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Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Message Board

  • sometomfool sometomfool Dec 22, 2003 1:33 PM Flag

    Board economic annecdotes?

    6 months or so ago quite a number of people in the IT buisness posted that they were suddenly getting unsolicitated job offers when they hadn't been for almost a year prior.

    Have things been pretty stable?

    Are solicitations picking up or slacking off?

    Are people in other buisnesses seeing any unusual drop offs or pick ups in demand for their products?

    Looking for personal annectdotes, not what people have read in the paper or magazines.

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    • Nope. I am talking about having a real pig in a real hospital, and performing a real operation by real medical surgeons on him.

      They don't even let us eat the bacon after they cook him, either! It's medical waste. ;-)

      They do these medical procedures on animals in exactly duplicating conditions before they ever do the first trial on a person.

      Pigs have a heart a lot like humans, so, for instance, JnJ's new drug eluting stent was installed on pigs before it was ever installed in the first human test subject, as was Guidant's original stent.

      I guess monkeys probably have eyes most like humans, so we'll be doing chimpanzes or something silly like that.

      If you are ever in a teaching/research hospital (often the best of the best), sneak down to the basement. Many have a better "zoo" than San Diego. Mice, sheep, pigs, cows, monkeys, you name it.

    • Reaaly interesting stuff Prez...can't picture how you wouldn't being pumping out A shares each month doing that sort of stuff...want to take on a 700k mortgage? He he..

      RF radio frequency...but its different than GPS or is it part of gps when on its big things....

      and could you wire my 6 year old for me?

      and wow, that would really be a time saver at the supermarket...a small counterblow to online retailing?

      I use those electronic bridge passes and that save me time, and I'd guess its more ecnomicial than paying toll takers too (but I suppose there is a big start up expense that needs to be automated)

      I don't quite get the Pig on the table...are you talking about surgeons doing remote surgeory by the internet?

    • I had a meeting a few nights ago with the president of one of my client companies. He asked how things were going, and I told him that it had been a long dry spell, but the switchboard was starting to light up once again. In truth, I have had more work and more opportunities presented in the past 3 months than ever before.

      In fact, he was over at my house in the first place because a foreign company was having a hard time delivering assembled systems which needed a little doo-dad made by a Dallas company. Said Dallas company was having an issue tooling up quickly enough to satisfy my customer's sudden backlog of purchase orders. I told him I would whip him out some doo-dads on the quick and fix his problem gratis. (I've got a lot bigger business with him than whipping out a couple of hundred widgets.) So he got his solution to his delimna of having a few hundred thousand dollars worth of POs just sitting there languishing waiting for a couple hundred dollars worth of crap to come in the loading dock. He was happy when he left. So was I, because he brought me a signed PO with him for something else that I just love doing for him.

      Anyways, to the point. He told me what has transpired with him in the past 2 years. He said it was grueling. He had just hired a bunch of people back when everything turned sour, they had just moved into nice new digs on the swanky side of town. Everything was roses. Then all his customers evaporated. He had to lay off hundreds of people. He was down to half his peak staffing levels. This went on throughout the bust. When the customers started calling again, he was reluctant to re-staff. He's a decent human, he hates screwing up peoples' lives. Well, I imagine that this is what everybody has been doing, and now it is just impossible to satisfy demand without hiring or subcontracting. And everyone I know is in emergency rejuvenation mode right now.

      The more he and I talked, the more it became apparent - the largest customers at the bottom end of the food chain he and I are a part of, were just basically trying to "manage" their earnings though the bust. It was all psychological, unreal, to begin with. His clients scaled back production, hoping to save money, that, in turn, cause him to scale back his purchases of wire and chips, which in turn caused his customers to scale back their purchases of the original doo-dads to track all that wire and all those chips. The boom was a phantom as was the bust. The capital was building pressure and they were all waiting for someone to say "go". That's been going on for a couple of years now. None of them realize that all they ever had to do was just not stop in the first place - this business isn't the dot-com world. It's real. The demand continued to build, they finally just had to succumb to the realities of the world and start making money once again. But now, their inventories are all *empty*, and it's a big emergency.

      • 2 Replies to prez_geo_w_bush
      • I'll add even more drivel to this, Tom.

        An interesting ripple effect that I played a part of was this: All the while these big ole fortune 500 companies were panicked and worried about making their stretched earnings estimates "by a penny", with their spigots turned *off*, they were interrupting my cash flow indirectly. They curtailed at least a couple of big-ticket purchases of my own, one to Cadence out there in your neck of the woods, and another to Tektronics, also in your neck of the woods, I think. Not to mention all the money I send to Thief River Falls, MN every week. Man, I practically float that entire town it feels like sometimes. ;-) I had to turn my spigots off, too. Just like everyone else.

        And now, I find myself suddenly needing these items, and the poor folks at Tektronics and Cadence are left to get me my gear, NOW. Cadence can do it, just print another CD, but Tek, they might be screwed.

        Tek - there's another "unlikely" market leader in this boom. Them and Vishay. It sure looks like those leaders are leading as we speak.

        It would have been nice if Greenspan could have said with confidence "This dip will last 2 years, and not a day longer.". If he had been able to say that, I do not believe that there would have been a dip in the first place.

        If we dip again soon, it is going to be extremely ugly. Some capacity will dry up and not come back. Life (and this coming boom) feels tenuous, at best (JMHO).

      • I also talked to my machine shop guy last week. It was the VERY SAME STORY. He and I share NO customers - we are in totally different markets.

        Well, I rolled him some work from those Chinese guys I talked about the other day (they are swinging in the wind, just dying for me to give them a quote, they will take any bone I throw them), told him to give me a big fat bid because this wasn't a competitive billing situation. That made up for the screwing I gave him a few weeks ago, and it led to him agreeing to do my injection molding die work on the big-time-cheap for the next thing coming down the pike. He was very happy with me for that.

        At the same time, the VC guys are stirring - one came calling the other day and he had the idea AND the money AND a generous ownership offer AND a nice "salary" to boot. Well, THAT never happened at the height of the boom! At the very best, you had to put together a dog-n-pony and go to their offices. Oh, guess what he needs that is a big part of his up-front costs - injection-molding dies, and me...

        Hehehe. Am I a stinker, or what?

        So, here comes the boom, from my little microcosm of the universe. I could care less if it is a secular bull, cyclical bear, or any of that other mumbo jumbo - the checks are clearing. ;-) I just don't have any place to put those checks now...

        So, work faster, you blankety blank F5 pickers! Daddy needs new shoes (in 2012)! ;-)

    • Before I went on sabbatical from my Java job, there were two and one-half pages of IT jobs in our local paper. When I returned from sabbatical, I no longer had a job, and there were one or two ads total. That number has increased to about three ads, if you include the "pay us and we'll find you a job that pays $12-$15/hour" ad that's appeared of late.

      One perspective:

      A 50% INCREASE! IT IS HOT AGAIN! BUY CSCO NOW!

      Another:

      http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20031217/ap_on_hi_te/ibm_offsh
      oring_1


      My own:

      A couple more semesters of straight As, 1000 hours of direct patient care, and I should be in a Physician Assistant program.

    • >>> Have things been pretty stable? <<<

      I shopped myself around a bit in Oct-Nov in the IT world as a self employed gun for hire. In general, I found that companies are not in a hurry to hire, rates are way down from a couple of years ago, which are way down from the couple of years before that. Companies seem to get 5 to 10 candidates for every position, and take their time in sorting through them, often dropping the rate lower and lower until there are only a few people left.

      Companies are pushing noncash compensation (i.e. full time employee positions with lower cash compensation but some benefits) and most aren't even considering subcontracting or outsourcing. The benefits themselves are typically not great particularly in the areas of 401(k) matching and health care. Every employer that I talked to requires employees to pay a substantial portion of their health care costs out of pocket, which is also different from 5-8 years ago.

      There seems to be a huge body of people willing to work for average salaries, which is a huge change from say 5 years ago where "talent" was hard to find. I think this is simple supply and demand. The foreign labor, huge layoffs in IT (think telecom), and IT departments in nearly every university has greatly increased the supply of labor. Also employers don't generally see much distinction between someone with 5 years of experience and someone with 15 years, so it's very competitive.

      Probably most of my IT colleagues have had gaps in employment over the past couple of years lasting 3-9 months. In some cases this is an "extended vacation" but others are having trouble meeting the mortgage payment. Layoffs at companies like Cisco were met with tremendous surprise when they first happened, but Cisco for example now has the GE attitude of dropping the bottom 5-10% of the employees every year which they never did in the past.

      This is all in the DC area which is generally fairly stable -- there is always a ton of defense contracting work, so nobody will starve even in the worst of times. I imagine that silicon valley is a complete disaster.

    • I'm getting offers to go back where I was working, but from people who don't know me as well. I think that means budgets are larger now ....

 
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