Knights of Gray

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there were many knights who guarded the Kingdom.  Although the knights came from various backgrounds, they received similar knight training once they joined the Kingdom. There were generalists and specialists among the Kingdom’s knights, but all were highly-motivated and excelled at their work.  Some had grown and prospered more than others, most notably those who were selected to lead Kingdom Improvement Teams (KIT’s).  Many of these KIT leaders had attained their green-lance or black-lance certifications. The KIT’s were hugely prolific in their ability to improve proceses and streamline operations throughout the Kingdom.   Drawbridges were raised, moats dredged, parapets patrolled, damsels distressed, and business boomed as tolls, tariffs, and ransoms were collected with clockwork efficiency.

Due largely to the work of the KIT’s, the Kingdom had become so successful that after awhile it seemed to run itself.  What a success story that the benevolent King and Queen had created!  So naturally, they did what any successful King and Queen with increased time and money on their hands would do.  They put the Kingdom’s operations on auto pilot, went off to conquer new lands, and moved to a more temperate climate to live the good life in their new Shangra La.

One of the first things that the King and Queen did upon arriving in Shangra La was to set up important banking arrangements to maintain their cash flow.  Careful attention was paid to ensure that the new accounts were able to accept the direct deposit ACH transactions sent by the Kingdom.  Because New Land Bank & Trust was in the process of acquiring Shangra La Federal, this endeavor was not without its challenges.  Aided by the best transition team that money could buy, the King and Queen worked tirelessly to achieve their top priority.

“Keep the checks coming”, said the King and Queen.  Life was good.

Then one fine morning, as the King and Queen surveyed the land from the balcony of their new castle, they saw a rider approaching on a most impressive steed, richly adorned with the New Land Bank logo on its colorful silks.  The rider had been sent by the Bank to inform the unsuspecting royals that the amount of outgoing payments from their account would soon exceed the incoming deposits from the Kingdom.  New Land needed to know whether or not the King and Queen had other sources of income to cover their rapidly escalating expenses.

After the initial shock and embarassment of this news had subsided, the King and Queen demanded answers from their most senior knights.  “Why is there no money?”, asked the King, now in a cross of panic and rage.   “How could they let this happen?”, said the Queen as she lashed out with her characterically laser-like focus.  Sadly, there were no easy answers, as even the most senior and trusted of the Kingdom’s knights just stared blankly back at the King and Queen.

At a loss for answers, the King and Queen  flipped to “C” in their royal rolodex and hired a consultant to help them unravel this mess.  Like any good consultant, this one set up a series of kingdom walk-thrus and  interviewed the knights to gather information.  As they observed operations in the kingdom and spoke with knights, a very interesting finding emerged in the final report they presented to the King and the Queen.

“Our review of operations has uncovered that processes, controls, and efficiencies have significantly eroded.  Although the Kingdom’s financial statements show profits, you have no money. In speaking with the knights, we have uncovered a division in the ranks.  On one hand, there is a group of knights who remain true to standard operating procedures and have continued to serve you well.    For the most part, these knights tend to see things in plain terms.  Collectively, we will refer to this group as the Black and White Knights.  On the other hand, there is another group of knights that seems to bend the rules and follow standard process only when it suits them.  Collectively, we will refer to this group as the Gray Knights.  They have an amazing ability to rationalize how they can so adeptly move from one shade of gray to the next and are seemingly able to influence others to follow suit.  Often at the heart of this influence is a combination of beguiling charm, border-line coercion, and financial incentive.  Apparently, the Gray Knights are able to perceive even the most miniscule differences in gray-scale color.  While the Black and White Knights remain largely color blind to the shades of gray, the Gray Knights have thrived in these shadows.  And you see, that’s why you don’t have any money.”

The King and Queen expressed outrage at this finding and fired the consultants because they apparently had told the royals something that they did not want to hear.  Fortunately, no beheadings here, just contract termination. Left to ponder the situation and pursue possible remedies on their own, the King and Queen were in full agreement.  “We have to do something about this before it’s too late.”, said the King.  “Yes, perhaps tomorrow”, agreed the Queen.

Is Valentine’s Day Recession Proof?

The short answer to this initial question is probably – “yes, somewhat”.  Should an expected increase in 2012 Valentine’s Day spending be seen as a sign of economic recovery?  BizSinc thinks that’s getting a little crazy over the numbers and suggests that it is more than likely just a one-day vacation from the economic doldrums that most likely returned to most American households on February 15, 2012.

Nonetheless, Americans were expected to spend $17.6 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Federation of Retailers (NFR) annual survey.  This figure equates to a roughly 12% year on year increase after a significant dip in 2011 vs 2010.  While $17.6 billion is certainly a large pile of cash, this hardly signals America’s return to prosperity.  However, it would place this year’s spend total at the highest in the last ten years.  The $17.6 billion translates to an average spend of $126.03 per person, reflecting an increase of 8.5% over prior year.  Any way you slice it, $17.6 billion buys a lot of roses, chocolate, and Hallmark cards!

In the chart above, 2007 and 2008 were included because they were considered pre-recessionary vs. 2011 and 2012 which are at minimum clearly “recessionary in nature”.  In other words, let’s agree here that we can at least say that “things haven’t been good lately”.  So, the survey results do indeed read like a baby’s breath of fresh air in an FTD vase.   Spending in a recessionary year is expected to exceed pre-recessionary levels, which would indicate that perhaps Valentine’s Day is truly a recession-proof retail institution where flower margins continue to soar regardless of the general state of the economy. While good within its own comparative scope, the NFR survey does also show that only 59% percent of Americans plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.  While roughly in line with previous survey years, this stat tells us that we should continue watching the broader economic indicators.  That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking a fun look at this major seasonal impact in our nation’s economic calendar.

But wait…speaking of fun, here’s a fun Valentine’s Day fact to consider.

American Idol Judge Knows Best

“Adapt to differences among colleagues.  Recognize the diversity of skills and talents that exists in an organization.   Modify approach and style to achieve the best results.”   That’s how I said it.

In a Guitar Center promotional piece, American Idol judge Randy Jackson said it this way:

Wow, that’s pretty good stuff for an American Idol judge.  While not an Idol devotee, I must confess to knowing a thing or two about Randy Jackson.  There’s a lot more to Randy than his American Idol TV celebrity. What many people do not know is that Randy has been a major dude in the music industry for three decades and running.  From humble beginnings, he learned his craft well and has achieved success as a touring musician, session artist, and producer.  Randy has played and/or worked with such diverse artists as Madonna, Whitney Houston, Journey, Aretha Franklin, Billy Idol, Tracy Chapman, Kenny G, Bruce Springsteen, Roger Waters, Charlie Daniels, Mariah Carey, Jon Bon Jovi, ‘N-Sync, Billy Joel, Blue Oyster Cult, and Whitesnake.

Randy and I may say it differently, but we are saying exactly the same thing.  Group mission trumps individual technical skill.  Think of the engineer who works tirelessly to design the perfect circuit board.  Consider the marketing executive who excels in promotion. What about the CFO who cuts costs like nobody’s business?  Or the programmer who writes that mesmerizing code?   In the end, it’s about achieving the result which we have been asked to achieve by those who are paying the bill.  Absent clear contribution to mission, even the most impressive displays of individual talent will miss the mark.  Being willing and able to tailor one’s own style and technical skill application to group mission is a winning strategy.

“We have liftoff!”

Welcome to BizSinc –  The journey starts now!

Featuring informed insights & commentary, BizSinc will provide perspectives on everyday business life and offer transportation to some potentially new vistas.  BizSinc will not be rocket science, try to be all things to all people, or attempt to bring about world peace.  BizSinc’s objectives and approach are much simpler than this.  BizSinc will reflect a certain voice of experience and some unique perspectives on some familiar busines topics and situations.   BizSinc hopes you enjoy the ride!

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