Where has Talent Gone?

Prior to WWII, many talented and educated people went to work on Wall Street trading stocks, or running divisions of large companies of the day, steel, rail, textiles, canning, and manufacturing. At the beginning of WWII the US Navy had a large problem on their hands trying to figure out how to disperse throughout the Pacific and maintain control of distributing men, material, food, aircraft, and all the other supplies required for such large operations. They did not have the personnel in place so they found the brightest and most entrepreneurial minded people of the day on Wall Street.

After WWII and the industrial expansion of the times, military personnel returned home to new jobs, new opportunities, and of course they returned to Wall Street as well. Throughout the following decades the military still utilized the brightest of our citizens when possible and needed, but other opportunities such as technology, engineering, aircraft, space, and more, absorbed much of our talented citizens. In the ’90s Wall Street became a large attraction again.

Here we are in the 2010s and much has changed including Financial Services have become very automated and the creative entrepreneur of the past seems to be few and far between with most positions being filled by clerks instead. So where has all the Talent gone, and if we follow the current trend, is this were opportunity exists?

The Entrepreneur of today, is more dispersed than in the past. Some stay home and build their business online, others have developed new versions of services for home or business, and still others have continued to run divisions of larger business and technology. The military still gets their share too. Yet there does seems to be a downturn in new technology companies, financial business opportunity, and high growth for new corporate divisions. At least it feels like these are less robust. Most likely it feels that way because of the incredible number of things developing around us all the time, changing rapidly, and we are no longer stunned by the newness of things. A computer is no longer a mystery, flat screens are everywhere, and who can ever try all the apps developed for our cell phones? Why pick a stock when the computer or manager can do it?

But there may be a place where nobody expects to look for innovative, talented entrepreneurs of today. It may be the mundane in which opportunity has hidden. Could it be that Talent has found a place where it can flourish without being the headline of Wall Street, the news of the day on TV, the political argument of the moment? Could it be in a place which rewards hard work, critical thinking, experience, and the ability to take a meaningful risk?

One industry the talent pool seems to have poured into is Hospitality. Hotel owners, investors, and managers are flourishing with very little fanfare, all for the sake of providing a meaningful service for a fair price. The talented leaders of this niche have been developing new models, adding technology, and using creative financing to produce a very rewarding space for themselves in our modern times. They are fully taking advantage of our new age of technology and I would say they have advanced far beyond most industries. Seriously.

If you have taken a vacation and stayed in a nice resort or hotel, you also know these are not mundane at all. They are excellent places to visit, they have the latest in technology and services, and the people are incredibly nice since hospitality is… nice.

BlackBerry, Powerful Future in Bloom

A while back I wrote about the Rise of Blackberry, which I still believe in, although things seem to have taken a year longer than expected, but much has changed in the World of BB.

KEYone

Suddenly, it seems, BlackBerry is no longer catching up in the handset arena and may be in front… but careful here!  The handset arena is not where BlackBerry is becoming powerful, although I believe John Chen correctly sees a marketing future in which the device is a doorway to the bigger and wider world of “things” and security, and control.  The future is not missed in the plans of the former productivity company.

How about a quick comparison to Harley Davidson which at one time sold 20,000 or so motorcycles to the Government and later ended up with many soldiers wanting one of their own when they returned from WWI.  This was successful enough that they did it again in WWII, building on a niche of followers familiar with the product.  BlackBerry will find the same “soldiers” of handsets as they continue to innovate in other areas.

The new BlackBerry phone called the KEYone is definitely a doorway device.  They are capitalizing on the familiarity of the original BB design which draws attention because it is very recognizable.  If you have not used one of these new keyboards you would be surprised to find that it is faster to type on simply because it is more accurate; fewer misspelled words means much faster completion.  It may not matter to you that you misspell words all the time when texting to friends, but in the business and communication world of social media it has an impact on sales, impression, and number of followers.

Personally I use a Priv which has a very good physical keyboard that slides out and also has the amazing BlackBerry touchscreen keyboard when it is closed, allowing you to ‘flick’ the suggested words into your text or document using gestures.  The physical keyboard also has this ability by swiping up quickly on it and in the perceived column under the suggested word you would choose.  This is fast!  I never became great at the newer touchscreen keyboards but my wife is an ace, especially using swipe.  However, after using the Passport and getting used to the physical keyboard, she seems to be much happier because she uses this instead of her laptop or tablet.

If you look at the BlackBerry website you will find that smartphones are not the primary business of the company anymore.  Instead they take about 4th position.  Still, if you drop down the menu for smartphones or click on it, you will find 5 excellent models available, yes that’s 5!  Two are BlackBerry 10 units (real BlackBerry phones) and the rest are now Android based devices with BlackBerry software for security and apps.  My personal phone, the Priv, is Android based and my wife’s phone is a Passport using BlackBerry 10 OS.  I like my phone, especially because I do use a lot of Google and Android apps along with MS Office, so it works for me and the DTEK security is excellent.  From time to time I am allowed to use my wife’s Passport and I am always blown away by how fast and intuitive it is.  It may not be fully compatible with the open world of Android but who gives a rip when the productivity is so dang high!  Another thing about the Passport is you get to use BlackBerry Blend and BlackBerry Link which means you can run it from your computer with ease, sync easily, and really get some work done.  I will miss these applications if they end and truly hope they are extended into the Android platform instead.  One thing is for sure, if they offer another BB10 OS phone I will be near the front of the line to get one!

Speaking of ending, the thing BlackBerry has left us with is the expectation of productivity.  For some strange reason people just don’t buy productivity like they used to, instead they go for entertainment, and this to our great downfall.  Maybe it takes a bull market to create a need for prosperity and productivity, in which case the current markets and positive business direction may bring back some of the better days and we will see the full return of BlackBerry devices alongside their newer software ventures.  Side note: you know how people walk into a pole or something while using their cell phone?  I have yet to see anyone with a BlackBerry do that (prove me wrong).

All this leads to an important point regarding BlackBerry which I will now repeat, it is not primarily a handset company but is instead all about IoT (the Internet of Things), networked security, tracking, and much more.  These are not just new lines of business to keep up with other companies but are in fact lines which they have been pursuing for some time, and in some cases they bought out other companies which already had deep roots and better focus.  They have really structured a powerhouse of opportunity and are at the cutting edge of the next technology services needed for smarter things like cars, trucks, transportation and much more.  Just check out their Core IoT Platform and QNX for yourself.

So ignore BlackBerry all you want, with an attitude that the keyboard is out of date and out of style.  I don’t think it will take long for you to change your mind or for your boss to change it for you in the near future.  Now just consider two things: 1) your car may be utilizing BlackBerry in its dashboard information system, and 2) do your prefer your keyboard at your computer when you are typing a long document or would you rather slop through it on your ‘boardless iPhone?

The Rise of BlackBerry

BlackBerry Passport
BlackBerry Passport

Everyone likes products with the letter “Z” in the title, even BlackBerry smart phones. Z30, Z10, Z3, and there was a Z20 but it has been renamed BlackBerry Classic. Will phones with a “Z” cause BlackBerry to rise or will BlackBerry just continue to see consumers go “zzzzz….”? So far it looks like good management decisions will make a big difference for this company in the near future. Take a look at their devices Here.

BlackBerry still has a large user base, still has a very good product line, and is still a preferred handheld for many outside the United States for reasons which should be more valuable to us. In other countries security seems to be important but in the U.S. it tends be overlooked for features and entertainment. The difference in America vs. the world is interesting, and blinding to the consumer base which has dumped BlackBerry for the likes of iPhone and Samsung. In the process consumers have also dumped productivity.

A BlackBerry is still much more productive than either the iPhone or the Android devices; oh yes, and the Windows phones which are easily overlooked. Of course, if you consider watching a video on YouTube to be a productive use of your time you may not understand why a BlackBerry is more productive and if you rarely communicate business ideas, sales ideas, and social leadership ideas, you may not need a smart phone at all.

So, how will BlackBerry rise from here? There are a variety of reasons why BlackBerry should be able to rise, reclaim market-share, and capture its old position in business. This is not to say they will reach their past dominance but will likely gain their share of the modern market.

Understanding their past success is key; remember when anyone who was serious about business carried, or at least kept one of these devices on their desk? It was amazing when representatives from different corporations could send documents on the fly, respond to email in minutes, and maintain a complex schedule, all outside of the office while traveling. At some point this hard-working, fast-paced environment will make a strong comeback and the productivity of the device will make a difference. Ever used an older, slower computer and become frustrated just trying to keep up and get your work finished on time? How about incompatible software? Many of my friends who have iPhones seem to struggle to keep up, Android and Windows can slow productivity in ways too.

New software development is something which BlackBerry needs to emphasize like they used to. In the past you could count on deep software development in these devices. The keyboard shortcuts, menus, and access to communication features were amazing. The latest Z devices have dropped some of the deep design features in order to create more of a consumer level device. This seems to be changing with the new Passport and Classic being launched soon under the new leadership of John Chen.  Once again, BlackBerry products are being designed for business and productivity rather than consumer entertainment. This should be a major step forward since neither Apple nor Samsung try to make their products relevant to business. Blackberry has been known and well respected for creating devices which are key to business productivity. By following this path BlackBerry can fill the void in a segment which has been sucked dry by consumer level products and offerings which have damaged business productivity. As an example of the new trend, LinkedIn seems to have updated their applications for future use on the Passport and Classic. These types of partnerships will help drive upgrades from current customers as well as bring back some who gave up and left for other brands.

There is no doubt the BlackBerry Operating system is very fast, has many great qualities, and has room to grow with application development. It is designed for robust security, a more seamless application and software deployment, division of personal and business data, and advanced control. In the long run, if applied correctly, this operating system has strong legs to run with and gain market share.

Many Android apps are now supported or can be side-loaded to the BlackBerry 10 devices. The old problem of not having enough apps to play with is really in the past now. App happy people may be missing out anyway since regardless of which brand of phone you use, most apps are useless and many web sites can easily out-perform their app versions. I tend to save space by not using apps while saving important web site addresses to my phone’s browser. The new Z3 phone launched in Indonesia is designed with the Android app store installed and offering 200,000 apps.

A small duplication of iPhone sales, the keeping up with the Jones’ buyer, is another way BlackBerry will gain some revenue. Most fans will want a new Passport or Classic with the latest features and larger size screens. In the U.S. the Passport has the ability to gain ‘Status Symbol’ sales. The unique square screen and full QWERTY keyboard are obvious, and they imply productivity and seriousness for business.

Ultimately, a trusted business name can win and BlackBerry already has this. Now they just need enhanced software, newer business solutions,  continued security, business customizations, and more good devices. They seem to be on their way up, and I for one hope they do well. I prefer to use a business device rather than a consumer entertainment device.

Buying Opportunity Ahead

Economic Loss
Downdraft of Squandering

The markets are sliding regardless of frivolous good news which in the past could have sent indices up ridiculously.  Maybe we will see some more reality.  The real question is, is this dark and cloudy depressing news or is it sunny?

This is definitely bright and sunny news as any approach toward reasonable prices, in any market, is a plus for our future.  Irrational exuberance of the 1990’s gave way to insane exuberance of the Fed, banking regulations, job markets, and real estate speculation.  One feature of this is artificially high prices floated by our bloated government, now run mostly by inexperienced nerds who have no clue what work and business are.
If you have plenty of cash on the sidelines now, you can be waiting for the opportunity for better price reality ahead.

Following the Whatsapp Piper

Pied PiperIt will be interesting to see how many startups change direction and try to follow the tune of Whatsapp’s moneyless trail to the pot at the end of the rainbow.  It can be easy to say to yourself, “hey, I can give away my service for a year too” and then watch all your opportunity evaporate before you can charge the first 99 cents.

Most technology innovations are out-paced, out-classed, and ou- performed so quickly that the only opportunity to make any money may be the first 99 cents charged the day you launch the business.

I would caution that for every free business that becomes successful, somehow, there seem to be more which reach at least short term success (3-5 years) by charging a fair price for providing a good service or product.  If you can’t make the first 99 cents then maybe it just isn’t worth the time risk to see if you will make the last 99 cents either, for many reasons.

Kindle Fire HD Review for Business Use

tabletThis review focuses on the productivity merits of using a Kindle Fire HD for business use.

People who work in creative job capacities and need the flexibility to move from one important subject to another, design, draw, write, or otherwise compute data and information in a dynamic marketplace, will have to consider the Kindle Fire HD as a last resort and cheap entry into the world of business productivity.

Yes, the Kindle Fire HD (referred to as the Kindle for the remainder of this review) is light years ahead of devices we may have carried only a few years ago, but when it comes to real work productivity my ancient Sharp Zaurus can actually outperform it in some key ways.

A quick list of shortfalls in the Kindle:

  • No multitasking capability  (What a huge surprise!)
  • Slow to load apps
  • The touch screen works poorly with a stylus
  • It adds weight to your laptop bag that you would rarely use
  • Apps are limited to those which best support Amazon, not your productivity
  • No Firefox or Chrome.  If you use favorites, tabs, and synch this is a big shortfall!
  • Not all apps display information in a meaningful way, and some are just odd
  • No camera or microphone, although the upgraded version does have these
  • No SD slot

Okay, yes, these things cannot all be expected on an entry level consumer oriented device designed for shopping and media.  Don’t purchase this device thinking it is designed for business either.

You would do much better with the next model up but if you really want to be productive, forget the entertainment device and get the real Kindle Reader instead.  It’s easier on the eyes, cheaper, includes 3G at no extra cost and you will likely read much faster and easier.

If you want a truly productive tablet with all the jazz, get something like the Blackberry Playbook which is nearly as powerful as a laptop and not nearly as limited as the Kindle.

How Much is my Medical Practice Worth?

Shelves of Medical RecordsPhysicians often under-value their practice just like any business owner can.  The trap is easy to fall into since most practitioners feel the value is in their own work and the rest is part of the process.  This is true and yet there exists plenty of opportunity to treat the practice like a business asset, manage its opportunities as such, and reach valuation goals well beyond the normal sale price.  When it comes to business a medical, dental, or optical practice is no different from any other and because of the high cash flow and potential for many employees, would do well to be treated more like a large corporation.

Valuation opportunities:

  • Record keeping method and technology
  • Retained earnings and benefits
  • Legal ownership
  • Retirement plans
  • Medical equipment
  • Patient analytics
  • Key employees
  • Earnings reports
  • Real estate

Each one of these requires much attention to detail, especially when it comes to tax strategies.  The list may seem simple but when you really understand what something like Earnings Reports can do for you, it’s a true eye opener.  Real estate has dramatic tax advantages as well, depending on your legal designation.

At Ecspex we focus on these and much more, bringing a variety of strategies and potential solutions to the table.

Contact Ecspex to get started

2014 the Time is Right

surfing 0012014 looks like it has the potential, the wheels on the ground to become a very good year for business.  Since it doesn’t end with a ’13 and because many businesses seem to be gathering enough wind in the sails to overcome the dramatic over-regulation of the Federal Government.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  We may even see a resurgence of focus on real rate of return business rather than empty estimates and internal redistribution of assets to tweak the balance sheet.  Productivity is coming back into practice.

Where can we see evidence of this?  Not in retail sales but in attitudes of professionals and the better quality of service expectations.  Everyone I talk to is leaning toward productivity, not just streamlining expenses.  More people are interested in innovation than ever before.  Successful business investors are awash with money and seem poised to invest in good business ideas and plans.  People are focusing on smart rather than government and this will win in the long run.

If you have a business idea or plan you have been waiting to launch, do it now.  I believe a good wave to ride is coming in now.  Get up on your board and surf!

2014 Focus on Business Analytics

Business AnalyticsOne of the most important features of a well-run business is database analytics.  In any business, of any size, knowledge of your client/customer sales, activities, inquiries, and marketing information (their responses back to you) can be one of the most important determinants of the success and expansion of your business.  If you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what to do next and may be depending on luck to grow your business.  The more random your client/customer base is, the more important this becomes.

Do you have a customer/client database?  To be sure, it is more than a list of names, addresses and phone numbers.  A real database includes a form which can be filled out for each client/customer.  The form completed as much as possible for each one, depending on how often you deal with each, how much information your customers supply, and how good you are at obtaining the information.  If your business already operates online, then you should know you have no excuses for not acquiring the data.  If you meet them in person or they come and go through a store front it may be a bit less convenient to get the information.  You can also purchase or data-mine information from the web.  The point is to get as much data as possible and collect it in a powerful database.

Why is it valuable?  Because once you have the data you can crunch it in an endless number of ways, mathematically, by date, by frequency, by items in your inventory, and almost anything you can think of.  This data is very important because when you study it you will come up with new ideas for sales, marketing, and services.  The activities of your clients/customers and your business (including staff/employees) will uncover much about your business.  You may find ways to streamline your operations, then review new activities and expand or change further.  If you have a record of requests from your employees and customers you can respond by making changes based on the frequency.  Most successful online businesses already use this data to push ads and inventory.

Even if you only own a lawn service, keeping track of requests for service will help you know when advertising may be more effective.  In a medical practice it is often known what time of year certain ailments or issues tend to show up like flu season.  Because of the complexities of a family practice, which has more variance than a specialty, the data becomes more important for business planning.  But you will need someone to design, develop the analytics to make the data valuable.

If you are successful in developing good data analytics your business may increase tremendously in value.  When selling a practice or business, this data can shed light on the real potential in developing the business under new ownership.

A list of steps to increase the value of your business with data analytics:

  • You must have a good computer, modern, latest operating systems for security
  • If you don’t have it yet, you need a web site and top web service platforms like Yahoo!, Google, Bing, WordPress, and more.
  • You need a data collection system.  Most of the web platforms above already have tools built in.  You just need to make use of them.
  • To make use of the tools above you need a good web design and analytics person who knows the ins and outs of web development, marketing, and data collection.  It is worth the money!
  • Once you have the data collected it will need to be processed.  A good database is a requirement.
  • You should review data, collection, and analytics as well as business opportunities at least once a quarter.

 

It will all grow from here.  There is a learning curve but you just need to trust that understanding the activities of your business, clients/customers/patients will help you come up with better services, products, and procedures for business success.

Ownership

Investing your money in a business, or in multiple businesses, means you are taking a position of ownership, and responsibility.  You will be responsible for knowing how the business is doing, how much you should expect to earn and when (could be years away), tax laws, ownership risk, and maybe management of the business itself.

As a stockbroker I was always amazed at how few people took ownership seriously, and it was their money they had invested.  People have a tendency to wish for an end result but they rarely manage the process to get there.  A good policy for you, whether you invest in stocks, bonds, partnerships, or directly, would be to care about your ownership position and what it means to be there.  Take your position so seriously that you feel the need to understand the business, its opportunities and risks, and maintain a real expectation of return over a reasonable period of time.

As you seek opportunity you may be interested in pursuing a business you recently became excited about.  The excitement is what causes inventors to invent, innovators to innovate, and gamblers to gamble.  Be careful which way you go.  When you have an interest in a particular business it may be of value to compare the merits of ownership to other businesses.  For instance, you may want to compare your opportunity to the rewards of owning a food franchise, a dry cleaning business, or a dress shop.  Just be sure you understand where your business fits in the food chain of the economy, stand back and take a hard look while considering if it really has a good chance of performing at the level you wish.  Remember, we are talking about business ownership and not innovation which is completely different.

Now you have your work cut out for you.  You will need to consider the following:Ecspex Logo

  • How much to invest.  Should you do it all or will there be other investors?
  • How long will it take to make money? A month, year, 3 years, or maybe 5?
  • You will need many resources, even for an established business.  Legal, taxes, management, suppliers, customers, advertising…
  • You must plan for success, otherwise why own a business?  You need a real plan, not just a list of goals.
  • It is important to plan for failure too.  When should you cut your losses?  How will you know if the business is a failure?  Can you move on without too much emotion and regret?  Field Marshal Rommel was an expert at this.
  • Set Waypoints for success.  Waypoints are smaller goals you expect to meet along the way to your primary goals.  i.e. a start date is a waypoint to being in business.

I mentioned that Innovation is different from ownership, and it is.  Innovators may or may not be business owners.  Innovators have ideas of how to make a business, new or established, run better.  Steve Jobs was no inventor, was not a good business owner at times and was fired from Apple for poor performance, but his innovations propelled the company forward just enough ahead of the pack to make Apple successful.  If you are an innovator then you have an idea to bring to the productivity of the world.  In doing so you may need to engage the help of a business owner/leader to help you execute an effective plan.  I will discuss this in a separate article.