Hopeful Observations

I have long been a speculator. From the Latin specere (to look at), I observe. It’s what I did for the government. It’s what I did in finance. It’s much of what I do in the IT world. So today I’d like to offer some more economic observations.

1. The Cluetrain Indicator rides again.

In early September, I wrote an article (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) entitled, “The Cluetrain Indicator.” Though the methodology of the article was specious at best, its conclusion — that the economy is turning — was serious.

In actuality, the underlying thinking was based on the work of George Soros (possibly the greatest speculator ever). He postulated that the perception and the reality of the market are two forces that are related but not bound together. As perception diverges from reality, opportunities exist to make a profitable decision.

In “normal” economic times, the stock market precedes the economy (it’s a predictive device). On September 4, I believed this was not the case, rather that the economy was preceding the stock market. Thus, I was postulating that such a moment was a divergence of reality and perception — that is, a time to make some money.

September 11 was the exogenous event that returned the perception/reality equation in the market to a more normal stance. And what happened? The market is up some 30 percent (I love being right). Again the market is acting as a predictive device.

So… The Cluetrain indicator redux: The market has turned (although my work suggests a down leg in the indices in late November to early December). Accordingly, so will the economy. This will occur in earnest between March and June of next year. Plan accordingly.

2. Those AT&T Carrot-Top commercials are really frickin’ stupid.

3. I offer anecdotal evidence of the turn.

It seems that everywhere I go these days, IT types are talking about how they’re going to give it until January, then they’re going to look for new jobs. This gives me hope.

I’m a small business owner. I didn’t really make that decision until about four weeks ago (despite being an owner for over a year). Until then, I had been playing business owner –saying things like, “If I can’t make x, I’ll look for a job.” Or, “If this doesn’t improve by y, I’ll look for a job.” This is no longer the case. Four weeks ago, I made a decision — I’m a small business owner. I love it. I’m in it for the long haul. Since that day, business has improved.

As I see the majority of my peers reach their personal point of saying uncle, I find my business gaining momentum. Their leaving only makes my situation better.

4. Others offer even more hopeful news.

I’ve begun to see job lists with messages from IT types talking about becoming loan officers and car salesmen! Sniff, sniff — can you smell that? Ah yes, a bottom.

5. You buy into my “the bottom is here” thesis… Now what?

It is time to buy low, my friends. If you have any money to spend, now is the time to spend it. Spending that money on acquisitions, talent, content — whatever! — means that you will be buying accretive assets at their low point.

6. What about personalization?

OK, here’s the last thing I’d spend money on — personalization software. Focus that money on scalable, measurable, proven methods. Now is not the time for corporate innovation (that comes in 12 months). Rather, as a decision maker, you must make certain your block and tackle is rock solid for the next six months. That’s your shot to gain clients, steal market share, and trump your competition. Throw those personalization software vendors out of your office!

Instead, make sure your online copywriting is superb. Check your email marketing. Clean up your databases. Invest in accretive assets (“CRM ROI” does not fall into this category).

Execute the fundamentals with precision now, and in six months you’ll be in a financial position to undertake innovation — while your competition plays catch up.

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