Last recession

This blog started I guess roughly in the middle of the last recession. NZ wasn’t as hard hit as the US but it still felt the echos for a few years.

For long time readers you know where it’s taken me so I’m ever grateful for that initial step – and the many that followed.

Now that you’re at home, what new things could or should start now?

If you have nothing to do, embrace being bored, play some games, read, spend time with friends/family.

It’s hard but it can be a realigning around the things that you really want to be doing. Or should be doing.

Give it some thought, mull it around, start something. Truly, if not now, when?

March 28th, 2020

Pre-mortem and backcasting

I recently finished Annie Dukes, Thinking in Bets.

Three takeaways from the book:

Place an actual bet
When people are at a disagreement, consider asking to put money down. And seeing how if that changes your position. It forces you to consider what weighting is going in to your POV and find the strengths and weaknesses of the position.

Noah in Why Is ThisInteresting – The Certainty Edition gave a succinct example:

I was recently accused of being obsessed with gambling. It wasn’t from driving to New Jersey to bet on sports (though I’ve considered it), but rather because I was trying to convince a friend to make a bet on a political prediction he was making. I wasn’t pushing him to bet because I was trying to take his money (though I feel confident I would have), but rather I was legitimately trying to understand how strongly he believed in what he was arguing. When he said he was sure this particular set of events was going to occur, I didn’t know if he was saying he was 90% or 10% certain. And there’s obviously a vast gap between those probabilities.

The other two are related, Pre-Mortems and Backcasting.

Backcasting is looking at an end result, then working backwards to go, what had to go right for that goal to happen. This is very astute. And forces a focus on making quality decisions, rather than just focusing on the next step.

Pre-mortems, are looking at a decision and figuring out what could go wrong for it to fall over. Then you can adjust.

All three practices, are to sharpen the quality of your decision making. Do read the book, there are other skills she shouts out which are invaluable.

March 19th, 2020

The web is failing us

I’ve recently become obsessed with this idea of finding new and different videographer talent from emerging areas, to throw some briefs at. Just to experiment, to explore. 

The challenge – finding them. And not that finding new and undiscovered or up and coming talent is meant to be easy. I mean it’s in the brief. 

Bare with me. If you search on Google, all you find is marketplaces. No real blog posts. Fresh new content isn’t indexed, because it’s not created like it used to be.

If you search on the social networks themselves, you don’t find anything, because they’re made for finding content, or specific people. 

Not types of people nor types of content. 

It’s a weird problem.

The web has failed us, in that it has become silo’d, we know this instinctively. But it’s not till you try find something new, something that you can’t just hit a like button and an algorithm will find it. 

Google has been the last bastion of discovering new. But now it’s seo’optimized to the lowest common denominator, that which gets a click. And people have stopped their own curating or publishing on their own blogs or tumblrs. 

It’s especially now, that hard, tangible, real, is what we need. 

If anyone knows some creative folks, who are having fun with video. I’m here.

March 16th, 2020

2019 Buffett Letter

I’ve yet to read ALL of his letters but have had a habit of reading them each year. For those who don’t know, each year Warren Buffett does an annual letter, updating on the company, commentary on general market and outlook.

This year is no different, you can read it here.

Here is my highlighted version with a few comments.

See my PDF for highlights but having a read a few things stuck out to me:

  • Reminding shareholders of the power of retained earnings. Berkshire owns public stocks in companies that they can’t control or unlikely to get a controlling position. Each share is paying a dividend yet retaining earnings 2-3 times that of the share. I think as shareholders you expect the shares to go up but do forget the ‘entitlement’ you have – and that those retained earnings are an investment back in you. Something to think about before you hit sell on shares – but also on time frames. It takes years for retained earnings to pay ‘dividends’ pun intended.
  • He grumps on the change to GAAP rules which require reporting unrealized gains/losses. So suggests a focus on operating earnings, to better reflect the reality.
  • To achieve a reputation as a good manager, you must buy good businesses.
  • In insurance they need disciplined risk evaluation. I think all businesses need this, more frequently. Consistently evaluating the risk and making decisions accordingly. I’d argue that this is the hallmark of all Berkshire companies. And something I want to improve in mine.
  • He speaks on Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which has only had modest consumer price increases whilst investing in renewable energy.
  • Berkshire tax payments represented 1 1/2% of ALL corporate tax payments in America. Crazy that it is so high.
  • There was a shout out to the new book, Margin of Trust, on the culture at Berkshire. Which I’ll pick up and have a read.
  • He lays out thoughts on what will happen post-Warren era, which for anyone who hasn’t or is thinking about future planning, worth reading.

My takeaways, there has long been talk of what play with Berkshire do next. And the hints are overt, a big play in energy, he’s calling out their track record of consumer prices, investment in renewables but also as a customer of the tax system. Read, we have a play that we will probably want government support on.

February 23rd, 2020

Play the cards you’ve got

It’s no use spinning wheels on things you can’t do.

If you’re getting stuck, do an audit of what cards you do have. Then play those. Push off. Make that move.

February 19th, 2020

2019 Book List

I saw some Twitter jokes about VC’s writing book lists for the year. Snark aside – I really enjoy book lists. If you have one, tweet me @bwagy

If you haven’t seen it I keep an ongoing updated list of my favourite books too.

This year in reading, I have been purposeful around doing the best format for a book, i.e. this is a good book for audio, so schedule it that way vs one I want to digest via paperback. I also wanted to tend towards reading older books, i.e. not just reading the latest/newest out the gate.

Here are my favorites from this year:

Ritz Escofier, caught this tweeted by Rafat, and really enjoyed it. Read the story of the Ritz Hotel came from its enigmatic founder.

Intelligent Investor, my absolute top read of the year. Nice to read a well written book, it’s oft recommended seldom read. For me, it just helped improve my thinking, particularly around personal vs business affairs.

Conspiracy, the story of the Peter Thiel and Gawker lawsuit. But weaved through with philosophy. A big takeaway from me, was the barriers to entry to ‘test’ the legal system in the US are so high that it isn’t tested enough.

Capitalism without Capital, exploring and breaking apart some of the things we have begun to take for granted, digital businesses, assets, our wealth in bits and bytes.

Miracle at Midway, a balanced view of the build up, the actual action and then post events. A deep dive in to the lens and view of each side of the conflict, told as the events unravel.

Titan [in progress] enjoying this, the biography of John D Rockefeller. I got the paper copy which is meaty, so grab the ebook if you like to read in bed. Reminds me of the Buffett one in a way – but with way more depth in the background.

Arsenal of Democracy, walking through how Ford (and other manufacturers) drove production during WWII. Analogous in so many ways to anyone building something audacious.

Effective Executive, another oft recommended seldom read, this I got on audiobook. A good synposis for any executive, at any stage of their career.

How about light reading? I have (and do) enjoy Clive Cusslers each year, whatever has been released. Explorers Journal is a new find for me and really enjoyable.

This time last year I also enjoyed this audiobook (or audio performance) of the Christmas Eve, Truce of 1914.

If you’re looking for something to read over the break, just buy a few. It’s rare that I have regretted the $10-$20 I’ve spent on a book.

December 6th, 2019

Dopamine Fasting

The NY Times has a piece on this, reducing the stimulation we get from technology.

Of course, it helps to have a trendy term for it, mashing up fasting with dopamine hits. Hence…

This makes me think of my grandad, who retired, just to go fishing. Solitude. Time to think. To not rush. Be in nature.

What are you doing to reduce the negative impacts of technology in your life? Reply or Tweet me any thoughts.

November 19th, 2019

Quarterly reports and Jonah Lomu

As a kid in New Zealand, Lomu was to Rugby as Jordan was to Basketball. Everyone wanted to do a side step, where you run at the other team then sidestep around them. You did not want to be on the opposing team against him.

I’m reviewing quarterly reports right now – and you see the sidestep or in our industry, the pivots. We were full steam ahead at this, then this happened, so we changed. Quickly. AND still got the ball across the line.

What’s most important is the fact that it happened, the team saw the landscape change – adjusted and closed out strong. Game over. Review/reflect/re-energise. Next quarter, next game.

If you haven’t seen any of Lomus play, see this highlight reel from the RugbyWorldCup.

October 18th, 2019

Logging every decision

I’ve found it immensely valuable of recent relying on my notes.

You never know, what in the future, will be important.

Of course you need to trade that off with practicality.

A couple I have found super helpful is, what decisions were made and the WHY. It’s the why that is the thing that likely changes in the future. And it’s the why that gives a decision directionality.

For example

We agreed to price it this way BECAUSE of X.


We agreed to price it this way.

Yes this is obvious but it’s things that are in plain sight that can be overlooked.

In a way, this is a note, to future Ben. Please keep this up.


September 12th, 2019

Consider yourself notified

Apple watch notifications.

iPhone Notifications.

Desktop notifications.

Tv notifications (?)

Email notifications.

Uber during-ride, in-app notifications.

Waze notifications.

Consumers can consider themselves notified.

It’s about now that brands are refining how they tell stories through this journey. From start to finish. Morning to evening. Home to work.

In some respects it’s frustrating, in others it’s an opportunity to continue the great work you’ve always done. But in personalized smart ways.

And if you’re not smart about it, people will opt out.

But for those that do, you’ll be duly rewarded.

August 13th, 2019

The kids door

In June I had a short trip to Spain and in San Sebastian found such a store with a children’s only door.

(As referenced in The Perfect Client)

It’s not the best photo but you get the idea. Once your child is in, you’re definitely going to follow.

Right here on the entrance it screams, this is for kids, we put them first. For people like that. Come on in.

It’s easy to think this is silly but it connects straight away. It’s that bold leap that we reward.

August 7th, 2019

Bread made from 4,500 year old yeast

This is the neatest thing I’ve seen in a while.

Click through to see the full thread.

August 7th, 2019

Edge cases

Edge cases are the points at which a process stops working. It’s the customer that tries to enter via the exit. Or wants to pay on card when you are cash only. Or someone that adds 20kg to a container that only holds 10kg.

Edge cases are helpful, they help you find the bounds or ranges of your process. Addressing them can further these bounds. Or constrain them. They are tactical real feedback.

How you address that feedback – sets the tone for future edge cases.

And most often the lens is, do we want to increase the addressability of our process? Or is this the limit we want? Both can be right. And both communicate to your customers.

July 26th, 2019

Zero carbon

Loved this, NZ to introduce zero carbon bill.

Target is 2050.

I wonder what I’ll be doing in the years 2050. Hopefully enjoying zero carbon!

What makes New Zealand an ideal test bed is that it is a completely cut off country. It’s discrete. Everything that comes and goes can be identified, tracked. I imagine there is some leakage but a lot lower that say a country in Europe.

It makes a perfect scenario for measuring it.

July 19th, 2019

Time to value, how far can you take it? Amazon knows

Amazon upped the ante reducing two day shipping to one day.

But even so, they are still looking at other ways to get value to the end consumer faster.

And I liked this, I bought a book in the weekend, and they let you give it a read BEFORE it arrives. Not sure how they handled the digital rights on this, maybe it is a book where they have both rights. Or maybe it leverages the free sample. Either way, there is an option for me to get started on a new book.

How deep do you have to be in the customer experience to go, lets do this.

That’s the standard for the rest of us to exceed.

July 17th, 2019

What are you doing all the way down here? You could:
- View my about page
- Or for first timers the New Here? page
- Or maybe email this to a friend
- Or subscribe to get blog updates