Friday, November 28, 2008

One day we're gonna live in Paris

One day we're gonna live in Paris
I promise
I'm on it
When I'm bringing in the money
I promise
I'm on it
I'm gonna take you out to club showcase
We're gonna live it up
I promise
Just hold on a little more

This song just hits a nerve. Always wanted to live in Paris. I mean, really live there. Remembering our Monster Europe Trip (8 countries in 2 weeks), the one place I always come back to is Paris. Just so lovely to have a quick coffee/drink at a bistro, getting your cheese and bread at a local store. While, at the same time, you can eat at the best restaurants in this world.
We tend to spend a lot of time in Amsterdam and look back on Berlin, remembering an amazing experience. But Paris is just something that sticks closely to my heart.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


My favorite holiday. No expectations. Just good food. And drinks. Time spent with the family. It almost feels like paradise. Or a slice of it.

This has been a tough year, in many regards. For everybody who follows me on the blog, you understand. But I never forgot how grateful I am for everything I was able to experience and share with my family and friends. We all came out stronger on the other side. So, for everybody who shared this year with me: Thank you.

And for everybody else that helped others, smiled when things were tough, dedicated your life to other people: I don't even know what to say. Except a heartfelt Thank you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New York, New York

New York Cab 3 by duhcati.

A few things I learned on my last business trip to New York:

- The recession is bad when the cab driver gets excited about the authorization of my credit card.

- Tropical Thunder is a very funny movie.

- When you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t check your email. You might not get back to sleep again.

- I love JetBlue and Virgin America but it’s such a relief not being able to watch the stock ticker or CNBC. Instead, catching up on my New Yorker’s and books.

- Does Starbucks own Manhattan? New Yorker’s need a caffeine intervention.

- Why are remote controls in hotels always out of juice? Does nobody bother to replace them?

- In addition to shampoo, conditioner and lotion, hotels should supply toothpaste as well.

- A swimming pool in the lobby is cool. But there’s a reason this hotel changed ownership twice in the last year.

- No matter how important your business trip is, how much you’re going to change the world: Always talk to the cab drivers. They are the heart and soul of each city.

- There’s so much to do. So much to see. So much to experience . Life is just too short. Way too short.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Besides the fact that Henry Paulson is an awful speaker (How was he the CEO of Goldman Sachs? What does it say about that company?), he violated the basic principles of trust: Reciprocity and Transparency.

Reciprocity: We wanted Mr. Paulson to speak to us about the immense economic challenge in the language we are most comfortable with. Yes, we know that he has his own agenda and the public has problems understanding the severity and depth of the current economic crisis. However, he should have communicated to us as if he wanted to help the public through the crisis, thereby allowing the public to give him real support and instill the desire in us for him to succeed. We know that he was an utter failure in that regard. The whole language of bailout and Wall Street and Main Street was just such PR disaster, tons of books will be published just about these few days in October.

Even with this bad start and the US public completely distrusting the Bush administration, the majority of US citizen felt no choice other than trusting Henry Paulson. A bad speaker, a bad PR person, a bad communicator. But we felt he tried to do the best job. He tried to use all his knowledge, all the experts he could talk to, all his resources to get us out of this mess. And he came up with a plan. Flawed, sure. But a plan that worked its way through the public, the Congress and we accepted it. But while we were still digesting the enormity of this package, he switched gears. Changed the plan. And he didn't tell anybody about it. Just his cronies. And that's where transparency comes in.

Transparency is a means of building trust. Transparency is based on 'Show, don't tell." Yes, he told the story bad but now we wanted to see the execution of the plan. And we heard that the execution of the plan is confidential, and, by the way, the whole plan had changed. We took his word for it in October and now we wanted to judge ourselves if the plan was working. Instead, he changed his plan in secrecy and now his word means nothing anymore. I'm not here to judge if it was dishonest. It certainly undermined our trust. Or even destroyed it. And that's the at the core of this crisis: Lack of confidence and trust. He made it even worse. Maybe the best intentions.

As Albert Camus said: "The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Do you miss Circuit City?

So, Circuit City is toast. And the public doesn't seem to care. I typed in Circuit City in and most comments are negative, reminding others of the layoffs of 3,400 'overpaid employees' (just followed by the golden parachute of its outgoing CFO), asking for the future of their extended warranties and overall complaining about Circuit City as a brand with sub-standard service:

"No one ever waited on me when I went to Circuit City. I'd just walk around and leave."
"Why are they even still around? I have a pretty long list of useless retail stores. They're on it."
"The sales people seemed to eager."
"Dear Circuit City, I never loved you. You never made me happy. Now I'm leaving you by the side of the road (at a strip mall)."

Just like many other electronic retailers, Circuit City was a company that never considered service as part of their core offerings. The advent of the Internet made these stores almost obsolete, maybe with the exception of big ticket items like flat screens and dishwashers. Laying off the majority of their overpaid (meaning: most qualified) employees dramatically increased this severe lack of professional service and focused the company on car dealer like sales techniques.

When you reduce your competitive advantage to 5% off and other direct sales approaches, you reduce your business to a flea market. A flea market filled with deals and no-name vendors that have no storefronts, no fancy advertising, just Google on their side.

I feel bad for all the employees and vendors owed money by Circuit City (HP and Samsung are owed more than $100 million each.) The layoff of 3,400 seasoned employees should have given you an indication of things to come. Cutting to the bone might have been a good thing in the 80's when companies had huge bureaucracies. We've been living in lean times for a while and cutting the juiciest parts out is a sure sign of a company in distress and close to failure.

Friday, November 7, 2008

White House 2.0

Image by Asger Carlsen

Adam Cahill, SVP/General Manager at Carat Boston, writes a brilliant piece in today's Ad Age about Obama's Social Media approach and how he should extend it to his presidency. 

In this current fear climate, a President's main job is to calm the public down and get us focused on the task at hand. There's no need to panic but there's a huge need for hard work, innovative thinking and, dare I say it, community building. This crisis needs more than a partisan solution, it needs everybody be involved, everybody to participate. A Wiki approach to government might sound far-fetched (Do I hear Red Tape, Socialism and Craziness?) but in these times when the government has to basically buy banks, the biggest insurance company and is on the verge of buying up GM and/or Ford, we should ask ourselves: Don't we need lofty goals? Lofty ideas? New thinking? 

And, just to be clear: Let's stay away from the poll-driven politics a la Clinton. But let's come together as a nation and discuss seriously how to get this country back on track. Roosevelt's fireside chats were then. White House 2.0 should be now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes, it was a good evening

Barack Obama Hope Sticker by PEEL.

And we're living in a new country.
Yes, we did.

Today is the day

I admit it: I'm a political junkie. Days like today are like the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA final combined. I've been a political junkie all my life. One of my heroes is a politician, I was even partly named after a statesman.

Growing up, election day was always an important day. Elections take place on Sundays in Germany and it felt like a really nice ritual to accompany my parents in our best clothes to the voting booth. Around 5pm we gathered around the TV with a cup of coffee and cake, waiting for the polls to close and the first results to come in at 6pm. (It helps to live in a country without time zones.) Being a Social Democrat, there were bad days and there were really good days. But election days and the fallout always gave me this feeling of the natural changes in life: There are good days. And there are bad days. Days when you're on the victorious side, days when you're on the losing side.

This is the first election since 1990 (the first election after the Reunification) where I feel very enthusiastic and excited about going to the polls. And I feel this excitement everywhere I go: in the coffee shop this morning, in the faces of people standing in line. There's a deep-rooted sense that America has lost its ways and we can take this country back today and start on a new course. With a new crew. A new captain. And a public that stands behind this exciting endeavor.

Yes, I'm a US citizen now. We don't vote on Sundays, we vote on a Tuesday. But it's still this amazing feeling that we, the people have it in our hands to change. To improve. To be better. It's going to be a good day.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween

Firefighters save lives and hearts. This little firefighter kept us safe from ghosts and monsters.