Category Archives: Blog

Made In The USA!

USA
Made in USA

Made in the USA. That’s still the best idea! To paraphrase an old maxim: “what’s good for the U.S. is good for the world”. Let’s take a page from our post-WWII playbook and reclaim the business initiatives and entrepreneurial spirit that gave rise to our decades-long economic prosperity. Despite baseless claims by this mostly inept federal administration and their many lapdog media shills, we’re mired at a progressively stagnant, and perhaps, systemically declining economic level. More and more, many have begun to wonder if the historic U.S. business success story has peaked and if we’re on an inevitable and unavoidable downhill slide toward national economic mediocrity. Have we lost or abdicated our world-envied economic leadership  to other fledgling countries or regions?

Bypassing an easy finger pointing at the many lame and ineffective politicians and agenda-driven bureaucrats, this group, as well as previous ones, aren’t largely to blame. Instead, we need to understand that the U. S. has been slammed even more so by an insidious triple-fisted mega punch of technological efficiency, on-shore manufacturing decline, and big business dominance. The fact remains that much of the so-called decline of the middle-class can be attributed to the unforeseen net loss of jobs or wage stagnation by this industrial paradigm shift. There are simply fewer $50,000 to $75,000 jobs to be had today.

The substitution or replacement of new-industry created jobs, lower full-time wages, more part-time, and contract positions simply doesn’t compute to what has been lost in this industrial transformation.  The indisputable fact remains that the growth in the service sector and technical jobs has not kept pace with the loss in jobs from manufacturing, business combinations, or earning power from those displaced by other newer, less employee-dependent business models. Added to that are 25% to 50% new and higher monthly family expenses needed to run the average household given today’s market configuration from as recently as 2000. Want proof? Simply look at where we are now and where we are headed. While it is inarguable and  vital that we champion our technology vision, innovation, and leadership as a nation, it’s clear now that it cannot be at the exclusion of a more comprehensive “old school” industrial skill-set. It’s time to restore the best of the “Made in the USA” model.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to be vigorously recruited and financially supported by our myriad financial entities, be they our currently misdirected commercial banking institutions and a largely ineffective SBA support system. Our big banks need to be led away from their harmful business model propensity to be investment bankers and real estate mortgage fee seekers. Here is a real opportunity for politicians and regulators to have a positive impact on rebuilding our national economic clout by assuring financial institutions better support job-creating businesses like those that sprung up after WWII. Banks simply have to to do more bread and butter lending like their pre-2000 counterparts.

The rise of more and  larger corporations, be they regional, national, or international, and their impact on our business malaise also needs important strategic attention. Clearly, their shareholder focus largely usurps any other broader consideration. The trend away from smaller, more closely-held businesses has had a decided impact on our economic well-being inasmuch as “big biz” can more easily dictate financial terms in the marketplace. Many can only continue to survive or prosper by cost-cutting, not by revenue growth in a no-growth economy. That’s a business model that’s simply not sustainable over time. Regrettably, there’s likely some need here for governmental incentives that put U.S. economic interests first for USA-domiciled companies. It’s highly unlikely that a corporate re-migration will occur otherwise.

Lastly, at some point, our government and the macro-business community needs to realize that depending on others, particularly China, a devious business partner at best and a self-avowed U.S. foe, is a not only a shortsighted business strategy, but one that has much broader national security implications as well. Again, hearkening back to our WWII lessons, having an ever-ready, flexible, and potent manufacturing infrastructure at hand meant the difference between victory and defeat. That is no less a potential consideration in today’s rapidly deteriorating socio-political world climate.

By focusing on “Made in the USA” we can, first, restore our economic vitality over the next several years. Many of our societal pressures and conditions stem from people not being able to sustain themselves financially. A sound domestic economic underpinning can help alleviate some of those issues and enable us, once again, to be the undisputed beacon of a free world. Our diplomacy and international largess can only come from a sound domestic footing. Go USA!

Mobile Advertising Soars Says Facebook Head

smartphone
mobile advertising

Mobile advertising, whether smartphone or tablet, continues to dominate how businesses spend their marketing dollars. The first transition away from traditional TV, radio, and print advertising delivery toward more online promotions has already occurred. This second shift in ad dollar spends is to capture more clients and views by way of mobile content.

At their recent F8 developer conference, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg reiterated the importance of mobile to the social networking giant. He indicated that 1 billlion of their 1.28 billion users access Facebook via mobile. Mobile advertising is the single largest contributor to their revenues, he noted. As a result, Facebook is also premiering its own mobile ad network. Similarly, other social media favorites such as Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn have their own mobile outreach strategies  well underway.

The takeaway for your business is to have your web presence centered on mobile-friendly usability. Your company message and promotions need to be there as viewers move through their days at a typically frantic pace. It no longer is sufficient to have  a perfect website that is viewed at a leisurely pace. You need to make things happen, right now, on that fleeting visit you get by your mobile viewers.

 

 

Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) Digital Wallet

Major retailers including Wal Mart and Target have formed a sizable retailer alliance championing a new initiative named Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) Digital Wallet. Described as a mobile commerce platform, the MCX application is intended to work with any smartphone. With the digital wallet concept, consumers store all of their card data on the application. This negates the need to carry around a stack of credit and debit cards. At purchase, the user selects the appropriate MCX digitized card they wish to use.

MCX developers like to describe this as a “game changing” universal processing platform because it is designed by retailers for retailers. They cite a better consumer processing experience and an overall lower processing cost as significant enhancements. Their goals also include integrating this payment app with a wide range of POS systems and being able to add loyalty program and coupon functionality.

MCX takes direct aim at other mobile processing options like those offered by Google Wallet, PayPal, and Square. It remains to be seen if there is room in the mobile processing space for everyone, or if winners or alliances begin to appear, particularly as smaller retailers become involved. For more information, you can go to mcx.com.

Make 2014 Your Best Business Year Yet!

“I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” – Estee Lauder. What a great quote. Simply put, you need to believe in yourself and your endeavors, and never give up. It’s been the mantra of successful entrepreneurs forever. Have a strategic plan and work it relentlessly. Make 2014 your most successful year. Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year

Everyone’s Jumping Into The Payment Systems Business!

Everyone wants a share of your payment systems (digital) wallet. This year’s Black Friday online sales tally alone hit $1.2 billion, a 15% increase over 2012. The continued explosion in mobile device usage is creating a plethora of payment delivery system advancements and initiatives.

Facebook plans to test a new payment systems product that would allow online shoppers to make purchases on mobile apps using their Facebook login information.This capability would allow any shopper who has previously provided Facebook with their credit card details to make purchases on partnering e-commerce mobile apps without entering billing information each time it is used for a purchase.

Another intitiative, like Square, Leaf makes software that helps small businesses sort, track and analyze their in-store transactions and access that information anywhere from the cloud. Unlike Square and others, Leaf makes and sells its own tablet that runs on a custom version of Android so it can have end-to-end control over the experience the merchant receives.While wanting to own the hardware and software, Leaf is attempting to build an open platform on which others can build apps. Leaf won’t actually process payments; it lets its customers choose from several payment processors.

Yet another much ballyhooed, but not fully-defined payments product is an app called Clinkle. Said to rival PayPal, it has considerable venture capital funding to speed its development. PayPal, too, is focused on expanding its mobile reach. On top of these options, there are a number of smart card ventures that seek to add all of your payment account numbers on a single card, whereby you choose which to use for any particular purchase. All in all, expect to see a change in how consumers pay and small businesses accept payments, particularly in the mobile environment going forward.

Mobile and Online Mapping Helps Small Retailers Make the Sale!

As an added means of attracting customers away from big box stores and ecommerce sites, local retailers are using online mapping technology from providers such as Nokia and Google according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. By uploading their store data to a mapping app, local retailers begin to show up in web searches with the neccesary street routing, specific location, and physical floorplan interior layout details. Other apps like aisle411 or Retailigence enable a store to upload inventory data so online and mobile shoppers can see if a particular item is in stock or matches an item on their shopping list.

This aggressive marketing and customer service strategy helps local retailers remove impediments to myriad shopping alternatives that exist for any particular buyer, product, or service. By anticipating and answering potential buyer questions and queries, a local business owner stands a better chance of gaining both a sale and a new customer. Executed aggressively, a comprehensive online and mobile outreach plan can be a great equalizer for any small business.

 

 

Small Business Twitter Advertising

You may want to check out small business Twitter advertising and lead generation products at business.twitter.com. Using their self service advertising platform, you can examine promoted accounts, promoted tweets, and promoted trends. There are analytics available as well. According to a recent survey, about 24% of small businesses have tried Twitter ads and about a third of those rate the results as excellent or extraordinary.

Twitter has added new advertising features including pre-scheduled tweets and more specific search targets.  They have also added capabilities that make it easier for advertisers to reach the burgeoning mobile audience by targeting Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, as well as searching device type and wi-fi connectivity options.

Just another FYI from Western Equity LLC Consulting Services, as you seek to broaden your company visibility with the goal of increasing leads and sales. Good hunting!

 

 

EMV and NFC Credit Cards Coming

There is growing attention to EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) ‘smart” micro-chipped credit cards here in the U.S.  Added functionality includes NFC (near field communication), both contact and contactless, like you might see at “pay at the pump” gas stations or your local coffee shop where you wave your card in front of a reader and go. Like everything related to “smart” cards, timelines for a full card association-mandated rollout in the U.S. probably will get pushed back. But over the next 6 to 18 months, expect to have to make some decisions related to how your business processes these new credit cards. If you’re thinking of changing processors, it would definitely be good to ask about EMV card processing if they expect to sign you to a multi-year contract.  The compelling benefit to this new technology is improved card data security and significant reductions in fraud loss. Despite the industry requirement to begin to accept these cards here especially in 2015, the business reality is that over 99% of domestic association-branded cards only carry a mag stripe. Additionally, processing equipment needs to be reconfigured to read these microchip cards (although they will retain a mag stripe) or be replaced entirely. So the reality of substantial costs and the logistics of such a phase-in will challenge changeover timelines. And, overriding all of this is the absolute surety that the card associations, card issuers, processors, and businesses won’t do anything that will disrupt the trillions of dollars in card processed sales.

Boring Budgeting Brings Best Results!

It’s now November. Have you completed your 2014 financial plan or budget yet? If not, do it now, before year end crunch time. An old quote says that “planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal”. By carefully establishing best estimate revenue and expense projections now, you’ll get a glimpse into the future, good or bad, based on these assumptions. That one year plan is also the foundation for longer range financial goals over three to five years.

This plan typically starts with an unimpeded “run rate” based on a continuation of today’s activities. These first pass results are normally not acceptable, unless your company is enjoying great 2013 partial year growth and profitability that you will fully realize next year. Next, your subsidiary plans for capital expenditures, marketing and advertising, HR, sales, technology, and other new initiatives need costing and timing inclusion in order to understand the impact on 2014 results. It can take several iterations before an acceptable plan is finalized.

Whether complex or simple, you need this financial barometer to measure your actual results against. It gives you both an early warning and real time indication as to whether you’re on course with your desired goals. Want some help? Western Equity LLC’s Consulting Services can help you draft a planning framework that meets your requirements.

 

 

Square Cash – A New Debit Card to Debit Card Money Transfer Product

Square Inc. has announced the roll out of Square Cash,  a new free email personal debit card to debit card money transfer product. As it works informally and simplistically by email, there’s no new accounts, passwords or logins and no new app to add. It works on any email-capable device such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Initially, Square Cash is designed to work on a person to person basis and is not intended for retail sales purchases of any kind. It requires either a Visa or MasterCard debit card from any U.S. bank. To utilize the service you compose an email to the party you wish to send money to, you cc: cash@square.com, and in the subject field you enter the amount you’re sending. You can either leave the message body blank or describe the payment. Then press Send. International transfers are not presently supported.

There are obvious questions regarding security, liability, dollar limits, and why or what Square gets for these “free” transfers. Starting out, transfers are limited to $250 a week without providing more information to Square. There is a one time requirement by Square to enter your debit card information which they use to verify the legitimacy of your card and check your balance (ala normal card processing protocol) before acting on the email. Funds are expected to be deposited in one to two business days. Because there is no account per se, there is no transfer record or reconcilement feature available. You would only have your email trail to verify any transfers. An interesting concept from some creative thinkers. Let’s see where it leads.