Chinese Business Proverbs

Signs of the times: business aphorisms inside one’s fortune cookie (Mao must be turning over in his grave): Here are a couple:

1.  A leader is powerful to the degree he empowers others.

2. A brave man is the one that is not afraid to admit his mistakes.

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OMG! Not Another Czar!

Jeez, if there’s one thing we DONT need, it’s another guy or gal to gum up the works with commentary on what the government is doing late and short on the Ebola crisis. They’re not exactly up to speed on the whole thing, and training someone new in the middle of a crisis isn’t a great idea.

A new czar would be a terrible idea, but about on a par with what we’d expect from Little Barry and the Minnions.

Where’s the Surgeon General? We actually have an acting one, but he’s been invisible. He’s a Medical Corps Navy Rear Admiral, so he ought to be able to ‘fleet up’ in a hurry if anyone asked him..

As a Rear Admiral, in the MC, he should be used to leading from the front, despite his title. Think back to C.Everett Koop on the smoking hazards back in the day. Right or wrong, he was out front on the situation and all over the airwaves. About what we need now.

Even though The Surgeon General isn’t an epidemologist,  at least he’s a medical doctor, which should carry some gravitas, and he could play off Freiden and Fauci.

C’mon Fox, get your intrepid folks on finding out what the SG has to say. Catherine Herridge and Jennifer Griffin are is a great investigative reporters, as is James Rosen.

Drs. Freiden and Fauci presumably work for Sylvia Burwell the presently invisible Secretary of Health and Human Services, but she presumably has no medical background or training, either, so she has nothing useful to say.

We know that leadership in the government is either in short or non-existent supply, but let’s try out the Surgeon General before we go flapping off with a new czar.

Moral of the story so far: use the people you’ve got in a crisis, and you’ll find out what they’re worth. Keep the good ones, fire the bad ones, but as we’ve said before, firing anyone is an anathema to anyone in this administration.

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Hero to Zero

We are looking for a small video camera to record Solutions Forum meetings and do courses for the School.

So, we trucked over to Best Buy, and looked around, examined specs and settled on a GoPro Hero….flashy packaging, well known name, ok price.

But, the packaging proved absolutely inpenetrable….the big thing was not getting the backing plate off so I could mount the camera on a tripod…but the whole thing was an exercise in frustration. So, the Hero went to Zero after I returned it to Best Buy (and they graciously accepted it, even with packaging in pieces).

The moral of the story is your packaging might get you purchases, but ease of use and good directions (neither of which the Hero has) will get you repeat customers. And, GoPro has lost a few in this, because I shared the problems with one group of my clients, who’d originally agreed to the taping.

Test your products with your target audience! Video the customers taking the product out of the package! What problems do they have? Are they still delighted all the way to use?

The Hero’s successor, from Samsung, is cute, but apparently has no directions for use, but we think we can intuit it.

What’s the matter with this product segment? The techies certainly aren’t talking to the marketeers.

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The Fixer: Marcus Lemonis

We’re glad INC Magazine put Marcus on the cover.

He has a unique set of skills, in going around the country and fixing people, process and product.

We’ve been fans of ‘ The Profit’ on CNBC ever since it came out.

The only problem we can see in Marcus’ approach is that he’s spreading himself too thin on his investments.

We have now, or will have, licensees for Solutions Forum in the areas where Marcus works: New York and L.A. What we offer through Solutions Forum is every-month followup and accountability. We’re known for developing solutions like the ones that Marcus advocates. We even have the ability to invest, if we like the opportunity.

So, Marcus, decentralize a bit and call us! 1-800-716-9626!

Those 40.000 businesses that want Marcus should call us, too.

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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.

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 and get our famous CEO time allocation sheet.


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