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Showing posts from December, 2015

Intuition and Math as Methods of Picking Stocks

If people acted rationally the stock market would be one of the easiest places to make money. Simple mathematical formulas could tell us just about everything we need to know. Fortunately, people do not always act rationally and the mystery of the stock market is alive. The use of intuition and mathematics may just balance out our selection needs for better outcomes.  No one has a golden formula that predicts outcomes. Some of the best investment firms use complex software, tools, and formulas and at times still get it wrong. They hedge their offerings in a way that helps ensure risk is minimized.  Most of us do not have the ability to use these systems for our personal uses. They are expensive and complex. However, most people can use their intuition and follow up with a more concrete analysis to help determine when to buy and sell stocks.  Intuition isn't about blindly picking any stock you want without consideration to market principles. It is about studying differe

Ethics and the "Power of Being"

Ethics is a stand for the power of being. It is not for the weak, feeble minded, or the faint of heart. It requires a belief and strength few can muster from deep within to make a stand for something greater then themselves. When entire social and business networks have bought into lower values and the need for self-gratification it can be difficult to make a stand for something more important. The problem has been realized over and over in almost every great ethics case. People are subject to their social networks and must follow the rules set forth by society. There are higher order values that represent ideals in society and there are lower order expectations that create day-by-day rules of social engagement. Look back at ethics cases where major foul play occurred and you will find a network of people who found it was easier to keep their mouth shut, play by the rules, and live by the expectations. They have almost no incentive to stand up for anything beyond what was offered f

America to Lose #1 Spot-Are New Economic Theories Needed?

Are seismic economic shifts of power on the way?According to the UK based Center for Economics and Business Research the U.S. and Europe will be declining in power and economic status. Central Asia will grow in strength leaving behind many of its previous Western mentors. The first problem we as Americans face is the assumption that we will stay in power because we are American. The past doesn't always predict the future and without change we become stagnant in our thoughts and activities. The worst mistake we can make is to assume that doing the same thing will result in something new. Our political leaders are trying to grapple important issues such budgets, higher education, civil rights and immigration but are more focused on party positioning than resolving these issues once and for all.  Larger economic change has yet to occur as we fail to grasp fundamental issues that draw today's attention. America's economic models and assumptions will need to change if the

Polite, Persistent and Confident to Achieve Objectives

If we lived in a perfect world people would respect others and treat each other with civility and dignity. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. People sometimes look for their own advantages without considering the rights and needs of others. This may be an overbearing boss, a company that fails to live by its obligations, or a negative co-worker that creates unnecessary problems. It could also be a policy run a muck! Being polite, persistent and confident can create positive change. Here is the problem. At a deep biological level we are programmed to fulfill our own needs. When we are hungry we look for something to eat, if we are thirsty we find something to drink, when we are cold we find shelter. Everything else beyond food, shelter, reproduce is socially constructed. Our needs become increasingly complex as we become increasingly complex. We think that money equates to innate skills, food is a source of comfort, popular friends leads to inherent value, and a promotio

The Successful and the Unsuccessful Student

Students come from many different backgrounds and abilities but these are not the deciding factor in their success. Some may be wealthy while others may be poor. Great school districts and solid educational background may be helpful but it isn't the key deciding factor in a student's ability to achieve. The one factor that differentiates great students from all others is....... Motivation! Without motivation there isn't much that will be accomplished. Students will not be able to stay on track and put the effort in to achieve their goals. With motivation the rest of one's background matters much less in the long-term success. A person who is motivated can overcome any deficiencies in income, poor schooling, or background. They have the will to keep focusing and improving on their educational outputs. Signs of a student with low motivation is lack of acceptance of critical feedback, failure to implement new ideas, turning assignments in late, not spending the tim

Can Your Business Use Psychodynamics?

Selecting candidates is big business and should be done with meticulous care. One wrong hire and it could cost the company a lot of money in lost revenue or production. Using psychodynamics may help in overcoming motivations and their potential beneficial or negative outcomes in the work place. What is psychodynamics? It is the study of candidates emotional and mental functions that lead to performance and outcomes. This study is important in uncovering employees that are likely to succeed with their employer and complete their job function appropriately. Those looking at psychodynamics may include paper trails such as employment history, community relations, references and other important markers. For example a person could have a very rocky employment background unable to stay at an employer for more than a year. This could mean the candidates creates problems wherever he/she goes or it could mean there are other factors involved. To use psychodynamics well it is important to

Will the Economy Start to Tap Your Paychecks Soon?

You might be getting a raise soon. Your friend "the economy" says so! According to the Labor Department those applying for unemployment claims dipped to 267,000 marking a 42 week low. As the labor supply shrinks it becomes increasingly likely that wages will rise as skilled labor becomes increasingly in demand. The economic hands are likely to start tapping on paychecks soon. Basic laws of supply and demand are at play here. As something becomes more difficult to find its value rises. It doesn't matter if you are talking about the latest XBOX game or labor supply. Good employees are hard to find and when employment rate dips companies must continually look at lower qualified candidates. This naturally comes with a cost and improvement in labor conditions; at least for those who are actively engaged in the market. Pressure rises on companies to find candidates, train them to expectations, and then put them to solid work when the unemployment rate is under 5%. As their

Learn to Relax Over the Holidays

The holiday season can be stressful and people spend so much time shopping, cooking, creating, entertaining and visiting they forget to take care of themselves. Holidays are great but they can sometimes be overwhelming unless you do two things. 1.) Stay focused on each task: One of the best ways to get through a trying day getting everything ready is to focus on each task without thinking about the long list of tasks that need to be completed. The minute you start thinking about all the tasks you have to complete the stress level will rise. If we always thought about how much work we must do to get a degree, lose weight or anything else you wouldn't think it is worth it. Yet by focusing on enjoying each task and living in the present you can enjoy each moment. With luck you can look over the whole day and say you enjoyed it. 2.) Minimize the tasks: The holidays are about spending time with family and friends. We often start out thinking all of these things need to be complete

Making New Years Your Deadline for Improving Your Financial Position

You must made it through Christmas and loaded your carts full of presents. Some may have emptied their bank accounts, some maxed out their credit cards and others feel almost no pain. With 2015 almost behind you and some time off with friends and family it is time to think about what is most important to you so that you can budget for the future in 2016. Buying is behavior based in how we see ourselves and what we want. Even though some of our buying is for necessity it is often emotionally driven and often leads us to overspend. The only way to really control your spending and save money for future investment means understanding yourself. Once you understand what drives you and your spending habits you can control your behavior. First look at your spending patterns to understand whether or not you want prestige, pleasure, dinning, etc... It may take some time unless you have kept track of your spending in a way that will allow you to realize what you are spending on. Where you a

Incomes, Attitudes and Spending Rise Over the Holidays

The Commerce Department reported incomes have risen for the 8th month straight and consumer spending increased significantly in November. To brighten the holiday spirit a U of M report index showed that consumer confidence rose to 92.6. Good news for holiday shopping and the economy. Approximately 2/3rds of the economy is based on consumer spending. Increases in income, spending and confidence are related and have a direct impact on the economy. As these factors the economy speeds up and further supports more income, spending and confidence. This is one reason why economies rise in periods and then decline in periods. Unless shocking news and events change people's assumptions economies grow and fall in relative cycles and patterns. It corresponds in many ways to public perception and the time it takes to change that perception. Pay people more, they feel better and spend more. This relates to way we see our futures and the need to hold tight to money or enjoy life. Until hou

Body Language and Performance

People can tell a lot about you based on the way you hold your body and inadvertant gestures you make. Non-verbal cues give people a glimpse into our inner world. When we display confidence in our body postures people are more likely to do business with us. It is a basic cue connected to our biological nature that many people are not aware of. With a little practice you can improve. Little gestures, body movements, and facial expressions can tell a lot about us. For example, covering the mouth may mean your hiding something, tapping of fingers could mean anxious, staring could mean a challenge or commitment. We may not be overtly or consciously aware of the displays we are giving but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Our subconscious gives off these signals to help insure we are connected to our social environment while giving off hints to our inner experiences. It is what makes us social creatures and has helped us survive as a species.  When we were in small groups an

Is Slow Shipping Going to Embarrass You on Christmas Day?

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Don't be embarrassed just because your gifts didn't ship on time. It is Christmas and you are attending a family get together and the gift you purchased is stuck in the slow shipping season. Instead of showing up empty handed like you didn't buy anything at all try bringing an empty box. Ok...I'm not talking about a purely empty box. Within the box you are going to place a card that states something like, "Thinking of you during Christmas and your gift is on its way!" You can pick the words you want to use. Your goal is to let them know you bought them something but its caught up in shipping. You definitely don't want to show up with nothing. That might send the message that you didn't think about the other person and didn't bother to buy them a gift. It is important to let them know the thought counts but circumstances are out of your control. This could also work in corporate gift giving. Most people want to put something under their tree

Increase in holiday shipping may need infrastructure improvements

Online holiday shopping is on the rise. According to the ShipMatrix President Satish Jindel holiday shipping is up 8% and this corresponds to an increase in online commerce. The trend toward greater online shipping and faster delivery requirements both domestically and internationally will require greater levels of infrastructure improvements. When considering the growth in virtual companies, online marketing, telecommunications and eCommerce capabilities it is no wonder that previous infrastructure systems have been strained. Highways have now been superseded by electronic highways that pass information at a much faster pace than letters and parcels. The physical structures such as roads, rail and ship have to keep pace with the increase in electronic commercial activity an increase in trade that accompanies any additional connection of information and financial resources. Changes won't be only domestic and will likely include other structural adjustments that connect local

Bidding Battle for Pep Boys

In an upset Icahn Enterprises LP's offer of $16.50 in cash topped Bridgestones Corp's $15.50 standing offer to purchase Pep Boys. With 800 locations in 35 states they create natural advantages for Fireestone's 2000 store chain and Icahn's AutoPlus parts chain. Of course Pep Boys stocks shot up $1.09 to $16.85 on the news. Who wins? Pep Boys current stockholders are going to be the clear winners in any bidding war. An analysis of target companies found that target markets receive abnormal returns 2 months prior to the announcement, during the announcement and even after the announcement (Soongswang, 2009). Pep Boys is showing consistency with this analysis. The winning bidder is likely to capitalize on their large distribution network in a way that will complement existing supply lines.  Sometimes companies that work in a battery of stock owned companies enhance each others positions while at other times the operations are integrated as quickly as possible into mor

Why Business Should Partner with For-Profit Education

Relationships between industry and adaptable higher education are ripe for exploration. For-profit education has been hit hard in recent years due to the wholesale assault on its reputation despite the poor actions of a few bad actors. In today's market, for-profit education might be ripe for partnership and investment with major industry leaders and organizations. It is first important to understand that a few bad actors make it easy to categorize all for-profit universities into the same frying pan. The problem is that just like no two people are the same, no two companies made up of those people are the same either. Some for-profit universities are exceeding the expectations and performance of traditional schools but not getting recognition for it because of the long shadow of public criticism. This would seem like bad news but ultimately it can be seen as very good news for industries that want an education that is directly relevant for their needs. Depressed stocks will so

Stressed? Listen to it!

Modern life is busy. There are deadlines, family, events, friends and obligations. If you feel a little stressed you might want to take a moment and listen to it! So what does stress feel like? A little tightness in your chest, a headache, sore eyes, frustration and sometimes agitation. All of this is saying something. What it says needs some exploration.  Think of stress as a mound of cluttered garbage that keeps piling up unless we remove it through better understanding and making changes that put the garbage to its proper place. Sometimes these are simple changes while at other times it can be more life altering.   Considering that stress is the #1 contribution killer in the world it is important to not let it fester. Don't try and avoid it and don't try to fight with it.  Just sit back, listen, engage in stress reduction strategies and explore the message.  If you spend some time reflecting you might find that you are doing things you don't en

Good Economies Lower College Enrollment- Something More?

Improving economies often bring with it a lack of interest in higher education while a slowing economies often push people to return to school. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center enrollments in 4 year for-profit institutions declined 13.7%, 2 year public institutions 2.4% and 4 year non-profit .03%. Enrollments for 4 year public rose 2.3%. Total decline for all higher education institutions was approximately 2.3% When the economy improves people don't feel as though their jobs are under threat and naturally they don't rush to turn that bachelor's degree into an MBA. Alternatively, when the economy turns sour people become more insecure in their employment and feel they must compete. This is the problem with the higher education market. People get secure and are not motivated and when times get tough they want to adapt and brush up on their skills. Education is seen as very practical in the sense that a new degree leads to higher pay and pe

Critical Thinking as an Aspect of Psychological and Logical Forces

Critical thinking can have a huge impact on our lives influences what we believe and how we act on those beliefs. In a world where things are complex and people are flooded with lots of information critical thinking become a critical skill in developing greater knowledge. To understand how our thoughts are influenced we should be able to discern our emotional response from our logical response. Everyone is subject to emotional and logical arguments. The personality of the individual which determine whether they are more influenced by one or the other. Where some are more reactive to emotional stimuli another might be more reactive to logical points. Having a solid balance between both can be helpful for making the best decisions. Consider a friend who calls you a name. You react emotionally and call them 20 names in response. Naturally your friendship breaks down and you no longer enjoy each others company. Your friend was wrong but your reaction to it created additional problems.

Ethical and Human Development through Utilitarianism-Ensuring Integrity

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Utilitariaism argues that ethics is based upon its utility to maximum good. Discussed in by John Stuart Mill in significant detail he explains that most human beings are focused on relatively simple animalistic type beliefs and therefore have little value in their hedonistic behaviors. As people develop they are capable of engaging in more complex morality and fostering greater good. It isn't necessarily a bad thing to gain short-term pleasures from life. This is a little bit of a spice. Yet the utility of such actions should not necessarily do any harm to others. Simple gain doesn't mean it should take from someone else. Enjoying a sweet piece of pumpkin pie should not come from theft of that pie that takes from someone else. Some people think beyond their biological urges and more into the greater good of society. We find examples of heroes and martyrs in history that help us redefine ethical and moral behavior. They have developed to a point where they take action and

Why Supporting Ethics is Good for Business

All business is based in social interactions. Social expectations constitute the core of transactions that occur between people. These same transactions also constitute expectations between business. It makes no difference if we are discussing trade and barter between two people or millions of dollars moving through institutions. When ethics are not supported and reinforced through other institutions the fundamentals of economic activity can be damaged. Few would want to work with another person who is known to cheat, steal, lie and act in an unethical manner. Because money is a socially constructed term of value based upon an amount of effort being cheated out of money by another is a grave violation of social norms and the fundamentals of economic life. Lawsuits, retaliation, lost business and other actions occur when unethical activity takes place. The problem is that today's society is extremely complex and law and rules can be easily circumvented by people who have more kn

Trending Toward Artificial Intelligence with Facebook's "Big Sur"

Data is changing the world. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and mass media is offering new opportunities to understand human behavior on a grand scale. Big Sur is a new program designed to further current voice and facial recognition technology that could have an impact on the next generation of electronics and intelligence. Self Learning software will be powering many things in the world over the next few decades. I'm not a big tech guru but I am one for new ways of understanding. Artificial Intelligence is something that theorists have talked about a long time. It is a core part of sci fi movies ever since the self-learning machine. The development of systems that can collect and learn from masses amount of Internet data is interesting and a little scary. There are two parts that I see to this. The first part is about improving current systems by helping them integrate new information that may vary during processes such as manufacturing, security, and service development. The oth

Optimism Helps Busy Professionals Beat Heart Attacks

How we think determines many things in our lives. Most of us might think about our positive or negative perspectives on life and how it filters throughout our general viewpoint. According to new research  from Harvard Medical School optimism is linked to an 8% decrease of repeat hospitalizations for serious heart problems.  Optimism was linked to an 8 percent lower risk of repeat hospitalizations in the six months after one of these serious events, known as acute coronary syndromes (ACS). Participants engaged in 2.5 miles of steps throughout the day but those who were more positive ended up doing better than those who didn't. This doesn't stand as a surprise considering that optimism reduces stress and stress is a major contributor to long-term health problems. The hearts problems don't generally rise over night and takes years of bad eating, no exercise, stress, and hypertension to create problems. When you have a positive outlook on life you reduce that stress whi

Raising Subjective Customer Value Perceptions Through Reducing Core Confusion

Customer perceptions maybe subjective but do have tangible value in their minds. Customer perceived value  (CPV) is the difference between a customers benefits and costs associated with purchasing a product/service. Raising CPV isn't impossible if the company understands its core demographic and caters its products and services to them. When the company's products and services are aligned with their core customer base they are better capable of raising per visit purchase amounts as well as retain these customer over a lifetime improving long-term profitability. Unfortunately, many businesses suffer from what I call "core confusion". This occurs when they are not sure who they are as a business and who their customer is. A company might have multiple products that appeal to different segments. They are trying to be everything for everyone. Their confusion leads to confusion in marketing which in turn draws in lots of customers that have different perspectives the c

Listening as a Communication Skill

Communication is the process of transferring and receiving information between at least two people. Most do really well on speaking and telling others what they need but fail to listen adequately. By adjusting our communication patterns we are better able to listen to what the other needs and communicate our needs in a more effective manner. Communication experts often achieve great personal and professional success. Social interaction occurs through communication but is inherently part of social reciprocation. People talk and connect because they both receive benefits of doing so. When people talk and discuss issues they are connecting themselves into a wider social group and this has value for both parties. When communication breaks down so does social interaction leading to conflict. Listening is at least half of this reciprocation process. When we listen we can better understand what the other person wants, needs, and desires. We are able to adjust our message and communication

It Makes Sense to Lower Mortgage and Student Loan Interest Rates

Mortgage rates slipped to 3.93% while graduate student loan debt is at a whopping 6.84%. Housing and education are long term investments and should naturally have lower term rates. Despite this, student loan interest is prohibitively high and at a $1.3 trillion price tag that is holding the economy back. Encouraging the population to own their own homes and go to school needs more than wishful thinking. Current college students, and those in high school now, are not big fans of buying houses or taking lots of student debt. They are staying with their parents longer and looking for certificates so they don't have to pay the big price tags. There is a reason why MOOCs and alternative education became popular. I don't think anyone can blame them. If I could go back and do it all over I might stay with my parents longer, work, and pay as much of my education via cash online. I can go as long and as far as I want as long as I pay cash for it. I would do my best to live simpl

Wearable Fitness Creates Leads Holiday Markets

People love to get in shape and those that do are usually hard core work out enthusiasts. According to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC) wearable fitness devices are popular and keep growing in influence. Markets are expanding across the globe. They have become so popular that they are being distributed to company employees. The Fitbit, Jawbone UP2, Garmin Vivoactive and many other types offer the opportunity to track one's fitness on a regular basis. Your cell phone collects your dating allowing you to see  your activity, heart rate and other factors. Different wearables do different things so it is best to read about them and try them out. You can always read about the various kinds and what is best for your particular sport (here) . For fitness enthusiasts the ability to track and monitor your performance is beneficial for continuous improvement. You don't know where you are going unless you know where you have been. Fitness wearables will be popular

Losing the Love For Bookstores-Is Barnes & Noble on its way to Bankruptcy?

Barnes and Nobel is playing catch up with Amazon and launched a new webpage with significant glitches and problems. The end result is a 22% drop in sales and left with only a little cash on hand. The digitization strategies are failing and the company now faces serious risks of having to either make a last ditch effort to change, sell off unprofitable stores, or liquidate assets. It is a shame. I loved B&N and the years of reading at their coffee shops. I still buy from them and am a little frightened they are moving down a path of going out of business. With Border Books taking a nose dive a few years ago books stores are becoming specialty shops and novelties. You can almost foresee small mom and pop bookstore coffee shops springing up to fill the void. The grand bookstores some of these large chains offer are trying to buck the trend.  Someone will need to fill the smaller but more robust niche book loving crowd.  What happened to B&N and to Border Books does highlight

American Businesses Still Not Exporting Enough

Its wet, slippery, and continues to go down like a game of Chutes and Ladders. Its the trade deficit again. American companies are still not exporting enough products to lower the gap. The commerce department said that the deficit rose 3.4 percent to $43.9 billion from $42.5. Industrial goods and food exports declined marking slower trade. Even though it has been this way for some time it doesn't have to be. The economy is very much tied to our ability to develop and export products that people want. Whether we are talking about Middle Class jobs or corporate profits the problems are related to the same fundamental business environment. I am believe that if we create the right environment our businesses will do a better job competing and hiring.  This means getting two political camps, left and right, to agree on some fundamental principles about what is important. Regardless of their personal agendas, it is important to create a strong business environment that maximizes the p

CEO's Not Happy About Next Few Quarters-Frustrated with Slow Pace of Tax Reform!

Corporate tax rate is at 35% and CEO's are frustrated! So frustrated they might just slow down on investments in the near term.  According to a report released by the Business Roundtable from 74.1 to 67.5. CEOs are concerned about volatile global markets and the lack of movement on tax reform. Corporate tax reform is an important issue that helps companies grow and hire employees. When offered more competitive tax rates overseas by hungry countries many large companies moved their headquarters to other shores in an effort to dodge U.S. tax bills. We can argue about it and get upset but.....the problem is that we are in a global world and this means we don't have captive companies. Companies can put their headquarters just about anywhere they want while retaining the ability to manage  large global networks. When push comes to shove----- they can leave. This is bad news for investment. Creating the right framework for growth means reforming the tax rate in a way that enco

Changes in the Higher Education Market Show More Consolidation and Less Variability

Changes in the higher education fields that show shifts are occurring that lead to greater consolidation and less market variability.  A recent report on HigherEdJobs website, using data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that total number of jobs in Q3 2015 continued to decline but advertised jobs increased. There were less faculty per administrator and a noticeable shift toward hiring full-time faculty. Many universities are becoming top heavy and loosing their core responsibility to teach students. Shifts toward more administrators and less faculty show the bureaucratic nature of universities that will likely cause problems down the road with changing market trends. More legislation is typically the result of the higher concern profile of higher education in recent years. Costs have skyrocketed and government is trying to get a handle on it. Some ideas may be beneficial but other ideas that create too much "red tap" may actually do the opposite.  Community co