What’s Next?


Most successful business leaders and individuals would agree that your business has to keep constantly moving forward and even re-inventing itself, if necessary.

In hindsight, some less than successful corporate shepherds will agree that moving forward is a better idea than just “seeing what develops” and then finally reacting.

As the case of Kodak has shown, nothing really develops anymore and no one really wants to buy cheap printers from among a plethora of cheap printers available from established market leaders

Dead SharkTreading water isn’t a very good option, because sooner or later, you end up sinking or being eaten by a shark. As so poignantly stated in “Annie Hall,” a shark….. has to be constantly moving forward or it dies.

Sears anyone?

But just look at IBM.

How much does the 2012 iteration resemble that of 1985? The change at IBM was more than just a move away from the obligation to wear white button downs.These days, if you seen an IBM logo on a laptop, you can be certain that it’s not going to be anew ultra portable.

Been there, done that and moved forward.

Whether through acquisition or playing to the strengths of your key players, successful companies manage to be ahead of the curve and anticipate the movement of the marketplace.

They don’t ask you for your zip code when you buy a pack of off-brand batteries

This past Friday was a big day for Standard and Poors and specifically for their Sovereign Ratings Committee, headed by John Chambers, the one not of Cisco fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective.)

Chambers had caught some significant missives hurled his way after his committee downgraded US debt just a few short months ago.

I was among those a little upset with the call and even had the audacity to question Chambers’ credentials, since after all, he was neither an economist, an MBA or anything remotely related to  such weighty  fiscal analysis.

He held a Masters in English Literature from Grinnell College. A fine institution, I’m sure, as they do not currently offer programs that allow the entire curricula to be accessed while in pajamas only.

In the meantime, he’s been a busy guy, in charge of a committee that is becoming a household word.

This time attention was all on the European Union and the downgrade of France’s national debt, in addition to its downgrades of Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

Or as most people would refer to the final three: “Who?”

On top of that, with the creation of the European Union, Standard and Poors was able to also downgrade the derivative creation, the European Financial Stability Facility, as its rating is based upon the ratings of its component nations 

Let’s face it. The invention of the European Union has been great business for the rating agencies. A mere 20 years ago, what kind of sovereign debt was really there to even bother assigning a rating to? Even China wasn’t on the map a generation ago, much less Slovakia, Estonia and some lesser known countries.

European Financial Stability Facility?

That’s like a bonus for the rating agency. It’s not even a country. Who would have imagined that there would ever be such a thing that would even need to be rated?

But you have to recognize when you’ve hit your peak.

Bruce SPringsteen sang “Glory Days” as sad testament to those who don’t realize that the peak has come and gone and are caught in that downward spiral.

Standard and Poors’ glory days are now and it needs to realize that.

Or die alongside the shark

First there were the “BRIC” nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China, which at the time were a reflection of the booming economies in the nations that were driving world growth. Those were heady times.

Then we all remember the “PIIG” nations, the ones that reflected the frightening downside of the faltering banking systems of the likes of Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Greece. 

Once S&P gets though the next ratings assessment on the CRAP nations (Czech Republic, Romania, Austria and Poland) it will need new markets.

But that’s where the real genius of John Chambers comes to play. He knows that in a changing world you do play to your strengths, so Standard and Poors will soon be expanding its reach.

With Google’s recent purchase of Zagat and its famed restaurant ratings guide, it’s clear that this is the next big market.

But Chambers has his sights set on so much more.

Beginning soon, insiders tell me, Standard and Poors will take the restaurant and movie review world by storm, distinguishing itself from the universe of review services on the basis of its fluency with the wriotten word and literary stylistics.

Taking a page from Ted Turner, who decades ago decided to colorize the world’s great cinematic efforts, Standard and Poors will start by issue reviews of classic movies and restaurants.

Early word has it that there will actually be downgrades of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Citizen Kane,” while “Hardee’s” restaurants will be getting a strong vote of confidence.

Clearly, the impact on related businesses is for the investor to consider.

As advertising rates go down for showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” consideration must be given to lightening up on media holdings, particularly those sensitive to seasonal revenues.

Would you not want to get in on the deluge of new customers to Hardee’s?

The beautiful thing is that the potential for S&P is unlimited and the nimble investor shares in those opportunities.

But why stop there? Who wouldn’t want independent ratings of everything?

I for one would like to have Chambers ply his new vision and review the value and worth of “Consumer Reports.” Maybe if that option had been around earlier, I wouldn’t have been walking around with this anger over my purchase of a 1980 Pontiac Phoenix.

Maybe had that been done in 2000, Gore would have easily won Florida’s electoral votes.

Obviously, a natural area for issuing uprades and downgrades would be on our individual actions or thoughts. I don’t have the patience to wait for 1984, when I can have it all now.

For one, I wouldn’t have minded a downgrade of my poorly conceived idea of this past Friday to sell call options on the Amazon $175 call options expiring that same day.

When I scan the grocery store aisles for toilet paper, a rating from the Sovereign Debt Committee would go a long way toward allowing me to choose with confidence and to use the product without fear of future chafing due to inadequate support structure of the underlying plies.

Real synergy arises when you realize that the Sovereign Debt Committee could actually print its latest report on the CRAP nations on toilet paper itself. Or, if truly forward looking, could market nation specific toilet paper, made entirely of their debt instruments.

Now we’re really talking out of the box thinking.

And revenues.

The kind of revenues that could make the Sovereign Debt Committee an attractive spin off to help an therwise faltering McGraw-Hill.

Obviously, the real payday for Chambers would be the purchase of the spun off Soverign Debt Committee to Google, which could then assign Chambers to use his educationally derived skills and write copy for their Daily Deals division to go head to head with Groupon and LivingSocial, until Google does what it i ordained to do, which is to let it die an ignoble death.

Maybe in this case, even movement isn’t enough for this shark.



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