Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Does Harley-Davidson share with wine?

What are the key ingredients for success in business? In my mind its defining effective strategy, having a sense for timing in execution, cohesion in a business culture, focused effort, and a bit of luck. But in the end, there is really one thing that separates successful and unsuccessful businesses: Leadership.

There are several successful leadership styles but there is a character trait most successful leaders share. They have the ability to constantly critique their own success and failures and adapt early. They are people who challenge the status quo routinely, constantly seeking improvement rather than living by rules of thumb and falling into routines and ruts.

You are a smart enough person if you run a business or manage a unit within a company. But if you can't back away from day-to-day duties and get a grasp of the environment changing around you and then strategize for the long run, you might be in the wine business for the short run.

I was reminded of that when I saw [an article] this past week about AMF Bowling seeking bankruptcy protection for a second time within the same decade. I honestly hadn't tracked the company of late, but had in the past as a young banker.

I recall sitting at my office in the early 1980's, reading an analyst report on the company that was covered in the WSJ. In it, the analyst reasoned that with the personal computer taking flight, and given all the accompanying enhanced productivity gains we would see, soon we would all flock to leisure activities to fill up our newly discovered copious free time. As a result, we'd see companies like AMF and Voit take off.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Time For Post-Harvest & Post-Election Yogi.

When life is confusing, we all have to have a moral compass. For me, I look to the immortal Yogi Berra to make some sense out of things. Lets look at a few factoids:
  • That was two years of campaigning estimated to have exceeded $6 billion dollars. That is with a B. . . . . six billion. I remember when a thousand million was meaningful and to cite the immortal Yogi Berra, "Pretty soon that adds up to real money."
  • How expensive was it? It was the most costly election in world history according to the Financial Times by almost double. It cost $18 for every man woman and child living in the US. And what did that money get us? ...... just about what we had before. So the real question is, who is expecting a different result? It's deja-vu all over again.
  • Don't you think it's strange that the approval rating of Congress is lower than that of amoebic slime mold  (....even lower than bankers....)  and we largely voted the same gridlocked bunch back into office? I guess that means we've lowered our expectations of our politicians. The future aint what it used to be.
  • Your guy didn't win? Just buck up and stop your whining. Its a victory knowing we can get back to normal and reclaim our lives like they were before fact-checkers at different networks came to different conclusions about the same facts. They could have observed a lot by just watching.
  • It says something about us that when our candidate loses a debate, the FOX or MSNBC talking heads start flogging the moderators and then read idiotic tweets and emails from "anonymous" just to look like they are with it from a social media perspective. Its like when your team loses, you got jobbed by the refs. When did respected news-people become fair game instead of the candidates? My advice is next time the spin room gets an anonymous letter, don't open it.
  •  Ever notice how every year after harvest whoever is interviewed says, "This was one of the best growing years ever." Oh sure there was frost at budbreak. That just made the vines work harder. And yea ... there was a monsoon at flower, but that just lowered the yield naturally. We didn't need to drop fruit. ...... So when we really DO have the best harvest .... maybe ever, who is going to believe us? Maybe we need to plan our spokesperson playbook because if you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you will end up somewhere else."
So.... can anyone remember what we were talking about before our collective consciousness was eaten by political zombies and our brains turned into polenta? There is a lot to talk about but lets talk about just a couple critical related topics; the economy and the stock market.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

China: Its Time .... I think.

Talking to a US producer the other day about his Chinese exports, I asked what I should tell others about selling in China. He said tell them, "Come on in. The water is fine." Really? Is it time to jump in and export?

Clearly their consumers are growing in their taste for wine. As producers they are now 5th in World Production. Today in their 10 growing regions, there are more than 800 wineries. Seventy percent produce less than 60,000 cases. The largest 6 wineries are responsible for 70% of total Chinese production.

Hong Kong with a serious lust for wine dropped its import duty to 0% about 5 years ago. Since then the volume of wine traded in the region has spiked, and as demand has grown some of that wine has made it into China without the 41% duty required for imported wine to the mainland which is raising eyebrows among the protectionist ruling party.