A big “Thank You” and even bigger debt of gratitude is owed to our USA Veterans and Active Military. A day to honor those that have kept the greatest country in recorded history safe and secure. We salute our Arizona Veterans and Military. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and First Responders. Tough duty in a tougher world. Much Respect!
Veterans Day 2018! In this contentious world and country, we owe our freedoms and liberties to our combined armed forces with their continued vigilance and readiness. For over 240 years, people the world over have sought out the USA for opportunity and a better way of life. For all our critics and enemies, no one can dispute that the United States is still the unparalleled land of hope. In today’s crazy world scenario, we task our military with ferreting out undeclared and shadowy zealots as well as holding perennial rivals like Russia and China at bay, who if they had our military strength and firepower, would potentially seek to do us harm.
So, on this Veterans Day, we reflect and honor those brave souls that have protected our way of life and freedom since 1776. And, we salute and thank today’s US Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard forces who routinely face danger on a daily basis from any number of hostiles around the world; all who want what our military has fought so long and hard to preserve on our behalf for over two hundred years. So fly “Old Glory” at full staff this weekend to celebrate our military and those who have fought and died for our country since its inception. Be sure to attend a Phoenix-area Veterans Day event to acknowledge and thank the unsung heroes that keep us safe. We’ll see you at the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade in downtown Phoenix on Monday, November 12th starting at 11:00 am.
Third quarter 2018 business expenses showed a decided thriftiness according to a recent study released by Certify, a leading travel and business expense tracking service provider. Their analysis consisted of reviewing more than 10 million expense reports that were submitted. Gone, apparently, are the Mad Men TV series days of two martini lunches.
Uber, Starbucks, and Amazon top the list of expense chits submitted. Even with this prominence, Uber’s 11% share and the other two’s 4% are relatively modest. Uber has negatively impacted traditional taxi, shuttle and limo services, but sees important competition from 6th place rival Lyft. Starbucks is making inroads with a more complete dining experience than just coffee service. Amazon is also catapulting on it’s known retail strength with more and more business users.
Other top ten companies expensed include travel-related carriers Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and National Car Rental. Familiar names rounding out the remainder of the leaders were Shell Oil, Walmart and McDonald’s. Hampton Inn, though not in the top ten, was the most expensed hotel chain. In food delivery, for those in-office working lunches, Grubhub continues to lead, but is threatened by fast-growing Uber Eats.
There are certainly exceptions to the low cost nature of reported business expense transactions, especially in long-lead or high dollar sales and service industries where wining and dining tradition still holds fast. Let your sales report and bottom line be your guide.
The number of international travelers rose slightly in 2017 to 76.9 million. Spending by these visitors hit a record $251.4 billion according to the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. While the number of international travelers was down slightly from 2015’s all-time high of about 78 million, the strength of visitor numbers helped allay travel industry fears about heightened federal government border and travel ban security policies.
These numbers showed a decided shift in the origin of international visitors as double digit increases in South Korea, Brazil, and Ireland offset not surprising reduced visits from Mexico and the Middle East. Mexican travelers totaled 17.8 million down from 2016’s 19 million, but still represented the U.S.’s number one source of cross-border travelers.
U.S. Travel, a travel industry trade group, noted that U.S. share of total international travel declined from 13.6% in 2015 to a forecasted 12% this year. They also are seeking an expansion of the U.S. visa waiver program beyond the current 38 countries as a means of spurring additional American visits. Under this plan, visitors need only present a passport from their host country to enter the country. South Korean visits jumped after that country was added to the list of visa-exempt nations.
Home wi-fi connectivity is fast-changing as the technology that we routinely rely and depend on evolves. To fully use and enjoy your newest smartphone, home device or those streaming media favorites found on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu or Spotify, you want to be able to receive strong, fast and reliable wireless signals throughout your home. Most of us have typically relied on wireless routers and, perhaps, a second router that acts as a range extender. It’s not unusual, though, to find frustrating weak or dead spots from room to room with such a system depending on the physical characteristics of the home. If you’re a heavy personal wireless user or rely on high-speed system availability for a home office or business, no or slow reacting response is unacceptable.
A newer and, perhaps, more robust wi-fi system is now available through a variety of technology communication companies. Popularly referred to as “mesh” systems, this linking protocol generally uses one main router and then as many satellite modules as needed to achieve the necessary coverage required for that home or dwelling’s layout and size. These added modules or nodes as they are also known, communicate both with the router and link between themselves. This mesh-type configuration assures a continuous string of “helping” communicating devices that enable signals to be as strong at the furthest point away from the wired router as the nearest. Need more or better coverage? Just add another module where coverage is not up to your expectations. Talk with your favorite tech guru. For a few hundred dollars, you can make sure your latest, greatest devices have someone or something to talk to.
While traditionalists lament the apparent decline of our domestic manufacturing capabilities in today’s global environment, a recently-released Brookings study found that our overall output standing has not changed precipitously since 1970. True, we have fallen to second behind China in total output, but, interestingly, they absorbed the most-labor intensive processes to grow their capabilities. This is evidenced by their 2015 20% global market share requiring a reported 129 million workers at a time when our U.S. 18 % share employed a much more efficient 16 million, down from 1970’s all-time highs of about 20 million jobs.
A national economic strategy should be to cherry-pick back the most attractive jobs that were likely offshored over the past several years which would also help regain the top spot in output. The Trump presidency has shown more interest in reclaiming the manufacturing sector than the prior administration that saw job growth largely occur in the governmental and service sectors.
Clearly, the U.S. has invented, grown and retained the most technically efficient manufacturing processes and industries in the world. In many ways, China is at a point where the U.S. was decades ago. Going forward, it’s important that we protect our most valuable U.S. intellectual property. Equally important is our U.S. cultivation of entrepreneurs and tech-savvy small businesses to further grow tomorrow’s manufacturing innovations . This will ensure our continued dominance on the world productivity stage, and give us added protection in a rapidly confrontational international world of nations.
As Q1 2016 comes to a close in a few weeks, is your small or mid-sized business on track to achieve or exceed your strategic goals? Are there particular metrics that don’t measure up?
Are you driving revenues as expected with decent margins? Are you gaining profitable customers? Is cost control your only salvation to date? Are any new initiatives working?
Do you have links to your subsidiary functional plans that align so that your entire business is hitting on all cylinders? Is your communication process good at getting specific expectations to those colleagues that need to perform? Does everyone have “walking around” understanding of goals and objectives? Do they “buy-in”? In our experience, many planning processes are either too “elegant”, cumbersome or non-specific. Plans can fail if they don’t lead employees to the correct behavior every day.
“Doing the right thing is more important than doing things right”.
An independent consulting check-up can help determine if your internal planning, budget and operational reviews have identified material issues and any corrective actions that may be required. It may also uncover other factors that may be missed or are considered off-limits or sacrosanct.
Now may be the time for a fresh set of eyes. All too often, owners and managers are great cheerleaders for their business (as expected) at the expense of simultaneously being vigilant and fierce critics. It’s important to identify and mitigate any competitive weaknesses before your competitors or customers do.
As fabled GE CEO Jack Welch reportedly once said “change before you have to”.
The end result of a consulting evaluation may assure your company’s ongoing high performance results. Western Equity will consider consultative, interim, temporary, or part time senior engagements. Please contact us regarding your requirements.
The SBA has declared the week of May 4th through the 8th as National Small Business Week. There is no doubt that our nation’s entrepreneurs are a vital cog in restoring and growing our country’s economy and job base. This was made all the more evident by the most recent March trade deficit numbers just released by the Census Bureau.
The $51.4 billion trade deficit in March is the highest since October 2008. Contributing to this gap is a strong dollar which makes imports cheaper and the cessation of West Coast port labor disputes which caused import backlogs.
The SBA and banks need to continue to focus on our small business community. A trend toward larger entities and the preponderance of technology and service business firms have failed to keep pace with the loss of high-paying jobs in other industry types. We need to encourage and support both local business start-ups and those that have weathered the recent economic downturn.
It remains to be seen if we can recapture and exceed our previous economic levels and leadership. If we do, we’ll owe a debt of gratitude to those that risk their personal well being by creating or maintaining their own businesses.
More entrepreneurs are needed to bolster the U.S. economy. The just released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index (PPI) for January reflected the third consecutive monthly decline in U.S. output. Consequently, there has been virtually no change in the PPI for the 12 months ended in January. This means that the economy is still, largely, stuck in neutral despite some modest improvement and coincides with rather unimpressive employment figures related to high-paying full time job growth. Arizona, particularly, has yet to rebound from the recent recession. Business results and employment trends are largely unchanged and remain at recent year lows.
The PPI decline is reflective of plunging energy costs, softer global demand, and a strong U.S. dollar. Too, it indicates U.S. company reliance on overseas manufacturing and our net importer status as a nation. As we’ve noted here before, the ability to manufacture more domestically and not rely solely on service sector and technology leadership is a better strategy for restoring our worldwide economic dominance.
More entrepreneurs mean more small business start-ups (which also have been in decline). Without small biz leadership, the U.S. cannot realistically regain manufacturing capacity or create higher paying jobs. Big business has too many entrenched interests to be expected to make a radical directional change. Our small business centers of influence and support resources must re-double their efforts to bolster both new entrepreneurs and existing owner-operated company initiatives.
Business advertisers are reporting growing disenchantment with declining online marketing results. One heretofore standard metric of page views is proving to be a less and less reliable predictor of marketing success. At the heart of it all is the growing difficulty in getting an ad message out to the desired demographic at a time when million of websites compete for that same viewer. In a recent USA Today article, columnist Roger Yu cited the following statistics relative to web-related advertising: 55% of media site clicks get less than 15 seconds of attention; 56% of all website ads are not seen at all; 24% of viewers scroll down for ads compared to 71% seeking article content; and 1/10 of 1% of banner ads are actually clicked. In response to this disturbing trend, web publishers are focusing on longer, more compelling story content, simplified web page design that highlights key items, and creating more embeds of videos, links, quizzes, and photo galleries. Pages are also more frequently “never ending” scrolls to keep readers engaged without going to a new tab or page. Google recently opined that 56% of ads are not viewed because either readers are not scrolling far enough or the ad is are too far down on a page.
Is your business experiencing declining response results from your reported page views and click-through rates? If so, it warrants reexamining your marketing strategy with your advertising and website resources. Most small businesses are finding that while they engage in plenty of “chatter”, that activity is not so readily translating into actionable business results. And that’s what advertising is all about.