Far West Capital July 2011 Newsletter

Want to win a football signed by a NFL star? Far West Capital launched a contest today and you’re the first to hear about it! (Aren’t you glad you’re on our email list?!) Visit this link to find out all the details!

Your donation can help Central Texas children cope when their parents are diagnosed with serious illness.

Last year, you helped my team raise a record-breaking $66,351 for Wonders & Worries. This year at the 4th Annual Beretta USA No Worries Classic, we hope to double that amount. Wonders & Worries is a Central Texas nonprofit that helps countless families and people, like Matt Mathias (this year’s Event Chair and my teammate last year), by helping children cope when their parent has a serious illness, like cancer.

Your Donation Makes a Difference:

  • More than 3,600 individuals and 900 families have participated in a Wonders & Worries program
  • Nearly 700 people in over 225 families are currently being served by Wonders & Worries
  • Wonders & Worries programs can help children with their mental health, family functioning, school performance, friendships, growth and development, and overall adjustment
  • All Wonders & Worries services are offered free of charge to people of any age, gender, socio-economic status and ethnicity

Please join me in supporting this wonderful organization by pledging or donating here and spreading the word!

Should banks be afraid of credit unions? According to a recent WSJ article, credit unions have recently asked the Senate to redefine their restrictions on business loans. Members of the National Credit Union Administration argue that raising the loan cap would help small businesses still suffering from limited credit lending in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The majority of credit unions are subject to caps on business lending based on a percentage of their total assets, but only a small portion are close to reaching this limit. The Chairman of the National Credit Union Association believes 2,000 of the 7,300 credit unions will increase business lending if the cap is raised. In fear of credit unions wielding more power, members of the American Bankers Association strongly oppose these efforts, stating that credit unions would have an unfair competitive advantage and would turn into “tax-exempt” banks.

In the last couple of years, food trailers have exploded in the city of Austin. The latest estimates, calculated by mobile food vendor permits, show that there are roughly 1,200 food trucks, trailers and carts! From snow cones to gourmet pork belly sliders to chicken tikka masala, the trailer food choices are endless. Check out FoodTrailersAustin.com for lists of food trailers in town and the Trailer Food Diaries blog for some expert advice.

A statewide smoking ban was back on the agenda for the Texas Legislative Special Session. Smoking is already banned in over 30 Texas communities (and 30 U.S. states), and a statewide ban could save $30 million in Medicaid expenses, which could be spent in other worthwhile health endeavors. But this possible ban also brings up the question of personal property freedom. About 53,000 Americans die every year just from being around a smoker. Does losing this freedom (and businesses potentially losing customers) outweigh the ability to prevent second-hand smoke deaths?

According to this Bloomberg article, banks will have to accelerate job cuts because of falling profits and government regulations. John Challenger, the CEO of Gray & Christmas, predicts that this year’s reduction “might very well” be more than double 2010’s number. Stock prices are falling, shareholders are fleeing, and the largest national banks are suffering significant losses during this year’s first quarter in comparison to last year’s numbers.

In this Washington Post article, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke predicts the next year to be even worse economically, confirming that the slowdown of the past few months doesn’t mark a temporary change. The Congressional Budget offered long-term estimates of huge deficit due to the rising cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that could lead to a national debt twice as big as the economy.

Previously mentioned articles and the majority of media tend to add urgency to already contagious fears of the unemployment crisis, but others argue that these views may exaggerate the negativity of the situation. In fact, James Paulsen, Ph.D. and chief investment strategist of Wells Capital, takes a different position. He states that the current economic growth is considered “normal” compared to recoveries during the last 25 years and the declined labor force. In this latest edition of Economic and Market Perspective, he provides charts and research for his take on the contemporary economic recovery.

We love a movie with strong business motivation. Inc. recently made a list of movies that teach good business lessons. Have you seen any of these? Which lesson do you think is most important?

1. The Social Network – Friends matter
2. Wall Street – Greed is not always good
3. The Aviator – Don’t be afraid of the big guy
4. In the Pursuit of Happyness – Good work ethic goes a long way
5. Jerry Maguire – Stick to your values
6. Baby Boom – Work-life balance is possible
7. Pirates of Silicon Valley – Competition is good for business

John Mauldin; a renowned financial expert, a New York Times best-selling author, and a pioneering online commentator; sends a weekly email about his views on Wall Street, global markets, and economic history to over 1 million readers. A few weeks ago, Mauldin’s email was titled “What Happened to the Jobs” and analyzes employment and unemployment in the U.S. Here are a couple of sobering facts:

  • There were only 18,000 jobs created in June, the lowest since September 2010. While private employment rose by 57,000, government workers dropped by 39,000, continuing a trend as governments at all levels work to cut their budgets.
  • Total employment fell by 445,000. Full-time employment is down by 0.5% in the last year, while part-time is up 3%. David Rosenberg calls this the just-in-time labor market. The total number of unemployed rose to over 14 million. If you count the discouraged workers not in the official unemployed, the total number rises to 20.6 million, up 483,000 last month. This put the unemployment rate back up to 9.2%.

Mauldin also includes some interesting charts by Economist David Rosenberg in this email. Take a look!

Today more than ever, organizations’ leaders have less control over the message conveyed to their consumers. The Internet and the popularity of social media outlets allow audiences to take rating products and services into their own hands and continuously pass on their critiques, good and bad, to others. The lack of message control and possible spread of negative feedback immediately appears threatening to companies, but according to a recent study by Stanford Graduate School of Business and Tel Aviv University, a small amount of negative reaction and information—referred to as the “blemishing” affect can actually help you sell a product or service. The research study suggests that the negative feedback actually highlights positive aspects of the product. Read more in this article.

Have you taken or will you take a vacation this year? Forty-six percent of small business owners plan to take a vacation this year compared to 67 percent in 2006. For business owners, “lost time” during a vacation is anything but relaxing, and as a result, business owners are eliminating their vacations all together. But we all need time to relax, whether it is for a day or two somewhere nearby or a weeklong getaway that requires you to hop on a plane. To truly vacation, business owners need to feel that their business can run itself smoothly without them. Maybe these 5 tips about how to keep your business in line while vacationing will give you some peace of mind before you leave.

A recent blog post by The Heritage Foundation gives us a look on how tax cuts are the key to lowering unemployment rates, particularly based on the economic reviving results of the 2003 tax cuts. Obama’s approach, emphasizing raised taxes, which are often and not so suavely referred to as “revenue enhancements,” has only furthered the delay of the economic recovery. In opposition to the recent self-defeating taxes, the article highlights the economic expansion that roared for 50 months and created 8.1 million jobs that resulted from the Bush administration’s tax cuts. But it’s insensible to blame this economic expansion as cause for the economic recession. To begin to facilitate economic recovery and growth, we need to commit to not raising taxes. Rather than tax increases, pro-growth policies that would raise tax revenue like reducing tax rates, restrained federal spending, minimal regulation, and free trade need to be implemented.

Over half of your employees dislike their jobs and one-third of your employees are seriously considering quitting, according to a survey conducted by Mercer, a consulting firm specialized in human resources. The survey was conducted over the past 2 quarters and surveyed 30,000 workers in 17 countries—including 2,400 workers in the United States. Results showed that there was a sharp increase since 2005’s 23% of unhappy American workers who are seriously considering leaving their jobs compared to 2011’s 32%.  Mercer’s study cites a decrease in employee benefits and perks as major issues causing the decrease in employee morale.

Employees’ level of engagement, which describes their loyalty, commitment, and motivation, is at a dangerous low, and as a result, the level of efficiency also declines. It’s a serious risk to have such an overwhelming percent of your workforce that is either spending their workday fantasizing about leaving your organization or has just mentally checked out. If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to get an idea on the mindset of your employees. Do you know your staff’s goals? It could help you build a more energized and motivated team.

During President Obama’s State of the Union address in January, he said,
“In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives (…) its how we make our living.” These words spoken had immense meaning to CEOs who were later disappointed to hear in the same speech that the government should step in to fill in investment gaps and that companies should avoid investing money in research, also seen as manipulation of the market. As CEOs, we would rather see the government focus on the deficit and stabilizing taxes and revive innovation by ourselves.

Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement, and progress.” –Theodor Levitt, economist, professor and editor of Harvard Business Review

Levitt’s description of innovation could not be more applicable in today’s economy. We have to keep up with the rest of society’s innovations but also act as entrepreneurs and create our own. We realize that innovation and the confidence in your own creativity is a company must-have, but how can we grow and facilitate innovation? How can we form a creative environment conducive to establishing “change, improvement, and progress” within our business? Check out this Inc. article about 8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company.

Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian-American economist who popularized the term “creative destruction” as a theory of economic innovation and progress, was probably the first scholar to develop his theories on entrepreneurship. Schumpeter argued that the innovation and technological change of a nation comes from the entrepreneurs, or wild spirits. He coined the word Unternehmergeist, German for entrepreneur-spirit. He believed that these individuals are the ones who make things work in the economy of the country. In another theory, he asserted that the ones that drive innovation and the economy are big companies with the resources and capital to invest in research and development.

Have you ever considered that you are wasting time and energy while you idealize about your future? In fact, The Washington Post argues that imagining success can make you fail. Instead, spend more time focusing on your current work and skills instead of abstract and idealized outcomes.

Last month, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) presented the first bill ever introduced in Congress to help end the 40-year federal war on marijuana, first declared by President Nixon, by letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates pot legalization, the legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal.  We think this is a great idea, and it’s just the beginning to something that we hope happens.

You wanted some financial regulation? Here it is…along with higher debit card fees! Merchants now pay just 12 cents for debit processing and banks cannot  automatically charge consumers for debit card and ATM overdraft protection on everyday transactions; instead, cardholders now must opt in. Sounds good? Well, banks stand to lose more than $10 billion a year in merchant fees and more than $6 billion in overdraft fees. That means they’ll be looking to make it up somewhere — and it’s likely to be from the mainstream debit card users. Thanks, Congress for the “protection!”

Data has shown that one third of adults in the U.S. are obese and about 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 through 19 are obese. Chronic diseases, including obesity-related diseases such as heart failure and diabetes, drive three-quarters of medical spending.

Though there is little evidence that previous government intervention has lowered obesity, the FDA published a new set of rules this past April requiring restaurants to show the calories in each menu item, and the Federal Trade Commission released a set of guidelines for food that is marketed to children. The government is promoting new food labeling standards, and there are also talks of “nudging” (because a strong-arm would bring backlash for sure) towards healthier lifestyles such as replacing candy with healthier snacks by the checkout area at grocery stores. Is this enough or not enough? Can and should the government take stronger measures against obesity?

Where are the boom towns (cities best positioned to grow and prosper in the coming decade) in the U.S.? Forbes recently did some research and it is a no-brainer that Austin not only made the list but also came out as the #1 city. Three other Texas cities also made the list: San Antonio (#4), Houston (#5 with a “burgeoning port and dominance of the world energy business”), and Dallas (#7 with “ideal place for corporate relocations”). Low housing prices and big jumps in new jobs are also reasons why Texas cities dominated the list. The #2 spot went to Raleigh, NC and #3 spot went to Nashville, TN.

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