Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Buyers Buy, Sellers Sell

Simple sentence, isn't it? Pretty friggen obvious. But most people don't get it.

This was told to me by a realtor friend of mine trying to explain how she stays successful. A more detailed version would be "don't waste your time with people who aren't serious about doing business."

But I don't know how many times I have been sent out on wild goose chases, am chastised by people in other groups that they can "get a deal done thanks to their connections", and so on. One of the marks of a good salesman is knowing when a customer is playing hard to get and when they just aren't interested.

That's not to say you don't keep tabs on customers who say they aren't interested - things always change. Even my realtor friend knows that people who aren't interested now will ONE DAY buy or sell a house. The difference is knowing when to put them on the "keep tabs on" list and the "engage" list. A salesman has people in both camps, but knows the quality time is spent with the ones that are serious. The other list will hopefully feed into the engage list and needs to be managed, even if it takes years, but a good salesman knows how to distinguish between the two.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

My New Facade - Architectural Concept In

After a month of waiting, the architect's concept for My Fabulous New Facade is in and I am quite pleased:

The main change I wanted, to get rid of the "triangle" look, is quite nice, pulling out various sections of the house. There is a front patio on the left along with a courtyard that ties in nicely with my Fabulous New Back Yard. The garage is pulled forward, allowing me to add space to my home office behind it, plus there is square footage added to the top floor above the garage.

The architect is going to look at some minor changes we suggested, but this is pretty much it - he nailed it on the first try, speaking volumes as his ability as an architect as well as his ability to understand his clients' tastes.

So it will be about another month before I get blueprints - an engineer has to be pulled in due to the structural changes - after which I will go to the next stages of the process that I will do in parallel: Pulling Permits and Interviewing Contractors.

A Bummer for the Business World

I come back from Europe to find that a tragedy struck one of the corporate giants there: Head of Michelin Drowns off French Coast

Edouard Michelin, 43-year-old head of the giant tire company that bears his name, drowned in a boating accident off the coast of Brittany in northwest France, police said.

His body was recovered floating among lobster traps Friday, hours after he had left on a fishing expedition in good sea conditions with a friend.
Apparently he was one of the few European CEO's who advocated American style capitalism in Europe, even earning the nickname "l'Americain" according to the Wall Street Journal.

I was at TI when it lost its CEO, Jerry Junkins, to a heart attack, and I know this is going to mean a lot of upheaval within the corporation.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

One Snowflake Can Start an Avalanche

In a staff meeting three weeks ago, I casually mentioned a company I heard of that was in my market space, saying I could investigate them as a potential partner, customer, or even acquisition candidate. It was two sentence defensive response to a sharp inquiry from my EVP asking if I was "shaking enough trees". They were way down on my engagement list, and I figured I would do some light research on them while I focused on the 20 other companies that are higher on my list, are more serious, have more money, and are consuming 110% my time. I didn't think of this company as a real engagement candidate, but figured I could throw an email or two together on them to keep the EVP mollified that I was keeping my queue full.

But those two sentences were overheard. Next thing I know someone else in my group - either looking for something to do, or to do a deal behind my back - sent inquires to two other departments asking about this company. The Legal Department got wind of the inquiry, and started a due diligence report so that we would "not be blindsided in any discussion". During Legal's research, they asked questions to R&D, who promptly decided they should spend time creating a competitive comparison. During their work, an engineering VP engineering who thinks himself as better "connected" than yours truly started talking to vendors and other companies in the industry, getting information and creating a dossier.

So now I have a pile of information sitting on my desk along with contact information and a complete company dossier. My EVP is now wanting to know when I am go close a deal.

Now, mind you, if I had ASKED these groups to do this work for one of the top 20 companies on my list, I would have waited. And waited. And waited. And ultimately not gotten a response until I went and twisted arms. But when the information is being fed by rumor and innuendo, then EVERYONE wants in on the deal.

Next time I'll keep my mouth shut.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Thought The Food and The City Were Linked!

I've been here a whole day and have yet to see a frankfurter. What gives?

That reminds me of an old joke: Buddha went to a hotdog vendor and asked to make him one with everything.

(Think about it)

Ich Bin Im Vaterland

Mein Boss hat mir gesagt die andere Woche dass ich uberseeisch muss gefliegen. Ich habe gedenken dass er an Japonien nachdenken. Ich habe desagt "OK".

Er denkt nach Frankfurt! Leider, ich werde in Frankfurt nur 24 Stunden - nur eine Nacht im Biergarten sein. Nicht zu viel Zeit gutes Bieres getrinken.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Blogging from 35,000 Feet

So here I am on Luftwaffe Lufthansa Airlines using their WIFI. I have to say there are a lot of good and bad things about this airline:

The good:
  • WIFI - This should be mandatory on all flights over four hours. Yeah, they charge through the nose, but it is well worth it.
  • Bier - Unlike AMERICAN carriers that stopped serving free alcohol in coach for overseas flights, Lufthansa still pours. I asked what kind of bier they had, and the stewardess frowned and said they "only" had Warsteiner Premium, probably assuming I wanted a Bud. This is a fine bier, full bodied and flavored. I had them bring me a couple.
  • The Staff - My stewardess is Martina Hingess. Okay, probably not, but it looks just like her.

The Bad:

  • Coach Seating - This coach seat has got to be the smallest, most cramped seat I have ever been in. That is saying a lot considering the Asian flag airliners I have flown, which scale their seats for smaller nationalities. Right now to type this blog entry I have the notebook screen pulled straight and angled down on my lap since the seat in front of me is in my lap.
  • Check-In Line - Again, the worst line I have ever been in. My visions of German efficiency went out the window as I waited over 90 minutes in a line that went 150 yards out the door of the LAX terminal. I didn't freak out since it just meant I waited there instead of a bar, but still, pretty annoying.
Does the WIFI make up for the cramped seat? No, it doesn't. So I don't plan to fly this airline again unless I get business class or they improve seating in coach.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Read This Blog and Learn Something

I found out that at least one of my blog entries was used in a business class. I got emails from a couple of students at DeVry asking about my entry on valuating a start-up. I asked for a syllabus on the class where I was referenced and got the following:

This course covers issues unique to small business establishment, operations and management including the steps involved in improving the success rate for new firms; financing small businesses; analyzing means of regulatory compliance, and methods of collecting data in order to achieve improved performance.

Most of my business entries are marketing related, so I am pleasantly surprised that this is the entry that found its way into a classroom.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Dark Side of Price Fixing

While at dinner last night (I am actually in Taiwan right now), someone brought up a little fact that I didn't realize, even though I work in the high tech industry: about a dozen guys served jail time for price fixing the DRAM market:

In late March, three executives from Samsung Electronics Company Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of DRAM, agreed to plead guilty and serve jail time in the United States. In early March, four Korean executives from Hynix agreed to plead guilty and to serve jail time in the United States for participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices. And in December 2005, four executives at Infineon pled guilty and faced jail time.

But this isn't the entire story. It wasn't just for price fixing, it was also for colluding to keep a new product - Rambus - off the market.

We all sat there chewing our meal, wondering if these guys were caught up in the rulings as a part of their normal business dealings, especially since all these guys were non-Americans and may have normally operated under different business principles.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Four More Years

No, this post isn't what you think it is. It has to do with four year time spans, not terms in office.

It came to me this week that it was four years ago this month that my start-up was shut down, throwing me into the ranks of the unemployed for the first time. Somehow that didn't seem right, so I counted, recounted, and counted again. I marked it against other life mile markers, and no matter how I counted it, it kept coming up to four years. But it still didn't seem right. It doesn't seem that long ago, and four years is such a long time. Isn't it?

Actually it isn't. But the problem is that a certain four years of my life left an indelible mark in my mind: the four years from freshman to senior in high school, 1982-1986. It seems like I lived several entire lifetimes during those four years. Dreams and dramas of epic proportions were hatched, lived and died during that period. It took forever to live through and I could write several novels on just a few of my experiences during that time. I couldn't wait for it to end and wanted it to last forever.

So four years, using those years as a yard stick, take forever and are enough time to accomplishing something remarkable. Several cultural events back up this sentiment: it's the amount of time it takes a kid to become a high school graduate. It's the time it takes a high school graduate to become a college grad. It's the amount of time for someone to train for the next Olympics. It's the term of a President.

But as I get older, four years is becoming a smaller period of time, largely since I can start pointing to other events that have lasted longer: I have been married for eight years, I have lived in my house for seven, my daughter is nearly five. And, of course, four years is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of my experiences. When I graduated high school, four years represented over a quarter of my living memories. Today it is close to ten percent.

I also take a longer term horizon for my goals in life and how I approach mastery of the talents and subjects that interest me. I take a life-learning point of view rather than a "when is the next promotion" attitude, which makes the four-year goal post a lot less meaningful.

Since my perception of the four year time span has changed, I shouldn't be surprised that my unemployment stint was "only" four years ago. What does give me pause is the fact that, statistically, I only have about ten more four-year time periods left.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Meanwhile, Buried in Section D...

Along with news that the economy is growing, unemployment is low, productivity is up, we have news that tax receipts are pouring in:

A surging economy producing robust growth in federal revenues promises to significantly cut the budget deficit for the current year, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

The deficit "will be significantly less than $350 billion, perhaps as low as $300 billion," CBO reported, well below the White House's February estimate of $423 billion.

One would think that a deficit coming in around 20% lower than expected would be bigger news. And this is from income tax receipts only; it doesn't take into consideration the higher government revenues that will be coming in thanks to higher oil prices.

Of course if we could get the bozos in congress to cut pork barrel spending that would be even better.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Celebrating an Alternative this May 5

Due to my position on illegal immigration, I will be celebrating the holiday of a country that sends us tons of legal immigrants (including my Tae Kwon Do Master and several instructors): South Korea.

So this May 5 I will be hoisting a cold one for Children's Day, which is celebrated each year in South Korea on the fifth of May.