.As told to John Jonelis
Early morning on Clark Street, I run into Loop Lonagan, former floor trader on the CME, venture capitalist, and man-about-town. It’s been about two months and my feelers tell me something is wrong with Loop
“Hey, long time no see.” That sounds awkward and I try to follow with a joke. “Been locked up in the joint or what?” I intend the prison reference as tongue-in-cheek, but Loop’s reaction surprises me. He staggers to a standstill and then sidles over to lean against a light pole. When he moans, I know it’s an act.
Then he slowly nods. “No mercy. No grace,” he says in a voice that sounds more like a growl. “Prison’s gotta be better than what really happens to a man these days. Lousy do-gooder sister. A guy lets loose just once and next thing he wakes up in the tank.”
“Which tank is that?”
Loop cocks his head and looks at me with bleary eyes. I’m not sure if it’s a hangover or just a typical early morning. “You didn’t hear?” he says, “That’s right, your house burned down. The old battle axe signed me up for a life sentence. Detox, then my own private room. For good. I call in a few favors and get outa there just before the big holiday celebrations in Honolulu.”
“You always seemed to hold your liquor before.”
“That counts for nothin’ these days. Let it rip once—just once—and they think they got you pegged. Anyhow, I’m back.”
“What set you on a binge?”
He growls again. “Don’t get me started on that.”
We walk into an eating establishment and shed our coats. Loop orders bagels and lox. I do the same. He finishes and orders another helping, then downs a second cup of coffee. I can see it’s doing him a world of good.
Then he looks straight at me. “Okay John, if you wanta know about it. But I ain’t got a lotta time.” He takes another bite of bagel. “Somebody keeps movin’ my cheese.”
“You mean like in the cartoon?”
“Yeah.” The waitress fills his cup. It steams and he slurps it carefully. “You notice that GDP is back where it was three years ago? But it don’t feel that way, right?”
I shake my head and wait for him to go on.
“The numbers. They’s all back to what they was but things is different—way different. Same numbers but the way business delivers ‘em is different.”
Loop finishes his second bagel and orders a third. By this time he looks like the old Loop Lonagan and goes on: “One thing—access to capital is all screwed up after the housing bubble and banks got a real attitude. We move thousands of working jobs out o’ the country. Hell—R&D too. The stinkin’ Internet changes way the way we do business.”
I sit there in shock. Is it possible that this news flash takes so long to hit him? “Listen, Loop. Everybody knows all that stuff. Everybody.”
“Yeah, yeah. But here we get to the crux. We redefine success.”
I swallow some coffee. Redefine success—first time I’ve heard it put that way.
“Success with no access to capital gets you nowhere any more. The lousy Internet changes delivery. Access to information and business processes change. People depend on referrals even more to make transaction decisions. Everything’s different and less people needed—a lot less in the good old US of A. So we get massive unemployment. It’s all structural. Ain’t goin’ away. Everybody gets redefined.”
I take my last bite of breakfast and think over what I’m hearing.
After another slug of coffee, Loop goes on. “That means we redefine the planning process. That means we redefine data sets. Those now come from outside the business as much as inside.”
I hadn’t thought about that but it’s true. I nod.
“Goals change. Used to be you get your capital first then build a business. Now it’s build a business then prove that you deserve the capital to grow it.”
That rings true for me as well.
“Collaboration changes, too. Now there’s more going on between companies than inside them. Lots more collaboration cross-country. Overseas. With customers. Platform companies like Google and Facebook dominate what goes on with information—that’s why their shares get bid so high. Then companies put together Content Management systems—can you beat that?”
“Loop, you may have noticed that my business card reads Content Specialist.”
“Yeah, but you’re a writer at heart. Then I finally come to grips with what that term really means. Manage what goes in the bag. They used to call it marketing but now it’s about information more than product. Trust the big guys to turn it into a science.”
Loop signals for the check and I ask a question. “You don’t like it—the change, I mean?”
“Don’t make no difference what I like. Gotta move with the market. Anyhow, I put the past behind me with the help of my close friend Jack Daniels. You know where that landed me—but that’s behind me too.” He looks at his smartphone. “Hey, I got a meeting. Let’s have lunch later. Gimme a call. I got the low-down on the Zero Moment of Truth. Good seeing you, John.”
And just that fast, he’s gone, and the check still sits on the table.
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© 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.