Does the USA’s disconnection from men’s soccer negatively impact the nation in politics and business?

I think it separates us emotionally. I’m surprised the US has not improved given the psychological influence the sport has on the world, not to mention the massive revenue opportunity.

The worldwide fan base of soccer is 3.5B (Topendsports.com).

For reference:

American Football (400M)

Basketball (500M)

Baseball (500M)

The USA men’s team didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup or the upcoming Olympics. Maybe Americans don’t want to watch a sport they’re so bad at. It seems so un-American not to pursue victory. Normally where there is a will (and lots of money to be made…), there is a way. The US has an excellent women’s team, and the lack of attention they get warrants another article.

TIME Magazine nailed it: https://time.com/5258984/is-the-us-in-the-2018-world-cup/ @Ratu Kamlani

For the US to compete, a major investment is needed to get the nation’s youth involved. The country should invest now. The #entrepreneur in me says this a proven multibillion-dollar industry just waiting to be built. Trevor, let’s make a movie showing a future where the US has a great men’s soccer team. Rob Flaherty, you look like a sports fan. Wanna help me raise this up the flagpole over there at The White House?

How is it Possible that a Company like Hulu can Have a Terrible User Experience?

I recently tried to watch Seinfeld on Hulu and the process was extraordinarily difficult. Is your sub-optimal UX turning away customers that are literally handing their money over?

I clicked on Seinfeld in the Hulu app and saw this alert: “Sorry, but your subscription doesn’t include this series. You can manage your subscription from your Account page.”

There was no account page in the app. I was directed to the website.

On my account page, there was no option to purchase add-ons (I need Live TV to watch Seinfeld).

It said: “To learn more about premium add-ons… please visit the help page.”

Really? I’m ready to upgrade and you’re sending me to the abyss of the help page?

Apparently I signed up for Hulu through Apple I finally found the section for Third-Party Billing where it said: “The plans and add-ons available to you may vary if you’re billed by one of the third parties below… Select your billing party to learn more.” I clicked on “Apple”.

Here, I was told that I have to cancel my subscription, wait until the end of the month and then sign up again through Hulu with Live TV.

In the name of customer experience, it can’t be this hard to upgrade and pay more! If you need help with your CX strategy, contact me. I can help.

It’s Time for Men to Step Up Their Fashion Game in the Board Room

If woke corporate culture is real, it’s time for men to step up their “fabulousness” as described by Dr. Ben Barry. His article was published in Harvard Business Review 4 years ago and the world has changed since then.

I’m not shy about showing up to a meeting in style. At Meliá Hotels & Resorts, the culture celebrated individuality. As an entrepreneur our success reinforced my confidence to ignore pressure to conform to a traditional male dress code. While working at Kognitiv Corporation, our acquirer, my unique style was applauded for which I’m thankful. It helps that my wife is my full time fashion advisor!

My experience suggests there is room for men’s fashion in the board room. When I stood up in a sky-blue suit at a Kognitiv AGM in a room of shareholders and in jest, introduced myself as the company fashion consultant, it received a lot of laughs. Stylish attire is a great conversation starter in almost any meeting and is well received when one wears it with confidence.

Dr. Barry suggests that when people have to mute themselves at work, organizations are missing out on evoking creative problem solving and authenticity. I couldn’t agree more. Men’s ability to express their style reflects a company’s culture. It’s time for men to step it up.

How to spot BS company culture while job hunting

As I research companies during this “Choose Your Own Adventure” period of my career, company culture is #1 on my priority list. Here are my suggestions of how to see through the fog using LinkedIn:

Who ‘Follows the Leader’?

How many reactions do posts from the CEO get and from who? Is it a broad following at the company or a select few? If it’s the latter, that’s a red flag of an exclusionary culture.

Crickets? Or Raving Fans?

What do employees say about the culture on LinkedIn? If nobody talks about it positively, or at all, red flag. I see companies where the employees across the board rave about the culture. You can’t fake that.

I Believe You Have My Stapler

Search for people who no longer work at the company and make a timeline. Is there a constant turnover of leadership? Red flag! Contact them and ask their opinion. People are more honest after they’ve left. Don’t formulate an opinion based on one conversation because perhaps it’s the person that didn’t fit the culture. It’s the pattern that counts.

Remember, you should interview the company just as much as they interview you, so do your research! 

Lessons in Marketing from Driving the Hello Kitty Car

Fathers would do anything to make their daughters smile. After driving our Hello Kitty car for 9 years, this is what I’ve learned about marketing:

Remove Personal Bias

At first I had to keep my head in check about why women everywhere were smiling at me. Over time I started to realize that our car brought joy to a wide range of people. It’s not unusual to find people taking selfies with “Kitty” including construction workers and teenage boys. I had a preconceived idea of who would appreciate our car and I was 100% wrong.

A Huge Impact Can be Achieved on a Small Budget

Total cost of pimping our Prius? About $1500. We did it because that’s who we are. We live in color, and sometimes that attracts attention. Next to a $400K Lamborghini, our Prius turns more heads.

People Admire Others With the Courage to Stand Out, but Ultimately Most Prefer to Blend In

You’ve seen the movies set in the 1950s when cars were much more colorful. Today, car makers stick to black, white, and gray. I think that’s because people want to blend in. I found this recent CNBC video about car colors fascinating. Some say it’s so that people can easily resell their cars. That’s ok. We’re not planning on selling her anytime soon.

A Father’s Day Tribute to my Dad, Sham Kamlani

I learned many valuable lessons from my dad. This photo is from 1989 during my summer at Interlochen, (yes, band camp). Definitely my awkward decade.

My dad excelled at business. In 1969 he learned about real estate and launched a company in Miami until the market crashed in 1986. We moved to New York where he got into the garment industry. He started Camille Claudel which sold blouses to companies like Victoria’s Secret, opened his own factory, and created local jobs. He moved back to Miami in 2004 and opened Ishq, a modern Indian restaurant on Ocean Drive. All successful businesses. My mom and dad worked as a team. He couldn’t have done it without her.

We would visit family in India every 3 years. Flying on a different carrier each time allowed us to visit various European cities. By the time I was 18 I had explored the UK, France, Italy, Switzerland and more, fueling my passion (travel, culture, and language).

My dad taught me about passion, persistence and integrity. I learned to take risks, learn from failure, work hard/play hard, explore the world, and to give back. But the most valuable lesson was to be a good husband, father and role model. I hope that I am doing half as good a job as he did. Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all the other amazing fathers out there.

Into The Great Wide Open

Friday, June 11, 2021 was my last day with Kognitiv. Over the last 5 years, I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing professionals and friends, and have learned so much about business and life along the way. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of the employees and clients of Regatta Travel Solutions. Without you, our acquisition never would have happened. I would also like to thank Kognitiv, in particular for putting employees first throughout the pandemic. As for me and my family, the future is bright and we look forward to what awaits us as we head “Into the Great Wide Open…”

Job sites have not yet adjusted to the new world of remote work

The privilege of working remotely has allowed my wife and I to realize our dream of educating our daughters through multicultural experiences for the last 4 years. I encourage everyone to consider the entire range of possibilities that remote work creates.

As I consider the next stage of my career, I notice the internet has not yet caught up with the reality of a more remote workforce.

– Searches on job sites are still primarily tied to a location. I suggest a range of acceptable time difference for job postings rather than specific locations.
– The job search process should be reconfigured to match job seekers and employers based primarily on skills.
– LinkedIn should add a field next to location in profiles where users can indicate that they work remotely.
– ‘Remote’ should be separated out from the list of locations when employers post a job opening. Perhaps some jobs should be remote by default unless employers opt out.

Recruiters should consider that the most qualified candidates may now be in Barbados, Botswana, or Italy, and adjust their processes, apps and websites accordingly.

As travel returns, companies like Tripadvisor, Google and OpenTable will struggle to clean up outdated restaurant content

Living in Italy over the last year felt surreal. Visiting sites like The Sistine Chapel and The Colosseum with just a handful of other people, when normally there are 20,000 people trampling through them per day, is a once in a century experience.

But using Tripadvisor, Google and OpenTable to research restaurants has become quite frustrating. The number of establishments that have not survived the pandemic is substantial, and many did not think of notifying these websites and apps as they closed their doors for good. The result is that travelers who previously relied on these sources are often sent on a wild goose chase resulting in cranky families. Users now must double check the date of the last review to figure out that the #2 rated gelateria in Florence, Italy no longer exists.

I recommend that a button is added for the next 6 months that says “This establishment has closed” so that users can easily report these instances and minimize the impact on future travelers as we all hit the streets again in search of good eats.

Robinhood: A Valuable Lesson on the Importance of EQ in a CEO

By now, you have probably heard about the band of guerrilla retail investors who joined the ‘wallstreetbets’ group on Reddit, identified an investment opportunity and then used the platform to crowdfund the execution of what could become potentially the greatest financial ‘David vs Goliath’ take-down in history.  The adoption of the now infamous online brokerage app called Robinhood offering free trading with zero minimums, created a perfect technology-enabled storm giving a younger audience the capability to join forces, aggregate their capital and launch a sneak attack on traditional wall street hedge funds that never saw it coming.  One of the most fitting memes I have seen characterizing the efforts of the wallstreetbets Redditors likens them to Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in the classic 1980s comedy, “Trading Places”.  But when Robinhood suddenly blocked their own customers from purchasing shares and options of GameStop on Thursday morning just before the market opened for trading, it felt more like the Nobles turning their back on William Wallace in “Braveheart” at the battle of Falkirk.  Vladimir Tenev, the CEO of Robinhood, subsequently appeared on multiple news outlets defending their actions, but his inability to explain the company’s reasons in a way that the average person could understand left him and the company looking even more like the traitors the media was painting them to be.

Stock Trading 101

I am by no means an expert on the complexities of how the financial markets work, but I know enough to understand what is happening here on a basic level.  If a stock is priced at $12 per share and an investor wants to buy 100 shares, the investor would need $1,200 to make that purchase.  If that stock subsequently rises to $20 per share, the same 100 shares could be sold for $2,000 yielding a profit of $800 (minus brokerage fees).  Alternatively, if a stock is trading at $20 per share and an investor believes that the price will go down, they can “short” the stock which means they are selling the stock, even though they don’t even own it, in the hopes that they can buy it back later at a lower price (the investor’s broker will have to borrow someone else’s shares to facilitate this transaction).  The investor would need to have $2,000 in their trading account to do this because that’s how much it would cost them to buy back the stock at that particular moment.  Once the stock goes down to $12 they can buy the stock back for $1200, yielding a profit of $800.  The tricky part is that if that stock goes up to $30 instead of down, the investor will have to add an additional $1000 to their account to cover their short position.  This is to ensure that if they decide to buy the stock back at $30 per share, they have enough money to do so.  If suddenly that stock jumps to $100 per share, the investor is now on the hook for $7,000, making short positions quite risky with virtually unlimited loss potential.

Enter the Hedge Fund

It is common practice for large hedge funds to take very sizable short positions in companies that they feel are doomed to fail.  In this case, the company in question is GameStop, a retailer of video games and game consoles which has suffered along with the rest of the retail industry from Covid related declines in revenue.  These hedge funds are betting that GameStop’s stock will continue to drop or that the company will go bankrupt leaving the hedge fund with hefty profits after they can buy back the stock for pennies.  The information about the “short interest” in a particular company (or amount of shares being borrowed for the purpose shorting the stock) is publicly available.  When the group of retail investors in the wallstreetbets Reddit group identified the huge short position that hedge funds had in GameStop, they launched a plan to collectively drive up the stock so high that the hedge funds would have no choice but to buy back the shares at an astronomical price to limit their losses.  Given the number of shares that would have to be bought back by the hedge funds, this buying spree would continue send the stock rocketing higher transferring a great amount of wealth from the established old school hedge funds to this group of Redditors that have been labeled in the main stream media as inexperienced, irrational and reckless investors.  This is known as a “short squeeze” and the plan was brilliant.

Add the Complexity of Stock Options

Here is the problem.  The Redditors were not using cash to purchase shares of GameStop.  Instead, they were buying options.  Without getting too much into the weeds, this means that they could spend only a fraction of the price of the stock for the option to purchase it later.  Based on my understanding, if an individual investor buys an option to purchase a stock, the broker must have a certain amount of funds on deposit to cover that trade.  This is because options have an expiration date and depending on the price of the stock when that option expires, the investor may have to fund their account to purchase the stock.  If the investor does not have the funds, the broker is potentially on the hook for at least some of those funds.

Now keep in mind that the price of GameStop was trading at $2.57 per share earlier this year, and by collectively buying GameStop options for pennies, the Redditors have been able to push the stock up to a whopping high of $483 per share.  Their plan was to continue recruiting more group members and to use Robinhood (and other brokerages) to buy more options, sending the price of the stock so high that the hedge funds would be forced to lose billions of dollars covering their short positions and generating huge gains for the Redditors.  But this would force the brokers to have huge sums of money on hand to insure the trades, potentially risking their own financial stability and the potential for a stock market implosion, should these brokers find themselves underwater.

Robinhood’s CEO and the CNN Interview

There are allegations that Robinhood acted in the best interest of large hedge funds that had invested in the company by blocking further purchases of GameStop and only allowing ‘sell’ orders.  It remains to be seen if there is any truth to that, but Vladimir Tenev did a terribly job of explaining the financial risk that the Redditors’ activity was creating for Robinhood.  During his interview on CNN, Chris Cuomo gave Mr. Tenev the opportunity to show the public that his company, which had built its reputation on ‘democratizing finance’ by working on the side of smaller retail investors, had not in fact stabbed its very own customers in the back to protect its hedge fund investors.  But Mr. Tenev’s feeble general statements about having to comply with financial regulations fell far short of a digestible explanation for anyone who is not familiar with how the markets work.  Even Mr. Cuomo, who during the interview stated that he has a financial background, was not convinced by Mr. Tenev’s explanation and continued to imply that Robinhood had committed a tragic hypocrisy.

This is a classic case of a CEO lacking the EQ (Emotional Quotient, or Emotional Intelligence) to explain his company’s challenge to the public in a way that the average person could understand.  Instead, he either wrongly assumed that the viewers knew enough about the financial regulations to which he was referring, or wrongly assumed that the viewers would simply accept his obligation to abide by certain regulations that forced the company’s actions.  He could have taken 5 seconds to say something like “Every time an investor buys an option on a $400 stock Robinhood has to guarantee up to $XX,000 for that purchase, and consider that Robinhood customers were buying on average X options per day.”

Failing on the Brand Promise

Interestingly, many other brokerages implemented the same restrictions on Thursday morning including Webull, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade, but they were not criticized with the intensity that Robinhood was.  That’s because Robinhood has promoted itself and was successful in creating the image of a company whose mission was to make the financial markets more accessible to unskilled and inexperienced investors.  I would argue that it wasn’t the decision to restrict trading that potentially ruined Robinhood’s future, it was the CEO’s fumble of explaining the reasons behind the decision.  It was a particularly egregious EQ fail given the alleged inexperience of its novice user base.

Let me be clear that I am not giving Robinhood or the other brokers a pass on this week’s events.  Companies (particularly those that have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their customers’ financial interests) should be prepared for unexpected circumstances.  The historic volumes of option trades in a handful of stocks promoted by wallstreetbets is no excuse for causing significant financial losses to these retail investors and once again giving the upper hand to the large institutional investors that are thought to control the markets.  But for Robinhood, the decision to hamstring the Redditor’s plans to carry out their attack, whether justified or not, carried an air of betrayal that the CEO would have to work hard to extinguish.

Vladimir Tenev missed his opportunity to save Robinhood’s reputation and win back the trust of his customers and the general public because he lacked the empathy to explain in a simple enough way, the risks to his company and the financial markets that the Redditors were creating.  It is quite amazing that a market that seemed completely unfazed by a global pandemic that has killed over 2 million people now has the jitters because a group of individual investors on Reddit have potentially found a way to ‘stick it to the man’.  This battle between the electronically liberated younger generations of the world and the traditionally rigged elite-controlled stock market has captured the attention of the entire world over the last week and it remains to see who will prevail.  In my opinion, Robinhood may have ruined their chances of being a major player in what I believe is the early stages of a growing power struggle between the haves and have nots.