Principles: by Ray Dalio – A Book Review

Summary:  Why should you care? You can pick up Principles, by Ray Dalio and turn to any page and learn something. Ultimately its a wonderful collection of well thought out “How To’s.” It is filled with great examples, visuals, and sensible approaches. Perhaps its greatest strength, terrific approaches to life and business, becomes its weakness. For most of the 567 pages it lacks the human connection. And in that sense Ray Dalio is as real to me as Socrates.

*Day Dalio wrote a follow up book to Principles called Principles for Success. It is organized to be more easily consumed. My biggest criticism of his prior book, the length, is addressed. See this review for more: Billionaire Ray Dalio Adapts His Communication Strategy To Reach A Wider Audience

principles book cover

Detail Review: I start with aesthetics. The hardcover book is well constructed. It’s black with white “PRINCIPLES” and red “RAY DALIO.” The font is large. Pages go by with relative ease. There are visuals throughout as well. For a hearty book you need some pages which go by quickly. They help the sense of achievement. I’m also a fan of ribbon book marks. When the book is on its side I like to look and see how far down the page the marker is. Again, accomplishment.

rules of thumb book cover

Before we get into the subject of the book, I’d offer another: Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber. It has 52 rules which are each about three pages in description. It is easy to consume and with deliberation, easy to put into practice. For more see my review: Rules of Thumb – A Review

On to the subject of the book: Principles. How I think about principles is certainly as a sort of ethical code. That if you live by them then the results are something you can mentally reconcile. To get reflective for a moment. Life is short. One day you will want to look back and say “I lived a proper life.” Perhaps not virtuous, but fair.

This was never truer than with the death of Socrates. At the bottom of the review is a video highlighting the debate: be loyal to your principles and die. Betray them and live.

You’d want the same for your organization. You’d want it organized by Principles which reflect your values. Follow with policies, standards, and procedures. This creates a clear lineage between the type of company you want to be and the one you actually are.

Back to the book. It is divided into three sections: An introduction, life principles, and work principles.

The introduction is perhaps my favorite part. Dalio is very transparent especially as he describes his upbringing. He isn’t a good student in school; the subjects didn’t interest him. He buys some stocks with money he earns caddying. At first he thinks he’s smart, but realizes the market itself was doing well. He goes from college, which he loved, through the building of his company. Several stories of the ups, the downs. He has a few realizations through his journey. A major one is to learn from his mistakes and to codify them. This evolves to be his principles.

Next is the Life Principles. This is my next favorite section. These can be applied without an organization. They are like a new year resolution. Or perhaps a personal constitution. If the book ended after this section, it would be worth every penny.

Last is the Work Principles. It comprises much of the book. Each one is useful, but they are best served reading in chunks and not in long reads. This influences my overall view of the book. More than half of it is best read not as a story, but as guidance.

So what are the “Principles?” He has several. Perhaps the easiest ways to get them is through Twitter and Linkedin. Dalio posts them practically daily. But here are a few I pulled out.

The principles are chapters and are numbered. Then there are mid-level principles designated as a decimal e.g. 1.1. Finally, there are sub principles, which are letters such as 1.1a.

Life Principle 1 – Embrace Reality and Deal with It. I like this one because people, myself included, like to rationalize, tell themselves stories, and avoid tough decisions. Its better to face reality and act accordingly. Luck won’t save you and eventually no one else will. Creating the discipline to see your future and make it happen is such a valuable thing to live by.

Life Principle 1.8 – Weigh second- and third- order consequences. This is a nuanced principle. Most people solve the problem in front of them not realizing the solution may have created new or different problems. For example, suppose you excercise to lose weight. You have a good routine and get a sweat. Later when it’s time to eat you prepare a little more than normal. You’re really hungry because you’re expending more energy working out. But now you’re also eating more to compensate for the deficit in calories. So you can’t just excercise, you also have to diet. The first order consequence was addressed, but not the second and third.

Life Principle 2 – Use the 5-Step Process to Get What You Want Out of Life. This process is referenced several times throughout the book. Check out the visual:

raydalio-five-step-process-1

Life Principle 3 – Be Radically Open-Minded. Being open minded allows you to understand problems and the solutions for the possibilities that created them. No one and nothing is perfect. To get quality results being open to different perspectives, viewpoints, cultures, and ways of doing things is necessary.

Work Principles – An organization is a machine consisting of two major parts: culture and people. He presents this via this visual. As the Work Principles unfolds he goes further into each aspect.

dalio2

Another major tenet of the Work Principles is the Idea Meritocracy. He pushes his company, Bridgewater Associates, to have an Idea Meritocracy which is defined as Radical Truth + Radical Transparency + Believability-Weighted Decision Making. They realize this vision through consistent feedback and constant evaluation. While good in theory, I don’t think in practice this is for everyone. Dalio acknowledges this reality and says many individuals sort themselves out of the company as a consequence. I wonder if talented individuals are missed out because of this structure? I assume so, but Dalio believes the benefits outweighs it.

Work Principle 3 – Create a Culture in Which It Is Okay to Make Mistakes and Unacceptable Not to Learn from Them. This principle isn’t controversial. You want people who are eager to make a difference and take on an acceptable amount of risk. Learning from situations is by itself a benefit. Its likely you can apply those learnings elsewhere. Thomas Edison once said he didn’t fail in making the lightbulb. He found 2,000 ways to not make one. And only needed to find one way to make it work.

Work Principle 6.4 – Once a decision is made, everyone should get behind it even though individuals may still disagree. I’ve seen passive agressiveness first hand. People will agree to a decision in a formal setting, but then walk away and not truly commitment and at times undermine it. Organizations need to work to prevent this, whether through culture or through other mechanisms.

Work Principle 9 – Constantly Train, Test, Evaluate, and Sort People. This is one section I felt worked best in theory. As I read the book I got a sense this is what they do, but the human side of it must be taxing. If you’re constantly being sorted and evaulated, (perhaps a reality anyway), you never really relax. You are constantly looking over your shoulder. If people are compensated a certain way I could see this being less of a concern i.e. they make enough to cover expenses like a house. But if they don’t you’d get people who want to maintain the job. When this principle is tied to Work Principle number 3, the mistakes oriented one, you have to balance it. Take risks and learn versus being constantly evaluated.

Work Principle 16 – And for Heaven’s Sake, Don’t Overlook Governance. Having an infrastructure where accountability is built in is very important. It ensures hubris and proper risk taking is addressed on an ongoing basis.

Tidbit – I really like the example of how to tell good stories. He describes a process where the story has things that happen, but then shows for some parts of the story you want to provide more detail and context, but if you do that too much or don’t keep the story on track you’ll lose the audience.

Summary – The book is terrific, but its girth makes it a bit sterile. Telling stories, as discussed in the book, is a great way for people to connect. It needs more of them. Inspiring? Not really. Good read? Certainly. But only in chunks.

For inspiration, check out this thrilling, just kidding, 40 minute clip of Socrates.

5:45 mark – The majority opinion – they can’t be trusted

8:23 mark – Can’t expect me to change my ways now – being consistent, in good and bad times is part of the contract with the city or as the Principles book describes, the company.

9:06-13:45 mark – the essence of the argument and the part that reminded me of this book.

20:25 mark – A philosopher and death.

24:18 mark – The argument for the soul using opposites.

33:00 mark – An interesting metaphor of the soul and a musical instrument.

Reflecting on a Job Market – Employee and Employer

To gain significant wealth in the US you have to take significant risk. Usually that means starting your own business or being on the ground floor with someone who is. The individuals who put their neck on the line deserve the spoils of that risk. The last three years proves the fittest survives in business.

We can somewhat reflect now. The once in a generation economy is behind us, so it’s time to see what the new world looks like. It’s lean and flexible. But a chasm is growing between the employer and the employees. Here are some stats from a Mercer survey I read about by Ben Rooney on CNNMoney called  Half of Workers Unhappy in their Jobs:

  • 32% of US workers are seriously considering leaving their job. Up from 23% in 2005.
  • Of the age group 25-34, 40% are seriously considering leaving. Within that number is 44% of employees who are 24 and younger. The cheap labor is ready to bolt.
  • And more alarming, 56% of senior managers are considering leaving. This compares to 34% of managers and 30% of non-managers. The experienced are also looking to jump to other opportunities.
  • A slightly different take, but 21% have disengaged from their employer, meaning they are not looking for a new job, but they are apathetic toward their current one. This could be burn out and it could mean the productivity gains via personnel has reached it’s limit.

Workers are getting disenfranchised by the circumstances of their employment. In addition to that, there are business owners who have moved away from the proper perspective. They’ve had leverage for over three years. Chances are they laid off some people. Those that remain should have a debt of gratitude. It could be worse.

The business owner who has survived is entitled to some fun, but they need to realize no one does it alone. I was out to dinner with a friend in the industrial fabrication and installation field of work. He had an exchange with his boss similar to the one in the movie below. I embellished it for effect, but much of this exchange is true, particularly the part about the water skis
http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/12155321/a-resignation-story

6.5 Graphs Outlining the US Economy

I’m in a room that’s 8 feet by 10 feet. It’s just me. There’s a small box playing loops of TV shows, but I’m ignoring it. The temperature is 95 degrees but its cold in here. And I have a lot to think about.

I know I’m going to pay for it. Situations like this require penance and it’s going to cost me. It’s part of life though and inevitably I’ll be back.

The bill was a shade under $200. Frankly it could have been a lot worse. My car hasn’t been serviced in a year; it needed an oil change, inspection, tire rotation, and the radiator hose had a hole in it. I paid for the car, but I got time to think.

This cycle of activity drove me to consider the business cycle. It normally looks like a sound wave with peaks (good times) and valleys (recessions).

Are we still in a recession? Are we in an initial recovery? Maybe even an early upswing? Chris Stuart wondered the same thing in his write up Why We’re At The Early Upswing Stage In The Business Cycle.

I predicted the recession after observing a lack of income appreciation and buying patterns changing in October 2007 and although this is a classic supply and demand cycle where aggregate demand is lacking it feels more structural. Structural means the skills needed in the employment arena are lacking in the environment, so a transitional period of training is required. Instead of a sudden shift in skills we have an elongated one. Globalization dramatically changed supply chains and created liquidity in the job market. Goods producing jobs like manufacturing are now feasible almost anywhere. And the education advantage of the US is no longer prevalent.

This is forcing the US to consider it’s jobs strategy, or at least create one in the first place. Many of the assumptions about the viability of the US worker are no longer true. And think about the US consumer. Will they always buy? Like an alarm clock introducing the morning, the US worker and US consumer realized better days are not guaranteed. People are starting to slowly de-leverage. It’s a huge adjustment in the way people live their lives and it will take time. The debt burden is simply too great.

So if this cycle is a classic supply and demand recession and the US consumer isn’t going to buy (low demand) then isn’t this going to take awhile? Yes, the rest of 2011 and 2012.

Here’s my outline of the timescale:

Jobs will be tepid but consistent for the rest of the year and next. Companies large and small are getting creative with their resources. Many are investing in equipment rather than people (you don’t need to buy health insurance for an industrial printer), but the gains will be positive. There is no double dip recession.

The best workers are beginning to jump to other opportunities. They’ve installed micro-innovations for their current employers, but since volume has been low these improvements haven’t knocked anyone’s socks off. But they will.

So after a period of discipline, brighter days are ahead.

——–

I wanted to pull together some graphs showing what’s happened since the beginning of 2008. Below are four time-scaled illustrations showing the situation with jobs.

  1. The first one is the overall jobs report. It shows how far we have to go to balance out the lost jobs.
  2. The second one is a growth rate of jobs for the private sector as they relate to Service Producing and Goods Producing industries. Goods Producing encapsulates manufacturing and construction, two of the harder hit industries. 
  3. Since the ratio of Service Providing jobs and Goods Producing jobs is 5 to 1, I wanted to show the relative impact and that is what the third graph depicts.
  4. The last one the Dow Jones during the same period. It’s the index that most people focus on as a reflection of the stock market.

Lastly, Wired did some research with Linkedin.com about what terms people were using in their titles after they changed jobs. The results below reflect a pool of 7 million linkedin users and a good indication of what jobs are in need in this day in age. But remember, people still need an oil change.

Working Thoughts 6/15/2010
We Respond To Cues Very Effectively

Working Thoughts 6/15/2009
Resilient Attitudes are Rare

May 2011 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for April 2011 (based on the job report):

Net gain of 54,000 jobs in the month (revised to a gain of 25,000 jobs)
  • Analysts expected an overall gain of 180,00Private sector payrolls increased by 83,000
  • Private service producing industries added 80,000 (194,000 last month and 154,000 the month before
  • Goods producing industries gained 3,000 (38,000 last month and 40,000 the month before)
  • The US has added 908,000 private sector jobs this year and 2.1 million since the start of 2010
  • April was revised to a gain of 232,000 from an original reading of 244,000
  • March was revised to a gain of 194,000 from an original reading of 216,000 and a revision of 221,000
  • Revisions subtracted 39,000 jobs from earlier readings
  • Payroll processing company ADP said private-sector payrolls grew by 38,000 in May
  • downwardly revised 177,000 increase in April
  • economists’ expectations for private sector job growth of 170,000 for the month.
  • the manufacturing sector cut 9,000 jobs
  • the financial services sector lost 6,000 jobs
  • the construction sector cut 8,000 workers
  • the broader services sector added 48,000 jobs overall
  • McDonald’s hired 62,000 workers, which are part of a subcategory called food services. Without this hiring spree, the report could conceivably be a neutral report (no jobs gained or lost)
    In April, the number of job openings was 3 million, down a touch from 3.1 million in March
    About 13.9 million people were out of work in April
  • 6.2 million had have been jobless for six months or longer
    45.1% of the unemployed are long term unemployed.
  • Employers announced plans to cut 37,135 jobs in April, down 4.3% from May 2010
  • 1.8% increase over April’s 36,490 planned job cuts
  • comparing the first five months of 2010 to 2011 shows 2011 has 21% fewer announced job cuts (things are bad, but not as bad as last year)

Unemployment rate rose to 9.1%

  • Analysts predicted it would remain at 8.9%
  • The labor force
    participation rate is 64.2% (66.5% is average to good) – unchanged for the fifth straight month
  • The employment to population ratio is 58.4% – No change
  • The U-6 report, which is a broader group to count (workers who are part time but want to be full time and discouraged worker), rose to 15.8% from 15.9% last month
  • PMI, a measure of manufacturing pace, is 53.5% and the 22nd consecutive month of readings over 50 percent. Anything above 50% means the machines are running. This is a significant drop from April’s reading of 60.4%
  • Service sector activity rose to 54.6% (52.8% last month and 57.3% before that and down from 59.7%). It was the 17th straight month of growth


Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing lost 5,000 jobs
  • Construction gained 2,000 jobs
  • Retailers lost 8,500 jobs
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services lost 6,000 jobs
  • Government sector lost 29,000, 28,000 was in local government
  • Education and Health Services grew by 34,000 jobs
  • Health Care and Social Assistance grew by 27,200
    • Professional and Business Services grew by 44,000
    • 1,200 jobs lost in Temporary Help

Wage (can be revised):

  • The average hourly earning (seasonally adjusted) is $19.43 – up six cents from last month and 11 cents over the last two months
  • Average weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted is 33.6 hours, no change again

Bureau of Labor Statistics

When Ideas Come Together

I sit here and type. Sometimes I have inspiration and sometimes its a slog. I do it because I love when ideas come rushing in. It’s like the end of the Usual Suspects when everything comes together. Its powerful and rewarding.

Good mysteries are fulfilling because we have to hunt for clues. They are rarely obvious and they are as much a study of logic and circumstance as anything else. It’s in our DNA to problem solve this way.

For this reason I’m optimistic about the long term future. The connectedness of the world is bringing figurative detectives together, each with their own clues, to solve problems. Ideas have a better chance to grow. Incremental improvements are good, but we are after leaps forward.

Take this chart from CNNMoney.com about Cisco’s prediction on the expansion of the internet.

And check out these videos from Steven Johnson about where ideas come from. The first one is a short artistic explanation and the second is a TED Talk. I really enjoy the story at the end.

–>http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Split Personalities – Tax Breadth and Tax Depth

We seem to have split personalities when it comes to the news and our politics. In the news we hear about natural disasters and the sour economy. In politics we hear about the failings of the President and the deficit. Why are these two voices talking about different subjects?

The truth is they are talking about the same problem, just different ends of it. The US is maturing. A large portion of the population is entering their retirement years. Every day, for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65. By 2030, 18% of the U.S. population will be over 65, compared with today’s 13%.

This is important for several reasons, but here are two:

  1. Federal tax collection is based on income. Those that are retired usually don’t make significant income, so the taxes they contribute are very low. A change or decrease of 5% is a huge impact to the revenue of the government. Or said another way, 10,000 people, who have a high average income, can drop out of the tax pool everyday.
  2. The baby boomers have been in leadership positions for two decades. The groups behind them, smaller in numbers, will need to fill the void.

The first reason is why you hear about Medicare and the budget. The second reason is why you hear about stimulus and silicon valley.

– When we talk about the deficit and paying down the debt we are talking about the inevitability of time. Our demographics show an aging population who will not be contributing to tax rolls. Less income means less spending. Tax Breadth.

– When we talk about innovation and stimulus spending we are pushing for investment and hopefully an improvement in future wealth and the standard of living. This would offset the loss of tax income from those no longer in the workforce. Tax Depth.

Both of these are concerns. I tend to be more transfixed with the latter. Many young professionals are either not entering the workforce or they are at compensation levels below the norm of 5 years ago. This lag in pay is not easily overcome and tends to persist for a career. Smaller income means smaller taxes paid. In addition to that, younger professionals are not moving into challenging roles as they would have in the past. Opportunities for learning experiences are reduced. Plus what they’ve been taught in school isn’t applicable e.g. China has changed dramatically since 2007, but the text books didn’t.

The 18% not in the workforce is unavoidable, but what should be asked is what’s to come of the under employed?

There will always be some number of the under employed, but we are currently looking at a devastating mix of long durations and loss of skills. The recession as it began in 2007 was a supply and demand recession, meaning nothing out of the ordinary occurred. But the last two years has led to a structural recession. This means that the skills and knowledge the US worker has isn’t quite matching up with what labor is needed. If this is more than a blip then high unemployment will continue for a few years as education and training requirements sort themselves out.

But I also feel like the 16-24 group, or more broadly the under 30 age group, is pioneering a new track. The way the view the world is much different than their older counterparts. As a consumer group they can influence the creation and offering of products and services. The next 24 months will be telling about the future of this country.

April 2011 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for April 2011 (based on the job report):


Net gain
of 244,000 jobs in the month

  • Analysts expected an overall gain of 185,000 (200,000 for private sector growth)
  • Private sector payrolls increased by 268,000
    • Private service producing industries added 224,000 (199,000 last month and 152,000 the month before)
    • Goods producing industries gained 44,000 (31, 000 last month and 70,000 the month before)


  • The US has added 800,000 private sector jobs this year and 2.1 million total over the past 14 months
  • The last three months have averaged a job gain of 233,000- this is the fastest rate of growth since early 2006
  • February was revised to a gain of 235,000 from a revised 194,000 and an original reading of 192,000
  • March was revised to a gain of 221,000 from an original reading of a 216,000 gain
  • Revisions added 46,000 jobs
  • There are 6,955,000 fewer total nonfarm jobs since the recession started in December 2007. Although 244,000 jobs added is good, it will take 29 more months to dig out of the hole
  • Payroll processor ADP reported an employment gain of 179,000 jobs
    • 47% of the 179,000 ADP reported gain came from small business (firms with less than 50 employees). It was 49 last month and 46% the month before
    • Large businesses (greater than 500 employees) hired 6.25% of the 179,000 gain


  • McDonald’s hired 62,000 workers, but those hirings missed the survey window and will be more associated with the May Jobs Report
  • About 13.7 million people were out of work in April – however, in a positive move many newly unemployed people are not getting fired.
    Instead they are leaving voluntarily, presumably because they think they
    can do better.
    The number of people unemployed because they lost jobs fell to 8,144,000 in April, the lowest figure in two years
  • 5.8 million had have been jobless for six months or longer (a drop of 283,000 from last month, which is good) down from 6.5 million in March 2010

    • 43.4% of the unemployed are long term unemployed. Down from 45.5% last month
  • Employers
    announced plans to cut 36,490 jobs in April, down 4.8% from April 2010 when the economy stalled

Unemployment rate rose to 9.0%

  • Analysts predicted it would remain at 8.8%
  • The labor force
    participation rate is 64.2% (66.5% is average to good) – unchanged for the fourth straight month
    • Lowest since 1984
    • The participation rate was dropping before the recession began due to changing demographics of the US population
    • Every day, for the next 19 years, 10,000 boomers will turn 65. By 2030, 18% of the U.S. population will be over 65, compared with today’s 13%
    • Job expansion to account for population growth (keeping the unemployment rate steady) is estimated to be 150,000 and 200,000, but the partially delayed retirement of the baby boomers is moving these numbers to 75,000 to 100,000

  • The employment to population ratio is 58.4% – No change
  • Normally the unemployment rate moves in lock step with changes to the participation rate and the employment ratio but the diverge this month because the household survey is finding a reduction of employed people by 190,000 people. With surveys there tends to be noise and the drop from 10% to 8.8% was probably too quick so a little rise is natural to sort things out
  • The
    U-6
    report, which is a broader group to count (workers who are
    part
    time but want to be full time and discouraged worker), rose to 15.9% from 15.7% last month
  • PMI,
    a measure of manufacturing pace, is 60.4% and the 22nd consecutive
    month of readings over 50 percent. Anything above 50% means the
    machines are running
  • Service
    sector activity dropped to 52.8% from 57.3% last month and down from 59.7% in February. A dramatic drop when compared to other improvements (lowest level since August 2010). It was the
    16th straight month of growth
  • GDP, the most widely used measurement of the the American economy grew at a lackluster 1.8 percent in the first quarter,
    according to the government’s estimate for the first quarter
  • Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 1.6 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2011

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing gained 29,000 jobs
  • Construction gained 5,000 jobs
  • Retailers gained 57,100 jobs
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services gained 46,000 jobs
  • Government sector lost 24,000, 22,000 was state and local government
  • Education and Health Services grew by 49,000 jobs
    • Health Care and Social Assistance grew by 41,800

  • Professional and Business Services grew by 51,000
    • 2,300 jobs lost in Temporary Help

Wage (can be revised):

  • The
    average weekly paycheck (seasonally
    adjusted) is $650.83
  • The average hourly earning (seasonally adjusted) is $19.37 – up a nickle from last month
  • Corporations set a new record for profits: $1.68 trillion annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2010
  • Average
    weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on
    private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted is
    33.6 hours, no change

Bureau of Labor Statistics

March 2011 Jobs Report and Wages

Here are the job market and compensation numbers for March 2011 (based on the job report):


Net gain
of 216,000 jobs in the month

  • Analysts expected an overall gain of 192,000
  • Private sector payrolls increased by 230,000
    • Private service producing industries added 199,000 (152,000 last month)
    • Goods producing industries gained 31,000 (70,000 last month)


  • February was revised to a gain of 194,000 from an original reading of 192,000
  • January was revised to a gain of 68,000 from a revision of 63,000 and an original reading of a 36,000 gain
  • Payroll processor ADP reported an employment gain of 201,000 jobs
    • 49% of the 208,000 ADP reported gain came from small business (firms with less than 50 employees). It was 46% last month
    • The last four months average an increase of 211,000 jobs. The prior four months saw an average increase of 74,000 jobs


  • 6.1 million people have been jobless for more than 6 months (long term
    unemployed) – up from 6.0 million last month
    and down from 6.5 million in March 2010

    • 45.5% of the unemployed
      are long term unemployed

  • Employers
    announced plans to cut 41,528 jobs in March. It was 50,702 jobs in February and 57,724 in March 2010

Unemployment rate dropped to 8.8%

  • Analysts predicted it would remain at 8.9%
  • Since November 2010 the unemployment rate has dropped 1%
  • The labor force
    participation rate is 64.2% (66.5% is average to good) – unchanged
  • The employment to population ratio is 58.5% – up from 58.4%
  • The
    U-6
    report, which is a broader group to count (workers who are part
    time but want to be full time and discouraged worker), dropped to 15.7% from 15.9% last month and from 16.7% in December 2010
  • PMI,
    a measure of manufacturing pace, is 61.2% and the 22th consecutive
    month of readings over 50 percent. Anything above 50% means the
    machines are running
  • Service
    sector activity dropped to 57.3%, down from 59.7% last month. An unexpected drop when compared to other improvements. It was the
    16th straight month of growth

Specific Segment Job numbers:

  • Manufacturing gained 17,000 jobs
  • Construction lost 1,000 jobs
  • Retailers lost 17,700 jobs
  • Leisure and Hospitality Services gained 37,000 jobs
  • Government sector lost 14,000, all state or local
  • Education and Health Services grew by 45,000 jobs
    • Health Care and Social Assistance grew by 44,500

  • Professional and Business Services grew by 78,000
    • 28,800 jobs gained in Temporary Help

Wage (can be revised):

  • The
    average weekly paycheck (seasonally
    adjusted) is $648.48 –
  • The average hourly earning (seasonally adjusted) is $19.30 – down 2 cents from last month
  • Average
    weekly hours and overtime of production and nonsupervisory employees on
    private nonfarm payrolls by industry sector, seasonally adjusted is
    33.6 hours, up slightly from 33.5 last month and 33.4 in January 2011
  • 6.3% of hourly-paid workers in Pennsylvania earned the minimum wage or less in 2010
  • 9.5% of hourly-paid workers in Texas earned the minimum wage or less in 2010

Bureau of Labor Statistics

The March 2011 Silicon Valley Positive Outlook Update

The focus of my last post was on whether or not I believe Silicon Valley has inflated like a 1999 bubble. I don’t think it has, but the stock valuations are still pretty high. If I were to guess, I’d say the apparent investment upswing is a byproduct of cash sitting on the sidelines. Investors have it and big companies have it. Investors plant the seeds and companies like Google buy the fruit at the first sign of flowering.

Silicon Valley is an interesting place though. Many of the companies there don’t want to be viewed as uncool. Once that happens it means a particular culture has set in. Which of these companies seem more exciting: Facebook or Yahoo? Google or Microsoft? You get the picture.

Earlier this week there was an article on cnn.com in the Tech section about the hiring on Silicon Valley. Here are some quotes and stats from the article “Silicon Valley experiencing new hiring boom” by Dan Simon:

  • Silicon Valley: 10.6% unemployment rate
  • Last month’s (March 2011) national average was 8.8%
  • Silicon Valley produced 1,200 jobs last month and expected to add thousands more in 2011.
  • According to SimplyHired.com, a search engine for job listings:
    • nearly 40% of 130,000 open positions in Silicon Valley are for software engineers
    • Since July of 2009 there’s been a 245% increase in openings that have “Facebook” as a keyword
    • Over the same time period, a 421% increase in “Twitter” job postings
  • Innovations in social media, mobile and cloud computing are driving the growth, said Dion Lim, SimplyHired’s president.
  • LinkedIn, the social-networking site for professionals, hired nearly 500 workers last year — almost doubling its workforce.
  • “As we grow the company, we’re always on the lookout for top talent,” said Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO.

Differentiating Using Strategy and Technology

The Academy Awards were a few weeks back and the popular movie The Social Network was nominated for Best Picture. It didn’t win the award, but it did elevate Facebook into a cultural phenomenon. It’s no longer another website – it’s Facebook. People care about it like their Nike running shoes, Apple iPod, and Starbucks coffee.

Each of these brands has used slight advantages in their products to become the dominate company in the space. How or why does this happen? Well, first I’ll mention luck. It always plays a role. In addition to luck, it’s the people.

Individuals and teams within these companies differentiate their offerings. They do so within a cost structure that maintains competitiveness and they do so with an eye toward value. Most people think of value as what Wal-Mart offers. One product 10 cents cheaper than a competitor and that is true in a commodities evaluation. Paper towels are paper towels. Value becomes much more abstract when the offering – product or service – has an association related to it. Starbucks originally pulled people in because the coffee was stronger. The association was that it woke up better than other options. And Apple combats technophobia because they create electronic devices that are easy to use.

This value is marginal at first, but then it snow balls. Getting it to snow ball is the key and then building on that is paramount. Facebook used exclusivity as the differentiator and then opened up the site to ride the network effect. Now it can exploit it’s pure numbers for monetary gain.

Earlier this year Goldman Sachs in a backroom deal valued Facebook at $50 billion dollars. Valuations like this have some to speculate that there is another tech bubble. Groupon, Google, Facebook, and others are the poster children.

In the world of the internet, small differences in your products can be the difference in sinking or swimming. Because of that Silicon Valley is leading the way in an escalating war for tech talent. Google is offering $20,000 more than average to the people they’ve targeted. Some firms are teaching their employees how to be entrepreneurs. In Silicon Valley it’s an inevitability, might as well make it a perk.

Do I think its a new tech bubble? I don’t. How engineers are using the internet now is very different than 15 years ago. Now it’s used to implement strategies that were inconceivable just three years ago. New approaches can separate and new technology can accelerate. What goes into the making of a Best Picture? It’s more than just film, it’s artistry.