Friday, December 31, 2010

The Art of the Start

I just finished reading Guy Kawasaki's 2010 book, The Art of the Start. Two words: succinct and poignant. In around 200 pages, he provides wisdom for anyone looking to start a business. The chapters are:

Chapter 1: The Art of Starting
Chapter 2: The Art of Positioning
Chapter 3: The Art of Pitching
Chapter 4: The Art of Writing a Business Plan
Chapter 5: The Art of Bootstrapping
Chapter 6: The Art of Recruiting
Chapter 7: The Art of Raising Capital
Chapter 8: The Art of Partnering
Chapter 9: The Art of Branding
Chapter 10: The Art of Rainmaking
Chapter 11: The Art of Being a Mensch

I tried to start a service business a few years ago. I was able to relate to many of his suggestions, recommendations and warnings. The reason my venture did not pan out was less in the idea but more in lacking a partner who shared in the vision. It was not a one man operation and in order to bootstrap it, required at least two people sharing the passion. This book would have helped me better addresses some of my concerns.

The book also is useful for new concepts from people working within larger firms; i.e., new product development especially in areas less-core to the current business.

I found it useful in my present role as an account rep. Working for a smaller firm and competing against larger players, it gave me some fodder for being a stronger competitor in our industry.

Business is not easy regardless of which firm you are with. Working harder, smarter and to a well-conceived plan is the only viable way one to achieve one's business goals.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

NYC Sanitation Workers Following the French Public Servant Lead

New York City sanitation management is following the lead of the French: "society be damned, we demand more money, more benefits, less hours and less responsibility."
NYC Sanitation Department bosses ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts.
According to their view of the world, "everyone else must sacrifice but not us." Mayor Bloomberg is not convinced.

The basic role of government is to provide services that individuals and corporations are not ideally suited for. Its is to facilitate commerce, not mandate it. It is to provide for emergency response to help foster law and order.

NYC, arguably the most expensive city to live in in the USA due in part to the highest tax rates on businesses and individuals, is unable to provide for basic governmental services. Instead it focuses on smoking and fatty food bans and other environmental-friendly initiatives.

The current snow fall, something foretasted for days in advance, seems to have "caught" the City off-guard. This governmental incompetency is just another reason to laugh at NYC.

I really do not know why people continue to live in such an over-priced hell-hole.

The video of the the snow plow destroying an SUV as it was being unstuck is vintage NYC public servants at work. They could care less about the service they are rendering. This is what out-of-control government results in. What happens in NY will happen throughout the nation as bigger government continues unabated.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Did Obama Just Abdicate His Presidency to Clinton?

Today's unannounced press briefing in the White House was about as non-Presidential as it gets.

On Monday, the President reached an agreement with Republicans on extending the 2001 tax cuts. A couple of days later, key House party members decided to reject the compromise. Speaker Pelosi stated she will not allow a vote on the tax breaks to occur. So what does Obama do? He brings in Bill Clinton to do his pleading.

Obama gathers the press corp, introduces Clinton, allows him to ramble for a while and then announces he needs to leave for a prior commitment with the First Lady. He leaves Bill Clinton the pulpit in the White House in a room full of reporters. For thrity minutes Clinton went on taking questions and sharing his opinions.

Who came up with this strategy? Obama is going from bad to worse. He needs a new set of advisers. This was a foiled strategy. Give Clinton a inch and he'll take a mile. There are just some thing that a president should never do, and this is one. It makes him look as if he is abdicating his presidency.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Party Rules: Republicans Less Tax, Democrats More Tax

The most basic difference between Republicans and Democrats (admitting that the differences have grown smaller over the past 20 years) involves taxes:

-- Republican are anti-tax.
-- Democrats are tax the rich.

Presidents, in order to show some form of leadership and to have any meaningful success, must operate in the center.

When G.H.W. Bush raised taxes, he all but killed his his re-election prospects in 1992.

When Obama caved on taxing the rich this week, he all but killed his chances of winning re-election in 2012.

Economists can make a great case for improving the economy by raising the taxes on the wealthiest and giving a greater tax break to everyone else, small businesses, capital investments, etc. but the Republican leadership would (or should) never allow this to occur. Only a President can negotiate a compromise. What Obama and the Republican negotiated seems to be about as reasonable a position as one can take.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wikileak Has Lots Left to Leak

The media will have you believe that Wikileaks dropped 250,000 classified documents for the world to see. As it turn out, they have been releasing on average about 106 documents each day since 28 November 2010. At this rate, it will take over six years to release this batch.

This "I am stronger than you" standoff better the pro-Wikileaks crowd and the US federal government is interesting. Assange will certainly take a journalist defense and will have many sympathizers.

What is more interesting has been the distributed denial of service attacks launched by Wikileak sympthsizers on those multinationals that pull support; i.e., MasterCard and Paypal.

I tend to be in the Wikileak side of things. If government insiders leak the information, then the publishing of it is okay by me. The federal government needs to get its house in order before trying to order someone else to do likewise.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Shooting the Messenger (Wikileaks)

If it was not Wikileaks, it will would have been another site. The next series of leaks will find their way to another Web site. That's the world we live in.

Last month's release of 250,000 confidential documents is less about putting government documents into the public domain than it is about pain old embarrassment. For the most part, these documents tended to validate what most people already knew.

Listening to the politicians, they are "outraged." They want Julian Assange extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges. He is nothing more than the face of the Wikileaks crowd. Its like assuming a capture of Osama bin Laden will put a dent in terrorists activities. The leaks will continue to be published with or without Assange. (Sounds like without as he is being head in London for not wearing a condom while in Sweden.)

The real Wikileaks story is the lack of security at the Department of Defense, State Department, and other federal agencies. If these records are so confidential, then those tasked with their safeguarding have bitterly disappointed. If heads need to roll, it out to start with Secretary Clinton and those high up in the agencies.

Shoot the messenger. Deflect the blame. Ignore the elephant in the room. It should be about leakers not the messenger. It is paparazzi in another form.

The impact from this set of leaks will be minimal from an operations and human toll. What it will impact is America's reputation as a nation that cannot protect secrets.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Inflation in the Form of Higher Energy Costs

I just drove from southern Arizona to northern Utah. I noticed a range of prices from as low as $2.65 per gallon regular to $3.09 per gallon. With the price of a barrel of crude in the $90 range, $3/gal is imminent. The liberal states on the east and west coasts are already there.

When the cost of energy goes up, the average person begin to question his/her spending. Most of us are conscience of our thermostat settings -- some can handle it a bit warmer or cooler than others. To each's own. When it comes to driving, we all need to get to work, run errands, shuttle family members, etc. Gasoline is somewhat price inelastic. We might cut back some but most of our driving patterns remain the same regardless of the price.

The real impact comes within the broader transportation industry -- trucking, railroads, shipping and airlines. As their costs increase, they pass them onto the consumers. With higher transportation costs, we spend more of our limited incomes on higher energy prices, not on more consumer goods.

High unemployment with be with us for years. Low housing prices are here for years. Higher energy prices will increase annually. Salaries will continue to remain flat for years. Inflation is upon us despite what the Fed says. It is obvious they never go to the grocery store or consider the price of gas when they fill up their SUV tanks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Dogs on the Navajo Reservation

I recently drove through the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona. Beautiful country. I spent the night in Chinle, AZ after visiting Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Besides the land, I was amazed at the Dine's domestic dogs.

For the most part, the families live on multi-acre plots of land, each family managing its allotment. The pre-fabricated houses tend to sit off the road 100-200 yards. It seems that each family has a dog. And the dog is not leashed, living free on the land.

The dogs form packs. Most packs are comprised of 2-3 dogs. They seem to have some amazing survival strengths. I am sure their owners feed them but what dog ever has enough food. They roam, looking for food. Road kill is a favorite as are things tossed from cars.

These dogs know how to navigate busy roads -- two land highways. Natural selection seems to be at work here. I don't think many of these dogs get hit by cars; those that do make the breed stronger. As I approach a pack at 65 mph, the dogs get off the road. After I pass, they return to what they were doing on the road.

IMHO, Navajo dogs are some of the smartest dogs I have seen. Like latch-key kids, these dogs know how to survive and in fact flourish.