Monday, March 02, 2009

What happened to Citadel Stock to get it delisted?

Don't ask me, I'm just a brain in a box.

The standard procedure is to ask some financial person. They will give you a nice financial reason which may or may not be the real --or entire -- reason. But we turn to them to explain money stuff and then they opine on other aspects of the business even if they don't really understand.

Financial people are often very, very smart. They have to understand stuff like Credit Default Swaps and leverage. They often have advanced degrees. MBAs! From Harvard! Plus, they are paid a lot of money and as everyone knows money is the only real measure of everything. "If you are so smart why aren't you rich?" The great American taunt. (As my dear friend Tim used to say, "If you are so rich why aren't you nice?")

But I've observed that running a successful business involves someone who has a grasp of all the aspects of a business to keep it growing and prospering. And sometimes even when you are doing all the right things someone or something comes from outside and knocks you down.

I know so many insanely bright Silicon Valley tech folks who thought that if only they worked smarter or harder they would win. What always annoyed me was when they looked down on the people with different skill sets. "Without us the sales people would have nothing to sell!" and a sales person would say, "Engineers, they don't understand what we need to sell to the customers." Or a marketer would pull out the old, "They would sell Sushi as cold dead fish!".

Different groups need to understand the value of the others and think, "How can I help them do THEIR job?"

And then someone comes along, buys them up because they have The Money (which means they MUST know what they are talking about, often they have Harvard MBAs!) and that person says, "Okay, now let me tell you how you should run the business."

One time I was telling someone about the purchase of a company that was primarily based on the skills of people, not intellectual property or hard physical assets. And the person I was talking to say, "Yeah it's different running a company where the assets go down the elevator every night." I didn't understanding that they were talking about the people as assets. I was still in the mind set that assets meant things. I envisioned computers, printers, red staplers and desks going down the elevator every night and how strange that was.

Later I started understanding people as "assets" and that also meant that they could be liabilities. What do you do when someone starts COSTING you money? What if this person represents a potential huge cost? This is where you start figuring out how to protect the company. This is where doing things by the book helps. This is why you follow your own internal guidelines. Guidelines set up by your smart HR people to help protect you.

If HR people were money people maybe people would listen to them more. Maybe if they used the lingo of the money people then the money people would listen, "This person will be a liability if he keeps doing X." If you are not listening to all the people in the company you can be blinded just by assets, not potential liabilities.

The problem with seeing people as future liabilities is that you don't want to believe that it will happen, especially if in the past they were assets. And predicting the future based on the success of the past is hard, even the money people know this, that's why they put in the boilerplate the words to that effect, (but I think they just put that there to cover their ass from potential lawsuits).

I've told ABC Radio/Citadel/Disney management again and again that someone is trouble and will continue to be trouble in the future and they don't want to listen because they only see the asset part. I can even demonstrate that I'm absolutely correct and can point to proof that I know what I'm talking about, but they still want to engage in magical thinking because they don't want to make the hard decisions on something they see as a current asset. And then when things fall apart we hear, "Nobody could have predicted!"

I can't help a management who won't listen when I tell them that their "assets" are liabilities. Even when I provide them proof. It's all about credentials. I don't have a Harvard MBA. I could tell them how I helped companies make a lot of money or warned them what to do so that they won't lose a lot of money, but if they only listen to "The Money" they are missing out.

Good management listens to all parts of the company. I know that I learn a lot when I listen Instead of writing 750 word think pieces). The answers aren't always in the obvious group.

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