Thursday, July 20, 2023

Books 20#: Play Nice But Win

Michael Dell depicted his life story in this riveting book starting from his high school days to his battles with Carl Icahn and finally the birth of Dell Technologies, a USD36bn market cap company today. It was an eye-opening journey into the world of private takeovers, corporate sabotage and how to play nice but win. This book really resonated with me and hence this post to detail my takeaways.

1. Form your team

This is a lesson that most leaders would know. You cannot do much alone. Even Superman needs the Justice League and we have to assemble our own Avengers team to take on the world. Not just any team, but the Avengers team, the best people you can find. Early on in Dell's journey, he sought out people who can help him and that was how he kept scaling and grew Dell Technologies to what it is today.

2. Persistence

In Michael Dell's words, this is the all-important quality and we must always persist and not be defeated by failures. He kept mementos to remind him in bad times how fortunate he was and that kept him going. We give up too early sometimes and that happens a lot with younger and younger generations. I think this is a good reminder for everyone to simply persist.

3. Dell Process

Somewhere in page 284, Dell talked about a proven Dell process, when faced with difficult decisions, lay down the Facts and Alternatives and then decide on the Choice and Commit to it. These are simple truths but in our busy lives today, we tend to just forget and decide base on emotions and other trivialities. 

In my own experience, it is very much about discussing with other smart thinkers. All my bad investment experiences were made alone. I thought it was a good idea myself and went ahead and bought and sold stuff. Only to suffer the consequences. Somehow, for me, talking to people clarifies most things and allow for better decision making. As such, it is important to cultivate a good decision making process, just as Dell did. He even said it is proven! Q.E.D.

4. Play Nice But Win

The most riveting parts of the book has to be his battles with corporate greenmailer Carl Icahn. When facing adversaries, all the above comes in. You need a team, you have to be persistent and you need a good process. Dell fought hard and finally triumph and he did play nice and win. It is not easy because most people don't play nice. If you do, you are playing with one arm tied behind your back. But it is possible. Michael Dell proved it. Just so hard that most people give up. 

That said, Play Nice But Win is a motto that really resonates. Difficult to achieve but the victory that comes afterwards makes it that much sweeter. 

Huat Ah!

Friday, July 07, 2023

Charts #49: HK property prices

I recall thinking HK was the ultimate litmus test on whether property in Asia always goes up. With all the issues, protests and 2047 - full return to China looming, can prices actually hold?

Over the last few years, data has shown that what goes up must come down. On the broad aggregate basis, prices have fallen 5-7%. Amongst the developed cities in Asia, it is by far the worst performing city on a 5 year basis. 

A closer look at the price index chart shows that the drop is worse. From the peak of the index at 400, it has dropped c.15%. That means that some properties could be deep in red, having fallen 30-40%. Those owners could be in a lot of financial trouble.

Our own little red dot has done well so far. But we never know. My advice would be, don't trade your only property. Don't be too greedy and over leverage on multiple properties and in today's interest rate environment, pay down that mortgage fast!