Category Archives: Research

Storytelling for Children and Executives

The Wall Street Journal tells how the CEO of Procter and Gamble is more interested in the storyteller than in the powerpoint slides. Therefore presentations should have powerful stories.

Mr. Atkinson suggests organizing your story into three acts and starting by establishing context. You want to let your audience know who the main characters are, what the background of the story is, and what you’d like to accomplish by telling it, he says. You might open, for example, by describing a department that’s consistently failed to meet sales goals.

Move on to how your main character—you or the company—fights to resolve the conflicts that create tension in the story, Mr. Atkinson says. Success may require the main character to make additional capital investments or take on new training. Provide real-world examples and detail that can anchor the narrative, he advises.

The ending should inspire a call to action, since you are allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions about your story versus just telling them what to do. Don’t be afraid to use your own failures in support of your main points, says Mr. Smith.

Whatever you do, don’t preface your story with an apology or ask permission to tell it. Be confident that your story has enough relevance to be told and just launch into it, says Mr. Smith. Confidence and authority, he says, help to sell the idea to your audience.

The idea here is not new. Humans are more receptive to stories than to data. The powerful message that was omitted, however, was that while people are more receptive to anecdotes than boring powerpoint presentations, good decisions are made based on information. A story backed up by data combines the power of human psychology with the power of knowledge.

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India, an Underappreciated Superpower?

With a population of 1.2 billion, it’s hard to imagine that India is being overlooked as a global power. However, many people don’t realize that India’s population is projected to exceed China’s by 2030; nor do they realize that McKinsey estimated India’s middle class is 300 million, and expected to double by 2030. Furthermore, India’s industry & economy is already greater than most nations, apart from the EU, US and China. (As calculated by CIA World Fact Book GDP Purchasing Power Parity.) The business landscape in India has been difficult to track, but there are now detailed reports to research India’s industries in the low-tech manufacturing and services sectors.

 

Inc Magazine: Best Industries for Starting a Business

Inc Magazine article highlighting 16 industries for starting a business. A few of the industries are a little goofy (e.g., selling homemade goods online and sperm banks), but others come from the just-released Top Industry data from AnythingResearch.com. Cool, huh? There are certainly a lot of other factors that go into identifying venture opportunities, but many of these  less well-known industries are worth looking at.

Is the Greece Bailout Big?

Does hearing about another $957 billion in bailout money make you cringe? Bailouts were yesterday’s news. In fact, I don’t even remember what the total U.S. bailout is. As reference, I needed to check Bloomberg to determine we’re passing $3.8 trillion in bailout funds (with many additional trillions committed).

U.S. Bailout

                                  --- Amounts (Billions)---
                                   Limit          Current
===========================================================
Total                            $11,623.63     $3,800.18
-----------------------------------------------------------
 Federal Reserve Total            $7,565.63     $1,478.88
  Primary Credit Discount           $110.74        $65.14
  Secondary Credit                    $0.19         $0.00
  Primary dealer and others         $147.00        $25.27
  ABCP Liquidity                    $152.11        $12.72
  AIG Credit                         $60.00        $37.36
  Net Portfolio CP Funding        $1,800.00       $248.67
  Maiden Lane (Bear Stearns)         $29.50        $28.82
  Maiden Lane II  (AIG)              $22.50        $18.82
  Maiden Lane III (AIG)              $30.00        $24.34
  Term Securities Lending           $250.00       $115.28
  Term Auction Facility             $900.00       $447.56
  Securities lending overnight       $10.00         $5.59
  Public-Private Investment Fund  $1,000.00         $0.00
  Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility $1,000.00         $0.00
  Currency Swaps/Other Assets       $606.00       $417.86
  MMIFF                             $540.00         $0.00
  GSE Debt Purchases                $600.00        $33.58
  Citigroup Bailout Fed Portion     $220.40         $0.00
  Bank of America Bailout            $87.20         $0.00
-----------------------------------------------------------
  FDIC Total                      $1,551.50       $400.30
   FDIC Liquidity Guarantees      $1,400.00       $261.30
   GE                               $139.00       $139.00
   Citigroup Bailout FDIC            $10.00         $0.00
   Bank of America Bailout FDIC       $2.50         $0.00
-----------------------------------------------------------
 Treasury Total                   $2,206.50     $1,621.00
  TARP                              $700.00       $387.00
  Tax Break for Banks                $29.00        $29.00
  Stimulus Package                  $168.00       $168.00
  Stimulus II                       $787.00       $787.00
  Treasury Exchange Stabilization    $50.00        $50.00
  Student Loan Purchases             $60.00         $0.00
  Citigroup Bailout                   $5.00         $0.00
  Bank of America Bailout             $7.50         $0.00
  Support for Fannie/Freddie        $400.00       $200.00
-----------------------------------------------------------
HUD Total                           $300.00       $300.00
  Hope for Homeowners FHA           $300.00       $300.00

Moving on to Greece…

Greece’s GDP is $356 billion; compared to U.S. GDP of $13,840 billion. Their bailout package is nearly triple their GDP. Now I understand why they’re rioting.

GDP and Bailout Size - Greece versus United States

Bush is to Ritz-Carlton As Obama is to….

I ran across the following when reviewing government contracts…

Under the Bush Administration, the Department of Homeland Security spent $13,094 for a conference room in the Ritz Carlton on July 8, 2008.The meeting was for the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

Attending the meeting: Mr. Erle A. Nye; Mr. Alfred R. Berkeley  III; Mr. Edmund G. Archuleta; Dr. Craig R. Barrett; Mr. David J. Bronczek; Mr. Wesley Bush; Ms. Margaret E. Grayson; Mr. Phillip Heasley; Mr. David Kepler; Mr. Thomas E. Noonan; Hon. Tim Pawlenty; Mr. Gregory Peters; Mr. James A. Reid; Dr. Linwood H. Rose; Mr. Matthew Rose; Mr. Michael Wallace; Mr. John Williams; and Ms. Martha Wyrsch.

In addition to approving the minutes of the previous meeting, the members offered insight to the Department of Homeland Security on the need to secure America’s privately owned infrastructure.

Full minutes available here: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/niac/niac_meeting_minutes_2008-07-08.pdf

Under the Obama Administration, NIAC meetings have been held at the Marriott.

Why the Department of Defense Failed to Secure Our Computers

Every day, new viruses emerge that compromise the security of millions of computers – both personal and corporate. As government agencies increasingly rely upon commercial software for Top Secret computer systems, they found themselves facing a difficult dilemma: continue using their 80’s era software or upgrade to the latest commercial systems, while exposing themselves to the security vulnerabilities that plague everyday users.

From 1999-2001, Robert Meushaw, the director of the NSA’s Information Assurance Reserach Laboratory (NIARL), and his team worked on a solution that coul dgive hte best of both worlds. The system he developed, codenamed NetTop, uses a “sandbox” technique whereby inherently insecure software (such as Microsoft Windows and MS Office) is granted access to a limited portion of the computer. Even if one of the insecure applications was infected with a virus, it is unable to spread beyond the specific machine.

Unfortunately, the results were disappointing. Two crucial missteps ultimately led to its slow adoption within government agencies and by the general public.

The first problem was that NetTop compromised security for functionality. By being neither 100% secure, nor 100% functional, security experts were unsatisfied, and users were frustrated.

The second problem was around cost. Each “virtual” system required its own licenses. Thus, Top Secret computers that accessed six separate networks would require 6 licenses for Microsoft Windows on a single computer! Furthermore, the virtualization component was developed by a for-profit startup named VMWare (now publicly traded NYSE: VMW). As VMWare grew larger and more successful, Microsoft started to tamp down the competition by restricting its licensing terms to make virtualization even less cost-effective.

The end result has been another expensive government project with limited application and a dim future.

Three Things Every Business Should Do in a Recession

Change begets opportunity. Given the current economic situation, here are three things that every company should do:

Renegotiate vendor contracts. This is not to say that you should squeeze all profit out of your vendors. Business relations should always be mutually beneficial. However, contracts that were negotiated a few years ago when things looked rosy should be carefully reevaluated. For example, one small business was able to renegotiate their contract with Verizon Business and cut their bill in half.

Foster employee loyalty. Employees are more likely to stay at their jobs now, if they feel the jobs are secure. The good news is it’s easier to retain employees. But don’t be lulled by this. Unhappy employees being forced to work harder and longer hours will not stick around once the economy turns. Now that employee’s expectations are lower, do small things to increase job satisfaction and make people feel appreciated.

Do more for your customers. Much advice centers on how to maintain price discipline and avoid doing work at (or below) cost. There’s a different opportunity, however. Given that your customers are likely facing a new environment, they may be open to help in new, adjacent areas. For example, a company that downsized may now be shortstaffed in certain areas and happy to have a vendor provide managed services. Look for these areas, and propose solutions for your customers’ problems.

AnythingResearch.com – Industry Analytics and Research

AnythingResearch.com has released 2009 research reports on over a thousand industries providing instantaneous access to market size, typical financials (e.g., income statement, balance sheet), salary benchmarks, etc etc.

The goal is to shed light on  small businesses in “main street” industries by providing accurate and detailed statistics.

http://www.AnythingResearch.com

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When to Rebalance Your Portfolio

In the last few years, “rebalancing” has become all the rage – with the theory being that choosing an asset allocation of stocks, bonds, etc and sticking to it will force you as an investor to buy low and sell high.

This approach has become so ubiquitous that many 401k plans (and funds) offer automatic rebalancing on a yearly or quarterly basis.

Now, the Journal of Financial Planning reports that this approach is suboptimal. Research shows that a better approach to rebalancing is to look often, but only rebalance when assets have substantially depreciated/appreciated.

A more comprehensive study by Ben Stein & Philip DeMuth goes through 10,000 Monte Carlo Simulations to find an even better strategy to rebalancing: NEVER.

Rebalancing had the effect of reducing both volatility (risk) and returns. Investors with long time horizons (e.g., 401ks) should wait out the bad times, perhaps buy when securities are undervalued (such as now), but resist the urge to rebalance automatically.

Private Equity Enters the Trailer Park Industry

Note: for information on the Watchtower industry screening tool, please contact Daniel Berch.

Trailer Park Boys (television show and movie) is an amusing and sometimes heartbreaking look at struggles towards life and happiness in an RV park in Nova Scotia. But while the Boys were busy with various get-rich-quick schemes, private equity investment firm Context Capital Partners entered the space.

Industry data shows EBITDA margins of 27%, slow but steady growth around 2% per year, and extreme fragmentation for the RV Parks and Campgrounds industry (NAICS 721711). And at, $1.7 billion market size, it’s worth a second look.

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