Monthly Archives: February 2010

Go and get married…

Tomorrow I will be attending the birthday party of a friend who is getting married this year. In that party there will be another friends who will be getting married as well this year. I have yet other friends getting married this year as well. First thought: “Javier, you are in the age where most of those around you get marry…”.

Second thought: weddings cost money, lots of money. And they do not only cost money but produce many exchanges of cash from one side to another: Buying dresses, rental of suits, nuptial cakes, rental of luxury cars, hotel rooms and saloon, expensive menus, free drinks, buses back and forth for the invitees, professional photographers, flowers, hundreds of haircuts, long lists of gifts from El Corte Ingles, honey moon trip to Bali, musicians (with the corresponding cannon to SGAE, it couldn’t be otherwise…), a voluntary donation to the church…

The Federación de Usuarios-Consumidores Independientes (FUCI) releases every year a study of the cost of a wedding per region and how much each item is costing. The latest study dates back from 2009.

From the study we learn that in 2009 a wedding cost around 18,380 euros on average. They were most expensive in Madrid, and the average cost had decreased 11% from 2008.

The study takes into account the expenses incurred by the ones organising the wedding. Can we assume that those attending it will incur in as many costs in gifts, haircuts, cleaning of suits, hotel rooms, transport, etc…? (This hypothesis comes from the not written rule which states that presents should aim to account at least for the same value of the menu which is ~50% of the cost incurred by spouses-to-be, the main assumption is in the other costs incurred by invitees -transport, hotel…). If so, let’s settle the turnover of a wedding in 35,000 euros.

How many people do get married in Spain in a year? From 2006 to 2008 the average was 204,000 weddings, with a slight decrease of 3.4% from 2007 to 2008.

Now the math is already there: this industry generated in 2008 around 7,000 million euros. Is this much? The same year aerospace industry in Spain had a consolidated turnover of 5,577 million euros. So the wedding sector weighs 25% more than the aerospace sector in Spain or around 0.7% of Spanish GDP (let me not enter in this post in the discussion of the value added of the sector… I still want to get invited to those weddings).

In line with the recent campaign “esto solo lo arreglamos entre todos”, my contribution: please encourage marriages and do get married!

I have a good friend who used to be quite against marriage. I hope this may help turning his opinion.

Aerospace and Weddings, value-adding and value-requiring sectors.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence

Most desired company to work for in Spain…

Today Spanish financial press gave some coverage to a study performed by Randstad, “Employer Branding: cuando la percepción puede convertirse en realidad”. To compile this study Randstad interviewed 10.000 workers between 18 and 65 years old in Spain.

Workers were asked what issues they considered most important at the time of choosing a company to work for, the highest rated ones were:

  1. Long-term stability, 69% of respondents.
  2. Better salaries, 67%.
  3. Good atmosphere in the workplace, 57%…

Most important factors when selecting a company to work for

Randstad found a high variability between men and women respondents and between different age groups.

After this introduction… what I wanted to say: EADS CASA (Airbus Military) was rated by respondents as the most desirable company to work for. (period)

Other remarkable companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Nokia Spain, Pfizer, Correos, Coca-Cola and Iberdrola.

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Filed under Aerospace & Defence

A Tale of Two Cities…

I’ve just finished reading the book “Hidden Madrid. A walking guide”, by Mark & Peter Besas, two Madrileños originally from New York. The book is terrific. It has hundreds of tales, anecdotes, curiosities, pictures, etc… of the city of Madrid:

  • The origin of futbolin.
  • The suicide mission of Eloy Gonzalo at Cascorro.
  • The voices of Palacio de Linares (Casa de America).
  • The origin of Atocha.
  • The miracles of San Isidro.
  • The priviledges of Paco the dog…

Last month I read a similar book about New York, written by another New Yorker (this one originally from Ohio), John Keatts, “Tales of New York: Some Will Surprise You”.

We met John at the Circle Line boat tour around the island of Manhattan last December. He was our guide. He not only had a very pleasant voice but kept telling more and more facts, stories and anecdotes about the city and the persons who marked the history of NY during the 3-hour journey.

He mentioned that he had written a book with these stories and when we were leaving the boat, my partner Luca saw him handing his book to someone, so we decided to stop and buy it. Another terrific book. As he puts it in his web:

  • A poor farm boy who began a simple ferry boat service, and became a millionaire
  • A renowned bridge-builder whose work on a statue would change his life
  • A newspaper man who seized an opportunity
  • A man whose building forced our skyline upward…

And yet a month before I read “How to survive Holland”, by Martijn de Rooi. Another wonderful book explaining many facts (traditions, food, history, sightseeing, sports…) about the Netherlands delivered with some self-deprecating humour and irony.

All three books are strongly recommended.

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Filed under Books, Travelling

Nothing like a good red wine…

The recent Tweet from Freakonomics http://bit.ly/9jsc3r, in which they tell how American supposedly fine wine aficionados could not tell the difference between the wine they were given and the one they were looking (and paying) for, reminds me of 3 different cases to point how we can be influenced in our perceptions:

  • The first is a personal anecdote. I have always preferred Coca-Cola over Pepsi, one of these people who had never bought a Pepsi in a supermarket. In 2007-2008 I did a test at home to see whether I was able to distinguish one from the other. I did the test with my partner. I was blind-folded while she poured same amount of Cola and Pepsi in two identical glasses. She left them for some couple minutes in the fridge so they would get same temperature, etc, etc. Then I tasted them. After trying the first glass I said “Pepsi, I don’t even need to try the other”. Then I thought it twice. I tried the second glass. Thought for some seconds. Then again the first. Then… then… I mixed everything in my mind and couldn’t distinguish one from the other, to the point of changing my initial choice and being wrong.

Whenever I tell this story to my friends, they tell me “I can distinguish them”: I challenge you to do so. Find a helper and take the test. Please let me know the result.

If you thought my test is not representative, here is another story:

  • This is a TED talk by Benjamin Wallace on the price of happiness. Benjamin goes exploring different luxury articles and finding that they don’t bring him or those close to him any special feeling. He indeed does a similar test to the one I did, this time with luxury oil, with more varieties to distinguish and more people to try them, the result… guess it.

 

After having read the case of the fake Pinot Noir, having suffered the non-distinguish ability of  Pepsi and hearing to the TED talk cases… we might wonder: why are we mislead so much by perceptions? Why do we pay more for something that doesn’t bring us any enhanced customer experience except for being able to tell that we paid that amount for this?

Last case I wanted to point…

  • The Dutch are well known for being a very pragmatic nation. Here you have a case, again, for wines (just to close the loop). What do you care about the brand of a wine? Let’s remove it. What do you appreciate in it? Is it the grape type? Is it the fruit flavour, the tannins? So that’s what you need to know!! The rest… better to call it “4. Red Wine” and remembering that it comes in a blue bottle… check it: http://94wines.com.

Prost!

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Three centuries of confusion

Last Monday I was reading an article in FT by Tony Jackson: “Is China an investment sweet spot or a sour lesson?”.

Not that I am thinking about investing there, but in this article I started reading sentences which rang bells… “the long-run correlation between real growth in gross domestic product and real equity returns is in fact slightly negative”, “reminder of the futility of long-range forecasting”, “how to explain the underwhelming performance of emerging equities, besides a simple propensity to overpay for growth?”…

Nevertheless, the best I got from this articles it wasn’t those reflections but that it referred me to the Credit Suisse annual study from the academics Dimson, Marsh and Staunton. 

This annual study contains wonderful data and graphics. Let me share some of them.

Later on the report very well summarises what we have read and heard so many times from Graham and/or Buffet:

“Value stocks sell for relatively low multiples of earnings, book value or dividends. They may be mature businesses with an unexciting future, or they may have a depressed share price that anticipates setbacks. Growth stocks sell for relatively high valuation ratios, reflecting favorable prospects for the business, and their stock price anticipates cash flows that are expected to get larger in the future.

For larger US companies, over the longest available period (end-1926 to end-2008), the difference between the annualized returns on the Fama-French value and growth indexes is 2.5%. In other words, the premium for US value stocks, relative to large companies as a whole, is approximately +1.2%, while the «premium» for growth stocks is of the same magnitude but negative.”

Finally the report reviews the case for different countries and regions. Among them The Netherlands, where the stock exchange originated with Dutch East India Company. Here we find a reference to the book “Confusión de confusiones” by Jose de la Vega (1688), an Spaniard who wrote the first book ever on the stock exchange business. 

I will end this post with one quotation from the book: “What really matters is an awareness of how greed and fear can drive rational people to behave in strange ways when they gather in the marketplace.” (We have heard this lately from someone else as well).

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Filed under Books, Investing

From climbing to merely walking

On Saturday 13 February, some friends and I joined the “Grupo de Empresa” hiking group in a walk around the Sierra. It’s been years since I haven’t gone walking one of these routes. I kind of missed it.

This time we went to La Pedriza, close to Manzanares El Real. The march took almost 6 hours. At moments we found it quite complex and very exhausting. Maicol kept telling us that the difficulty was 3… but 3 what?

I did some research.

First, from the Wiki we learn that what we did was just senderismo. We indeed saw all the signs described in the Wikipedia, thus that path was registered in the Federation.

From the colour of the signs we saw, we can also learn that we did a Pequeño Recorrido  instead of a Gran Recorrido. Following this lead, we can find that there are 37 of those in Madrid, and that the one we did was: “PR-M-1, Circular a La Pedriza” (the M stands for Madrid). Those are supposed to have between 10 and 50km length, thus ours is just within the minimum distance of that margin.

I found another site (in Spanish as well) with different ways to rate these paths:

  • Rating the kind of terrain: ours would be type 3 (from 1 to 7).
  • Rating the differences in height: it would be no more than 3 or 4 (from 0 to 7).
  • All in all, the web proposes one single rating: in which difficulty 3 would be just “moderate” (from 1 to 6).

Next time, we might consider giving less drama to such a heroic achievement.

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Filed under Sports, Travelling

New marketing

Some weeks ago I attended the presentation of a book at EOI business school, “Claves del Nuevo marketing” (which can be downloaded in pdf freely).

At the moment of writing this post I have not yet read the book, though it seemed quite interesting: Eighteen different authors just gathered to write different chapters on their area of expertise.

The conference itself was quite entertaining. Two of the authors were commenting their views on metrics and on viral marketing.

They quoted some articles, videos and examples that I want to quickly refer here:

  • Article from Marshall Sponder & Cecilia Pineda Feret in Customer Intelligence, discussing the possible entry of Google on Social Media monitoring and what could this mean.
  • On viral marketing it was interesting the questioning of whether it really reaches that many people. We tend to think so, but does it really do so? Check out this funny video (in Spanish).
  • Another very interesting video: “Redes Sociales – ¿Revolución o Moda?” (the video is in English, “Social Networks – Revolution or Fashion?).

I’m just referring to these topics as discussing them at length would need many different posts. I hope you enjoy them.

That day, EOI was distributing the latest issue of the marketing magazine “Yorokobu”. I will comment in a near future different things I read there (e.g. 94wines…).

One last thing I wanted to share with you: my Lego. I had seen advertisements about cartoonfying yourself, but I found this one in the Yorokobu magazine even funnier. This is as close as I could get to myself.

Lego of myself

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Filed under Books