Down Turn Opportunities

Posted by Richard Moran.

Down Turn Opportunities

As a young boy I spent time with my Grandfather, trotting along behind him as he told stories.  He was a story teller and a character of the first rank.  To all of his grandsons, and there were a lot of us, he was fascinating.  He would raise pigeons in his garage, have guinea pigs running around in his back yard, bury fish heads under his tomato plants and eat fried eel for lunch and share it with us.  The stories he would tell often had to do with the “Great Depression”, as he called it.

We would drive around in his old DeSoto and he would point out giant houses right on the ocean and say, “See that house?  During the Depression I could have bought that house for $2,000.00 but I didn’t have it.”  We would drive by a big Cadillac convertible and he would say, “See that car?  During the Depression a guy wanted to give me a car like that but I couldn’t afford the gas, so I didn’t take it.”  The list of deals that he missed was long and grew longer as he grew older.

The word depression roams the front pages and conversations every day now and has a double meaning.  There is the comparison and reference to that Great Depression of my Grandfather’s time and the mood of anyone who reads their 401K statements or labors in the auto or financial services industry.  As in, “I am suffering from depression because I feel like we are about to enter a depression.”

If my Grandfather was around today he might say, “Don’t make the same mistakes I made.  Times may be hard but don’t miss the opportunities that these times can create.”

It is a story I have been repeating lately as the waves of worries about the economy keep on coming.

It means take advantage of prices, take advantage of the time you may now have available, plan for when things come back.  Here are some opportunistic activities for this down time that might help the glass at least look half full:

  • Look for a job #1 :  Test the waters.  Then you can tell your kids how hard it was in ’08-’09 even for a real talent like you.  Troll on www.monster.com and you will get a sense.
  • Look for a job #2:  If you are one of the many who don’t have a choice about looking for a job, and there aremany don’t hide it.  You have lots of company and you might make new friends. 
  • Look for a job #3:  Try something new.  This might be the time to convert from actuarial work to zoo keeping or go back to school to get that degree in preservation.  Look on the job site at www.chronicleofphilathropy.com for helping jobs.
  • Look for a job #4:  When you see what the rest of the market looks like you might learn to love your boss who continues to invade your cubicle space.
  • Keep a glass of water on your desk.  Fill it half way with water and don’t let it evaporate. Gin or vodka might be an appropriate and handy substitute. 
  • Buy a house or two.  Eventually the real estate market will come back and you can do your part to make it happen.

  • Hit the romance key.  Some old movies and TV shows managed to make the Great Depression seem romantic. Christmas gifts were simple and presented with love.  (Think your kids would like a string of dried cranberries?) Think lucky romantic thoughts for this downturn.

There will be opportunities in this “special” time, just like there were for my Grandfather.  The trick is to discern which will be the really good ones that you can tell your grandchildren about.

 

Meltdown ‘08

Posted by Richard Moran.

The events of the last week have been nothing short of shocking.  Comparisons to the Crash of ’29 are everywhere.  The downfall and perilous nature of the greats like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have us worried about all institutions.  The latest turn of events makes the dotcom bubble and bust look like a test drive in an Aston Martin.

It is a perilous and serious situation and devastating for those losing their careers and nest eggs.  The last thing I want to do is make light of it.  But.

But these crazy events do raise questions about what will happen next and present the opportunity to make a few predictions.  In that spirit, and you heard it hear first, I present the post ’08 Meltdown Predictions:

1. Retirement calculators will be the most used application on the web.  What we thought was our retirement is being recalculated daily, not in the right way.
2. All Presidential candidates will soon offer you a job.  The promised job may have compensation limits on it and it may be hard to find, but it will be promised.
3. Job search sites will bypass Facebook in traffic.  A new site may crop up only for displaced investment bankers.
4. Company loyalty will increase.  The old country song, “It Ain’t Love But it Ain’t Bad”  will replace “Take this Job and Shove It” when it comes to careers.
5. Airlines will start giving pretzels again.  Since people will curtail flying, it will be the lure to get people back into that middle seat.
6. Staycations will be the buzzword next summer too.  As long as they don’t stay with me, that’s ok.
7. Wine sales will sky rocket.  The attitude will become “Why Not?”
8. Do it yourself injuries will increase.  Professionals of all sorts will try to fix their own garage door openers and it will be ugly.
9. Investment bankers will be the new Enron/Worldcom poster children of good gone bad.
10. The dot com crash will look better and better and sock puppets will go up in value.
11. A Virtual WPA will be created.  A good idea.  Use technology to get people back to work.
12. No one will actually take any blame because the blame will be dispersed onto so many people because no one understands exactly what happened.  So far the blame has included all the CEO’s of all investment banks, Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, George Bush, Chris Cox and many others.

Like other periods of crisis, financial or not, this one will pass.  Investment bankers and Wall Street will re-emerge in a newly defined and regulated way.  Many in financial institutions will look at this time as a defining period, the B.C./A.D. of their fortunes or lives and “normal” will take on a new meaning.  Maybe we will all be wiser about how fragile organizations are, even big ones.  Entrepreneurs who are smug about hitting a new revenue target need to remember that the venerable Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers all but disappeared over night.

We will get through this and we will be better for it.  In the meantime, keep perspective and keep your job.

Free Consulting for Airlines

Posted by Richard Moran.

My life in consulting at Accenture included working with a lot of airlines. Anyone who works with or around an airline knows that it is a tough and complex business. The general flying public doesn’t know how hard it is to move planes, people and luggage around everyday. To that flying public, it is about myluggage and my late takeoff and my missed connection, all of which is very understandable.

From inside any airline, they know that there are good reasons why a snowstorm in Buffalo will hurt the flights between Dallas and Pittsburg. They know that there are no spare planes to fill in for the one that has a maintenance problem. They know why union rules can make them less efficient than they might want to be. They know why ticket pricing needs to change all the time based on many variables and why it is so hard to be profitable. But I wonder if they know now how some of the cost cutting efforts are hurting them with the flying public.

My contributions to airline world included two major contributions: One was moving the magazine rack to the rear of the plane so that people wouldn’t stop to choose between Golf Digest and Ski magazines and in so doing hold up the boarding process. The second contribution was to seal all the ashtrays on the arm rests. Smoking had long been prohibited and the ashtrays had become the repository of everyone’s gum and stir straws which required constant cleaning.

The tweaking continues but in the wrong direction. Charging for checked bags, and three inches of extra leg room is insulting. Now taking away the free pretzels which are ok with me; I never liked those pretzels anyway. They weren’t really pretzels but more like a pretzel or two surrounded by some synthetic doodads in a sea of some kind of garlic powder that gave all passengers bad breath. People wonder what is left to cut. Since I am cheering for the airlines, the following is my list of ways for the airlines to continue to cut costs and move toward profitability:

 

  • Lavatories could be a revenue generator. Why not charge by the minute? Public restrooms often charge for use, so why not here? On long flights the airlines could make a killing.
  • Armrests are often contested territory. A charge for the use of armrests would guarantee usage.
  • Updates from pilots are often rare, especially if there is a delay. For a surcharge, you could get updates about why you are still on the tarmac four hours after scheduled departure.
  • Barter could be an option too. If passengers promise to stay and clean up the cabin, they can get free pretzels and coffee.
  • The “Seat Pocket in Front of You” can come in handy. They could be locked until you pay for its use.
  • Sitting at a window and enjoying the scenery should be a privilege. There could be a charge to get the window shade to go up.
  • There could be a slot for quarters on the armrest that would enable passengers to use the recline feature on the seat. Conversely, airlines could charge people to prevent the passenger in front of them from using the recliner feature.
  • Flight attendants could charge to chat with customers. It would be extra to be nice.
  • Airsick bags are often used for scribbling notes that you don’t want to forget and for air sickness.There could be a small charge to use those bags.

If I give too many ideas I may have to charge the airlines for all this consulting. But here are a few tidbits they can take to the bank with customers. I would gladly pay extra for the food if it was good. I would gladly pay extra for real service instead of cattle prodding. I would gladly pay for my luggage to be checked if I was sure it would get there quickly. And I would rather pay for everything to be embedded in the price of my ticket than to be nickel and dimed in flight.

To all you airline execs, I am available for more advice. Just call.