Thursday, December 20, 2012

Herbalife is a pyramid scheme

The business world is full of buzz today with Bill Ackman's accusations that Herbalife is nothing but a pyramid scheme.

I agree with him.

The similarities to what Herbalife promotes to what Quixtar/Amway promote is just way too similar to be a coincidence. Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) companies are just nothing but a scam except for those at the top

I've never dealt with Herbalife, but I did have a brief encounter with Quixtar right when Amway was trying to convert their business model to the Internet.

Anytime a business has it's focus on developing a 'downline' or has their focus on developing a network below you, red flags need to be flying and 'bells and whistles' need to be going off in your mind. Or if the only way to obtain their products require you contacting an 'independent distributor' should provide some pause.

That last part is the only way to obtain Herbalife products. Doing so requires you to fill out a lengthly form to get any information. You can't see any current products. You can't talk to anyone. You just fill out a form and go from there.

The same thing was how my experience with Quixtar was. I was a young and dumb kid in the very early 2000s and was sucked in by their promise of developing a network with people below me who's commissions would flow up to me. I was 18 at the time and of course the $200 or so I blew over a six month period only went to people above and I saw nothing of it. It was virtually impossible to get people below me and I quickly lost interest, saw the whole situation for what it was and chalked it up to a semi-expensive lesson at the time.

So Herbalife is just another one of those MLMs that promise riches for everyone involved, but any money that is generated by those at the bottom just flow upwards to the top. Do yourself a favor and don't get sucked into Herbalife, Amway or any others that are bound to pop up in the future!

An end of world prediction you can take to the bank

Look, the world is not going to end tomorrow (December 21, 2012).

The Mayans never predicted the world would end. At the heart of the matter is that all that happens is the end of the 13th b'ak'tun and the start of the 14th based on the Long Count calendar.

However, people get fired up over stuff like this and since the news media has to fill airtime with stuff - nonsense such as this gets a ton of exposure. It causes people to develop some form of hysteria and begin doing nonsense such as prepping. Their time and effort could be better utilized doing just about anything else.

So tomorrow is going to come and go without incident. I promise The sun will come up on Saturday and life will go on and we can all start watching more college football bowl games.

But here is a second promise that I can guarantee will happen. Someone somewhere will come up with another 'end of days' prediction. People will freak out. Nothing will happen.

It could be some crazy guy like Harold Camping. Or some unknown person who will make an 'interpretation' of some obscure ancient text. It will get picked up by the Internet or some news reporter looking for a story and become a big deal.

The best thing you can do is ignore it. Don't propagate the madness and nonsense. You will save yourself and your fellow humans the embarrassment of the inevitable failure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You are not changing the world

This really gets me fired up.

People who claim they are changing the world without doing anything that changes the world.

I see this all the time. Frequently it's people who introduce something on their website as the latest-and-greatest business technique. Or networking plan. Or social media campaign/tool/platform. Or whatever. It's usually something that's already been done before that's been repackaged or made cumbersome and nobody really wants anything to do with.

It might be the latest start-up that is introducing some new program or product that makes the claim they are changing the world. Of course, it's the last time I hear about that company and what they have to offer - and they end up going away once they blow through their start-up money.

You change the world by doing something for someone that needs help. Dig water wells in Africa. Work to end hunger in your home town. Tutor underprivileged kids in the afternoons.

Stop acting all high, mighty and arrogant. Having confidence is a good thing. Pretending you are changing the world when you aren't is a waste of everyone's time.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I hate ATSs

It's true. I hate ATSs.

An ATS, for those that don't know, is shorthand for Applicant Tracking Software that most companies use for their hiring process.

On the surface, they are very well intentioned. Companies set them up to announce to the world what their openings are, give descriptions about those openings and provide a generally uniform way for applicants to apply.

Unfortunately, for the applicant, the process of using these systems to apply for jobs are often unwieldy, cumbersome and occasionally a pain in the ass to navigate.

Oh, and sometimes, they just straight don't work.

Here are my top four issues with ATSs and what can be done to improve them:

  1. While it is annoying to spend 45 minutes to an hour entering all of my general information into one while applying - I shouldn't have to repeat this if there are multiple positions that interest me or I'm qualified for. I don't mind customizing a cover letter for every position, but my work history, education and contact information isn't going to change! There are a lot of companies that make you go through this every time and after doing this once, it's going to take an amazing position to make me do this again at the same company. A simple fix is to save all of this information with a profile and it automatically populates this information with an opportunity to edit information as necessary.
  2. ATSs that only work in Microsoft Windows and with Internet Explorer. This is 2012, not 1997. Coding your ATS so that it only works with those parameters is lazy and your company misses out on a ton of potential candidates. See here for more information.
  3. The resume black hole. Just as it is simple for companies to collect information from applicants using ATSs, I am amazed by the amount of companies who don't send any information to the applicant regarding their application. No confirmation of receipt of the application. No update as to where you stand in the application process, even after a candidate has been selected. I don't expect a call from a real human being telling me they won't be interviewing me or have selected someone else (although that would be awesome and amazing if it were done). At the least, send an automated email explaining where the applicant is in the process! It's not hard!
  4. Instead of dealing with an ATS, just go to my LinkedIn profile. All of the information a firm wants is there. Are you hiring? You can find me here!
Happy job hunting!

Failed promotions are not Darden's problem

Darden Restaurants is citing failed promotions and a backlash to their response to the new health care law as a result of a projected decline in revenues for next year.

Darden isn't the first company to make moronic statements regarding the minimal changes they will face due to the health care law, but that's not their problem.

Failed promotions is also another scapegoat for projections for decreased revenues.

Their real problem is cutting corners in ways that are painfully obvious to their customers.

I used to frequent their main restaurants, such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse each a few times per year. Certainly not all of the time, but enough to have a good feel for how things go from a customer's perspective.

The changes were most pronounced at Olive Garden, but still noticeable at the other two restaurants. What was going on? A sharp decline in the quality of the food while also increasing their prices. Reduced skill in the staff. A tiresome atmosphere and less attention paid to cleanliness throughout the establishments.

I'm not a food expert by any means, but if these problems are noticeable to me, I'm sure there are others that notice these things too and have taken their dining dollars elsewhere.

These problems are easy to fix and don't cost much money. Hopefully Darden is smart enough to notice these issues and takes the necessary steps to correct. Otherwise, their decline may continue and keep getting worse.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Corporations can't horde all of the cash forever

CNN is reporting that corporate earnings are at the highest share of GDP ever. Conversely, wages for workers are at the lowest share of GDP ever.

None of this is a surprise. Companies have been hoarding cash, slashing their workforce and being stingy with pay raises (maybe a few percent per year, instituting no pay raises or even cutting salaries) for years, frequently using the 'down economy' as an excuse.

Combine that with companies spending millions on lobbying to get billions in tax breaks and it's easy to see how they have ended up with so much positive profits on their balance sheets.

But I suspect that will be changing in the future. First, it's just not at an equilibrium. Shareholders will demand something to be done with all of that cash and profits. Return it to the shareholders in the form of dividends or increase investments.

Secondly, the federal government is in need of revenue. They will raise the corporate tax rates, cut loopholes or some combination of the two.

Plus, as the economy continues to improve, companies will have to increase their hiring as demand for their services or products increase. With an increased demand for employees, wages will rise.

So both of these situations will change. Earnings in relation to GDP will fall while wages will rise. Will it start in 2013? Most likely, but we most likely won't see a dramatic shift until there is a sustained hiring boom.

The Daily's flawed business model

It is being widely reported today that The Daily is being shut down. It's pretty apparent why that is the case.

The business model was not sustainable.

Now to be clear, I think they were on the right track with how they were structured, but just didn't execute correctly.

The Daily was structured originally as an iPad only app that was closed off from the rest of the Internet world. No other devices could access the stories. No sharing stories with friends via social media.

Eventually they opened it up to the iPhone, then Android Tablet and Kindle Fire, but it wasn't enough.

Too high of costs ($30 million per year) plus too few paying customers equaled a demise.

I only read The Daily once on a relative's iPad, a few months after it came out, and I actually enjoyed it. There were plenty of good stories and good information. I don't remember if they had any in-app advertising, but they either needed some or a better way to increase revenues.

In addition, aside from the initial announcement and surrounding buzz, plus the one time I used it, I don't recall hearing anything else about it. It was an 'out of sight, out of mind' type situation. They needed to get some kind of advertising out there about themselves, or better yet, make previews of articles widely available. I'm sure that if I saw enough previews for good reading, I'd find a way to subscribe.

Also, make it available everywhere! I know they were trying to be exclusively on mobile devices, but I just don't think we are there yet. Being able to log into my account through their website so I could view stories would be great!

But alas, it is not to be. Great concept. Poorly executed. Hopefully, whoever follows, learns from The Daily's failures and is a success!