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Category: Business

A view on small biz

A view on small biz

Note: I have tried to refrain from publishing COVID-19 information and data, as I strongly believe there is too much false, misleading and invalidated information floating around making the situation MORE dangerous.

Seeking Alpha, however, put out a short post on the current state of small business in US based on a recent survey from NY FED. If this does not increase your empathy for small biz owner, you may have lost your heart …

quote:

Some 86% of U.S. small businesses would need to take some action to mitigate losses if they missed two months of revenue, according to the New York Fed’s Small Business Credit Survey, which was conducted in the latter half of 2019 before the COVID- 19 pandemic emerged in the U.S.

Such actions might include using an owner’s personal funds, taking out debt, or reducing salaries of the owner or employees.

Less than half of small businesses have received funds from a bank in the last five years, according to the survey.

That’s particularly salient now because it could slow their access to the Payroll Protection Program funds available under the CARES Act, as banks still need to vet applicants to meet strict anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, almost two-thirds of the firms surveyed faced financial challenges in the previous year, with the most common being paying operating expenses (43%) followed by difficulties with credit availability (33%).

Source: https://seekingalpha.com/news/3559403-small-businesses-lack-cushion-for-missing-two-months-of-revenue-ny-fed

CFO Survey

CFO Survey

Recession talk disappeared with the holidays and new year and the geopolitical crazies … and the interest rate inversion corrected. Nothing to worry about, right?

https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-fuqua-insights/cfo-survey-half-us-cfos-expect-recession-2020-election-looms

Based on my experience in corporate world, good CFOs have a pretty accurate pulse on revenue growth (and costs required for that growth). I am not positioning this as a ‘be-all’ insight into 2020, but for me, a data point that weighs a bit heavier than predictions from talking head type pundits.

Quote below

2020 Recession

More than half (52%) of U.S. CFOs believe the U.S. will be in an economic recession by the end of 2020, and 76% predict a recession by mid-2021. 

“Business leaders continue to expect an economic slowdown in the U.S. before or concurrent with the presidential election,” said John Graham, a finance professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and director of the survey. “I’d expect uncertainty about the election itself to cause firms to slow expansion in the summer and fall of 2020.”

Seventy-nine percent of CFOs in Asia believe their countries will be in recession by the fourth quarter of 2020, as do the majority of CFOs in Africa (77%), Canada (67%) and Latin America (55%). Forty-nine percent of CFOs in Europe expect a recession by the end of 2020.

WAPO – Election Security – worrisome in the 10th degree if you ask me

WAPO – Election Security – worrisome in the 10th degree if you ask me

Quote:

PATCHED:The vast majority of the nation’s largest county election offices aren’t protecting themselves against basic email phishing attacks that hackers could use to disable polling equipment and sow chaos on Election Day, a report out this morning finds. 

The company Valimail checked protections at election offices in the three largest counties in every state and found just 5 percent were set up to automatically reject or quarantine suspicious emails. Across six active swing states — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — none of the top three counties had the protection. 

The fact that election officials aren’t using basic protections against email phishing suggests they’d be “staggeringly” vulnerable to a sophisticated foreign adversary, Seth Blank, director of industry initiatives at Valimail, told me.

https://www.washingtonpost.com

Trade or Product? – answer impacts strategy

Trade or Product? – answer impacts strategy

Heisenberg posted a quick one this morning on China autos … i verged off a bit on this snippet: “America’s loss in terms of Chinese market share is Germany and Japan’s gain. “As GM and Ford’s China sales extend declines, US car companies’ share of total China passenger vehicles sales fell to 9.5% in the first eight months of this year from 10.7% in the year-ago period”, Reuters wrote this week. “Over the same period, German car makers’ share has risen to 23.8% from 21.6% and Japanese auto makers’ to 21.7% from 18.3%”.

Ok, so is this decline from all the trade noise (US / China), or something far more problematic … is this that US autos are not hitting the market w/ the right products? If I was either an auto exec or investor (i am neither, tho i do find BYD interesting for their battery possibilities), I would surely want to know the answer to that question and adjust my strategic planning accordingly.

Heisenberg’s post https://heisenbergreport.com/2019/10/12/15-out-of-16-chinas-worst-ever-car-market-slump-deepens/

Windows 7 is good enough for voting machines, really?

Windows 7 is good enough for voting machines, really?

This is just crazy or stupid. I would advocate that even small business should be getting off Windows 7 as fast as possible. But it is good enough for US voting machines (a huge impact attack surface that we know is already week – voting machines), really? This just does not make sense and demonstrates incredibly poor planning for one of the most important activities in our democracy – voting.

Too many meetings?

Too many meetings?

So many of us have lived this and so many of us keep living it. You do not have to, nor should you. Meetings can be effective, efficient and successful. It just takes a bit of effort …

Here’s one set of ideas

https://www.inc.com/robbie-abed/microsoft-found-that-banning-this-1-thing-led-to-happier-employees.html

Here is another set of ideas

https://www.inc.com/scott-mautz/linkedin-ceo-jeff-weiner-says-this-1-simple-rule-will-eliminate-useless-meetings.html

Ecosystems or Platforms?

Ecosystems or Platforms?

A recent post by a followed SA author (John M. Mason) returned to the ‘ecosystem’ value chain narrative – i remember this from almost 10 years ago as my former employer tried to create “the third mobile ecosystem” behind Google and Apple. We failed miserably, but the learnings and strategy were invaluable. John has a solid way of tilting paradigms for investor evaluation, and I appreciate that. Ecosystems are a type of moat – but way more resiliant. Ecosystems take big money and years to evolve to that strength however, and that was our learning – we tried to make it happen on our timeline. They also seem cemented with differentiated and spectacular user / customer experience – not a ‘thing’.

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4269956-21st-century-leaders-build-ecosystems-contrasting-amazon-and-t

Actionable take-way will be an increased scrutiny on my T investments.

Managers, pay attention!

Managers, pay attention!

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4268106-best-stocks-buy-best-places-work

If investors value well run companies (those who treat their employees well) … you can assume a couple of things. a) investors are stupid and employee enthusiasm for their employer has nothing to do w/ company performance, or b) enthusaistic employees (happy) are more productive, innovative and resiliant and increase the value of their company beyond competitiors who treat employees less well.

Even if you have small business and do not sell stock … do not you want the same results? productive, innovative and resiliant employees who increase your company’s value beyond your competitors?

Seems straight forward to me

Hacking tools and hands for hire – cheap!

Hacking tools and hands for hire – cheap!

Much has been said / printed about the cybersecurity risks we all face with our digital information and transactions. But, i believe many of us underestimate just how easy and cheaply it is for ‘bad folks’ to get access, tools and other resources to do the work … for example, quote: “In another case, McGuire and Bromium found a database of passwords and PIN numbers that appeared to belong to customers of Qatar National Bank, a global bank with tens of billions of dollars in revenue, for sale for roughly $10.”

That quote was from an article referenced by Washington Post – https://www.cyberscoop.com/corporations-beware-dark-net-markets-selling-tools-targeting-accounts/

WAPO pointed to a Bloomberg post – you may need subscription https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-06/access-to-bank-networks-for-sale-on-dark-web-new-research-says

An interesting costing estimate, quote: “The price for commissioning an attack on a specific corporation averaged about $4,500, the researchers found. Bespoke corporate espionage services, targeting either individuals or specific information from a particular company, were available for fees ranging from $1,000 to $15,000, they said.”

Thought provoking article – ‘should read’

Thought provoking article – ‘should read’

Eric B posted an article this weekend that I found one of the most provoking reads in several weeks.

Here was my comment to the author

Eric … one of the most thought provoking article I have seen in the recent up-roar of tariffs and inverted yield curves. One of your key elements here is to expand our analysis horizons from days / quarters (typical) to decades using the JPN / EU patterns. The other point you made but did not hammer too hard – is that the employment trend (older people working longer) and the financial insecurity of the younger cohorts (especially 25-35 yrs) – think low income and high debt – is a vicious cycle (or virtuous) – that younger cohort will enter their later years worse off than the current older cohort, so … older folks work longer than boomers; and the cycle continues with greater values at each spin. These are important long term trends for us investors and I applaud your effort to extend our analysis horizons.

Btw … this is not important for investors, but business folks working on longer term product roadmaps and strategic plans. Many of our future growth variables and assumptions need to be challenged in the context of these demographic and debt pressures building across the globe.

AI Patents

AI Patents

Another great dataset from Statista … Patents can be cash machines later but can be hard to tell which ones generate the cash, e.g., NOK and QCOM from the early cell phone days. MSFT was a surprise as the top one with such a gap.

VZ offers NB IOT network

VZ offers NB IOT network

https://seekingalpha.com/pr/17511427-verizon-extends-iot-leadership-position-launching-narrowband-iot-network-nationwide-offering

This is just a beginning. One cool part of the announcement is the inclusion both IP and non-IP traffic, and even more so specific use cases. Quote:

  • Smart cities – improve citizen experience and municipal operations through parking sensors, waste management and smart lighting.
  • Smart buildings – enhance building safety and incident response times through connected smoke detectors including regular auto-test, battery check and real-time alerts to the relevant parties in case of fire.
  • Industrial – improved machinery maintenance cycles and factory safety through machinery control such as equipment status, factory control, and process and safety monitoring.
  • Environment monitoring – increase focus on environmental responsibility through status reporting of manhole covers, fire hydrants and chemical emission levels.
  • Agricultural – improve efficiency in the agricultural industry with livestock tracker, connected greenhouse, stationary tracking and monitoring of air quality, humidity, moisture, temperature, and weather conditions of air and soil.
  • Asset Tracking – improve efficiency and decrease costs by using pallet tracking and geo-fencing.
  • Utilities – improve efficiency and decrease waste by using gas and water metering, including smart meter consumption tracking and pipeline monitoring.

The more of these announcements, use cases and developer kits the more device innovation will take off!

Yikes … this is going to happen more & more …

Yikes … this is going to happen more & more …

what the public and customers can do about it is a complicated question

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/the-cybersecurity-202/2019/05/06/the-cybersecurity-202-a-cyberattack-just-disrupted-grid-operations-in-the-u-s-but-it-could-have-been-far-worse/

quote: “According to Blake, the attack relied on a computer bug that was widely known — and there was a software patch that fixed it. That means if the utility had updated patches on all of its systems, the whole thing could have been averted.”