The Full Monty: the latest trends & the oldest principles.
Combining the timely and the timeless in powerful ways.
Welcome to The Full Monty, where I cover some of the essential stories of the week, to keep leaders up to date on changes in technology, business, marketing, and digital communications, while remaining grounded in the universal human truths we've learned throughout history. If someone forwarded this to you, please click here to subscribe.
Hey there —

The constant drumbeat of the news cycle is something. But it does have impacts. This week's essay looks at the results of the hamering on one of those.

Meanwhile, here's a quote that I thought was fitting:

"An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot."
– Thomas Paine

I hope you take away something meaningful from issue #278 of The Full Monty, and I hope to see you back here again later this week (please check your subscription settings).

Thanks, and I'll see you on the Internet.

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Resolution and Adventure with fishing craft in Matavai Bay by William Hodges (Wikipedia, public domain)
"Geniuses differ from ordinary men less in the character of their attention than in the nature of the objects upon which it is successively bestowed." – William James 

Even if you've had anything to do with the business world over the last three years, you've heard of WeWork.

Their IPO has been massacred, from people like Scott Galloway (No Mercy / No Malice) to Ben Thompson (Stratechery). A big focus has been on the ridiculous valuation: $47 billion at one point — then last week readjusted to about half that amount, and just last night, SoftBank, WeWork's largest shareholder, suggested putting the IPO on hold.

What's going on?

Personally, I think we're looking at the of the modern era. In 2000, the online pet food company (great idea, poor timing) was the canary in the coal mine for the Dot Com era. With stratospheric valuations on negative margins, we're seeing companies like WeWork, Uber, and other unicorns defy logic.

As we noted last week, there's a mismatch of incentives. In this case, the only incentive investors have is getting the company to an IPO. As Galloway noted, the bankers "stand to register $122 million in fees flinging feces at retail investors visiting the unicorn zoo." The little investor has no chance.

There's something else going on: with the covers pulled back (thanks to the IPO prospectus), we began to see a pattern of unethical behavior, lack of governance, and sheer greed at work:
  • WeWork paid its own CEO, Adam Neumann, $5.9 million for the “We” trademark when the company reorganized itself earlier this year (he has since returned the money). I would think that as CEO, anything he trademarked related to the company would rightfully belong to the company anyway.
  • WeWork previously gave Neumann loans to buy 10 properties that WeWork then rented back from him.
  • WeWork hired a number of Neumann’s relatives, and Neumann’s wife stands to be one of three members of a committee tasked to replace Neumann if he were to die or become permanently disabled over the next decade.
  • Neumann has sold $700 million in stock prior to filing the prospectus. Now if that doesn't scream no-confidence, I don't know what does.

More than the questionable financials, there's something else afoot here. Yes, investors seem to be backing away. But it feels like there's more to it.

Call it something of an awakening.

I'll be writing more about cracks that are beginning to show—in more than just WeWork—later this week. Be sure you're signed up for my Timeless & Timely updates as well.  

Curated Stories
"I have gathered a posy of other men's flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is my own." – Montaigne

Help Wanted

We recently discussed the Business Roundtable decision to move away from shareholders as a primary driver. Now a former Treasury Secretary has advice for CEOs who want to follow the shift to stakeholder capitalism. (Larry Summers)

My take: There's been a fair share of cynicism regarding the announcement (rightfully so). We do need to hold CEOs accountable. Whether it's a Chief Philosophy Officer or Chief Ethics Officer (I'm available!), they need teeth and integrity to make this stick.


Trust Me

Google is now facing anti-trust lawsuits from attorneys general in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico over possible anti-trust violations. This is in connection with its dominance in the digital advertising market. (CNBC)

Facebook is also facing scrutiny as the great break-up of tech is beginning. (Guardian).

My take: Even though we're about to enter autumn, the heat is not about to dissipate on Big Tech. If anything, the clamor for action is growing. Between this and the Business Roundtable rumblings, there's momentum.


What, Me Private?

Speaking of trust, it may come as a complete shock to absolutely no one that private Instagram posts aren't exactly private. (BuzzFeed News).

Or that Facebook leaked 419 million phone numbers. A researcher discovered this when he found a database that was able to pull the phone numbers from a server that wasn't password-protected. (M.I.T. Technology Review)

My take: The old adage (which I coined years ago) is still true. Whatever happens on the internet stays on the internet. Regardless of the platform, regardless of the medium, if you post it, you should assume someone will eventually see it.


Marketers Need Not Apply

Ancestry has hired a Chief Revenue Officer to replace its Chief Marketing Officer. There are no plans to fill the CMO role, and they are not alone. The CMO role is being eliminated in other companies as well, being replaced by chief revenue officers and chief growth officers. (AdAge)

My take: With increasing focus on profits and quarter-to-quarter results, we're prioritizing transactions over strategy, revenue over relationships. Boards and CEOs need to move away from shiny object syndrome and short-term results.


Imparting Wisdom

This is the perfect visualization of going from data to wisdom. Along the way, information, knowledge and insight need to happen to transform data into action. (The Information Factory)
For the Curious Mind
"Curiosity is the lust of the mind." – Thomas Hobbes

In addition to the numerous pioneering works of science fiction by which he made his name, H. G. Wells also published a steady stream of non-fiction meditations, mainly focused on themes salient to his stories: the effects of technology, human folly, and the idea of progress. (The Public Domain Review)

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw “the great book scare” — a public panic that you could catch a deadly disease just by borrowing a book from the library. (Smithsonian Magazine)

While that may not be true, I'm infected by bibliomania: the overwhelming compulsion to own books, not so much as to inform oneself as to possess them and feast one’s eyes on them. (Lapham's Quarterly)

While we're on the subject of books, consider this question: Is Goodnight Moon Freemason propaganda? These unintentionally hilarious one-star reviews on Amazon will leave you wondering...

Recommended Reading/Listening
"Let me recommend this book." – Arthur Conan Doyle
Every Friday, Recode’s Kara Swisher and NYU Professor Scott Galloway offer sharp, unfiltered insights into the biggest stories in tech, business, and politics on Pivot. They make bold predictions, pick winners and losers, and bicker and banter like no other. After all, with great power comes great scrutiny. And @ProfGalloway has been a gangster at calling out WeWork.
In The Enlightened Capitalists, James O’Toole tells the largely forgotten stories of men and women who adopted forward-thinking business practices designed to serve the needs of their employees, customers, communities, and the natural environment. They wanted to prove that executives didn’t have to make trade-offs between profit and virtue.

I keep a larger list of books that influence my thinking and approach to business here. I hope you'll check it out.

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I'm an executive advisor. A corporate conscience. A C-suite whisperer.

Executives are in constant demand, have relentless deliverables, and try to set a long-term strategic course. All while trying to keep up with trends and deliver short-term value.

I bring a seasoned outside perspective grounded in the Classics, Fortune 10 executive experience, and the uncanny ability to creatively connect humanity and technology

The results?  You'll avoid shiny object syndrome and focus on what matters to customers and grows your business.

Bring me in to assess your team, review your operations, provide strategic advice, or speak at an event.
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