Leadership – A role model

Recently as I retold a story about an example of a leader actually leading a large organization through tough times, I realized this example embodies a favorite snippet (thanks to Jack / Carol Weber): “In absence of good communications, people will make it up and convince their friends it’s true”.

I worked in a large organization (~2000) and the org and biz were on a roll, growing and projecting growth. I seldom saw or heard the General Manager, but often his 2nd in command. Then, unexpectedly our product’s market collapsed, and our business was threatened closure. The GM started a cruasade to both preserve the business and the careers of the people who worked for him. Immediately, he was in front of the entire organization regularly, telling us what he knew that he COULD tell and be open to both answer questions and updating us on the ideas he is pushing. He set our expectations very well to not over expect immediate success and he worked tirelessly to create a new future. He did create that future; but it meant for a couple of years 90% of the workforce needed to find a new job.

In the end, he created a new and vibrant future for the organization; and, he helped find jobs for almost every single employee if they wanted another one. He demonstrated what great leaders do … first regular, transparent and candid communication, and second, the discipline, persistence and compasion to deliver those futures. He shortly thereafter retired from our company. I would like to believe that he was content delivering his career best and walking away.

He communicated and provided information when rumors could have destroyed both the business and the people … good, strong leader communication will make outstanding results easier – it’s necessary, but not sufficient …

Executing a strategy I don’t understand = pain

This is probably obvious to most, but like many things, I had to bang my head against the wall to learn it. My lesson is not investment domain specific though that was my classroom.

I am always receiving promos for different investment or trading platforms, most of which are subscription cloud services. Sometimes i see one that is worth giving it a spin. My first lesson awhile back was a ‘paper exercise’ is not a sufficient test; i always make exceptions or rationalizations of insufficiencies of the platform or my required responses to it. I have to put skin in the game, i.e., money, to learn.

I saw one that seemed like worth a try; I followed their daily recommendation but failied to exercise the stop/loss due to my inability to monitor every minute of trading hours. – i did not understand the behavioral requirements of the strategy. I lost all $200 of my test.

Looking back, I would do one of or both of deeply understanding the strategy and my required behaviors and / or follow a poorly undertood strategy to the letter of the prescribed behaviors. The risk of the second action is that I would not be able to innovate within the strategy when conditions change, yet conditions always change.

This then is the pain of a poorly understood strategy … failures of execution both due to mistakes and the inability to innovate within changing conditions. The remedy is simple – execute only strategies I know sufficiently to innovate; and ideally, constantly increase my strategy portfolio.

Small Business Optimism Falls in January

“Small Business Optimism Returning to Normal Levels as Owners Express Uncertainty about the Future

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index slipped 3.2 points in January, as owners continued hiring and investing, but expressed rising concern about future economic growth. The 101.2 reading, the lowest since the weeks leading up to the 2016 elections, remains well above the historical average of 98, but indicates uncertainty among small business owners due to the 35-day government shutdown and financial market instability. The NFIB Uncertainty Index rose seven points to 86, the fifth highest reading in the survey’s 45-year history.”

Poor government decisions and behavior have impact

BLS Unemployment & Gig-Doers

I believe that the unemployment rate is incapable of calculating a sizeable portion of those whose “jobs” will end early in an economic downturn. These are the folks who I am calling “Gig-Doers” – these are the folks who push a side gig or a portion of their gigs are off the mainline employment / payroll system. Maybe they get cash, maybe they invoice against a services contract … but they are probably not fully calculated in the current numbers (critical here is the n).

Here is the BLS FAQ where you can get how they count https://www.bls.gov/cps/#faq

What I see happening as the economy slows, the Gig-Doers will be the early ones to lose their side hustle, lose material income and be compelled to re-enter the traditional employment system increasing the n. I intend to watch that over the next few months, as even this month unemployment went up as jobs created also went up – quote: “The labor force participation rate, at 63.2 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.7 percent, changed little over the month; both measures were up by 0.5 percentage point over the year. (See table A-1.) The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by about one-half million to 5.1 million in January. Nearly all of this increase occurred in the private sector and may reflect the impact of the partial federal government shutdown. (Persons employed part time for economic reasons would have preferred full-time employment but were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.) (See table A-8.)

The bold text above is my emphasis of the unknown source of the increase in part time workers. The gig economy and the prevelance of alternative payment modes outside the traditional payroll system is going to be very difficult for our current systems to monitor with any actionable sensitivity in the early changes. How this impacts economic models, projections and business decisions is yet to see, but this is the first slowing economy we will see with a material gig element.

Here is another article estimating the size of this workforce https://www.marketwatch.com/story/if-the-economy-is-so-great-why-are-78-million-hustling-for-dimes-2018-06-01

A New Business Scam

Th is last month, I officially established my consulting business, Plans and Clues LLC, with the state of Oregon as well as a US Fedral EIN.  At least one of those things puts my business name and address in the public domain … the state of OR.  So there are either people or bots scanning the public domain for new businesss so they can contact you …

They sent me this very official sounding and looking document that could easily be mistaken for a state or fedral agency requiring a fee be paid.

But if you read the top paragraph on the right side, if clearly states that this same documentation that they are asking you to pay for is available for free from the state of OR.

This is a scam that they are intending you do NOT read and just go ahead and pay.  If not, how many businesses will stay in business if the EXACT same product is available for free from the government?

30 minutes on Plan for Profit

I presented at short view on “Plan for Proft” for a local Chamber of Commerce Lunch event this week. A framework to help people start thinking about the needed clues to create a plan to meet their unique and individual profit goals.  http://plansandclues.org/files/PlanforProfit-2.pdf

Caveat:  These slides are not that helpful for people who were NOT in the talk itself – this is not a “leave-behind, stand on its own” collateral.

Data Analysis – Stop the Spray & Pray

A very short thought on data analysis and the use of data to make decisions.  I often hear people in different domains reference “data based decision making”, “data driven business”, and the list goes on …

But what so many people follow is the “Spray and Pray” approach of data analysis.  They collect as much data as possible, they spray it on the wall for everybody to see and pray that something meaningful surfaces.

What they miss is that any data analyst worth their salt would do the following:

  • Identify the most important data
  • Explain why that data is important
  • Relate what that important data means and its shortcomings / limitations
  • Recommend what actions should be taken based on that data (non action is appropriate response as well)