Marketing, Sales and Management (and being President)


These are three essential parts of all businesses. The smaller ones may have one or two people wearing these hats, where larger ones have teams of people who do these functions well. It should be noted, that each function has to be managed, yet the skill sets that make someone extremely capable in one function may not translate well to another. Because the job demands are different, the person may not like doing that new function, which causes them not to do it well.

In fact, business is littered with failures when a company moves a successful person into a different role. Often, a company will take a very successful sales person and move them into management of the sales function. It is not uncommon for this change to fail for the person and company. The person would much rather be selling and making more money with commissions and bonuses than managing others. Or, they may just enjoy the interaction with others and the “winning” feeling that occurs when a sale is made. Managing others to do well, does not have that same uplifting experience for many sales people.

The opposite can occur in management. I have seen capable managers who do not thrive in the sales process. The pace, the juggling, the many “no’s” and the constant follow-up and schmoozing, may not be their cup of tea. I have seen many managers (and Presidents of companies), who should never be let near customers or clients.

I worked for a company who had a CEO who was so overbearing and egotistical, that he went to call on the President and CFO of a major client without telling the client manager – a huge sin. Our President was so offensive, he got into an escalating argument with their CEO over useless competitiveness. After he left, the CEO told his CFO who managed the relationship to “fire them.” So, it mattered not we were doing a good job for the client, we were fired.

Marketing is the same way as it differs from sales. It has many functions within its domain, including brand image, brand analysis, and advertising. One of the best examples of marketing success I can think of is the decision to market Alka-Seltzer. What is not known, is although now sold in pairs, only one Alka-Seltzer tablet is needed to cure your stomach ache. Yet, when coming up with an ad-campaign, the song “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is,” was crafted. The marketing effort doubled the sales of Alka-Seltzer tablets. * A successful manager or sales person, may not be as successful in a marketing role, as it creates a different set of skills within the function.

The reason I am writing this today is we have a Presidential campaign with a man who is a very successful salesperson and brand market leader and a woman who has significant experience and competence in leading and governing. The salesman has numerous examples of failed management experiences where he has sold ideas he should not have sold and has actually misrepresented or overstated the potential success to the buyer. Unfortunately, people and other businesses have been hurt by these misrepresentations.

The manager has a track record of making things happen and delivering on commitments to people. Per the stories told by her husband and others who have known her, competence, collaborating and compromising have all been baked in her DNA and she makes it work by doing her homework, as self professed policy wonk. She will make the better President as she understands the job and knows it involves others in the governance process. On the flip side, he wants to win, but there are many signals that he may not want the job. I think he knows he does not have the temperament, patience or skill sets needed to do the job of President.

Let me close with a story a good friend and salesman told me about his mentor who had a thick Cajun accent. His mentor was a highly successful salesman who was heavily compensated on initial sales and less on recurring or renewal business. Although, he cared about recurring clients, he was more motivated by first time sales. So, he often misrepresented commitments just to make the sale. When my friend said we cannot do what you just said to the new customer, the mentor said, “I know, but we got the ‘oi-der'” which was his Cajun way of saying “order.”

There are many reason not to vote for Donald Trump, but I want people to think of this example. Trump wants to win the “oi-der” and he does not want all the other stuff that comes with it. He won’t do that part very well. On the flip side, I will use the phrase I used when I defined a very good consultant who did not knock your socks off in a sales meeting – “she is the kind of person, whose proposal you may not accept, but she is the person you will want to be married to.” That defines Hillary Clinton, who will make a very good President, as she works at it and knows the job.

 

*This comes from Malcom Gladwell’s collection of articles he wrote and compiled in a book called “What the Dog Saw.”

 

Michael Bloomberg gives an independent, well-versed endorsement

There have been many great speeches at the Democratic National Convention that support Hillary Clinton for the White House. While the President gave an excellent speech, for sheer presentation and meaning, his wife and Vice President may have upstaged him. The candidate’s husband did an excellent job as well in telling her history of passion and work around remedying social injustice. Yet, the most effective speech may have been by Independent voter and former Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg knows both candidates very well and made a very compelling story of why we should be voting for Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump. He knows Clinton most from her work as a New York Senator where she relentlessly championed securing benefits and protections for the 9/11 victims and responders. He went on to add other reasons, but I wanted to highlight this one.

As for Trump, he told a history littered with screwing people over leaving contractors and small businesses high and dry, as Trump exited unprofitable relationships with his money and left others without much payment. Many of these contractors and partners had to close their businesses, as a result. Bloomberg also noted Trump left a trail of thousands of law suits, where some of these contractors tried to recapture what they were owed.

Bloomberg noted he also knows a thing about business with his successful Bloomberg News, but he did not start with a $1 million loan from his father like Trump did. He went on to share other exploitive business practices of the GOP candidate, but was not high on Trump’s business skills or ethics. Bloomberg said, in essence, he is a New Yorker and he knows a con job when he sees it.  Bloomberg added Trump said he would run the country like he runs his business. If that were the case, “God help us.”

He noted that Clinton has far more experience, credibility and understanding of what it takes to be President. She is very prepared for the job. He urged us to vote for the “sane and competent” candidate in Hillary Clinton. Given his Independent voter status and personal working knowledge of both, I think his opinion matters.

 

Beliefs equal facts per the GOP

At last week’s Republican Convention, the big loser was accuracy and factual data. Why let the facts get in the way of your story? If you want to scare the hell out of folks and tell everyone how bad things are and that you alone are the man and group to fix such problems, then why should facts interfere with that narrative? The problem is what was presented is largely at odds with the truth. I ask people who tell me how bad things are by asking a simple question, what country are you talking about?

John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” broadcast on Sunday shows the several bald-faced lies that were told by the convention speakers, including their nominee. The fact the nominee lied is not news as he has broken all records for lying in a campaign dating back to when fact checkers started measuring comments. What turned out to be the most fascinating conversation was an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is portrayed as the most serious and knowledgeable GOP spokesperson.

During the interview, the reporter challenged him when he said violent crime is up in America. The reporter said the data clearly shows a decline over the last twenty-five years. Gingrich refused to concede that, but the reporter kept insisting. She gave him an out saying there are a couple of large cities where it has gone up the past year and he seized that, but she reiterated it has clearly declined over time. Gingrich then said people believe it to be higher and I will leave the data to the liberals and media. “As a politician, beliefs are more important,” said Gingrich. Unfortunately, he was not the only person to say he believed something over facts, so in so doing it must make it true.

As Oliver pointed out, it does not work that way. You cannot substitute your beliefs for facts and think everything is alright. You can believe all you want that climate change is a hoax and even make it more colorful as The Donald does adding it is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. But, it remains a huge problem we must deal with.

Let me offer a few facts in rebuttal to the story painted at the GOP convention.

  • America’s economy is actually doing pretty well, especially related to the rest of the world. The stock market has more than doubled under Obama, unemployment is down to under 5%, 10 million plus net jobs have been created on his watch and we are currently on the 5th (soon to be 4th) longest economic growth period ever in the US.
  • In 2015, the US sold more US made cars than ever before, beating the previous record, ironically, when Bill Clinton was President.
  • The rest of the world still respects the US as we have higher ratings than when Obama took the reins from Bush. Our reputation had fallen with the WMD story. By the way, the British just completed their review of the Iraq invasion story and were highly critical of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush. We have chosen to investigate Benghazi ad nauseam rather than the WMD issue.
  • The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and needs improvements, but is working pretty well with over 20 million new insureds and slower cost growth than before it was implemented.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has penalized banks, credit card companies and pay-day lenders over $11 Billion for aggressive and fraudulent marketing practices, with over 90% of that money going to cheated consumers. Consumers benefit, but GOP legislators hate this program. By the way, Senator Elizabeth Warren played a strong role in its passage and implementation.

I could go on, but we are in a much better place than was told last week. Yes, we have things to improve upon such as the declining middle class and increased poverty which have occurred over the last forty years and we must have better dialogue around race and violence issues, as well as gun governance, but America is not going to hell in a hand basket. And, even if it were, The Donald is the absolute worst person to be given keys to the car. His track record is one of great salesmanship, but poor management.

So, please ask questions of politicians and don’t let them off the hook if they say they believe it to be so. Show me your data.

 

Shoot straight with coal miners

I truly feel sorry for coal miners. They do a very hard, dirty and dangerous job in an industry that is in decline. Many are losing their good paying jobs as the industry continues to go downhill as other industry sources replace this source.

They are being promised things that politicians will have a hard time keeping. And, they have been told such promises for years. Leaders need to shoot straight with these hard working men and women. Frankly, I fault their Senators, Congressional Representatives and Governors for not shooting straight as what has been happening has been known for several years.

Coal has been on the decline for several years, primarily due to the fracking boom which produced increasingly cheaper natural gas. The gas burns cleaner than the coal, although it has its own issues. But, the lower production costs caused utilities to switch their coal-fired plants to natural gas. Plus, they do not have to maintain coal ash for many years in the future, even after the plant stops producing electricity.

The next wave became the movement to more renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass. Solar and wind energy continue to plummet in price and are comparable to coal in cost. Yet, these renewable energy sources don’t have the additive long term costs of maintaining coal ash sites, health costs that coal burning creates and the environmental costs of acquisition and transport. Plus, there is ongoing litigation risk, which TVA and Duke Energy are witnessing in spades.

Finally, the concept of a “virtuous cycle” enters in. With solar and wind energy, energy need not be created to produce electricity. With coal and natural gas, energy must be expended through burning to create steam out of water to turn the turbines which turn the electromagnets to create electricity. This less virtuous cycle costs money, which means over time the efficiency of renewable energy will be greater. So, a company may not invest in a coal-fired plant, as it will eventually become less cost-effective. This will be heightened further by improved battery storage and long term, if clean nuclear fusion can be accomplished in large scale, following small scale success in the last two years.

What this means is coal miner jobs will continue to decline and they won’t  be coming back. With climate change, the need to move is great. Unfortunately for these workers, coal is not the future answer. Yet, the leaders in these states should have communicated this a few years ago and worked to get money for retraining and new industries. To me, they have been derelict in their duties. One Presidential candidate has said he will bring those jobs back, which is a false promise. On the flip side, the other party has said let’s focus on retraining and new industries. Bernie Sanders even proposed a bipartisan bill in the Senate to do just that.

On a positive note, the sister and brother-in-law of a coal miner are teaching several displaced coal miners how to computer program. It started small, but has grown with the increasing need and additional funding. The program is appropriately called “Mined Minds.” This is the kind of investment in our coal miners that is needed, as those jobs are going away. Now, the leaders need to step in and do what they should have done a few years ago. It is time to shoot straight with these hard working men and women.

 

 

 

 

Borrowing from Garfunkel and Webb

After breaking up with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel sang a beautiful song written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote several of Glen Campbell’s hits (“Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”), The 5th Dimension’s “Beautiful Balloon,” and “MacArthur Park,” which was a huge hit in the 1970s as sung by the actor Richard Harris.

The song is called “All I Know.” The first stanza is as follows:

I bruise you, you bruise me
We both bruise too easily
Too easily to let it show

I love you and that is all I know

This song is intended as a love song between two people who often fight and have hurt feelings as a result. But, I would like to use this stanza as a metaphor for relationships between all of us in civil society that have gone awry.

We are too easily bruising each others’ feelings. We are also taking offense too easily, when we should not or should listen to hear rather listen to react. I was highly disappointed with the tenor of the most recently concluded political convention, when hateful remarks were the norm and not the exception. I am hoping that the one next week will be the antithesis.

As an independent voter, I don’t care if someone is conservative on a viewpoint or liberal. What I found is many people have a mixture of opinions. To this point, Ivanka Trump told the GOP audience she is an independent voter. And, she like me joins many unaffiliated Americans.

Yet, what I do not like is the lack of civil discourse and use of information which is not steeped in facts. The latter is a key reason I religiously check the two fact checking organizations summaries. But, let me set that aside for now and get back to the civil discourse.

I do not agree with everything the politicians or parties support. My disagreement may be material or it may be in emphasis. For example, the President has done a commendable job, but I am disappointed that he did not move forward on the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee’s report, he tends to like the use of drones where we need more governance, while he has moved the ball forward on climate change he is too fond of fracking, and he did not collaborate more with a highly uncollaborative and obstinate Congress, e.g.

What I can tell you is neither party has all of the solutions and sometimes are not asking the right questions. Neither party should be smug that their way is the only way or even the right way, especially with funding that fuels their opinions. Again, I don’t mind a conservative or liberal view, but let’s work off the right data and do so civilly, respecting each other’s opinions. And, let’s work with real solutions and not what easily fits on a bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are not policy, they are advertisements.

The debt is a huge problem. Climate change is a huge problem. Water resources are a huge problem. Poor gun governance is a huge problem. Poverty is a huge problem as is the declining middle class. Civil rights for all citizens, especially those most disenfranchised, are lacking in too many places. Infrastructure needs are paramount and fixing them will create jobs. Terrorism is important, but combatting it must be holistic and involve all of us.

Building actual and proverbial walls are not the answers. We must reach out to each other and solve these problems as the diverse Americans we are. No American is more American than the next. And, no less, either. So, let’s civilly discuss the issues.

The more he talks the scarier he gets

Now that the Republican Party has officially nominated a bigoted, xenophobic, thin-skinned narcissist, it is imperative that America gives this candidate a full vetting. I have said multiple times that Donald Trump’s lack of veracity as a candidate is in his history and it is not hard to find.

He has made his fortune by exploiting people for money. His sales skills have allowed him to get his money, but he has often left others high and dry through multiple bankruptcies, failed businesses and getting out of deals before they went south. The number of lawsuits that he has  settled are significant as a result as well as the line of unpaid contractors.

The three Trump University class action lawsuits are a microcosm of why he is a poor candidate. He is charged with alleged misrepresentation and aggressive marketing to strong arm money from students and seminar attendees.

But, what bothers me most is his selling of his name to developers where he has nothing to do with the development. He receives royalties while the developer charges unaware buyers more money. I find this exploitive and somewhat unethical. Either way, he is participating in a scheme to gain profit from unsuspecting buyers who are paying a premium for the Trump name.

Yet, let’s set that aside and just consider what a Trump presidency would entail based on his history and campaign positions and comments.

  • Our. NATO allies have now been given reason to question our commitment to them with Trump’s position clarified this week that money comes first then protection.
  • He is OK with all countries having nuclear weapons including Saudi Arabia.
  • He supports Brexit which has been criticized by financial experts as dilutive to future growth and may lead to Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK.
  • He advocates going after terrorist families and water boarding, the former of which is unconstitutional and the latter of which is not only ineffective, but the CIA has said they will not do again since Bush/ Cheney hung them out to dry.
  • He has ostracized Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, women and disabled people.
  • His tax plan has been measured by the Tax Foundation to increase the debt of $19 trillion by $12 trillion over  the next 10 years.
  • He has dismissed Climate Change as a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs.
  • He has said there is no drought problem in California which is news to them and is counter to the #1 global risk of water loss per the World Economic Forum.
  • His party is against reasonable gun governance, so without change there is little he can do to stop motivated lone gunmen in mass shootings.
  • His hateful and bigoted comments have given license to hate groups to feel more empowered and per five retired generals and two former CIA directors, he has endangered America.
  • His healthcare plan would cause 20 million uninsureds, may cause a recession in my view and be very harmful to people in poverty and just above.
  • His thin skin and ego have revealed he does not have the temperament or judgment to be commander in chief says another retired general among many others.

And, per an article by Rodrigo Campos for Reuters:

“A Trump presidency ‘would not be good for markets at all,’ because of the uncertainty among investors about his true priorities, said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of multi-asset strategies and solutions at Voya Investment Management in New York.”

i mention this last item as he is supposed to be reassuring to the markets, but brings more uncertainty. This uncertainty is the best word to define the risk of Donald Trump as President.

 

A little context on safety

Last night’s Republican National Convention focused on keeping America safe. This is an enviable goal, but while bashing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on Benghazi and terrorism, three key points were missing as context.

First, while we have eight Congressional committee efforts to get to the bottom of Benghazi, at no time was it discussed that a GOP-led Congress cut funding for embassy security the previous summer. But, more importantly, why have we not investigated information that supported the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) claim that led to an invasion of Iraq which has killed 1,000 times more Americans than Benghazi not to mention many allied troops and Iraqi citizens?

This is even more important when it should be noted a member of Vice President Dick Cheney ‘s team named Scooter Libby went to jail for outing a CIA operative named Valerie Plame. The reason is her husband Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was asked to do reconnaissance on a source of WMDs. He found no such link, but his information was intentionally misused. When Wilson wrote an op-ed piece countering this, Libby leaked Plame’s CIA cover to discredit him which is a crime.

Per the last committee’s findings, there was agreement with the findings of a report done two months after Benghazi occurred which was prepared by Admiral Mike Mullens and Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering. There are things that could have been done better with Benghazi, but eight committees worth of investigation seems highly disproportionate. And, as Speaker of the House candidate Kevin McCarthy revealed last fall that the purpose of the taxpayer-funded committees was to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Second, as I have written about before, I am having a hard time reconciling the GOP’s NRA influenced pro gun stance with making us safer. Like many Americans, unless we improve gun governance, I see very little that can be done to stop motivated lone gunmen. In multiple surveys, a significant majority of all Americans and a majority of Republican voters agree with the following steps. We must not allow the sale of weapons to people on a no-fly terrorist watch list. We need background checks on every gun sale transaction. We need extended waiting periods to allow time for the background checks and due to the number one reason for gun deaths in America being suicide.

In my view, a candidate can talk until he is blue in the face about stopping mass shootings, but until we have better gun governance, it is all talk. There is not much any President can do to otherwise stop these shootings except involving the various communities in being watchdogs and reinforcing police and investigative efforts. And, we should not alienate groups of Americans, as we all have a role in seeing less violence. No American subgroup is more American than another or less for that matter.

Third, with respect to the GOP candidate, he has already made us less safer with his campaign rhetoric and he isn’t even President. Who says this? Five retired generals and two former CIA directors, of different political parties, have all said that Trump’s comments have been a recruiting brochure for ISIS. One of these former directors, Michael Hayden has noted the danger a Trump Presidency would hold. He went further to say that much of what Trump professes is ill-advised and goes against our ideals and some of which is unconstitutional. And, one of the most effective commercials against Trump is from a sixth retired general who says Trump does not have the “temperament or judgment” to be Commander-in-Chief.

So, being safe is an enviable goal. We just need some context as to what that really looks like. And, as a final sidebar, we do not need to hear from Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani about being safe, as his comments over the past few weeks have been not only off base, but inflammatory toward race relations in America. His comments are in-keeping with divisive comments of his friend The Donald.