I'm Giving Up Blogging!

Actually, I'm going to be moving ... my blog that is. After some discussions with both my wife and my blogfather (Paul Brown), blogging appears like it is going to stay with me. I've been getting more interest in blog projects, blog writing, blog marketing, blog networking, blog small talk ... as much as I've been bucking moving, I need to just do it. My current service with Tripod does not support some of the front-end authoring productivity tools that I need. Additionally, although most of my readers are non-bloggers and non-technical, things like lack of support for trackback and some other technical things are not ideal for me. Time to bite the bullet. This move may also give me an opportunity to start fresh and get rid of some bad habits I have like maintaining multiple RSS feeds, writing some stuff in HMTL but having some stuff in other formats, etc. Here the new destination ... http://www.steveshu.typepad.com. Hope to see you on the other side! We'll be covering Suzanne's series of posts there as well. Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 23 February 2005 | 3:55 pm

Upcoming Series of Posts on Marketing, Consumer Choice, Unlimited Choice, Precommittment, and Control

My professorial wife, Suzanne Shu, is doing some very interesting research in the marketing department of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Recently, she was invited to give a talk on special consumer choice topics to the PR firm, The Richards Group. The Richards Group represents a number of well-known clients such as AIM Investments, Comcast, Corona Beer, Fruit of the Loom, The Home Depot, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Nortel, and Sub-Zero Freezer Company. In any case, we are planning to cover some of the same topics presented to The Richards Group in a series of posts over the coming weeks. Thanks for tuning in! Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 23 February 2005 | 10:51 am

Dallas - Business Forecast Luncheon 2005 (The University of Chicago)

Today the University of Chicago held its Business Forecast 2005 at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Excellent talks. Prognosticators were:Robert Z. Aliber Professor of International Economics and Finance Emeritus, Chicago GSB. Director, Center for Studies in International Finance. Formerly Senior Economic Advisor, Agency for Economic Development, U.S. Department of State.andHarvey Rosenblum Senior Vice President and Director of Research of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Economic Policy Advisor to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Associate Economist for the Federal Open Market Committee.My key notes from Harvey Rosenblum's talk (my key takeaways: be thankful, be wary): Shocks that happened since the late 90s - surprised they haven't sent us into a deep depression Y2K overspending and then drop in spending Loss of wealth due to stock market crash 2001 World Trade Center 2001 Corporate scandals (Enron, MCI, etc.) drove up cost of capital Sarbanes-Oxley caused unintended consequences where all public companies now have to bear significant costs of implementing S-O compliance, etc. where only 2% of public companies may have problems Iraq war It is surprising we (United States) are not in a depression Credits attributed to good monetary policy and fiscal policy Additionally deregulation has provided the US markets with flexibility to weather these shocks Growth 3-4%, inflation low, unemployment dropping President Bush, while Time's Man of the Year, didn't get enough credit for just in time fiscal policy Long bond rate "conundrum" exists, but the economy appears to be in a zone of price stability Interest yield curves are flat, but history shows that if these tip then 1 year after that there will be a recession Need to watch yield curve. Some concern if Fed follows historical raise rate policies there will be problems. My key notes from Robert Aliber's talk (my key takeaways: international policy is biggest issue, trade deficit bigger concern than budget deficit, international shocks translate into the United States importing issues as the trade deficit): $600 billion hole is trade deficit 25 year slide of US dollar against Yen & Swiss (which basically means Europe) Thus, we have sharp slide of dollar yet the trade deficit is increasing?? (rarely happens) Perspective on why this is happening. When financial crisis occurs in other countries, it shows up as an import to our trade deficit (i.e., our deficit grows) China's investment boom slowing because of evergreen finance (essentially loans being made, accruing interest, but funny money since no one is paying interest) Going to be a problem in the future. Turning back to international trade as a whole (not specific to China), the asset price bubble may burst if US puts in import controls. Housing market may have some issues. Did we see the Las Vegas numbers? One question I had in my mind after this talk was that I understood venture capitalists in the States to be eager to do deals in China. That said, given what I heard today, I would be wary of the propsect of things going south for investments in China in a timeframe that would be shorter than the investment horizon of a VC. Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 18 February 2005 | 5:02 pm

Recently Attended Author Talk On The Human Fabric (Covering Team Building)

I recently attended a talk by author, Bijoy Goswami. Bijoy covered team building as based on his book "The Human Fabric". I have to admit that I'm generally skeptical of the practicality of these kinds of talks, especially in cases where modern artwork is posted. Boy was I *wrong* (about both the content and the artwork - the artwork really drove some points home for me - sorry blog readers, no visual reference). All of it turns out to be great stuff. Bijoy's frameworks are useful and can be applied much like Myers-Briggs stuff can be applied (as opposed to being only descriptive).Although I'm going to botch some of Bijoy's specific nomenclature, Bijoy's talk centered around building teams, and he talked about how successful teams need to build around three archetypes of people: the Maven, Evangelist, and Relater.As I come from spending a good amount of time in the software world, people that are Maven-types are basically "Tools". Mavens are geniuses when it comes to technology and love architecturally cool stuff like gmail. They tend not to be good marketers.Evangelists are thought of as people that come across as flashy, and they know exactly how to pitch a product with the one, two, and three top business points why one should buy.Lastly, there are the Relater-types that are emphathetic and maintain relationships. They put people at ease and seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. They hate gmail, but they love Outlook because it helps the Relater stay connected with people.In any case, Bijoy's claim is that teams (whether the team consists of two people) need to cover all bases.As I think about my own archetype (a Relater-Evangelist), I realize that one of my past business relationships had been successful because my counterpart is an Evangelist-Maven. In one of my past client projects, I realize I plugged a key gap because of my Relater background. Now that I'm helping a friend recruit a key person for his company, aside from covering the nuts and bolts during the interview process, I'm thinking about how the new hire will round out the executive team.Anyway, please check out Bijoy's book. I'm a believer now, and may end up buying the book for some of my clients.Update (2/17/05): Bijoy has let me know offline that readers can take a look at the art and his website at http://www.thehumanfabric.com . Thanks, Bijoy! Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 17 February 2005 | 9:19 am

More Measurements Says Dr. Brad Feld

Brad Feld, venture capitalist at Mobius Venture Capital and perhaps well-known locally here in Dallas because of the EDS acquisition of the The Feld Group, has a great perspective on measurements. I'm blue in the face from my recent, numerous discussions on the subject. My immediately prior two posts (here and here) are very closely related to the same core subject on reporting and measurements.A couple of key things in Brad's post that I resonate with are focusing on synthesis, reacting, and not getting lost in the numbers. Sometimes I get nauseous when I recommend to clients that there be more measurements as part of core business foundation, yet I can see that their faces read, "you want me to provide more numbers????". Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 9 February 2005 | 2:32 pm

The Relationship Between Change Management Consulting and Valentine's Day

If you've made a New Year's resolution but have not read this blog entry yet, there may still be hope. Most people have probably broken their New Year's resolutions by Valentine's Day. How can you prevent this from happening to you?Digging up a study from the University of Washington, there are some key suggestions for succeeding with one's resolutions:- Have a strong initial commitment to make a change. - Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up. - Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.As it turns out, these are the same types of principles that apply to change management consulting projects in the business world. Although style of change management tactics in organizations also plays a role (e.g., leading people to a goal versus spreading gasoline around a organization and coercing people by insinuating that a fire is going to happen), many change management initiatives fail to work out because:- organizations get distracted, - do not use project management methods to manage processes (e.g., date, milestone, & issue tracking), - or ignore the importance of using a microscope on activities early on in the process of change. Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 8 February 2005 | 2:34 pm

Implementing Metrics Is Connected But Separate from Choosing Management Style, Company Culture, and Incentives

More often than not in traditional management consulting engagements involving operations, there is usually room for setting up or revising goals, metrics & reporting, and service level agreements. Depending on the phase of development of a company (often couched as Stage 0 [Ad-Hoc], Stage 1 [Functional], Stage 2 [Intrabusiness Cross-Functional], etc. maturity levels by a consulting firm), the next higher-level of metrics and reporting may apply and be a goal for the client organization to strive for.Where management has to be somewhat careful about applying metrics, however, is how people and company culture play a role in getting everything to work together right.To put a finer point on things, one can put in place a perfectly appropriate set of metrics and reporting systems for a company yet miss the boat completely on a management-level as to how the results should be applied because of the culture.As an example in sales operations, I have frequently seen a competitive environment laid out. People's individual performance levels are exposed, and poor performing people are weeded out. This environment can work out in some cases. On the other hand, in a collaborative engineering or product development environment, cooperation may be encouraged.On a related topic, a friend of my wife and I, Dr. Uri Gneezy at the University of Chicago, has some great research on the relationship between competition and gender. From the research summary:Gneezy suggests that CEOs creating incentives in their firms should be aware that making the internal environment more competitive might create a bias that helps men, while putting women at a relative disadvantage.My take on applying this type of research would be to recognize and raise one's sense of awareness to the environment one is implementing metrics in. Although metrics may be encouraged to be tracked to an individual-level doesn't automatically equate to that the environment has to be a competitive one. Choosing a collaborative versus dictatorial management style that is compatible with the desired company culture is a separate choice from metric implementation. Steve Shu Managing Director S4 Management Group Email: sshu@s4management.com Web: http://www.s4management.com

Posted on: 3 February 2005 | 12:27 am

The Power of Microsoft Moves Markets and Economies

Back in November 2004, I referenced the historic Microsoft dividend payout in the context of what one could buy with money. I often perform these numeric exercises or reference work by others because it can sometimes be hard for people to comprehend how big numbers are. The influence of Microsoft is simply huge. I referenced how their recent moves affected the stock markets in the antivirus space. Now as Suzanne has pointed out to me, it appears the dividend payout has positively influenced the government's measure of consumer spending. Simply wow.

Posted on: 1 February 2005 | 9:45 am

Two Stage Venture Financing Model Emerging?

In a prior blog entry, I listed some of my favorite CEO and VC posts. Tim Oren has a follow-up post that builds on one of his prior posts that I cited. Tim's new post addresses "Two Stage Ventures". This post is interesting because it looks at the entrepreneurial financing path from the other direction, and it breaks the mold of what I would call "traditional" (and perhaps passe) venture financing. I also find this post interesting because it is something that I have sensed emerging over the past few years (e.g., by articles or blog entries connected to Accel Partners, Matrix, Dawntreader Ventures), but it is the first time I have seen something explicitly written down without talking around the subject.

Posted on: 31 January 2005 | 10:47 am

eBay Advertiser Sold Out Too Cheap

Now I'm no expert when it comes to pricing real estate in terms of advertising dollars (although I could probably put my quant-head genes to work), but methinks this guy sold out too cheap. Efficient market theory, auction theory, winner's curse, ... ba humbug ... set a higher reserve price, man!

Posted on: 31 January 2005 | 10:05 am