Friday, March 27, 2009

Maybe your industry's failing because you chose not to innovate.

Sorry Sally, but when was the last time you spearheaded anything remotely innovative?

I love love love this post. Mark Newman kills it. Yes everyone is in the throes of The Greatest Depression of Our Times but not everyone has bailout or bust syndrome. No one is predicting the collapse of cell phone providers. I have yet to hear of anyone worried that their iPod warranty will be moot if Apple folds. McDonald's is doing just fine thank you very much. Innovation and value are still prized.

No one is escaping unscathed right now, but newpapers aren't folding because of the recession. They're failing because of Craigslist. And Ebay. And the green movement. Car companies need bailouts because they locked themselves into union contracts and produced SUVs when gas was at $4 a gallon. Magazines were cannibalized by blogs.

The old ways stopped working about a decade ago but supposed prosperity kept lame ducks afloat. Now, to bastardize Warren Buffet, the tide is out and it seems everyone chose to skinny dip. This contraction is survivable, stagnation is not. So make something new, do something interesting, show us a trend we can't predict. People want a connection, a compelling reason to part with their why not give it to them?

Friday, March 6, 2009

In the "win" category...the recession has totally validated Gen X early 90's slackerdom.

Fear not Gen Xers. Your Cocaine and Cobain fueled wanderlust, hatred of the suburbs, and refusal to buy into the Baby Boomer's American Dream have finally paid off.

Owning a home is now nothing but a giant albtross of impending
unemployment . Reaching for the pension and gold watch after 20 years on the factory floor is but a dream. Job hopping is smart and everyone's running a small business called their career.

So dirty beanies off to a generation who's has felt ignored and maligned for far too long. I'll let one of your own summarize it with a rant no one from the "Gossip Girl" generation could ever top...

"We moved to San Francisco and Brooklyn and Mission Hill. We jumped from job to job. Put off marriage. Never bought a place. And we never heard the end of it. We were drifters, they said. Layabouts. No respect for work and real estate or the value of a good pair of cufflinks. But now, in the cold glare of a recession, everything looks different: We've got no house to lose, no career to dash, no school-aged children in need of pricey Wii gaming systems. Not recession-proof, exactly, but recession-resistant, at least."

Well said, slacker.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Darwinism in the Time of Recession

It's interesting to juxtapose who's failing because of bad luck with who's failing because of bad business. Some of the most depressing news, upon closer inspection, seems less like a tragedy and more like a fait accompli. AT&T lost home phone customers? In 2009? Who could imagine that, blame the recession! Sprint , a phone carrier long scorned and out of touch, isn't doing well and is continuing to eliminate structual ineffieicencies? I'm shocked. I had such high hopes for the new owner of NexTel, home of the stunningly annoying and increasingly obselete "beep-beep".

The human price always sucks. And our unemployment lines and careerbuilder.coms don't have much more room. But maybe, these companies are suffering from a lack of innovation and customer insight, not from a run in with mark to market trading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shame Me Twice...

When the news broke that John Paulson is the smartest and richest man in the recession, people were a little miffed, and while there's no real basis for it...I think we all can chalk that up to human nature. But the one undeniable fact remains: while the rest of us were spending with the divine knowledge that the money trees would forever bear fruit, Paulson was making brilliant investment decisions that bet against us and won him the house. So now he's done it again . And people are mad again. I'm just mad I didn't think to invest with him after the first expose.

THAT'S Your Stimulus Plan???

For anyone who read the last post and know, I just don't think the financial freefall has made big enough fools of the American people and their government...your time has come.

The New York Post recently reported that 25 of the 42 state lottos in the US have seen increased revenues since all our money was incinerated in the great bonfire of 2008. The logic behind these purchases is clear: No one knows you're spending if you immediately lose and throw the ticket away. Now that secret shopping isn't safe from infiltrating reporters lapping up the last bits of the good life, it's time to engage in truly reckless spending.

So keep an eye on the Super Jumbo Pot Sweepstakes numbers tonight...the golden ticket might just be your own.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

You're broke? It's is the unemployment office!

In "times like these", many unearth a new found appreciation for those agencies and services providing a hand up. Waiting in line for concerts tickets is replaced by waiting in line to collect unemployment benefits or sign up for Job Corp. Because that's the point of all our taxes...right? We pay now in case we need it later; A sort of mandatory insurance policy with sky high premiums and no contracted guarantee, lucky us. Now, in our hour of need we can collect. Queue up everyone. It's time!

Or, err. It would be time. But see, the unemployment office, well...there was a mix up in 2001 and they didn't ever totally fix it, but as long as there isn't massive unemployment it really shouldn't be a prob...uh oh. It seems that they don't really "have the money". Or any money. At all. In fact they sort of need to borrow some. Because they're bankrupt too.

Even the government can't spare you a dime, brother.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We Are The Champions.

So we're poor. And mad at people who managed to get rich. Life sucks for everyone...right?

When will someone emerge a winner? Well, bear with me...but I think we're(assuming only pre-actual responsibility people are reading...and come on, I post this on facebook so I'm probably right...) the victors. My running joke is that when our generation gets our pink slips we're going to head home and pretend like we're on an extended spring break. Think about it..."I can't mom, I'm looking for a job in a dead economy". It'l be like high school sans curfew...and instead of an allowance we'll have severance. Because really, what do we have to lose? That cushy cubicle by the bathroom? Unlimited access to the copier and coffee machine? That paycheck that covers exactly a third less than we spend? We have no equity in this system and few exit barriers.

The New York Times is running stories about trophy wives considering leaving their husbands because they are no longer being supported in the manner to which they have become accustom. No worries here...I haven't had a date in 3 weeks, no one can leave me because the money's gone.

And that is mayhap the kick in the head of all of and large, we aren't the ones losing jobs. Unemployment for people over 50 is skyrocketing and once they lose jobs, fewer than 60% find full time employment within two years. They're being pushed into early retirements and buyouts. The rise of the Zuckerberg generation has finally lead to the dawning (but much overdue) realization that age and tenure are a drain on payroll, but not a guranteed boon to innovation and productivity. This will hopefully not be a realization that fades as markets settle, but even if it does, we are a generation gaining unprecedented access and responsibility and this trial by fire will stay with us into c-suites and start ups.

Tonite I decided I wanted to be a lady senator, actress, and writer...all before 11pm. Why? Because unlike times past when young 20's were a time to save up for a down payment and pick a company to grow old with, there is no security, few rules, and for the love of the subprime, don't buy! So what DO we have to look forward to? Ideas, innovation,no longer being constrained by the pressure to follow "safe" paths... All those finance majors can find something they actually like to do.....besides pocket 150% bonuses. Girls grooming to become trophy wives can channel that obsessive perfectionism and focus on apperance into starting an image consulting firm. The notion of a corporate ladder is being destroyed so forget about climbing and start creating.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Makes $3.9 Billion

You know when you show up at a bar and kind of think you'll be the hottest girl there? Or at least, like, top 5? And then you make a lap and notice that a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model is there? And you're just so..."damn it!". Because it was supposed to be your damn night and now you're just another fat girl in spanx and a miracle bra. And you know the only way you're going to salvage any of the night is to immediately call that model a slut and make sure everyone knows she got a nose job anyway?...yeah, that's kind of what Dick Fuld is trying to do to
this guy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

God Bless the Rich Who Spend Their Own

As the black friday sales turned into holiday specials and then limped into early January clearance bins it became clear to even the most novice investor that the economic problems are leading to a glut of supply and a dearth of demand. This is a familiar tale in times of flow insecurity leads to hording and our economy continues to flounder because it's built on capitalism, not paying down bills and hiding $100s in the mattress.

The supposed bright spot in this mess should be the super rich, those elusive creatures whose net worth can withstand anything short of a media meltdown or ponzi scheme. While its become harder to find these mega rich types now that Russian oligarchs are selling off their assets and Palm Beach royalty have collectively become Palm Beach paupers, the irony is that the only people left with money to spend are ostracized and demonized for their expenditures. The New York Times and The Daily Beast both feature the burgeoning trend of secret shopping. Blog posts on Gawker and New York Magazine's Daily Intel about $14,000 a table debutante balls and Hermes purchases disguised in discreet white shopping bags are littered with lengthy commentary, both editorial and otherwise, about the selfish, wrong,and out of touch nature of these baubles and balls. And I get it, it can be decidedly unpleasant to watch Marie Antoinette eat cake. But this isn't pre-Glorious Revolution France, and the coffers weren't emptied by greedy royalty while the peasants stood helpless. America is a capitalist country, historically believing in the invisible hand and the economic benefit of self interest. The best thing about these beliefs is that they just might work.

The government's desire to provide its constituents home ownership resulted in Fanny May and Freddy Mac and oversize balloon mortgages. The "hockey moms" and "Joe Six Packs" wanting mcmansions they could ill afford led to their acceptance of loans that, even prima facie, seemed too good to be true, and bankers eager to rise from first years to managing directors in record time cheerfully bought, bundled, and resold the debt all in time to collect 150% bonuses and a penthouse designed by Armani. Everyone's guilty, but as Shakespeare once penned, "some will be pardoned and some will be punished", and in the court of public opinion, it seems that a high net worth endangers one to immediate suspicion of greater wrong doing. Are the bankers more to blame because they have 6 figure bonuses in the bank to pad their severance packages? Are foreclosed upon home owners blameless now that they have to choose between new shoes and their heating bill? Should Franny and Freddy be forgotten and forgiven since they've been dissolved anyway? Why is it that not being a complete loser makes you the enemy?

We need the spending. The dressmakers and hair dressers and waiters and chauffeurs hired for that "elitist" deb ball earned a paycheck and given that it was the holiday season, it seems likely to extrapolate that at least a little of that money went into retail registers. That's how a stimulus works. That's how capitalism works. People want things so they earn money to spend money to procure them. The refrain is often "why don't the rich just donate their money", and while charity is important(and a portion of the much vaunted deb ball's proceeds did go to just that), its not a sustainable profit model. If the rich donate they bolster a family or cause temporarily, but when they spend regularly and lavishly they're keeping businesses open and people employed because of their own self interest and those people will do the same, perpetuating a cycle known as a "growing economy". So next time a celebrity drives off the lot in a new Range Rover or a socialite sails out of J. Mendel with a sable, remember that their unnecessary excess is exactly what the crippled global markets need. When even Paris Hilton has to wear an outfit twice, that's when we'll know we're in a depression.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Happens Now?

The eve of 2009 and the only certainty is uncertainty. In New York the financial collapse is a specter on every street corner and a guest at every party. It's one thing to wish ill on your exes, its another when the former expat titans of the universe start to leave the city and even the country...unemployed and understandably unhappy. That victory felt better before the horsemen of the Apocalypse showed up outside of my office, portending doom and layoffs. My fate is a cliffhanger right now, but I expect to avoid this round of "redundancies". But the next? And how effectively will a wounded workplace breed innovation and creativity?

When the sale signs started to go up on Madison Ave, I did my part to support the economy. And when lame duck businesses began to go out of business I felt it was a form of Darwinism...inferior product mix or customer connections begets obsolescence. That's a good thing. But when the Madoff scandal broke (in an eerily similar fashion as Nate's take down of his father on Gossip imitating art methinks) and it became apparent that even blue blood would be shed, the luxury industry, historically the bull industry in a bear market, started to feel it. As a daughter of Regan's America, that scares me. The trickle down effect might be debatable for increasing wealth, but few can deny its proclivity for decreasing nest eggs to nothing .

So that's where we are on the eve of a new year...broke and broken. Those of us with jobs feel the pressure to preform and know our next bad idea could be our last. The bitch of it all is that what these times call for is unprecedented vision and brave innovation. Feeling complacent in the flush times left most people and companies illprepared for the diaster we find ourselves in now. A lot of dross will be cleared but some of the layoffs and bankruptcies will punish smart people who were caught by the invisable hand of an inflated market struggling to regain equilibrium. Who's going to make it? And why? Will the auto industry embrace the alternative fuel sources foisted upon them decades ago? Will banks recover when their ubercapitalist workforce realizes the job's markedly less exciting sans 200% bonuses? Will art and fashion and everything pretty (including but not limited to the women used to playing trophy girlfriends to hedge funders) disappear to be replaced by burlap and hags?

I didn't sign up for this. I left the sorority house to come play at a bigger party But I'm here and somewhere over the past few months my rss feed and mind expanded to include the Wall Street Journal alongside and "The Hills" recaps. No one can afford to play at their purpose. Its time to find one and carve a marketable niche into the bedrock of a stagnant economy. And while I'm doing that to secure my paltry income, the real action will be seeing which multi-million, multi-national corporations are ready to do the same. Its going to be a wild ride, luckily I'm don't get motion sick.