Every business I go into happens after hundreds of hours of research and on the ground discussions of people already in the business. What I do is the epitome of high risk. Business start-ups are the hardest of the hard. Many people may have a good idea but I’ve been able to build a business from an idea, over and over again. To then scale up an idea is even harder. To be in business longer than 5 years where 90% fail is even harder. I’ve hit the 5-year mark six times. God has been blessing me for a long time. He has opened and closed doors to me all with the goal of making me stronger and making my impact on society through my skill set ever bigger.
Organization That Work – My Take
I’m starting compiling notes on the philosophies I subscribe to as a business leader. Over my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of staff members and continue to learn each day on how to better lead my organizations. Following is an outline of what could someday be a book on business leadership:
As part of managing people, I rate them in three categories. Depending on their strengths and weaknesses in these categories I determine where they fit in the organization and how to come to a particular staff member to strengthen their abilities in one or all of these areas:
Technical sills at their particular job Does the person have experience in the field they are working in?
Managerial skills Does the person exhibit the characteristic to manage other people? There is a large distinction between Lead and Manage but both involve a sense of selflessness, servant leadership and care of others above self. Those in leadership have an additional step that involves self-awareness and self-reflection that allows the leader to garner followers and chart a course.
Emotional Intelligence Is the person on our team aware of how they are acting in our organization? Does the person control their emotions in difficult situations? Is the person observant and able to understand the condition of their team? Does the person work well with others?
Characteristics of what I look for when adding or removing someone from a team;
- How does the person fit into the organizational culture?
- Is the person coachable and open to change?
- Is the person naturally a learner and open to change or new ideas?
- The character attributes of humility, loyalty, and trustworthiness are paramount to any organization I’m leading.
- Any backstabbing, back lobbying excessive gossiping or outright obstruction is a one-way ticket out of our organization.
The Human Factor – From the beginning of time, man has been working to control the 7 deadly sins. From Dante’s Inferno, the 7 deadly sins are in all of us. Over time, through a lot of work, we’ve learned how to manage our 7 deadly sins. Check out the outline of my theory on 7 Deadly Sins.
It’s important to know that these negative virtues are part of the human condition. Throughout history, people, societies, and countries have become out of balance with the deadly sins to their detriment.
People will make mistakes. I’ve struggled with forgiveness and more importantly re-trusting someone after an egregious act. Fool me once… but knowing everyone has these tendencies from time to time helps me to better understand why someone would act the way they do. If the person is unaware (lack of Emotional Intelligence) or unwilling (not coachable) then it’s time we part ways.
Of all the deadly sins, the two most destructive in the workplace are Pride and Greed.
Know Your People and Chart The Course – People want to believe in something big. An organization needs to know where it’s going. It’s the job of the leader to chart the course and keep reminding everyone of where we are going.
Bet The Jockey
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 30 years. There a number of analogies I use to explain what it’s like to do what I do. Skydiving without a parachute is sometimes what it feels like or Cortes in 1519 that landed in Veracruz and burned the ships to ensure total commitment to his adventure.
For me, the horse racing industry is an analogy that I particularly like. So here are the top 10 lessons I’ve learned in entrepreneurship, told through the lens of horse racing;
- You have to understand the horse you picked. To be a good horse racer, you have to know your horse’s lineage, breeding stock, strengths and weaknesses and positive and negative attributes. You have to do your homework. Just because a newborn quarter horse looks like the next Seabiscuit the day it’s born doesn’t mean he’s going to be Seabiscuit. Do your homework, research, study and chart a course towards the Triple Crown.
- In the beginning, get ready to make that horse your life! Your job as the owner/jockey of this potential winning thoroughbred, is to live, breath and embed yourself with this growing steed. Once you’ve picked your horse, your next 4 years is all about that horse.
- You have to anticipate what your horse will need. There are thousands of tactics that are mainstream and at times way out there, all techniques to build a great racehorse. Having a talented horse is one thing, knowing how to prepare him to be a winner is your job. Make sure you are ahead of the curve.
- You better understand your ownership team. People buy horses for a lot of reasons. If you have partners you better understand why they are in the racehorse business. If the ownership has ego driven, rich owners, that want to be in winner circle for the glory be careful. Some owners may be looking for your horse as winning the lottery…..one big score… to set them up in life (perhaps after years of picking the wrong horses). Is your ownership team going to second guess your every move? Does one of the owners, maybe the guy that’s been a car dealer all his life, now fancy himself as the worlds greatest trainer? Pick your owners (partners carefully). Know your ins and outs of the partnership. No matter how great the racehorse, if the owners aren’t aligned you are wasting your time. Time to find a new horse to run. A greedy owner will want to chase the big purses, even if your horse won’t be ready. An owner that is in the business for ego purposes will get bored with his investment if the wins stop coming.
- Carefully pick your races. There will always be pressure to enter new races (markets). Be patient, know your horse, know your end goals and don’t peak too early. Watch carefully number 4 …(ownership)…if your owners want to move to quick because of greed or pride, you could blow your one shot at glory.
- A great horse won’t win, without a great team. You may have a triple crown winner on your hands but without properly trainers, veterinarians, back office business staff, transportation companies and jockey’s your never going to perform at his peak potential. If you look at the top 10 jockey’s of all time you can see that they get really good at picking the right horse….and the right team. From the stable hand that may water your horse too much before a big race to the hotshot jockey that ensures a win, every detail is critical. You may have heard of legendary jockey Billy Shoemaker with $123m in lifetime purses. Pat Day and Jerry Bailey have lifetime wins just shy of $300m. What separates these jockeys form the heard? They know their horses and ownership teams pick them because they know how to win.
- Learn Your Horse and Learn HIS Strategy. Every horse has a personality and strengths and weaknesses. If you’ve raised your horse, you know where he performs the best. Don’t be afraid to pass on a ‘sure thing’ or stretch into a ‘long shot’ if you know your horse. Naysayers will constantly cherp in your ear what they think best. You know your horse and you need to have the inner fortitude to make the hard calls.
- Keep entering the races as long you’re having fun and finishing respectfully. There comes a point where every good horse has run their last race. Know when to give up and go out to pasture. In my business world, I’ve had over a dozen different startups and turnarounds. Each one had a moment where I knew it was time. Early in my career, I waited too long. Emotions and ego got in the way and it cost me money and embarrassed my ‘horse’ because it couldn’t compete anymore. Here are a few of my businesses and the moment that I knew it was time to give it up;
- Tiburon Diagnostic Lab – when insurance companies excluded us on key account – Result; laid off 34 staff members. This one was my hardest to work out by far.
- Talking Trash Waste Removal – when the ability to buy new trucks and fuel peaked at $4 per gallon – I sold the company to a competitor
- QMed Weight Loss Clinic – Cash Medical Care – the passage of Obamacare locked down entrepreneurial opportunities in the healthcare market.
- Gotta Go Wireless – as cell phones became commodities, I sold the stores to my managers and kept the top end revenue.
- Sports Buzz Haircuts – I realized that scaling from 9 to my goal of 50 would be difficult given the top line revenue and the caliber of the staff
- Big Time Balloon Advertising – when I watched a balloon turn off power on a Black Friday shopping day for an entire block of retail stores, I knew the liability was too great to continue.
- Silverbell Pavilion – an investment that looked great in 2007 turned into an albatross that could have taken me down during the recession of 2008. The options were limited and I did my best to do the right thing for the bank and my partners.
- Winning is as much luck and timing as it is skill and talent. No doubt it takes practice and talent to win the big races. But luck and timing are just as important. How many triple crown opportunities were dashed because of the rainy conditions at the Belmont that didn’t match the talents of the horse that already won the Preakness and Kentucky Derby? Making the rounds is a study by Cornell Economists that argue that you have to have luck to really hit it big. Of course, you can argue that the harder you work the luckier you are. People like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were of course at the right place at the right time. Contrast them with a Jeff Bezos or a Warren Buffet who made their fortunes over decades and you can see the debate that could be had over luck/talent.
As the essayist E.B. White once wrote, “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” Some people are of course quick to acknowledge the good fortune they’ve enjoyed along their paths to the top. But White was surely correct that such people are in the minority. More commonly, successful people overestimate their responsibility for whatever successes they achieve.
- No matter how amazing your racehorse is, know when to find another. In the end, after you’ve done your best, sometimes you have to realize that it’s time to find a new horse. Remember, you’re a great jockey. Jockey will have a
- 30-year career and horses start at 2 years of age, peak at 4.5 years and decline for the next 3 to five years after that. Based on all I’ve detailed above, it’s hard not get emotionally involved in your racehorse. You’ve raised each other, you’ve learned from each other. you invested your time and energy into creating the perfect thoroughbred. You’ve had ups and downs and lived to race another day. It’s not easy to give it up and find another. But that’s exactly what has to be done when things are no longer working. If you’re lucky and smart about it, that horse can go out to pasture and have a long life. Who knows, you could develop another Tapit and pull in $35m a year without setting foot on another track. In the business world, what this looks like is realizing that you have an entity that no longer can compete and grow but still can provide ample revenue as it declines. I’ve had those type of entities and watched them slowly die out over time. I’ve also been in business that have their core revenue stream interrupted but because of what I’ve learned, I see new opportunities that I can branch into. I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned and reconstitute the team and start training a new horse. In the end always BET THE JOCKEY!
God And Economists Agree On One Thing (A Guide To Betting The Jockey)
(This article refers to investing in gold mining but the ideas apply on …Bet The Jockey). Here is what you should look for:
1. Have they done it before?
In his book “Principles” Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio writes that when hiring someone he checks to see if they’ve done the job at least 3 times before.
This controls for luck. Anyone can get lucky once, the blessed twice… but it’s hard to do so a third time. Anyone who has pulled off three wins is more likely to be competent.
2. Do they know how to fail?
One of the reason that David Lowell has made more discoveries than anyone else is that he knows when to kill a project. If a target isn’t shaping up the way he expects, he kills it quickly and moves on to the next. He doesn’t spend 5 years (and millions of dollars) praying the nex
t drill hole is the one that proves the theory – he moves on to something better.
Does management waste time on projects with no future? Have they killed projects in the past instead of wasting investors’ money? Did their first project just happen to be a big win?
These are things to look out for.
3. Do they only have one shot?
Things will go wrong. Definitely.
There will be delays. There will be cost overruns. There will be social issues. I’ve never heard of a project coming together without a complication. There are simply too many unknown unknowns in a mining project. Will the team be able to manage problems when they occur?
Do they have the budget to weather delays and setbacks? Do they have the faith of their backers and ability to raise more money when they need it? Or are they banking on everything going according to plan.
Because it won’t.
4. Do their incentives align with yours?
People do what they’re incentivized to do. Period.
This means that a management teams’ incentives need to match yours. They must be meaningful shareholders, and their salaries should be good but not cushy. They need to win if, and only if, shareholders win.
If they have the opportunity to slowly dwindle away the cash in a plush office on $300k a year regardless of what happens to the project… you’re screwed.
5. Give credit where credit is due
For every successful project there are a dozen people who claim responsibility and leverage it for the remainder of their career; or in the words of JFK “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan”.
Don’t be fooled. Most big wins come down to the ability or the effort of one or two key people who get it over the line; everyone else is just helping. Just because someone is a good addition to a winning team does not mean that they can repeat the process on their own. From every successful team you’ll get half a dozen spin outs who try and do it themselves. Do your homework and be sure to give credit where credit is due.
The Best of The Best Business Interviews
I’ve been drawn to Seth Godin and his philosophy around education, the future and what society needs in the future. Are you an artist? Give this a listen and start growing your inner artist!
One of my favorite podcast is Entreleadership. It’s part of the Dave Ramsay network. This interview with the CEO of Ace Hardware nails what it means to run a successful business. Listen closely, this interview:
As a CEO and having done turnarounds, the key to fixing and growing a company is building out a great team and focusing on building a great culture. I stumbled upon 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and loved the way he uses the story to teach a lesson. His new book points out how to be humble and hungry.
I’m not a real sports fan. The only sport I’ve really ever gotten into is college football. I’m a big Notre Dame fan and have been to South Bend on a number of occasions and actually stayed in one of Knute Rockne’s homes. Notre Dame football is something special I share with my Dad and brother in law. I enjoy college football because it is fraught with errors and mistakes. I enjoy the drama built around recovering from those mistakes. I find the NFL too produced and frankly too perfect. Sports, in general, is the one place in society that where you get ahead on pure talent. Your education, your family upbringing or what neighborhood you grew up in means nothing. Talent is everything. That’s why I like it.
I enjoy and understand the ranking system found in College football. The ranking allows a novice to pick up a game and immediately understand the drama between the teams. I love the age long rivalries and in state matches. Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, USC all have dominant systems but each has stumbled and had to rebuild. Those long dynastic dramas playing out are amazing to watch.
So with all of the above explanations, there is no one bigger to me in football than Lou Holtz. Here’s one his better interviews:
Want to know what the future of the world is going to look like? Check out the analysis by Elmor of Generation Z. They are still in elementary school but they will eventually rule the world.
I grew up in the 1980’s. Grandson of a Butcher, the son of a Butcher, a transplant to Arizona via Wisconsin. Our entire family and community where JFK Democrats. From an early age, I identified with the Republican philosophies and with a huge streak to chart my own course as an entrepreneur. I grew up on Reagan and American exceptionalism. Check out the CNN 80’s series to get a sense of the time that formed who I am.
Watch it HERE
I listen to and learn a lot from Entreleadership podcast. I have researched a number of personality assessment systems and have implemented 16 Personalities . This is a powerful tool for any family or business. Ian Morgan Cron did a large study of CEO’s and found that the highest predictor success is knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. Give a listen HERE.
Goals, Persistence, Business
The story of the Wright Brothers as told by David McCullough ties in classical education, work ethic, midwestern values, and tenacity. For a great lecture on what is possible spend an hour HERE.
Power, Who Has It, How Do You Use It and What It Looks Like
I read Robert Greene’s book, 48 Laws of Power and got a lot out of it. After listening to his life story, I want to dig into his new Mastery. I’ve referenced Malcolm Gladwell and his books about what separates common from great, it sounds like Mastery will be right up my. ally! This is a great interview that explains, once again, my theory that without understanding your own emotional motivations you will be short lived as a leader. Give it a listen.
Robert Greene is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and The 50th Law. His highly anticipated fifth book, Mastery, examines the lives of great historical figures such as Charles Darwin, Mozart, Paul Graham and Henry Ford and distills the traits and universal ingredients that made them masters. In addition to having a strong following within the business world and a deep following in Washington, DC, Greene’s books are hailed by everyone from war historians to the biggest musicians in the industry (including Jay-Z and 50 Cent). Greene attended U.C. Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he received a degree in classical studies. He currently lives in Los Angeles.
Here’s The Learning Leader page. And from the show notes, below is the takeaways for me:
- Sustained Excellence:
- Self Mastery
- Self Control — “We are emotional animals, governed by emotions. It can get you in trouble.”
- Self Discipline
- Flexibility — Ability to adapt
- Why was Napoleon successful? He had a front line obsession
- Law 4 – Always say less than necessary. “Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence.”
- Learn the power of being quiet
- If you’re upset about an email, do not respond emotionally. Wait 24 hours and then respond with a level head
- Law 9 – Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument. “Demonstrate, do not explicate.”
- “Show them. Don’t talk.”
- Law 10 – Infection: Avoid The Unhappy and Unlucky
- You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with
- “We absorb the energy of other people.”
- Look to “level up” your peer group at all time”
- How to deal with a person in a power position who you do not like or respect?
- Do not let them see you upset. Do not show them emotion (when they try to rile you up)
- “The human brain does not learn unless it is excited”
- Cesar Rodriguez — “Trust The Process” — You must get reps, reps, reps in order to achieve any level of excellence
- Think long term and put in the necessary work to be great
- Advice: “You were born with a purpose. Tap into what makes you different and unique. There is tremendous pressure to fit in. You will have success if you dig deep, be adventurous, try things out. Respect your unique-ness, something great will happen.”
Former Fed Chairman – Richard C. Koo
I stumbled upon this interview with former Fed Chairman Richard C. Koo, Chief Economist, Nomura Research Institute. The title of the talk is Surviving in the Intellectually Bankrupt Monetary Policy Environment. It’s long and sort of wonky but very enlightening. Koo ties in what Japan tried to do following their massive debt bubble that exploded in the late 1980’s. After our 2008 bubble, the US Fed is following the same footprint that ballooned Japan’s debt to GDP to more than 200%. Our economics is based on the assumption of profit maximization. However, what happens, when this assumption is no longer
Our economics is based on the assumption of profit maximization. However, what happens, when this assumption is no longer valid when companies pay down debt at zero interest rates? This is when the economy has entered a balance sheet recession. In such a situation, monetary policy becomes a largely useless weapon. After years of monetary policy with limited effectiveness, Richard C. Koo is asking: How can we escape from the QE-Trap? I can’t speak for anyone else but after the pain of the 2008 recession, even after 10 years, I’m much more cautious and careful in how I manage my businesses. As an entrepreneur, we are out flying without a net. A mistake can mean total loss of everything I’ve built up. I’ve been there and certainly don’t want to do that again. Multiply my experiences times all the enterprises in American and you get the gist of Koo’s hypothesis. I’m SLOWLY writing a 12 chapter book called The Decline of America. Each chapter argues another point that focuses on major fundamental flaws in the American society that, when taken all together, paint a pretty bleak picture. My chapter on DEMOGRAPHICS is DESTINY helps explain Japan’s problem. All in all, you’re up to Tr$30. The low birth rate issue is plaguing most Western societies. If you ain’t growing, you’re dying.
The official US debt is listed at $20 trillion. By adding the Tr$3.2 state/local debt to the total, as well as contingent liabilities such as Fannie, Freddie, and Ginnie: All in all you’re up to Tr$30. This number doesn’t include promises made by the US Government to its citizens (Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security are the biggest at an estimated $200T) It all works fine until it doesn’t. We are witnessing the biggest confidence game ever played in history.
It all works fine until it doesn’t. We are witnessing the biggest confidence game ever played in history. These numbers are so large, we are uncharted territory. When the world loses confidence in Japan, or Spain or Portugal or the US, the sucking sound of capital will be very loud. If history is a guide, expect a war of distraction, an exertion of States rights that could mean a civil war or long period of deflationary events.
What Makes A Good CEO?
A new book I’m reading and recommend on the role of understanding yourself as a leader. Check out The Accidental CEO
on February 25, 2008 (Review from Amazon)Format: Paperback
I am an adjunct professor with the MBA program at Maastricht School of Management in Maastricht, Holland. My primary teaching responsibilities include courses for MBA and DBA students focused on Executive Leadership, Advanced Business Strategy, Strategic Alliances, Mergers and Acquisitions and International Business. These students are located on the main campuses and 36 auxiliary campuses around the world.
I have used the book, The Accidental CEO – A Leader’s Journey from Ego to Purpose, as one of the primary resources for my students to get inside the head of what it feels like to be a CEO and to confront the real leadership issues that CEOs have to resolve in their everyday work life. Both the students and I have found Mr. Voccola’s book to be an invaluable source of stimulating class discussion. It offers the students a realistic portrayal of the daily dynamic of corporate leadership. It maps out what it means to gain the loyalty of your core leadership team through the means of an inner conversation about who you are as a CEO. It links the performance of the CEO to his understanding of himself and ultimately how important it is for the CEO to get clear about his or her real purpose and unique contribution.
Mr. Voccola’s book is the perfect segue into the discussion of self knowledge as the key to leadership performance breakthroughs. After reading this book, the students quit speaking in the abstract and begin to really grasp the concrete realities of the leadership journey. It has sparked numerous highly motivated classroom discussions and has caused several of my students to focus on various aspects of successful leadership as their research topic for their MBA theses. I highly recommend this book without reservation for any reader who wants to gain deep insight to the real dynamics of leadership and personal success both in business and in life.
Jim Roger and Doug Casey – Contrarians That Invest In ‘The Opposite”
If you haven’t stumbled across Doug Casey, I highly recommend that you dig in. Casey owns Casey Research and wrote a book called International Man back in the 70’s. His theory was that as an entrepreneur we need to find markets. Sometimes, those markets aren’t in your country, aren’t very well known and aren’t where the heard is. He is able to use history and politics to predict future markets and he is extremely matter of fact about his analysis. Read his book, Politically Incorrect, which is an interview-style discussion with Nick Giambruno and you’ll get what I mean. Rogers is a bit more of a fear monger but his book Investment Biker is a classic. You could throw Warren Buffet into these guys strategy in that he tries to read trends and go opposite the investor heard. Buffet buys management teams, great industries and holds forever. These guys are more aggressive, but similar mentalities. I went to a 16-week options trading course with a friend and the first 4 weeks were all about emotions, greed and fear. Now I get it.
A couple other investment thought leaders that I subscribe to are Jim Richards (Currency Wars), and Harry Dent (Demographic Cliff) and Rober Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Prophecy). Dent and Kiyosaki theorize that Demographics is Destiny and the Baby Boom spike and prosperity will end as they move into retirement. I read Rich Dad back in 2002. Kiyosaki was spot on. What he didn’t predict, was how is theory would be pushed out a few years based on unprecedented government intervention in the 2008 market Great Recession. I’m working on a book with 12 arguments (chapters) as to why America is on the decline. I devoted a full chapter to changing demographics (password protected). The Mr. Koo lecture explains how demographics changed Japan and how advanced countries are in for some rocky times.
Nick Giambruno: How does an investor deal with being accurate but early?
Jim Rogers: Oh, that’s the story of my life. I’ve always been accurate but early.
If I’m convinced something is going to happen or if I should make an investment, I have learned that I should wait for awhile, because maybe it is too early. And it usually is too early.
I try to discipline myself to wait longer or to put in orders below the market and let the market come to me. But even then, sometimes I’m still too early.
Nick Giambruno: How did studying history help you in investing?
Jim Rogers: Well, the main thing it taught me was that everything is always changing.
If you go back and look at before the First World War, nobody could ever have conceived in 1910 that Germany and Britain would be slaughtering millions of people four years later. Yet it happened.
No matter what we think today, no matter what it is, it is not going to be true in 15 years. I assure you. You pick any year in history, and look at what everybody was convinced was correct and then look 15 years later, and you’d be shocked and astonished. Look at 1920, 15 years later. Look at 1930, 15 years later. Any year you want to pick – 1900, 1990, 2000. Pick any year and I assure you, 15 years later everything is going to be different. I guess that’s the first thing I learned from the study of history.
Nick Giambruno: What mistakes do empires always make?
Jim Rogers: They get overextended. They think they’re smarter than everybody else. They think they cannot make mistakes, and even if they are making mistakes they are so powerful they think that they can correct the mistakes. And then they become overextended. Usually they become overextended financially, militarily, geopolitically, in every way.
Nick Giambruno: Is the US repeating those same mistakes?
Jim Rogers: Well, the US is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world now, and the debts are going higher and higher. The people in the US think it doesn’t matter that we’ve got all these debts and there’s no problem. People in the US don’t think that it’s a problem that we’ve got troops in over 100 countries around the world. I mean, when Rome got overextended militarily, it paid the price. Spain and many other countries have had this problem. Maybe it’s not a problem. Maybe America can have troops in 200 countries around the world and it won’t matter, but America has certainly gotten itself overextended in many ways.
Nick Giambruno: Do you think wealth and power will continue to move East?
Jim Rogers: Wealth and power are moving East now, and that is going to continue. That’s because of historic reasons. There’s little doubt in my mind that China is going to be the next great country in the world. Most people are still skeptical of that. Most people know something is happening in China. They don’t really quite understand the full historic significance of what is happening in China including many Chinese.
If you made it this far into my business post here’s an interesting prediction done in October of 2017 on what the next financial downturn will look like. History is showing that it takes more and more fuel to the fire to turn around these recessions because of the massive amounts of leverage which is created after each downturn. The student loan debt, corporate leveraging, intervention by the Fed are going to be the housing bubble of 2008. Trump’s tax plan will boost some adrenaline into the economy but normal business cycles of highs and lows occur, on average every 7 years. We are on year 9 since the 2008 downturn. This is a bit wonky but check out the bullet points;
What Will the Next Crisis Look Like?
By Marko Kolanovic, PhD, and Bram Kaplan
October 3, 2017
Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 and also the 50thanniversary of the 1968 global protests against political elites. Currently, there are financial and social parallels to both of these events. Leading into the 2008 GFC, some financial institutions underwrote products with excessive leverage in real estate investments. The collapse of liquidity in these products impaired balance sheets, and governments backstopped the crisis. Soon enough governments themselves were propped by extraordinary monetary stimulus from central banks. Central banks purchased ~$15T of financial assets, mostly government obligations. This accommodation is now expected to reverse, starting meaningfully in 2018. Such outflows (or lack of new inflows) could lead to asset declines and liquidity disruptions, and potentially cause a financial crisis. We will call this hypothetical crisis the “Great Liquidity Crisis” (GLC). The timing will largely be determined by the pace of central bank normalization, business cycle dynamics and various idiosyncratic events, and hence cannot be known accurately. This is similar to the 2008 GFC, when those that accurately predicted the nature of the GFC started doing so around 2006. We think the main attribute of the next crisis will be severe liquidity disruptions resulting from market developments since the last crisis:
- Decreased AUM of strategies that buy Value Assets: The shift from active to passive assets, and specifically the decline of active value investors, reduces the ability of the market to prevent and recover from large drawdowns. The ~$2T rotation from active and value to passive and momentum strategies since the last crisis eliminated a large pool of assets that would be standing ready to buy cheap public securities and backstop a market disruption.
- Tail Risk of Private Assets: Outflows from active value investors may be related to an increase in Private Assets (Private Equity, Real Estate and Illiquid Credit holdings). Over the past two decades, pension fund allocations to public equity decreased by ~10%, and holdings of Private Assets increased by ~20%. Similar to public value assets, private assets draw performance from valuation discounts and liquidity risk premia. Private assets reduce day-to-day volatility of a portfolio, but add liquidity-driven tail risk. Unlike the market for public value assets, liquidity in private assets may be disrupted for much longer during a crisis.
- Increased AUM of strategies that sell on ‘Autopilot’: Over the past decade there was strong growth in Passive and Systematic strategies that rely on momentum and asset volatility to determine the level of risk taking (e.g., volatility targeting, risk parity, trend following, option hedging, etc.). A market shock would prompt these strategies to programmatically sell into weakness. For example, we estimate that futures-based strategies grew by ~$1T over the past decade, and options-based hedging strategies increased their potential selling impact from ~3 days of average futures volume to ~7 days of average volume.
- Trends in liquidity provision: The model of liquidity provision changed in a close analogy to the shift from active/value to passive/momentum. In market making, this has been a shift from human market makers that are slower and often rely on valuations (reversion), to programmatic liquidity that is faster and relies on volatility-based VAR to quickly adjust the amount of risk taking (liquidity provision). This trend strengthens momentum and reduces day-to-day volatility, but increases the risk of disruptions such as the ones we saw on a smaller scale in May 2010, October 2014 and August 2015.
- Miscalculation of portfolio risk: Over the past 2 decades, most risk models were (correctly) counting on bonds to offset equity risk. At the turning point of monetary accommodation, this assumption will most likely fail. This increases tail risk for multi-asset portfolios. An analogy is with the 2008 failure of endowment models that assumed Emerging Markets, Commodities, Real Estate, and other asset classes are not highly correlated to DM Equities. In the next crisis, Bonds likely will not be able to offset equity losses (due to low rates and already large CB balance sheets). Another risk miscalculation is related to the use of volatility as the only measure of portfolio risk. Very expensive assets often have very low volatility, and despite downside risk are deemed perfectly safe by these models.
- Valuation Excesses: Given the extended period of monetary accommodation, most of assets are at their high end of historical valuations. This is particularly true in sectors most directly comparable to bonds (e.g., credit, low volatility stocks), as well as technology- and internet-related stocks. Sign of excesses include multi-billion dollar valuations for smartphone apps or for ‘initial crypto- coin offerings’ that in many cases have very questionable value.
We believe that the next financial crisis (GLC) will involve many of the features above, and addressing them on a portfolio level may mitigate the impact of next financial crises. What will governments and central banks do in the scenario of a great liquidity crisis? If the standard rate cutting and bond purchases don’t suffice, central banks may more explicitly target asset prices (e.g., equities). This may be controversial in light of the potential impact of central bank actions in driving inequality between asset owners and labor (e.g., see here). Other ‘out of the box’ solutions could include a negative income tax (one can call this ‘QE for labor’), progressive corporate tax, universal income and others. To address growing pressure on labor from AI, new taxes or settlements may be levied on Technology companies (for instance, they may be required to pick up the social tab for labor destruction brought by artificial intelligence, in an analogy to industrial companies addressing environmental impacts). While we think unlikely, a tail risk could be a backlash against central banks that prompts significant changes in the monetary system. In many possible outcomes, inflation is likely to pick up.
The next crisis is also likely to result in social tensions similar to those witnessed 50 years ago in 1968. In 1968, TV and investigative journalism provided a generation of baby boomers access to unfiltered information on social developments such as Vietnam and other proxy wars, Civil rights movements, income inequality, etc. Similar to 1968, the internet today (social media, leaked documents, etc.) provides millennials with unrestricted access to information on a surprisingly similar range of issues. In addition to information, the internet provides a platform for various social groups to become more self-aware, united and organized. Groups span various social dimensions based on differences in income/wealth, race, generation, political party affiliations, and independent stripes ranging from alt-left to alt-right movements. In fact, many recent developments such as the US presidential election, Brexit, independence movements in Europe, etc., already illustrate social tensions that are likely to be amplified in the next financial crisis. How did markets evolve in the aftermath of 1968? Monetary systems were completely revamped (Bretton Woods), inflation rapidly increased, and equities produced zero returns for a decade. The decade ended with a famously wrong Businessweek article ‘the death of equities’ in 1979.
Want A Great Culture? This Bundles It Up.
I’ve been a part of a number of great teams and lead a few. When the group comes together and the safety is there, amazing cultures can be built. I’m leading a group just like that right now.
- Sustained Excellence = “They’re over themselves” – They do not have an ego. They figure out the big truths, get over feelings, have clarity, vision. Great communicators – Like an athlete, they can be obsessed. Keenly aware, active listeners, intentional with actions.
- “As leaders, we need to create the conditions for excellence”
- The 3 Skills — 1) Build Safety 2) Share Vulnerability 3) Establish Purpose
- Build Safety – Why do a group of kindergartners do better than a group of CEOs? The kindergartners have now agenda or care about credit. They focus on doing the best work. CEOs (in the study) were worried about who got credit and tearing each other down.
- Safety is the single most important piece of foundation needed for great culture
- A painstaking hiring process – The single most important decision is “who’s in and who’s out.”
- You should script the entire first few days of a new employees time at a company — Pixar example (20 minute mark) — “At Pixar, we hired you because we need you to help us make our movies better.”
- John Wooden would routinely walk the locker room and pick up trash
- Share Vulnerability – Functional notion that’s so important
- “Sharing a weakness is the best way to be strong” — Navy SEALs example: The AAR (After Action Review)
- The most important 4 words a leader can say, “Anybody have any ideas?”
- Also, “I screwed up”
- How to be a great listener
- “Your goal as a listener should be to add energy.” Ask questions, don’t just sit there and nod. Listen and absorb. Help them leave higher than when you arrived. Follow up to go deeper. Being a great listener is a heroic skill.
- Have “empathy and energy” as a listener — dig in to assumptions (unearth)
- Great teams are made up of players who don’t want to let their teammates down.
- Build a wall between performance review and professional development — When you combine the two, you get neither. Toggle, create safety so you can be more open and honest.
- Establish Purpose
- Value statements aren’t super useful — “fill the windshield with a story.”
- Clear narratives guide attention
- Name and rank your priorities
Here’s Why I Don’t Play The Stock Market
This Conversations With Tyler interview of Cliff Asness is why I don’t invest in the stock market. People like Cliff are waiting for idiots like me to learn some fancy new trading scheme so they can clean my clock. This clip is wonkie and worth the watch. Here’s why I don’t invest in or believe in the Stock Market, guys like Cliff Asness are hyper-focused on taking rookies like me for a ride.. Guys like these are way-way better than I’ll ever pretend to be. I took a course in options trading of the SPX and learned a fun system. I played with fake money and did great. A bunch of friends played with REAL money and did absolutely amazing…for a while. That’s why my philosophy in business is to go slow in and get out quick if things aren’t working.
America is Synonymous With Business – Entrepreneurs Make America!
One of my favorite documentaries on a business visionary is Slingshot the story of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. The story chronicles his quest to cure the biggest problem facing the third world…clean water. Please watch this documentary and realize that it takes Dean Kamen’s to take the road less traveled. The entrepreneur, inventor and business pioneers from the past and from today will make society a better place to live.
Research on CEO Effectiveness
If you haven’t subscribed to Harvard Business Ideas podcast you are missing out. The interviews are short and always covering the cutting edge issues happening in American business.
HERE’s the Interview from Elena Botelho, partner at leadership advisory firm ghSmart, talks about the disconnect between the stereotype of the CEO and what research shows actually leads to high performance at that level. She says the image of the charismatic, tall male with a top university degree who’s a strategic visionary and makes great decisions under pressure is a pervasive one. However, research shows that four behaviors more consistently lead to high performance in the corner office: 1) deciding with speed and conviction 2) engaging for impact 3) adapting proactively 4) delivering reliably. Botelho is the co-author of the article “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart” in the May-June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review.
Money – What’s Your Relationship with Money?
I’ve had my stage of more is better. The cars, the bling and all the hallow rewards that money parts of my past. I live a life of abundance, but that doesn’t happen to mean the size of my bank account. You’ve heard the stories about great grandparents that lived through the depression and have forever been changed. Since they’ve lived through the scarcity of a prolonged time of strife, Great Depression survivors carried that attitude for the rest of their life. Having lived through the 2008 to 2016, Great Recession, I learned some valuable lessons about the power of money as a scorecard for success. I believe I will forever be changed.
Lynne Twist: “What You Appreciate Appreciates” | SuperSoul Sunday | Oprah Winfrey Network
Questions to Bring More Gratitude into Your Life | SuperSoul Sunday | Oprah Winfrey Network
Lynne Twist: “What You Appreciate Appreciates” | SuperSoul Sunday | Oprah Winfrey Network
Freedom from the money culture | Lynne Twist | TEDxBerkeley