2 things I hate: PR & Maths ~ Sounds + Food 'n' Retail

2 things I hate: PR & Maths

This is more of a personal* rant than anything purely retail related (*: isn't anything blogged personal?), but I've been in a terrible mood these last few days, and what better way to get out of a mood than a good spiteful rant, lashing out at innocent tools like the ones below.

I hate two things about business: 1. Post-floatation PR = total snore-fest. 2. Anything related to math = like sinking a nail into my brain... slowly. Both problems are fairly related, I think, and I will explain why.

1. Post-floatation public relations
My life is an exercise in duality. I've been rich, I've been poor' I've been hated, I've been popular; I studied strategic management and I studied entrepreneurship. There's something I really loved about strategy and there are things that I really hated, such as: there's no starting position as a strategist. If you want to work in this field, you either start as an analyst (snore-fest x 1000), become a consultant (shoot me now), or you start your own business (yay). That's were entrepreneurship comes in: multi-flavoured coke (yes strategy is in there somewhere).

This summer I read 3 books on companies: eBay's Perfect Store, McDonalds' Grinding it out , and Starbucks' Pour your heart into it. The only one which I could read all the way through was McDonalds.

I was eating up the words of both the Starbucks-book and the eBay-one, for about 60% of the time. Then snore-fest happened. The companies went public. For McDonalds, it actually worked out. Ray Kroc has a knack for staying in touch with his core-values and managed to remove himself from much of the mess. Or perhaps it was because he wrote the book decades after and his trauma was over. For Starbucks/eBay, as soon as the companies went public (in the book), I had to stop reading, and when I eventually resumed, it was at 1/10ths the pace of the pre-floatation material. I haven't even finished the Starbucks book yet (only 50 pages to go), because he's writing about his charity and about protesters.

You get the best insight into what it feels like to go public in the eBay book, because it was written by an excellent and somewhat objective journalist: Adam Cohen. He interviews people throughout the book, gets their emotions, the way they worked, what was exciting about the company that was profitable from day 1. Before the IPO, it seemed like it was a wolf amongst other wolves and some lions. People were happy, excited, and stressed about the ride. The best chapters I've ever read in a business-book.

Then, the company turned into an elephant and everything seemed more abstract, more distant, like pesky little flies. Any wolves on the horizon and the company tried to gobble them up. And more and more people came onboard, diluting a lot of the core-values of the founding staff. I still thinks it's a great book, but what a snore-fest at the end.

Same with Starbucks, though I reserve my final judgement for when I finish it. I loved the way the company was started, and I also to a degree love the stuff that happened after the IPO. But it suddenly got a lot more boring, more about PR, about how to handle investors and stake-holders. How to deal with people who attacked Starbucks just because it was a prime-target, because attacking it would solve all the problems in the developed world.

The difference between entrepreneurship and corporations. If you hate a start-up, start your own. If you hate a corporation, write an angry letter, or better, get a job there... Enough said.

bloody formulas.JPG

2. Mathematical business
This really is a much deeper hate, one which I've had for an insanely long time. First, I must say that I'm more of a right-brained person than a left-brained one. No, forget that, I am human. I like psychology, I like predicting trends, I like innovation, I like creativity, I like risk. All of which I don't think are very well contained in formulas.

Now that of course means that I love statistics, because it predicts trends and confirms my own feelings about stuff. I love the book, Freakonomics. But I abhor it when formulas lead to the abstraction of values, much like the above rant on PR. To some degree, I can imagine Hitler sitting in his bunker with his partners in crime, calculating the ROI of Germans vs. Jews and deciding the former was a safer bet. And when I look at business today, I imagine bankers, even Jewish ones, make similar decisions about a businesses' assets and employees, making financial (read: life or death) decisions on paper everyday, never considering that there is life where a formula cannot penetrate.

More entertainingly, remember the Ben Stiller movie: "Along came Polly?" Ben Stiller is a risk-analyst, afraid of any discrepancy. And along comes Jennifer Aniston (Polly) who throws his whole life upside down, so much so, that he decides to make a risk-analysis of whether or not he should have a relationship with her!? That is what I'm talking about! For another good risk-analysis vs. Lo-o-ove movie, check out "Knocked Up."

Ok, my rant is done. It was largely stimulated by an article about "balanced scorecard," I think. I feel better now. Hope you do too.

The formula in the picture is for Net Present Value.


 

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