Markets Trending Positive Today. You?

Markets have gone through a corrective downturn and may be finished with the negative trend for now, so it’s back to the positive side.  What do you own that is worth owning in a up-trend?

During a downturn we would ask a different question, “What do you own that you shouldn’t during a down-trend?”  Anything already languishing is a good answer.  The point here is to always have an eye on what’s worth owning, or as a business owner, what’s worth doing.  Your business has both tangible and intangible elements within it.  Both are required or you couldn’t be in business.  Plans, hopes, goals, dreams are all intangible along with goodwill and good intentions.

Today, align your management style with utilizing the things you know work well and focus on moving forward with the few things you are really good at managing.  That doesn’t mean you should take any opportunities off the table, just focus on the best ones for now, since the markets, and thus business in general, are on shaky ground.

Case in point: Yahoo tried hard to follow the trend of Google in expanding into the universe of web services.  Google is good at identifying potential opportunity, designing a platform, and throwing it on the web for everyone to try.  If it works out and the demand is there, they maintain it, otherwise they just let it languish for a while and then quietly pull it off the menu.  Yahoo just does not work well in that mode.  They are better at focusing in a few areas, developing good core, demand-based solutions, and offering it to the world in a solid usable form.  Yahoo has leaned out their process and gone back to their core offerings which give them the best position in the markets they know.  If you pull up their menu of offered services you will see that a few things are gone.  One thing they are bringing back is an effort in broadcasting which they began in the late 1990’s and actually did well with until the markets sank after the new century began.  It will be interesting to see if the new formula works.  My guess is they have a stronger plan this time around and we just need to see if works out.

Never give up, keep refocusing your effort on what you are best at.

Market Jump – Caution

No flag yet to say the current correction in the market is over. We seem to be getting a bounce out of some news but the fallout of increased government spending, further stress from ongoing commodity increases, and more are likely to keep a damper in place.

Business Owners should expect further caution in their customer’s spending habits. Continue to focus on low cost marketing and sales of current products and services.

The Definition of “Business Success”

There are as many individual definitions of Business Success as there are people.  The differences are simply variables in priorities, and depending upon where an individual is in the process.  Even if you feel you are not in business, maybe an artist, you still must plan for the result of where the art ends up, especially if it will have value.

This seems to be fairly complete:

Business success is when a business owner/entrepreneur has developed a successful business, realizes that some day they must exit the business, and so a plan is put into place which will “maintain” the fullest possible valuation of the assets.  The designed entity will effectively move the value into the estate, or partner estates, where it can best be utilized for continuance of business (if desired), family, and charity.

Certainly a failure to prepare for the continuation of the valuations in one’s working life results in a loss of value and control, not just for the individual but for everyone involved.  Why leave anything on the table?

Disproportionate Sell-off of Japan

No doubt Japan has suffered a tragic loss of life and property, and the risk of nuclear radiation is real.  The problem here is the apparent panic sell-off which is already out of proportion with reality and more in proportion to a real war.  What’s pushing this negative market activity?  Is it just the news, or is it some other fear? Disproportionate is right, unless you are banking on another quake and tsunami.  I seriously doubt the productivity of the Japanese people has been impacted enough to warrant a collapse in their corporate world.

Maybe the markets are down because of the number of Americans who begin standing around pointing fingers at others, trying to blame them for being unprepared for one of the worst quakes and tsunamis in history.  Reminds me of what happens when I honk at someone to move out of the way and their reaction is to either hit the brakes and look around or stop and stare at you.  Few ever get what the honking is about, or they are just angry and impolite enough not to care.

It is kind of sad to see American news focusing on a few boats bashed around by a wave, or one guy being washed out to sea in comparison to the overall tragedy in Japan.  Really though, the comparison may be better explained by how little economic effect it will have compared to the surviving population.  Japan will survive, and so will America.

Although this sell-off in Japan is disproportionate, it may actually be the correct thing in comparison to where the markets were.  It may be that a correction was at hand and the quake, tsunami, and reactors simply allowed the markets to face the truth.  I really can’t say for sure.  In the U.S. this simply is helping the markets get on with a correction which was already forming and may help it end that much sooner.

Overall, humans need to get a bit better grip on reality.  If they would stop hyping up prices in commodity, stock, realty, and other markets we wouldn’t be as susceptible to large sell-off activity.  Imagine if people invested according to the merits of valuation and earnings rather than speculation of future value and the psychological need to participate with the crowd.  But then that would imply people would be doing their own homework and understand the risks they take.  On the other side of things, if people were not as inclined to over-react there wouldn’t be as much opportunity for those who know how to play the game of risk and investment.

RIM Blackberry Could do Extremely Well

I remember a time when Apple was such a loser company I actually hoped they would go under.  The story was tiring.  Just one newly designed cheapo Mac after another, always at a premium to market prices.  Unless you were a hardcore graphics artist who already knew the Mac there was no reason for its existence.  Slowly, as they began to embrace the PC world of business and allow Windows compatibility, the Mac began to have a place in the world.  Re-enter Steve Jobs.

iPod.  Need I say more?  It just was the right product at the right time, bringing branding to the marketplace, something Apple needed badly.  But the iPod wasn’t enough and the iPhone came into being, which is the true success story of Apple after all these years.  It is still to be seen whether they will fully capitalize on the platform and become a true power in the computer world.  At this point, lets take a step back in time to the days leading up to the iPhone and its impact on Apple’s earnings, since this is a clue as to why Blackberry could do much better than expected.

Most people won’t remember the condition Apple was in when they launched the iPhone.  Prior to the iPhone’s intro Apple had been relegated to the pasture of PC wannabes and one-off fad products (iPod).  The company had struggled back from the brink of collapse and built a new future because of the continuing use of the Mac, meaning sales, and the sudden influx of earnings from the iPod.  Jobs and the crew did a smart thing, they took the quick hop in financial strength and capitalized on it by investing in what they envisioned as the future, portable computing via smart phones.

The iPhone had the effect of taking Apple from a $40 Billion company to a $324 Billion company today.  I remember vividly prior to the launch of the iPhone that a report using percentage market share data showed that Apple would probably double if they only captured about 2% of the marketplace.  What nobody was paying attention to was Apple already had enough installed hardware with passionate users to easily obtain that goal.  It happened very quickly.  The lesson learned here is that a key product launched into a current user group can have a geometric impact on economies of scale for the company.  Apple sprang to life and became a world power through the application of technology now taken for granted by nearly everyone.

RIM’s Blackberry has a similar story in play right now.  But there are some key differences as well.  The first thing to understand is that Blackberrys are everywhere and not hidden in graphic art closets like the Macs were.  The Blackberry phones are very strongly embraced by corporations around the world for several key reasons.  First, they are about as lock-tight safe for communications as you can get, even causing some third-world countries to attempt to ban them, because the governments couldn’t hack into the phones.  Second, Blackberrys are fantastic for productive communication of documents, texts, and other attachments, and especially with multiple email accounts.  Few smartphones can match the productivity of the Blackberry.  And third, the server platform offered by RIM is second to none in allowing companies to truly control use and abuse of their prized communication systems.  That’s a strong position to be in.

Often a company will introduce a new product only to see someone else provide a better version later and potentially knock them out of the business.  Although I don’t feel Apple could be knocked out of the business with the new iPad, I do feel that RIM could do them one better with the new Playbook they are introducing.  The new aspect for the Blackberry is the design of the Playbook incorporates it as a tethered device to the Blackberry.  Some have criticized this move, stating that the Playbook needs to be open rather than strapped to the Blackberry.  I say RIM made a good move in first taking care of their installed base.  The Playbook will likely have a wi-fi version as well, but in truth it seems the best utilization of the Playbook is with a Blackberry smart phone.

Doesn’t make sense?  Imagine that you own an iPhone and an iPad.  If you want cellular service and not just wi-fi for the pad, then you need to cellular plans.  The Playbook requires only one plan.  The Playbook isn’t a laptop replacement like the iPad, but instead is seen best as an enhancement of the Blackberry, allowing you to be on the phone and surfing freely with the pad.  Whatever you do with the Playbook is also instantly synced into your phone… email, web pages and tabs, contacts, content and more.  The Playbook pad is a leap forward for the Blackberry phone and is likely to be sold very quickly to a high percentage of the installed customer base.  It will likely be seen as an essential business productivity device, which will likely be purchased by companies.  The iPad is really a different product with a different consumer in mind and does not have nearly the potential for business.  If you could calculate the numbers regarding the potential impact of the Playbook, the answers could be astonishing.

This is a great lesson to business owners and entrepreneurs.  If you have an installed base of happy customers, focus on launching a new product which will enhance service and productivity.  You may find your business booming!

Which Browser is Best? Not I.E.

Internet Explorer really leaves a lot to be desired these days.  It is very slow compared to Firefox, seems to freeze up a lot, and leaves one feeling that it spends too much time acquiring data from your experience with it and not enough time focusing on the experience of browsing.  I have no idea where MS is going with this and it’s a mystery since they do so well in other areas.

Firefox is great.  I have very few problems with it and each upgrade seems to be a real advance in the business of browsing.  Chrome is definitely fast!  The downside being the intuitive nature of it is odd and they put too much design effort into hiding commands and features, to the point that it can be difficult to manage.  I keep falling back to Firefox because it is so reliable, easy to control, and the extensions allow it to be completely customized.

Two add-on features I feel I can’t live without are NoScript and Adblock Plus.  Both are extremely effective.  I like knowing that scripts just can’t run unless I approve them, almost like running in Linux.  AdBlock Plus completely removes ads, pop-ups, and maybe more, I don’t know since I don’t see them.  I do place ads on my web page and yes, they don’t show up in Firefox with AdBlock Plus unless the user approves them.  That’s okay, since I have the same and can truly allow ads I want to see.

The only issue I’ve had so far is that Yahoo! Toolbar doesn’t work quite as well in Firefox.  The search portion of the toolbar is glitchy.  It’s easy to work around since the standard search bar is still in the regular Firefox toolbar anyway.  I’m not surprised about Yahoo! acting up since they have long preferred to optimize for I.E.

Although I prefer to use Firefox for most things I have a tendency to use I.E. and Firefox at the same time.  It’s good practice if you want to log into the same service with several different user IDs.   For instance, I have multiple user IDs for WordPress and it’s much easier to set Firefox to remember one account and I.E. to remember the other.  Then, if I need to I can always pop open a Chrome window to do something else.

The #JPQuake Week Ahead

Reality.  The reactors in Japan seem to be at low risk of full meltdown.  Barring another huge quake and tsunami the impact on the markets in Japan and around the world is likely to be very small.  Japan’s economy can easily handle the cost and it hasn’t taken long for the financial news companies to begin reporting on the potential positives of a spending spree to rebuild.

As far as the US is concerned, we had already seen a top and according to Investors Business Daily, had already moved into a full correction.  Based on normal activity we may even be halfway through.  Except for the sharp downturn in the Japanese markets based on fear of melting nuclear power plants, there has been little effect so far.  It’s amazing how much the human population can absorb.


Market Accuracy in the IBD

It continues to amaze me how accurate the Investor’s Business Daily is.  I wonder why anyone follows any other market news and investing service.

Winds of March and Tax

Do you hear the howling?  The wind rushes through the area this time of year, raising kites, blowing dust, and lifting hope of spring.  But the howling winds are not the only sounds we hear.  Maybe the noise is through the rafters during the madness of basketball!  Maybe it’s the sound of investors gaining momentum in the markets, now unencumbered by last year’s economics.  Maybe it’s you because it’s the taxing time of year!

You may be hearing the sound of me, telling you once again, to do your business taxes with a real CPA and not just a bookkeeping service.  There is a big difference between the two.  CPAs have continuing education requirements and must know tax law to a reasonable level.  Usually, because they are in the business of being sharp, reducing risk, and building a clientele all at the same time, their knowledge is deeper and wider, bringing real value to the table.  The first year I used a CPA it saved me enough money to pay for the next 10 years of service.

If you are in business, have lots of business expenses, and family, you are crazy if you do your own taxes.  Even the software doesn’t catch everything, but a smart CPA is likely to know the latest.