Author Archives: SMS

Three Take-Aways: That Wild Country

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I really enjoyed this book.  And learned quite a bit about public lands in the United States.  The format tends to be one section on the history of public lands, followed by the author in that setting in the present.

We have spent a lot of time, since moving out West, in national parks, national forests, national monuments, and BLM land.  This book helped me understand the various types of public lands, the history behind many of them, and some of the current issues facing public land management.

A result is that I tend to take a little bit more patient approach with others in public land settings.  For example, I am a bit more patient with crowds at national parks, since that ensures those places will remain that way (and maybe be expanded).  However, I still believe owners of off-leash dogs who interfere with my Strava PR’s on our local trails to be communists (maybe kidding).

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Public Lands

“Unbeknownst to many, American citizens are collective co-owners of an incredible swath of land across the country.  Approximately 640 million acres of it.  That’s roughly 28 percent of the total United States landmass (an area larger than Alaska, Texas, and New York combined).”

Growing up and residing primarily on the East Coast, I just didn’t appreciate the scale of Federal public lands nor the various types.  Having lived out West here for a bit, I understand all that a little better and can appreciate some of the issues.

  1. Land Transfer Movement

“I’d learned over the preceding months that this idea, the disposal of public lands, had been proposed many times over the previous hundred years by a rotating cast of industrial-age robber-baron businessmen, lobbyists, and powerful politicians.  The stale argument had been resurrected again for the twenty-first century, but this time it was supported by both radicals like Bundy and mainstream politicians.”

Land transfer proposals generally seem to shift land use in favor of one demographic or land user, typically “extractive industries (oil & gas, mining, logging, etc.)” vs. a more balanced approach across different types of users that are mandated under Federal stewardship.

“I explained how, if managed the right way, these landscapes could be shared and enjoyed by all sorts of people.  Many of the nation’s national forests and refuges and BLM lands are multi-use – with hikers and hunters, fishermen and backpackers, horse riders and rock climbers all coexisting in the same space.  In many cases, recreational uses coexist with commodity uses too.  Loggers and bird-watches often use the same forests.  Hikers and ranchers might enjoy and utilize the same desert spread.”

  1. State vs. Federal Land Ownership

“Public land management by states can be very different than that by the Federal government.  As I learned over the course of my journey, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (the governing agencies for the public lands most discussed for transfer) are both mandated by law to manage their lands with multiple-use and sustained-yield principles, as well as strong conservation and recreation goals.  In most cases, state lands are managed differently.  Many states have laws that require them to manage their land holdings for maximum profit or solely in support of specific beneficiaries, such as public schools.  On top of that, many states allow more relaxed environmental regulations on their lands, making it easier for rampant resource extraction to occur.”

In general, I think I would spend some time scrutinizing the true motivations of anyone lobbying for Federal lands to be transferred out of Federal custody.  I am not sure they are radical, I think they are mostly likely just selfish.

P.S. I really like this shirt.

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  3. Fortune’s Formula
  4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  5. The Conscious Parent

Influential Reads – November 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Writing is often the process by which you realize that you do not understand what you are talking about.” – Farnam Street

My reading and writing was lacking this month.  But that is just where I was.

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. The Man Who Called Bullshit on Uber – ” Companies that move people and things make money by closely controlling their workers and physical assets.”
  2. Are the New ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Services Good? – “If you’re not sure who’s funding the bottom line, Lowry told me, it’s probably you, in one way or another.”
  3. How Mormons Became American – “Mormons didn’t become avatars of a Norman Rockwellian ideal by accident. We taught ourselves to play the part over a centuries-long audition for full acceptance into American life. That we finally succeeded just as the country was on the brink of an identity crisis is one of the core ironies of modern Mormonism.”
  4. The Winds of Change – “In other words, in this extreme example, a U.S. president can be elected with just 47.0 million votes (22.0% of the total) versus 166.9 million for his or her opponent.”
  5. The CEO of you – “Big company CEOs get paid ridiculous amounts of money, but the good ones also do something that most of us avoid.  They make decisions.”
  6. Inflated – “And this ability to raise prices faster than inflation is really impressive given the industry is one of the most heavily subsidised in the U.S.”
  7. The Great Salt Lake Is Desolate. It’s Also Divine. – ” More disturbing is the destination of some of that water: my house. “
  8. Reset – “But some of it will flood the bank and brokerage accounts of the sort of people who are collecting jpegs of crudely drawn rocks and apes and other useless bullshit. I know, I don’t get it, blah blah blah. “
  9. Shortages are Unmeasured Inflation – “In the meantime, just remember that with inflation over 5% presently and shortly headed above 6%…the inflation rate is understated, and we know that because there are lots of shortages.”
  10. Johnny and Angel Collinson: Skiing comeback – “If somebody wants to explore their potential, whether it’s in sport or otherwise, that means they are going to walk into uncharted territory,” says Dr Gervais

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Top clicks across the site last month:

  1. Financial Model vs. Operating Model
  2. Influential Reads – October 2021
  3. I Didn’t Approve That
  4. Rules of The Game
  5. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow

Updated stats through November:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May970
June542
July1061
August1032
September1192
October911
November800
December
Total88118
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I Didn’t Approve That

Reading Time: < 1 minute

As a leader, be careful saying “I didn’t approve that.”

I would use that sentence if you want any (or several) of the following outcomes.

  1. A long line outside your office of things you need to “approve”.  No one likes to be undercut by a boss that says “I didn’t approve that.”  The best way to avoid that situation is to ask your boss to approve everything.
  2. You want to spend your time in the weeds and find micromanaging small decisions to be rewarding, impactful, and value creating.
  3. Creating an organization that is autocratic and not scalable.  See the part above about needing to approve everything and being in the weeds.
  4. Creating a closed and unquestioning culture.  Because the words, “X approved this” will be equated to don’t bother questioning this decision, even if it’s unclear if “X” actually approved it or there are other aspects of the decision that should be considered.
  5. To make decision making political.  You teach employees that to get to the desired decision, all you need to do is convince “X’ that it is a good decision.  No consensus building required. Actually, it is a game best played in private since a group setting might accidentally offer up a counterpoint that would work against your desired outcome.
  6. Demonstrating to your employees that they are not empowered and you don’t trust their judgement.  This has the additional benefit of driving employees who like to feel empowered and make decisions out of your business.  Yay, talk about win-win.

So, the next your team brings you something you weren’t aware of, I highly encourage you to shout “I didn’t approve that” in an emotional outburst. Sarcasm included at no additional cost…

Rules of the Game

Reading Time: < 1 minute

If you are the quarterback for a football team, telling the referee that you do not understand the rules really is not going to get you very far.

If you are the head of sales, you should have a basic understanding of the revenue recognition rules that affect your team and products. 

It is that simple.  

No. Excuses.

Influential Reads – October 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

October 2021

“There is a meaningful opportunity in the dispersion of HQ, education, and healthcare.”  – No Mercy, No Malice

Finished the book, That Wild Country, by Mark Kenyon.  Enjoyed learning about the history of U.S. public lands.  More on that to come…I am a bit behind in my writing.

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. This Market Makes No Sense – “The only thing I know for sure is there is a lot of money sloshing around in just about everything these days — stocks, bonds, savings accounts, start-ups, crypto, NFTs, collectibles and housing — and that makes this a difficult market to analyze.”
  2. I Collect Cashflows – “I like to collect the cashflows of the best businesses in the world. I pile them up high in my accounts, adding to them when values fall, automatically buying more when dividends and distributions are paid out.”
  3. Foreign Stocks’ Lost Decade – “Across the board, U.S. companies outperformed their overseas counterparts in every sector.”
  4. David Tepper shuns stock market – “Sometimes there’s times to make money…sometimes there’s times not to lose money.”  SMS: I ran into David Tepper in the hallway of my business school once. Tepper had just made a large donation and the school was being renamed and they were holding a celebration at our Friday Beers.  I had a buddy visiting from NYC who had just turned down a job with Appaloosa and had said on the way there, “I hope I don’t run into David Tepper”. And first thing, we ran into him.  I had a mortified look on my face and David Tepper made some off hand remark about that, that I am sure he doesn’t recall at all.  When I started to write that, I felt that would be a better story than it turned out to be.  Longer too.
  5. Understanding the Monty Hall Problem – “Here’s the general idea: The more you know, the better your decision.”
  6. Colin Powell’s 13 rules for how to lead – “It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. Leaving the office at night with a winning attitude affects more than you alone; it also conveys that attitude to your followers.”
  7. A Pastor Embraces Slowness – “She forwarded all work calls to voicemail and put in place a rule saying she must wait 24 hours before replying to any message that either made her upset or elated.” SMS: Great rule.  I wish Outlook would let me put more than a two hour delay on my emails.
  8. Carcinogens – “Measurements of the impact are all over the map, but we know fraud is pervasive. By one estimate, 88% of digital ad clicks are fake.” SMS: Makes me feel even less good about my company’s digital advertising spend.
  9. Why You Should Stop Reading News – “To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers.” SMS: Yes, yes, I know.
  10. How the Bobos Broke America () – “A third rebellion is led by people who are doing well financially but who feel culturally humiliated—the boubour rebellion.”

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Top clicks across the site last month:

  1. Financial Model vs. Operating Model
  2. Family Adventure: Solarmere Loop Trail
  3. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  4. Operating Model Tips
  5. Excel Template: Football Field Chart

Updated stats through October:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May970
June542
July1061
August1032
September1192
October911
November
December
Total80118
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Not Music To My Ears: How Not To Recruit A CFO

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I took a call from an executive recruiter the other day.

I’ve talked to this recruiter a few times previously.  He knows my background a bit (we talk about cycling – which I prefer to talk about vs. ASC 606).  Which is more than I can say for quite a few recruiters who reach out to me.

The opportunity was not of interest – mostly due to geography.  It was in the technology space.  But located in Arkansas.  Little Rock to be exact.  Bentonville might have made me pause.  But, Little Rock.  Nope, sorry.  But I digress.

During the conversation, the recruiter said something like “the company is looking for a CFO who will work with the Head of Sales.  The last CFO saw things a little too black and white.”

That’s a statement that should never be made in public.  Certainly not within earshot of an auditor.  Even if the CFO was a total asshole.  Reading between the lines.  The company had a CFO.  The CFO and Head of Sales had a disagreement. The CFO is gone.  

Not music to my ears.

What might the CFO and Head of Sales have disagreed on?

Recurring revenue model software companies are being valued entirely on a multiple of recurring revenue.  And not a small multiple.  Very lofty multiples. Could even be double digits.  Big double digits.  Here’s some insight into my opinion on all that (the NOT talking my book edition). 

So, obviously, managers of these businesses are highly incentivized to do everything they can to grow recurring revenue in the short term.

 “Money makes people do strange things” – me  

That was maybe my best answer to an interview question ever.  I suck at interviewing.  I offer no advice there.

Based on my own experience, the Head of Sales is highly incentivized to grow revenue.  An almost singular goal.  The compensation plan for the Head of Sales is likely entirely based on revenue.  They probably have some options / MIUs too (see the valuation discussion above).

But, the last time I checked, my Head of Sales is not going to sign the audit attestation letter.  So upside based solely on revenue.  Very limited downside.  What could go wrong?

The CFO wants to ensure the company is in compliance with accounting rules – among other things.  Which could be an opposing goal to booking revenue – if you care about not manipulating revenue or committing fraud.  As an aside, the CFO likely has a lot of options / MIUs too (ruh, roh). 

If I was on the board of that company, I would be…uncomfortable.  Yeah, that’s a nice way to put it.

Gear Review: True Temper Snow Shovel

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sometimes the right tool makes all the difference.

If you live in a snowy climate and you are looking for an upgrade to those common, cheap plastic snow shovels that last about a season, get the True Temper Industrial Grade Snow Pusher.

This is the right tool for quickly moving snow around.  Especially the wet heavy snow that the snow blower cannot handle.  Or maybe that light 1 – 2” where it might be faster than actually getting the snow blower out in the first place.

In the 30” size (it comes in 24″ and 36″ as well), the Pusher makes short work of the sidewalk and steps in one back and forth pass.

Also, as the name implies, it is not really a shovel.  I actually don’t believe in “shoveling” snow.  I am lazy.  It is way more efficient to push snow, than lift snow.  Think snow plow. So the end of this tool looks a lot more like a snow plow blade, than a shovel.

After a bit of research, I snagged mine, in store at Home Depot toward the start of the season last year.  Totally worth it.

Influential Reads – September 2021

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“A man got to have a code.”  – Omar Little

Seriously?  Look at the chart on the right.  Talk about recency bias.  

Folks are in for a rude surprise at some point in the future if they thought September was a rough stretch.  That’s not a prediction of a near term melt down.  It is simply an observation about investor behavior and memory.

Finally finished Principles by Ray Dalio.  More to come here, but in short, I tried to read this book about 24 months ago and was just not in the right headspace apparently.  This time around, I really enjoyed it.  But it took some time and effort, in a good way.

Here are my most influential reads – in no particular order:

  1. Boxes, trucks and bikes – “However, there’s also another way to split this, that I think is becoming increasingly important – instead of looking at the product category and the buying journey, look at the logistics model. “
  2. Business History with Gary Hoover – “The whole history of business and the economy is a story of one technological disruption after the other.”
  3. When Over-Ordering is More Than Hoarding – “So that customer who is ordering a lot more right now than they historically have is not doing it to “hoard.” They’re probably doing it just to manage inventory properly.”  See this as well.
  4. Put These Charts on Your Wall – “The market doesn’t have to do anything, least of all what you think it should do.”
  5. How To Escape Your Financial Cocoon – “Transient events constitute our experiences. Viewing them as permanent compounds our problems.”
  6. Worry About Yourself – “Somewhere along the way I think people forgot that we’re only in the market to make money…If others want to blow themselves up trading recklessly, let them.”
  7. 5 Ways to Build Resilience and Conquer Adversity – “Resilience is the ability to create positive adaptations to negative events.  It’s the ability to take things like anger and sadness and make them useful and productive.”
  8. The fraught future of recycling – “Despite the heavy machinery and increased automation involved, the process is still extremely dependent on humans.”
  9. Distribution and Demand – “Whereas AT&T competes for customers in a zero sum game, content is best leveraged by reaching as many customers across as many distributors as possible”
  10. The Intel Opportunity – “Massive demand, limited suppliers, huge barriers to entry. It’s a good time to be a manufacturing company. It is, potentially, a good time to be Intel.”
  11. A Tunguska sized airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam – “We present evidence that in ~ 1650 BCE (~ 3600 years ago), a cosmic airburst destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea.”  SMS here: Talk about wrong place, wrong time…

One more than normal because I could not decide.  My blog, my rules…

Note: This is based on when I read the article, not necessarily when it was first published.  Unfortunately, my backlog of things I would like to read always seems to dwarf the amount of time I can devote to reading.

Top clicks across the site last month:

  1. Financial Model vs. Operating Model
  2. EBITDA Is Not A Good Proxy For Cash Flow
  3. Family Adventure: Grand Teton #3
  4. Operating Model Tips
  5. Excel Template: Football Field Chart

Updated stats through September:

Read ArticlesBooks
January654
February491
March643
April532
May970
June542
July1061
August1032
September1192
October
November
December
Total71017

Family Adventure: Camping In Grand Teton National Park #3

Reading Time: 4 minutes

We always go camping for my daughter’s birthday in early September.

And we were back in Grand Teton National Park for our third camping trip in the park, and fifth trip to the vicinity this year (one ski trip and one camping on the Driggs side).

See our prior camping trips to GTNP here: Grand Teton National Park #1 and #2

We had a little more time this trip.  We were there from Thursday evening through Tuesday. So, that gave us a bit more time to explore.  We also, I think, were just generally in a more laid back mood.  We had no major hikes or destinations in mind.  The crowd was decidedly older and maybe more mellow given that school was back in session for families with kids.

Day #1

We drove in kind of late.  But gorgeous drive in.  Saw a bison herd pretty close to the road near Elk Ranch Flats.

We reserved a site at the Lizard Creek campground, which is the northernmost campground in Grand Teton National Park. We liked Signal Mountain Campground a bit better, although this was a good spot. I’d recommend a site closer to the middle of the campground – we were very exposed to the wind.

Not much water in Jackson Lake was kind of a let down:

Day #2

In the vein of a more relaxed trip, Day #2 turned into a spontaneous trip up to Yellowstone N.P.  I had loosely planned to venture into the south end of the park.  But we actually ended up driving up to West Thumb.  We had seen this area during our winter trip (incredible) back in 2017 and it was cool to see it in the summer.

On the drive back to our campground, in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway stretch, we had this siting:

#bearsiting #poopedmypants

Day #3

Happy Birthday kiddo!

We celebrated our daughter’s birthday.  Then, we drove north again into the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway area.  We did a short hike to a natural hot spring – there are two – and we went to Polecat Hot Springs.  Totally worth it.

Then another short hike over to the river.

It’s that time of year, and the elk are bugling.  Amazing.

Day #4

We hiked this day.  About nine miles.  A really nice, pretty flat hike, to BearPaw Lake.  

Very nice hike.  I’d rate it easy.  Left from the northern end of Jenny Lake, which is a pretty popular trailhead, but the hike itself was not heavily trafficked.  Hiked right up to the base of Mt. Moran.  If you rate your hikes partly on how few other hikers you see, this is a good one to check out.

Watch out for this guy:

Day #5

Packed up camp and on the way to our new site, sited a black wolf.  First wolf siting.  Lots of #poopedmypants moments on this trip.

Found a great little campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest at Atherton Creek.  Great location.  Well maintained campground with a host.  I’d consider camping here instead of in the park.

And then we did some touristy things.

And learned some stuff about geology.

And skipped rocks.

Day #6

And then home, until the next time.

All members of the party accounted for…

Check out a few prior adventures:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“In my life, I have given a fuck about many things. I have also not given a fuck about many things. And like the road not taken, it was the fucks not given that made all the difference.” – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three key take-aways from the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living A Good Life by Mark Manson, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

The title is certainly catchy.  Maybe a bit gimmicky.  The content of the book turned out to be a little different than I was anticipating.  Not in a bad way.  It just was.  And a lot of the themes are ones that I have encountered elsewhere – not to say they are not relevant or important or presented with a unique perspective here.

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Not Giving A F*ck

This is the theme of deciding what is important and not important in your life. You should care about things that advance your goals and priorities, and care significantly less about those things that do not.  As I have written previously, the harder part and the part I still need to work on is what are those goals.

Again, a bit gimmicky. But the heuristic of saying to yourself “I have no more f*cks to give here” is certainly memorable and helpful.  It has helped me in more than one meeting.

“Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give too many fucks about the rude gas station attendant who gave us our change in nickels. We give too many fucks when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give too many fucks when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend.”

“The idea of not giving a fuck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not. Developing this ability leads to something I like to think of as a kind of ‘practical enlightenment.’ “

  1. Most Things Are Unimportant

Most of our lives are pretty small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  We would prefer not to think about this too much.  I would also add that our view of the world tends to be pretty limited and incomplete.

“All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop. Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.”

“It’s these dynamics that plague us now. We are so materially well off, yet so psychologically tormented in so many low-level and shallow ways.”

  1. Problems & Negative Experiences = Meaning

This is a theme that I have encountered more and more in my recent reading.  And I wholeheartedly agree with the idea.  Problems are a feature, not a bug.  I stole that from somewhere.  

I really enjoy solving problems.  Even better.  I really enjoy solving problems on teams with people I respect.  This has been a good self-learning for me as I try to set some goals.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance. Seriously, I could keep going, but you get the point. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”

“Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems.”

“True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  3. Fortune’s Formula
  4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  5. The Conscious Parent