Monday, February 9, 2009

OnlineSpin: Four Meaningful Conversations We Might Have

Last week Kendall wrote "What Motivates Your Business Model?"

Robert Cangemi wrote in response, "Interesting.

I like the conclusion:

'At our best, we advance our models out of vision and not just stark survival. But, on some level, I would say a little heat is good for the imagination. A little just do it never hurt anyone, really.'

There is definitely a difference between acting and reacting; a vision (strategy) and the tactics that are executed to realize the vision, with the recognition that the vision itself may change due to secular (versus cyclical) shifts / dynamics in the environment.

Some of the challenges that we face in the finance business is the myopia of analysts / media / investors, etc. The question they ask is 'What are you doing to drive the stock right now?' and the model that is adapted is a tactical one to chase the money maker du jour, even if the firm value in the long run suffers.

The value of the firm becomes not the present value of expected future cash flows, but the profit for a quarter.

The CEO that stands up and says 'This is wrong' will be replaced by a more compliant pig that is willing to feed at the trough of the ignorant.

As Chuck Prince put it 'As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up ,and dance.'

I like the way Jim Morrison put it better, 'I don't know what's gonna happen, man, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.'

So everybody plays. Even if there was collusion to do the right thing, all it takes is one to break and everyone will follow."

Monday, February 9, 2009
Four Meaningful Conversations We Might Have
By Kendall Allen

In any seven days, our conversations mix and make up the week. We cover a lot of ground -- as business world, home front, social spheres, secret lives, passions and pursuits converge. On Sundays, I like to peruse the content of the week's conversations and inventory the collection.

The week of conversation in my world mixed these threads:

  • Which New York chefs turn out the best boudin? Galen Z. or Daniel? Toss-up.
  • "25 Things About Me" on Facebook nourished me. I am fine with that.
  • We are not sure Obama will actually be able to assemble his cabinet. I need to do my taxes.
  • Who moved from love to disdain more swiftly -- Microsoft or Google? Unsure.
  • If I could do it all over again, would I run cross-country instead of swim in high school?
  • What does 2010-2014 really look like for our clients? Can we know?
  • What is the call-to-action for the millennia?
  • Can I learn to sail at 41 -- and actually master it? With a healing broken wrist?
  • Has poetry left our business -- until further notice? It is totally OK to tear up over an ad for vodka in the subway.
  • Display is bleeding.

    Such an inventory is just a tally. Our lives and headspace contain a lot. So, as I reflected this Sunday, and looked onward, I asked myself: When it comes to our business, what are some of the most meaningful conversations we can be having right now? There were four themes that presented themselves.

    1. Developers and cooks. Many of us are rethinking and recasting organization right now -- and for the future. Painful reductions, conservative builds, new ways of working together to maintain and grow our businesses, are topics on our minds. How do we hire, encourage and really draw the right blend? There is talent who knows how to develop -- opportunities, new business, relationships -- and talent who knows how to mind the store and tend to the cooking, without fail. Volume, complexity, heat -- they've got it. Both are critical, but the balance likely looks different than it did a year ago. Only your team can know where to dial it. But, engaging management teams on this theme is timely and could help unlock a new level of collaboration between those who are developers and those who are cooks at heart.

    2. Actually investing in your investments. Whether we've proclaimed an investment in key hires, research and planning, an emerging media lab or competitive engineering talent -- it takes a lot of focus, in a tense and dynamic market amid the daily noise, to firm up your bets. Chances are, your threshold for investment is different than it was three years ago. But, even so, where are the best feet planted right now? This is interesting to discuss with friends across businesses:

  • You invested in talent -- but have you invested in the basic habitat that talent needs in order to connect and deliver?
  • One man's depth is another man's distraction from the core. Have you vetted your proposed deepened service offering, in one area or another, with your core client base?
  • How can you be sure that you've elected the right areas to incubate? How do you at least set the stage for longevity on the bets you are placing?

    3. The order of emerging media. One of the beauties of emerging media is that it is -- emerging. Right? There is always "new" in our business -- and always has been. Our gumption for adventure, trial and innovation tends to release or tighten with market tides. Editorial coverage of -- and chatter about -- shifting spend allocations get thick when markets shift. It seems about time we focus on the following:

  • Channel sheer emergent media enthusiasm through a real business perspective, in our dealings with vendors, partners, teams and clients. Everyone loves an enthusiast. In this market, though, that love is short-lived without business context.
  • Consider emergent media based on marketing value more than the isolated "cool" factor. Discuss your mix with an understanding of probable value over sparkle.
  • Move toward operating definitions of what makes something emerging and what makes something mature. A sense of this continuum is important in making the case for budgeting and establishing metrics on emerging media.
  • Get to standards and metrics, a coda, if you will, for the stuff on the mature end of the continuum.

    4. M&A in the workaday. For most of us, it is a commitment, yet a very real challenge, to stay tuned day in and day out to the full web of marketplace news relevant to our pursuits. But even as we follow our most trusted commentators, business sections and venture wires -- it usually comes down to a few key stories. It's safe to say that we all work with staff who are engaged, stressed or just generally occupied by their daily business -- and may or may not see the value in keeping up. When they have time, they may question how much exposure to, or digestion of, news is enough.

    For those who do keep up, intake will still vary. That's got to be fine. But there is value in watching market activity to develop a point of view on opportunity and conflicts of interest, reading signs on the landscape. Despite the intensity of workaday realities, staying tuned to the marketplace helps keep the stride.

    These are some of the themes on the minds of people I know, the stuff of steady conversation as we launch 2009 and plan 2010. During times like these, though, I welcome a mix of threads to keep some levity. Such as -- right now, it is time to catch up on DVR episodes of "Big Love," and man, am I glad that Chloe Sevigny found work after "The Brown Bunny."

  • Kendall Allen is senior vice president of Digital Marketing Services at MKTG, headquartered in New York City. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, an independent digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.

    Online Spin for Monday, February 9, 2009:

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