Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How The Mighty Have Fallen

When I started interviewing for my first job in 1989, a little company I never heard of was doing on-campus interviews of BSEE graduates like me. Since I never heard of them I didn't bother to sign up for an interview.

Their name was Dell. And they were handing out stock options like candy.

A few years later "Dellionaires" became famous in Austin for buying fast cars and large mansions. Well into the 1990s Dell seemed unstoppable, and one could make pretty good money buying their stock on a dip.

This morning I find this interesting statistic: Apple could buy Dell for cash.

This sort of rags to riches to rags story is common in tech, but I think we're going to see a lot more of it happening outside of tech now. The whole banking landscape changed just in the last couple of months and it looks like the Big Three automakers are going to become the Little Two.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Digital Triage

Things are slipping through the cracks
I'm telling people I'll get back
Monday, Wednesday if I'm late
And if I don't, you don't rate

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Bad Interview is Like a Bad Date

So the local recruiter sent me over a candidate for my open sales position. He came in, shook my hand and sat down. I immediately didn’t like him.

I didnt dislike him personally, but he simply wasn’t a sales guy. He didn't have one of the “its” that salespeople need to have, which can be charisma, confidence, insight into other people, savvy or one of the dozen other personal attributes people leverage to make themselves good at sales.He didn’t have any of them. Plus his English was lousy.

So here was a guy who couldn’t even sell himself – no way was I gong to let him try to sell my products. I made up my mind in the first ten seconds, but I couldn’t just throw him out. Well, I guess I could, but that’s not my style, so I had to at least give the guy some face and spend a minimum 15 minutes with him.

So I treated this like a bad date. I just made small talk and willed myself to the end to when I could dump him (“I’ll call you…”).

Monday, October 20, 2008

You Can't Ask That Question!

So I am expanding my Asian empire, having two new reqs to hire people in Korea. My current Korea rep is acting as a consultant, helping me find and interview guys (and they're all guys) for the open sales and field engineering positions.

I spent the morning interviewing earnest young men who are eager for the position - any position, actually as they were to a man unemployed (did I mention that they were all men? Gender roles in Asia are about where they were in the U.S. in 1950, so there actually aren't any women available to even interview.)

Durng the interview I am asking questions looking at the candidate's English skills, their sales or engineering skills, how they would fit into my company culture, and ultimately if I trust them. I am responsible for sales in Korea and how these guys do will reflect on me - and my bonus.

But my Korean rep, being Korean, makes judgements based on other matters. About half way through each interview come his questions:

"Are you married?"

"How many children do you have?"

"What are their ages?"

Now this is not off-the-record chit-chat. These questions are actually part of the interview and quite legal in Korea, as is asking the candidate's age (although the birth date is always put on the resume, so you never have to ask).

In Korea being married and having children show stability, commitment and character, and is an important part of the culture here. Again think U.S.A. 1950. I obviously don't care, but it turns out it didn't matter since every single one of them was married and had two or three kids - it wasn't a differentiating feature.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Back Door Way to Remove the Soc Sec "Cap"

Sort of like the AMT where the threashold for higher taxes gets lower and lower each year, the salary cap on social security keeps going higher and higher each year, faster than the rate of inflation.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced on Thursday, October 16, 2008, that the 2009 social security wage base will be $106,800, an increase of $4,800 from the 2008 wage base of $102,000.

So each year a higher and higher percentage of people pay in 100% of their wages into fund - and those of us 40 and younger will never see a dime.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

To Canada.

Although with the Dow back up 1,000 points there are also plenty of thanks going on south of the border this evening.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Irrational Exuberance Goes Both Ways

Everyone knows what a bubble is with inflated stock or asset values, but what is it called when it goes the other way?

My company's stock is now at enterprise value - raw assets minus is debt. This means that investors are assigning no future value to the company. I work in sales and know that that is, well, bullshit. I got so many customers and opportunities it isn't even funny. And for my opportunities to dry up every person on the planet would have to get rid of their cellphone. And that isn't going to happen, even in a downward economic environment.

My guess is that a lot of companies out there are way oversold. But people are not dealing rationally at this point. We're basically in a panic situation where people are selling no matter what.

I think government efforts at this point are counter-productive. The daily "we are going to fix this" program is just making things worse, making investors worry even more that things are worse than they think. I think the government at this point needs to step back, let the emotion run out, and give it some time. Let the panic abate.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

And Most Car Owners Owe More Than Their Car Is Worth

This headline struck me: Nearly 1 in 6 Home Owners Under Water

Why is it that one must always have positive equity in a house? Renters have no equity and will never get it. It will always be zero. But even with negative equity home owners will one day "own" their home and be "rent fee" - as long as they can meet the monthly payment and pay off the loan.

Most car owners owe more than their car is worth. The decision to buy and then keep a car is usually if they can meet the monthly payment. And if financial crises hits, most people just stick out their payment and drive their car for years until it is paid off. Why isn't a house the same way? Is having positive equity in your home some sort of right that should be guaranteed?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Good Take on the Bailout Package

Due Diligence has a good write-up that reflects many of my views.

The thing that really bothers me about this is that the WSJ had been ringing the warning bell on Fannie May/Freddie Mac for YEARS.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Three Months and Three Martinis Later...

Camp was a lover. Keeping me in her fond embrace, she kept me young and whole, shutting out the world and keeping me free from distractions and wants, letting me concentrate on being me.

Now she is a dowager, a shadow of her former self. For one brief period we pretended we were young again, but we both knew it was an act, some desperate play as we stared aging and death in the face.

We couldn’t recapture who we once were, we could only play-act that we did, in the meantime becoming totally self-aware of the changes of who we had become, how things weren’t were they used to be.

Do we do it again some time? Go through the dance, pretending that we are young again? Or do we accept who we have become and time’s reckoning, moving forward never to embrace again?