Memo to Barry: Fire Some People

We’ll assume you know that ‘Barry’ is President O.

Well, he could start with himself, but I guess we’re stuck with him for a couple more years. Your board of directors (us) doesn’t think much of you, and would probably fire you if you were in fact a CEO, but politics has different game rules.

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal had the right idea: Barry better call Bush to review personnel. Bush liked Rumsfeld, respected him, but fired him when he didn’t do the job. Barry should do the same, like a good CEO.

But, in a broader sense, every CEO comes up against the fact that some of his team aren’t doing the job: Susan Rice, John Brennan, Chuck Hagel. Maybe John Kerry, but Obama hasn’t given him much to work with internationally. Maybe Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security Chief, but he at least didn’t get chewed up and spit out by the dreaded Trey Gowdy, famed inquisitioner of Democrats. CIA: Bob Gates, give him whatever he wants to come back.

OK, if Barry were to fire some people, what does he do next? The Dems seem to be a hopeless bunch of hacks.

My thought is, that for the good of the country, Barry should hire some better people: Ray Odierno for SecDef (he looks the part, and is a good combat commander), Stan McChrystal for SecState (he’d terrorize our enemies), John Bolton for UN Ambassador. These guys know what they’re doing. Lynn Cheney for Homeland Security. Ms. Smooth, chip off ‘ol block. Trey Gowdy for Attorney General.

There you have it.

PS: The essence of leadership is admitting personal responsibility for all those underperformers, too.

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Discipline Your Employees!

We were watching the Arizona Cardinals play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon, and it couldn’t escape us that the 49ers really beat themselves by a large number of personnel infractions against the Cardinals.

Do your employees beat themselves by making silly mistakes?

We’re as fond as anyone else of sports analogies, and we hope it’s not too much of a stretch, but Jim Harbaugh, the coach of the 49ers, really needed to discipline his players when they made stupid mistakes. It being football, yelling on the sidelines might not have been a bad idea, while the player’s sub is playing a few downs.

Harbaugh isn’t known for being a low-key guy, so we’re mystified why he didn’t exert more discipline on the players.

We’re also not sure that Bruce Ariens, the coach of the Cardinals, being a crafty old gent, might not have told his team before the meeting that the 49ers could be provoked into silly penalties.

There comes a point when stupid mistakes just can’t be tolerated, and the 49ers clearly went past that point.

So, the point for you employers out there is how many mistakes do you tolerate from your employees before you pull them aside for a bit of education? Let’s hope they’re more willing to accept education than some of the 49er players.

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The Good News and Bad News About Bank Overdraft Charges

Yeah, those annoying charges that happen when the timing of cash inflows and outflows isn’t quite right. We don’t keep much extra cash in our business account, preferring to buy corporate preferreds with it.

The good news, at least for our bank, Chase, is that at least they pay the items that cause the account to go upside down, but they charge $34 per item. We think this charge is pretty standard among the money center banks (Chase, Wells, BofA).

Now, it’s always fun visiting with our business banker to remove some of these charges, but after the last visit, we got thinking about this interest rate on the overage balance.

We got charged $34 for the lending of an average balance of $500, over about a week, which is a computed interest rate of  6.8%, which works out to an annual rate of 353.% which is just a tad over most state lending rates.

My proposal to Chase was that they, at the end of the overage, compute the average balance overage, say $500, and put their normal business lending rate of, say, 10% on it, which would result of an overage charge of $.96. A bit better, and under the state usury laws.

So, we would ask that all you business owners reading this blog go have a similar chat with your business banker, and let’s see if we can get a groundswell going.

 

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Management and Leadership Lessons From the Ray Rice Debacle

I don’t know if there have been some business pundits on Bloomberg or CNBC opining about what management and CEOs can learn from the Ray Rice episode (I’m sure our readers will let us know), but below are a few thoughts:

1. Get all the facts before you make a decision, and don’t be stampeded by the media (or even your own employees) into making a decision hastily.

2. Show some sense of history. If the issue has already been decided, as it was when Rice apparently talked to Goodell the first time, stick to that decision. It looks like poor Rice is getting double jeopardy from the NFL, having been disciplined twice for the same offense.

3. Canvass your board of the directors about what to do, if it’s unclear. There’s no evidence that Goodell had any interchange with the club owners, some of whom have apparently got the same problem, and could offer some advice. Goodell should have talked with the owners after the first episode.

4. If there’s no policy, put one in place, but don’t get stampeded by activists on that, either.. It’s hard to believe, with people engaged in a violent sport, and the NFL didn’t have a policy on domestic abuse. Each club should have one, too, and the club policies should change with circumstances (Adrian Peterson in Minnesota).

5. If your policy on something is clearly inadequate, by social norms, then change it. This is probably the one thing that Goodell did right. And the Vikings owner with Peterson.

6. Get some of your board to stick up for you…..we think Goodell has, on the whole, been a good commissioner. Everyone makes mistakes, media. Don’t get the lynch mob out for one mistake.

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Casinos for All

Recently, Sens. McCain and Flake opposed the Tohono-Oodham Native American tribe building a casino on the West Side of Phoenix.

Now, the good Senators, who are otherwise the souls of probity, may have appeared to have their blue noses on, aided and abetted by some religious groups around here that probably have more money than brains, but the reality of the situation is rather subtle. The Senators may also have gotten donations from the other three casinos that ring the Valley of the Sun, but they’re not saying.

We’ve dealt with the T-O’s on behalf of clients, and they’re invariably polite and straightforward. But, they’re not fools.

What they might have done, which is what got the Senators’ panties in a knot, is purchase the West Side land and then designate it part of the T-O nation, which is clever by half. And, as a sovereign nation, we can’t say boo about it. McCain in particular should know this, since he’s been involved with Indian Affairs for years.

The Glendale city blue noses might have also overlooked how many jobs the T-O casino is going to create, both in construction and ongoing.

The broader point is that, as one of our clients remarked on the way to putting another restaurant in, is that ‘people are gonna drink, eat and gamble and I want to accommodate all those things.” He might own a casino in the sky these days; his heirs own three truckstops around Arizona, at least one of which might be on an Indian reservations.

Another of my longtime clients is related to Don Diamond, who is a large Tucson developer, and who owns shares in several casinos, and who doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

So, if the Native Americans want to build more casinos around here, have at it. We’re up for doing their market research. www.marketingdoctor.com.

As we used to say in Nevada, the land around here ain’t good for much else.

 

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Time and Status, or Why the Boss is Late for Everything

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal about a week ago, that postulated that with greater power comes an expanded time universe for the powerful. We thought there was a lot of psychobabble in the article, but some nuggets of truth, which is why we’re commenting on it.

We can’t tell whether the author was being playful or making an important point, but we notice that many bosses (starting with Obama being an hour late for his recent press conference) tend to be late for everything. Bill Clinton was famously late. Some of our clients are famously late for meetings that they didn’t call, usually because they’ve overcommitted themselves.

It’s the overcommitting, and not having the grace to call or text ahead, or have your assistant call ahead, and say you’re running late, that makes people crazy and comes back to bite you . When you’re running a building or starting a business, you don’t want to annoy your employees or your backers.

There is also a psychological reason at work on chronically late people: narcicism. They are saying “I’m more important than you, so I can be late. You are going to love me, lateness and all. I don’t care that I’m keeping 10 valuable employees waiting an hour for me….I’m worth it.” This many be nonsense, you say, but it happens all the time. Think about it.

Such chronically late people don’t think about the cost in keeping employees waiting, or even the White House press corps.

So, you inconsiderate CEOs, go back and rethink how you allocate your time. You can send me a note at asechmentor@gmail.com and get our famous CEO time allocation sheet.

 

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6 Reasons Business Owners Need a Coach

Believe it or not, we didn’t write this post, but we like it. And, we have a few special twists that we put on our coaching relationships. Here are smartblog’s reasons:

1. Less managing, more leading. There’s always a tendency to get bogged down in just managing day to day affairs….personnel, customers, those nasty things. But, if you have a business coach, he or she should read this problem and get you back to leading, usually by saying, ok, what have you done to lead your company this_____(week, month, quarter)?

2. Accountability. This is a biggie…a good coach should work with you on setting revenue and profit goals, and make sure that you’re hitting them and, if not, why not. Most of you don’t have boards, but we do recommend joining a peer group (Vistage, EO, Solutions Forum), because you get a lot more accountability from a group than from a single coach. We all want to be well-thought of in our social groups, but if you’re in trouble, don’t let that prevent you from joining (you’d be surprised how often that’s a reason).

3. Letting your guard down. When we’re running companies, we usually have a guard up….I’m the boss. Who’s your father confessor? It should be your coach, unless your wife or significant other is part of your business. Look for empathetic qualities in a coach, but he/she shouldn’t be so empathetic that they’re not effective.

4. Calling  BS on your thinking. The old Dan Kennedy trick on marketing and sales, applied to any decisions. A good coach should be able to tell you when you’re being non-sensical, get behind the reason, and fix your thinking. Groups are especially good at this.

5. Sounding board. A good coach should be a good sounding board to test your thinking on anything, from personnel decisions to marketing and sales to financing, etc. Most of your ideas can be improved with the help of a good kibitzer.

6. Asset insurance. This is an interesting one, because a good coach or group is really your insurance policy against your business dying and, in fact, it should be your competitive weapon in your industry, not just defensive. Interestingly, most owners view coaches as a cost, rather than a profit center…..we make money for our clients, which is a rather unusual way to approach it.

If you throw in our School (www.theasoe.com), it’s a lot less expensive than a coach or even a group. The courses are designed to give you additional perspective.

So, there you have it. Go out and hire a coach. You can even call us (1-800-716-9626) if you want our coaching on the coach.

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Customer Service Hits and Misses

In today’s business world, if you don’t provide excellent customer service, one of your competitors will, and you’ll find  your company’s products and services in ‘commodity hell’, which is aptly named. Recently, we’ve encountered a couple of customer service hits and misses:

1. A Hit: Toscano, who makes and distributes all sorts of decorations for your home, recently shipped the wrong item to us. My wife called them to authorize the return (even though they thoughtfully provided a prepaid return label), and they authorized the return over the phone (no taking it to the manager), but then called back in about 10 minutes to say that they were going to cover shipping for the new part, and we could keep the one they shipped in error. We’re sure they looked at the costs of hassle and back and forth shipping and prior purchase record, and said, ‘let’s do the right thing’. Kudos to them.

2. A Miss: Recently, when we changed our home security service from ADT to a local company, ADT informed us that if we wanted to stay with them, they’d reduce our service $11 per month, about 25%. Or if we were a new customer, we’d get the lower rate. We also paid a $50 setup fee. Why they didn’t say, as their replacement did, that there was no setup fee and it was the lower rate. Now ADT’s got to cope with a former customer (who, via this blog) tells a lot more than nine suspects.

So, the question is: Is your company more like Toscano, or ADT? Think about it. Comments invited from annoyed customer service reps who work for the ADTs of the world.

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Hobby Lobby Hysteria

As Cheri Oteri used to say on Saturday Night Live, ‘simmer down’. To my way of thinking, the Hobby Lobby decision isn’t bad for women.

And it’s not bad for business, although I don’t think that anyone on the left has even discussed the business case for or against.

What many fail to appreciate is that if women are so aggrieved at Hobby Lobby, they don’t have to work there. Second, if they do work there, Hobby Lobby covers 16 of the 20 methods of contraception; they just happen to be against abortion on religious grounds, and as a private employer, that’s their right.

We’ve also heard it said, and we agree, that for business, the Hobby Lobby verdict is only the first of many on the ‘one size fits all’ approach of Obamacare. The better approach would have been, and could still be, if an amendment to the law were filed, to let individuals chose what they want in their healthcare.

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Should You Drain Your 401(k) to Start a Business

The short answer is, no. No because you shouldn’t put all your eggs in your business basket, because it could fail.  However, your 401(k) is a good source of funds.

But, money.cnn.com ran a good article this week about using some of the funds, anyway.

The key is ROBS, or Rollovers as Business Startups. The key is that you don’t pay taxes on the withdrawn funds used to buy the business, or get hit with an early withdrawal penalty of 10%. We don’t know if ROBS applies to purchased businesses.

It’s imperative that you have self-direction authority for your IRA, too. Most financial institutions would not approve of the buying or starting of a business, under the Prudent Man Rule; they don’t want to get sued for bad advice.

Apparently, there’s only one financial management firm, Guidant, that will help you set up the business. Guidant charges $4995, plus $119 per month. That’s considerably more than our Entrepreneurship courses, which are available at www.theasoe.com. Solutions Forum will match the $119/month for online consulting, unless we have a licensee in your area.

We would not recommend buying the business outright, unless that’s the only way the owner will sell, because it’s a good idea to keep him/her around for a while, and it limits your risk. Use the 401 to make the downpayment, and have the business do an earnout, ie., buy itself with its own funds. Living owners are generally amenable to this idea, so they can spread tax liability. Estates, not so much.

You should consult the SBA, too, because they might lend you most of the purchase price.

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