Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time for Outlook on the Mac - and Mac in the office

My PC died this weekend. Dead as a doornail. So while I am working with an interim Sony Vaio patched together heroically by Mike T yesterday - it's time for me to buy a new laptop.

I believe I am facing the same decision as many business people who now, for the first time, can choose a Mac for the office. Hurray!

Macs were always considered superior machines for artists and media, but rarely supported by IT in corporations because of the strong hold Outlook has in the business person's workflow. But over the past few years the iPod, and then the iPhone, have radically changed how the majority of business people view Macs. We have come to realize how elegant and versatile the Apple architecture is and how joyful and powerful it can be to use a Mac every day.

The final break in the dam will be Outlook. Gartner believes (and I agree with them) that native support for Microsoft Exchange in the Snow Leopard operating system will drive end user demand in the enterprise. Maybe this will create a tipping point of dramatic growth for Apple and Macs in the workplace. But even before that is available (they're saying year end) you can run a Windows emulation window on your Mac desktop in the meantime.

Cisco is leading the way in a new idea to allow employees to choose their own work laptops - including a Mac! Frankly I love this idea. Select a short list of approved machines (so you can manage the IT support) and give employees an allowance to buy all their gadgets with so your costs are bounded. If the employee wants more gadget cost than the budget they can choose to make up the difference themselves.

We are already flexible with some employees using Macs in the office (especially our UI designer) but they provide much of their own support. A larger company would have the scale to provide both types of support within a bounded set of computers.

So I think a trip to the Apple store is in my future later this week. I long to have one machine for everything (since we are a Mac/many iPod/many iPhone/AppleTV/ Drobo family at home I have a Mac Pro on my home desk). Maybe now I finally can.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why Carol Bartz' stock sales make sense - and the pundits should know better

There are a number of posts winging through the web today about Carol Bartz selling $2M of stock so far this year. You can see here about "investors getting concerned" or here that "Insiders treat Yahoo like their personal ATM".

The misunderstanding of the analysis astonishes me. Now, I don't expect every reader to understand how executive pay works - and how tax selling works - but it is not rocket science so I do expect journalists to have a better grip.

The Yahoo filing on Carol's compensation is very clear. There is a salary component ($1M per year), she has significant options grants ($5M worth) that only vest when Yahoo stock goes up and stay up (great alignment with shareholders), she has a promise of future grants ($8M worth) in the annual grant cycle for executives and then - the item that is probably the root cause of the consternation - an initial stock grant (stock NOT options) for $7.5M (along with $2.5M in cash).

This last grant was direct compensation for money she was walking away from in her old position. This is very usual logic - the Yahoo board wants you to walk away from $10M+ in compensation - they offer $10M as a hire on incentive. In this case the $7.5M restricted stock grant vests over 4 quarters in 2009.

Now to her sale of $2M of stock that is being hyperboled about. Carol is being granted $7.5M in restricted stock which is taxable at the time of the grant during 2009. This means (in California) she owes at least 35% in tax (probably more) this year. That is at least $2.6M in tax. It is absolutely normal for executives and board members to put plans in place (governed under rule 10b5-1 so they are not insider trading) to sell some restricted stock at the time of the grant in order to pay the tax due. When the tax bill is over $2M it makes basic business sense to do this.

Why then are the bloggers & press frothing about it? Yahoo has clearly stated this is tax selling. Please do your research first and then only whip up the crowd if you find something that is out of the ordinary or signs of inconsistency.

Chief cook and bottle washer

We released the new research engine into production last night much to everyone's delight. It's hot and if you'd like to try it out go here and give my name as your contact.

But as you would expect after a long weekend of extra work there were a number of coffee cups and dirty glasses lying around the office. We have a small office in California and theoretically a "wash your own dishes" policy but I have developed a habit of washing whatever dishes are in the sink when I get in.

This morning I walked through all the cubes and collected up all the glasses and mugs - quite a few this time.

Some of my folks have asked me why I do the dishes? It's simple to me. I work for my employees. It's my job to do whatever is necessary to make them more effective and so make the company more successful. Given how hard they work, and the long hours they work, seems to me the least I can do it make sure they have clean dishware to chose from when they want a cup of coffee. It's part of the culture I want to build - we do things for one another.

Now my teenage kids... that's a different question altogether!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Photo shoot: laughing and crying

It's the day before a long weekend, a quiet day in the office, and I was scheduled for a photo shoot this morning. A national publication interviewed me for a story and, to my surprise asked for a mug shot but wanted to send their own photographer.

I don't mind being photographed but I don't relish it either. I'm too self conscious but it's good for FirstRain to have the exposure. Today was challenging though. It's a beautiful California day but windy. Really windy. So as the photographer shot, and the art director quaffed my hair, my eyes began to water from the wind. It felt like I was crying, and then was laughing at how challenging it was.

And Dennis came out with the candid camera so I'm sharing for smiles.

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