The Compassionate Capitalist
Mar 2013 02
Marissa Mayer and her leadership team at Yahoo! made news (and waves) last week by announcing to all the Yahoo’ers that the Company was abandoning the typical tech staffing model of “distance working” (whether home-based or alternate geography-based) and returning all employees to the Mothership/Hive model of old. Widely criticized as anti-progressive, anti-parent, Neanderthal command and control, retrograde leadership — I completely disagree and think she made absolutely the right call.
“You can’t change what you don’t understand….”
Yahoo is a broken company — and Job #1 is to get the Company turned around and re-positioned for success. To do this Marissa needs everyone on her team to see the same challenges, embrace the same changes and execute against the same plan. That just can’t happen either fast, or well, with folks scattered all over the place marching to echos of old, or orders they make up on their own. It’s a lot easier to fire up the troops and set out to take a new hill when everyone is starting from the same spot at the same moment with the same battle cry. It all starts with getting everyone on the same page.
“Chemistry is something that happens between people…” Lars Ulrich Metallica
Stone and flint have to rub together to create sparks. ”Tele-engagement” may be likable, productive and even cost-effective but it’s neither innovative nor exciting (Admit it — we’ve all found ourselves banging our heads on our desks during long, painful conference calls). For Yahoo!, normal isn’t coming back — and Marissa is smart enough to know that the organization needs a nurturing but collective kick in the head — and butt. Come together, feel the buzz, be excited about who you work with and what we’re doing, collaborate on the fly — that’s what the new normal needs to become. We need to change and we need to change now.
“R&D is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing…” Wernher Von Braun
Every company needs to feed R&D. The problem with R&D though, is that it needs to be balanced with relentless execution — and I don’t just mean doing the appropriate things the proper way — I mean the breathless stampede of a large committed army running 100 miles per hour with their hair on fire determined to build weapons to stick in the sides of the heads of the competitors before those folks come and steal our kid’s Cheerios. In a world of unlimited resources everything gets done — but with resource constraints come resource re-allocation and re-prioritization. Marissa may not yet know whether she needs to spend more or spend less — but she surely knows Yahoo! needs to spend different — with money, time, talent and technology. Calling everyone back to Mecca helps reset the bar on what’s necessary and what’s not.
“We didn’t work this hard to get where we are today, we worked this hard to get where we’re going next”
Yahoo! is starting over — taking what’s been built and pointing the Company in a new direction. Everything that everyone has done is appreciated and celebrated — but it’s gut check time. Marissa is telling the entire workforce that its time to re-sign up or step off the train. What’s most important to her is doing whatever is necessary to regain Yahoo’s greatness. If that’s not what’s most important to each and every Yahoo! associate — then that’s OK — but she’s going to leave you behind. In some ways, having the associates “clock back in physically” is the table ante to figure out who wants to stick around and play the next hand.
In many ways, I think this is a brilliant move and message.
Jan 2013 04
Day #1 back in the office for 2013.
I’m starting the year like I always do with my annual “note to self” — a list of people and things that I’m not going to think about or deal with this year. I’ve written previously about the notion that in a world of unlimited communication the most important time management decisions aren’t about what you say “yes” to — there about what you say “no” to — thereby leaving time for the “right stuff’ to seep through.
You can’t really stop incoming noise — but you can resolve to give it no quality attention cycles. My way of doing this is to keep a file folder on my desk (or Mac desktop) labeled “Waiting for Columbus” (in that this stuff will get dealt with only if Columbus discovers this folder) for every posting from the “note to self” list. It’s not necessarily a permanent purgatory as some things do end up rotating out of the folder — but it is a place where a lot of “if you don’t care about it then why should I” stuff ends up getting buried.
What I do every do may not matter to anybody else, but it matters very deeply to me. I’m not getting any younger, I had ADD long before it was fashionable, and I have my own long list of things I’m curious about or would like to be better at doing. If you’re not willing to run 100 miles per hour with your hair on fire — and go down fighting full of piss and vinegar — then I’ve got better things to do with my time then spend it on the things you profess to care about.
I’m NOT the guy to help folks validate their excuses, rationalize their sense of “victimization”, or help them feel better about their lack of effort or commitment. Sure, sometimes winner’s win because they’re lucky, but more often than not they win because they simply refuse to quit — and they outlast those around them who get tired, or lazy, or quit early.
The world rewards results. Results require complete dedication of your time, your talent and your treasures to the achievement of your goals. If you’re not willing to give that — then unless you’re lucky — someone else will outperform you and kick your ass.
Yes, it’s often really that simple.
So here’s to 2013 — bring on the committed, lunatic, passionate dreamers.
Failure isn’t losing — quitting is.
Cheers! Doug C.
Nov 2012 26
While I continue working on a post on Winning (and Winners), I thought I’d knock out this request — What’s on your daily reading list ?
Before I go to the office in the morning……
USA Today (iPad) — its easy, its quick and its perfect for a scan while the coffee is being made.
AJC (online version not mobile app) — not much news but it does cover local politics and sports. Annoying crime, car wreck, etc headlines.
Zite (iPad) — customized news feed with tabs on the topics I care about (music, photography, world news, social media, sports). My morning favorite.
Washington Post (iPad) — not as good as it used to be but still a real newspaper with some real stories. Interesting Opinion pages.
The Guardian (web site) — just to see what the other side of the pond cares about. Great interviews, great photos, obscure stories.
The Daily (iPad) — Murdoch online only paper. Light on real news but some insightful stories and great photos. Annoyingly stuck in portrait mode — a change for the worse they made a couple of months ago I presume to save money.
Politico (iPad app) — saves me a trip to Jimmy’s in the morning to find out what the local coffee clatch crew will be complaining about today.
MLB.com (iPad app) — all the key plays from the night before with great video and articles. A must have for any baseball fan.
ESPN (web not mobile site) — mobile site is awful but full web site works just fine on my iPad. Quick check in on College Football, MLB, NFL and Women’s soccer news. Absolutely no news reading about the NBA, Notre Dame, Ohio State or Golf.
Twitter/Facebook — headline updates on FB and a quick scan of the twitter feeds I follow. Some of the artsy folk I follow post some hilarious stuff while I’m sleeping.
Weather Underground — a quick check of the weather where I am, where I want to be, and the fishing grounds off Destin, Fl.
Once I get to the office……
New York Times (physical paper) — all the news that’s fit to print.
Wall Street Journal (physical paper) — the greatest newspaper in America.
Now I’m ready to go to work !
Nov 2012 21
Just in time for the holidays here’s my reading list for 2012 (In roughly the order I read them). Items I especially liked are noted by “***”.
Boomerang — Michael Lewis
Back to Work — Bill Clinton
***Stealth of Nations — Robert Neuwirth
The Abbey — Chris Culver
***Guerrillapreneur — Mark Peterson
The Affair, Bad Luck & Trouble, Gone Tomorrow and Nothing to Lose — Lee Child
***The Corpse Walker — Liao Yiwu
***The History of the World in 100 Objects — The British Museum
The Drop — Michael Connelly
***Periodic Tales — Hugh Aldersey-Williams
The Game of Thrones — George R.R. Martin
Lie Spotting — Pamela Meyer
Kill Shot — Vince Flynn
***My Cross To Bear — Gregg Allman
Nightwoods — Charles Frazier
Tangled Up In Tunes — Howard Weiner
The Juice — Jay McInerney
***Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards — Al Kooper
This Wheel’s on Fire — Levon Helm
***Unbroken — Linda Hillenbrand
Solo — A Memoir of Hope — Hope Solo
Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail — Cheryl Strayed
***The Lower River — Paul Theroux
***Long Time Gone — David Crosby
***Snowdrops — A.D. Miller
The Essentials of Street Photography — James Maher
The Book of General Ignorance — John Lloyd & John Mitchinson
Assholes: A Theory — Aaron James
***John McAfee’s Last Stand — Joshua Davis
Nov 2012 21
This is a challenge post to get me to stop working and spend some time again on my blog. You asked for it (thanks Ryan) – my 10 essentials.
1) Filson Passage Tote Bag (www.filson.com) — THE bag I use to schlep stuff back and forth to the office, and as a carry-on briefcase while I travel. Just perfect – holds all my stuff and nearly indestructible.
2) Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic — my favorite condiment. Goes with everything. Try it, you’ll like it.
3) Leica D-Lux 5 camera – best $650 pocket camera on the market. Great optics, takes amazing photos, built like a tank. Fits in my jacket pocket so I actually carry it around with me (my apologies to my full size Nikon DSLR at home). My treasured discussions with photography great Elliott Landy make me wish I spent more time playing with this.
4) The Economist – fantastic British “newspaper” that really is all the news you need (without the train wreck drama and celebrity voyeurism of most US news). The iPad subscription is free when you get the magazine via snail mail.
5) Black Coffee — I have my favorites but generally I’m a fan of very strong and very dark. Essential that I have 2 cups in the morning before operating heavy equipment or engaging in human interaction. Be forewarned.
6) HP12c Calculator — has been and still is the gold standard of financial calculators. I have several, laying around, everywhere. I also have the iPhone version — don’t leave home without it.
7) American Whiskey — Guilty pleasure. I love whiskey, particularly American whiskey. And — I’m not too picky, I’ll drink what you have. That said, if I’m reaching for the top shelf my current favorites are Pappy 20 year and High West 21 year rye (I said I wasn’t picky, I didn’t say I couldn’t tell the good stuff from the great stuff !).
8) Live Music — gotta have it, gotta see it, will drop almost anything to make sure I get it.
2012 has been a good year — Allman Brothers (4), Tedeschi Trucks (3), Grace Potter, CS&N, John Hiatt, Dave Mason, Hot Tuna, Furthur (3), Tom Petty, The Eagles (2), Steve Winwood, Blues Traveler, My Morning Jacket, OAR, The Wood Brothers (2), Randall Bramblett (2). Oh yeah, local favs like Tom & Julie, Trevor Finlay and Lauren St Jane too…
PS — If you don’t know their music, Susan Tedeschi and Grace Potter are total badasses!
9) Sharpies — the duct tape of the desktop. Primary colors only please — black, blue and red!
10) Martin Guitars — I have too many guitars (well maybe not…) but my favorite is a Martin 000-28 Brazilian rosewood guitar that my bride gave me on my 50th birthday. Note: Eric Clapton isn’t scared of me.
Aug 2012 30
While looking for some documents in my (disastrous) home filing system a couple of days ago, I found a 10 year old memo I’d written to one of my officers asking for my definition of a good financial forecast.
“What I want out of you in a financial forecast is a credible projection that reflects current performance of the existing business — adjusted intelligently for future initiatives, market conditions and customer buying patterns not yet baked into the current run rates. And, after your financial forecast gets turned in and we discuss it, while I certainly understand you not having all the answers off the top of your head — I do expect that when an answer is produced it will incorporate considerable forethought, coherent and documentable analysis, and be an answer that everyone in your business unit management squadron will stay “in formation” around.”
Sounds pretty good to me still. Cheers. DC
Aug 2012 29
A little over 3 years ago two young men stopped me as I was walking into a local restaurant (they worked in an adjacent strip mall business and had apparently done some R&D). Despite some initial awkwardness, they politely told me they had a business plan they wanted to pursue and asked if I would spend a few minutes one day going over it with them. Unsure what this was really all about I had some reservations, but I admired their “chutzpah” so I gave them my business card and agreed to meet the following week.
They showed up at my office — on time — and hurriedly began pulling numerous small pieces of paper out of their pockets and started walking me through their idea (retail services business), their math, their research (product and location) their execution timetable and their financial needs. They also discussed the impediments to success, the controls they would use to minimize these risks, and the “learnings” they obtained in this same field while working for someone else that made them better prepared to succeed in this endeavor.
What they lacked in classic book smarts they more than made up for in hustle and street smarts. I also admired their energy and passion. As the saying goes “looks can be deceiving”, and I was frankly blown away by what these two guys had pulled together and thought through.
They needed $8,000 of start-up capital and were prepared to accept whatever terms I proposed. I’ve been blessed and I quickly reflected back on all the folks that had taken a chance on me. After this one conversation, I decided to make a bet on them. I gave them $10,000, took copies of their driver’s licenses as my “collateral”, shook their hands and made them look me in the eye and promise me three things:
— That I’d never have to chase them for payment
— That they’d never tell anyone where the funding came from, and
— That one day after they became successful they would they would remember this moment and do the same thing for someone else.
Next month these two guys will have paid back 100% of the loan in complete compliance with our loan terms. Hands down they are the easiest folks I do business with and its been a pleasure to see them build a business from the ground up. This really is the American Dream. Its nice to see it work. Congrats to J and D.
Find someone to take a chance on. Cheers. DC
PS — By the end of the year they will have 3 locations open — the 2 new ones funded by cash flows from the single initial storefront which we funded. Makes me smile.
Aug 2012 18
I spend a lot of time working with small businesses trying to help their leaders create a better tomorrow. For the most part I find this enjoyable – I get to work on interesting problems, with interesting people. Sometimes, however, I find it maddening — laden with drama, unresolved issues, protracted battles, terrible people management, poor oversight and sloppy governance practices. I need less of the latter and more of the former — so I’m making some new Rules for Doug.
1) I will not waste time with leaders who’s large egos prevent things getting better
2) I will not waste time with leaders who have low financial acumen
3) I will not waste time with leaders who want to “feel important” vs “be important”
4) I will not waste time with leaders who are not willing to genuinely embrace criticism
5) I will not waste time with leaders who advocate self-serving agendas
6) I will not waste time with leaders that agree to “x” but continue to do “y” in background
7) I will not waste time with leaders that have Mighty Mouse syndrome (“Here I Come to Save The Day!”)
There – now as Dan would often say – “onward and upward”. Cheers. DC
Jun 2012 09
I had the privilege of attending the Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC) this week in Washington, DC, an event I’ve enjoyed for the past several years (thanks to Dan & Chris). While (obviously) neither a Privacy Lawyer or a Scholar — I find this conference fascinating because of the smart folks that attend (present company excluded) and the sharp, thought-provoking dialog that takes place there. Like Las Vegas — what goes on at PLSC stays at PLSC, so this posting is not about the meetings, discussions and attendees. That said — as a commercial technology/data guy — I had a couple of thoughts about consumer privacy today in an on-line services, app intensive, big data world that I just want to pound out and put down on paper. I write like I talk – so deal with it.
Notice & Consent
A large part of today’s consumer privacy model is predicated on notice and consent. When a consumer considers agreeing to a use a product or service the company provides them “notice” of the service terms and privacy policies, and the consumer agrees to (“consents”) to these terms. The general idea is that with full disclosure, the consumer is smart enough to decide whether this bargain is a good one or not. If the consumer agrees then both parties are off to the races.
I think this model is broken for a plethora of reasons but I’m just going to highlight two:
Reason 1: Notice doesn’t work because disclosure and disclaimer masquerade as transparency.
The idea was you the service peddler, will tell me the consumer, how this works and what you’re going to do with my data — then I, the informed consumer, get to decide yea or nay. The notices now mostly consist of some benign primary and secondary uses and then drone on for paragraphs about potential other uses and partners — and then conclude with another set of paragraphs that essentially convey that the service provider can change their mind at any time, and do any other thing that they figure out is interesting or profitable at a later date. This may meet the notice and disclosure test but its a far cry from transparency.
Sometimes if the service provider’s changes are drastic enough they issue a “New Polices” notice to the consumer that requires a new consent. The Apple iTunes store agreement might be an example here — anyone ever really read this multi-page document anymore? I just want to buy and replay music and to download apps that I can use on my various devices. How many pages should this agreement really need to be?
Reason #2: The use of “consent’ in its present form is too inarticulate to actually memorialize the type of bargain that I as a consumer really want to make, or the actual bargain that the service provider is asking me to commit to.
Its one thing if “consent” is given in the context of a specific set of circumstances with a particular implied bargain. It’s quite a different thing if this means perpetual consent (now and forever), or derivative consent (to this bargain and any other ) or transferable consent (consent to the service provider and any of their partners and agents). The default is now just “consent” and in today’s world this is a very crude, very broad, very long-lived give away by a consumer.
Privacy Priorities for Tomorrow
So what should we do?
First, I think the notice and consent discussions should capitalize consent. It’s easy for a business to give notice (well – after all the lawyers finish layering in all the might be’s and CYA’s.) Those concerned with consumer privacy should focus on making consent more granular, with a half-life and with more thought on the “essence” of the consent, and the “edges” of the consent. Normal business agreements usually contain very clear description of what the parties are and are not getting, and what is not being given up or exchanged. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening well in the on-line consent world today because the universe of potential gives and takes is way too unbounded.
Secondly, I think notice and consent should start to take into account something beyond the type of data or the use of the data (the current regulatory metrics). Big Data gives vast data connectivity, data storage and data analysis that takes us well past the historical concerns of disclosure and purpose. During my working lifetime we’ve gone from data gathering -> data processing -> data insight -> data enlightenment. Big data makes the notion of consent more crucial because the context of consent is now so significant. Shouldn’t the type and endurance of my consent necessarily change with the throw weight of the impact of that decision?
With Big Data this isn’t just some namby pamby discussion of using my data for targeted advertising anymore — it’s now a discussion about real-time triangulating so much data about me that the level of enlightenment obtainable is almost beyond conceiving that I, or anyone else, would ever consent to it. Let’s throw medical records and social reading habits and physical location tracking into the mix and I might as well turn my entire life into a YouTube channel. Big data demands big consents — and the privacy community and regulatory grid likely needs to consider “degree of enlightenment” and “permanence of exposure” as factors in shaping the consents of tomorrow.
Thirdly, I think the business doctrine of “fairness” and “bargain” need more weighting in the notice and consent discussion. How fair or unfair is this bargain between the parties? We need to acknowledge that in most case the service provider is much better equipped to assess the bargain than the consumer is. Should we protect consumers from making grossly unfair privacy bargains — or even prohibit service providers from burying too many bargains within one broad agreement for service? Perhaps, the more unfair the bargain, the clearer the notice and the narrower the consent?
As someone once said to me “all boundaries are fuzzy and all containers leak”. That’s certainly true in today’s consumer app services privacy world.
There — I’m glad that’s done. Back to my day job.
PS. Dear “Privacy Posse” friends — I don’t think the privacy community needs to presume necessity of use when thinking about managing privacy. I think its OK to question why a practice or use should be allowable. I understand why there’s a focus on cost/benefit or economic/societal burden, but I think a privacy purist perspective is valuable too. After all, commerce is pretty good at adapting
May 2012 18
I’m sick of being asked whether I think Facebook (FB) is a good or a bad investment. So to put an end to the wondering, here goes — I think its a bad investment — here’s why.
1) Facebook used to be about ME. My page, My wall, My pictures, My friends, My likes. Now – its about everybody else (and more specifically everybody else’s friends). The updates I care about are impossible to find because FB curates them into some sort of buzz flow rather than sequential flow. My FB feeds also have so much news/stuff about “friends of my friends” that its almost like random walks through twitter, flickr and youtube. A diversion perhaps but certainly not essential — or even stuff that pertains just to me and my friends.
2) FB is fascinating when you first join — building a brand new view of you and your life, connecting with your relatives, your new friends, finding old friends — like discovering a batch of old holiday letters and photos you never opened but now can dive in on a quiet night and reflect on their lives, and your own. As time rolls on, seeing this weeks photo of your kid’s labrador, or watching a video about a cause you didn’t know about (and somehow have lived this long without caring about it anyway) it takes on a feeling somewhat like a chore. The 1000th time someone asks you to make your home page some political or religious message that they embrace, it even becomes downright annoying. Everything and everyone has a half life. FB does too and its passed it.
3) Information sources and platforms are getting narrower and more focused — FB is going the opposite (and wrong) direction. Think about the way you communicate and get communicated to. Emails vs text messaging/tweets. Newspapers vs news feeds. I don’t use Google to find articles about fishing — I use Google to find articles about salt water fly fishing in the upper gulf right now. Laser like focus with very tight content and expert circles. FB is now like sticking your head inside a blender of a swirling mass of all kinds of stuff – only a small percentage is interesting or personally relevant. And no — I don’t care that a friend of your friend found a video on skateboarding funny.
4) FB is financially supported by ads. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked on a FB ad. Maybe its generational I don’t know — GM apparently doesn’t think this is very powerful either as they just reportedly dropped a $10 million per year FB spend. My non-scientific poll of 20 somethings indicated they clicked on a FB ad “occasionally”. Sounds more like throwing darts at the stock page than having real insight or interest.
5) FB is valued at 100 times last years earnings. Really – and they already have 800 million active users! If 100 times earnings isn’t outrageous enough — how are they going to support this multiple, growth wise, going forward ?
FB was unique and is still semi-cool. I’m glad the founders and early investors are making some financial smack. Good for them. America’s a great place. But they’re selling — and selling BIG. That should tell you something too!
Don’t waste your money on Facebook. Cheers. DC