The Annual College Grad Blog

Posted by Richard Moran.

More Signs of the Apocalypse

No time is better for giving out advice than the annual commencement season. In my experience in dealing with new college grads, I have found that no one listens to any advice but it doesn’t stop anyone from dishing it out. Many had their own opinions about Oprah’s address to the Stanford class of 2008. Everyone offers a lot of advice on how to deal with the environment, world peace and elimination of genocide. My advice is much less ambitious. It is more applied and easier to implement than curing our addiction to foreign oil. As a 22 year-old graduate, I was clueless but hopeful. I find most college grads today are still clueless but hopeful. That can be a very good combination as long as the hopeful component sticks and nothing can kill “hopeful” more than problems that seem too big for a young person to fix. So here is my advice to the Class of ’08. Just three bullets, easy to read, sort of easy to implement and delivered with the hope of an easy transition into the real world.

Don’t Live with your Parents
A new study just revealed that six of ten graduates in the Class of ’08 went home after commencement. As in, after four years of independence, all night parties, and unmentionable intimacies, college grads are moving home to be with Mom, Dad and the little brothers and sisters. Yikes! Tune in to the old “Seinfeld” episodes when George moves home. Don’t do it. You won’t like it and your parents won’t like it and it will lead to questions like, “What are you going to do now? And “Where are you going? And, “What time will you be home?” You will easily get addled into hanging around with high school buddies, visiting your old coaches and watching “Lost” reruns. Move on, or at least have a plan as to when you will move out again.

Pay Attention – People Notice
Just like how your classmates noticed when you showed up wearing green pants with a pink belt with blue alligators on it; or how they noticed when you showed up with blue hair and combat boots; people “out there” will notice the small things about you too. Table manners, wardrobe, who you hang out with, your Facebook page and all those things your parents told you that matter will continue to define you. “It is what it is”, as they say and people will always notice and define you by the little things. If you think people don’t notice, tune in to any segment of “The Office”. Who Pam is dating, who leaves early, a stain on the tie, what people talk about, who is new, who has a weird trench coat, comments in poor taste…people notice.There are a million blogs, web sites, guides and “Dummies” books about how to do anything that won’t get you into trouble. Do research and pay attention to what matters. People notice.

Get A Job
I know it’s a tough economy but there are jobs. There are always jobs. Get off the computer and get a job. Or, get on the computer and get a job. I like www.indeed.com. All the job hunting websites can work but you probably still need to get off your butt and go meet people. Think of it like fishing, the more bait you have in the water, the more likely to catch some fish. A job gets you out in traffic and will give you the chance to learn a few things like how to fill out a W-2 form and the cost of health benefits and that you have to show up. Your first job may not be perfect but it will give you some momentum and may lead to the one you really want. The first job will get you out of the house too. (See bullet number one.)

No doubt, there is a lot of other advice that is being delivered. What you hear, if anything, may be something different. If you are stuck, pay attention to these three bullets and they can get you started. Trust me on this one.

Deals I Would Like to See

Posted by Richard Moran.

Every venture capitalist reviews and discusses any number of “deals” every day. Some are glimmers of greatness and are worthy of objective consideration. Others are not so worthy but still deserve thoughtful consideration. The following is a top-of-mind list of deals I would like to see but have not yet.

Converter Kits: Oil prices, gas prices, carbon footprints – it all adds up and I believe it. The deal I would most like to see is a kit that would convert any gas engine to a hybrid. I am not talking about ripping the car apart and installing batteries and flux capacitors. I am thinking more along the lines of a device similar to the after-market cassette players that we would attach to the car radio and bolt under the dash board. Once installed, gas mileage would go from sixteen to forty without ever opening the hood. This kit could do for cars what electricity did for houses. The world would be a better place and everyone would win.

Cell Phone Sensors: It is not a rare occurrence these days to go into a public restroom and hear someone yammering on their cell phone while sitting in a stall. I always wonder who that person is talking to and does the person on the other end of the call know what is happening. I suspect not. I would like to have a sensor and an alarm on my phone that restricts anyone from calling me while they are in a bathroom or other inappropriate place to be chatting nonchalantly about digital media.

Invisible Cubicle Screens: We all know about those magical fences that no one can see but prevent out dogs from running out on the highway. Although I have not discussed this with our dog, I believe they work. I just about never see a poor dog on the side of the road these days. I would like to see a deal of an invisible fence that separates cubicles at the office. It would prevent your co-workers from leaning over the little barriers that separate cubicles to ask if you want to participate in the basketball pool.

News Converters: This deal would fall into the digital media space. Since the evening news is almost always bad, I would like to see a deal that would present a positive side to all news. Instead of “A big flood hit the Midwest this week.” The news would proclaim, “Looks like that drought is over in the Midwest.”

Special Stopwatches: Like that old segment of the “Twilight Zone”, I would like to see a stop watch that stopped the world long enough for me to catch up. While everyone else was “frozen” I could go about my business and no one would be the wiser. When I restarted time with the stop watch I would be all caught up. I would be careful not to drop it.

User Generated Video: Wouldn’t it be great if there was a web site where videos could be posted and shared. It could be like America’s Funniest Home Videos on steroids. We could look at cats on shower curtains and guys pretending they were in Star Wars for long periods of time. Oh, wait.

I’ve joked about deals I would like to see before only to have them show up shortly thereafter. Bring them on.

Why Bear Stearns is a Good Thing or, In Search of the New Poster Child

Posted by Richard Moran.

Enron became the poster child company for corporate greed, avarice and somebody asleep at the switch. Arthur Andersen became the poster child for auditors helping them. The NYSE became the poster child for big payouts to retiring executives (with many more companies to follow.) Eliot Spitzer is the current model for exercising bad judgment, marital headaches and poorly executed interstate commerce, among many other things.

Bear Stearns is about to become the new poster child of behavior gone-bad in full view, like videos of college students on Spring Break. But what will they become the poster child for? Will it be for financial statements so complicated no one knows how much they are worth? Will it be for a market cap less than the worth of one of their buildings? Will it be for the mortgage foreclosures that have a root somewhere, so why not there? Will it be for government bailouts for people who make a lot of money? Stay tuned for the poster as it emerges. In the meantime, there are at least two good things that will come out of the Bear Stearns meltdown.

1. Dread Removal – I know a lot of people in the high powered financial world who have said something like the following. “My job sucks but I am only going to do this until I am thirty five (could be forty but that is a stretch) because the money is so awesome. Then, I will do something that I really want to.” (Although undetermined.)

For all of those working in jobs that make you miserable but the pay is good, you now have the license to think differently. Bear Stearns has given you that license. If you are not doing what you want, don’t wait to do something else.

2. Real Career Awareness – I doubt anyone at Bear Stearns could have ever imagined that this prestigious, old firm could be in trouble and jobs would be lost. If it can happen there, think about where you are and whether it could happen to you too. Don’t lose sleep over it, just set your expectations. People ask me all the time if they should worry about their job. The answer is always yes. Bear Stearns and Arthur Andersen and Enron taught us that.
The real lesson from Bear Stearns is that all organizations are fragile. If it can happen in large, long established, prestigious places, it can happen just about anywhere.

Let’s make Bear Stearns the poster child that reminds us of the fragility of all organizations.