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?

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?

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?

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!

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!

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’

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

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

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 …

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.”

Leadership – A role model

Recently as I retold a story about an example of a leader actually leading a large organization through tough times, I realized this example embodies a favorite snippet (thanks to Jack / Carol Weber): “In absence of good communications, people will make it up and convince their friends it’s true”.

I worked in a large organization (~2000) and the org and biz were on a roll, growing and projecting growth. I seldom saw or heard the General Manager, but often his 2nd in command. Then, unexpectedly our product’s market collapsed, and our business was threatened closure. The GM started a cruasade to both preserve the business and the careers of the people who worked for him. Immediately, he was in front of the entire organization regularly, telling us what he knew that he COULD tell and be open to both answer questions and updating us on the ideas he is pushing. He set our expectations very well to not over expect immediate success and he worked tirelessly to create a new future. He did create that future; but it meant for a couple of years 90% of the workforce needed to find a new job.

In the end, he created a new and vibrant future for the organization; and, he helped find jobs for almost every single employee if they wanted another one. He demonstrated what great leaders do … first regular, transparent and candid communication, and second, the discipline, persistence and compasion to deliver those futures. He shortly thereafter retired from our company. I would like to believe that he was content delivering his career best and walking away.

He communicated and provided information when rumors could have destroyed both the business and the people … good, strong leader communication will make outstanding results easier – it’s necessary, but not sufficient …

Executing a strategy I don’t understand = pain

This is probably obvious to most, but like many things, I had to bang my head against the wall to learn it. My lesson is not investment domain specific though that was my classroom.

I am always receiving promos for different investment or trading platforms, most of which are subscription cloud services. Sometimes i see one that is worth giving it a spin. My first lesson awhile back was a ‘paper exercise’ is not a sufficient test; i always make exceptions or rationalizations of insufficiencies of the platform or my required responses to it. I have to put skin in the game, i.e., money, to learn.

I saw one that seemed like worth a try; I followed their daily recommendation but failied to exercise the stop/loss due to my inability to monitor every minute of trading hours. – i did not understand the behavioral requirements of the strategy. I lost all $200 of my test.

Looking back, I would do one of or both of deeply understanding the strategy and my required behaviors and / or follow a poorly undertood strategy to the letter of the prescribed behaviors. The risk of the second action is that I would not be able to innovate within the strategy when conditions change, yet conditions always change.

This then is the pain of a poorly understood strategy … failures of execution both due to mistakes and the inability to innovate within changing conditions. The remedy is simple – execute only strategies I know sufficiently to innovate; and ideally, constantly increase my strategy portfolio.