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Archive | September, 2010

The Zen of Goal Setting: Don’t tell anyone

How many times have we been told to write down our goals so we can keep them in focus … and make sure we tell everyone around us so they can support us and cheer us on.

Derek Sivers strongly disagrees and shares what he’s learned from psychologists going back to the 1920′s. His TED speech is provocative and compelling and suggests that the more we tell people our goals, the less we accomplish … because afterward, we tend to behave as though we’ve already accomplished them. By the way, Derek Sivers is a rock star to the musicians he serves, having launched CD Baby and sold it 10 years later when its revenue exceeded $100 million. He continues to serve the musical community with MuckWork.

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Ignore the Wine Supply/Demand Cycle at your peril

My friend and colleague, Steve Fredricks, President of Turrentine Brokerage, Trusted and Strategic Advisors to Growers, Wineries, and Financiers in the wine industry, did a terrific job at this year’s Wine Industry Financial Symposium, Competing in a Rapidly Changing Global Wine Market.

The Turrentine Wine Business Wheel of Fortune is the gold standard for supply/demand patterns in the wine industry.

His presentation, The Supply/Demand Balance in the Global Market and California Bulk Market, thoughtfully described these challenges, using the demonstrated insights of the Wine Business Wheel of Fortune pioneered by Turrentine to describe cyclical and long-germ patterns in the wine business.

Steve covered the California and global bulk market, tonnage and acreage forecasts and outlooks for the global supply of key varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio. You’ll find his presentation here.

Way to go, Steve. Great job!

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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

Stronger financial management is overdue in the California wine industry.

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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The Shocking Truth about having fun!

Wanna have some fun? How about logistics? Now that’s some fun, ain’t it?

Social media has stimulated countless phenomena … but connecting with our communities is probably one of its most valuable outcomes … which is why this new UPS commercial really caught my eye. Remember the lesson that if the railroads realized they were in the transportation business, they might not have collapsed?

UPS believes they’re really in the “life” business … that logistics is making life better … parts on time, always in sync, compete effectively, track everything, no lost gifts … logistics just “makes the world work better”.

So, isn’t that the shocking truth about having fun … that it’s actually possible to build it into our work if we work at it? If UPS can put fun and some pizzaz into logistics, shouldn’t we be able to add some fun and excitement to our products and services?

Surely they’re more exciting than shipping and delivery? Am I right? Am I? Right?

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Small Businesses – Stop Worshiping Them?

Doesn’t a lot of this jawboning about job creation make your brain explode?

I’ve never read articles by Rex Nutting before, who writes for MarketWatch on the WSJ Digital network … but a banker friend of mine referred me to his “Time to stop worshiping small businesses” article.

I’m not sure where Rex gets his information but his conclusions about the limited job creation value of small businesses is generally unsupported. After arguing, in Clintonesqe fashion about “it depends on how small the definition of small is”, he goes on to claim that while “small businesses do create a lot of jobs, but they also destroy a lot.” Citing a Census Bureau study, he claims that “once they pass their first birthday, small companies, on average, lose more jobs than they create. Many fail within years.”

Who says tax rates don’t matter to job creation?

A recent study by the Ewing Kaufman Foundation reported an entirely different result, concluding that “80% of the jobs created in the first year are still here after 5 years.” There’s not enough detail available to comprehensively compare these disparate reports, but to debunk the value of SMB job creation requires a little more factual support from Nutting.

He also claims that tax rates don’t matter (more…)

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Leadership Lessons: Scribbles on an Envelope

It’s exciting, isn’t it, when we stumble across crumpled notes that have been lodged in our wallet for years … to discover timeless gems that we may have forgotten? I’ve earlier reported on the piece of paper carried in the wallet of  John Wooden, famed UCLA basketball coach, which bore the words written by his father on Wooden’s high school graduation.

Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks, recounts the story about Gordon Dean, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under Harry Truman. When Dean died in a plane crash in 1958, it’s been said that among his personal effects was an envelope with nine life lessons scribbled on the back, none of which had anything to do with atomic energy or science.

Here they are:

  1. Never lose your capacity for enthusiasm.
  2. Never lose your capacity for indignation.
  3. Never judge people – don’t type them too quickly. But in a pinch never first assume that a man is bad; first assume that he is good and that, at worst, he is in the gray area between bad and good.
  4. Never be impressed by wealth alone or thrown by poverty.
  5. If you can’t be generous when it’s hard to be, you won’t be when it’s easy.
  6. The greatest builder of confidence is the ability to do something – almost anything – well.
  7. When confidence comes, then strive for humility; you aren’t as good as all that.
  8. The way to become truly useful is to seek the best that other brains have to offer. Use them to supplement your own, and be prepared to give credit to them when they have helped.
  9. The greatest tragedies in the world and personal events stem from misunderstandings. So communicate!
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Business Finance: Vol. 3 – The Reinvention of the Financial Statement

Volume 3 provides the foundation for the Financial Adrenaline series, and its powerful visual tools enable business leaders to enhance their understanding of Strategic Finance.

In this episode, we provide an overview of the Framework of the Business Ferret™ and show you the Scorecard that benchmarks over 1,000 variables over 5 years, 15 categories and 4 themes. We introduce some of the tools to measure Operating Performance, and illustrate some of the issues around Bank Financing and Covenant Compliance. We show you how to measure whether you’re Creating or Destroying Value, why Free Cash Flow is the cornerstone of business performance and why Scenario Planning tools can help you assess the likelihood of future success. This video sets the stage for a more detailed evaluation of each of these subjects in the continuing Financial Adrenaline series.

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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.

Are you uncertain about what uncertainty we’re certain about?

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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Uncertainty is killing business – NOT credit!

Double V – the deadly duo of Big Volatility and Little Visibility.

A recent WSJ opinion piece nicely summarizes the quagmire of uncertainty that plagues American business. I’m pretty tired of all of the “credit-starved businesses” stories presented like medieval alchemy … fix this and you’ve found gold … because most of them based on a few unproven anecdotes. The real issue is UNCERTAINTY … so I’m forced to resurrect my own design that tells the story that really underlies the lack of job growth and investment … the Double V – my expression for the deadly duo of Big Volatility and Little Visibility.

Here’s the WSJ verbatim quote that underlies much of the UNCERTAINTY that plagues American business:

Do you think the lack of customers … or the lack of credit … is killing American business? What’s affecting you the most?

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Business Finance: Vol. 2 – How Do We Do It?

Volume 2  expands upon our conversation about the current state of financial reporting and describes our commitment to you that Finance should NOT be the Reason for Business Failure. We offer a series of questions that are crucial to successful businesses … but we don’t think you can answer them by looking at your traditional financial statements. We also explain why traditional financial statements are historical renderings of financial transactions but don’t lead to the action plans necessary to drive improved business performance.

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