Monthly Archives: June 2014

How To Empower People

I believe success is all about empowering people. The more people you empower, the more money and power one acquires in addition to having an ever increasing impact on his/her constituency. Empowering people is in fact and in my opinion better than education and management hierarchy combined.

The Key question then becomes: How do you truly empower people?

I believe there are several ways to do it. Empowering is really like fueling them with the guns they need to shoot. Here are some ways:

1) Help them realize their true potential – There is no greater feeling of empowerment than learning you have an ability which you excel at that can make a positive contribution to the world.

2) Build Trust. Trust them and help them trust others. If you trust their actions and decisions, they will feel empowered.

3) Support their failures no matter what… ensuring of course they don’t repeat them again. After all, one can never make the same mistake twice, because the second time one makes it, it’s not a mistake, it’s a choice..

4) Be the best mentor/coach there is. Give them freedom. Let them make decisions. Help them validate those decisions. Teach them the ropes, then let them take risks and learn from their mistakes and successes without micromanaging them.

Continue Reading: Empower People

How to Find an Accurate Mentor

We all have mentors in business, although we’re not always aware of the role they’re playing. My first and best mentor was my late father back in my homeland Lebanon. A man bigger than life in the trading and investment business who taught me all there is to know in the space.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that growing up I never wanted to go into business. I had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps. But life is funny, and I eventually wound up in business anyway. Only then did I begin to realize how much my father had taught me.

At the time, however, I didn’t appreciate the education I was getting. I was only 12 years old.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that growing up I never wanted to go into business. I had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps. But life is funny, and I eventually wound up in business anyway. Only then did I begin to realize how much my father had taught me.

He was the one, for example, who first explained to me the importance of maintaining high gross margins. He called them something else — big markups — but the thought process was the same. “Always make a good sale with a big markup,” he’d say. “Make sure your customer is someone you can collect from.” “Don’t take advantage of people.” “Be fair.” Those are fabulous business lessons embedded in my mind, and they came straight from my father.

Continue Reading: Right Mentor

Bitcoin: Craze or the Destiny

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is an entirely electronic, non-physical, non-governmental medium for exchange within admittedly limited audiences.  These audiences are generally limited to internet merchants and traders who have the technological ability to use Bitcoin over the Internet medium. (Without the Internet, without computers, there is no Bitcoin.) Bitcoin is gaining increasing acceptance as a medium for exchange and certainly has piqued increasing curiosity if not actual interest from segments of the investing community and the financial news media.

Bitcoin’s nomenclature is more than wordsmithing. It raises a degree of uncertainty as to whether Bitcoin will eventually be recognized as an asset, whether its theft, expropriation or misuse will be treated equally with crimes of takings of other physical or tangible assets.  Congress and state legislatures have yet to act and various federal and state committees are only now dipping their toes into the water of considering these instruments.  Possibly, existing laws governing derivative instruments may ultimately apply, perhaps on the premise that bitcoin must be purchased by the conversion of an existing, recognized government-issued currency.

The blockchain concept is an attempt to memorialize the asset, and Nakamoto reasonably foresaw the drawback (if only semantic and not necessarily practical or significant) of lacking a physical documentation of creation, ownership or possession. (I make an analogy to the same drawback of current electronic voting, using machines which do not produce any physical record of one’s vote.)  Moreover, the tendency of bad actors like hackers, malware creators and terrorists (or government sponsors) to exploit and abuse technology is both growing in prevalence and efficacy.  Such bad actors generally run parallel to or ahead of their technological colleagues in the employ of law enforcement, the military or the private sector.  As such, they pose a persistent and serious risk to any system dependent on technology or external power sources.  Can one really believe that Bitcoin will not one-day fall prey to such attacks?  Such risks seem to make Bitcoin the polar opposite of gold and silver, which historically have been the accepted (if occasionally mocked) repositories for immutable value.

Continue Reading: Bitcoin drawing line Investor Gamblers

Are we Experiencing another Financial Disaster or Mythical Proportions?

It seems that the Fed is behaving today much as it did during the 2008 financial disaster, only this time instead of bailing out politically well-connected too-big-to-fail firms it is bailing out profligate government spending. Citizens the world over deserve better than this. They deserve sound money that cannot be manipulated and created out of thin air by central planners who promise printed prosperity. Fiat money caused this European crisis and the financial disaster before it. More fiat money is not the cure. The global fiat currency system has proven itself a failure, we need real monetary reform. We need sound money.

The Fed’s latest actions in cooperating with foreign central banks to undertake liquidity swaps of dollars for foreign currencies is another reason why Congress needs enhanced power to oversee and audit the Fed. Under current law, Congress cannot examine these types of agreements. Those who would argue that auditing the Fed or these agreements with central banks harms the Fed’s independence should reevaluate the Fed’s supposed independence when the Fed bails out Europe so soon after President Obama promised US assistance in resolving the Euro crisis.

Many have predicted that it is only a short-term measure to kick the can down the road. But the numbers themselves show that the bailout might not even be having a sufficient short-term effect. In fact, money markets and the cost of protecting bank bonds from losses show investors are concerned the almost $1 trillion rescue plan announced by European leaders may not be enough to contain the region’s sovereign debt crisis.

My personal opinion?

The bailout is not a cure-all. In the short term, raising taxes and cutting spending is going to imply further recession and further deflationary pressures in the euro zone.  In the longer-term, it creates huge moral hazard risks.

Transforming Your Mistakes Into Great Opportunities

Everyone makes mistakes—every entrepreneur, every business leader, every employee but changing them in to a great opportunities is a great thing . The mark of a great company isn’t that it avoids failures—that’s impossible—but that it has the wisdom to take full advantage of them.

History is in fact full of such brilliant mistakes. A notable one occurred in the early 1960s at MIT. Meteorologist Edward Lorenz had just completed a large round of simulations of a weather system and wanted to repeat the experiment over a longer time frame. Rather than waste valuable processing time, he manually typed in final numbers from the results table. To his surprise, the second simulation diverged radically from what he expected. He puzzled about it for days. Then it struck him: he had entered numbers using a computer printout that rounded all numbers to three decimal places, whereas the computer stores six decimal places. This tiny rounding error pushed the second simulation onto a markedly different path. In that sense, the exercise was a failure.

The Lorenz example illustrates the two prime ingredients of a brilliant mistake:

1. Something goes wrong far beyond the range of prior expectation; and

2. New insights emerge whose benefits greatly exceed the mistake’s cost.

Continue Reading: Great Opportunities

“The Blackhawk way of Listing Your Business”

I am approached by hundreds of entrepreneurs every year listing me their respective businesses….Some real polished and focused, others amazingly ineffective and convoluted.

I thought I’d share with you some basic tips as to how you could make your Listing as effective as can be to get my team’s attention along with mine.

It is a fact that some CEOs are masters at communicating their ideas to their teams. Others fare less well if not miserably.

So here are some key general guidelines for your consideration.

1. Don’t oversell: I understand how most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their businesses, but please don’t bullshit me or sound like an infomercial. Just be yourself and never even think about getting away with any made up a story about you or your track record.

2. Lay Out The Framework: At a high level, you can probably reduce your business to a simple formula. If I’m asking about X, just show me where X fits into your overall formula and we can go from there. Don’t beat around the bush. Be laser-like focused on your answers. I like to set traps and see how you react.

4. Watch your Body Language: Remember that more than 90% of all communications are non-verbal. As humans, we pick up a lot of signals even when we don’t realize we do, and you give them off in the same manner. We pick up eye-rolls, sighs, arm-crossing, boredom, etc…. We know when you’re disagreeing even if you don’t speak. If you disagree or don’t like what somebody says, pay attention not to give this off in body language.

Continue Reading: Listing Your Business.

Resons for the Fall of the first global Superpower; the Spanish Empire?

I guess a nation that cannot control its domestic market will seldom be able to sustain itself in foreign markets, which are inherently less accessible and more unstable.

Yet, Spanish leaders were deluded by a sense of false prosperity. This is testified by the statement of a  number of prominent officials in 1675; all encapsulated in the following sayings: “Let London manufacture those fine fabrics of hers to her heart’s content; let Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her brocade, Italy and Flanders their linens…so long as our capital can enjoy them; the only thing it proves is that all nations train their journeymen for Madrid, and that Madrid is the queen of Parliaments, for all the world serves her and she serves nobody.” A few years later, the Madrid government was bankrupt. The Spanish nobleman had foolishly elevated consumption, a use for wealth, above production, the creation of wealth.

Taking a walk down memory lane or for those who don’t know that Spain was the first global Superpower with gold and silver flowing in from its American colonies, the Hapsburg dynasty became the dominant power in Europe.

Is Free Market Capitalism Dead?

Following up on my blog “Why we need the rich….” at 
A message to Americans and our leaders in Washington DC on wealth creation

Is free market capitalism actually practiced in the United States today still alive or is it now just a product of our imagination?

Let’s analyse the facts and see for ourselves.

Americans have traditionally believed that the “invisible hand of the market” means that capitalism will benefit us all without requiring any oversight. However, the man (i.e. Adam Smith) who came up with the idea of the invisible hand did not believe in a magically benevolent market which operates for the benefit of all without any checks and balances:

Smith railed against monopolies and the political influence that accompanies economic power …

Smith worried about the encroachment of government on economic activity, but his concerns were directed at least as much toward parish councils, church wardens, big corporations, guilds and religious institutions as to the national government; these institutions were part and parcel of 18th-century government…

Smith was sometimes tolerant of government intervention, ‘especially when the object is to reduce poverty. Smith passionately argued, ”When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workman, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters.” He saw a tacit conspiracy on the part of employers ”always and everywhere” to keep wages as low as possible…

Continue Reading…Free Market Capitalism

Our Thoughts regarding New Exit Strategies for Today’s Venture Capitalists

It is a fact that venture capitalism today is not what it used to be. The bountiful returns of the dotcom years are long gone and venture capital (VC) firms are now struggling to exit their investments via initial public offerings (IPOs) or mergers and acquisitions (M& A). Also, a new regulatory landscape is threatening to hinder rather than help the industry, and the companies VCs invest in require watertight strategies for major growth.

But regardless of where their investments are based today, no VC firm has been immune to the global downturn. The number of IPOs by venture-backed companies in the U.S. plummeted from 260 in 2000 to 13 in 2009, and VC-backed M&A

I guess one of the major issues today is how — or whether — the much-anticipated recovery of the IPO market would be different from what took place after the dot-com crash.

Continue Reading: venture capitalism


How do you Create Real Wealth in an age of Intense Competition and Wealth Destruction?

I am in the money business; always have been and always will be. No surprise I am approached by hundreds of young ambitious entrepreneurs every year asking:

How do you create real wealth in an age of intense competition and wealth destruction?

Let me keep you give you my 2 cents…. and allow me to be as blunt as I can. Political correctness is not and has never been my forte.

1. Don’t be delusional. You need to see reality as it is first, not as you would want it. Most people do the latter and plan and live by wishful thinking. It is a fact that the vast majority of people want to LOOK rich, not BE rich. The two are opposites: the first requires spending money, and the second requires saving it. Don’t pretend to do both. Most importantly, know your probabilities and statistics. Lotteries are statistically the same as burning your money, as far as your profit is concerned. You’re probably more likely to slip and crack your head open, die in a car accident, drown, or be murdered TODAY than EVER make big money as a novelist or artist.

2. Know what the standards are. When polled, 80% of Americans believe they’re above average in many different fields. It’s because a lot of them have no clue what average is. That extends to the standards of the fields you’re trying to compete in. A man thought he was “good at math” because he could balance his checkbook, though he could be an engineer, and failed remedial geometry, long before reaching the three semesters of calculus and several other math courses most engineers take. A man who thinks he’s tough may not make it through military basic training, let alone Special Ops.

3. Find a wealthy and accomplished mentor early in your life, offer to work for peanuts and learn everything you can. If you want to make and keep the money, you need to know how successful people have done it and are likely to do it in the future. Beware though of confirmation bias: If you only like hearing what confirms your beliefs, you’re digging yourself a hole. Always be on the lookout for evidence that you’re wrong, then analyze the heck out of it. The intent in here is not just to study millionaires and billionaires, and understand how they made their money but go beyond the veneer and see what really makes them the way they are.

4. Go to a high ranked program at a highly reputed school (ideally top 5), to gain skills/knowledge/connections that are directly applicable to an industry that pays extremely well and has a shortage of highly skilled workers (e.g., finance or tech). Some will argue that they get the same education at a lesser school, but you won’t get the same reputation, connections, and network. A master’s or other graduate degree is often worth the additional investment and sometimes necessary. Besides the experience, it signals you as being able to go through the rigorous and competitive admission process and prevail. The education must be cheap relative to the earning potential it provides or paid by someone else. It’s a bad investment if it costs more than it makes. As a side note: Not everyone wastes their college years partying and “discovering themselves.” While you’re out getting drunk, someone else is studying their rear end off, both in school and how to increase their wealth, and doing their absolute best to beat the crap out of you to those lucrative jobs. Education never ends. I’m always reading and learning. Learn how to do that too.

5. Forget about slaving at a pathetic corporate job. If you’re employed, you will be laid off when you don’t expect it or can least afford it. No job is safe. And if you have one of those jobs, if you expect to work 40-hour weeks or less, you will probably be out-competed, and at the very least you’re leaving a lot of profit uncollected. The very rich own businesses. Being paid a salary means that someone else is paying you money to make even more money for them. Time to wake up. Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them.

6. Be a problem solver at something you really love. Integrating passion into a profession is often underrated/overlooked when it comes to making money because people only focus on the big bucks. But when you love what you do, you’ll advance your skills and want to keep learning. Be the absolute best at what you love doing. You will be paid in direct proportion to the value you deliver according to the marketplace. You have to leverage on the right platform at the right time using your highly profitable skill. Above all, it must be the right “YOU”. You wake up and you say “I have a problem.” Can you say a million people have the same problem?” Go find a solution for a million people.

7. Pick and start your own business. Everyone is always on the lookout for “the next big thing.” The next big thing is finding rare earth minerals on Mars. That’s HARD WORK. Don’t do it. Pick a business that every merchant in the world needs. You don’t have to come up with the new, new thing. Just do the old, old thing slightly better than everyone else. And when you are nimble and smaller than the behemoths that are frozen inside bureaucracy, often you can offer better sales and better service. Customers will switch to you. If you can offer higher-touch service as well, they will come running to you. Remember John D. Rockefeller’s (the world’s first billionaire) priceless wisdom: “The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.”

8. Surround yourself with the right friends. Your income is the average of the income of the 5 people that you are usually surrounded with. So get in the company of the millionaire or better billionaire. They know better ways to make millions than most the losers out there.

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