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Lack of Olympic sporting events

I guess Friday didn’t have enough sporting events going on for NBC as they started their taped 3-hour coverage segment with a mushy 15 minute tribute to the 1996 women’s gymnastic team. Really?

Add to this that, NBC crammed what felt like 20-25 minutes of advertising into each hour and you find that there was only about 95 minutes of viewable sporting news coming out of the Olympics on Friday. How about showing events in which USA is not expected to win gold? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

No? Hmmmm …

If America took over FIFA … (A tongue in cheek thought)

Was watching World Cup the other day and had this crazy thought: what if America took over the very successful World Cup (because Americans -of course- do things better :))

  1. This once-every-4-years thing would have to go! I mean, really! If people like World Cup so much, we should have one every year!
  2. What’s with 90 minutes of play? Two halves of 45 minutes? That’s crazy, it’s so … unorthodox. There should be 2 halves of 30 minutes each. Make it an hour game so that it’s neater and easier to do the math. I mean what is this, the metric system of time-keeping? Just because the rest of the world doesn’t understand inches, yards, miles we have to conform to 45 minute halves?
  3. But better, make it 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. That way we can put more commercials in there and have more replay time.
  4. Wait a second, there’s really not enough time allotted for commercials. We need in-game stoppages so that we can break for more commercials and make more money.
  5. Making 11 guys run around for an hour (or 90 minutes). That’s so unfair. There should be more substitutions. Every time a team takes possession of the ball, there should be an allowable stoppage so that teams can change their make up for offense and defense (and allow more commercials).
  6. We need more scoring! The people love and want more scoring. So goals should count as 6 points; penalty kicks should count as 3 points just because they are so easy. And if you hit a penalty kick that goes in after hitting the posts or crossbar, you get an extra point. That should get rid of ties.
  7. Wait! We need bigger guys. Fans are more impressed with big bulky human beings. We should reduce the amount of running around have have more set plays like goal kicks and free kicks so that we can substitute in and out bigger bulkier guys to push each other around. Maybe a Sumo wrestler as a goalie.
  8. We need less constant action and more time for replays and analysis and commercials.
  9. Note to self and TV executive: So far so good, but sStill need more commercial time, need some more stoppages through out the game.

Wait a second, this is sounding like American gridiron. 🙂 !!!

Sustainable Capitalism – oxymoron?

It is a truism that Capitalism relies heavily on growth and greed (both good and bad, though, bad greed is only determined in hindsight).  [still in progress]

A company is formed and begins to make money. Modest annual gains. The company could continue in this fashion for years, except there’s a problem. Without much-better-than-inflation growth, the company won’t be able to pay its people more each year in terms of salary increases or bonuses or both. It needs to do this to retain its employees. In simpler times, it was easier to live on a few dollars a day for many years at a time for basically several reasons:

  1. Many folks subsidized their incomes by making many of their basic needs (be it growing food or making clothes or owning a horse for years) [kinda tells you how far back I’m reaching!]
  2. Technology was not so mature that new “have to have” items were coming out at a break-neck pace requiring more money.
  3. Consumerism was not as prevalent as it is today. People didn’t spend so much of their leisure time buying discretionary items. What they did buy, they kept for life. What broke got fixed, not replaced.

In addition, the company founder needs to account for inflation: the costs of the parts that go into building his widget will creep up over time. He can buy in bulk but that means risking more money. If his widgets suddenly go out of style, he’d be stuck holding a lot of widget parts. And lastly another component that eats into profits is taxes. Taxes never go down.

So our founder has to worry about making more money each year to cover his expenses and to retain and hire good people. This fuels growth. He needs to sell more widgets to his current clientele or figure out a way to reach out to more new clients. He can also just charge more each year for a widget. At some point you’d think he would price himself out of business or he can keep the number of widgets produced each year artificially low to keep demand up. Or he has two other options: he can grow by buying another company or he can start to work out an exit strategy and sell the company and walk away.

There are other options or methods to growing: the founder can borrow money to build out production lines or purchase another company; he can go public and raise money for similar purposes. In either case he is growing and he has a need to grow.

Greed comes into play when the founder wants to grow even more quickly. I’m not going to try to distinguish between good and bad greed. That’s for another post. But greed can fuel growth. It can be creative in its approach and as long as its not about lying, cheating or stealing it can probably be considered a good thing.

Okay, so growth is a basic ingredient to capitalism: companies want to make more money so they make more widgets or they just charge more each year. But selling is a two way transaction: you need a buyer. If our company is making a consumable product (think: food), it’s easy, if it tastes good, people will be back for more. Growing food, not taking extreme weather conditions into account, is a sustainable business.

Non-consumables are a different story. How many washer dryers can a person own? If our company is building a widget, they need to consider several items:

  1. Product Life Cycle #1. If the product is expensive and is built to last, do I try to manipulate its life cycle [think: planned obsolescence]. Or do I sell the product on its ability to last?
  2. Market share. If the product is built to last [even if it’s not], then I need to consider how many people can I reach in a given time period to sell the product to. If I have competition, how do I stand out and make sure I grab a significant -growable- share of the market place.
  3. Replace/Repair. If I build quality items cheaply, I can still make the parts so expensive that when my widgets break down, people may consider it cheaper to replace than repair.
  4. Product Life Cycle #2. At some point I will need to build a new and improved widget and convince people to throw away or turn in their old widgets for a new one. Here we need a roadmap for new product releases.
  5. Expansion/Global markets. Even though my widget may be seen as old hat in my market, I can always try to go global and sell it to other markets where there might be the incremental need.

We’ve discussed some of the fundamentals for why and how companies and by extension economies grow. Technology has become a straw that stirs the drink in our capitalist economy. Since the late 40’s the push has been for consumerism. Conspicuous consumption is consumerism as an addiction. Advertising has pushed several themes upon us over the last 60-70 years. In the 40’s and 50’s and early 60’s it presented the general population with an enviable and seemingly achievable lifestyle: a car in every garage, the white picket fence, etc. In the late 60’s through the late 80’s the theme shifted into celebrity emulation or “live like the rich and famous”: dress like the stars, ride like the stars, go to the same vacation spots and restaurants as the stars. Finally over the last 20 years the message has subtly changed to: “just buy, there is pleasure to be had in just buying anything”.

This message was picked up and it drove us to buy, buy, buy and it helped fuel companies to grow, grow, grow and it made a number of people rich, rich rich.

But several things happened while we grew up, expanded and kept buying.

  1. The number of people benefiting from all this growth actually shrank. This is not good. It translates into people being convinced to buy things they cannot afford and going into debt. Without going into a laborious discussion here on this matter, it paints anew face on unwitting indentured servitude.
  2. Technology played its parts well upstaging a number of key players in that Product Life Cycle #2 [see point 4 above] became ridiculously short. Think of computers and iPhones: almost as soon as you walk out the door with your new purchase, it’s out of date.
  3. We developed a throw-away mentality. As soon as the widget doesn’t please us, we throw it away and get a better one. Things don’t last because we don’t want them to last. We’re continuously being convinced that yesterday’s product line is passe.

This is the part of capitalism that is unsustainable. Making widgets requires resources, whether it’s oil to run the machines or trees to build a product or coal or whatever. There is a finite amount of resources on this earth and we need to take this into account. Is there anything more resource-wasteful than indivdually wrapped slices of American cheese?

People vote for products with their wallets. If you stop buying a product, manufacturers stop making it. To be sustainable requires rethinking the product lines we consider vital or necessary. Yes, materials improve over time and technology can make many widgets small, both of which make widgets cheaper and better, but is it necessary, for instance, to buy a new car every 2-3 years? As cars have been priced out of most people’s budgets, leasing was created to fill the gap. This has led to shorter life ownership spans.

How do we create sustainable products or better sustainable companies. Cars, for example, have longer life spans. They last longer than they used to. It’s not unreasonable to think you can put a couple of hundred thousand miles on a car these days. Large car manaufacturers still need people to buy cars at a heady rate in order to survive. In America the answer has been to move to leasing cars. This almost guarantees that ownership lifecycle remains short. Customer turns in vehicle after a 2 or 3 year lease, company resells car as “pre-owned” [just a money-engaging way of saying “used”] or pushes the product to developing countries.

Manufacturers more than likely either need to consolidate (which would mean less choices) or to get smaller and more responsive to market trends. Getting smaller regrettably means less jobs.

Products need to figure out a way in which they remain viable for longer. [still in progress]