Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tumblr says Google is worth $4.2 trillion


Barron’s story about Yahoo’s acquisition of tumblr fuels fears
and reservations about Silicon Valley valuations, especially
compared to ones that are grounded in reality.

To be clear, this is not meant as a knock against Barron’s reporting.
It’s outstanding, as usual.

What’s disturbing is the $1.1 billion price Yahoo paid for tumblr,
a company that received more than $125 million in venture funding
but has only produced $13 million in revenue, Barron’s reported.

The metric used for valuating Yahoo’s price for tumblr is about 84.62
times the micro-blogging website’s annual revenue. 

While tumblr may bring a unique advantage to Yahoo, what hasn’t
been made clear in any of the reporting is whether tumblr’s
technology is so proprietary it can’t be duplicated.

Tumblr, then, in many ways, is a glimpse of how venture capitalists
value website start-ups; but this euphoria or, if you prefer, valuations
far beyond reality, cannot last.

At some point, Silicon Valley industry directors and executives will
sober up, realizing Wall Street values these start-ups for far less than
the venture capitalists searching for the next greatest fool to pay
a price that's far beyond reasonable for the company they’ve invested
in and helped build.

The tumblr acquisition shows that venture capitalists, their investors
and the start-up’s employees are the winners.  The shareholders
of the acquiring company, based on what happened to Yahoo’s
stock last week, are the losers. 

If the metrics for valuating tumblr are used with Yahoo or with the
Silicon Valley’s standard-bearer of the health of the technology
industry, Google, then these two companies are worth far more,
at least by venture capitalist standards, than Wall Street says.

For example, Yahoo, during 2012, produced about $4.9 billion
in revenue; its market capitalization is about $30 billion, which is
just over six times the company’s annual revenue, a metric far
less than what it paid for tumblr.

But if tumblr’s recent value – based on the price for which it was
just purchased – is applied to Yahoo, then Yahoo should be worth
about $422 billion. 

For that matter, Google, which produced about $50 billion in 2012,
should be worth about $4.2 trillion and yet the search engine’s market
capitalization is but a humble $290 billion, just under six times
annual revenue.

Facebook, the most recent Silicon Valley player to go public,
produced $5 billion in revenue in 2012 and has a market
capitalization of $60 billion, or 12 times revenue; applying the
tumblr valuation, the social media website should be worth $422 billion.

Based on the reality of Wall Street – around six times annual
revenue – Yahoo shouldn’t have bid more than $80 million for tumblr.

How long venture capitalists can secure the kind of valuations that
tumblr just received is hard to say.  How long Silicon Valley executives
want to be the fools of venture capitalists is also difficult to predict.

But anyone who’s ever followed valuations and traditional 
economics knows prices cannot remain this high forever.  At some
point, the rubber meets the road.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beauty's tyranny


Clothing styles constantly change – especially for women – but our
collective thoughts about what constitutes a beautiful woman
remains, with a few nuances, steady:  She’s young, often blond,
slim, with breasts and buttocks men will notice.

If a woman’s physical appearance falls outside this precise
definition, she’s old, ugly, worthless, to be ostracized, perhaps
even used.

And while many a man, including me, has cracked a few jokes
about the time it takes a woman to get ready, there’s something
all men would do well to keep in mind:  Women’s looks are harshly
judged and often their inner voices are bellowing, telling them
they’re not thin enough, young enough, stylish enough, beautiful
enough, possibly even blond enough, to attract a man.

It’s in the advertising; the magazines and newspapers; on the web;
on television; it’s in the movies and it’s in the stores.  Women
are surrounded and pressured by this message.

Beauty requires monthly appointments at the hair stylist, time
for a facial, never enjoying a meal, never eating dessert, and
allotting enough minutes in the bathroom, so she can make her
hair just right and her skin youthful, so she turns a few heads,
if not from men, from her biggest critics – other women.

Compare what she endures to how the average man sees
himself:  He might be 20 – 30 pounds overweight, but Adonis
is in the mirror, even when he’s naked.

Women feel something that rarely touches any man:  The
tyranny of beauty.

For teenage girls, especially, as well as young women in
their 20s, these exacting standards are so powerful they can
make them depressed, feeling ugly, unwanted, unappreciated,
leaving, potentially, a life-lasting impact.

And yet, there’s someone rarely asked for their opinion
about what they want in a woman – a man.

Most men, some published reports say, aren’t likely going
for the woman living the Madison Avenue-developed, 
Hollywood-produced, fashion-idea of good looks.

Both Psychology Today and Everyday Fitness, a blog produced
by the Discovery Channel, report men prefer curvy, fuller
looking women than the ones presented by the fashion industry.

But ideas so rooted in our culture die hard.  Models remain thin
and many of us take our  beauty cues from those appearing in
magazine ads, across television screens, perhaps even on the web.

So it’s no wonder Jes Baker, a woman with a fuller figure, 
perhaps even – dare I say it – fat, took it upon herself to
complain about feeling ostracized by Abercrombie and Fitch
because of her size.  She deserves a medal for her work.

Apparently there’s even a statement, from seven years ago, 
attributed to the retail chain’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, saying he
doesn’t want larger people shopping his store.

But let’s face facts:  The thin model appearing in Abercrombie
and Fitch ads is no different than the one appearing in many other ads.

In fact, the last time I saw an ad featuring “real women” – that
is, those not thin as a rail – goes back maybe a decade ago
and it was for Dove soap. 

As I recall, they placed ads on television and billboards showing
real women in their underwear and, frankly, each one was beautiful.

The soap maker has continued this theme with another round
of television or online video ads, asking women to describe
themselves to an artist who never sees them but draws them
based on their descriptions.

The artist then asks people, who just met these same women,
to describe them. 

Two pictures of each woman are placed side by side and no one
should be surprised to learn that the second pictures, where the
women were described by someone else, were not only a more
accurate representation of their looks but also more beautiful.

In other words, the women failed to realize how attractive they
are.  But others – even those they’d just met – did.

And then an epiphany sets in:  Each woman learns the world
sees her as far better looking than she’s ever seen herself.

So the fashion industry and parts of the retail business, as well
as our own society, have done a fine job providing women
with an inferiority complex.

Men have suffered, too.  These exacting standards prevent 
them from searching for women with great personalities or ones 
with high intelligence – in other words, women who may not
meet beauty’s standards.

Instead, he feels compelled to look for the woman that meets
the definition but who may very well look at him with the
same cutting eyes used against her.

Men have their own beauty expectations to fill.  They’re to be
tall, dark and handsome; in other words, six feet tall, with broad
shoulders.

Beauty forces us into a mold.  Instead of putting our efforts toward
finding someone whose mind connects with ours, who will improve
our souls, through a loving, in-depth relationship, we’re focused
on the superficial – the butts, the boobs, the hair, the height and
the shoulders – which fails all of us no matter our gender.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The worries of Tumblr


You can’t help but wonder what Yahoo’s top corporate executives
are doing.  Sure buying blogging site Tumblr appears, at least on the
surface, to be a fine idea but what about that price?

According to newspaper reports, Yahoo paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr,
a company that generated only $13 million last year. 

Apparently making the deal irresistible was that Tumblr, according
to published reports, has between 117 and 300 million unique monthly
visitors, many of them younger – perhaps even slimmer – than the
average Yahoo user, described, in a blog at the Los Angeles Times,
and another, in Digital Trends, as “Overweight women ages 18 to 49,
who tend to be in relationships of only one to five years with children, 
residing in the suburbs or rural areas.”

The pending acquisition raises many questions and points that, perhaps,
weren’t vetted as closely as possible, including whether Tumblr’s
hipsters will want to be part of a web portal that fat, middle aged women
find attractive?

There are also other questions, too, including the following:

The information about the number of unique monthly visitors isn’t clear.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Tumblr has about 117 million
but according to Tuesday’s Investor’s Business Daily, it’s around
300 million. 

For the sake of shareholders, can Yahoo provide a unique monthly
user number that holds up to what ComScore reports, 117 million?

While apparently it’s difficult but not impossible to sell ads on Tumblr,
a more worrisome issue for Yahoo is Tumblr’s users, who, based
on what’s been reported, have no reason to remain with Tumblr.

In other words, they can flee to other micro blogging websites or
start one of their own.  If that’s true, what’s the value of Tumblr to
Yahoo?  Is this really a technology play?

Did Yahoo consider the possibility that if Tumblr’s revenues never
move north of $13 million, it could take it close to 86 years to earn
what it paid for the site?

If it can generate, as one former Google executive said on his blog,
about $100 million a year, it will only take Yahoo about 10 years
to have Tumblr paid off.  Does that number hold up if the users flee?

If there really are only 117 million unique monthly users for Tumblr,
then Yahoo paid about $9.40 for each of them.  Do they have a plan
in place to keep them?  What will it cost?

While Yahoo’s Tumblr acquisition might make sense – let’s assume
CEO Marissa Mayer knows what she’s doing – what’s not certain
is how this acquisition will move Yahoo’s stock price.

Based on what’s happened this week, so far, the stock market
appears to have welcomed Yahoo’s acquisition, modestly moving
its stock price up from where it had been on Monday, meaning that
while Wall Street approves the deal, it’s far from excited about it,
and, quite possibly, doesn’t understand it.

The larger, overriding issue is that economics catches up with
every industry.  It might not happen for a decade or 20, possibly,
even 30 years but, in time, economics determines how industries
mature, prosper, fall apart and work.

Right now, we appear to be seeing the maturing of the Internet
industry as it consolidates.

When an industry is new, entrepreneurs and companies of all shapes
and sizes often step in because they see an opportunity to thrive.
Only a very limited few will succeed but, as with PowerBall gambling,
if the winnings are viewed as being high enough, many will throw
their hat into the ring.

But eventually there’s a contraction as investors cash out, taking their
earnings and banking them for another future opportunity while
others shut down, not always able to sell the assets they once
used in the new industry.

This activity – of one company buying another – usually leaves
fewer players, making the new industry look like an oligarchy,
with a few dominant companies keeping a close eye on one another.

While it’s hard to believe today, the U.S. automotive
industry back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was
composed of about 2,800 companies.  They included mom
and pop shops to long established companies in the horse-drawn
wagon business trying their hand on a new idea – mechanized
transportation.

The automotive industry’s new technology was so successful,
disruptive even, that it killed off horse draw wagons.

Today, there are three automotive companies headquartered in
the United States, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, but only
two are U.S.-owned, Ford and General Motors. Italian carmaker
Fiat owns Chrysler.

The U.S. daily newspaper industry suffered a similar fate, from
being an industry once composed of more than 5,000 titles, back
in the late 19th century, according to About.com, to one that publishes
just over 1,400 different papers today.

Little deals like Tumblr, at a shocking price of $1.1 billion, are
small.  Tumblr will become a division of Yahoo – not something
that fundamentally alters Yahoo.

Deals like Tumblr – where the company was valued at nearly 85
times more than its annual revenues – can’t continue.  If Tumblr
never brings in $800 million, or even $1 billion – and it’s hard to
see how it will – Internet executives will hesitate, and likely refuse,
to pay such extraordinary multiples for the next company whose
revenues don’t come close to backing up the valuation its
investors claim.

The wild-eyed optimism of the Internet -- $1 billion for Tumblr
or Facebook’s recent valuation at $500 billion (when it’s only
doing over $5 billion a year) – will end. 

As the Internet industry matures, the question that needs to be
answered is what’s the future for Yahoo, Google and Bing?
Which one of these players will buy the other to provide it
with the long-term competitive advantage it needs?

Growing up is hard to do, says the adage, and anyone
who’s been in an industry’s infantile stage knows excitement
dims as the adults move in to make sure it lives up to its claims.

So, David Karp, for your sake, let’s hope you’ve cashed out
handsomely and stashed the money where it’s safe because
you’re about to be upbraided by Marissa Mayer as she holds
your feet to the fire.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Oh, the fuss: The Manners, where are they now?


Etiquette – sometimes referred to as “manners,” that type of behavior
parents once taught their kids so they wouldn’t act on their impulses – 
gives every appearance of being pushed aside, replaced by
insensitive and crass behavior in everything from cutting in line to
drivers flipping one another the bird.

And it isn’t limited to Massachusetts. 

I’ve seen it in many places – from the male chauvinist in Eugene,
Ore., with whom I had business dealings during my Tribune days,
to a racist working at a Boston Market in Lombard, Ill., and a gay
man in Washington, who refused to promote a colleague of mine
because she was African American.

What do they call that, WWB?  Working While Black.
I don’t know.

But it shows that jerks are everywhere.

It was telling moment, three years ago, when a lady working behind
the counter at a nearby Starbucks thanked me for saying please and
thank you as she attended to my order. 

“Thank you for being so considerate,” she said.

““You all do a great job here,” I said, caught off guard by her
comment.

“Not everyone thinks so,” she replied.

Two summers ago, my wife was flipped off as she drove out of the
parking lot of a local train line carrying commuters in and out of 
Boston.  I guess the other driver thought he was more
important. 

Never once did that happen in the 16 years we lived in a Chicago suburb.
But, of course, it’s possible it happens in other suburbs of the country’s
third largest city.

My wife and I spend a lot of time teaching our kids manners.  Everything
from how they dress and speak, including how they handle themselves
at the dinner table, has been reviewed hundreds, thousands, maybe
millions, of times.

Obviously, we haven’t perfected this – we only need to see how our sons,
10 and 9, behave at home to know how badly we’re doing – but we
work on their behavior nonetheless.

I’m always grateful when another adult reports that they’re well behaved,
but I also wonder whose kids they’re really talking about. 

If only we could get them to behave at home – without the constant
reminders!

Right now, we’re following the advice more experienced parents provided:
Eventually they’ll grow up; in the meantime, keep repeating the lessons. 

During recent trips to a nearby mall, where I was buying the boys new
clothes, I kept up the lessons, telling them – well, to be completely
truthful, it entailed gripping their shoulders so they’d stand still – to
allow the women to board and depart the elevator before they did. 

The reaction, on both occasions, was fascinating.

One woman noticed what I was doing and smiled while the other
appeared incredulous, giving the impression that I was wasting
time.  She shook her head and chuckled.  Fortunately neither boy
picked up on the reaction of the second woman.

And while this is hardly a scientific survey, these reactions might
provide a clue as to where we stand on manners today.  Half of
the country is grateful for them while the other half is so jaded
it’s not expecting them – hardly a good thing, I’d say.

Still, we should aim for civilized behavior.  It doesn’t take much
to remind ourselves we’re not the only ones on the planet.  Just
look up from your wireless, handheld device and you’ll see them.

About a year ago, when the boys were earning their Cub Scout
Citizenship Pin, they met the local police chief.  During the
meeting, I had one of the boys ask a question – What could
they do to be good citizens?

He gave a wonderful, simple answer that the kids still remember:
Open doors for others and always say please and thank you.  Be
considerate.  Be nice. 

Words to live by.

Friday, May 10, 2013

U.S. Newspaper Executives are no match for the Koch Brothers


Sometimes it’s hard – really hard! – to take newspapers seriously.

I do when they’re covering wars, politics, crime and most business
events. 

But when it comes to covering their own kind – the newspaper industry
– their collective heads are stuck in their collective … well … I won’t say. 

This is a family-friendly blog, and you get the idea.

If the Koch Brothers – apparently prospective buyers of Tribune’s
newspapers, which includes the Los Angeles Times – read yesterday’s
New York Times, I hope they’re not shaking in their boots. 

More than 1,000 people, said The Times, “pledged to cancel their
subscriptions” and “110,000 (people) … signed petitions opposing
the sale” of the L.A. Times to David and Charles Koch.

Seriously, take it from me, compared to other previous, controversial
owners who successfully owned newspapers where they weren’t
 greeted with a parade and a red carpet on day one of their ownership,
1,000 or so readers is nothing.

Even if that number is way off – let’s triple it to 3,000 just to be, dare
I use the word, conservative – it’s still hardly anything to fear.

The L.A. Times, according to one of the most recent audits, sells nearly
1 million copies on Sunday and over 650,000 copies Monday
through Friday. 

Do the math, using the daily circulation figure, and you realize
we’re talking way less than 1 percent of the newspaper’s
circulation if those 1,000 readers follow up their threats.

Take it to 3,000 subscribers and the potential circulation loss is
just under half of 1 percent – far from an end-of-the-world-as
-we-know-it nightmare.

Nearly 30 years ago, in January 1984, Rupert Murdoch – you
know, the Devil himself, the man who, when he’s not running
his global media empire, is working hard to kill off democracy
his critics say – purchased the Chicago Sun-Times from Marshall
Field, taking a circulation hit of about 30,000.

Now if 30,000 subscribers abandon the L.A. Times – just over
4.5 percent of the paper’s Monday through Friday consumer
sales – then, yes, there’s reason to worry. 

But if the past is prologue, those readers will soon realize no one
else in Southern California is publishing a newspaper like the
Los Angeles Times, and they’ll return to the fold.

How do I know this?  My dad, Bob Page, was Murdoch’s
publisher at the Sun-Times.

“It took time but it all (the reader losses) came back,” dad says.

I’m not here to promote either Murdoch or a Koch Brothers
purchase of Tribune’s papers.

What I’m here to say is that L.A. Times columnist Steve
Lopez and some of his fellow reporters have little reason
to be upset about the prospect of a Koch Brothers ownership.

Sure there’ll be some changes if they wind up owning the
paper, but what Steve and his colleagues need to keep in
mind is that if that turns out to be the case, they’ll work to
make the Los Angeles Times a successful business. 

Say what you will about them – and I’ll even go along with Mr.
Lopez and say some of the critiques of the Kochs are worrisome
– the Koch Brothers are capitalists first, political partisans second.

It doesn’t do them any good to spend about $1 billion on
Tribune’s papers only to see them close up a year or two later.

Now if Steve and his colleagues want to argue against the
Koch Brothers because they don’t know a thing about running
a newspaper, that’s a different story.  I'm in complete
agreement with that line of thinking.

But instead of doing the obvious, Steve and his colleagues are
focusing on the Kochs’ politics, reasoning the banks and the lenders
– now Tribune Company’s owners – could care less about.

This harsh reaction against the Koch Brothers – solely because of
their politics – is similar to the one that greeted Rupert Murdoch as
he worked to buy Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.

Many in the media business, including the Financial Times’ Martin
Wolf, said it would be the end of the Journal, a completely
ridiculous thought. 

I exchanged emails with Wolf about his views, suggesting he explain
why the Bancrofts should be allowed to go on as the owners of Dow
Jones.  Even Mr. Wolf – a helluva reporter on everything but the
newspaper industry – thought the Bancrofts hadn’t done a very
good job owning the company.

(And, yes, in case you’re wondering, I still have the email from
Mr. Wolf as well as the one I sent him.)

The great tragedy of the newspaper industry is that its biggest players
are nowhere to be seen or heard of as interested parties in Tribune’s
papers.  Gannett, The Washington Post, The New York Times
Company, even Newhouse and Cox are missing in action.

Instead, according to what’s reported, Tribune’s board of directors
will receive two bids for their papers, one from Rupert Murdoch,
and another from the Koch Brothers, maybe three or four if David
Geffen and Eli Broad step up with their offers.

In other words, besides Murdoch, an Australian by birth and a
U.S. citizen since the ‘80s, no other U.S. newspaper executive is
demonstrating enough confidence in their industry – let alone their
management skills – to bid on the country’s fourth largest newspaper,
the Los Angeles Times, and its sister Tribune papers.

That should be the issue making Steve Lopez’s skin crawl.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Rushing to Obsolescence: The Limbaugh Story


Yeah, I use to listen to Rush Limbaugh. 

It was back in the early to mid-1990s, when my traveling sales job took me to exciting metropolises like Salina, Kansas; Joplin, Missouri; Sioux City, Iowa; Columbus, Nebraska; and Grand Forks North Dakota.

This was before satellite radio was added to rental cars, so, often, there was little or no selection on the AM or FM dials after leaving the broadcasting range of the stations in some of the larger Midwestern and Southern cities I once visited.

So Rush, unlike his liberal counterparts, was often the only game on the dial. 

He was pretty funny back then.  And let’s face it, in Bill Clinton, he had a lot material to work with.

(I’ve come to miss the Clinton years; he was a capable president, with an uncanny ability to keep the extremists in both parties at bay.)

I haven’t spent any time listening to Rush since 1996, when my full-time business travels ended, so I’m not sure what he sounds like anymore or even what does on the air.

But I worry when anyone attempts to censor anyone else.  I’m not a registered with any political party, but there should always be a full airing of all views, even the ones that are bothersome, irritable, na├»ve or disagreeable. 

Besides, if we live in the progressive society we think we do, then we need to act like one and not support anyone’s censorship efforts against any one else.  Your favorite radio station or television host, columnist or book author could be targeted next.

Censorship efforts are also risky.  They can provide sympathy for the target.

In other words, Rush’s is in the news today because someone is telling Dairy Queen they’re not buying Blizzards anymore until their ads are off his show.  Someone – who may not hold Rush’s views – is hearing this and thinking it’s unfair.

So what to do about Rush?

He’s on the verge of collapse.  He’s been on the air for more than 20 years, had a good run and is likely repeating himself, which happens to many in the media world.

If his opinions were that unique or his arguments that good, he would be on many more stations, especially given that a Democrat is back in the White House.

The market is judging him – harshly.  He’s on fewer than 600 radio stations (he peaked at just over 600 stations in the mid-1990s) and if you study his list of stations (it can be found here: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/stations/all_stations/, you’ll notice his show sometimes carried on two radio stations in the same city simultaneously. 

In other words, add it all up and he’s not as effective as he once was.

No radio sales manager – regardless of their own political affiliation – will want to keep the Rush show if he’s not delivering the audience merchants demand.

Rush will spin out of control by himself.  He doesn’t need your help.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Kindred Spirits: Immigration and Slavery?


Anyone supporting unlimited immigration into the United States might review the history of the antebellum South of the 19th Century.

While there’s no doubt that slavery was perverse, causing incredible harm against African Americans, it had another victim that few likely know – lower class, independent, white, businessmen, sometimes poor, sometimes middle class.

They were the service providers, fixing fences or performing odd jobs around an owner’s plantation.

William H. Freehling, a retired history professor at the University of Kentucky, writes in his two-volume series detailing Southern life, politics and economics prior to the U.S. Civil War, entitled The Road to Disunion, small white businessmen were often at a disadvantage because they were competing against either free blacks or slave labor. 

Often it was easier and cheaper, Freehling writes, for a plantation owner to turn to his slaves when work needed to be done around his estate that didn’t include planting or tending to the crops.

History repeating itself?

Nearly 150 years since the end of the Civil War, yesterday’s New York Times reports (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/07/us/suit-cites-race-bias-in-farms-use-of-immigrants.html?pagewanted=2&src=twrhp) a similar issue exists today.

Only it’s not about lower class whites being at a competitive disadvantage.  It’s mostly about lower class African Americans, The Times reports, unable to secure work on a farm, Southern Valley, in Georgia.

Their competition?  Immigrant labor but with a new twist:  It’s not about pay, say the owners and operators of Southern Valley, it’s about attitude. 

Southern Valley’s Director of Operations Jon Schwalls compared Mexican and guest workers to Americans this way:

“When Jose gets on the bus to come here from Mexico he is committed to the work.  It’s like going into the military. He leaves his family at home. The work is hard, but he’s ready. A domestic wants to know: What’s the pay? What are the conditions? In these communities, I am sorry to say, there are no fathers at home, no role models for hard work. They want rewards without input.”

The story reports a lawsuit was recently settled by some of the workers and it included, The Times said, Southern Valley agreeing “to make certain changes,” which were left unclear in the article.

Lawyers for the American workers, The Times reports, say the guest worker program, which allows foreign laborers to work for limited periods of time in the United States, “is rigged to favor low-cost foreign labor because, given the conditions and the pay, no one else will do it.”

In U.S. politics, the Democratic Party’s constituency is often voters on the lower end of the economic spectrum.  If Democrats can’t help low-skill laborers, like the ones formerly employed by Southern Valley, are there other constituents they can’t help?  Are these workers the Democratic Party’s sacrificial lambs because they’re in a Red State?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Reject Sandberg's Lean In at Your Peril

There are at least two reasons why any can man dismiss Sheryl
Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead:

First, she’s the number two, the chief operating officer of Facebook,
a vastly popularsocial networking website claiming more than 1 billion users.

Second, she’s working in an industry that’s suffered few setbacks.
While she’s done a highly impressive job at Facebook, she has yet
demonstrate the turnaround skills of former Chrysler Chairman Lee
Iacocca or, if you prefer a gender equivalent, Marissa Mayer, likely
to be lauded for reversing Yahoo!’s fortunes as its chief executive officer.

There’s at least one reason why both men and women can dismiss Sandberg:

She’s never started a company. She’s almost to Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerbergwhat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could have
been to President Barack Obama had he shown the guts to chose her,
not Joe Biden, as vice president – the accomplished, seasoned woman
in the role of number two to the Man with Potential.

In fact, Sandberg almost looks like the candidate many voted against
during the 2008 Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process.
She’s a Harvard grad and holds an MBA from the same university;
was a consultant at McKinsey & Company; worked in the
U.S. Treasury Department, where she was the chief of staff to Larry
Summers, when he headed Treasury; and was one of Google’s
senior executives prior to joining Facebook five years ago.

There’s at least one reason why older women, like some
who’ve been so passionate in their rejection of Lean In,
can dismiss Sandberg:

She’s Jane Come Lately to feminism. She didn’t do the marches
in the ‘60s and the ‘70s – the fact that she wasn’t born until after
Woodstock is no excuse! – and never experienced raw
discrimination the way many of today’s older women did when
they were younger.

In other words, she’s neither suffered nor paid her dues in the
secretarial pool,as so many women did as they entered the
workforce in the 1960s and 1970s.

Finally, the biggest reason to reject Sandberg’s book is one that
anyone can relate to – she’s rich!  According to some reports,
she’s a billionaire.

Her success has made many jealous, especially two columnists at
newspapers that are polar opposites of one another, and that alone
should tell anyone that Sandberg’s book is on the right track.

But anyone who rejects her advice does so at their peril.

She’s worked hard and, like anyone else who’s successful, had
help along the way, which she mentions in her book.

So say what you will about the imperfections of Sandberg’s
advocacy, but her success wasn’t handed to her.

Besides, when it comes to advocacy, there’s rarely one who’s
perfect. Some of the biggest names in U.S. history were flawed
but decent men, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln,
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Malcolm X, to name a few. There are likely many others.

Like many top corporate officers, Sandberg holds down a demanding
job and has a family that includes two children and a spouse, her
husband David. Her life is a constant balancing act between
professional matters and family ones.

Her philosophy on managing both is one that many working
women – and men – will find valuable:

“’Done is better than perfect.’ Done, while a challenge, turns out
to be far more achievable and often a relief.”

She’s experienced sexual harassment in a way that many men might
dismiss, and seen her professional accomplishments go unappreciated
when she was searching for work.

She does an excellent job of pointing out why women feel pressured
to leave their careers after they become mothers.

In her book, Sandberg’s attempting to liberate women from their guilt
over mothering while they’re holding down fulltime jobs as well as free
men from being straight-jacketed into jobs instead of devoting
time – maybe even all of their time – into bringing up children.

While it appears she’s advancing the next phase of the feminist
cause, she’s really expanding the boundaries of what’s acceptable
in family life – for both men and women.

What some women might find upsetting about Sandberg’s book
is that instead of blaming a guy, a man or even a culture for
women’s lack of professional success, Sandberg is saying women
have only themselves – and other women! – to blame
for not achieving their goals at the office.

Professional women, she says, should look out for other women,
mentoring them wherever and whenever possible and providing
time they need to attend to their home life without suffering
consequences at the office.

But Sandberg is also an advocate for men. She acknowledges
and names the many men who’ve helped her in her career, including
former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Google Chairman Eric
Schmidt and two male colleagues, plus a senior manager, who she
worked alongside at McKinsey & Co.

This is not the anti-man book and perhaps that’s why some
women – especially New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd
and New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser – take issue with
Sandberg.  But, frankly, after reading both critiques, I wondered
if either one had done it all at the same time – been married, held
a full-time job and brought up kids.

I’m guessing neither has.

As to Peyser’s point that Sandberg doesn’t mention stepping on
a few toes to get ahead in Corporate America, if you’re reading
Sandberg’s book for that kind of advice, you’re early on in your
career.

Read Sandberg’s book – regardless of your gender -- to learn
how you can become a better executive, maybe even a better person.

---------------------------

In my own career, I’ve experienced some of subjects Sandberg writes
about. The following are a few examples:

• As the stay-at-home, work-at-home dad, I’ve seen the quizzical and
suspicious looks from many, both men and women, who’ve wondered
why I’m at the house, not the office.

To answer my critics: One, I really am working, often as freelance
reporter. Two, the question – my guilt trip – is this: Who hugs the kids
after they get off the school bus?  Who shows them that a bad day
at school isn’t their worst, and their good day at school is one of their
best? I don’t know either. No after school program can do it as well as
I can. Three, who makes sure homework gets done in a timely
fashion? Four, who takes the boys to their after school activities?
Five, you’re quite right, I’m hardly earning as much as my wife does.
But I hope – just as my mom did when she stayed home back
in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s – my contributions are just as valuable
as my wife’s paycheck.

• If there’s one skill many men could develop at the office, it’s
this – diplomacy. Think before you talk so you don’t acerbate your
female colleagues. Keep your inner chauvinist buried. During my
corporate days, I took many a man aside to tell them they needed to
improve their communication skills with their female colleagues.

• If there’s any one thing women could do to help themselves, it’s
to take Sandberg’s advice – be confident. None of us are perfect but the
single largest difference between men and women is this: Men think they
can while women are seeking credentials. Or as one weekend soccer
coach told me, “Little girls ask a lot of questions so they understand
what to do in every situation; little boys just kick the ball.”  Ladies –
kick the ball and don’t worry about failure.

• There’s little difference between men and women. I once had a
staff composed almost entirely of women. I learned that both
genders are equally ambitious and both genders – with the exception
of childbirth and perhaps a few other things – can do what
the other has traditionally done. I know how to sew. I know how
to cook. For the record, my wife is a better cook than I am, and
my mother and my mother-in-law were and are handier with a
sewing needle than me.

• The biggest difference between some women and between some
men is personality. Some are ambitious and want to accomplish goals.
Some are waiting for a handout. One’s gender doesn’t determine one’s
level of ambition.

• More than one woman has cried in my office, which is one of the
reasons I took my wife’s advice. I always kept a box of tissues on my
credenza. Crying is hardly a sign of weakness. And it’s certainly not a
character flaw. It’s just a person’s brain and emotions out of sync and
sometimes feeling pain. It usually doesn’t last more than a few minutes.

• Parenting is an ugly job, sometimes demanding one’s time at the most
inconvenient of moments. More employers need to know that. I still
recall the time I had my office in eye shot one morning when,
suddenly, the daycare called my cell phone, saying one of my sons
was feverish and needed to leave immediately.

• Sometimes we’re called to do something that we have no experience
doing. Don’t sweat it. Just do it.

I once had to provide trauma care to my younger brother after he
was hit by truck’s outside, rearview mirror. My lessons on trauma
care, at that point, came from the war movies I had watched and a
popular television show, “Emergency.”

I was 11 years old, my brother was seven, and we were living in
Hong Kong. On that particular day, we were doing some last-minute
Christmas shopping. I attended to my brother, making him lie down on
the sidewalk, and I placed my hands on his forehead in a vain attempt
to stop the bleeding, as a crowd gathered around us.

A very nice British man made sure an ambulance was called and
stayed with us until it arrived; and, as luck would have it, within this
crowd was a familiar face – a boy from the school I attended,
accompanied by his mother. She called home, telling mom
what happened and the hospital we were going to. She then insisted
her son join us for the ride to the hospital. Looking back it, that lady
was a saint.

 • We’re all stronger than we think. At the heart of her book, that’s
Sandberg’s message.