To Heck with Entrepreneurship…. Profits are Bad

Okay, the my title is heavily laced with sarcasm and I certainly don’t believe this but if you watch the video enclosed below you’ll find that this sentiment is something that some people do believe. Me… well I’ve kept silent as long as I can. When I saw this video in a brief flash I got a picture of what our country might be like in another decade unless the silent majority starts stepping up to the plate and helping to lead. My next comments are neither Democratic or Republican in nature – they are squarely American… as in I believe in freedom, free markets and personal responsibility (novel idea).

Thanks to a friend, I saw this YouTube video post included below from a gentlemen that went to one of the recent national political conventions and talked up a bunch of people about an idea he had to ban or cap corporate profits. His commentary on the front-end of the video I could have done without but the overall Q&A was pretty startling. When I saw this I thought that’s crazy, who could possibly support such a crazy idea. But guess what, people agreed….

As a business owner now, and at varying times in the past, sometimes successful and sometimes not, the necessity, the imperative, one of the base-line goals was to always turn a profit. In my lexicon profit is a good thing. Profit shouldn’t be a bad word. After watching the video I feel like somewhere along the line this word has become ammunition in a nasty political fight that tries to boil down the nation into have and have-nots.

I could drone on but any half-way intelligent person is going to quickly grasp the concept that corporate profits are the life-blood of our economy. Anybody that argues otherwise doesn’t understand economics or probably needs to head back to school. Healthy businesses that are able to make profits from their efforts, risk, good management and well paid team members (i.e. employees) is what our nation not only needs but wants.

In a properly functioning corporate entity that is market incentivized to innovate and deliver great products and services, the company wants to invest, innovate, grow, and hire the best talent. When these things happen our nation benefits in a variety of ways, some of which includes:

  1. Jobs – Companies growing with profits can hire more people, duh…?
  2. Community Growth – New jobs in communities have a cascading effect and drive the local economy
  3. Investment – Companies use corporate profits to build infrastructure (materials, equipment, contractors, etc.)
  4. Dividends – Companies growing sometimes distribute earnings in the form of dividends
The idea that people could be so uneducated or so jaded to believe that corporate profits are evil shows that whatever path we are on as a nation needs to be calibrated back to reality.  I’m sure in North Korea and other places the idea of centrally planned enterprises might work just fine but not here.
I hope that each voting person in the US can put aside the partisan politics and realize that when corporations and individuals do well that’s a good thing.
Here is an example of 2 large corporations and how they spent their profits in 2011.  Imagine if the government capped their profits?  What would then happen?  Let me know your thoughts via comments.

EXXON
2011 Fiscal Profits: $40 Billion
Full Time Employees: 82,000
2011 Profits / Cash in 2012 Spent On:
*Inventory ~ ($2.2 B)
*Capital Projects ~ ($31 B)
*Dividends ~ ($9.3 B)

APPLE
2011 Fiscal Profits: $25.9 Billion
Full Time Employees: 60,400
2011 Profits / Cash in 2012 Spent On:
*Inventory ~ ($275 Million)
*Capital Projects & Investments ~ ($36.8 B)

Our Road Trip to Tennessee

I just love road trips! This past weekend me and family packed up the truck and headed to the Tennessee mountains for a wedding of one of my wife’s cousins. The wedding was held in a town called Monterey which is….a little way out there. Total drive time was approximately 5 hours and amazingly enough the kids did awesome on the way up and on the way back. The road trip was filled with all the cliché occurrences, “daddy are we there yet?”, “I have to pee”, “I’m bored”, etc. AND I loved it all. We got to stop and check out beautiful scenery and reconnect as a family. In the day to day scramble that has become life in the 21st century there is something strangely and perplexingly wonderful about locking yourself in a car for five hours with people you absolutely adore.

I hope that I can go on more road trips to scenic places like this in the future. I’ve included some great pics of the event!

On the road through the Tennessee mountains, North East of Chattanooga

Near Dunlap, TN – really beautiful. Stopped to take this by the side of the road

Old cabin on the property where the wedding was held

My wife extremely geeked out. I can see Steve Jobs counting his money in the background

The obligatory road-side pit stop. “Daddy I have to pee really, really bad!”

Look out point stop on the way back to ATL

No road trip is complete without Cracker Barrell and checkers

My youngest enjoying the Cracker Barrell rocking chair

Entrance to the where the wedding was held

Kids playing in the gazebo at the place we stayed

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I Run Because…

So at midnight I got one of my every so often urges to hit the pavement.  With an incredulous stare from my wife and the obligatory “wear you’re reflective vest” – I hit the pavement.  Tonight was one of those unique nights where the steam seems to hover ever so slightly above your feet and the moonlight blends with the street lamps and moist air to create a hazy, mysterious glow around otherwise dull objects.  I felt particularly good tonight and could have ran forever it seemed but have to be up and at em’ in, uh… 4.5 hours now for an early morning meeting in Alpharetta.  The vacant streets and the black painted veil of silence conspired to set my mind spinning.  So, I do what I do best when I run, I had a conversation with myself (I love those).  The conversation was centered around a seemingly innocuous question, “why do I run?”.  Here is what I came up with.

I Run Because...
I Run Because...

I Run Because…

I like it

I also like beer

there are those that can’t

it makes me feel alive

you never know when it might be your last

I like to commune with myself

it helps me escape

I like to test my limits

I like to get lost

I fancy myself as a counter-culturalist

I always have

I like to get high 🙂

I want to be better

it makes me better

a man I most admire does

it doesn’t require a membership

its natural

its stretches you

it makes me better for those I care about most (see video)

… I could go on but these were a few that flowed freely on a really cool night for a run.

Also here is a great article from the NY Times on running – enjoy.

The Parallels of Adventure Racing & Business

C4 Adventure Race Pic
C4 Adventure Race Pic

A few weeks ago, I participated in a small adventure race in Woodstock, Georgia (Northeast of Atlanta). It was put on by the YMCA of Cherokee County and was a bunch of fun (many thanks to YMCA and Toby Bramblett for their efforts in pulling the race together).  The format included trail running, mountain biking and kayaking with land navigation and various challenge obstacles mixed in.  The team structure included three person, two person and solo teams.  I participated as a single team (solo) and raced under the banner “Kenzie-Carr”… in tribute to my two little girls! 🙂

Leading up to the race, and especially during the race, I had much opportunity to reflect and be a bit introspective.  In fact, I had a bit too much time to reflect because the race was 18 miles and 4 hours of cold river and lake crossings coupled with copious amounts of mud, sweat and salt.

This reflection lead me to start drawing the parallels between adventure racing and life.  Attached are a listing of just a few of those parallels.  I guess it is these parallels and the mental challenge of laboring through pain, nausea, fatigue, etc. that really draws me to the support of adventure racing.

Parallels of Adventure Racing & Life:
  1. “Competition is always more intense than you believe” > No matter the race, I always have a false notion that somehow the competition is going to be lacking, non-existent, or unprepared.  However, with each race I complete, I am ever more mindful that there is always a tier of well-prepared, intense and driven competition that will not simply roll-over.   Business is very similar to this adventure race parallel.  No matter the business, or challenge, there is always a group, no matter how small, that will pose significant competition to you and is prepared to sweat, sacrifice and bleed on equal levels to your own. Believing that there is no competition or the competition is going to roll-over is a fallacy.
  2. “Don’t always follow the crowd…or at least be conscious that you’re doing it” > During the race I got into a segment of the course where the terrain was unfamiliar and my land navigation became quite lacking.  It was at this time that I started checking for another competitor that was making better progress than I.  I found an experienced team that clearly had a great level of background in this tedious portion of the course.   In effect, I began following the crowd.  In business, we often follow the crowd.  Call it “group think” or a similar derivative but the end-effect is the same, your in the shadow of some one else.  More importantly, when your following some one else, you are intrinsically linked to their fate.  In my case, the group I followed helped me find a key checkpoint that might have otherwise been elusive.  In business & life, we follow the crowd at times.  The key is to be conscious when you are doing it and recognize that eventually you have to step out of the collective shadow and into your own light.
  3. “Stuff happens..deal with it and frame it correctly” > We all know it happens, the real question is how will you deal with it.  In my adventure race all was going wonderfully until the final stage, kayaking.  The day had been filled with some very fast trail running and equally fast mountain biking.  Each of these stages included lots of river passes and mud bogs which resulted in some very frozen feet.  When I reached the transition area for the final leg I looked forward to a change of shoes and a nice dry pair of socks.  Being fully outfitted with dry wear, I grabbed my kayak and headed for the lake and my miles of paddling.  At the lake’s edge I was confronted with the scenario to walk in the lake and get my newly acquired dry feet apparel wet again, or try to do an awkward beach “push-off”.  The allure of dry feet was too much.  I decided the awkward, and in retrospect risky, beach “push-off” was the best bet for me.  With the grace of a sea lion,  I “pushed-off” from the beach and for a good few 3 seconds my feet were dry as the Sahara.  ….BUT… suddenly, unexpectedly, the kayak began to shake and wobble with the vigor of a stuck Sea Lion.  Suddenly, the kayak rolled & SPLASH.  In short, “stuff” had just happened to me.  I had 3 choices, (1) quit; (2) trade in my completely drenched clothes for semi-dry clothes at the transition station and burn 15 minutes; or (3) take a breath and jump in the kayak and paddle on.  I chose option #3.  Let’s face it, I was cold but had already been cold.  I chose to frame the optimistic view point which was I was nearly 70% done with the race and feeling great.  I excitedly pushed on and dried out pretty quickly.  In our daily business interactions we all know “stuff” happens.  I would argue that one of the things that separates an enduring enterprise from a short-lived one is how they view unexpected challenges and overcome them.
  4. “Try new approaches” > It’s easy to get bogged down in the application of the same methodology, or tools, that you have grown accustomed to and comfortable with.  Being able to recognize and appreciate that the “traditional” way may not be the best way is a critical aspect of success in any discipline.  For me, during the mountain biking portion I realized I had a mechanical. In essence, my bike wasn’t shifting right in the lowest of gearings.  I was forced to try a new approach.  Sometimes life and business force you to try a new approach.
  5. “Persevere – its easy to throw in the towel, but much more difficult to finish” > In life and in business, I have seen it all too often that a person or organization’s default response is to run for cover, throw in the towel or generally accept defeat.  Some people, more than others, have this as part of their standard “toolkit’ of life.  Too difficult = I’m going to do something else.  Probably one of the characteristics I like best about the adventure races I have been in is that they challenge you to dedicate, focus and persevere in order to finish.  My moment of this race was when I took an unplanned swim in Lake Allatoona on a very cold day in February (see item #3).
  6. “Challenge yourself” > Once in the race, I had the choice to just be a participant or to really try to push myself to my limits.  I think in business it is easy for organizations, teams and individuals to just participate.   They show up at the office, check some email, cup of coffee and on, and on, and on….  Businesses and team members should challenge themselves.  What is a new innovation that could springboard the company? Is there a new lead, new market opportunity or product enhancement that could be fast tracked?  Challenging yourself (or the business) is key to separating yourself from the pack and leading the charge instead of being just another passenger that is along for the ride.
  7. “Train & prepare for success” > I think the parallels here are pretty obvious.  Whatever the challenge, business or physical, you have to prepare for success through proper training and preparation. Too many times in business we enter into a competitive scenario without fully preparing ourselves or our organizations.  Members of a business organization have a propensity to believe that their competitors and their own organizations are static.  Worse yet, sometimes large organizations rely on their own perceived brand without realizing they need to always be “in training”.
  8. “Got to be in it to win it” > The last one is not only a cliche but also obvious.  However, this may be one of the most important parallels of all.  Too many times in business, as in life, we choose not to participate because the challenge is perceived as too taxing.  There are a thousand other cliche phrases I could use here.  Simply put, in life and business, a large part of your success is deciding to show up.
C4AR kayaking
C4AR kayaking

As for me, I was glad I showed up, challenged myself and got to go through the many emotions and physical challenges that make adventure racing such an awesome high!  I have several others races on the calendar in 2010 and look forward to continuing to get to know myself, my limits and having the opportunity to frame life differently and be truly appreciative for all that I have.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR3962) Trades Our Collective Liberty for Security (FYI…that’s bad)

No matter where you stand on the political “aisle” of life, be it Republican, Democrat, or Independent the current bill that was just recently passed by Congress is an absolute disgrace.  In fact, let us start on the right frame work from which to view this abomination.  Instead of pigeon holing ourselves into a nice category like conservative, republican, etc. how about we try a new name for our collective selves.  Guess what that name is?

A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N !

USA
“He who trades liberty for security deserves neither and will lose both.” (picture courtesy of USAA)

With that common understanding now well established let’s proceed.  The disgraceful part of the current bill is that is throws out the common themes and ideals that have identified us as the greatest nation on Earth for the better part of two centuries.

Ideals and values such as freedom of choice, hard work, honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, entrepreneurship, and oh by the way did I say freedom & liberty? If not let me say it again…. FREEDOM…LIBERTY.  You see in today’s mass media market values like FREEDOM & LIBERTY have been watered down and commoditized.  Some how these words are now just part of the common toolkit of career politicians and political hacks, used to fight battles of popularity and power.

It seems that somehow overtime our country’s collective memory of how hard won our individual liberties and freedoms were have been forgotten.  Let’s face it getting the rights we have today and the lifestyle we enjoy was not a god-given right.  It was, and is, a gift that requires us to be vigilant and protect this wonderful thing we have been given.  I believe in America we have forgotten that liberty and security are two very different ideals.  The vote that was passed in Congress is a vote that by and large passed using persuasive arguments that appealed to constituents “security” side.  I like to be secure as well but not at the expense of my liberty.  To put this in extremely basic terms I’ve created a simple analogy: (see below)

You move in with your parents as a 35 year old adult after suffering a job loss, etc.  Your parents provide you “security” – roof over your head, food, transportation, comfort, conversation, etc.  However, it comes with a price.  You see your Mom is a strict Southern Baptist and doesn’t agree with your late night carousing, drinking, video game playing, farting, texting on your cell phone and she vehemently disagrees with this whole thing she calls the “world wide web”.  So guess what she does? That’s right, she restricts you.  Mom and Dad agree that you can no longer go out past 6pm, you can only drink Schwepps Ginger Ale (on special occasions you can have O’Doul’s), the only games you can play are checkers (good news is your Mom has a friend named Hilda that rocks at checkers), gaseous substance releases have to be done outside and last but not least she confiscates your laptop calling it the “gateway to hell”.

And there you have it folks.  You’ve achieved your security and in the process you have traded your liberty.  Sucks doesn’t it?

Make no mistake about it.  This is the path we are on.  You see, we can’t have it both ways.  I hope that sooner, rather than later, we as Americans understand the differences and the tradeoffs that are involved.

Thomas Jefferson nailed it a very long time ago when he said the following:

“He who trades liberty for security deserves neither and will lose both.”

On this Veteran’s Day let us not only honor those great men and women who have honorably served but also be reminded that their sacrifices were to guard the liberty and freedom of choice that we have today.

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3962/show >  Visit this link to learn more about HR 3962