Friday, January 2

Why the auto industry sells lemons

Let's start the year off with something fun.  And Happy New Year everyone.

I was sent this Calvin & Hobbs comic strip about lemonade stands and business [you can find the full strip below]. After I had a good chuckle, it got me thinking. How often is the 'lemonade stand' used as an example for business? Surprisingly quite a few.

In Donald Trump's "The Apprentice", Donald gave each team $250 dollars to start a lemonade stand. There are 3,233 book results from Amazon for 'lemonade stand'. Countless blogs on the subject -- how to be a Lemonaire and Umpqua Bank funding kids starting a lemonade stand.

However Calvin's lemonade stand highlights well known problems with business. One could apply this to the automobile, financial and oil & gas industries. Companies in these industries are either having troubles currently or problems are looming (of course unless your government simply bails your company out).

What are the problems through Calvin's eyes?
  • Stockholders demand monstrous profit for their investments.

  • Presidents and CEOs demand exorbitant salaries.

  • Employees demand high wages and all sorts of company benefits.
Not to be flippant using a comic strip from 10+ years ago to emphasize problems with business today but one must admit there is truth in Calvin's statements.

Here's an idea for those who can navigate Web 2.0, mashup, and BI. The SEC is requesting company filings via XBRL and making them freely available online.   What if BI was applied to analyze executive salaries across companies and industries. Or compare financial costs of employee salaries and benefits.

Would there be answers to why the Ford company didn't take the bail out but GM and Chrysler did?

Why would someone do this?

Think of the comparisons that can be done. Comparing trend increases or decreases of salaries. Have union salaries and benefits brought down GM and Chrysler? How does the auto industry compare to the oil & gas industry for executive salaries? Could predictions of bankruptcy be made for other companies because of the comparison made with GM and Chrysler?

[this post used copyrighted Calvin & Hobbs material]

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