My Blog

Snacks are awesome to have around the office.  Not only do they promote generally healthy eating habits (if chosen correctly); they can actually be a good source of energy to ensure you stay at peak performance all day long.  In fact, at any given time, if you check my cabinets in the office, you are likely to find at least a few of the following:

  • Dry Roasted Almonds/Peanuts (or any nuts/trail mix for that matter)
  • Beef Jerkey
  • Breakfast/Granola Bars (e.g. Kashi, Nature Valley, belVita)
  • Peanut Butter Crackers (guilty pleasure)
  • Chips (the “healthy” kind like the baked ones, right?)
  • Mints/Gum (I know, no nutritional snack value, but at least I’m not chatting away with foul breath)

BUT – that doesn’t mean there aren’t some common courtesy ground rules.  If you work near others (or ever see others), make sure it doesn’t stink the place up.  Make sure it’s not messy.  Obviously, make sure you clean up after yourself.  And – be careful about what should or shouldn’t be shared.

As long as you use a bit of common sense, I think snacks are awesome.  Almost as awesome as the word snack.

Til Next Time,

Michael

Startups frustrate me. I think we (as Americans especially) have gotten way too complacent with the perception that, given a few simple pre-requisites, there is an assumed ability to create a company from scratch and quickly work our way to profitability within a very short period of time. The thought that we can just take someone who’s good at X, place them with someone who’s good at Y, and let them all roll under the boss who’s good at Z and end up -voila- with a good foundation is simply asinine to me.

As my rant for the day, here’s a short list of the reasons I am generally (but certainly not always) anti-startup:

  • Many times, they don’t solve a real problem (“Man, have you ever wanted a necktie made totally out of carbon fiber? That would be SO COOL!”)
  • The business cases and ROI models are unrealistic (“I think if we can get $200k to hyper accelerate production, we can sell a million units this year and be cash flow positive in 9 months”)
  • Supply chain is extremely complicated but often assumed to be easy (“Surely we can get someone to manufacture our shirts for $1 apiece; can’t we just get the materials from overseas?”)
  • Good advertising/PR is very tough to pull off while being genuine and avoiding straight self-promotion (“Hey Facebook! I know we haven’t talked in a while but you should totally buy my AWESOME keychain for $5! Portion of proceeds benefit the save-the-polar-bears project!”)
  • Working harder instead of working smarter doesn’t always produce the best results (“Phew, we worked sooooo many hours this month, our company MUST be better for it”)

Alas, I could go on for days. But I won’t. I really don’t loathe the startup mentality. But I do think we as a society have recently gotten a bit too generous with our funding of wild startup initiatives.

Til Next Time,
Michael

RoadToTheRoster_23_1200x800

Just a fair warning: I’ll probably let soccer take over my blog a bit during the World Cup.  As of yesterday, Jurgen Klinsmann announced the final roster.  What do you think of it?  Was keeping Donovan off a big deal to you?  He never did much for me so I’m kind of glad to see a roster spot opened up for new young bucks.

I’m pumped either way – just over three weeks (23 days) til kickoff in Brazil!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Lately, I’ve gotten intrigued by penny stocks. My dad had me look a couple up and I decided to invest in a few. And it’s been a really eye-opening experience. While I don’t personally have much by way of practical experience with finance or banking, it has always been something I am extremely interested in. The level of exposure you get to senior leadership in a penny stock is unparalleled. When you call as an investor, you usually get a call back. I also think it’s a really good way to learn more about how business works. I’ve been fortunate to be in a position in my career to see a lot of facets of how companies operate. I still learn new things every day, even in my dealings with my portfolio of pennies. Digging into the financial statements and press releases from smaller-cap companies really helps put perspective around how a company’s bottom line (and, hence, share price) can be impacted by certain events or shortcomings.

I’ll keep you posted on whether any of my pennies turn into dollars. In the mean time, I’d recommend taking a look at some small-cap stocks (or some true “penny stocks”) and start to figure out how they work. The amount you will learn from simply researching a new company, a new industry, or a new technology, is always worth the time.

Til Next Time,
Michael

For those of you who know me well, you know I am not entirely allergic to buzzwords. The beginning of my career was spent in an industry entirely created off the prevalence of buzzwords and the ability to try to integrate them into colloquial dialogue. At points, I will admit that I have been the worst offender. That doesn’t make it right though. Either way – a recent buzzword (read: trend) I have seen start to show itself more than ever is “big data”. What does that even mean? Sure, on the surface, it’s easy to conceptualize the fact that we are creating “data” at a rate exponentially greater than any point in history. But beyond that, how have we just come to accept that some term like “big data” is the “next big thing”? To me, it seems as though a lot of people are asleep at the wheel waiting for someone else to make sense of it all. I’m obviously a huge proponent of algorithms, analysis, and a properly researched-function. Chasing this unicorn called “big data” though, is a bit of a stretch for me.Here’s why I’m worried about “big data”:

  • Most data is not static and hence running analyses on data at any given point in time is nearly useless by the time it is prepared for actual use or consumption (times are always changing)
  • There has not been a large enough focus on creating sound hypotheses and developing use cases for targeted research into data
  • People have adapted the tendency of blindly choosing disparate systems and independent data sources to tie together, rendering original hypotheses void in many cases (if those hypotheses even exist)
  • Critical assumptions are often made in order to allow the data to tie more appropriately, and those shortcuts are often unfounded or improper in my estimation
  • Data scientists are at least a little bit “out there” by nature (Have you met any of them? They’re a tad “out there”, no?) which leads to a lot of spinning wheels

Think about it: does the fact that I sometimes wear Allen Edmonds shoes really make me any more prone to like Jennifer Aniston movies and long walks on the beach? Maybe it does (actually, in this case, it really might – so what?). Maybe I’m wrong. I do love the fact that Amazon can tie my recent order history to things that other people have purchased (and, in other cases, remind me when it’s time to buy some more cheap-o burner sunglasses for the pool). But that’s not as much an exercise in “big data” as much as it is targeted correlation of individual purchase history habits.

Who knows – either way, I’m not going to kill the “big data” movement. I just wish people would be a little more serious about what it all means and how we could best try to target real solutions with it.

Til Next Time,
Michael

In any organization, culture may be the single most important element to determining whether there is an opportunity for long term success. Without a strong culture, the employees of a given company are merely transient work bodies that check in when the job begins, do their work, and check out when the job ends. That is why I have always held that the number one trademark of any strong company is its culture and its people. But “culture” is no small feat to “create”. In fact, I don’t even support the idea that culture can necessarily be created. That would imply that time, money, or other resources could procure culture at a faster pace than it evolving organically. To me, the very key component of culture is the way it is created organically through interpersonal communication and interaction over time. Years and years of events in many cases are the only thing that can instill a strong sense of culture in a group of individuals. And that’s something that can’t be fast-tracked.

That’s just my “caution” for the day: you can’t be in a race to create or improve culture. Sure, you can augment the end product with certain things like increasing the frequency of community events, happy hours, or other fun non-work activities. You will never be able to create it overnight though. And that’s really tough for the bottom-liners to understand. But it’s true. So it’s up to the rest of us to do our part to help in the incubation and adoption of a positive work culture.

Til Next Time,
Michael


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