivity in a digital world.

Those damn Russian judges. They will always be there to torment us.

http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhyW3_2f02w

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Tebow

http://t.foxsports.msn.com/nfl/tebows-nfl-days-numbered-after-zero-snaps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_FDIV_bug

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_percentage_of_all_scientists_who_have_ever_lived_are_alive_today

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838187

 

 

 

Ten years ago, a friend of mine was getting his knickers in a twist about a hugely successful, $101 billion energy-trading company from Houston, Texas that had just completed a takeover of his firm, a Pacific Northwest public utility.

He told me that these Texans were so friggin’ smart, in fact they were “The Smartest Guys in the Room” – I believe their names were Ken, Andrew, and Jeffrey – and that I needed to buy stock in their company pronto.

So I did some homework. And even more homework. And still some more homework…And I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out how this company made money. And the more I read, the more dazed and confused I became. Why would anyone pay gobs of money to this company to broker energy deals…sounds like a very expensive middle man?

Out of frustration because of my lack of business acumen, I didn’t invest a dime in this company. I think it was called…Enron (NYSE: ENE).

Which brings me to Somali Pirates and the question of whether there should be an IPO (Initial Public Offering) for their business?

somali

A cursory check on the CNBC website indicates that no NYSE-member company has the ticker symbol, PRT, or Pirate, and no NASDAQ-member has the ticker symbol, PIRS, for Pirates.

More importantly Somali Pirates has a “devastatingly effective business model,” according to the most recent edition of The Economist. The UN estimates that the annual cost of piracy lies somewhere between $5 billion and $7 billion (top line?). The Economist reported that Somali Pirate “earnings” (bottom line?) reached $238 million. To top it off, the pirates are now accepting ransom payments via electronic funds transfer.

“Great Investor” Peter Lynch has repeatedly stated that the difference between investing and gambling is that investors need to clearly understand a company’s business model and why they are buying shares. CNBC’s Jim “Mad Money” Cramer has repeatedly reminds his viewers that share prices are a leading indicator of the anticipated direction of a stock and that he is not interested in a stock’s past, only its future.

If you take both Lynch and Cramer at face value, and many other Wall Street talking heads, then you have to be excited about investing in Somali Pirates. We can all figure out how they make money (e.g. seize shipping, demand ransom, receive revenues either in cold, hard cash or via EFT). Got it. Wish that Enron was that clear…or maybe not.

Better yet, they are a minority-run-and-operated business. Do you think they would receive preferential treatment from the federal government?

What are the COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) on the financial statement for Somali Pirates? Mostly speed boats, AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and scaling ladders. They have reduced these costs somewhat by using “mother ships,” often captured deep-sea fishing vessels that they use as floating bases for their fast skiffs. Even though there are no hard-and-fast COGS numbers, there is every indication that the gross margin for Somali Pirates is expanding, not contracting (WallStreetease…).

What about personnel costs? Somali Pirates hail from the ultimate low-cost state (or more accurately, no state), Somalia. They don’t need to outsource to India. Let’s see that means that we can enter almost zero next to the line on the financial statement for SG&A (selling, general and administrative), unless you consider demanding ransoms to be “selling.”

How about R&D? The response by naval forces in the region about the size of Western Europe poses a risk to the business model of Somali Pirates, forcing them to operate further and further away from Somalia. Obviously some more work needs to go into supply over such long distances. And apparently they have not been successful catching up to ships making 18 knots or more…Sounds like they need to invest in competitive research focused on speed-boat technology.

Okay, so now we should have an operating income figure. Which brings us to taxes? What taxes? How about GAAP reporting? What’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles to a bunch of pirates?

And finally, what about the threats to the business model of Somali Pirates? And will they prefer, similar to Facebook, to remain private…at least for the time being? There is a very real possibility that there will never be an IPO for Somali Pirates.

Maybe Goldman Sachs will just set up a hedge fund and invite wealthy investors to take their own stakes in privately held Somali Pirates. Besides who needs the headaches associated with quarterly earnings reports, pre-announcements, chairman’s letters, annual meetings of shareholders, SEC enforcement and the prospect of corporate raiders?

Think of it this way, if Wall Street-types could embrace Enron with irrational exuberance, then what’s to stop them from investing in a bunch of pirates?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron:_The_Smartest_Guys_in_the_Room

http://www.investopedia.com/university/greatest/peterlynch.asp

http://www.cramers-mad-money.com/

http://www.economist.com/node/21015664

Very few things drive me as crazy as elitist reporters interviewing elitist reporters. Sorry you are not the news and you don’t even remotely qualify as genuine news makers.

So how do I feel about the undeniable trend toward open warfare between not only media organizations, but even some of their more recognizable personalities? Is it real? Is it just a game to sell (the few remaining) newspapers, win the November sweeps, or gain readership or viewership?

And more to the point: Is this just another sign of the loss of civility in our society?

Probably all of the above.

A vivid example was the open declaration of war by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart on CNBC about a year ago that is still a hit on YouTube. Stewart with the subtlety of a rattlesnake charged that the financial news network was in bed with the Wall Street deal makers, short sellers, at the expense of hard-working Americans taking a long-term investing approach with their 401Ks and IRAs. The confrontation came down to an explicative-filled face-to-face encounter between Stewart and “Mad Money” Jim Cramer in which Cramer was blown up by Stewart’s road-side bombs. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-extended-interview-pt–3

Please don’t tell me that Stewart is just a comedian. Sure.  I am still mystified as to why Cramer accepted Comedy Central’s invitation to an Iraq or Vietnam-style ambush. General Custer had a better chance against Sitting Bull at Little Big Horn.

A more contemporary example is the open sparring between MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right. The titular heads of these networks are Keith Olbermann of MSNBC (suspended for two days for violating NBC’s policy for making campaign contributions to Democrats…all of two days) and Bill O’Reilly at Fox.

Scoring at home was Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News who stated categorically: “To some extent, each outlet is a partisan noise machine with a narrow view of the landscape. The other cable news outlets are either not nakedly partisan or too small to be considered. It is total war between MSNBC and Fox.” http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20101104_Stu_Bykofsky__Olbermann_fair__O_Reilly_balanced__What_we_found.html?viewAll=y&c=y

Bykofsky offered the following conclusion about the guest lists for the two hosts and their respective shows during the week before the election:  “The O’Reilly Factor” welcomed 20 guests from the right, 11 from the left and seven who were neutral. Left and neutral voices combined almost equaled those from the right.

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” had 20 guests from the left, two neutral and not a single voice (Bykofsky’s emphasis) from the right. Zero voices of dissent.”

Having said that, there is plenty of dissent coming O’Reilly’s way in the form of…you guessed it a columnist from a major publication, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/09/AR2010110905611.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

O’Reilly took issue by a post-election night column by Milbank that complained that “Fair and Balanced” Fox featured only one liberal to comment when the returns were pouring in last Tuesday, pollster Douglas Schoen. To be fair and balanced, there were other liberal commentators on Fox that night.

“Does Sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?” O’ Reilly asked in reaction to Milbank’s column, “That was a joke.”

Milbank, who wasted little time reminding his readers that he was both an “American and a Jew” (Why not invoke the specter of the Holocaust?) responded by writing: “Hilarious! Decapitation jokes just slay me, and this one had all the more hilarity because the topic of journalist beheadings brings to mind my late friend and colleague Danny Pearl, who replaced me in the Wall Street Journal’s London bureau and later was murdered in Pakistan by people who thought Sharia justified it.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia

Taking full advantage of his ability to offer the last word on this matter (at least for now), Milbank wrote: “Let’s drop the thuggish tactics – before more people get hurt.”

Here’s another thought: Why don’t we just chill a little and contemplate the words “decency,” “integrity” “civility” and “respect.”

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