The Things People Say

Back in New York after a whirlwind tour…good to be home!

When I landed at JFK my assistant had managed to persuade the officer in charge of the Global Entry Program I had enrolled in (which allows ‘trusted travelers’ to clear immigration via an electronic kiosk using fingerprints) to schedule my approval interview 45 minutes after we landed! Usually you’re told when to show up and have to schlep back out to Kennedy. But she established a human connection with him, and the officer was a thorough gentleman. We also found we share a birthday! 20 minutes and it was done…it’ll be fun to try out when we return from London next week.

Warren Buffet feels that the Administration is trying to do too many things and suggested the economy had plunged off a cliff over the last six months.

An interesting distinction has been drawn. No one is expecting the Administration to be alchemists turning base metal into gold. What people are clamoring for is clarity on game-plan and focus. I remember stating early on in this Blog and my newsletter, the need for a debated and agreed dashboard, with frequent progress checks against it. The need for that is now becoming ever more palpable…and urgent.

A representative of a fund called me relative to a business expansion we’re planning. We had said ‘no thanks’ to them, but he insisted on speaking to me personally. He said they wanted to fund our expansion but on what seemed to be curious terms. It didn’t, to me, pass the ‘sniff test’. And for us, it IS an expansion…not a bail-out, so we’re not pressed. Rather than figuring that out, assuming (or perhaps hoping) we were desperate for their funding, he tried an amateurish and condescending ‘hard sell’. Five minutes talking to me would have established it was absolutely the worst way to pitch me. He then suggested that no one else would fund us (nothing like insinuating you and your plans are hopeless — leading you then to wonder what ‘death wish’ is impelling them to so aggressively try to land the deal themselves!), and we’d come crawling back to him (not in so many words, but that was the import), and he’d then have (ominous drum roll please!) ‘new terms’.  So he’d punish us for looking around and thinking about it!! Post Madoff and the debacles on the Street, this chest-pounding neanderthal is resolutely off-base if he thinks that anyone is going to tie any part of their financial destiny to an unknown ‘fund’ without taking a comprehensive look at options — including in our case, the option to postpone expansion for a year and stick to our knitting if we so choose.

I mention this last only to highlight that the worst thing you can do is attempt to browbeat people into doing business with you…at any time, but especially now. Truly become their trusted advisor, and help them evaluate and learn whether you are actually the right answer for them, or not. You’ll either get the business or you won’t. But you’ll definitely get the relationship, and in the longer term, I’ll lay odds you’ll do more business with them as well…or have another zealous brand referee, or the source of a truly warm referral.

Jon Stewart has been raking CNBC over the coals again for their bloviating excess in the recent past, hyping the bubble and its distortions. They’ve been flailing around trying to respond, demonstrating that the role of ‘court jester’ has never been more powerful…or needed right now. Stewart pointed out the obvious. His is a comedy show, so asking him for better economic predictions (as MSNBC host Joe Scarborough did) as if that’s a relevant gauntlet, only demonstrates the depth of confusion prevailing in parts of that network. But hey, it’s made for an interesting set of exchanges and the financial ‘gurus’ at CNBC are treading far more lightly as a result.

Citibank announced a multi-billion dollar profit for the first two months of ’09…this sent global markets upwards in a frenzied tizzy, just as Mr. Madoff was showcased as possibly being given a 150 year sentence. Watch out for many more roller coaster swings in the financial markets until a new normal is re-set. Time for businesses and indivduals everywhere to redefine ‘value’ and ‘success’ and ‘priorities’, possibly also ‘ethics’ and ‘character’.  The inflection point is HERE!