Sunday, April 28, 2013

Marketing Yourself

Jack Derby, a professor at Tufts, lecturer at MIT, and co-founder of Derby Management (who I've worked with in the past to deliver their Sales Effectiveness Bootcamp programs to participants in the TEN program) recently published on his FB page an interview with him on the use of social media to market yourself. He says, "It's about you" and talks about how important it is to keep your LinkedIn up to date, use Facebook, and then integrate in other social media networks if you have the time. He talks about the death of the resume - how stupid it is to spend lots of time developing one, only to list (like everyone else) how you know Word, Excel, and Powerpoint! He also places a lot of value in regular blogging.

It's interesting, because I haven't blogged regularly in such a long time (nor, it appears, have any of my friends who used to blog regularly). I wonder if part of that is due to how so many of us ingest information these days - little snippets, provided as status updates and pictures of activities. Why bother blogging, when people don't think they have time to read, or, we're all so ADHD now that no one can physically bring themselves to read?

Heck, if it weren't for the fact that it's a slow Sunday morning, I have a good cup of coffee in my hand, and have fed the troops here already, I probably wouldn't be blogging right now either. I'd be listening to NPR (which IS on in the background right now), possibly reading a magazine, thinking about the yard work I still want to do today, figuring out how to help Julie with her flow-chart development, and generally trying to entertain the kids. (Like right now... Audrey is watching Spongebob, and there's a commercial for this thing called "Pop Chef" that she absolutely NEEDS to have, because who doesn't want to make a heart shaped pizza? Oh, and while we're at it, please can I use your computer to go on Bookflix?)

But I do like the idea of using blogging to promote yourself. It is one of the few opportunities that you can publicly discuss your more complex ideas on a range of topics. And frankly, if you're looking to promote yourself - say, for that next big job opportunity - it also doesn't really matter if people are reading your blog. Potential employers, business partners, investors, customers... THEY may read it just to find out more information about you, and in the process it may improve your chances of success. Now, I will say, there are a number of old posts on this blog that I'd probably be better off deleting... and I may go back and delete a few things anyway, as professionally it's probably the best choice. However, this blog was created just as a way to communicate things to family and friends, and the occasional outsider. And I will likely post some things that are more social in context - like from last night's "Winers Wine Group" meeting. But like I said in my last post, it's time to start posting again, and at this stage in my life, I really love the idea of posting thoughtful content to get across those bigger ideas that you can't get through in a FB status update.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Going on 5 years

So apparently the last time I wrote anything on this weblog was back in 2008 - talk about a long time without having anything to say. I think, however, that I just let life get in the way of doing something like writing my thoughts down, not to mention that I didn't necessarily have anything that I really wanted to share via this venue.

Lots has happened over the past four-and-a-half years. We had our second child, Sammy, in 2008. We bought a new house, still in Greece, a few years ago. Julie and I have had our ups and downs, though right now I feel like we're transition back to the "ups". Our beloved Sundance was discovered on her bed about a year ago by our daughter who exclaimed several times (before I really realized what she was saying) that, "Sundance is frozen!"

There's actually a lot of really nifty stuff that I wouldn't mind writing about, and I think I may take a stab at it. The things I was once interested in are still fairly interesting, but I think there's more to talk about now. Work is a completely different animal than it was back in 2008. Family life is definitely different with a first grader and a UPK'er in the house! Julie and I are aggressively working on improving communication, which only strengthens our relationship. And I've become fascinated by a few new topics that I wasn't aware of back in 08' - particularly in my never-ending interest and love of wine and the wine industry. Once of the best things I did a couple years ago was read the book, "Vineyards in the Sky" which details the life of Martin Ray. This, of course, led me to search high and low for old vintages that were actually made by the man - my oldest being a 1954 Pinot Noir, bottled in his traditional manner of sealing the wine in champaign-style bottles!

Anyway, like I said, it's been a long time since I wrote anything, and I don't want to just randomly spew forth words that don't necessarily have any rhyme or reason to them. However, I will make a point of sitting down in the evenings, after the kids have gone up to bed, and preferably with a good glass of wine in hand, and write.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Stock Market Is Nuts

Ok, I'm not a financial guru, expert, or even really well informed. However, one of the local stocks I follow is Paetec. I follow them because they're local, they're theoretically growing, and they're building a brand new corporate headquarters in downtown Rochester. I also own a whopping 140 share, that I purchased at $1.54 per share. That was an initial investment of only $215.60 (that includes the cost of the trade).

Today, their stock is hovering around .82 cents. That means that my 140 shares are currently worth a whopping $114.80. Now, on a personal basis, this isn't a big deal. It's basically a hundred bucks. I'll probably blow that on two or three reasonable bottles of wine in the not-too-distant future. However, look at things based on the total number of outstanding shares.

Paetec currently has 146,070,000 share outstanding and a market cap of just under $120 million. Their 52-week high was $12.75 per share. So, do the math and at that time the company had a market cap of $1.86 billion. My question is, is Paetec a $120 million dollar company or a $1.86 billion dollar company? Tomorrow they release their 3rd quarter earnings report, so that should be a good indication of at least the recent past, and may provide some guidance on the next few quarters. And we know that the economy is bad, so that undoubtedly plays a role in things. But did this company really lose $1.74 billion in value over a 52-week period? Oh, and while I haven't done the research to prove it, I'm pretty sure that the stock has only been trading as PAET for about a year.

I'll be very interested to see what they report tomorrow, but no matter what it is, I can't believe that they suddenly became only a fraction of their previous value on anything other than an emotional response to the market and the short-term belief that telecom is going bust (again). Given that the market and the overall economy moves in a cyclical pattern, this could be one hell of an inexpensive opportunity to buy shares in a company that I have no reason to believe is going to shut down soon.

Obviously, my own little personal stake is that if PAET goes back up to $10 a share I suddenly have $1400, rather than about $115. And, looking more broadly on Paetec's impact on the local economy and the psyche locally about how things are going, a higher stock price will obviously allay some fears that this firm is going bye-bye.

But isn't that the case with most of the big employers locally? Let's take a look at some of the other big guys in town:

Kodak - $7.44/share
Xerox - $6.65/share
Corning - $9.16/share
Paychex - $25.33/share
Harris - $33.48/share
Constellation - $10.86/share
Time Warner - $8.70/share

Really? These companies are only worth a fraction of their pre-economic-shitfest valuations? Suddenly assets such as cash, intellectual property, plant and land, goodwill, etc., etc., etc., are worthless? I know there are large chunks of debt associated with all of these firms, as well as future liabilities for obligations they must pay. But talk about a buying opportunity for people. Again, I'm no expert, and maybe I'm stupid here, but Kodak at $7.44 has got to be worth less than the amount of cash they have in the bank.

Also, I wonder how hard hit a company like Paychex would be in a down economy. Sure, firms will reduce payrolls, and some will go out of business, but are companies really going to be looking to do their own payroll rather than outsource it? If anything, given the still relatively small market penetration of outsourced payroll services, I would think Paychex could significantly profit from an economic downturn if they can show small and mid-sized companies how much they'll ultimately save by outsourcing their payroll services.

I guess in conclusion, Paetec's 1-year price estimate is currently standing at $4.50/share... I'll be very interested to see if it's even close. Regardless, I'm going to throw a little more into the pot and see what happens. At 83-cents, is it much of a gamble?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Northgate Plaza #2

I'm still hung up on this Northgate Plaza stuff. In the next week or so I'm going to go around and take photos of each storefront and post them here, just to give the Plaza some context, and maybe a little historical perspective. Unfortunately, there are no historical photos of the plaza that I can find! I was hoping the Monroe County Library might have some, but alas... no.

I'm still thinking in terms of other stores that could, in a perfect world, be located at the site and be acceptable to the community. One thing I was thinking of is a Sonic Drive-Through. Sonic, as far as I know, doesn't have any locations in Western NY. Now, maybe Sonic would have too many cars, but for only $2 to $4 million, you can put a Sonic at the Plaza. Granted, you'd need to build a new building, but howabout instead of a new McDonalds, tear down that side of the Plaza and put in a Sonic?

Locally, Great Northern Pizza just expanded into Henrietta. They were bought by 2 Hot LLC which also owns all the Bruegger's Bagles shops in town, and appear to have gotten a needed facelift. I know there was one in Greece on Ridge Road in an old bank building, and I did use it regularly, but it was really poorly managed and always felt dirty. I'd LOVE to have a brand new Great Northern Pizza located right there.

Heck, I'd love to see a Bruegger's at Northgate. I don't believe there is one nearby, and it'd be a great addition. I know I'm kindof focused on food, but food can be a major attraction that leads to retail. And again, I'm afraid given the demographics of the area around the plaza, there isn't enough money to justify some more boutique-esque retail. Other suggestions for smaller shops, especially ones that aren't currently in the area, would be appreciated!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Northgate Plaza

I live in Greece, NY - a north west suburb of Rochester. I actually live right on the border of the Charlotte neighborhood, which is actually the City of Rochester. I'm in about the oldest part of the town of Greece, and it many ways it shows. My street is actually pretty nice. The neighbors keep up their properties, and the "bad" properties of recent years have seen some very nice upgrades, so the street actually looks better than it did when we moved on. Now, unfortunately, the apartment complex on the corner of my street had a major fire a few weeks ago, so a big chunk of that building will likely be town down, so god only knows what's going to happen there.

My street is off another residential street, Denise, that intersects Dewey Avenue and Lake Avenue. It's the Dewey side that's troubling. The problem is, this strip is basically a commercial strip that had seen much better days. And a big problem is Northgate Plaza. Northgate, at one time, had stores like McCurdy's, Woolworths, and a mix of other small shops. Today, it has a Big Lots (with a sign that doesn't light up), and a few things that I do thoroughly enjoy... like the Hallmark Store, Tony's Birdland, and my bank is there too. In fact, since I've moved there, the Citizens Bank totally redid their space, and now it's a beautiful modern bank. But the rest of the plaza is really sad. There used to be a Video King Supercenter that we used all the time. That has now closed, and my wife and I have this running joke about a shopping cart that is in the window there that hasn't moved since they closed the store. The other end of the plaza has a bunch of empty stores, and a few stores that I just don't use. There is also what might be the slowest, 24-hour McDonald's, in the history of mankind. I've only been there once since I've lived there, but that one time was painfully slow.

There's a proposal on the table to tear down most of Northgate and put in a Walmart Supercenter. Now, it's a smaller version of most supercenters, but it's still planned to have a garden center, grocery store, and regular walmart component. Now, is this the greatest thing in the world? Of course not! In fact, I've only personally been to Walmart about a half dozen times in my life. But, the prospect of having a clean, well maintained plaza is attractive. The community is up in arms because they're afraid a Walmart here will bring in more traffic, crime, and lowered property values. I would argue that these people chose to live across from a commercial plaza, and you get what you pay for. And, there are some good barriers in place so that the plaza does not infringe on the residential neighborhoods. And, there are probably some ways to further close off the residential streets so that trucks and shoppers don't cut through, and I fully support that.

The other problem that opponents talk about is that they want to see a mix of smaller stores, and maybe some mixed use space, with residential as a component. Would I be thrilled if instead of a Walmart there was something that was a mix of, say, a Barnes & Noble, Camille's Sidewalk Cafe, Coldstone Creamery, Bath & Body Works, a small gardening store, and retention of the Hallmark Store, Radio Shack, Tony's Birdland, and Citizens Bank... as well as a new McDonald's building?! Of course! Is that going to happen? Do the demographics of the area - an older, working class neighborhood - support that kind of development?

If it does, then I'll run to the polls and vote for whomever can make that happen. But my guess is, that the area doesn't support that kind of development. Maybe it's an "if you build it, they will come" kind of thing, but that's the same kind of argument that public transportation advocates make for putting in a Rochester light rail system. I'd love to see something other than a Walmart, but I'm also a realist, and if no one is willing to invest in a property, other than Walmart, then that may be the only, or best, option.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Giuseppe Quintarelli

Ok, this is a departure from my last few posts, but as my friends know, I'm a huge wine fan. In fact, as I write this, I've already consumed half a bottle of 2002 Heitz Napa Cabernet, and a half a bottle of Hess Cab. Granted, the Heitz cost about 4x the Hess, but we started with the Heitz and then decided we needed more wine.

Anyway, I'm now on a mission. To learn as much as possible about Giuseppe Quintarelli as I can. And let me tell you, it's not an easy task. If you google him, you only get so much before the information becomes redundant. Why Wine Spectator, particularly in it's most recent edition which focuses on Italian wines, doesn't spend a little time on Quintarelli, I guess we'll never know. But considering how amazing his wines are supposed to be, I would hope Wine Spectator, of all magazines, would have spent some time finding and interviewing this guy.

So, just for the reader's information, I reproduce the following tidbit:

"It is the Chateau d'Yquem of Italy, absent the grandeur. It is IWM's fastest selling wine, yet has no marketing. It is the coveted gem of the Boot, but does not bear the prestigious name Sassicaia or Gaja. It is a legendary winery, without an estate. Its bottles are identified by hand scripted labels that provide a glimpse into the heart and soul of the world’s truest artisanal winemaker. It is Quintarelli!

Known as "the Master of the Veneto," Giuseppe Quintarelli makes some of the world’s most sought-after wines. From aperitifs to digestifs, his limited production Amarones, Reciotos, and Valpolicellas are the benchmark for excellence (along with Dal Forno, Veneto's other legendary producer). Their greatness stems from the inherent quality of the terroir and natural talent of this master, whose concept of vintage approval and strict grape selection rival the great Chateau of Sauternes. Giuseppe puts his wines on the market when he deems them ready, often keeping them in the cellar for decades until the right moment arrives."

How can this not be compelling?! So, yeah, I just dropped $280 on a magnum of the stuff. It's not the Amarone. I wish it were. But there was none available, and the price would have been much higher. So I got a magnum of 1997 Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico. I'm really looking forward to getting it, and will likely open it at a restaurant in town called Bacco. I'll be sure, of course, to post an analysis of the wine once it's been consumed. Oh, and it is a magnum, so it might be a good idea if another couple of people came along for dinner! I may save this for my 32nd b-day on 2/1/2009. If you're interested in joining Julie and me, let me know!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Governor Patterson Needs NYers Support

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports that the NYS Senate and Assembly want to wait before acting on Governor Patterson's request to cut an additional $2 billion from the State's budget. Apparently, they want to see the most accurate revenue projections before deciding on further cuts. They also refuse to talk about cuts in education funding. Now, with the Dow going under 8600 today, isn't it time to start looking for additional cuts to the state budget?

Unfortunately, we're talking about cutting education. But then again, there aren't that many areas that we can cut. Health care is generally off the table too. And, while now would seem to be the time to pull together some real structural reforms to these various systems, state government just kind of moves along as if everything is dandy. Maybe I'm just ignorant, and unaware of some very hard work to reform medicaid, the welfare system, education, and a host of other state supported functions. But my guess is they're not really tackling these issues.

And on the local level, whatever happened to the ongoing discussions around government consolidations? I'm not necessarily talking about the very politically unpopular idea of merging City and County governments, but what about those areas that are not political hot potatoes? Like lighting, water, snow plowing, and some other "low hanging fruit"? The problem with consolidation, though, is that no one is willing to give up power, and that's what consolidation is.

If I'm running Environmental Services for the City, am I willing to give up power to the County to manage things like dog licenses, dead animal removal, street sweeping, underpass cleaning, and a host of other functions? Am I willing to lay off government workers, and thus decrease my sphere of influence? If our leaders really wanted to make a difference, the conversation on government consolidation would be restarted, especially now.

The fact is that the economy may be in the doldrums for the next few years. Why not start the process of making government more efficient today, so that when the economy is growing again, the government entities that are left prosper even more? Do the City or the County really relish the annual announcements of budget deficits, cuts to essential services, and political wrangling to suggest that if only the Dem's or the Repub's were in control of things, we wouldn't be in this mess?

We have an opportunity in New York State and the Rochester region (obviously, Syracuse, Buffalo, et al do as well) to significantly improve the efficiency of government, laying the groundwork for successful government, and maybe even State, County and City budget surpluses when times are good again. Imagine if we were to improve the efficiency of City and County government by, oh, let's just pick a number... 22%. When the economy is roaring again, this more efficient government would see significant increases in tax revenues (sales tax, hotel/motel tax, property tax, etc.) that, if managed properly, could be set aside to make up for shortfalls in bad times. Granted, you'd have to legislate so that surpluses had to go into the equivalent of an endowment - as we all know government likes nothing more than to spend spend spend.

Sure, my IRA has seen it's value drop by nearly 50% over the last 6 months... but this is also an opportunity to invest more in quality stocks and mutual funds so that I can reap the benefits when the economy is strong again. Similarly, let's take this as an opportunity to increase the quality of government through enhanced efficiency. The opportunity is real, and the degree of urgency is high!