My notes as I explore various business and financial topics

Friday, February 25, 2011

Google Translate Speaks and Spells Other Languages

My mom took an epic road trip to Alaska and wrote a book about it . . . in her native tongue. I know that one day, I'll want to read it and so I'm trying to re-learn the language.   Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time grasping it despite being a former native speaker.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kiva Robots of the Future Roam Zappos, Staples Warehouse Today!

The mobile robot glides through a gloomy warehouse, a soft hum emanating from its motor, its status lights -- the brightest illumination in the room.  With unerring precision, it locates its target: a shelf filled with materials requested for delivery to a human manned workstation.  The bot quickly scoots under the shelf and starts rapidly turning in place, as a screw-like jack lifts the entire shelf up an inch or two. Its cargo secured, the bot efficiently hauls off the entire shelf to the waiting human.

The mobile bot is part of the Kiva Mobile Fulfillment Center or MFC.  The Kiva system is a revolutionary advancement in warehouse management and distribution.  Its customers include Zappos, Staples, Walgreens and the Gap.

The Kiva Mobile Fulfillment Center is all about efficiency.  Some highlights

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Need a Quick Photo Retouch or Editing? Only $5

Small Business Owners - need a quick edit or touch up on a product picture?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Setting Expectations - a Valuable Lesson Learned

I recently had a business deal fall through.  The buyer insisted that he was serious about the transaction and had asked me to extend my deadline . . . twice. Then, as we approached the last cutoff, he canceled on me, doing the complete opposite of what he had promised in his last email.  Here is an exerpt of his last message.

" . . . I am swamped for the next 2 weeks and then after that I can start with this. I will put you down if you will give me this extension and it will happen, i won't be flaky."

Needless to say, I was pretty pissed when he canceled after two months of waiting.

At least, I would have been--if not for these three valuable lessons.

Lesson 1 - I own a valuable but underdeveloped asset that people would pay money for. I need to get off my butt and get to work on it.

Lesson 2 - I successfully managed my expectations. I never considered the deal complete until I saw the cash in my account.  You've heard this one before - "don't count your chickens until they've hatched."

Lesson 3 - The only thing that you can control is your attitude and your actions.  I could have gotten all pissed off but that wouldn't have changed anything. It wouldn't have contributed to my success and would have alienated a potential/future business contact.

This event proved to be an extremely valuable experience--one of the best lessons I've had. I started working on my neglected account again. I never considered the deal closed despite reassurances from the buyer. And, I carefully considered lesson number 3 and acted upon them accordingly.

Lesson 3 is the most valuable one of all. I had done some homework and discovered that the buyer was in business with his family and I knew that he would need a consensus to complete the deal.  So, when the bad news came, it didn't surprise me.  If I hadn't known about the buyer's background, I probably would have been pissed with him for backing out at the last moment.

But, think about this for a moment.  Even if I had been intentionally deceived, what would getting upset have accomplish? 

Lesson 3 - the only thing that you can control is your attitude and your actions.

Instead, I got back to work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You're Getting Paid for What? (a summary on carbon credits)

I worked for a financial leasing company once and was quite amused when they put together various financial packages and referred to them as their "product".

And then I read about carbon credits.  Wow!  Name one other item where you create a product out of nothing and then sell it for a 450% markup.

Here is a quick summary of how Carbon Credits works.

A pig farm in the Philippines normally dumps  manure into ponds, where they decompose, releasing massive amounts of methane (a big contributor of greenhouse gases).

Technology exists to cap the ponds and capture the methane, which can be used to generate energy. It costs $200,000 for the equipment, though.

Certified Emissions Reductions or CERs are created by preventing 1 ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.  Methane gas, a far larger contributor of green house gases, generates 23 CERs, also known as carbon credits

A broker buys the carbon credits generated by the pig farm at $4 each.  They sell these credits to European banks for $18 each.

The banks can either hold onto the carbon credits as investments, betting that the market value for these will increase, as companies hit their emmission quotas and compete to purchase more carbon credits to offset them.  Or, they can sell them to clients, such as power companies.

For a more detailed view, read more at the source below.

Source: Fortune Magaze 04/28/2008

Friday, February 11, 2011

Italics - Proper Grammer for Business Writing

Those confounded italics. I can never remember how to use them properly--particularly, am I suppose to use them when mentioning titles of books, articles, etc?

Since I often cited books as my source in this blog, I'm composing this as a quick reference. Use italics in the following scenarios:

To set forth titles of separately published works--plays, books, symphonies, pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, and similar
  • Romeo and Juliet (play)
  • Gone with the Wind (novel)
  • Aida (opera)
  • The Dip (ebook/newsletter)
  • The New York Times (newspaper)

To emphasize or contrast
  • consider your present acts, not your past

To set forth names of ships or airplanes
  • Airforce One
  • The Titanic
  • The Spirit of St. Louis

To set forth words in a foreign language
  • she cried out, "C'est defender!" ("it is forbidden")
Note: if the word has become common in usage, then italics are not necessary, e.g.
  • Latin: bona fide, et cetera
  • French: encore, cafe, ensemble
  • German: delicatessen

To indicate a word, letter, or number
  • dot your i's and cross your t's
 Some sources also cite that italicized words should also be bolded.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Do You Believe . . . in Disney?

Do you believe that the economy will continue to grow this year? Do you believe that the stock market will reach new highs? If so, then maybe you should buy Disney stock. Why?

Here is a chart of Disney stock price. Note the upward trend.

Now, here is a chart of the Dow! Amazing how in sync the two are?!! All signs indicate that the stock market will continue to gain in 2011. If this pattern holds, Disney stock should gain as well.

 Oh, btw, the pattern holds up in the 5 year chart as well!

Does anyone know of any other stocks that track the market this closely? If so, please let me know in the comments!

Disclaimer: these are just my personal observations.  When it comes to picking stocks, I have no idea what I'm doing.  If you're going to invest, you need to do your own research and find out what's best for you!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ISM Manufacturing Index Moves Upward, Points to Recovery

The topic of the Zacks newsletter in my inbox was describing some obscure graph called the ISM Manufacturing index.

Normally, I would have written it off as technical finance speak that was way over my head and to be ignored. However, I had just read Professor Peter Navarro's book "Always a Winner" in which he describes the ISM index as one of the key indicators that accurately forcasts economic health.

Luckily, this extremely volatile market provides an excellent time to study these indicators, as the sharp trends helps emphasizes the patterns.

The ISM Manufacturing index is issued by, Arizona based, Institute of Supply Management. It gives overall indications of the health of the business sector based upon gauges in five main criteria

   1. Production levels

   2. New orders placed

   3. Inventory Levels

   4. Supplier deliveries

   5. Employment environment

You can see the ISM plunge to 34 points in Jan 2009. Anything under 50 signals an economic slowdown in business and manufacturing. 50 is considered neutral.

Since then, the index has been steadily climbing. The ISM climbing over 50 signals an expansion in business production. The ISM is suppose to lead actual real-time output and production by three months.

More info on the ISM Manufacuring Index here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home Sales Lag - possible Monkey Wrench in Economic Recovery?

As one economic indicator after another trend upwards, one sector in our recovery is lagging.

Corporate profits are increasing relentlessly and the stock market reached new two year highs. But home sales are forecast to decline in 2011, according to HouseHunt Inc., a firm that tracks home sales statistics through its members-agents across the country.  HouseHunt's data, cites some of the following reasons for the struggle in home sales:

  • banks accelerating foreclosures this year, increasing supply of homes on the market
  • rising interests rates from the economic recovery pushing up affordability
  • tougher financing criteria reducing the number of buyers

These conditions will result  in maintaining the trend in declining home prices. Although real estate is just one leg of the economic picture, it is a significant one.

An exception to this are markets in St. Augustine, FL, Vail, CO, Carmel, IN, Eagle Point, OR, and Saratoga, CA, all of which have seen an increase of over 10% in home prices.