72 posts categorized "leadership"

October 03, 2013

Hobby Lobby: The Intersection of Belief and Business

Hobby_lobby

Hobby Lobby finds itself amidst controversy again this year when, allegedly, some frontline workers expressed some sort of rejection of or indifference towards the business of Jews. 

I've never looked into it, but I can imagine that Hobby Lobby probably attracts people who identify as Christian, just by reputation of the company. However, I wonder if there is a corporate culture that endeavors to teach how Christian principles meet everyday management and interaction with non-Christians. The Bible tells Christians to spread the Good News to all nations, but even as a company that (probably) attracts Christians, what mechanisms do they put in place to provide spiritual guidance to their workers to do that? How does that intersect with what they lawfully can do?

(As far as I know, Hobby Lobby does not discriminate against people for unlawful reasons. The above is conjecture concerning who they probably attract.)

The failure of Hobby Lobby in this case isn't about selling things for Hanukkah -- lots of companies don't sell Hanukkah stuff -- it's about teaching its people how to interact with honest, hardworking people, willing to spend money, who have a simple, unassuming question -- or even those who set out to trap or embarrass them.

The corporate office seems to "get" that the original interaction was flawed. Now we get to see what they do about it.

Photo credit: Fan of Retail 

December 06, 2012

Appeal to Their Virtues: A Christmas-Season Reflection on Modern Marketing

Sex sells, many say. 

And they're right. Also big sellers: gluttony (of a particular type), sloth, envy, pride and the rest of the seven deadly sins. But sustainable commerce isn't going to belong to those who market to our vices, but those who appeal to our virtues.

This is not to say that we are a virtuous people. A trip to Walmart on Black Friday would strongly suggest that we fall quite short of that standard. However depraved we really are, each of us likes to think we subscribe to some sort of higher calling

There are two ways acheive this in advertising and marketing: 

  1. Encourage bad behavior and lead people to believe it is good
  2. Encourage good behavior 

Of the two, only the second option is sustainable. While necessary to communicate how a product or service advances the audience's self-interests, it's the relationship between that interest and a higher calling that keeps self-interest from devolving into envy and gluttony, which affect not only by the private market, but also public politics. 

When it comes to commerce, every person is a hedonist, and every company is a narcissist.

In practical terms, this means that everyone is more receptive to products and services that A) reduce pain or B) increase pleasure, and every company markets to them in a way that belies a belief that they deserve more attention (Why else would they advertise?).

What are you selling?

  • If your livelihood depends on people buying your brand of beer, are you selling beer, or are you selling a responsible community?
  • Are you need people to buy trucks, are you selling power steering, or are you selling freedom to traverse vast distances to maintain familial relationships? Or are you selling the appreciation that comes when a friend takes an entire day to help his friends move?

As marketing budgets are shifted over the next few years from traditional to digital (including social media), it's useful to ponder what sort of company people will want to listen to regularly, and what sort of things they'll want to hear. Will it be endless promotions? Or will it be information and advice on how they can become better, more worthwhile people?

"I would rather have it said 'he lived usefully' than 'he died rich.'" - Benjamin Franklin

- Cam Beck

 

October 07, 2011

What is Ford?

 

I've been actively considering a new car purchase for about a month now. Back when I was only anticipating this time to come, I considered Ford a strong candidate for a new car. First of all, their cars have simply improved. As far as quality goes, they've come a long way since S&P downgraded its credit to "junk" status in 2006. The "Bold Moves" campaign, while not one of their more memorable, gave us a glimpse into their advertising and PR push they've been doing since then, up to their very wise hiring of former Crayonista Scott Monty in 2008 and their use of Dirty Jobs frontman, Mike Rowe, as their spokesperson.

They made me a believer.

Consequently, I've been looking for an excuse to buy a Ford since they turned down the auto bailout to make their own way, so when their recent campaign to spotlight the testimonies of Ford owners who were critical of those who took the bailout, it really resonated with me.

Though no one at Ford will confirm it, some reports say that the White House put pressure on Ford to remove the ads. That bothers me. It bothers me a lot. But Ford's response, and the information that's come to light since then bothers me, too.

The focus of the ads is a moral one. The people giving their testimony clearly favor Ford on moral grounds.

Ford didn't take the money. The other guys did.

Implied in this treatment is a moral case for making your own way and not asking the taxpayers to foot their bill. That may make some people uncomfortable, but it was exactly what I was thinking. And the ads were popular, so I wasn't the only one.

Now... I did remember that they were right in the mix of the Congressional hearings during the bailout talks about the auto industry being "too big to fail," but when they withdrew, I wanted to believe they had second thoughts because they knew they shouldn't be asking in the first place. The cost for such assistance was too high.

As it turns out, though, they made the decision for business reasons. They supported the bailout in principle, which is to say, morally. They just thought their chances for success were better if they didn't accept the bailout. They supported it for their rivals getting it.

So why would they run ads that celebrate their "principled stand" when it wasn't anything more than the same self-interest that their competitors were using in their case?

I still need to get a car... And I can no longer select Ford on principle. There is no principle to defind. Consequently, I'll buy a Ford only if they have the best car for what I'm willing to spend. 

February 03, 2011

Call Your Game. Play to Win.

Mike-tomlin At the recent AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers, near the end of the game, the Steelers clung to a narrow lead and faced 3rd down with 6 yards to go. The Jets were out of timeouts, but there were 2 minutes left in the game. Should the Steelers not convert in that situation, the Jets would be hard-pressed to march down the field on the NFL's best defense to score the touchdown they would need to win and advance to the Super Bowl. Conventional wisdom (as articulated by the announcers of the game) was to run the ball, eat as much time off the clock as possible, punt and let the Jets try its hand against that stout defense with just over a minute left to play.

It was a pretty good bet, all things considered, but a risk either way. Their punter had a kick nearly blocked earlier in the game, and quite frankly, he hadn't exactly been booming his kicks since he joined the team earlier in the season when their original punter was injured. A long punt return -- even for a score (which was the ruin of several Steelers games last season) -- wasn't out of the question.

A first down, on the other hand, would enable the Steelers to safely kneel down on the ball, and the Jets would be powerless to stop the clock. A first down meant the game would be over, but it was unlikely that the Steelers could get a first down by running the ball, since the Jets were stacking up to stop the run. An incomplete pass would stop the clock. For all intents and purposes, it would have been a free time out for the Jets. 

The Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was not having a picture-perfect game, having barely completed half of his passes on the evening. It was no sure thing that he'd complete a pass or have the presence of mind to take a sack instead of making a risky throw against a very good defense. 

But when it came time to decide what to do at that critical moment, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't hesitate. He did not vacillate. "Call your game, BA," he said to his offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, who called a pass play that, in conjunction with some improvisation by the offense on the field, picked up a first down that sealed the game for the Steelers.

Had the pass been intercepted, or left enough time on the clock for the Jets to run down the field and score, Steelers fans around the world may still be calling for the head of Tomlin. Had the Steelers run the ball, punted and left the game to the defense, no matter what the outcome was, sports pundits would openly wonder if Tomlin lacked the guts to risk losing in order to put the game away.

Now, we have a tendency to measure success based on outcomes, and as such, it's easy to look at that game in hindsight, knowing full well the Steelers are going to their 3rd Super Bowl in 6 years and say that it was a smart move. Gutsy, even. But there's something the certainty of hindsight that makes us forget the loneliness of leadership.

Having observed Tomlin in action, I feel like I know enough to say that, had they let that 24-point lead they once had slip away to defeat, he would have simply said, "That was my decision. If you want to blame someone, blame me. I don't apologize for it. I'd do it again in the same situation." And he'd have plenty of evidence from his team's capabilities to supply such confidence, regardless of the outcome. But evidence doesn't necessarily stop the critics. That's what makes them critics.

A fond farewell

I bring this up today because I've recently decided to say goodbye to my friends and colleagues at Click Here and The Richards Group, with whom I've been fortunate to work with for nearly 7 years, to offer my user experience (UX) skills to the bright folks at Slingshot.

Though sad to leave the place I've spent so many days and nights and leave the good friends and good people who've toiled with me in rain, sleet, snow and sunshine at Click Here, I'm very excited about the opportunity that lies before me -- an opportunity to go for the win, not just for myself, but for my family, my new employer, their clients and their customers related to the projects I'll be working on with my new friends and colleagues at Slingshot.

How do you save the world? One project at a time.

In a recent conversation with a friend and project manager, Joe Wilson (this one, not that one) I expressed my philosophy on business and user experience that frames everything I do, and why I care and take my job very seriously.

In short, I enjoy helping good people and good businesses succeed for the right reasons, for their wealth brings higher employment and individual prosperity, and with that, a better opportunity to not only reduce poverty, but also help those who need assistance, voluntarily. 

"You're trying to save the world," Joe exclaimed.

"Yeah," I told him, "I am," without really reflecting on just how silly it sounded.

Because for man, this is impossible. I know this. Only God has that kind of power. However, that knowledge does not aleive us of our responsibility to our part. To make strides to his purpose, sometimes you need to pass when conventional wisdom says you should run. You have to take risks. You have to play to win, even if it means stepping away from the environment to which you've been accustomed to venture out onto a new playing field and a new strategy that you hadn't originally envisioned.

For one reason or another, that time has come for me.

I extend sincerest best wishes to the entire Click Here organization and everyone I've been blessed to work with over the last 7 years. I cannot express enough gratitude for what you all mean to me.

But I also look forward to the future with great hope and anticipation. Fasten your safety belts, folks. No matter what happens, we're in for a fun ride. - Cam Beck

 

December 30, 2010

Love Thy Customers: Advice for the Next Decade

"You know what the first rule of flying is? ... Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurtin' before she keels. Makes her a home." - Malcom Reynolds, Serenity (2005)

10 There's a scene in the sci-fi classic movie, Serenity, where, after a successful heist perpetrated against the evil Alliance, the crew's captain Mal takes the booty back to the job's sponsors, Fanty and Mingo, to give them their 25% commission and (hopefully) get another job. 

"Well our end is forty, precious," says Fanty. One gets the sense that there was soon going to be a major fight when the dueling parties were distracted by an even more entertaining brawl.

Can you imagine a world without trust?

You're at the checkout counter of the grocery store. You need some ingredients for apple crisp. The clerk, who has been eyeballing you for your entire visit, refuses to put the groceries in the bag until he's seen the money. You refuse to show the money until you're sure he'll let you out of the store with them.

But back up. Because before you get to the checkout, you have to inspect all of the fruit. You want to make sure they're not old, rotten mush. You also need to inspect the bags of sugar to make sure they aren't filled with sawdust. The grocer doesn't want you to open the bags, out of fear that you'll replace his sugar with sawdust. So you'd leave without buying, because you don't trust that beady-eyed grocer.

But back up. Because you can't leave your house anyway to go to the grocery store out of fear that you'll get mugged by the ruffians that patrol the neighborhood. You've never seen them, but you're sure they're there. Anyway, the grocer could never have opened a store in the first place, because no one would trust him with a loan. You get your groceries from a garden out back, which is decimated with insects, because you don't have anyone to sell you pesticides.

Successful, sustained commerce depends on a lot of things. We talk a lot about them in the course of our work. Some of them have value, some of them are hogwash. ROI. CPM. Engagement. Usability engineering. Experience. Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Branding. Income statements, balance sheets, cash flow. Social Media. Customers service.

We go to school, conferences and seminars to understand or execute them better. We send wads of cash to Amazon and Barnes and Noble to gobble up Seth Godin's books. And there's nothing wrong with ANY of that. Why would I begrudge anyone from getting better at the technical aspects of their jobs?

But what if we need something more elemental than all of that?

What if our deepest problem isn't whether we know how to calculate return on investment and successfully predict the future. Specifically, what if our deepest problem is that we don't love our neighbors well? And if that is true, what can we do about it?

What's more, how do we encourage each other to love others better? It seems a little self-serving. For when we say to our neighbors, "Love your neighbor," we're including ourselves in that group. We're saying to them, "Love us better." But as a man in the business of talking to others in business, my advice to all those who wish to be successful is this:

Love your customers better.

Thinking over the last decade, we've seen the likes of Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff, Lehman Brothers -- the entire banking and investment industry -- industries run by "the best and the brightest," who went to the "best" schools run multi-billion dollar businesses into the ground as they sought to enrich themselves. It isn't a question of whether they knew how to do math. It was that they loved themselves more than they loved their neighbors.

Why is love so important to commerce?

  • You don't rob someone you love.
  • You don't try to swindle someone you love.
  • You don't overcharge someone you love.
  • You keep your promises to someone you love.

The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 what love is and just how important it is. Let's look at what he says, particularly about knowledge or the ability to tell the future:

"And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

He continues.

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

When you look at the last decade through the lens of improving technologies and products that change the way we communicate, it superficially appears to be a much different environment than in decades past. Could you have imagined Facebook and Twitter a decade ago? Could you have predicted its adoption?

What's more, people who are so inclined have more sophisticated methods to take advantage of/steal from others -- through economics or politics -- and that fosters an abiding suspicion of business, whether the suspicion is well founded in any particular instance or not.

But sometimes you have to take a step back from the pounding you're taking and get back to the basics. None of the things we do in business and marketing makes a difference if we have not love. What's most important to you? What do you want to accomplish? You want to see economic recovery? Then love thy customers. When you do that purely, the circumstances that follow apart from that don't even matter.

- Cam Beck

December 03, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there are stupid questions. Embrace them.

"Be sure you're right, then go ahead." - Davy Crocket

Unless you're some sort of hermit, you've probably been involved in a conversation that started something like this:

You: "I have a stupid question."

Someone else: "There's no such thing as a stupid question."

Usually, when I hear this, I recommend withholding judgment on that conclusion until the person I'm asking has listened to my question. Because the truth of the matter is, there are stupid questions. We've all had them, but at the risk of appearing stupid, many of us are afraid to ask them.

There are two categories of stupid questions:

  1. Those which reveal an ignorance about information we should already have, and
  2. Those which reveal an inability to put together basic facts that lead to what should be an obvious conclusion.

In the first case, an answer will provide common ground for the participants in the conversation that deepens the bond between them. In the second case, an answer will improve our ability to think well and better participate in the conversation.

The corallary to that is that if we fail to ask, we just increase the likelihood that we won't get an answer to that question. That is more stupid than not asking it, for we will go on in our ignorance out of fear that we may appear ignorant.

Which is a bigger threat to our freedom, safety and prosperity? Appearing ignorant or being ignorant? If you chose the latter, go to the head of the class.

But the fear -- rooted in pride -- of looking like a fool is pernicious. How do you get over it to ask questions to which you need to know the answer to?

  1. Admit that we don't know everything. Give yourself permission to ask questions, even if you realize the people around you may already know the answer (some of them may not, and they may just want someone else to ask the question).
  2. Understand that we can't know everything. Don't feel bad about asking. We're not and will never be omniscient.
  3. Foster a healthy curiosity of the world around us. Get excited about asking stupid questions! Contrary to the maxim, ignorance is not bliss. The world is a crazy place that will smack you over the head if you maintain, actively or accidentally, that you need not learn how people, business, politics or economics work.
  4. Listen. As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth, which you suggests you should listen twice as much as you talk.
  5. Love our neighbors. First, asking questions that gives you context to whatever conversation you're having allows you to be full participants in that conversation, which leads to common understanding, which leads to kinship and compassion. Second, have a heart to share the answers you have. Without judgment and with gentleness and respect, encourage others to ask their stupid questions and leap for joy that they're not afraid to ask you.

Marketing, like every other profession, is about solving problems. Consistently solving them well requires having a firm basis in truth, which requires getting answers that will shed light on the root causes of the problem and an ability to put together all the facts to come to a reasonable conclusion.

If you don't know something -- anything -- don't be afraid to ask. I guarantee that the person you're asking knows what it's like to be ignorant of something. As long as you're showing healthy curiosity and initiative to get answers, he should be happy to answer your question. If not, well, that reveals something to you, too. - Cam Beck

August 27, 2010

Beware the People Weeping

When President Lincoln was assassinated by the actor John Wilkes Booth in 1865, Herman Melville wrote a poem called "The Martyr," based on the atmosphere and mood of the people of his day. The observations contained therein, however, are prophetic for all peoples of all times, when they feel they have been wronged but have recourse for severe retribution.

There is sobbing of the strong,
And a pall upon the land;
But the People in their weeping
Bare the iron hand:
Beware the People weeping
When they bare the iron hand.

In his famous Second Inaugural Address, given while the rebel army was on its heels but still in te fight, Lincoln made his intent to be merciful clear (and in doing so, perhaps, sowing seeds of hope in the Confederate soldiers' minds that the Union might offer terms for surrender that allowed them to live in dignity and honor after the war's conclusion):

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may acheve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Melville not only acknowledged this intent, he led with it. Melville's opening stanza brilliantly contrasted Lincoln's magnanimity and his assassin's (which was not limited to Booth alone) bitterness:

Good Friday was the day
Of the prodigy and crime,
When they killed him in his pity,
When they killed him in his prime
Of clemency and calm--
When with yearning he was filled
To redeem the evil-willed,
And, though conqueror, be kind;
But they killed him in his kindness,
In their madness and their blindness,
And they killed him from behind.

Take notice of how he says "they killed him in his kindness." Not "he." 

It's clear that Melville knew that the entire South would be blamed for Booth's actions, and the vacuum left in Lincoln's place lacked his pity. It was filled with the iron fist of empowered retribution. 

In the aftermath of the assassination, measures were taken to deal harshly with the southern states that were in rebellion.

Take heed. That posture threatens us today.

Everyone seems to entertain, if not harbor, a paralyzing anger of fear about something. 

Business has taken a pretty big hit over the last few years given the state of the economy. Accusations of malfeasance and unfairness have motivated the peddlars of victimhood to rally the people (to the extent they needed them) to call for the consolidation of power that gave them control over the outputs of their professions: Pharmaceutical companies. Health care. Wall Street. Walmart. You name it.

We live in interesting times. The actions we take may affect us for the next hundred years, just like happened in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, when the people sought the "iron fist" rather than mercy after their captain had been murdered.

We seem to see it as a paradox similar to Thomas Jefferson's outlook on slavery in his day, "We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go."

I might suggest an alternative outlook to Jefferson's. This one belonged to Booker T. Washington:

"There are two ways of exerting ones' strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up."

Just so. The power to create is the power to help. The power to help is the power to change. 

By contrast, the power to destroy requires no creativity at all. All it requires is an iron fist. 

Instead of seeking ways to punish, repress and destroy, we ought to, like Lincoln and Washington, be seeking ways to create and to help. Sometimes things work our way, sometimes they don't. 

But helping others through the sweat of your own brow (not demanding the sweat of others, which is the very definition of slavery), regardless of how they treat you, is always a winning formula for success. - Cam Beck

September 11, 2009

The Lesson of Flight 93: Hope and Responsibility

Flight 93 015
Like most of us, the events of September 11, 2001 affected me profoundly. I can still recall -- to the point of almost reliving it -- the shock, grief and disbelief that followed the most heinous attack on U.S. soil that cost about 3,000 lives in a day. Though we are still actively engaged in the global struggle against those who still wish us harm, it is wholly fit and proper to mark the anniversary by reflecting on the bravery and nobility of all of those who strive to protect us from harm. Perhaps no act of sacrifice and fortitude deserves more attention and appreciation than that of our true first responders: The passengers and crew of Flight 93.

Whether by chance or fate, these passengers found themselves in an untenable position. Their plane had been hijacked, and the hijackers led the passengers to believe that they would be held for ransom -- which had been a fairly common practice of pirates and terrorists for centuries. There was sufficient precedent to believe that would be their fate.

However, when they discovered that other terrorists had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, while everyone else was scrambling around trying to figure out what was happening, the passengers of Flight 93 detected the intent of their abductors and made a crucial, defiant decision.

Here we stand or here we fall. We know not what others will do, but as for us, we will not let that happen.

Self-preservation can be a powerful ally or a deceptive mistress. It would have been very tempting to assume, in spite of their knowledge of what was happening elsewhere, that somehow their situation was different -- that those other flights were the warnings, and their aircraft was meant to be the bargaining chip.

I'm constantly humbled and will forever be grateful for their example.

Though I pray I never find myself in a similar situation, I remind myself that life is made of a bunch of choices -- both big and small. We may fight or wait. Struggle or malinger. Speak up or sit down.

Our responsibility as a human beings, as citizens, is to take whatever circumstances that come to us -- big and small -- and to apply the example of our heroes from Flight 93 as best we can.

As demonstrated by those who murdered thousands on that day, there is surely evil in this world. But the very fact that those passengers -- of different backgrounds and motivations -- could set aside whatever their differences were, recognize their responsibility to unite as one to fight injustice where it stood -- and do it -- gives us hope for humanity.

The police, firefighters and military members who responded on that day and since to nobly take up arms in defense of justice did so willingly and ably, and they deserve our respect and gratitude.

But we must also recognize the limitations of any system that strives to protect liberty. These people take precautions and set up barriers against those who would do us harm (or against us, if our actions may be harmful to others), but too many times they cannot act until after the fact. They cannot always be there at the point of need, at the time of need.

Therefore it is upon us, in times both dire and seemingly trivial (such as in the course of our everyday jobs as marketers, designers, etc.), to follow in the footsteps of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. To stare injustice in the face, no matter what is happening around us and say, "Here we stand."

Then, unified by our common understanding of justice, speak in one voice:

"Let's roll."



May 28, 2009

Reason: The impotent antidote for the arbitrary whims of powerful and selfish people

Us-lgflag

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." - Ronald Reagan

Have you ever had one of those dreams where you knew somebody you love was going to experience some major calamity, but you were unable to warn him or her about it, no matter how much you wanted to or how much you tried?

Usually it starts off innocuously enough, with only a minor sense that something is wrong. But as the dream progresses, your heart rate elevates as the events unfold, and by the end you're yelling and screaming but unable to touch or convince your loved one that they're in danger. You wake up, breathing heavily for a few minutes before your heart and breathing calm down, grateful that the dream is over, and go back to sleep.

I feel like I've been living that dream for the past decade or so. Only recently have I gotten to the part of the dream where my heart rate begins to elevate.

The problem has been two types of events that we should have predicted:

  1. Past events with consequences we should have seen coming
  2. Current events with consequences we should see coming

What's got me so worried? Let's take a look at some recent stories.

IRS Revenue Down 34%

600px-US-InternalRevenueService-Seal.svg The U.S. gets a good portion of its revenue by taxing a percentage of income and wealth. When income and wealth decrease, there is less to take. Therefore, tax revenues decrease.

x% of y-1 < x% of y, where x and y are real numbers.

In order for government to be able to collect revenue, it must have wealth and income to tax. The way to increase wealth is only to invest it. If they have less to invest, they cannot increase wealth. If they cannot increase wealth, the government has less to take.

x% of y+1 > x% of y

When people or companies have money to invest, they typically, in some form or fashion, transfer it to another, in the hopes (but not the promise) that they will be better off for what they get in return. They are free to succeed and they are free to fail.

They will have decreased, on their own accord, how much money they have at any given moment, and someone else will have taken possession of it.

With safeguards against fraud and the protection of private property, that process increases wealth, generates jobs, and is completely consistent with the free choices of the entities who earned it.

Rather than encouraging this sort of behavior that tends to increase wealth, our government has deemed it necessary to use a different equation. Instead of increasing wealth, they are working toward a mechanism to increase the percentage of the income they take from the people who are increasing it through a form of national sales tax called a VAT on TOP of all other sources of revenue.

The thinking goes that this will increase tax receipts.

x+2% of y > x% of y

However, this fails to account for the fact that people will have less to invest on their own, thereby hampering their ability to generate wealth. Initially, tax receipts will increase, but at the expense of the system's efficiency.

x+2% of y-1 ~ x% of y

The government gives very little consideration to the idea that they should spend less during these times, in spite of massive debt they accrue, which increases the interest their posterity will need to account for in the future, as demonstrated by its recent bailout of just-about-everything, including the U.S. automobile industry, which has been languishing for decades because of problems the government helped to create.

Government Will Now Own 72.5% of 'New GM'

Gm_general_motors_logo Back in December 2008, GM's president Fritz Henderson claimed that GM was too big to be allowed to fail. Showing a remarkable amount of chutzpa, Henderson went as far to say that bankruptcy was not an option and that the government had a moral imperative to inject GM with a ton of taxpayer money to keep it from filing bankruptcy.

What could he possibly have meant by that? Because now it looks like bankruptcy is indeed on the table.

Constitutional issues aside (and there are many of them), the problem with nationalization of enterprise is that it creates a monopoly, drags down innovation borne of market necessity, does not rely on profits or losses to determine its fate (see the Post Office vs UPS or FedEx for an example), which further decreases the efficiency of the system.

(Though I'm not addressing the constitutional issues here, that is not to suggest they are less important than the economic ones. In fact, the two are so intertwined that it's very difficult to leave one aside to talk about the other.)

What's more, since the government doesn't have the money to make the purchase, it must either borrow or print the money to do it. An excess of either tends to cause inflation, which requires the government collect more revenue to both:

  1. Service the increased debt
  2. Buy products and services

Even still, if the increased debt lowers the country's credit rating, it increases the interest rate the taxpayers must pay on that increased debt.

Faber: Inflation to 'Approach Zimbabwe Level'

Inflation under these conditions is unavoidable. Whether we will reach hyperinflation seems likely, but I don't know if investor Mark Faber is correct when he says it is a 100% certainty (If you don't know what hyperinflation is, or if you need a reminder, click the link above, but only if you don't mind that it will scare the Hell out of you). I hope he's wrong, but I'm not smart enough to know for certain.

In either event, inflation decreases the value of money generally. It destroys wealth, which decreases the amount that individuals are able to freely invest on their own accord.

As we've already shown, when wealth decreases, so does the value of what the the government is able to collect, even further exacerbating the problem.

This is true whether we get hyperinflation, garden-variety inflation, or something in between. One of them is certain.

What is the consequence of all of this? And what does it have to do with marketing?

Copypresse With a growing appetite and fewer resources to satisfy it, there is little that is out of our government's reach. Rather than curbing its diet, to satisfy this appetite, the it takes more from you and your clients.

  • This means you have less work.
  • This means you collect less revenue.
  • This leads to being able to hire fewer people.
  • This leads to higher unemployment rates.
  • This leads to diminishing tax receipts and, in the current environment, more government spending.

If you think a government can control everything and you can remain free, I'd like to know what you're smoking.

We've already seen that, with respect to the functional nationalization of the auto industry, the government can now determine who is allowed to run the company, how much they're allowed to pay their executive employees, and how much they're allowed to advertise.

If you're a marketer -- if you're human -- showing how this applies to you is as easy as drawing a short, straight line between A and B.

And unless we act, the worst is still ahead.

"Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." - Ronald Reagan

What do you do when you see that a building is on fire? Do you sit back and watch it happen? Do you call 911? Or do you rush in to save anyone who might be trapped inside?

If you're stuck inside a burning building, do you resent the one who comes in to rescue you? The one who shouts from the ground to warn you to get out?

Nothing would please me more than to not feel this way, to go about my life as if nothing is wrong.

But the fire is burning. The effects are as predictable as the sunrise. And before I accept this fate as inevitable, I feel a growing sense of responsibility to at least say something. To convince one person.

Powerful and selfish people will tell you differently, and many people will believe them because either they have something to gain from what they say being true (after all, the consequent sure does seem painful) or they're just easily influenced by powerful people. No amount of logic or reasoning will dissuade them. They resent the bell ringer who warns them that their building is on fire.

But the fire does not depend on one's belief. It either is or it isn't.

Let's just keep our eyes open and not  be afraid to see what we see. As long as we do, assuming we catch it early enough, we can correct the problem.

But first we have to be willing. - Cam Beck

May 25, 2009

Lest We Forget...

Note: This Memorial Day, as a tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I am republishing one of my favorite articles, which was originally published 11/8/1998 on OO-RAH.com. The events being described are real, but the names may have been changed (including the author's). Be advised that this article describes intense situations and quotes people who used language that some may find offensive. - Cam Beck

Lest We Forget
by Harrison Greene

The hill in
front of us was lit up like daylight on this particular November morning in Vietnam. We could see an occasional burst of our artillery hitting its target off in the distance. The three of us sat peering out of the slits in our bunker. Despite being able to see an occasional flash from an enemy rifle, we did not open up with our secret weapon ... a .50 caliber machinegun. We chose not to do so since the enemy had not yet figured out where all of our heavy guns were located. After all, we had only just moved into position on the side of this small hill late the night before and our bunker had not yet been dug very deeply. Things had been quiet most of the night, and now, at 3:30 AM, the enemy had chosen to wake us up.

We had 105mm howitzers behind us cranking off illumination and high explosive rounds at a rate of one every 15 seconds. It was getting quite noisy, and the three of us had to nearly shout in order to carry a conversation.

Things were beginning to get busy out in front of us.

The grunts were starting to rock 'n roll. We could hear the familiar M-14 cranking off semi-automatic fire. We could hear the reports of the enemy's M-1 carbines and an occasional AK-47 assault rifle.

Earlier that evening, while things were still quiet, Gunnery Sergeant Tchaikovsky called all the outposts on the field phone and told us that intelligence reports were predicting an enemy probe sometime during the night. He told us that there was reportedly a battalion-sized Viet cong unit moving towards our position. He ordered a 100% alert!

He didn't have to order that, believe me. We were all more than a little nervous about finally being baptized under fire. This would be our first battle since arriving in country several weeks prior.

Gunny Ski (affectionately known as "Gunny Godammit") was a big, lanky Pennsylvanian with a curious bit of wit about him. We gave him the respect he deserved for having been a veteran of the Korean War, but not much else. Just about every sentence he spoke would include the word "godammit" in it.

I can still hear him in front of our morning formations back in California, "Alright, godammit, FALL-IN!"

One afternoon, the gunny called a special formation. He had heard a complaint that several Marines in our unit had only been issued one wool blanket. "Alright, godammit," Gunny Ski bellowed, "some of you Marines have been issued two wool blankets, while others of you have only been issued one. So, I want the ones who have two blankets to give the guys with only one blanket one of their blankets, and then everyone will have two."

I'm still wondering where the logic is in that one!

Like an idiot, I gave one of my blankets to Lance Corporal Jimmy Jones. Gunny Ski was certainly tough on us, and he was a Marine that all of us loved to hate.

Jimmy was now my A-gunner on the .50 caliber machinegun. The other Marine in our outpost was Jake Barnes, a Louisiana man who spoke very slowly and deliberately ... and with a strong southern drawl. We heard Gunny Godammit off in the distance behind us yelling some obscenities.

"Alright, godammit." He yelled, "Keep your heads down up front."

No sooner did he say that when suddenly we were being clobbered by 40mm M-79 grenades, which were landing all around our bunker. About five or six of them landed to our right, and one hit the back of our bunker. We wondered if the gunny had been drinking.

Jones picked up the field phone and tried calling back to our HQ to let them know that the gunny's aim was off. Our phone was dead, the lines probably severed by the rounds that landed in our vicinity. We started yelling back to the gunny to cease fire, but the rounds kept coming.

Finally, after another dozen rounds were fired in our direction, we couldn't hear each other talking anymore, but the bombardment stopped. We breathed a little easier, for the moment, but then things began picking up momentum in front of us.

TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT! "That was an AK!" said Jones. We all agreed that it was very close to our position. TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT! A spray of dirt from the sandbags in front of us filled my eyes. TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT - TAT! ZING! My head felt like someone hit me with a sledgehammer, and I fell backwards against the rear wall of our bunker. I reached up to wipe my eyes and feel my face, and it was all wet.

At the same time, I felt a huge weight slump against my shoulder. It was Barnes. At first, I couldn't see what was wrong with him. I heard a gurgling sound and a sound like he was trying to talk. The cannons behind us grew more intense, and the weapons fire to our front was now murderous. I yelled to Jones telling him that I thought I was hit. I told him that something was wrong with Barnes, but I still couldn't see clearly what was happening.

The illumination rounds being fired from the 105's kept the night sky lit, and we were finally able to see Barnes, now lying on the floor of our bunker, and bleeding badly from the face, his hands clenching his throat. Still in a state of shock from having my own bell rung, I dug around in the darkness looking for a first-aid packet on one of our cartridge belts. Got it! I felt like I was all thumbs as I opened up a large field dressing and began working with Barnes.

Still unsure of my situation, I asked Barnes if he could hear me. He nodded in the affirmative. He started to cry. Things were getting seemingly worse out in front of us, and Jones reported that he could see more rifle flashes pointed in our direction. He wanted to fire the machinegun, but I told him not yet.

Barnes was shaking violently, and was obviously already in shock.

He was conscious of what was happening; yet there wasn't anything we could do to make the hurt go away. Jones tried the field phone again to get a corpsman down to us. The phone was still dead. He started calling back to the rear area where the cannons were still firing away.

We could hear Gunny Godammit yelling down to us to answer our field phone, but it was apparent that he had no idea what was going on with us at that moment. "POST TWO, ANSWER YOUR GODAMNED PHONE, GODAMMIT!" he yelled.

I told Jones that one of us had to get back to the CP and get help. Barnes needed a corpsman before he bled to death. Jones volunteered to stay with him while I crawled back to get HM2 "Doc" Stewart.

Crawling out the back of our bunker, I followed the Comm wire towards the battery CP. Shortly after leaving the safety of our bunker, I felt very vulnerable to the rounds that were landing around me as I crawled as fast as I could up the side of the hill.

Holding onto the wire, I came across the break, which was severed by one of the 40mm grenades Gunny Ski was laying on us. After searching around for the other end of the break and finding it, I twisted the wires together, and crawled back down the hill to the safety of our bunker and tried the field phone.

"Battery CP, Lance Corporal Toomey speaking," I heard the voice say. "This is post two ... Barnes is hit pretty bad ... send Doc down here NOW," I shouted into the field phone.

Barnes' field dressing was completely soaked in crimson red, and he was still whimpering and shaking uncontrollably. I reached over to him and told him that Doc was on the way.

Just as I was doing so, I turned around and saw this huge figure of a man come sliding into our bunker. "Alright, godammit, ... let's get this Marine outta here." Never before was I ever so glad to see Gunny Ski. He was the veteran Marine. The Marine that all of us sometimes hated; yet secretly admired because he was a seasoned combat veteran. Somehow, we knew we were going to be all right now. The Gunny came to our rescue. And, he brought with him a replacement for Barnes, who was now being carried back to the CP in the arms of this big, lanky, tough, dim-witted, loveable Gunnery Sergeant of Marines.

It was now about 0530, and the fighting began to taper down. The morning dawn was creeping over the hillside on which we were entrenched, and we could barely make out the outline of several water buffalo which were casually strolling across the meadow beyond.

"Time for "check-in," isn't it, Greene?" Jones asked.

"Exec Pit, this is post two ... all secure," I reported.

I never saw Gunny Tchaikovsky again after that terrible morning in early November. He was killed about an hour after he carried Barnes out of harms way. He was killed while saving another one of his precious Marines from an almost certain death. The date ... 10 November 1966 ... my first Marine Corps Birthday in the Marine Corps.

I know where Gunnery Sergeant Tchaikovsky is today. Rest assured, he is taking care of our beloved Marines who have been called back to guard those pearly gates.