Tag Archive: Marc Benioff


A “memorable” $211,703 Porsche or Land Rover?

A “visible” $86,423 Rolex?

And let’s not forget the applicable taxes on these two giveaways: $179,977 and $38,005 respectively.

For those scoring at home, Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) provided $516,108 in goodies to one man: newly minted co-CEO Keith Block, 57.

The Salesforce.com Compensation Committee justified the corporate largesse in its proxy statement filing:

“In this case, the committee approved this award because it believed that recognizing Mr. Block’s leadership and success in achieving company goals was warranted, and that doing so in a memorable and visible way would be motivational not only for the executive, but for other employees who observe exceptional performance being rewarded in exceptional ways consistent with the company’s philosophy of paying for performance.”

Paying for exceptional performance?

Does Block walk on water? Does he change water into wine? Does he dole out loaves and fishes to feed the hungry?

Before being named co-CEO last August, Block was already earning $2.3 million annually in salary and bonuses (not including stock option exercises) as the company’s vice chairman, president and chief operating officer.

Almost DailyBrett extensively researched and taught the relationship between fiduciary responsibility (doing well) and corporate social responsibility (doing good) as a master’s student at University of Oregon and later as a PR professor at Central Washington University.

Your author also served as the director of Corporate Public Relations for LSI Logic (NYSE: LSI) for a decade including preparing 10-Q, 10-K and 8-K news releases and regulatory filings for financial media and the SEC.

More to the point, Almost DailyBrett is a long-time Republican, free-enterprise supporter, and up-to-now a more than satisfied shareholder of Salesforce.com founded by fellow USC alum Marc Benioff.

Let’s state here and now: giving away a cool car and groovy watch (plus paying related income taxes for these two goodies) is inconsistent with Salesforce’s fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders … including not trying to be SaaS-see,  yours truly.

God help the company’s corporate PR department.

Ready to make chicken salad out of chicken feces?

How do you defend the indefensible? How do you stand-up on behalf of the untenable? Did the Compensation Committee discuss its decision with the PR types before giving away a Porsche and a Rolex to Monsieur Block?

And where is Salesforce.com located? San Francisco.

Do you think Bernie, Kamala or Elizabeth supporters residing in the Sodom and Gomorrah by the Bay are going to seize about this outrageous caper as an example about everything wrong with corporate America?

Occupy Salesforce?

Publicly traded corporations (e.g., Salesforce) provide the products we need (e.g., enterprise software), employ millions (e.g., CRM, 29,000) and provide a return on capital to millions investing in their retirement, health care or children’s education.

Buy-side (i.e., mutual funds, retirement systems) and sell-side (i.e. Goldman, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley) institutions hold 82 percent of Salesforce’s 774 million shares outstanding.

In contrast, Almost DailyBrett is a lowly Charles Schwab retail investor with 300 shares.

If your author threatened to sell all of his shares because he is upset by the Keith Block giveaways, would company even notice, let alone care?

Heck, your author’s holding is a friggin’ corporate rounding error.

Salesforce has demonstrated by its regulatory filing temerity, it really doesn’t take fiscal stewardship and fiduciary responsibility seriously.

Actions speak louder than words. The perception and reality both stink.

No carefully massaged explanation and no amount of corporate social responsibility (CSR) – including calling for local tax increases to take care of the homeless – are going to change the undeniable fact that giving away a luxury car, a costly watch and paying the related taxes for one lousy executive … is wrong.

Dead wrong to be precise.

Almost DailyBrett editor’s note: According to Business Insider, the company did not disclose the exact make or model of Keith Block’s new car and watch. However, an educated guesstimate was made by the digital publication based upon the disclosed sales prices and related tax payments for the two luxury items. If the company actually bought Block a Lamborghini instead of a Porsche, your author will accept personal responsibility for the egregious mistake.

https://www.businessinsider.com/salesforce-ceo-keith-block-car-watch-2019-4

https://www1.salary.com/Keith-Block-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-SALESFORCE-COM-INC.html

https://www.salesforce.com/company/leadership/bios/bio-block/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/fiduciary-responsibility-vs-corporate-social-responsibility/

 

 

 

Mark Parker of Nike is also one of my mutual fund advisors.

Ditto for Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com

Let’s not forget of Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing.

Can’t tell you how many times Almost DailyBrett has been told to invest anything and everything into mutual funds.

For the record 70 percent of your author’s Charles Schwab portfolio is held in mutual funds, the largest amount managed by William Danoff of the Fidelity Contrafund.

Having made this point, let’s take a contrarian stand.

Why can’t investors create their own mutual fund comprised of individual and diversified stocks within their own portfolios?

Whoa … aren’t you the investor taking on too much … risk? Shouldn’t you diversify?

The humble answers are “not necessarily” and “yes.”

As legendary investor Peter Lynch once said: “Know what you own, and know why you own it.”

When it comes to investing and in the spirit of Lynch’s axiom, Almost DailyBrett follows these self-formulated rules:

  • Never invest in a stock in which you personally detest/loathe the lead executive (e.g., Oracle’s Larry Ellison)
  • Buy shares in firms you personally use or have a 100 percent understanding of how the company makes money (e.g., Apple).

For example, ever cutesy Scott McNealy of extinct Sun Microsystems once labeled Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates as Ballmer and Butthead. McNealy would have been funny, if his company stock wasn’t trading at the very same time at $3 per share.

Whatever happened to Scott McNealy? His company was devoured by Oracle.

Another example: your author won’t touch Bitcoin because even though it is the choice of money launderers around the world, the crypto currency is not associated with any country and there is zero logical explanation of how it makes money.

Isn’t Tim Cook A CEO?

Why is Tim Cook my mutual fund portfolio manager?

Doesn’t Cook run the largest capitalized – $1 trillion-plus – publicly traded company in the world? Absolutely.

Almost DailyBrett clearly understands that Apple is not a mutual fund, but still it offers the complexity, confidence and diversity of a mutual fund.

Apple plays in the hardware (i.e., smart phones, tablets, wearables, PCs) space. Ditto for software (e.g., iOS) and services (e.g., iTunes). Think of it this way, Apple has as many if more investors as any mutual fund … including mutual funds themselves – both buy side and sell side institutional investors – and 75 million shares recently bought by Warren Buffett too.

And who runs this diversified enterprise with the expectation of $60 billion to $62 billion on the top line in the next (fourth) quarter? Revenues grew 17 percent year-over-year. Gross margin remained steady at 38 percent. EPS jumped year-over-year from $1.67 to $2.34 and dividends grew from $0.63 to $0.73.

The dilemma for every Apple investor, particularly today, is when is it time to ring the register at least for a portion of the shares? Almost DailyBrett does not hear very many bells clanging.

There is little doubt that Apple is tearing the cover off the ball. Apple has proven it is not necessarily the number of smart phones sold – even though these mobile devices are an absolute must for our lives – in many ways it is the average sales price, climbing closer to four figures for every unit.

Back to Danoff and Fidelity Contrafund. Today it has a reported $130 billion in assets under management. Cook counters with $1 trillion in investor confidence in Apple’s shares.

Which “mutual fund” manager would you choose, if you could only select, one?

And for diversification, you package Apple with Boeing (U.S. commercial airliner and defense aircraft innovator and manufacturer) …

And Nike, the #1 athletic apparel manufacturer in die Welt.

Finally, Almost DailyBrett has bought Salesforce.com nine times and sold eight times for a profit. To describe Salesforce.com as business software company seriously understates its business strategy.

With all due respect to Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Salesforce.com is THE Cloud pioneer selling software as a service (SaaS) to enterprises around the world.

Let’s see: Apple, Boeing, Nike and Salesforce.com in the Almost DailyBrett mutual fund.

Is your author right? Only time will tell. Will this “mutual fund” adjust and change its holdings? No doubt.

Here’s the point: As Ken Fisher of Fisher Investments would say, it’s time to “graduate” from pure mutual funds.

There is risk associated with selecting stocks for your portfolio, but isn’t that also the case for mutual funds? Some think that mutual funds are no brainers. Not true, and let’s not forget the fees.

When it comes to my “mutual fund” portfolio — AAPL, BA, NKE, CRM — the only fees yours truly pays are $4.95 per trade.

Not bad, not bad at all.

https://fundresearch.fidelity.com/mutual-funds/summary/316071109

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2018/07/apple-reports-third-quarter-results/

“When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work?” – Comedy Central Jon Stewart assertion to CNBC’s Jim Cramer

Heard one of the talking heads of the chattering class last week on CNBC extol the virtues of “passive investing” in the face of massive volatility and the long-awaited arrival of a Wall Street correction.

Isn’t “passive investing” an oxymoron or a contradiction in terms, if not just plain dumb?

The basic premise is the 54 percent of Americans investing in stocks and stock-based mutual funds should put all of their investments on auto pilot, automatically “investing” a fixed percentage of their pay checks into company 401Ks or brokerage managed IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts).

On more than one occasion, Almost DailyBrett has been critiqued for surfing Charles Schwab, Fidelity, Zillow and Wells Fargo each on a daily basis.

Is your author an unreformed capitalist? Please allow me to plead, guilty.

What’s curious is no one seems to raise an eyebrow to those constantly burying their noses into their smart phones, spending an inordinate amount of time on Facebook or Snapchat or bingeing on video games or streaming video.

As Jon Stewart correctly surmised in his 2009 televised pants-zing of Jim Cramer, far too many times retail investors have been sold this notion that markets inevitably go up, so don’t mind volatility and fluctuations. Forget about it!

And if that is indeed the case, panicking only leads to losses. No argument.

The question that Almost DailyBrett is raising and arguing is very simple: Do we want to manage your wealth accumulation or be managed by others who may not have our best interest at heart?

The Day, The Music Died

“I went down to the sacred store; Where I’d heard the music years before; But the man there said the music wouldn’t play.” – Don McLean, American Pie

Your author contends that portfolio management is not the same as day trading. At the same time, the notion of long-term investing makes absolutely no sense. Back in the 1990s, one would have been advised to invest in IBM, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft and walk away.

With the exception of Microsoft, the music stopped playing for these “DinoTech” stocks.

Worse, the 1990s investor would have missed the massive upsides of newly minted 21st Century rock stars, the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG).

Since the days of the three Gees – Andy Grove, Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner (all retired or in one case, deceased), a new trove of corporate rock stars has ensued – Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Tim Cook (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Elon Musk (Tesla).

Don’t you know, these shooting stars will eventually flame out? And as Don McLean wrote and sang, their music will eventually die.

Who will be the rock stars of the next decade? Should we keep some money on the sidelines, ready to buy low and sell high. If we become “passive investors,” we will blindly throw our hard-earned, discretionary dollars at Wall Street regardless of bull market or bear market.

Shouldn’t we be selling near or at the height of the market and buying near or at the low of the market? Or should we just designate portions or our IRAs or 401Ks to this mutual fund manager or that mutual fund manager because they are the “experts”?

Where Do You Shop? What Products/Services Do You Buy?

“I don’t care about a stock’s past, only its future.” – Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money”

Almost DailyBrett has his fair share of mutual funds – domestic/foreign; large cap/mid-cap/small cap – and cash under management. Your author also manages four individual stocks, carefully avoiding the perils associated with all eggs coming from one chicken.

Apple: Let’s see, in the morning your author reaches for his Apple Smart Phone, runs to classic rock sounds on his antiquated iPod, and turns on his Mac at work. You bet ya, Apple is part of the portfolio.

Boeing: Considering that Donald Trump is president and more federal dollars are headed for defense and the economy is strong, regardless of market gyrations, Boeing has been a solid buy. The company sold 700 commercial airliners this year and plans to deliver 800 next year. Has your author been transported by Boeing Aircraft? Is the Pope, Catholic?

Nike: Uncle Phil is the founder of athletic apparel market leader and the über-benefactor of University of Oregon Athletics. Nike shoes/gear are worn for morning runs to complement the Nike+ software program on the Apple iPod.

Salesforce.com. Marc Benioff hails from my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Southern California (May The Horse Be With You). Mark is the founder, chairman and CEO of business software innovator, Salesforce.com. Let’s face it, many may claim a cloud legacy, but Salesforce.com was first to SaaS or Software as a Service.

Apple, Boeing, Nike and Salesforce are the four present individual securities in the portfolio of Almost DailyBrett. Are they examined and managed on a daily basis? You bet ya. Will they be there forever? Forget it.

Should an investor, who rejects passivity, consider these individual stocks?

Only your investment advisor knows for sure.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/08/opinion/joe-nocera-on-the-cramer-takedown.html

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/iinzrx/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-jim-cramer-pt–2

https://don-mclean.com/

 

 

“Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days.” Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days.

glorydays

Remember the PC/Internet connectivity era?

The one that ended about a decade ago?

Remember when investing in Intel (NASDAQ: INTC); Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT); Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) was close to automatic profits on Wall Street?

Of course, you wanted to invest in these stocks and so did everyone else…but over time the world changed: Pentium processors became a commodity, just like all other semiconductors.

Microsoft operating system announcements became less-anticipated and the results less than stellar…most of all they were being used for ubiquitous PCs.

Cisco makes switches and routers. They work. The Internet works. Thank you very much…and just this week the company laid off 6,500 workers.

And Dell? Well, Dell produced a great model for inventory…How about big-time results?

If you are engaged in public relations, marketing, employee communications and social media for these four companies, you are probably singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” if you are singing anything at all.

So what is the connection between music and technology public relations?

Two days ago CNBC after-market anchors were hyperventilating about another blow-out quarter for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), they really had nothing negative that they could say about the company as the stock reached $400 a share for the first time. Reportedly, the company sold every iPad that it made.

And then one of the talking heads asked the rhetorical question: “What happens when the music stops?”

For companies such as Apple, search engine Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), social media Facebook, cloud computing Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM) and social media LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD), it is downright heresy to suggest that the music will stop someday…but based upon history it will because in virtually all cases it has to.

Ten years ago, Apple was trading at $9.07 per share. Today, Apple is listed at $387.90. Anybody remember Gil Amelio? Hint, he was the guy running the show before the resurrection of Steve Jobs. Remember all the hoopla about Blackberry’s and Research in Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM)? The music stopped.

Ten years ago, Google didn’t exist. All the search discussion focused on Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO)…but the music stopped for Yahoo as Google went public in 2004 at $101 per share. Today the Google is trading at $606.78: Yahoo at $13.61. And just this month, the company introduced Google+, taking dead aim at its chief competitor, Facebook.

Facebook didn’t exist 10 years ago. Its eventual founder Mark Zuckerberg was a secondary school student attending Phillips Exeter Academy in Massachusetts. He was still a couple of years away from that famous dorm room at Harvard University.

Ten years ago, Salesforce.com was privately held and still going through the growing pains of a two-year old company. The company went public in 2004 at $15 per share. Today Salesforce.com trades on the big board at $149.16.

LinkedIn.com was the first social media company to go public, debuting two months ago at $45 per share and today trading at $101.02 per share. The biggest question is whether the shadow of Facebook will stomp on little ole LinkedIn, if Zuckerberg et al decide to take Facebook public.

The music is playing fast and furious for Apple, Google, Facebook, Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Times are good. Reporters/editors/analysts/investors can’t get enough of Jobs, Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google and to a lesser extent Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.

Now imagine for comparison reasons if you were managing public relations/marketing/employee communications/social media for Intel, Microsoft, Cisco and Dell. These used to be hot jobs; not as much today…Keep in mind that a job is a job in this economy.

Ten years ago, Intel traded at $29.97; today, $22.69.

Microsoft was priced at $33.60; today $27.10.

Cisco was a $20.61 stock 10 years ago; today $16.39.

Dell traded at $27.61 a decade ago; today, $17.46.

dell

Anyone want to hear another story about Moore’s Law? How about the genius of Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Bet ya it’s a whole lot easier to get an interview with John Chambers of Cisco, but does he really want to talk about layoffs? And how many Silicon Valley-based reporters are accumulating frequent flyer miles to spend time with Michael Dell in Austin?

The point of this Almost DailyBrett exercise is to remind PR types that nothing lasts forever. If things are going great, don’t get giddy. If things are heading south, keep your wits about you. And if you have stock options in a high-flying company, start selling in increments as the stock moves upward. There are two kinds of remorse when it comes to options; the one that you sold too early…and then there is the other one.

And never lose hope. Apple was a dead company before Steve Jobs came back. But also don’t be guilty of drinking your own bath water. In most cases as Don McLean once wrote in “American Pie” there comes a day “when the music died.”

DISCLOSURE TIME: The author of Almost DailyBrett presently owns shares of Salesforce.com and LinkedIn. Decisions regarding the impartiality of my rhetorical ramblings are left to the discretion of the reader.

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2011/07/19Apple-Reports-Third-Quarter-Results.html

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

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salesforce.com

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

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

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

Sixty-eight years ago Adolf Hitler and his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels boasted about “Fortress Europa” and the “Atlantic Wall,” a series of supposedly impregnable defenses against the coming Allied invasion of France.

The guy actually in charge of these defenses, legendary Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, privately described his Führer’s vision this way: “He’s in cloud-cuckoo land.” (Wolkenkuckucksheim)

Nordafrika, Generaloberst Erwin Rommel

Considering everyone in the technology space seems to be getting their collective knickers-in-a-twist (or bowels-in-an-uproar, if you wish) about cloud computing, one is tempted to label this period of time as Cloud Cuckoo Land 2.0.

Almost DailyBrett in February commented on how PR/marketing/social media practitioners have this irritating habit of falling in love with certain terms and phrases, such as “organic,” “sustainable,” “solutions” etc., and then pounding them to death, reducing them to cliché status. “Cloud computing” was listed as one of those overworked buzz phrases. Almost DailyBrett even attempted to take all of these buzz words and phrases and work them into one massive run-on sentence. https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/pounding-pr-buzz-words-to-death/

Since that time the quest for the cloud has actually accelerated, raising the obvious question as whether 15-yard penalties should be given for piling on. Google “cloud computing” and 120 million results come rushing at you, the ultimate contest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are so many “clouds” out there that you would have to conclude that the weather is just downright overcast.

Just last week, Apple became the latest to be late in embracing the cloud. Steve Jobs led the charge, with the company’s “iCloud” announcement in San Francisco. The “technology” even comes with a nifty little tag line, “It just works,” which sent the 5,000 gear-heads in the audience into spontaneous simultaneous orgasm.

After working in technology for 15 years (10 with LSI Logic, two with the Semiconductor Industry Association and three with Edelman), let me assure you that no marketeer wants to be seen as falling behind the competition. It is far better to copy, borrow, pilfer, steal someone else’s idea and add your own particular bits, bytes, bells, whistles and spin than to explain why you were beaten.

What is particularly fascinating about cloud euphoria is that even the targets of this approach, namely Microsoft and Oracle, are appearing to embrace this cloudy concept (kicking and screaming?)…whether they want to or not.

New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman in his The World is Flat (2005) provided an excellent explanation of cloud computing or the downloading of software from the Internet (the cloud) via a web browser: “Software becomes something you rent, instead of something you own. Somebody else takes care of the upgrading and maintenance.”

This concept was a direct attack on the proprietary software of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP by Salesforce.com and some others. As Saleforce.com chief Marc Benioff said: “Microsoft wants you to buy more software. We want to see the end of software.” And if you visit Salesforce.com’s website there is the word “software,” sitting on its own little cloud with the diagonal line striking it out.

cloudcomputing

Microsoft certainly knows a trend when it sees one, and instead of countering Salesforce’s creativity, it extols the virtues of “cloud power” even including a tagline of completely overused buzz words and phrases imploring perspective customers to: “Find out more about our cloud-based platform solutions.” Let’s see: “Cloud,” “Platform” and (my favorite) “Solutions” in just four words.

Salesforce.com deserves credit for creativity. Whether Benioff et al are the actual creators of cloud computing or Software as a Service (SaaS) or not, they have assumed a first-mover position. As we used to say in my Sacramento days, “When in doubt; declare victory.” Benioff certainly has claimed victory.

Everyone else is taking turns spraying the fire hydrant. Consider IBM which has taken SaaS and devised its own acronyms, Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Wonder where they came up with those ideas? Will someone follow with PiiS?

Supposedly, Silicon Valley is the cradle of innovation. Alas, when it comes to public relations, marketing and social media, the usual practice is not creativity and cleverness. Instead it’s follow the leader (and pretend that is not what you are doing), trying to make it appear that you have something different when in reality you are copying someone else’s idea and you are late as well. Many PR offensives — targeting editors, bloggers, analysts, reporters — have been based on these shaky premises.

Communications innovation, creativity, choreography and cleverness are certainly easier said than done, it helps to have a real killer app. In the case of the cloud, it does not appear that anyone has really tried. All they did is let a few create while the rest surrendered en masse. Not even Erwin Rommel can save them.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/plain/F8984900?thread=4935057

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

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

http://www.salesforce.com/cloudcomputing/

http://www.ibm.com/cloud-computing/us/en/

http://content.dell.com/us/en/enterprise/cloud-computing.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/cloud/default.aspx?fbid=XN-13jrEZdF

http://www.oracle.com/us/products/applications/fusion/hcm/index.html

http://www.apple.com/icloud/

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