Sleep: A constitutional pastime,If you constantly strive to give more than you get — you will come out the winner.

We had a chief of the treasury benches some years ago, a man held in great respect by his party and even political rivals, who had mastered the art of taking micro naps between every three or four words. In a way it worked. People would get glued to the eye-closure rhythms, and twice the attention would be drawn to anticipate the next few words that would be let out. Whether this came out of a trick or compulsion is still not settled, but people often call him one of the foremost Prime Minister orators.

The constitutional validity of sleep as a fundamental right may still be debatable. Does the precedent set in the recent judgment confirm a law, or does this allowance need a backbone of legislation. We shall come to that after “Mota Maal” and “Blackmail” political strategies are settled in their true interpretation in terms of a contentious national audit. This is a stronger democracy. No comparison to the overpublicized American “Tea Party” clubs!

One Martin Luther shook America with his, “I have a dream”.

Here is a freer world that allows you at least one dream a day as a fundamental right, but to be aptly modest, one may say a “fundamental pastime”!

Instead of fearing your competitors, embrace and collaborate with your competitors. What you learn will far out weigh what you offer.The following is an easy 10-step formula to profit from your competitors.

It was a first-year neurology seminar. The topic was “sleep”.  Somehow sleep seminars are always a challenge for residents due to the immense experiments and hypothesis on the topic, and the propensity of all this data downloaded in a go, to induce sleep in the audience. I wanted to beat that. But there were risks of talking light in otherwise grim academic departments. Grimness is still understood in medicine, as a sign of discipline rather than dullness. I started by stating three important facts on the phenomenon: 1. Sleep constitutes one-third of our lives on average. Point  taken. 2. At any given time, one half of the world is asleep. Made sense. Now statement No. 3. “Sleep is the commonest Indian pastime …”. An ambivalent hush, a giggle, and the beginning of a wrinkle on the HOD’s forehead. The statement was not complete. I wanted to open the topic my way, knowing well that a week’s suspension was almost a certainty. Statement No.3 was now completed, once the hush settled, “… sleeping alone is the second commonest”. Thereafter it was all about terminology, sleep studies, data on video recordings of snorers, people with seizures, etc, euphemistically called “sleep labs”. The suspension and reprimand did come, but let me come to some recent facts commented in Law.

Sometime ago, a case in the apex court on the police high handedness on the sleeping crowd at Baba Ramdev’s first conclave was fought on the grounds that sleep was a fundamental right. It was infringed upon by the police, and thereby the Lordships passed a stricture on the law-enforcing authority. As courts, by nature of interpretation of theme of law are sympathetic to the common man, the petition could have been argued on so many aspects, and still the court’s sympathies would have been the same.

Last week, Hon’ble Chief Justice SH Kapadia, brought up the topic, in one of his public lectures. He raised the question if “sleep” can be put down in print as a constitutional right and guarantee  as  singularly and as  stand-alone an assurance as the right to speech, or the right to follow one’s religion. He was perhaps pointing to the fact that though the court was obliged to dispense justice the way it did, the precedence set on the premise that “sleep was a fundamental right of an Indian citizen” could have repercussions in unimaginable ways that only posterity can reveal. The petitioners could well have managed an identical judgment on many other grounds as injury and breach of peace by a state agency on a peaceful sleeping crowd, and dozens of ways of describing torture to the psyche, of which the Indian lawyers have devised thousands of pathetic statements, that no legal brief is ever complete without compiling the first four pages on the types and degrees of mental ruin the client has suffered, even if they forget to fight the case on the “the point of law”.

Imagine if the “Society of Insomniacs”, (if there isn’t any, one can be registered in less than a week), starts demanding state-funded medications for restoration of their dreamy states. For the sort of population we have, perhaps petrol prices will have to be jacked up again to bridge the deficit. I believe “snoring” in extreme cases has been cited as a valid reason for divorce, but not without showing a haggish-looking spouse with dark circles under her eyes, who dozes and falls off the witness box even before the cross examination begins. It is a different matter if His Lordship himself gets into a temporary slumberous state in post-lunch sessions, in hot summer afternoons, under squealing ceiling fans!

The most slumberous of our citizens who are routinely seen napping in public gatherings are the politicians on the dais, waiting for their turn to blabber, politicians again, in either House, though the “elders” have been spotted  exercising their rights more often. Embracing discretion, I would refrain from commenting on those in the Chair, so as not to denigrate the dignity of these power houses of democracy.

Dignitaries invited to inaugurate science conventions, which certainly include medical conventions, are obliged to reclaim the front row, and attend at least the first talk. The “power point” is a great relief to keep their fundamental rights protected. They just have to anchor their elbows on the arm-rest, turn the head towards the speaker, and effortlessly allow the eyelids to drop as the lights are dimmed. Not to blame. Sleep-wake cycles are light dependent by the release of a hormone called melatonin. Thirty minutes later some neuronal rhythm is restored. They are escorted out by the chief organizer as the crowd claps, only to enter another inauguration an hour later, beginning with the patent, “It gives me great pleasure …” Most certainly, back to the seat it gives comfort, pleasure and slumber again.

 

1) Inserts: Most of your competitors will have some sort of physical product they send to their customers. Often, they do not contain any promotional materials. Offer to either buy “space” where you pay a flat fee to ride along with the delivery of their product or do a revenue share where you do not pay a flat fee but rather split any revenue generate from your promotional piece.

2) Have lunch: Take your competitor to lunch. Do not start the lunch by bombarding that person for answers. Rather get to know them and engage in casual conversation. Once your competitor is comfortable with you, the information will fly.

3) Form an association: This is a great way to get together a few times a year and discuss the state of the industry you are in. By collecting dues, this enables you to bring in experts in related areas from marketing to product development. This does not have to be a physical gathering, rather a virtual one. Make it a teleseminar so that all your members can attend.

4) Start a newsletter or magazine: By starting an newsletter and/or magazine (print or digital), it allows you to get your competitors’ message out to your audience, which of course is a win for them. And it gives you free content — a win for you.

5) Accountability partners: Use your competitors to keep you on track. If you are in the same industry and on the same level, from CEO to marketing director, chances are good that you have had similar experiences and can help each other with realistic timelines and project expectations.

6) Joint Venture: By promoting each other’s products via email, you are able to make money, get new customers and leads and obtain valuable R&D. But most importantly, you are able to serve your customers better. Face it, creating good products takes a lot resources and time. But promoting your competitor you are giving your customer something you are not supplying while adding to your bottom line.

7) Become your competitors’ customer: So many entrepreneurs make the mistake of asking for comps to subscriptions and products. You should actually buy your top three competitors products. This gives you an inside look at EXACTLY how they treat their customers. Learn everything you can from this. If you think they do something great — emulate it. If you are offended by an action and you are doing the same thing, well now you know you need to change and improve that action.

8) Social Media: Be their PR agent on social media. If you received a great newsletter issue from them, post it on Facebook. If you received great customer service from them, tweet it.

9) Conferences: Invite them to speak at your next conference. Companies make this mistake all the time. They are afraid to put their best customers in front of their competitors. But the reality is by not doing this you are doing your customers a disservice. Regardless how knowledgeable you are and how good you are at what you do. You cannot be everything to everyone. And some of your customers just may resonate with your competitors more. Don’t be afraid that your customers will jump ship because they won’t. What they will do is thank you for having the insight to invite that speaker.

10) Visit their office: By scheduling a trip to their office you get to experience the culture. Something that cannot happen over the phone. You can set in on their meetings, talk to their employees. This single act changed the course of my career when I was much younger. Watching how more experienced leaders interacted with their team members helped me become the leader I am today.

Now, all of the above action items only work if you are willing to reciprocate. Don’t ask if you can visit a competitor’s office if you have no intention of letting them visit you. Or do not ask them to contribute content to your newsletter if your answer to them would be, “I just don’t have the time.”

If you constantly strive to give more than you get — you will come out the winner.

As many companies, including Microsoft, seek to increase sales, they continue to add more clutter. Seth Godin, best-selling author and entrepreneur, writes “once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention.” This holds true in the case of the Microsoft Store, because once the shift is made towards chaos and clutter, it becomes really hard to go back to a simpler experience. “More is not always better,” he explains, “more is almost never better.”

The fact of the matter is that Microsoft is not in a good spot. It is lagging behind the two leading consumer electronics companies in tablet computing and smartphones. The good news is that Microsoft understands its flaws and situation. Opening a store may turn out to be a step in the right direction for the company, only if the consumer experience is simplified and communicated more effectively. Until then, it will remain uncool.At the end of the day, it is simplicity that sells. In a world that is becoming more technologically advanced and saturated with choices, people are going back to the basics. They are looking for clean and simple products with a pleasant customer experience. The Microsoft store does not offer that.

  When CI Holdings first bought Permanis in 2004, it only had 15,000 outlets nationwide and was a fledgling bottling company. At the point of its sale to Asahi Group Holdings last year, Permanis had a reach of 40,000 outlets and was Malaysia’s second largest soft-drink maker by sales volume. CI acquired Permanis in 2004 for RM72mil, and sold it to Asahi Group Holdings for RM820mil.
“When first bought into Permanis, it was already a saturated market with many competitors.
“revamped the business model and increased the number of outlets carrying our products.
“lots of promotional activites and strengthened our research and development to introduce more drinks.
“ put in the right people at every level. managemnt need to pay people very well if you want the right results,”
Critics of eliminating the focus on stock price and stock-based compensation fear that doing so would leave companies without ‘an objective function’ — something to guide their performance toward creating the value they are supposed to generate. They argue that focusing on measuring value on the basis of stock price and providing incentives that are stock-based may not be a perfect system, but it is the only one that can guide proper company behavior. And they argue that investors deserve a return on their investment in the company so it is the role of management to work assiduously at maximizing the stock price.
These arguments play fast and loose with logic. Let’s say I start a company and take it public at $20/share. Ben, who helps me post these columns, buys a share for $20/share is part of the IPO. Let’s imagine that Ben needs to earn 10% on his investment to account for its riskiness — so I have to produce $2/share of net earnings for him, which would enable me to dividend it out to him and enable him to earn his targeted 10%. However, let’s imagine that there is a LinkedIn-like frenzy after the IPO, the stock skyrockets to $100/share, and Arianna buys the share from Ben for $100. The prevailing theory says that I owe Arianna (who has the same desired return for her risk) $10/share of return.
But do I? Did Arianna give me $100 like Ben gave me $20? Did Ben turn around and return his $80 profit to the firm? No. Arianna gave an $80 profit to Ben who pocketed it. Did I promote or authorize or even know of the sale by Ben to Arianna? No. They decided on that transaction themselves — my firm was not a party to it and the capital I have for investment is still $20.
So to satisfy Arianna’s return requirement, I need to make $10/share based on an investment of $20 or 50% return on investment — a very hard thing to do. All because she decided it was worth it to buy the share from Ben for $100.
She didn’t give me a single dollar of investment capital — and I don’t owe her anything more than a return on the $20, which is the total capital I have ever received for the share that she now owns. That should be the only obligation to shareholders that companies ever accept: to earn them a return above their cost of capital for the capital actually provided by shareholders (plus any earnings on those shares retained by the company rather than paid out in a dividend) — i.e., the book value of the shares. If shareholders want to trade those shares between themselves based on their expectations of the future, they should knock themselves out and do it. But those trades and the value they are made at should have no bearing on the obligations of executive management.
But because this is not the case and executives routinely accept the obligation to earn a return on the market price of the shares rather than the book value of the shares — and have their incentives tied to the former, they engage in extremely risky actions when their share price rises. Michael Jensen wrote a very good article on the subject entitled “The Agency Costs of Overvalued Equity and the Current State of Corporate Finance“, which argues that spectacular crashes including Enron, WorldCom and Nortel could be traced to this problem. Management feels the obligation to earn a spectacularly high return on the investment resources they were actually given in order to earn a minimally acceptable return on value based on the expectations of investors. That article was written in 2004, well before the 2008 crash, but the actions of the big American banks bore a great similarity. The stock price of Citibank went up by 15X during the 1990s and headed another 50% higher in the time before the crash. What did Chuck Prince think he needed to do when he took over as CEO in 2003? I suspect that it was to earn an acceptable return on the wildly inflated stock price of Citibank — however risky that was to accomplish. And it was riskier than anyone could have imagined for Prince and the other “too big to fail banks”.
At the very heart of the problem are two deeply flawed theories — first, that the obligation of management is to earn a return on the expectations of shareholders, however insanely high those expectations happen to be: and second, that stock-based compensation provides a useful motivation for management to take care of their company. They both sound good on the surface, but shareholders would be better off in the long-run if management felt the obligation to earn a fair, risk-adjusted return on the investment capital they were given and if their performance incentives were based on their company’s performance in the real game.
Executive compensation in the United States has risen dramatically in the last 30 years. The difference between the lowest-paid employees in major corporations and top executives has gone from approximately 100 to 1 to over 500 to 1. As a result, executive compensation has gone from having no noticeable effect on corporate profits to having a significant impact. More significant is the social and economic distance it has created in our society. Simply stated, the rich have gotten much richer.
The arguments justifying high levels of executive compensation usually cite pay for performance and scarcity of talent. The credibility of the pay for performance argument actually increased when the recession began in 2008. As it should, executive pay, particularly CEO pay, dropped dramatically when the stock market and economy collapsed in 2008.
In addition to providing a credibility boost, the 2008 drop in executive compensation provided an opportunity for corporate boards to orchestrate a long-term reduction in executive compensation. It is very difficult to reduce someone’s compensation when there is no performance decrease to justify it. Simply saying that because executives are paid too much they will receive a reduction in pay is a hard thing for boards to do.
In 2008, the recession reduced pay, so “all” corporations had to do to reduce executive compensation was to have plans that did not provide the lavish pay and benefits that their past ones did. Of course doing this required that they do something they have been willing to do for decades — not be driven by their CEO’s demands for higher and higher compensation.
In the case of many corporations, not changing their pre-2008 executive compensation programs was an option that “at best” was likely to lead to a slow return of executive compensation amounts to the prerecession level. Only by creating new plans with lower performance goals could they quickly return executive pay to its pre-2008 levels.
Rather than taking advantage of a rare opportunity to reduce executive pay, most boards decided to create new plans with less demanding performance targets. It is now clear that because of these new plans, executive compensation has returned to its pre-recession levels and is headed higher. However, the economy and the market value of most U.S. corporations has not recovered from the 2008 recession, nor has the compensation of the American worker.
Household income in the United States has dropped almost 10% since the beginning of the recession and shows no sign of trending upward. This is creating the worst possible social dynamic. Most members of society are seeing lower income levels, while executives are enjoying record levels of compensation. It is bad enough for executives to have a compensation level that is growing faster than that of a typical worker; it is much worse to have the compensation amounts of workers and executives going in opposite directions.
To add insult to injury, there are a number of CEOs who have been fired recently and have gotten extremely large severance packages. For example, Carol Bartz at Yahoo! got an estimated $10 million package, and Leo Apotheker at Hewlett Packard got a $13 million package after working for HP for less than a year. It is hardly surprising that there is rising social discontent with how wealth is acquired in the U.S. — witness the widespread “occupy” demonstrations.
Advertisements