- Category: Opinion
- Hits: 2122
It seems that a disproportionate number of start ups that receive grant money or loan guarantees from the federal government wind up going under. You've probably heard of Solyndra, Amonix and Ener1, to name a few. Is it corruption? Well, there may be a little of that, but fundamentally, premature financing can actually lead to business failure.
In the free market, when a start up is looking for financing, they have to go to investors and convince them that they'll make a good return. They have to demonstrate not just a good idea, but a marketing plan, a production plan, a distribution plan and perhaps most importantly, demand for the product. It takes a lot of work and sacrifice on the part of the start up. The business model is continually tweaked as they desperately try to create positive cash flow or at least demonstrate that positive cash flow is a high probability, over time.
When the government gets involved, it's usually for political reasons. They favor companies and industries that suit their agenda. There is a lot less scrutiny of the actual business plan and model for the individual company. Giving a company a big pile of working capital before they've ironed the bugs out of their business model can create a false sense of security and accomplishment. Executives may feel they can now pay themselves the six or seven figure salaries and bonuses they believe they've earned. The desperate search for efficiency is held at bay. They are now actually able to move forward with what may be bad ideas. This actually happened on a large scale, even in the private sector.
During the advent of publicly traded companies doing business on the Internet, investors flocked to just about any stock with a .com at the end of it's company name. Executives gave themselves huge pay and bonuses, and in the end, most investors got fleeced. The marketplace has gotten a lot more cautious since. The government doesn't seem to have learned anything.
Government can play a role in advancing new technology. However, given that it's everyone's money, they should stay away from investing in individual companies and stick to funding research, the results of which should be available to everyone, since we've already paid for it.
The free marketplace is a harsh and objective judge, at its best. It evaluates every aspect of a business based on the individual decisions and judgments made by consumers and end-users. Sound investors don't trade on hopes and dreams and warm fuzzy feelings. They trade results and probabilities based on hard data, observation and experience.
Everyone wants to see advancement in new technology, especially new energy technology. But to be viable in the long term, it has to come from real demand, efficiency and competence. These are things that can only be tested in the arena that is the free market. Consumers will tell us what is worth pursuing. Picking out individuals and giving them an A before they've even taken the test does not make them smarter.
- Category: Opinion
- Hits: 1979
The Internet has changed our lives forever. This was proven recently when Go Daddy email servers and websites temporarily shut down. To fully appreciate our reliance on the Internet, ask yourself, what happens in an Internet minute? Researchers at Intel took on that question and the answers are mind-boggling.
Every minute on the Internet 204 million emails get sent and Facebook records 6 million views. During that same 60 seconds, 30 hours of video get uploaded to YouTube and the site serves up 1.3 million video views. Amazon rings up $83,000 in online sales – which comes to almost $1,400 per second – and consumers download 47,000 mobile apps from Apple.
The explosion in mobile devices and services means we can take the Internet with us anywhere. Thanks to the power of broadband, we can instantly access a video message or a Hollywood movie on our smartphones or tablets via the Internet.
America now has more wireless subscriptions than people, and mobile online traffic last year was roughly equivalent to all the traffic on the Internet in 2004. As another sign of our emerging Internet tastes, video accounts for more than half of wireless data traffic.
Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves another question: What if the Internet disappeared? What would it be like if one day our web searches slowed to crawl and then stopped? If our emails wouldn’t launch or we couldn’t even make a local call with our incredibly powerful smartphone?
Scores of customers of Scottsdale-based Go Daddy got a taste of that recently when the website hosting service had a massive service outage. All Americans could face that possibility if the surge in Internet traffic overwhelms the capacity of the modern broadband networks that carry it. The FCC has warned that the available supply of wireless spectrum could be outstripped by demand as early as next year. (Spectrum consists of the airwaves that carry wireless Internet traffic.) This isn’t surprising considering that by 2015 Internet connected devices are expected to be double the global population.
Keeping the supply of Internet capacity ahead of demand requires continued investment in infrastructure by the communications industry, complemented by government policies that encourage investment, avoid unnecessary and burdensome regulation, and make more spectrum available for commercial use.
The industry is doing its part with annual investment in the neighborhood of $25 billion. The federal government needs to support that commitment with an expansion-friendly Internet policy untainted by outdated regulations from the old days of a voice-centered communications world.
With a policy environment like that in place, Americans would never get a first-hand answer to the question “Where did the Internet go?”
Michael Price is executive director of the Coalition for a Connected West. He lives in Parker, Colorado.
- Category: Opinion
- Hits: 1671
During the past ten years we have converted our yard from an overgrown, segmented space into a xeric paradise. After moving 20 to 30 tons of dirt and rock then planting hundreds of dollars worth of plants, we have learned a few things that can also apply to a successful public relations effort. We will share what we have learned in this and future articles.
What is currently in place?
We had trees and shrubs, some dead and dying, in almost every corner of the yard. The box junipers by the front door had Christmas lights buried deep within the branches. The small backyard had three dying poplars and overgrown bushes. The side yard of our corner lot was an expanse of weed made useless by a big evergreen in the middle. The sprinkler system was full of holes. In other words, our yard was a showcase of active neglect.
Hopefully your business communications aren’t in such a mess. But you cannot neglect your internal and external communications and just let them happen in a slapdash fashion. As you take stock of your collateral, figure out what works, what doesn’t and be prepared to make changes.
What are your goals?
We knew that we wanted to have an attractive, low water use yard of which we could be proud. The majority of our property was outside the fence separating the side and back yard. We wanted to change this by removing these artificial barriers and eliminating dominant bushes and trees that broke the yard into illogical spaces. We wanted to create a blend of different functional areas that flowed smoothly from one area to another.
When you step back and look at how your company communicates, are there unnecessary obstructions to having a cohesive integrated communications strategy? What do you want to achieve? One client wanted to be known as a good corporate citizen. Another wanted to be recognized as an expert in his field. Once you know what you have and where you want to go, you can make great strides.
Do your own research and hire an expert.
The smartest things we did were to look at what others had done, find features we liked and then hire an expert to help us get started. Fortunately the year we started there was a Xeric Garden Tour that took us through some of the most beautiful xeric landscaping in the city. We got some great ideas such as using a berm rather than fencing to help separate our side yard from the street. We also hired a landscape architect to help us create concept drawings. The most important step that expert took was asking us some key questions. These were questions about our lifestyle and how we wanted to use the space, as well as about our likes and dislikes.
You can do the same for your business communications plan. Observe what others do. Talk to other business owners. Find out what works well and what does not. Then hire an expert. The advantage of retaining an expert, whether in landscaping, accounting, plumbing or communications, is that their expertise comes from doing the same thing many times and having the tools and skills needed to do the job properly. A communications or public relations expert will ask you some key questions and help you chart a path to achieve your goals.
Next time we will talk about planning and implement your communications strategy.
- Category: Opinion
- Hits: 1471
Once again I hear the pundits on the Saturday business shows stating that the problem with the economy is not taxes and regulations. It's lack of demand. The implication being that if we just dole out more money, the economy will fix itself. Of course demand is great for business. The question is, where does demand come from.
Some pundits and economists believe that creating demand is a simple matter of putting more money in someone's hands. Wouldn't it be great if that were true? All we'd have to do when recession hits would be to cut everyone a government check. Recessions would last a few days rather than months or years.
The fact is that demand comes from exposure to new things. Once you get past the basic needs; food, clothing, shelter; demand becomes subjective. What came first, the iPhone or demand for the iPhone? You didn't know you had to have it before it existed, or at least not before the commercials for it existed.
The fact that innovation and creativity spur demand is what incentivizes companies and entrepreneurs to innovate and create. If this were not the case, and demand was simply a matter of individuals having more money, companies would only have to maintain inventory and have access to more. There would be no reason to spend anything on research, innovation and creation because they would be irrelevant.
But they're not irrellevant. If you suddenly came into some extra cash and you already have an iPhone 5, your not going to go out and buy another iPhone 5. You might buy a cool new add on or accessory for it, but you're not just going to buy more of what you already have or buy something you've already decided you don't need or don't want.
To create demand you must enable producers to produce, create, innovate. That means making the risk/reward ratio pay off. Most new products don't work out. That means there has to be room for failure. Lower tax rates, less regulation; in short less time spent complying with government demands and more time spent working on consumer demand. Yes, demand is important, but it comes from supply. The two work together, but trying to create demand for products with your boot on the neck of producers is a losing model.
- Category: Opinion
- Hits: 1229
You've probably heard it said that the American electorate is "polarized"; that the environment is extremely "partisan". That's true, but what does it mean, why is it the case and how do we fix it?
What it means is that a significant portion of the country has bought into a package of ideas presented by one party or another. It's as if one party is totally right about everything and the other is totally wrong, and you should pick one and defend it to the end. The problem is that political parties are really just infrastructures designed and built for the purpose of getting their candidates elected. That's all. They are not all wise super-entities with the correct answers for everything.
Accepting all of the ideas or policies of a political party without question stifles real debate and the search for truth. Partisanship and polarization come about through the use of a technique, often employed by politicians but also by individuals on a day by day basis. It equates being wrong with being bad, or even evil. It's also connected to relationships. People sometimes adopt the ideas or behavior of those they admire, for whatever reason, as a kind of shortcut to working things out for themselves.
For example, if you have to cross a raging river, but you don't know how to do it safely. You watch someone else traverse the river successfully and rather than do a lot of pondering and guesswork on your own, you do what they did. Later you come to a cliff you must scale. They person who successfully crossed the river has an idea on how to scale the cliff. You defer to their judgment on the cliff because you observed them successfully traverse the river. In the political world, it might translate as follows; your parents were good people. Your parents belonged to political party A. Therefore political party A is the good party, so you should be loyal to political party A and promote and defend them as well.
Of course, political parties change, as do the people that belong to them. Political parties promote some good ideas and some bad ideas. It's advantageous for the parties themselves to convince people to accept the whole package, rather than consider each idea or proposal separately, on its own merit, so they promote that approach. Laying out the logical case and going through the reasoning process for each idea or proposal can be hard work, and time consuming. It's simply easier to convince people that those who disagree do so because they are bad people. You don't want to be a bad person do you? Ironically, this approach only works because most people are, and want to continue to be good people. They just don't always take the time to reason through ideas and proposals on their own.