08/20/19

Failing v Quitting

Yesterday, somebody sent me a link to the formal ritual whereby the freshmen/women (called “Rats”) of the Virginia Military Institute are pried loose from their parents’ loving arms and deposited with a third class corporal to be whipped into hard men and women during four demanding years at the nation’s oldest state military school.

At a school founded in 1839 which has provided warriors to fight our wars since then, ritual is an important element in the process — the unique process that turns an unshapen lump of clay into a hardened vessel in four years.

Sixty-one percent of the Rats will study math, science, or engineering and they are from 34 states and 4 foreign countries. They have an average GPA of 3.7.

It is a touching ritual. If you are bored today, watch it. Do you know of any other school that takes its students in in such a fashion?

The man speaking, the Superintendent of VMI, General JH Binford Peay III, VMI ’62, was the commander of the 101st Abn Div in the First Gulf War which conducted the longest airmobile movement in combat of any division in the history of warfare, setting up shop behind the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait. He was also the Centcom Commander as a 4-star General. [He has whipped VMI into the best shape it has ever been in since 1839. Personal view. He is also an inspiring leader and a good guy.]

One of the speakers, the Commandant, a warrior with almost three decades of military service made the distinction between failing and quitting. It is an important distinction.

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08/20/19

Woke American Capitalism

Yesterday marks the day when American capitalism took a crack at being “woke” when the Business Roundtable redefined the role of the American corporation in the “new” America we live in today.

In the past (1997), the Business Roundtable thought “…the paramount duty of management and boards is to the corporation’s shareholders…”

Makes sense, no? The shareholders own the company, right? Not so fast, amigo. Not so damn fast.

If you are a student of such things, you will enjoy reading the view of the world from 1997. It is here:

Business Roundtable Statement on Corporate Governance

It is worth noting that the “shareholders” are not a social club; they own the companies of which these CEOs are the leaders and managers.

The food chain looks like this:

 1. Shareholders — the owners — of companies elect the Board of Directors.

 2. The Board of Directors engages the management of the company — the Chief Executive Officer being the primary hire of the Board.

 3. The Chief Executive Officer assembles the balance of the management of the company subject to the concurrence of the Board.

 4. The CEO and the management run the company subject to Board oversight.

This is a legal construct as well as a practical structure.

In this instance, the Business Roundtable is populated by CEOs. The CEOs of the Business Roundtable did not ask permission of their boards or their owners to rediscover the purpose of corporations. They acted on their own.

The initiative was introduced by Jamie Dimon, Chairman of the Business Roundtable and Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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08/19/19

Walmart Cryptocurrency, The Walmart Coin

A couple of weeks ago, Walmart announced that it had applied for a cryptocurrency patent thereby spawning speculation that Walmart Coin was being plotted.

It wasn’t Facebook with a crowd of the crypto Illuminati floating the idea of its Libra coin to be overseen by gnomes in Geneva. It didn’t attract a lot of fanfare, and it didn’t trigger Congressional hearings.

No, it was plain vanilla, retail behemoth Walmart, who without much pomp or even a twinge of circumstance said, “Hey, we might be interested in an actual application of that blockchain and cryptocurrency stuff.”

Who would have ever thunk it, Walmart?

Related image

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08/18/19

Exclusive Interview — Kim Kielsen, Premier Of Greenland

Greenland was granted home rule independence by Denmark in 1979. The majority party in the Parliament of Greenland supplies the Premier — the Leader of the Government. The King of Denmark appoints the Premier subject to majority support from the controlling party in the Inatsisartut (Parliament).

Since 30 September 2014, the Premier has been Kim Kielsen, a member of the Siumut party.

Today, he joins us to talk about Greenland and the recent interest by the Trump administration to buy Greenland.

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08/18/19

CEO Shoptalk — The Founder’s Tale

In the life of the successful startup is a slightly disorganized story of its founding. It is a powerful story. It provides a keen insight into the who, what, when, why, where, how of the company. It is a story of creation. Only one person can tell it with an authentic voice.

It is a tale told best by the founder, hence the name: The Founder’s Tale.

It is a story that is the glue that binds people to the company and makes them want to follow the leadership. If you want to lead a pride of lions, then you have to tell the story of how you formed a pride.

Image result for images of lions packs

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08/17/19

CEO Shoptalk — Counting Coups

As a leader, it is imperative that the company you build and lead is energized from within by taking a moment to celebrate victories. In history, this is called “counting coups.”

The other day I was advising a client and we got to the issue of rewarding accomplishments and behavior.

“Why is this important?” the brilliant CEO asked.

“Because you will get more of whatever behavior your recognize and reward. Reward good performance — more good performance,” said your Big Red Car.

We wandered into a discussion as to how the military did it with a formal awards program wherein an individual was formally recognized by having their exploit written up, memorialized in a citation, and symbolized by a bit of colored ribbon they would wear on their uniform forever. These awards in the military are given in front of one’s unit often at a parade. It is very public moment.

The US Army Distinguished Service Cross second only to the Medal of Honor. Only given for valor.

One of my platoon sergeants when I was a young lieutenant had been awarded a DSC. Every payday we wore our green uniforms with ribbons. Every payday I would have him tell the story of how he won the Distinguished Service Cross to my platoon. We were counting coups.

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08/15/19

Reading With Skepticism And Perception

The other day I read an interesting blog post by a former client of mine, Anthony Bucci, former co-founder and CEO of Revzilla. He was an early client and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as he scaled Revzilla into a powerhouse eCommerce business. He blossomed into an excellent CEO and monetized the company in a world class exit. Pay window.

His blog post which you can find here is excellent. He is taking a summer breather, focusing on his five bambinos.

Summa Read, Summa Listen by Anthony Bucci, former CEO Revzilla

Anthony, who I have never called “Fredo,” gives you a nice cross section of the current literary offerings and podcasts of those who are seeking knowledge at the inspirational C-suite level. All good books.

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08/14/19

Recruitment v Seduction

A professional recruiter who I have advised — real pro — put up an article on Twitter that caught my interest. It discusses the essence of recruitment failures and why they happen. It takes a long time to get to the nub of things, but it is filled with wisdom.

I had also been building a file to write about this and they both came together at the same time. I take an earthier view of things having been in hiring mode for more than three decades.

I have always maintained that a good CEO is always recruiting and that recruitment is a seduction — meaning you want to create a reaction in the target that they want to work at your company rather than you need them to fill a job. Perhaps, overly subtle, but it is the way I think and I always had good luck in hiring.

Here’s a hiring challenge for you.

Image result for images room full of candidates

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08/13/19

Hong Kong — China Unmasked

You probably haven’t seen too much about the riots in Hong Kong because the Chinese are trying to keep a lid on things and the American media is covering a far more important story, the suicide of the predator Epstein.

China is on the verge of a bloody suppression of dissent in Hong Kong of the likes of Tienanmen Square. Remember this?

Tienanmen Square was filled with protesters on 4 April 1989. [We have seen this movie before.]

Image result for tiananmen square images

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08/12/19

Growing Your Way to Positive Cash Flow — Uber

I like the ride sharing business and use both Lyft and Uber, probably more Uber. It is very convenient when I have to go downtown for a meeting. It is cheaper than the cost of parking and less stressful.

I am concerned about the prospect of Uber ever — EVER — becoming profitable. You have to ask yourself how a company can come public at a huge value when they are neither profitable nor are they likely to be in the near term.

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08/12/19

The Condors In My Gut

Bit of warm weather in the ATX which makes me get out and do my outside chores first thing before the sun sets things ablaze. Going to be 103F today, but I don’t believe it.

Get a call from a CEO, who says, “I have this burning in my gut all the time. Butterflies and napalm.”

Nice turn of a phrase. I laugh to myself because I never laugh at CEOs. Not a good practice, ungentlemanly.

So, he continues, “Does it ever get better? You were a CEO for 33 years, when did it all settle down and the flaming butterflies took a vacation?”

I wanted to comfort him, but I always speak the truth, so I hesitated for a second.

“They never go away,” I said in my most comforting Saint Michael the Archangel voice. “You know how sometimes when we discuss one of the List of Horribles and I tell you, ‘Sorry, that’s normal.’?”

The List of Horribles

“Yes, you also say the only normal people are the ones we don’t know very well. I get that,” says the CEO. “When did the flaming butterflies go away and everything was peaceful, calm, and you didn’t lay awake in bed thinking about things? Tormented by things?”

“Sorry, amigo,” I said. “They never go away. In fact, what you see as butterflies, flaming butterflies even. They become condors. Big, vicious condors with enormous talons that rip your guts apart while they are bathing in acid. On bad nights, you can feel their talons slicing and the acid flowing into your abdomen. When you scale, your problems scale with you.”

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08/10/19

The Family Sweepstakes

If you are born in America that first day you will have much of your future defined by the family into which you have arrived. There are no do-overs or Mulligans.

The first question is this — were you actually born into a family?

Image result for out o f wedlock family statistics

As you can see, a substantial portion of babies are not born into a nuclear family — a mother and a father in a stable relationship that will foster the development of a child.

The obvious first impact is that a single-parent household is limited in the number of person hours they can dedicate to child rearing.

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08/9/19

The Power of Organizational Mentoring

A Tactical Officer who had an influence on me when I was a cadet at Virginia Military Institute died back in March. I didn’t find out about it until the other day. This man had a profound impact on my life.

His passing made me think about what I call “organizational mentoring.” It is not an exact thing, but I think it is something worthy of discussion.

In our lives, we join organizations either voluntarily or involuntarily. They are places like schools, sports teams, churches, clubs, and other organizations that impart structure and discipline into our lives. There is something called MeetUp that exists to create a critical mass of folks with similar interests.

We long to be with people like ourselves.

Not every organization provides a platform for organizational mentoring. In my life, it was the church, work, school, the Army, and business. I am talking about a time after I was away from home and my parents.

I want to take a second and explore the power of mentoring and organization when I went off to college at Virginia Military Institute. I had never seen VMI when I arrived on the bus.

It looks like a prison.

That’s Stonewall Jackson and the Rockbridge Battery of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — combat veterans of the Mexican War and the Civil War.

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08/8/19

Minimum Wage $15

Allow me to admit up front that I am a closet supporter of a $15 minimum wage. I don’t think it is a smart policy, but I like the idea. Unfortunately, it has been tried in several locations, the report card is in, and the results are not good.

A good number of reliable sources prophesied that a $15 minimum wage would devastate the restaurant business whereat that wage is applicable to kitchen workers, bus boys, servers, and even some cooks.

Turns out those prophesies were correct. Let’s take a look at New York City restaurants. This chart comes from an American Enterprise Institute publication by Mark J Perry that was sent to me by my pal Jeff Carter.

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08/8/19

Heil Hitler

So, I’m reading a few things and I stumble on this bat shit crazy story from a former FBI guy, Frank Figliuzzi, about how President Donald J Trump is signalling to Nazis, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists “Heil Hitler!” with his choice of the term for which government flags will be flown at half mast to honor the recent murder victims in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas.

Let me step back for a second: There is NOTHING funny, clever, or wise about making gratuitous references to Hitler, a truly evil person who unleashed Hell on earth. It is repugnant. 

He — this Frank Figliuzzi in his blue suit, blue shirt, coordinated tie, sleek haircut — looks like a normal enough guy, right? And, he was with the FBI, right?

Look at his mouth. Let me tell you about the words that came out of that nasty mouth. Guy says President Trump is sending “coded messages” to Nazis, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. This guy.

Image result for images frank figliuzzi

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08/3/19

Speaking Truth To The People

We are in a maelstrom of political activity with the Democrat primary raging amongst a crowded field. Crowded fields force candidates to try to distinguish themselves from the other offerings. Great fun. Enormous entertainment.

Image result for images dem debates

All perfectly normal. Last time in 2016, it was the Republicans who were spreading the manure, hurling insults while winnowing the field down to its eventual candidate.

[Note: Candidate former Governor of Florida, mega-funded, entitled, family business President, political dynasty-heir-Jeb Bush famously said, “Donald, you can’t insult your way to the White House.” Who knew?]

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07/29/19

Regulation — A Word of Praise

Your Big Red Car is not one to praise regulation or regulators. No surprise there, eh?

Your BRC, in fact, is guilty of railing against regulation. Fair play.

Today, I rise to praise the outcome of a regulatory action — the approval of the T-Mobile – Sprint merger that leaves the country with three wireless providers of some significant substance. This was good regulation with a good result on the eve of 5G, creating three worthy competitors for your wireless dollar. Bravo.

Image result for images logo t-mobile

The big three will serve 95% of the market as follows:

AT&T serves 100,000,000 customers.

Verizon serves 100,000,000 customers

The new T-Mobile/Sprint serves 90,000,000 customers.

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