Leadership Styles: The Smartest Guys in the Room can kill you!

When a fellow says it hain’t the money but the principle o’ the thing, it’s th’ money.” — Frank McKinney

‘Always ask why.  Dig deeper.  Get the facts.’ Avoid the crowd mentality

“Ask Why” was their motto.

“Wheel Out,” “Fat Boy” “Death Star” and “Get Shorty” were some of the nicknames applied to their strategies.

Confirmation letters of successful trades were addressed to names like “Mr. M. Yass and “Mr. M. Smart” … and I think you can parse the underlying contempt.

“Rank & Yank” described their people performance system, “Pump and Dump” their trading strategy.

About $70 billion of market value was destroyed, more than 20,000 employees lost their jobs and pension funds worth $3.2 billion were destroyed, more than two thirds of which belonged to retirees with little chance to rebuild.

I had always intended to watch “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” the 2005 movie based on a book by the same name from co-authors Peter Elking and Bethany McLean, but it got lost in the shuffle until last week.

It chronicles the Enron cataclysm, whose meteoric ascent was violently terminated with its bankruptcy on Dec. 3, 2001.

“Be like Enron” is still an ignominious curse

It’s hard to believe this happened almost 10 years ago since to be “like Enron” still reverberates as an ignominious curse. It’s really more like a viral infection, though, because so many of the forces that drove its destruction have cleaved similar fissures in scandals from (more…)

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Warning: Speed may not be good for our health!

“Speed, for lack of a better term, is good”.

That’s not quite what Gordon Gekko said in the original Wall Street movie, but it’s close enough for our purposes.

So, who’s complaining about the super-fastest fiber-cable ever? Nobody that I know of, but here’s what caught my attention. It isn’t just the extraordinary speed extolled in Forbes’s recent article, Wall Street’s Speed War. Sure, it cost about $300 million to bury a one-inch underground cable over the 825 mile distance between New York and Chicago. Yes, it’s been done in stealth mode so no one would find out and build one even faster, and yes, it’s about to go live.

Big deal? Apparently so … but here’s the thing. The only reason this cable got built was … grab your abacus … to save 3 MILLISECONDS off the previous route for such cable traffic. That’s equal to THREE 1/1000 OF A SECOND!

What for? Here’s a few of the effusive remarks that Forbes quoted: ‘That’s close to an eternity in automated trading” … or “Anybody pinging both markets has to be on this line, or they’re dead.” (more…)

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Warning: Sell Wine? Ignore Cash? Adios!

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Why is this so hard? We find ourselves entrenched in the quagmire of a lingering and painful recession … more companies than ever need stronger financial management … and yet so many of them remain painfully slow to recognize it. Sure, many have trimmed costs and are paying closer attention to nickels and dimes, but few of them have a comprehensive financial strategy.

Business Finance? Meet the Wine Industry!

So, in some misguided way, I guess it feels good to have some company … because the need for financial discipline was a common refrain among wine industry cognoscenti at this year’s Symposium, Competing in a Rapidly Changing Global Wine Market. The economic shock waves of the last 24 months have rocked the wine industry, dragging many of its members, in some cases kicking and screaming … into an era where professional management and greater financial discipline are demanding front row seats alongside the entrepreneurs and artisans that have reigned over the California wine industry
[pullquote]Stronger financial management is overdue in the California wine industry.[/pullquote]

Building a bridge between the financial community and the wine industry is one of the founding precepts of the Wine Industry Financial Symposium formed in 1992. Last Monday, I was privileged to lead a 90 minute workshop devoted to Practical Strategies to Improve Cash Flow, in which I shared a few “diamonds in the rough” about how to get more juice into your bank account … and how the California wine businesses can integrate Strategic Finance into their everyday business decision making.

Wine, Wisdom and Stronger Finance. Drink up!

During the preceding From Survival to Prosperity – Strategies for Transition session, (more…)

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Small Business Finance Bill passes – So What?

Do you often wonder how this country gets along with the Pollyanna views inside the Beltway, mostly comprised of those who have never had to meet a payroll? The Senate passed the Small Business finance bill last week as a few Republicans crossed the aisle to provide the needed votes. The House is expected to quickly pass this version. More later … but ….

So What? It’s a $30B bill so it sounds like a lot of money … but so did the TARP $750B number when it was announced … and it’s still a long way from fully invested. The NYT claims it will help “credit-starved businesses” … says who? Read Uncertainty is killing business – NOT credit in which I review why credit availability is NOT what’s killing small business. If you’re uncertain about what uncertainty we’re certain about … read the WSJ verbatim quote to be reminded of the painful litany of  the economic and regulatory  quicksand on the road to recovery.

[pullquote]Are you uncertain about what uncertainty we’re certain about?[/pullquote]

Sure, there may be qualified businesses struggling to get credit. It is tougher out there, the underwriting standards are less flexible … but will the economy recover when credit is extended to small and middle-market businesses? No, (more…)

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