Category Archives: Business, Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital

Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

The wife of a successful entrepreneur once remarked to me that she had pointed out to her husband that there will always be someone else with a bigger yacht in the marina.  She was hinting that it’s fine to work, but there’s a point at which you ought to stop and spend a bit of time with your family and friends.  She’s since divorced (for him it’s the second time!).

livingoffthepeopleAnother boating analogy was shared by The Economist recently in a comment about the asset management industry entitled Living off the people.  As an asset manager, investing other people’s money, it was pertinent to my profession.  The article offers a synopsis of the fund management industry and the challenges it faces today, the principal one being “Is there any use for fund manager’s at all?”  The evidence has been around for decades, and now is being more actively referenced, that paying someone to beat the index is a fool’s game.

You can’t consistently beat the index, and if you have to pay someone to try, that’s going to cost you even more, so don’t even try.  Just invest in a low fee index fund, like one offered by Vanguard.  The article points out that a quarter of American billionaires work in finance and investment and concludes with a quote from a pre-war Wall Street mogul “Where are all the customers’ yachts?”  Instead pay a computer pennies to put yo u on the efficient frontier.

Continue reading Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

The dangers of committees and what they signal.

The article below by Dr Schori and Mr Garee is quoted wholesale because it’s amusing, anthropomorphic, so easy to relate to, and accurate.

deathbycommitteeCommittees have a tendency to be inefficient and ineffective, consuming resources and delaying results.  Consensus is necessary, but usually that’s at strategic or policy level.  If it’s necessary for daily or tactical decisions committees tend to be unwieldy.  Far better to achieve a balance of responsibility  and competence wherein people rely upon and trust one another.  As with so many aspects of “management” there are exceptions and the challenge in this case is to be one.  Be exceptional, as an enterprise, by maintaining your nimble physique as you grow and mature.

‘Management by committee’ signals final stages of company ‘life cycle.’

By Thomas R. Schori, Ph.D., and Michael L. Garee, Principals,  Millennium Marketing Research, 808 E. Ironwood, Normal, IL 61761-5239. Tel. 309-532-8466 –

http://tomschori.com/35800.HTM

Having spent a large part of our professional lives in corporate environments, not surprisingly, we’ve also spent a fair amount of time in meetings of one committee or another. In fact, many are the days in which we’ve spent the whole blasted day in some such meeting! We’d like to say that it was time well spent, but in most cases that simply was not the case. Our experience, of course, is not at all unique. In many companies, it appears that virtually every decision, large or small, momentous or trivial, is made by a committee.

Without question, it’s good management practice for a chief executive officer (or members of his or her senior management staff) to seek the advice and counsel of internal experts before making certain key decisions. But seeking advice and counsel is far different from managing by committee, a subtle distinction that’s seemingly lost on many companies. In the former, regardless of whom the CEO consults, it is he or she who makes the final decision, not a consensus of those who were consulted, as would be the case in a company managed by committee.

How pervasive is the practice of managing by committee? Very. Almost anyone working in a medium to large business today observes at least some of this practice on a daily basis. This practice, i.e., managing by committee, is characteristic of organizations that have entered the last two stages of the phenomenon which we previously have dubbed the Company Life Cycle [Described by us in our December 22, 1997, column, entitled, “Like products, companies also have a life cycle”].

If your company doesn’t manage by committee, you’re indeed fortunate. It means that your company is either still in the “toddler” (new company, very nimble) stage or the “adolescent” (company experiencing rapid growth) stage. Either way, your organization still has at its helm someone who continues to manage with visionary zeal, and is not afraid of making decisions. On the other hand, if your organization is one of the management by committee variety, of which there are far too many, watch out! If you’re not in a position to change it, you might want to “spruce” up your résumé because your company has already progressed to the “aging athlete” (established company merely “running in place”) or “old geezer” (company characterized by turgidity, headed for imminent decline) stage of its life cycle. Such a company probably is not long for this world.

Continue reading The dangers of committees and what they signal.

What happens when you destabilise a suboptimal system? It implodes.

The death of John and Alicia Nash on 23 May brought attention to game theory and the Nash Equilibrium, which offer insights into resolving the problems of today’s world.

As The Economist succinctly says: “In the real world of less-than-perfect competition, a “Nash equilibrium” may well be stable, but not optimal.”   Game theory shows that competition yields a sub-optimal stability, which can only be enhanced by cooperation.

Today we live in a world where resource constraints are not just widening the chasm between “haves” and “have-nots” but are destroying the fabric of nature upon which all life depends.  Human consumption is reducing access to clean water, land and air, is eliminating species and people increasingly rely upon junk (food, fashion and stuff) to prop up our confidence.

The way to reverse the destruction of the biosphere is to reduce consumption which can only be achieved with a cooperative approach to resource allocation.  At the root of this cooperation must be the sharing of technology which allows efficient production and allocation of food, clothing, housing, energy.

A cooperative approach is not a bureaucratic approach, it is not mechanical and it can not be maintained with laws.  Cooperation is founded on a culture of empathy which engenders trust which reduces enterprise overheads.  The root of a the solution to resource constraints is in cultural maturity.

John Nash showed this scientifically half a century ago.  Many others have shared the same wisdom over the centuries, but have been drowned out by the confidence of political and economic ego.

TOGITV: Stag hunting – thoughts on John Nash and social cooperation

The Mereon Legacy: A Mereonic perspective on John Nash: Cooperation vs. Competition

Wikipedia: Nash Equilibrium

 

The trouble with being rich is … family!

Of course, there’s really  no trouble with being rich, but … family is where issues arise because that’s what’s usually neglected.

If you made it you probably had to work hard which took you away from your family.  Whether you made or received it, you probably have responsibilities which you feel take you away from family.  Either way you might give your family the things they want because you want the best for them or just because they expect it.  So they live in a big house, ride in a fine car, jet off to hols and have the latest gear.  The trouble arises because what people need is you.

You might give your family the best schooling, clothing, holidays etc but you probably just don’t spend quality time together.  The “stuff” without the “touchy feely” invariably nurtures weak consciousness and a moral compass that spins easily.  The values that cement civilisation, like honesty underpinning trust and empathy underpinning care,  are weak so while everyone looks marvellous their happiness is compromised.  And probably yours too.

It is ironic that it is family that suffers most because relationships make human experience rich and wonderful.

familyownershipmanagementThe solution is simple, though difficult because it requires a change in perspective.  The solution is to give more time to family.  That is difficult because, as the entrepreneur or founder or guardian of the wealth,  you are busy and feel the need to work and fulfil responsibilities.   But if you spend time with family, playing as well as working, you help nurture a positive culture in which the sense of entitlement is replaced by one of duty and responsibility, greed is replaced by empathy and anger replaced with humour.

You don’t even have to be that rich for these issues to be pertinent.  Anyone with any prospect of succession will face family issues.  The best way to minimise problems is to admit they could be happening and try to separate ownership of assets from management of assets from family relationships.

BBC: The trouble with being a billionaire

Facebook, like Google, reduces our ability to think. Now scientifically proven!

"Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down."
“Emphasize our unique differences, pass it down.”

It’s not as though it wasn’t expected.  The behaviour and algorithms users and social media networks are intended to filter ideas to suit our individual perspective.  That’s a major reason people use the big engines like Google and Facebook.

But that behaviour encourages groupthink.  The user only clicks on stories and links that match their own desires and perspective and the engine tends to serve stories and links that the user prefers to click.  It’s a self-reinforcing process.

The result is that you get a narrower view of the world.  You don’t hear stories or connect with people that you have differences with.  This reduces your information as well as your perspective.  That means you don’t develop ideas; your thinking is less critical.

groupthinkThe solution?  Every now and then, click links that you would normally avoid.  Even if you don’t read them it will diversify the feed you get from the big engines.  Use a different search engine which does not track your behaviour so that the search results are generic and diverse (try duckduckgo or ixquick for exmaple).

BBC: Facebook tips news feed balance ‘less than we do’

Yoga In Ireland – groundbreaking analysis of market and practitioner behaviour.

Check out Pam’s article,  The Irish Yoga Market, published in Yoga Therapy Ireland Magazine, Spring 2015.

Pam’s ground breaking research acquired raw data on the yoga market in Ireland which was previously unavailable and focuses on why people do yoga.

The research included lengthy interviews with a number of teachers and leading yoga entrepreneurs, plus a wide ranging questionnaire filled in by hundreds of practitioners around the country.

As a yoga practitioner, teacher and entrepreneur herself she wanted to consider assumptions about why people do yoga, such as: “Is it for health or self-esteem or social fun?”

Her work explored  questions fundamental to an effective marketing plan:

  • Who is the target client?

  • How can the client be helped?

  • What attracts the target customer?

  • What new market segments can be developed?

These are not the first questions that pop into mind when you think of “yoga”, but they are important to sustainable business success.  The article offers insights in to how to grow your yoga business.

Please download the article from pambutleryoga.com here.

Everyone leads in tomorrow’s world, because it’s natural.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explains that in a flock of birds they take it in turns to lead, because

  • being in the lead is energy depleting and can not last long (look at how every US President goes grey in the job),
  • all birds in the flock learn to do that job.

Humans are moving in that direction by moving to “democratically elected” leaders who have limited terms, rather than hereditary monarchs, dictators etc, but we have far to go.  We have yet to realise that being in front is a responsibility which must be shared and works best when everyone understands the role and its responsibilities.

The role of leader must be recognised for what it is: a part of the system which requires certain behaviours and attributes and must eschew other behaviours.  In human systems, the leadership role is most effective when it is facilitating the operation of the whole, when it is a communication, arbitration, decision making role which compromises between competing demands.  It encourage cooperation in order to reduce risk and increase effectiveness.  Knowing you will lead makes you a better follower; knowing you will follow makes you a better leader.

Few “leaders”approach the role in this way because the cultural mindset remains rather feudal.  When the man at the top is replaced by a woman in the middle, the dynamic will have evolved.  In the meantime, look for an organisation with many leaders and try to work in a system organised as modular teams which adopt “six-hat thinking” dynamics.

BBC: Flock co-operation: Birds take it in turns to lead

The benefits of skills training.

Admittedly the title The One Thing Electricians, Chefs, and Entrepreneurs Have in Common attracted me because I’ve played electrician, cook and entrepreneur, so it caught my eye.  The article reinforces the knowledge that nurturing head, heart and HANDS is important to become a whole person.

The One Thing Electricians, Chefs, and Entrepreneurs Have in Common

You’d be hard-pressed to name three jobs that seem to have as little in common as an electrician, a chef, and an entrepreneur. But even though the work couldn’t be more different, these jobs share one important trait: they all require practical skills that can be gained through hands-on experience in the real working world, not just books or theory or classroom study.

These are just a few of the well-paid, middle skills jobs that represent the opportunities of tomorrow. Many people think of middle skills jobs as menial, low-paying jobs with no opportunities for advancement. This couldn’t be farther from the case. The reality is that today, there is a bevy of respectable, well-compensated, upwardly mobile careers that don’t require a traditional four-year education.

In many countries, vocational study unfortunately has a history of being seen as less respectable than attending university. But with unemployment and underemployment rates of college graduates at such high levels in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s time for this perception to change. It’s time to spread the word that skills training, perhaps now more than ever, is possibly the most reliable pathway to an interesting and rewarding career.

3 Good Reasons to Consider Skills Training

Continue reading The benefits of skills training.

Some people call me an entrepreneur. Now I know why …

The Newfoundland Department of Employment claimed a boat owner wasn’t paying proper wages to his hired help.  So they sent an agent to Burin to investigate him.

GOVT AGENT: “I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them.”

Boat Owner: “Well, there’s Clarence, my hired hand; he’s been with me for three years. I pay him $200 a week plus free room and board. Then there’s the mentally challenged guy. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of Lamb’s rum and a dozen Labatt Lite every Saturday night so he can cope with life. He also gets to sleep with my wife occasionally.”

GOVT AGENT: “That’s the guy I want to talk to – the mentally challenged one.”

Boat Owner: “That’ll be me, then. What’d you want to know?”

 

Thanks to Pat Macmahon for sending this on.

 

Waste hemp for cradle-to-cradle and biomimicry

Research shows that “Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene'”.    Scientists have made graphene-like materials for a thousandth of the price – and with waste.   They “cooked” cannabis bark into carbon nanosheets and built supercapacitors, high-performance energy storage devices, which are “on a par with or better than graphene” – the industry gold standard.  Graphene is too expensive to produce, but “hempene” will not be.  A great illustration of cradleto-cradle design and looking to nature for answers.

Scientists presented their work at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco and have described the device in the journal ACS Nano.

The hemp is perfectly legal to grow. It has no THC in it at all, so there’s no overlap with any medical or recreational activities.

BBC: Hemp fibres ‘better than graphene’

 

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