Category Archives: This ‘N That

Quick reads/ideas to improve life/business.

Top Threats for Business Security

Those of us in Hospitality industry are very familiar with, and typically have plans in place to avoid/minimize employee theft and white collar crime or fraud.

Do your hotels or restaurants have plans in place on how to handle:

-Terrorism

-Workplace violence

-Property crime—protect your intellectual property.

Some hotels and restaurants, and the companies that own/operate them, are doing adequate job protecting customer records. When it comes to protecting business and financial records appears most hotels and restaurants are doing very little, except having weak password protection.

We find US hotels and restaurants have done almost nothing when it comes to recognizing possible terrorism threats or warning signs that indicate potential workplace violence. All employees need to know what to watch for, and how to report the possibility of either of these.

Best counter to terrorism and work place violence is a staff (including all hourly employees) who understand behaviors and things to watch for.

I’d like to hear from any of you that have programs in place for these. If you are using outside companies, who is good?

Capitalism and You

Recent Pew poll indicated only 52% of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism.

Yet, according to United Nations, poverty has declined more in last 50 years than in the previous 500 years. Adjusted for inflation, incomes have tripled in last 50 years.

Human beings, technology combined with capital markets create a problem solving machine that enables the decline in poverty.

Free market system has a severe branding problem.

John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods  has written excellent book, Conscious Capitalism.  He points out four values of business:

1. Business is good because it creates value.
2. Business is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange.
3. Business is noble. It can elevate our existence as high as our talents will take us.
4. Business is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity.

Capitalism is about meeting people’s wants and needs.

Each of us in business need to start branding capitalism positively by reinforcing the above points with our employees and with social contacts we meet.

South China Sea-Why Should We Care Part 2

Yesterday’s post talked about the similarities between America’s expansion west and the role China is taking in the South China Sea. Currently 6 countries claim the same area.  To improve legitimacy of their claim to the South China Sea, China has moved in militarily,  by creating new islands,  populating them, and establishing military presence.

Traditional War is Unlikely, but…

New type of warfare is evolving. It is likely to be a financial war.

Say what? Read interesting article by Jim RIckards in Strategic Intelligence, July 2015 edition. (AgoraFinancial.com) Turns out Pentagon has run couple of financial war games to learn how to fight a financial war and how to react if another country engages in financial war on US. (As China, Russia, and India have already done through electronic disruptions of trade.)

Latest war game, was in May 2015, on VE Day. (70th anniversary of victory in Europe.) It considered impact of disruptions to financial payments system, cyber attacks on banks, trade sanctions, and disruptions to the stock exchanges. Hmm, there have been some of those this year already.

Objective of those kinds of attacks is to interrupt supply chains and dry up imports, with emphasis on energy imports. Easiest way to accomplish that is by disrupting payment transactions between banks and  between countries.

Have You been Hearing much about this?

Of course not. Our media, government and politicians (both sides of the aisle) have no interest in sharing how the world is changing and how our role in it is changing. Media doesn’t want to talk about real issues. They are complex and don’t fit into sound bites. They also are not popular. Likewise politicians don’t want to talk about them. Not good issues to attract voter interest. Only offering more freebies gets attention from majority of voters.

Even if government were willing to talk about real issues and our responses to them, how do they do it? Response to issues above is very complex. Like Iran, they involve lots of negotiations, starts and stops, and changes in direction. People like to have issue explained and then clear, simple solution laid out.

Tomorrow: Simple Steps to Protect You

 

South China Sea-Why Should We Care Part 1

Currently China, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia all have overlapping claims to the South China Sea

Why Should We Care?

South China Sea is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Products all those countries, as well as the rest of the world, need. So why does this involve USA? We have lots of oil and natural gas reserves. USA also has military treaties with Philippines and Taiwan.  Those likely will involve US, it’s only a matter of time. But with different results than traditional conflicts have had. Results that can have direct impact on you and I.

China is trying to usurp claims by other countries by going into area, populating it and building military installations. They are even creating new islands , using sunken ships, reefs, and landfill. Then putting military bases on those islands.

They are taking a page out of America’s play book. Isn’t that how we moved west in early days of America?  Britain and Russia both had claims on the Oregon-Washington areas. Purpose of wagon trains was to establish population in area and establish our sovereignty there. Belief was Russia and Great Britain would not go to war with America over the area. Turned out to be true and area was eventually ceded to America.

All nations above have disputes over various island groups. Best known are the Spratly Islands. There is ongoing saber rattling among those nations. If it goes further the US will likely get drawn into area. US will have same problem as Russia and Great Britain did. We are long way from that part of world. China is right there. China is betting that the US won’t go to war over the area. What’s different? During expansion of America we dealt with Russia and Great Britain directly. South China Sea area is much more complex. We would have to deal through variety of countries.

Sounds like the Iran nuclear negotiations all over again…and we know how those are turning out, relative to enforcing nuclear inspections…and return of American prisoners held by Iran.

Tomorrow: Role new type of warfare will have on citizens.

The End of American Money as We Know It

Dr David “Doc” Eifrig (medical doctor but equally important with a phenomenal record when it comes to recommending companies to invest in) wrote an interesting article in February. He explained how the new currency is going to replace credit cards and why they are lot safer. Not only is Doc talking about this trend but so are Forbes. The 6 largest banks have all signed on. (Hmm, not sure that makes me feel better.) But when  220,000 US retailers have already agreed to accept this new payment including all the majors, I decided perhaps it was time for me to understand this.

Doc said digital currency is safer to use than your wallet.  That got my attention because all I’m hearing is the horror stories about the lack of security. Safe and secure sounded like a pipe dream to me. Turns out I was wrong, yet again.

The technology behind digital currency is NFC-Near Field Communication. An NFC chip is a tiny transmitter. The chip is only activated when it receives a signal from another NFC device. The NFC devices have to be within inches of each other. The technology has been around since the 1990’s when it was used by military.

NFC technology means our wallets will be replaced by smart phones. Huge advantage: you can store all your credit and debit cards on a single smart-phone (and all your rewards cards and loyalty points.) No need to remember pin numbers or go to ATM’s.

My first concern was what happens when my smart phone is stolen or lost?

Here’s how it works securely:

-You password protect your smartphone. Thieves can’t use your card if they can’t unlock your phone.
-GPS-enabled smartphones can be tracked and recovered.
-NFC is secure because your phone does not carry your credit card numbers. NFC uses a unique digital representation or “token” for your credit card. (Called tokensization.)    The only party that has your credit card number is the bank or institution that issued the credit card. Yep there is risk, if bank gets tapped like JP Morgan did last year.
-The unique digital code is only used once, so even if thief gets it, the code won’t be valid for another purchase.

Is this really being used? Think Starbucks. Their proprietary version of this generated $1.2 billion in sales in 2014. They are getting 6 million mobile payment transactions per week. Apple Pay also uses NFC. Apple Pay is already tied in with 90% of most used payment cards.

Now major credit card companies are mandating the use of NFC technology by Oct. 2015. (It’s referred to as EMV mandate. They are chip and pin terminals which process credit cards that don’t have traditional magnetic stripe card…the source of lot of security breaches.) “Chip and pin” uses data encryption combined with a 4-digit pin. This technology has been used in Europe and Canada for years. NFC and “Chip and Pin” technologies complement each other.

Are there possible pitfalls in the above? Yep,  like what happens during a rolling brown out or simple power outage where you happen to be. What happens if major bank or credit card company has a breach in security, etc.

But think about that in comparison to having your wallet or purse swiped. You lose all your credit cards, drivers license, insurance cards, and for many their social security numbers. Now think of the mess in reconstructing all of that data and information.

Latest smart phones appear to be way to go.

At same time as we are having major advances in technology, people need to be planning for brown outs and other natural disasters that can disrupt all things that rely on electricityand that’s virtually everything from gas pumps to running a septic system. There is more reason now,  than ever to have food set aside to last a period of time, a source of fresh drinking water and water to use for other needs, have basic household products we use all the time set aside, have cash set aside (in case you can’t access your bank accounts), have first aid supplies, prescriptions, etc. While we all rely more and more on technology, there are many things technology can’t provide…especially if we can’t access that technology.

Forgotten Investing

Money management giant Fidelity studied its customers’ accounts, and the ones that performed the best were the accounts the owners forgot they owned.

Over 10 year periods of time, it’s hard to argue with owning and reinvesting the dividends from world dominating stocks. Very, very few investors are disciplined enough to beat the returns from world dominating stocks. Microsoft, WalMart, IBM, and similar stocks may not be exciting, but historically they sure have paid off.

The above advice is certainly not new. So why do most investors do something else? Majority of people are competitive and want to beat the averages.  That explains why people trade in and out and consistently under-perform the market averages.

Thieves Are Not Stupid. Are You Smarter?

Tips to protect you from thieves

These came from long time friend, hospitality President, and noted author, Greg Plank.  If you are looking for a great humorous read on the Hotel industry be sure to get Saving the Saint George

   1. LONG-TERM PARKING:
Some people left their car  in the long-term parking at   San Jose while  away, and someone broke into the car. Using the information on the  car’s registration in the glove compartment, they drove the car to  the people’s home in   Pebble   Beach and  robbed it. So I guess if we are going to leave the car in long-term  parking, we should NOT leave the registration/insurance cards in it,  nor your remote garage door opener. This gives us something to think  about with all our new electronic  technology.2. GPS:
Someone had their car broken  into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the  green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially  allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a  garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been  prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home,  they found that their house had been ransacked and just about  everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the  GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote  control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The  thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what  time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time  they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had  brought a truck to empty the house of its contents. Something to  consider if you have a GPS – don’t put your home address in it…  Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still  find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where  you live if your GPS were stolen.

3. CELL  PHONES:
I never thought of  this……. This lady has now changed her habit of how she lists her  names on her cell phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag,  which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc., was  stolen. Twenty minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay  phone telling him what had happened, hubby says, “I received your  text asking about our Pin number and I’ve replied a little while  ago.” When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them  all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the  stolen cell phone to text “hubby” in the contact list and got hold  of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money  from their bank account.
Moral of the  lesson:
a. Do not disclose the  relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid  using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc….
B. And very importantly,  when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling  back.
C. Also, when you’re being  texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call  back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach  them, be very careful about going places to meet “family and  friends” who text you.

4. PURSE IN THE GROCERY CART  SCAM:
A lady went grocery-shopping  at a local mall and left her purse sitting in the children’s seat of  the cart while she reached something off a shelf… Wait till you  read the WHOLE story! Her wallet was stolen, and she reported it to  the store personnel. After returning home, she received a phone call  from the Mall Security to say that they had her wallet and that  although there was no money in it, it did still hold her personal  papers. She immediately went to pick up her wallet, only to be told  by Mall Security that they had not called her. By the time she  returned home again, her house had been broken into and burglarized.  The thieves knew that by calling and saying they were Mall Security,  they could lure her out of her house long enough for them to  burglarize it.

Four Basic Truths to Help You Navigate the Financial News

Dictum Number 1: People do not get what they want or what they expect from the markets; they get what they deserve. 
 
Dictum Number 2: The force of a correction is equal and opposite to the deception that preceded it.
 
Dictum Number 3: Capitalism doesn’t always take an economy where it wants to go; but it always takes an economy where it ought to be.
 
Dictum Number 4: The severity of a depression is inversely correlated with government’s efforts to stop it.
From Bill Bonner onThe Daily Reckoning, Oct. 31, 2014.

This ‘N That 4/24/14

Central Planning Always Fails in the End-Now it’s Yellen’s turn to learn.
Ms. Yellen is strong proponent of central planning. Shortcoming is not using practical rules. She prefers economic models with names like “optimal control” or “communications policy.”  To Yellen, ‘optimal control” equates to abandoning current conditions and substituting a policy to keep rates lower longer. She believes that by communicating the Fed’s intentions individuals will “get the message,” making decisions on investments, spending, and borrowing based on promises of lower rates. That in turn will lead to increased demand, strong economic growth and higher employment. When that occurs the Fed can start to withdraw support so inflation doesn’t occur.

That’s her theory. How about reality? The Fed is trying to change consumer psychology. The trouble occurs if it succeeds. Once consumers change philosophy it’s very hard to get them to change back. Kind of like putting the tooth paste back into the tube. The Fed would like inflation at 3% or so. Fed believes they can control it. But like all central planning that rarely happens.
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We live in a bi-polar world. There are practical solutions. This is longer than practical here. Published on SecurEmploy Blog 4/12/14 Just scroll down.
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It’s All a Matter of Perspective. We are all aware of self-serving nature that fill politicians minds, and how dysfunctional our government is. But the larger picture is pretty good and we each need to remind the pessimists of the world how good we have it. We have a stable “democracy.” A military power that is the primary defender of the free world. Our economy is still the largest. Our dollar is still involved in 87% of currency transactions. Our financial markets are the freest. Our free enterprise system is still envied. Our economy is expanding. Unemployment just hit a 5 year low. New technologies are driving additional and new manufacturing.
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71% of US workers actively looking or open to new opportunities. If 71% are looking for new jobs how come we are making recruiting employees so difficult? Only two things are needed for successful recruitment. First, make sure recruiters are spinning the dial…calling prospects, calling peers in position to ask for leads, etc. Second, Require every manager in your organization to refer at least 4 “A” candidates to your company every year. What’s an “A” candidate? The types of employees you need the most. Recruiting should be the responsibility of the managers who have the direct responsibility for the function. Remember: Every new employee should make a contribution to profits = to at least 5 times their salary the first 12 months on the job. Sales people 10x.
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Degenerate Capitalism. What’s implication for our industry? Three thoughts. This one is little longer than fits here. Published on SecurEmploy blog April 23. Just scroll down.
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Foreign Investment. Last year, foreigners invested a record $38.7 billion in commercial property, according to real estate brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle. That’s a 44% increase from 2012.

Ask Employees to Tell Their Friends About Your Job Openings We all know the value of employee referrals. Have you asked your employees to tell friends and family about your openings? Or do you just assume they do that? Expand your network of referrals. Be sure to offer an incentive for any referral hired.
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French social commenter and political thinker Montesquieu once wrote, “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”
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Why is Russia really interested in Ukraine? Why doesn’t US have a dog in this fight. SecurEmploy blog post 4/21. Just scroll down.
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Crimea is resource rich. Rest of Ukraine is resource poor. Crimean resources are very important to Russia. Without Crimea, Ukraine can not continue to exist. Russia can threaten and bluster but starve Ukraine into submission. Inflation in Ukraine is already at 25%. Russia is Ukraine’s largest trading partner making up 70% of Ukraine’s exports. Take away Crimean commodities and Ukraine doesn’t have enough to export to survive.
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From Chicago: “In Chicago, armed civilians justifiably killed three times as many violent criminals in past 5 years as did the police.’”Civilians defending themselves captured, wounded, killed or scared off criminals in 75% of confrontations.” Professor Don B Kates Jr, St Louis University law professor, Laissez Faire Today.
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China’s trade agreements to use Yuan to replace $. Good or bad?

Already, China has trade agreements with Brazil, Australia, the European Union, and other nations. Most international trade is conducted in dollars

Last year, the yuan surpassed the euro as the second-most-used currency in the world… It made up 8.7% of global trade in October 2013 compared with 6.6% for the euro. In 2012, the yuan only made up 1.9% of trade compared with the euro’s 7.9%.

If the world rejects the dollar in favor of the yuan – or any other standard for trade – it would end US ability to print a limitless number of dollars and issue limitless amounts of debt

OR WOULD IT?American public seems to have no ability to stop government printing presses. Politicians certainly have no reason to stop the presses. Perhaps the only thing that will get US to address our issues is by losing the Dollars position as world currency of choice.
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Two numbers the government can’t fudge. Employment-to-population (currently just under 59%) and Participation Rate the actual percentage of the population, of working age, that is working (currently 63%, down from a high of 67% in 2000). US had 118.5 million full time and 26 million part time workers in 2013. That means that 37.5% of residents are working to support the other 62.5%. That’s not sustainable. Only part of that 62.5% are children.
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Current Career Opportunities Corporate, Hotel, and Resort opportunities.

Training for Revenue Generation by Ed Iannarella.

 

Degenerate Capitalism Returns…Again

Degenerate Capitalism is term that’s starting be thrown around…again. Term originally used may years ago by economist Dr Kurt Richebacher. Degenerative capitalism occurs when a capitalist economy is taken over by the financial markets. When economists view economic data only on the basis of what impact the data has on the immediate financial markets.

In 1970’s economists universally agreed a nation needs savings to assure prosperity. Fast forward to 2013 and we have the view that consumer spending makes any nation prosperous. If deficit spending by the government is bad, then deficit spending by consumers has got to be equally bad. Media, economists, and Federal Administration (and many states) are ignoring it.

In healthy economies, consumption has to be fueled by production. Americans are getting poorer at rate of 2.3% per year.

What’s implication for our industry?

  1. Look for industries that are expanding production and increasing their margins.  Get greater share of your business from them.
  2. Recognize that general public is going to have less and less to spend every year.
    How much of your business is dependent on discretionary spending by the consumer? How successful can your business be going after a shrinking percentage of upper middle class Americans? Can you upgrade your amenities as fast as chains think you should, and still keep the margins you want?
    If not, what’s your plan? Those that anticipate will do ok, others will lose profits…too quickly .
  3. Use creative thinking to identify how to restructure hotels to a different business mix.
    Perhaps you can rent out some rooms to professional businesses that have base of customers coming to town consistently. Office services you currently provide can help those businesses reduce expenses. Then get tie in to have those customers stay at your hotel rooms. Means their customers can do business without having to leave your hotel…reducing their expenses. Many hotels already have tie-ins with local restaurants to deliver meals. Done right, you may not need that expensive franchise affiliation. Or you can get a less expensive affiliation without losing rate.

Industry emphasis has been expanding/upgrading amenities. That’s forcing businesses to go after the same upscale customers…a customer base that is increasingly affluent…but declining in numbers. How long will you be competitive in that environment? Maintain your desired profit margins? Understand if the overall market by your hotels is upgrading, staying the same, or starting to slip.

Like all businesses…to thine own self be true. Trust me, the franchisors are.