Monthly Archives: October 2009

Amazon and Wal-Mart Take off the Gloves

If you like reading bestselling books and want to buy them cheap, you’re in luck. The bestseller sites of and have declared discount war, and are selling Top Ten bestsellers for only $9.00 each.  This won’t last long, but it is an indicator that Wal-Mart plans on challenging Amazon in the online book market.

Catch Frank Abagnale if you can.

Mark you calendar for February 17, 2010.  That’s when Frank William Abagnale, Jr. will be the featured speaker at the Millsaps College Else School of Management Spring Forum, which will be on the subject of ethics.

According to the Wikipedia entryFrank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 27, 1948) is an American security consultant best known for his history as a former confidence trickster, check forger, skilled impostor and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for successfully passing US$2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, starting when he was only 16 years old. In the process, he claimed to have assumed no less than eight separate identities, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a prison inspector, and a lawyer, and escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a US Federal penitentiary), all before he was 21 years old.Abagnale’s life story provided the inspiration for the feature film Catch Me If You Can, based on his ghostwritten autobiography of the same name. He is currently a consultant and lecturer at the academy and field offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company.

Mississippi Executive is 2009 Ms. Senior America 1st Runner-up

Congratulations to Barbara Travis, a Mississippi Beauty who happens to be the Executive Director of the Mississippi World Trade Center (or is it the other way around?), for placing 1st Runner-up at the 2009 Ms. Senior America pageant, which was held in Atlantic City October 4-8.  Barbara was crowned 2009 Ms. Senior Mississippi in June.  She has also been named as one of Mississippi’s Leading Business Women by the Mississippi Business Journal.

Congrats also to Paula Burke Lee, a classmate of mine from the Jackson Central High School Class of 1966, who was named Miss Congeniality in the 2009 Ms. Texas Senior America pageant.

Why Strategic Plans Fail

I’ve seen research reports that put the failure rate of strategic plans as high as 80 percent and as low as 30 percent.  How can there be such a wide difference?  Well, the discrepancy in those rates is easily understandable when one looks behind the numbers.  It’s not that the researchers looked at the same data and came up with different conclusions.  It’s more about who was was surveyed and how the survey was conducted.

One recent survey “of 163 executives” reported that the respondents said that 82 percent of strategic plan failure was preventable and offered the following reasons for why strategic plans fail:

1.  Failure of unforseen external circumstance (24%);

2.  lack of understanding among those in developing the strategy and what they need to do to make it successful (19%);

3.  the strategy itself is flawed (18%);

4.  poor match between the strategy and core competencies of the organization (16%); and

5.  lack of accountability or holding the team responsible (13%).

This particular study was reported in the Forbes Insight series and can be accessed by clicking here.  It should be noted that you will be required to register to see the study.

Notes and Reflections from Millsaps Economic Forum

On Tuesday, October 7, the Millsaps College Else School of Management held its Fall Forum.  Presenters were Thomas Cunningham, VP and Associate Director of Research at the Atlanta Federal Reserve, John Turner, Director of Economic Development for Entergy Mississippi and Ben Allen, President of Downtown Jackson Partners.  Each offered their perspective on “What does our economic future hold?”

Cunningham said that this recession is different.  One of the main reasons is that subprime debt has been widely distributed among a variety of investors.  Trading ultimately broke down because many investors did not understand the instruments.  What brought on the recession was “pervasive financial distrust.”  He pointed out that steep recessions will be usually followed by steep recoveries.  That is not going to happen this time.  The Fed does not think that consumers will go back to running up debt because banks are not going to let them do that.  Consumers are going to “deleverage,” i.e. pay down debt.  The consequesnce is that consumption will not snap back.  He said that this recovery, like all recoveries, is a “jobless recovery.”  Companies don’t hire first when the economy turns around; they wait.  In short, we will see a slow rate of growth coming out of this recession.  He also said that we will not see an inflation problem in the near term.  We will see falling prices.

John Turner said that energy will be a critical factor going forward.  Reliability is replacing affordability as the primary concern for major users.  Capacity is a big factor.  He said that if cap and trade goes through that it will raise electricity prices in the Southeast.  Entergy Mississippi is seeing a lot of interest by prospects in north Mississippi, especially near Memphis.

Ben Allen, effervescent promoter of downtown, said that people are finally “getting it.”  It being the urban lifestyle.  He pointed out Jackson is a little late with downtown redevelopment, especially when compared to Little Rock and Birmingham.  He pointed out that right now every downtown apartment has a waiting list, and that there are 4,000 downtown apartments planned.

Traits of the World’s Best Companies

Business Week recently released its list of the 2009 World’s Best Companies.  I take most so-called “Best” lists with a high degree of skepticism, and this one is no exception because of how the companies were measured.  In this case, an outside consulting firm took the 2,500 largest publicly-traded companies in the world, and then from that list did culling by other factors.  A useful list to be sure, but mis-titled in my humble opinion.  Nevertheless, there are some useful insights.  I was interested in what factors these companies had in common.  So, compare your business or organization with these traits of the World’s Best Companies:

– Innovation;

– Diversified Portfolio;

– Strong Leadership:

– Aggressive Expansion; and

– Clear Vision for the Future.