The problems facing the world are substantial. Europe is cracking up. American manufacturing is on its heels. And it can be very hard to find a stylish navy blue suit, especially if you’re looking for details like a Savile Row-style waistband buckle. It would be easy to panic, but remain calm, not because we know the answers here, but because we called people who did. We found folks with pretty good ideas about how to fix Europe (Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund), save manufacturing (Dan Akerson, who runs General Motors), and find a suit (Thomas Mahon, who learned his trade on Savile Row, cutting cloth for such gents as Bryan Ferry and the Prince of Wales). We didn’t stop there. Life is far more complicated than a few crumbling continents. We also wanted to know how to network, how to run a meeting, how to spot talent, how to decant wine, and how to hack any website … among dozens of other things. And we’re particularly happy that we learned how to play basketball with the President. Hint: Do not knock him unconscious.
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How To Be a Mentor
Corporate mentoring programs are a charade. The intent behind them is good, but like everything the professionals get a hold of, they turn it into an incredibly complex and counterproductive routine. I suspect the reason these programs exist is so HR can beat you up and have something they can brag about. The moment someone says "mentor" or "mentee," I get waves of nausea.
My problem is this: As a manager you are supposed to be a resource. The principal job of somebody in management is to be a resource to the people who work for you. That means setting a direction for them. It means kicking their asses if they lag. But the most important thing is to teach them how to deal with increasingly complex assignments, by letting them do the work and watching them. There is also role-modeling, critiquing, and on and on, all ending in –ing. All that is teaching. Some stuff in companies can be made routine and machine-like. But teaching? You routinize it, you screw it up.
At Intel, we had a job called technical assistants, or TAs, who would work with senior executives. I had good experiences with my TAs because I would look for people who could teach me about some element I needed. In the 1980s I had a marketing manager named Dennis Carter. I probably learned more from him than anyone in my career. He is a genius. He taught me what brands are. I had no idea—I thought a brand was the name on the box. He showed me the connection of brands to strategies. Dennis went on to be chief marketing officer. He was the person responsible for the Pentium name, "Intel Inside." He came up with all my good ideas.
Almost 10 years later, the Internet became a factor. My knowledge of the Internet was almost nonexistent. Sean Maloney was a network engineer who was comfortable with bandwidth and communications. He worked with me for two years and eventually became executive vice-president. In the late 1990s, my TA was an Internet applications guy, Mike Hoefflinger. I had him take me to selected Internet companies so I could learn—Google (GOOG), Amazon, all the e-commerce companies. He set up the visits and brought me in, and on the way home he would explain what I’d heard. What the TAs got from me was seasoning. So I pushed a little. I beat them mercilessly—verbally, of course. The point wasn’t to teach them their job, but to teach them ... I want to say manners. I don’t mean table manners, but how to handle hurdles, explosions, any old mess. It must have done some good. Paul Otellini became chief executive of Intel (INTC). Renée James became senior VP for software.
Did I mentor them? They taught me as much as I taught them. So who is the mentor and who is the mentee? Is "mentee" a real word? I hate it.
Grove was chairman and chief executive officer of Intel.
How To How To Short China Jim Chanos
Managing global risk exposure requires a China play. That could be a short strategy, and there are many ways to do it. To start off, add these terms to your vocabulary: LGFV and CRAAP. LGFV stands for local government financing vehicle—joint ventures between local governments and developers to build condos, stadiums, and new roads. The problem is that those local governments have piled up massive debts they are unlikely to repay—$1.6 trillion, according to China’s national audit agency. The banks are lending and lending, but a lot of it is for absurd projects. Most people in China (97 percent) can’t afford the luxury of those condos that are going up one after another. And the construction quality is terrible. Now you’re seeing that borrowing begin to sour, foretelling a process akin to the first cracks in U.S. subprime lending.
One short idea is Agricultural Bank of China, which has one of the highest percentages of risky loans to LGFVs when compared with other major Chinese banks. Once the cracks in the LGFVs widen and the building boom slows, the first victims are the industrial commodities players. You could also look at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where a cooling off in Chinese growth could hurt new issues.
The other concept to remember is what we call CRAAP, or “Chinese regularly accepted accounting policy.” The further down you drill on China, the more bearish you get, until you finally get to the actual individual companies—and most look questionable to us. That’s true of U.S.-listed Chinese companies. If you really want to be contrarian, one simple idea is to short the Chinese currency through a U.S.-based exchange-traded fund such as the WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan Fund.
I would never short the Macau casinos. You can trust their accounting a bit more, and all those Chinese company executives who have been milking their companies for personal gain are probably still going to go gamble, even if the economy slows down. So we’re long on the casinos in Macau, and we’re long on corruption in China.
Chanos is founder of Kynikos Associates.
How To Concentrate Roy Baumeister
There are two parts to concentrating. One is to get rid of extraneous thoughts, the other is to focus on the task at hand. Getting rid of interfering thoughts, ranging from annoying "ear worm" songs to recurrent thoughts of personal stresses or family problems, is not as easy as simply telling yourself not to think about them. Research suggests that if something is preying on your mind, you may do best to concede it to some degree. One approach is to go ahead and dwell on it for a short, fixed time before going back to work. Another approach is to postpone the unwanted thought: "I’ll deal with that problem this evening at 7."
Focusing on the problem requires sustaining your attention. This is an issue for self-control and willpower. Willpower is tied to the basic energy supplies that your brain and body use. The chemicals that enable your brain cells to fire are made from the glucose in your bloodstream. All manner of self-control—including controlling your emotions—draws on the same stock of energy. Making decisions also depletes glucose and thus willpower, so after a series of decisions you will be less able to concentrate (or to resist temptation). To some extent you can replenish your willpower by getting rest or just eating something—normally it takes about 15 minutes for nutrients to be available as brain fuel. And trying to concentrate while sick will divert glucose from your immune system, impairing your body’s ability to fight the illness. Sometimes the most efficient thing is simply to go to bed.
You can improve your concentration by practice and specific exercises. Some people do mental arithmetic—I used to make myself do two-digit and three-digit multiplications in my head. More broadly, many meditation exercises are just a practice in concentrating.
Baumeister is co-author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.
How To Remember Names and Faces Hannan Khan
One of the hardest things about remembering people is that you get to meet them only once before you’re expected to recall their names. You can solve this problem with repetition. Focus on one or two obvious features—details about their personality or appearance or the way they talk—and say them to yourself as a sentence. For example, "Tyler has a goatee and firm handshake." A moment or two after you’ve met, recall Tyler’s face and imagine him saying, "Hi, I’m Tyler." The more you repeat it in your mind, the longer it will stay there. And just recalling the fact that you’ve chosen to remember one or two features from each person you meet will help bring those features to mind.
A lot of people swear by mnemonic systems, where you use the first letter of someone’s name—Slothful Stephanie, Happy Harry. My feeling is that systems like these take too much time, unless you’re dealing with a small group and you really need to get their names down cold. At a trade show or conference, where you’re meeting dozens of people over the course of a day, mnemonics make your mind into a jumble. It’s too hard to keep making up adjectives for people you don’t really know.
There are times when you’ll want to use your imagination to help remember someone’s name, especially when you can tap into the associations your mind makes when you see that person. Say you meet someone named Katherine, who looks a bit like Britney Spears. Next, try visualizing Katherine singing and dancing. When you meet Katherine again, travel back to this memory you’ve created. All the colorful details that you’ve imagined around her will help you fill in the empty spot—her name.
Khan came in first in the Names and Faces event of the 2011 USA Memory Championship.
How To Give Away $5 Billion Kenneth Feinberg
We received more than 1 million claims from the Gulf spill and have paid out about $5.3 billion to more than 200,000 claimants. When you’re dealing with that kind of volume, you need speed and fairness and consistency.
The first challenge is to determine who’s eligible. It’s one thing for a fisherman whose livelihood depends on Gulf shrimp to be eligible; it’s another for a restaurant in Tennessee. Even then you need to calculate what damage is related to the spill and not to the recession or a poor business decision. The most difficult cases involve claims where there’s little or no documentation. You can’t just pay people because you think they’ve been affected. You need to help them find a way to document their loss. It’s different when you’re managing a fund with a $20 billion pledge from BP (BP), as opposed to working through the legal system. A court might not recognize the validity of some claims, but you need to consider them carefully. You try to err on the side of being generous without being Santa Claus. Anyone can give money away. You learn to live with the potshots and the criticism.
These programs should be the exception rather than the rule. Bad things happen to good people every day, but I didn’t see a program after Katrina or Joplin. Policymakers need to be wary about doing an end run around the traditional way of resolving disputes in this country.
Feinberg oversaw the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and administers the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.
How To Give Away $100 Paul Niehaus
Suppose you want to donate $100 to help the poor in Africa. People there, of course, have many different aspirations—starting businesses, educating children, achieving food security, among others. Your $100 can’t cover everything. Traditionally, donors and charities decide what to prioritize, meaning the poor get what practitioners deem best. But there’s another way: Give money directly to the poor and let them choose what goals to pursue.
Research shows that the poor are good at managing this money themselves. They typically save or invest 50 percent to 80 percent, work at least as much as before, don’t squander funds on alcohol, and put money toward their children’s nutrition and health.
This evidence has made direct cash transfers enormously popular with governments—as many as a billion people in developing countries already receive public cash assistance—yet charities have been slow to adopt the method. The potential, however, is vast. Electronic cash transfers are more efficient and transparent than any other mode of giving, and the branchless banking technology they use is exploding across the developing world. In Kenya alone, 14 million people can receive donations on their cell phones, and the cost of a transfer from the U.S. is just 3 percent.
In the end, giving away $100 can be surprisingly simple: Let the poor themselves decide.Niehaus is co-founder of GiveDirectly, the only nonprofit devoted exclusively to making cash transfers, and an assistant professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego.
How To Run a Meeting Donald Rumsfeld
No. 1 is to try to start the meeting as scheduled. To the extent that you don’t, you’re wasting the time of everyone else in the meeting. The same thing’s true with ending it, because people tend to have schedules of their own. Establishing a reasonably disciplined meeting culture leads to better preparation by the participants.
The second thought is that giving a good deal of attention to who the attendees are is important. I personally have been comfortable with being more inclusive rather than less. Some people prefer very small meetings, but it seems to me that when you’re inclusive you’re much more likely to hear different perspectives. For example, your general counsel isn’t the person who’s going to be dealing with you on a specific policy, but he’s a person whose perspective can be useful.
A third thing would be to call for clarity in presentation, so that the people in the room who don’t spend day and night on that particular issue can come out of the meeting with a broader understanding. Every bureaucracy develops their own language—their own jargon, abbreviations. The problem with that is, the higher up people are or the less involved they are in particular activities, the less likely they are to have a good working knowledge of all the acronyms. It’s particularly a problem for a President, who one minute is dealing with stem cell research and another minute is dealing with education. Jargon just wastes time. Even before a meeting starts, when I’ve taken people to brief a President, I’ve talked to them about the importance of their speech. The reason for talking is to be understood. How you get people to speak up is difficult. In the military, I’ve been in meetings where the chiefs of each service have been reluctant to talk about the other chiefs’ services. I suppose because they’re aware that to the extent they do, the other chiefs are going to talk about theirs. That is really not helpful. You need their brains. These are very accomplished individuals. You try to find people who are comfortable discussing things and don’t have that sensitivity. If people have a pattern of presenting the obvious, one would talk to them, and if it went on, you probably wouldn’t include them.
A fourth point is that when someone comes in and has a proposal, they often begin there. What I’ve tried to do in both business and government is to encourage people to come in and say, "Here’s the subject matter, and here are my assumptions." It gives the listeners, the deciders, a chance to see how far the presenters have thought it through.
Finally, on standing meetings: I have a stand-up desk, and needless to say, when people come in with a purpose, if it’s a subject matter that lends itself to being decided that way, we would have stand-up meetings. Rather than serving coffee and getting comfortable and spending longer than needed or appropriate, it just worked out that way.
Rumsfeld is a two-time former Defense Secretary.
How To Decant Wine with a Blender Nathan Myhrvold
Wine lovers have known for centuries that decanting wine before serving it often improves its flavor. Whatever the dominant process, the traditional decanter is a rather pathetic tool to accomplish it. A few years ago, I found I could get much better results by using an ordinary kitchen blender. I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving. I call it "hyperdecanting."
Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.
But set up a proper blind taste test to avoid subconscious bias among the tasters. That’s a bigger problem than you might imagine. Researchers who examined the voting records of wine judges found that 90 percent of the time they give inconsistent ratings to a particular wine when they judge it on multiple occasions.
To avoid bias, use a "triangle test," which is a scientifically rigorous way to test for a perceptible difference between wine prepared two different ways. Get as many judges as you can—10 is the minimum to get good statistics. Give each judge three identical glasses, and label the glasses X, Y, and Z.
Hyperdecant half a bottle of wine and save the other half of the bottle to use for comparison. Out of view of the judges, pour an ounce or so of wine into each glass. The undecanted wine should go into two of the glasses, the hyperdecanted wine into the third, or vice versa. Vary the order of presentation among the judges so that not all are tasting the hyperdecanted wine first or last. Record which wine goes into which glass, and have the judges guess which two of their wines are the same. You’ll probably find that hyperdecanting does clearly change the flavor of the wine. To determine with scientific rigor whether your tasters prefer the hyperdecanted wine requires a more complex trial called a "paired preference" test, or "square" test. But a blind side-by-side comparison works passably well, too, and requires no math.
Nathan Myhrvold is a former chief technology officer of Microsoft, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, and author of Modernist Cuisine.
How To Interview Someone Errol Morris
My advice to all interviewers is: Shut up and listen. It’s harder than it sounds. Most interviewers feel like they’ve got to be Mike Wallace, laying out booby traps and gotcha questions in what amounts to verbal combat. I think an interview, properly considered, should be an investigation. You shouldn’t know what the interview will yield. Otherwise, why do it at all?
I started developing the shut-up-and-listen school of interviewing in the 1970s. I was in my late twenties and traveling around the country interviewing murderers and the families of their victims for a book. I spent hours in high-security and psychiatric prisons with people like Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who inspired the movie Psycho. I always used two Sony cassette recorders, and at some point I started playing a game with myself: Speak as little as possible. The cassette tapes got longer and longer—first 30 minutes, then 60, then 120—and the number of words I spoke became fewer and fewer. I was really proud of the interviews where my voice wasn’t on the tape at all.
Be well prepared, though. I’m surprised at how many people don’t prepare. When I interviewed Robert McNamara, he said he was shocked I’d read his books and actually thought about them. But I never go into an interview with a preconceived set of questions. I almost always start the same way: By saying, I don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s a nervous habit. But it’s also the truth. You fumble around for a beginning, and then suddenly you’re off and exploring.
As I was arranging an interview with First Lady Laura Bush for a short film that would air on the 2002 Academy Awards, her aide asked me for my list of questions. I told her I don’t prepare a list. She pressed, and we went back and forth on this several times. When I showed up for the interview, it was clear I wasn’t going to provide a list—so the aide handed me a typewritten sheet with not only the five questions I was supposed to ask but also the First Lady’s responses. When I sat down with the First Lady, I immediately went off script. The first question the aide had provided for me was, "What’s your favorite movie?" The sheet said The Wizard of Oz. So I asked, incredulously, is The Wizard of Oz really your favorite movie? She said, in fact, it’s Giant, the 1956 Western. As a young girl in Texas she’d stood in line for hours to be an extra in the film, which was shooting in her town, and it’s been her favorite ever since. That’s a story I never would have gotten had I been guided by a grocery list of questions.
A final tip: Don’t be afraid of technology. We think of technology as limiting intimacy. But think about the telephone. Certain kinds of intimacy emerge on a phone call that might never occur if you were sitting right next to the other person. Technology limits things, but it makes other things possible. In all my interviews for film, I use a setup I call the Interro-tron. Basically, it’s a teleprompter in front of a camera. I stand in a different room, out of sight of my interviewee, who interacts with my image on the teleprompter—and effectively stares directly into the camera. When Robert McNamara is talking about the Cuban missile crisis in The Fog of War, about how close we came to nuclear war, it’s not me interviewing him. It’s him talking directly to the audience.
Morris wrote and directed The Thin Blue Line and directed The Fog of War, for which he won an Oscar.
How To Spot a Fraud Harry Markopolos
It’s easy. It’s like whack-a-mole. Focus on the manager or the company that is head and shoulders above the rest. Whenever somebody has outstanding performance, Wall Street assumes genius. I assume fraud until genius is proven. Look for the outperformance and investigate there. Compare a money manager’s record vs. others using a similar strategy, or a company’s record against others in the same asset class. If the numbers are too good to be true, they rarely are. A decade ago, there was one energy company head and shoulders above all the others. That was Enron. There was also an insurance company above the rest. That was American International Group. In telecommunications, there was one company above all others. That was WorldCom. They were all accounting frauds.
Today we have one company above all others in technology. That would be Apple. But there’s a visible reason for that, so Apple’s not a fraud. Bernie Madoff said his performance was roughly seven and half times better than the stock index he pretended to be benchmarking himself against. If you’re seven times better, two things can be true: One, you’re a fraud. Or two, you’re an alien from outer space and have perfect foreknowledge of the capital markets.
Bernie’s performance line also went up at a 45-degree angle. In finance, there’s no such thing. If you see a 45-degree angle, either you’re in the middle of a speculative bubble and it’s going to end badly, or fraud is present. There are some simple checks. Do litigation and background searches. If you see arrests or civil lawsuits, access those. It will all be laid out in the legal complaint. Talk to former employees; find out why they left. Ask them about fraud. If they say, "I’d love to talk to you, but I signed a nondisclosure agreement," there’s something bad underneath the surface. Likewise, if your money manager refuses to answer questions or gives you overly complex answers, assume deception. If you don’t understand the strategy, even after a manager explains it, don’t assume you’re stupid; assume your manager is trying to put one over on you. Anyone who truly understands their craft should be able to explain their strategy in layman’s terms on a single sheet of paper. If they can’t, you shouldn’t invest.
Markopolos, then a financial analyst, alerted the SEC to Madoff’s scheme in 2000, eight years before Madoff’s arrest.
How To Pay People Dan Ariely
Most of the time, when you hire people you don’t want to specify exactly what they are to do and how much they would get paid—you don’t want to say if you do X you will get this much, and if you do Y you will get that much. That type of contract is what we call a complete contract. Creating one is basically impossible, especially with higher-level jobs. If you try to do it, you cause "crowding out." People focus on everything you’ve included and exclude everything else. What’s left out of the contract tends to drop out of their motivation as well. You are taking away from their judgment and goodwill and teaching them to be like rats in a maze.
It’s like the difference between asking someone to help you change a tire and offering them $5 to do it. The moment you introduce money, you change how the person views the exchange. They say, "Oh, this is work. I don’t work for $5. Give me $150 and we can talk." When I was at MIT, they told us we had to teach 112 points per year. They had a complex formula for how many students and how many hours and so on would translate into teaching points. Basically, MIT was conditioning me to put the least effort into getting the most points. This became the game. I was quite good at it. And I taught very little.
It happens with all kinds of compensation. A consulting company once told me they made a rule that if you stayed until 8 in the office, you could order food and use the car service to get home. So what happens? A ton of people are there at 8. Nobody’s there at 8:05. It’s the same with pay: If you are hiring the right people, you don’t want to include anything too specific in the contract. You want people to buy into the objectives of the company. Be specific about those and then trust people to understand quickly how they can help maximize the objectives at each point in time. People actually know to a high degree which actions are good for the company and which are not—regardless of what you pay them for.
Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavior economics at Duke University.
How To Fix American Manufacturing Daniel Akerson
It's going to take a combination of innovation, which leads to productivity gains, and new ways of helping labor understand the challenges a company faces in the marketplace. For example, we can’t repeat the mistakes of the past by burdening ourselves with structural costs that aren’t flexible and aren’t manageable. Do we want a bonus- and profit-sharing plan with the union? That’s a different construct and something they wouldn’t have listened to 10 or 20 years ago. You have to look for new business-industrial relations and different types of compensation practices.
Look at what the union did at Lake Orion, where General Motors (GM) and the United Auto Workers agreed to lower wages so the company could make subcompacts profitably in the U.S. That’s a case of a good and healthy industrial relationship that would have been unheard of prior to the bankruptcy.
Both labor and management have to look for a new model. You have to evolve. You have to adapt to new circumstances. Darwin said you have to be strong, fast, and smart. Everyone forgets the fourth one: You have to be adaptable. I talk to our team. The only organization I ever worked in that looked at adaptability was the U.S. Navy. In terms of officer fitness, they graded you on adaptability.
We’re in a war. I don’t mean that in a bellicose way. It’s a very competitive situation. If you don’t prize adaptability, whether it’s industrial relations or it’s in how you view, perceive, and react to your competition, you’re going to be a dinosaur. You’re not going to survive.
Akerson is chief executive officer of General Motors.
How To Save Europe Christine Lagarde
Policymakers in the euro zone face two major challenges to the recovery: sovereign risks and banking risks. Because these two challenges are deeply intertwined, both must be solved to clear the way to a recovery. There are three key steps that Europe should take to address them.
First, sovereign finances need to be sustainable, which means more fiscal action and more financing. It does not necessarily mean drastic upfront belt-tightening—if countries address long-term fiscal risks like rising health-care or pension costs, they will have more space in the short run to support growth and jobs. But without a credible financing path, fiscal adjustment will be doomed to fail. After all, deciding on a deficit path is one thing, getting the money to finance it is another. Sufficient financing can come from the private or official sector—including continued support from the European Central Bank, with full backup of the euro area members.
Second, banks need urgent recapitalization. This is key to cutting the chains of contagion. If it is not addressed, we could easily see the further spread of economic weakness to core countries or even a debilitating liquidity crisis. The most efficient solution would be mandatory substantial recapitalization—seeking private resources first, but using public funds if necessary. One option would be to mobilize the European Financial Stability Facility, or other European-wide funding, to recapitalize banks directly.
Third, Europe needs a common vision for its future. The current turmoil has exposed some serious flaws in the architecture of the euro zone, flaws that threaten the entire project. Europe must recommit credibly to a common vision, and it needs to be built on solid foundations—including, for example, fiscal rules that actually work.
Risks to the global economy are rising, but there remains a path to recovery. The policy options are narrower than before, but there is a way through. There are lingering uncertainties, but resolute action will help to dispel doubts. There is a clear implication: We must act now, act boldly, and act together.
Lagarde is the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
How To Buy a Suit Thomas Mahon
Something as personal as buying a suit is tricky. In general, off-the-rack suits fall into two brackets. The first have "fused" or glued-up interlinings and are completely machine-made. These must account for 95 percent of all suits sold ranging from $100 to $1,100. The second bracket, at the higher end, include handmade interlinings and other details and can go for up to $5,000. Handmade is certainly better, but most people spend less.
In this lower bracket, ignore designer labels. In fact, ignore labels and price tags altogether. The machined label suits are made using identical methods of manufacture. They’re produced in minutes, usually in an Asian or former Eastern Bloc country. Many of the less expensive brands are made in the same factories as the dearest—exactly the same but with a different label sewn in.
It’s helpful to know that most houses have a pattern cutter who designs the basic look of their suits, usually with two aims: first, to produce garments that fit most people, and second, to get their style into garments without anyone noticing. We all have egos. Designers will try to get more shape in the waist or a longer line, usually driven by what looks good on them. Of course, clothes that look good on one person would not necessarily look good on everyone else.
When you’re shopping, here are a few things to look for:
Cloth: Make sure it’s suitable for the purpose. Business, wedding, or bar mitzvah? Pick a solid gray or blue worsted wool. Keep it classic. Don’t shop after watching an Austin Powers movie.
Style: It’s usually more practical to own a single-breasted, two- or three-button front. Never choose those dreadful four-buttons; they reek of cheap designer rubbish and look totally stupid once you’re over 20.
Fit: Again, ignore the labels. Just because it’s claiming to be a posh product doesn’t mean it’s going to fit you the best. Try everything in your size. They’ll be different—only slightly, but enough to make the difference between being comfortable and uncomfortable. Style is when people are comfortable in their clothes.
Alterations: If you’re between sizes, take the larger. Pay $100, have it altered, and get the sleeves and trousers the right length. If needed, get that extra shape where you want it. Do all this properly and you can end up with a $100 suit that looks like it cost $1,000.
Thomas Mahon is a bespoke tailor on Savile Row. His clients have included HRH The Prince of Wales and Bryan Ferry.
How To Hide (and Find) Assets Martin S. Kenney (As told to Jesse Drucker)
Hiding assets and finding assets are reverse sides of the same coin. Everybody seems to use the same techniques. No. 1, you look to set up a family trust in Nevis or the Cook Islands. It’s better there because of secrecy laws and laws that emasculate creditors’ rights. So let’s say I owe you $10 million and I don’t want to give it to you. I give it to a Nevetian trustee for my benefit and say I want to invest it in a cattle ranch in Montana and in stocks and bonds. The trust subscribes to share capital in a long chain of companies in five or 10 jurisdictions offshore, like Jersey and Guernsey. Secrecy makes the relationship between the assets and the U.S. more remote.
Beyond Nevis, the British Virgin Islands are popular. In addition to some confidentiality, they’re cheap. Bermuda is more expensive, but it’s the king of offshore insurance. Cayman is for offshore banking. Another option is to use layers of companies to mask the owners of the assets. One of my cases involves ownership of office buildings in Canada. They were owned by a series of numbered companies. You don’t need a name there, just a number, like 8769542, Alberta Inc. The equity was held by a series of offshore companies that was further held by a Netherlands Antilles company. Behind that was a trustee in Guernsey, and behind that was a man who stole $250 million using a mass-marketing fraud. He sent mail solicitations to elderly American citizens. There were more than 300,000 victims. The money got transferred to bank accounts in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Jersey, Barbados, and Canada. There were like nine tiers in nine different countries, through so many bank accounts and companies that it could take years to investigate if you don’t know what you’re doing. And to keep your assets hidden, you have to be careful who you alienate. One man took his girlfriend to Switzerland and stayed in a fabulous hotel and had lunch across the street from where we found $40 million in cash deposits. She was pissed off and told us. We were pulling rubbish from his trash, in Sarasota, Fla. He had a mansion on the beach there. For 18 months we pulled his trash, every week at 6 a.m. We found an envelope with a return address and name of an insurance company at a P.O. box in Philadelphia. It turned out he had insurance on 72 works of art—Monets, Manets, Degas, Rembrandts—under names of corporations he owned. When we served subpoenas on the insurance company, they had to disclose who bought the art.
Kenney is managing partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors, a fraud and asset recovery law firm based in the British Virgin Islands.
How To Hack the Pentagon P1X37F0X
Obtaining information such as user names, e-mail addresses, login credentials, or classified documents requires a well-versed programmer to access the system by finding vulnerabilities and exploiting them. Doing so directly through a website would take too much effort, as these systems are highly secure. So you go to the weakest link: a human—a contractor or unsuspecting employee—who is conned by the hacker into opening what appears to be a valid document but carries malware. Once the malware is installed, the hacker can gain control of the user’s computer and credentials, giving the hacker access to secure areas on the server. Depending on the level of access obtained, the hacker may be able to get to databases of private content. If root access (the Holy Grail) is gained, the entire system and network is at the mercy of the hacker. Root access gives a user unrestricted access. With it a hacker can do as he or she pleases, erasing, copying, or modifying any file on the network.
If gathering of content is not the intent, a hacker can just take down a website by crashing the server with a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), a regular embarrassment for sites such as financial institutions, government agencies, and social-media networks. This requires the orchestration of multiple computers, sometimes thousands, to ping, or push a packet of information, to a website’s server. To do this, the hacker can distribute an exploit embedded in a popular piece of software that is downloaded and installed by unknowing internet users. The exploit allows the hacker to band together the infected computers and flood a website with an unlimited amount of pings, packets of information, search queries, and incoming messages. Overloaded with these requests, the server slows to a crawl, rendering the website unavailable, sometimes for hours.
P1X37F0X is the handle of a hacker in New York City.
How To Give the Perfect TED Talk Sebastian Wernicke
I am a statistician by training, so for my TED talk I did a tongue-in-cheek data analysis of about 600 other TED talks. I found that the most loved talks typically evoke emotion—for example, through using words like "happiness," "the brain," and "coffee." So you might want to try talking about "how drinking coffee spreads happiness in the brain." Also, don’t talk about oxygen, aircraft, or computers—statistically, technical terms are associated with less popular talks. These also cite the New York Times much more than the best-rated ones. The more successful speakers tend to use fewer slides and more props. About half of the most popular TED talks don’t even use slides at all. And for some reason, talks that people rank as "fascinating" employ a lot of purple, and ones that are "ingenious" emphasize the color green. It is statistically significant, but I haven’t found anyone who can explain that to me.
The maximum time you are given for a TED talk is 18 minutes. This really forces the speakers to make just one point, and get to it immediately. You don’t have any time for diversions. When you prepare your talk, there are always certain phrases or slides that you think are incredible. Then you start showing them to other people, and they tell you different. You have to be really brutal about cutting them out. For my TED talk, there was tons of stuff I had to throw out. It was the right thing to do, but I’m still sad for some of that material.
At your typical conference, people there are basically forced to endure the talks—it’s happening at you. Looking at the TED speakers, many of them talk about very serious or fascinating topics, yet they don’t flaunt their ego. At TED, it’s more about contributing to the conference.
Wernicke, a consultant at Oliver Wyman, created the website TEDPad.
How To Blow the Whistle Cheryl Eckard
I was fired in 2003 as a quality assurance manager at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) after unsuccessfully pushing the company to fix manufacturing flaws at a Puerto Rican plant. In 2004, I sued Glaxo under the False Claims Act, which lets citizens sue on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. Six years later, Glaxo paid $750 million to settle my suit and a criminal case, and I was awarded $96 million from the federal recovery.
Potential whistleblowers must give the company every chance to fix the problem. They’ll try to determine if you’re a troublemaker and may compartmentalize you or cut your duties. You’ll be O.K. if your heart’s in the right place and you truly want the fraud to stop. If the company still won’t do the right thing, hire a good attorney. You need documents and a good memory to tell your lawyers what happened. They will file your lawsuit under seal; no one knows it exists while federal lawyers and investigators analyze your claims. The Justice Dept. rejects four out of five whistleblower cases. If you stand up against a company, expect to stand alone. Expect co-workers to distance themselves. They have mortgages and car payments. I can’t blame them. The one thing I’d do differently is take better care of myself. I suggest exercise. Life would have been easier if instead of brooding and worrying, I had gone to the gym.
Eckard is the winner of the largest individual whistleblower award ever.
How To Get a Star to Use Your Product Susan J. Ashbrook
Put together a target list of 50 to 100 celebrities who might like your product. Cast your net wide. Find those celebrities’ handlers—their managers, publicists, stylists—using websites like Who Represents and IMDb. Call and pitch your product in a succinct manner. Most often they’ll ask you to e-mail photographs and a paragraph about what it is you’re asking.
These people are bombarded with products, sometimes thousands each week, so, depending on the cost of your item, it may be worth sending a sample. Package it nicely, so opening it reminds them of Christmas. Your message should include a bit about yourself and your company and why you think the product would be great for that particular celebrity.
Your company’s story can make a big difference. I had a client named Elsie Katz who, right out of the gate, got Sharon Stone to wear her clothing. She lives in a rural area near Seattle and her message was, "I design really fabulous dresses, but my life is pretty simple." Sharon loved her story. At one event, a reporter asked what Sharon had on, and she said, "I’m wearing Elsie Katz Couture, and this designer is probably out milking cows as we speak."
Once you’ve sent out the product, it’s all about persistence. Follow up and ask if the product has arrived and whether you can touch base in a couple weeks to see if they like it.
A yes doesn’t mean you’re done. If your product isn’t what the celebrity’s wearing to the Oscars, you’ll have to wait for them to be photographed wearing or using it. You should have a list of editors and bloggers ready for when it happens, so you can say, "Hey, these celebrities are using our product."
Ashbrook has worked in celebrity product placement for 20 years.
How To Play Basketball With the POTUS Alexi Giannoulias
Don’t go easy on him. He wants games that are aggressive. Initially guys are a little careful, but when the adrenaline starts going, everyone is just playing to win. Be prepared for him to have the best players on his team. He always makes sure to get [his "body man" and former Duke basketball player] Reggie Love. When we played during the Iowa Caucus in 2008, he managed to really stack his team. And after he won, I wouldn’t give him a "nice game" high five, so he called me a sore loser and started heckling. I said I would properly congratulate him if he admitted to "stacking" his team. He didn’t. I wouldn’t. We got into it a little bit.
If you wind up guarding him, know that he’s much stronger and quicker than he looks, and he’s a good finisher. He prefers his left, so try to force him to his right and maybe give him a step. But he’s also a good shooter. He’s not pulling up from 40 feet, but maybe from 20. He makes himself a threat, but he’s not a ball hog. He knows how to get the ball to the best player. He hustles and does the dirty work: boxing out, getting on the ground for loose balls. And he’s tough. I remember when we played on the day of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries in 2008, I was going hard to the hole and I lowered my shoulder and got him in the rib. He landed badly and blacked out for a second. We were all freaking out, especially me. When he came to, he gave me this disapproving look, and I felt horrifyingly guilty. He didn’t complain at all. But he still brings it up. It turned out that he ran the rest of the Presidential campaign with a bruised rib. That’s how tough he is. Bottom line: Play hard, but don’t knock out the Commander-in-Chief.
Giannoulias is a professor of political science at Northwestern University, former Illinois State Treasurer, and a regular in Presidential pickup games.
How To Look Good in a Corporate Photo Richard Branson
1) If I’m going to do a photo, it has to commemorate an ambitious effort—like launching service to Dallas-Fort Worth, where 90 percent of all domestic flights are served by one legacy airline. Or unveiling a spaceship.
2) Surround yourself with smart, creative people, the kind who ignore laws of gravity and who see your brand as permission to do the unexpected. Let them persuade you to do what they want. Like when Virgin Mobile Canada suspended me 140 feet above Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square in a floating prison cage with a pyro explosion that triggered my escape rope so that I could free Canadians from being locked in with one cell phone carrier.
3) Put yourself out there for your brand. I’ve been photographed in a bridal gown, a wet suit, an Elvis suit, and in a hot tub with electronic gadgets. I’ve never been good at saying no, especially when it comes to supporting my companies, even if I am risking my life (go online and search: "Richard Branson world record balloon attempts") or my mystery (try: "Richard Branson Times Square full monty").
4) Don’t take yourself too seriously. You may have the weight of the free world on your corporate shoulders, but do you really want to be photographed like that? I prefer to be dressed as a maverick in authentic Texas longhorn riders’ leather chaps or coddled by Vegas showgirls. I recently lost a bet to AirAsia Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes and will have to shave my legs and dress as a flight attendant on a charity flight; some people think I lost on purpose because I like being photographed in drag (hmm, they may be on to me).
5) Share the limelight with friends of the brand. Your airline can’t help but look ravishing if you do a wing walk with Kate Moss or Dita von Teese. Remember, it’s not about you.
Branson is the founder of Virgin Group.
How To Buy a Fish Nobu Matsuhisa
A sushi chef has to spot the best-quality fresh fish instantly. My method is to look at a fish’s eyes, body, and color. The fish’s eyes should always be bright and clear, not dull and cloudy. Next, I look at the body. Does it shine? Does it look metallic and clean? It should be firm and spring back when touched. The scales should look perfect and even; if a fish has missing or damaged scales, I don’t buy it. The gills should be a vibrant red. If a fish is old, the gills will have a faded, dull, brick-red color.
There are lots of details to consider: Small fish such as aji (Japanese mackerel) and iwashi (sardines) should have a curved shape. Medium fish such as buri (adult yellowtail) and kampachi (amberjack) should have a rounded shape from back to stomach. White fish such as suzuki (Japanese sea bass) and hirame (halibut) should have a rounded shape from head to back. Large fish such as tuna are shown already cut into fillets and bought by the block. Fillets should be almost transparent. Avoid tuna that looks rainbow-colored or black. Whenever possible, buy a fish whole. With tuna this isn’t practical; with smaller fish it is.
Shellfish is better to buy live. In the U.S., because we eat oysters and clams raw, it is very important that they are alive before we prepare them. It’s important to look for a closed shell. If a clam is alive, the shell will be closed. Never buy clams if the shell is open. You can also tell if a clam is alive by taking two clams and tapping them together. If they make a light tapping sound then the clam is dead; if they make a heavy tapping sound then it is still alive. Listen and enjoy!
Matsuhisa is the founder of the Manhattan restaurant Nobu.
How To Tweet
Whether tweeting inspiration or entertainment, always deliver value. Don’t waste people’s time tweeting about bullshit. #TeamBringIt
Johnson, aka The Rock, is an actor and wrestler.
How To Get a Raise Mika Brzezinski
Men and women often think they can go in and say, "I have a spouse and kids to support," or "my mom is sick." Playing the victim is so tiring. It makes your boss sigh when they see you in the hall. Don’t play the victim.
Before you go in, get some numbers. What do people who have your job make at other companies? What value do you bring to the table? How much money have you made the company? Have that information in hand. Have specifics. You should have a true sense of what your value is within a window of $50,000. That will help you articulate it, and believe it.
Don’t undermine your value at the negotiation table. Watch what you say right when you walk in the door. Don’t say, "I’m really sorry, I hope this isn’t a bad time." Or, "I know this must be a tough time for the company." Hem, haw. Hem, haw. You may as well just say, "Hey, what I’m about to ask you for, don’t give it to me." The final thing is that it really doesn’t matter if they like you. When I was trying to get my raise from MSNBC, they hated me. Oh my god, I had to squeeze it out of them. There were some tough conversations. Being respected is far more important than being liked. That doesn’t mean you go in there and be a beast and be hideous. But it’s not a popularity contest. It’s about the money. Go get it.
Brzezinski is co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC.
How To Protect Your Reputation Michael Fertik
For better or worse, your digital repu-ta-tion is your reputation. Every decision about you is going to be determined by a quick Google search, and you won’t have a chance to explain yourself if you don’t have a pristine one. Even if you don’t show up on Google, that just means you’re 10 times more vulnerable. It’s a totally virgin territory on which to get jacked.
Manage it before you have a problem. The mistake that most people make is to think that because you’re a good and decent person, the Internet will think so. The two are not correlated. The accidental architecture of the Web is such that one stray remark can radically change your digital profile. People come to me all the time and say, I never thought I’d have a problem until my kid mentioned my fight with my wife online or someone in my company started saying nasty things about management. So the first thing is to Google yourself. When people search for you, they should see all the terrific things that are true about you or your company. Own a Web page with your own name or your business name in the Web address. Have a tasteful LinkedIn or Twitter account with your name in the user profile. The aim is to occupy the real estate on your search results.
If someone attacks you online, it’s almost always best to ignore it. You only want to respond if the material is very visible and demonstrably false. Otherwise, you risk the Streisand Effect, named for Barbra. In 2003 her lawyer sent a letter to a paparazzo who had photographed her house. It only called attention to the photo. Just don’t respond.
Fertik is the founder and CEO of Reputation.com.
How To Be a CIO Ben Fried
For a lot of chief information officers, the best-case scenario has been not to be noticed. Why? No. 1, these people are typically responsible for the largest cost center in your organization. No. 2 is that most of the technology budget is for things that were bought in previous years. So the CIO ends up coming from a place of caution and conservatism and ends up moving slowly, while being the face of technology—one of the fastest-moving industries in the world. There are these cosmic pressures like cloud computing services and the rise of consumer technology—smartphones, tablets, and all the rest—that are forcing change in the landscape.
CIOs have to figure out how to harness all that change, as opposed to fighting it. It’s hard to understand that you have to give up a certain amount of control. You used to write the checks and determine what people would use. Not anymore. At a lot of companies, employees are already using their own personal smartphones in many cases. They bring them to the office and they want them to work, as opposed to the other way around. CIOs tend to see that as, "Oh my god, they are imposing on me." On the other hand, it’s one fewer thing you have to buy and one fewer carrier contract you have to maintain. It is one problem off your organization’s back.
Here at Google we go to great lengths to make people productive by allowing them to have choices with the technology they choose to do their work. I had thought that would be very, very costly. To my surprise I’ve discovered, and third-party benchmarks have verified, that when you give people the choice of their toolset, they end up supporting themselves much more. This was counterintuitive to me. I mean, we don’t let people buy a computer at Best Buy and support it—we buy the computer and give you the choice of which operating system and productivity software you want. And as a result of that our users are more self-supporting. The reason they choose a particular technology is probably because they knew it or liked it or wanted to know it. All of those things will lead to a better situation than if you just told them what they had to do.
Fried is the chief information officer at Google.
How To Handle a Crisis Mark Penn
As a leader, you have to balance the desire to say something right away with the need to get the facts. People typically err on the side of saying something too soon and then have to eat most of what they said.
There are two phases: the hurricane and the cleanup. During the hurricane, you’re trying to keep the house standing and keep your organization functioning. Whether you win, lose, or draw, unless all the employees are on board and focused, you’ve lost. When the immediacy of the crisis is over, then you figure out what changes to make and how you rebuild your image. It can be a two-year process, but most companies recover.
President Clinton is the best crisis responder I’ve ever worked with. He’s a strong leader, and he’s goal-oriented to solve the problem, whether it’s the nation’s deficit or impeachment. He won by going against the conventional wisdom of crisis management. People think you should get out there and apologize and everything will be fine. That’s not always true.
In some industries you can anticipate what the likely crisis will be. You need a plan and the right person out there as the central voice. Don’t throw your CEO in the middle of every story. In the BP (BP) crisis, Tony Hayward underplayed the gravity initially, and then he arguably overplayed it because he was on the defensive. Was there a workaround? Sure. He could have hired Colin Powell. If there’s a massive incident in the Gulf, the person you’d have the most confidence in is someone from the American military.
Penn is the worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller.
How To Work Under Pressure Hope Solo
I still get very, very nervous before every game. I really welcome that, but I had to learn how to manage it. I don’t use a sports psychologist. I think about the game and visualize what I can do against our opponent’s offense. When I let them score, I get so angry I want to scream. But our defenders look to me for their peace of mind. I do everything I can not to lose it.
I had one moment, at the Olympics in 2008, when I really disappointed myself. The year before the Olympics was one of the hardest in my personal life and my career. My father died, I was pulled from the World Cup, and then because of what I said afterward, I was kicked off the team. The Olympics came 10 months later. A lot of people were waiting for me to fail. Having that awareness didn’t allow me to put 110 percent focus on the field. In the opening game of the Olympics we got scored on in the first two minutes because of my mistake. Then it happened again. We lost 2-0. I got so mad that I had allowed outside influences to affect what I had worked my entire life for. That was a big lesson for me. After I realized I let my critics get to me, I was just like, "The hell with you: This is my game, my career!"
I’m as confident as I am because of my training. I consistently remind myself of that. I learned to block out the voices that brought me down.
For me, winning games isn’t enough; I want to be the best goalkeeper in the world. My coaches have always been brutally honest with me, sometimes to a point that I feel I may break. But that feedback doesn’t bring me down. It empowers me. I do my best when I have something to prove.
Solo is goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team, which won a silver medal in the 2011 World Cup.
How To Run a Book Store Larry McMurtry
The first essential is to have good stock. The better the books, the more people will come. We were fortunate that when we started this business in 1971, we came into the secondhand book trade just as a lot of ancient families were dying out and selling grandpa’s books, so we were able to get a respectable stock very cheaply.
For a large bookshop to survive today, you need cheap real estate, or you have to be an institution like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., or the Tattered Cover in Denver. They have everything from lunch counters to day care to get families to spend the day at the store. We are here in Archer City, Tex., where we can get buildings for $30,000 to $50,000. If we have two customers a day, it’s like a riot. We’ve had our first significant Chinese customer, and if we stay open another 10 or 15 years, a large part of our clientele will be from overseas.
There are different kinds of bookstores. For example, there’s the high-end store, like the Heritage in Los Angeles used to be. They had one whole room in which no books were admitted unless they were over $5,000. It was a jungle, but it was an expensive jungle. When Brad Pitt finishes a movie and wants to give a director a present, it has to cost $30,000 or $40,000. They’d go to the Heritage. But there are very few places where there’s that surface money, quick money, excess money.
Now, suppose you’re in Berkeley, down the street from one of the country’s great universities. You’re not going to sell the $40,000 Huck Finn. You’re going to provide a high level of general literature and scholarly books in many fields. You are selling $25 books instead of $5,000 books, and you have to sell a lot of them.
Some people don’t like too much order in bookshops and want to feel like they’re finding something. You can have 300,000 books perfectly arranged on the shelf, and every time, people will walk in and want to look at the books stacked up on the floor. So if you really want to sell something, jumble it up and pitch it on the floor.
McMurtry is the author of Lonesome Dove and owns the bookstore Booked Up.
How To Pitch a VC Michael Moritz
Pitches are for scriptwriters, movie producers, or ad agencies. Nobody starting a company should, in the dreadful vernacular, "pitch a VC." Really smart founders know they are selecting business partners for the next five to 15 years. In meetings with prospective partners, founders should be buying as much as selling.
Silicon Valley teems with investors. Yet for startups there are not many true long-term business partners.
Part-timers can get into 50 or 60 companies a year, and others can pile in when the risk has evaporated. That’s not hard. Selecting and working with founders determined to build market-leading companies that can prosper 10 to 30 years from now is different—and very difficult.
First, founders should figure out whether a prospective partner has done his homework. It’s a bad sign if he is unprepared. More importantly, founders should wonder how he can help with the four things a company needs: people, customers, money, and longevity.
The most crucial task is landing the first dozen engineers. They form the startup’s DNA. The founder should be asking whether a business partner can help land customers or distributors, because nobody wants to take a risk with an unproven product and company. Today, customers can be all over the world. Little companies no longer have the comfort of anonymity. Open a website and copycats from Kurdistan to Peru spring into action. Founders should find local partners who act global. Every Silicon Valley company worth its salt will eventually sell more abroad than at home. As for longevity, enduring companies have a long private phase, a sunny (perhaps) IPO moment, and the hurly-burly of being public. The best founders adjust to all three phases, as do the best partners. Founders may want to figure out whether potential partners are on their game. Do they work hard? Do they answer e-mail? Do they deliver on promises, or are they just about money? Founders should ask, "What do you really think?" Anyone who can’t give a straight answer is a joker.
As for us, our needs are simple. We’re just looking for those rare, authentic people who know a lot about something and mean what they say—not the phonies or pretenders. We’re listening intently to the ideas being expressed. Religions were started with the power of the word. So were the greatest businesses. All we seek are a few people with the real stuff.
Moritz is a partner at Sequoia Capital.