Arbitrage

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Show Transcription:

You’ve been staring at your computer screen for so long you can see your presentations, spreadsheets and documents when you close your burning eyes.  These tasks take forever.  You know there’s a better way, but how?  You want to improve your presence in meetings, but how?  Stop working so many hours.  Become the authority for reporting at work.  Fix work problems before they happen.  This is THE Business Intelligence Podcast.   Plug into the business intelligence reporting community at www.getreporthelp.com.  You’re not alone, and yes, you need help.

So I was talking with a co-worker the other day and he had this amazing saying that just stuck with me and I thought, “Oh my gosh, that is so true!”  He said, “Everything we do is very doable when you break it down.  There is nothing in business that we do that is so complex that we will not be able to figure it out.  You just break it down to the steps and do it.”  And I thought, “That is so appropriate for so many other things – not just in business” but what I realized was it still requires three things for me to do.  First of all, the first part is that you really just have to have the guts to do it.  And I think this is where people have that hesitation. “I don’t want to step outside of my own comfort zone.  I don’t want to take on this new project because I don’t know how to do it.”  Or, “I have this hesitation because I haven’t actually accomplished this particular thing.”  We are actually the ones holding ourselves back, more often than not.  Because when you take these things and you look at them, everything is very doable.  So the first part is you really should just have the guts to do it.  Just try it.  Even if you don’t know how to do it, just sign on and you can figure it out.  Just take it step by step.

The second piece that I wanted to add on to this is that more often than not, what I have found is that there is a vast majority of people that just don’t follow through.  Literally just don’t complete whatever it is they start.  If you are going to take on something, just follow-through.  Just do it and get it done.  It’s amazing how simple that is but how rare it is.  When I have worked with other people and had them try and get things done, I am amazed at how many of them will just not get it done.  Just follow-through.  In the Zen context people call this mindfulness.  It’s the “be here” and the “here and now” and focusing on what it is in front of you and those tasks are there.  You can accomplish those tasks.  You just have to show up, be there and do it.  That follow-through is that piece that separates you from the majority of people.  So I think of it in terms that there are, say, 100 people that have an interest in something.  Only 10 of them will actually have the guts to step up to the plate and of those 10 people, only 3 or 4 of them have any sort of follow-through.  So even if this task at work, or this project that you want to be a part of, or you’re thinking of going to college or, you know, whatever it is, just have the guts.  Step up, be mindful, be there and follow-through.  It’s very doable.

And now the feature segment.

So the term I want to discuss is arbitrage.  Isn’t that a great term?  Arbitrage.  It’s just so fancy and almost French-sounding or something.  But the term arbitrage can be used in several different ways.  There is definitely an economic arbitrage, there’s an academic arbitrage and then there is the reality of what arbitrage is.  It’s a fun word, it’s a great concept and I think it’s something that, well you can bust that out in the office all the time, “Well, you know, it’s an arbitrage situation.  We can do it this way.” But let me get to the definition.  One definition of arbitrage is taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets.  Okay?  So this is more on the economic terms.  You are taking advantage of a difference in price in two different markets.  Now an easy example of this is when we are looking at something like outsourcing.  The dollars per hour for whatever task I am doing, if I look at that task and try and have it done in another location, in another country, where their currency is different, I can probably get it cheaper or more expensive depending on what country I go to.   So it’s a classic arbitrage situation where you are taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets.  In this case the two different countries.  So if I wanted to pay a writer to write an article for me, in the U.S. it would be this much money and if I ask for this to be done in some other country, same article, same deal, because of the difference in currency it could be much cheaper.  It’s that case of arbitrage.  Now, we usually think of this outsourcing in a negative context because of how we have experienced that, you know, call center activities or other things have been outsourced to other countries, but it’s because of this arbitrage factor that that has happened.  So that’s one definition of arbitrage.

Another way you might think of it is striking a combination of matching deals that capitalize upon the imbalance between them.  Now that sounds really kind of strange when you lay it out like that but really you are matching these deals in ways that you can see these obvious imbalances.  This is where you see a lot of the economic articles and even if you take an economic class they will talk about this in this arbitrage format here and the classic example is in doing exchange rates.  So if I take a dollar here and convert it into Yen then I get a certain amount.  But then if I take that Yen and convert it into Euros it goes to another amount, then if I bring those Euros back to dollars – somewhere in between all of these exchanges there is an imbalance so it’s not perfect and I may end up after all of those conversions coming back to the U.S. dollar with a $1.10 or 90 cents if it’s a negative arbitrage thing.  But those exchange rates, really what you are doing is that you are finding this imbalance and you are capitalizing on that by doing some combination of matching transactions, in this case currency from one, to currency in another and so you kind of move these around.  You see how that’s arbitrage?  It’s classic finding that imbalance and then capitalizing on it.  Now, another way you could think about it though is that in some senses, arbitrage is really like a transaction that involves no negative cash flow and results in a positive cash flow.  So possibly like a risk free profit at zero cost.  Really what we are saying here is that you are buying something and your risk is nothing, but your benefit is something.  It’s kind of like a guaranteed win, if you will.  Easy examples of this:  if you are driving on the freeway and you see an open lane to the left, if you quickly jump over to that lane it hasn’t cost you anything and if traffic stays the same you will be fine but there is a chance that you will actually wind up further in traffic by making these quick shifts and changes So that is arbitrage.

And now the actionable information you’ve desperately needed.

So I cannot tell you how many times it has driven me nuts when you sit down and have a sales guy do a presentation and they put up a power point slide with a bunch of numbers.  Argh!  Death by power point slides!  Everybody knows it and I just go, “Why even bother doing this?”  They drive me nuts.  Turn it into a chart.  It’s not hard to do.  But I have finally gotten to a point now where I am training sales guys and I say, “You need slides, I will hook you up with slides and we will get it done and we’ll get it done right.”  But that getting it done right piece is the part that – look, any chart is better than just a bunch of numbers on a screen because if I am getting a bunch of numbers, send it to me in an email.  Print it out and give it to somebody.  They don’t need to be projected in that way.  Power point is for visualizing what is going on.  In the context of that I wrote an article and I want to share it with you guys about how to chart data.  I call it a Chart Challenge and there are some steps to it.  I want to at least cover those steps so that you can realize there are at least three pieces to making a good chart.  If you follow these I guarantee that your charts will be much better than anything you have had before.  They are simple steps and you just go through them one by one.  You follow through and it makes a big difference.

So the first one is that you need to look at the data and the pattern.  You are looking for a pattern in that data.  If I get a bunch of numbers that indicate sales over a certain period of time, I’m going to look at that and I am going to look at the numbers and I am going to see if there is a pattern there.  Are things going up or down, are they dipping?  What’s the lowest one?  What’s the highest one?  You just look at that data and see where the trend is.  This alone tells you exactly what you are going to do with your chart.  How you are going to put that together.  But you have to just understand that.  So first of all you just look for that pattern.

Once you have that, then you choose a chart style.  And I have some very clear guidelines that I suggest.  If it’s one set of data it’s great for pie charts, but you don’t do five pie charts on the slide.  It just doesn’t work, people tune it out.  If it’s a pie chart you only do a maximum of three.  It’s those kinds of details that you look, but I have some very clear guidelines and I suggest you look at that so that you get an idea about how to choose the right chart for whatever the data is that you are going to present.  There are also some tricks you can do when you are looking at year to date stuff and you are not through the year or you are half-way through the year.  There are ways that you can address that.  You look at the data, you look for that pattern and once you do that, then you choose your chart.

The last step is really to look at your chart and remove as much clutter as you possibly can.  If you don’t need it and it doesn’t tell the story very clearly, then get rid of it.  If your header on your chart is so long that you have to decrease the font size, you have not said it succinctly.  You can remove a large amount of the clutter out of that chart and as a matter of fact, I would say that less is more.  The more you can remove out of that chart, the better it is.  Because what happens is, when somebody presents in power point and they are standing up there and they are giving people the information, the chart is supposed to add to that.  So the less that is on that chart the better because people need to get it in five to ten seconds and if they don’t they will tune out the presenter and they will stare at the chart and they will go, “Wait a second…why is there a second line?…okay, wait.  Let’s look at that legend and figure out what piece is going to which line, and how many colors, and I have 12 on there…” and they are completely blocking out what the presenter has said.  The less that is on that chart, the better it is.  You want your chart to have a very clear focus and clear information and tell the story.  It’s got to tell the story.  And you do that by removing as much clutter out of that chart as possible.  So if you want to that look at that in more detail, go to the website.  I have a Chart Challenge, I’ve got videos out there and I also have an article where I lay the stuff out.  If you haven’t done charting before, this is a great guideline for you to get started.

You have been listening to THE Business Intelligence Podcast.  Plug into the business intelligence reporting community at www.getreporthelp.com.   Go right now to the website.  Design reports that amaze your boss and co-workers.  Dominate spreadsheet tasks.  Get information you can use right now.  Go now to www.getreporthelp.com and get a free video “Three Formulas Everyone Should Know.”