SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON BUSINESS, TECH, AND POLITICS
President-Elect Donald Trump started off his campaign infamously by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers and then following up that claim by not only saying that we are going to build a wall, but he was going to make Mexico pay for that wall. As time goes on, he then added to his anti-Mexico rhetoric about changing NAFTA to include a 35% tariff to products manufactured in Mexico.
As optimistic as I am with the new President-Elect changing Washington and being the shake-up we need to break up the DC gridlock, I feel the President-Elect is way off on his views regarding Mexico. For full disclosure, I am a white male, lived and worked in Mexico for about 15 years, have a Mexican son, have Permanent Residency in Mexico, and a Peruvian daughter and wife. I have also worked as a Special Liaison to the Secretary of Tourism for Baja California, Mexico. That in no way gives me bias on the subject, to the contrary, it gives me the unique ability to see both sides of the argument and offer a real alternative that would fix the border issue all together, immigration and NAFTA.
Then Republican Candidate Trump, was somewhat right with his claim against illegal Mexicans. He announced his candidacy in 2015 and the most complete yearly data was from 2014. According to the U.S. Sentencing Committee, there were about 76,000 people sentenced that year. Out of 76,000, about 37% of them were undocumented Mexicans. Remember though, these crimes range from petty theft, to driving under the influence, to murder, and rape. So it was mostly true the claim that the Candidate made. The problem was the delivery of the message and how he said it. There is one item item here I do want to point out, not to defend how he said it, but, Candidate Trump has never been a candidate in his life. He was not a life-long politician and really did not even have a real political team around him to coach him on what to say, which is probably why how he said it was so politically incorrect. To play the other side of the table and be fair, the Candidate was also his own PR machine. He knows how to grab headlines and manipulate the media. It could have been just as much intentional as lack of knowledge of political correctness in order to grab headlines and steal thunder from then front runners Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. It worked. He was all over the news and everybody knew he was running for President within hours.
I have developed a viable four point plan that would fix both NAFTA and immigration. I feel that neither party has fixed immigration since Reagan because if they did fix it, it would no longer be an issue. Nobody would be fighting for "Latino rights". It would be resolved. Hopefully, President-Elect Trump does not punt the political football but takes it head on.
First the general public has a need to understand exactly how NAFTA fully works. From the American point of view, we only see two things. A pro, cheap products and a con, lost jobs with factories moving to Mexico. It isn't that simple though. It is much more complicated than that and the implications of terminating NAFTA would be disastrous for everybody.
Under NAFTA, a free trade agreement, American factories can move to Mexico, manufacture and then send their goods, tariff free into the United States. The reverse is true with goods being manufactured in the United States. They can be imported into Mexico, tariff free. This is actually important because Mexico has extreme tariffs with goods from Asia, which brings me to my main point about why we need to keep NAFTA.
NAFTA is actually a positive treaty and in order to fully understand the economics of how this works, you have to fully understand economics in Mexico. The tariffs from manufactured goods coming from some countries in Asia can be more than 100% in some instances entering Mexico. This makes their prices so non-affordable to the average Mexican that they actually have to purchase the item in the United States. Mexicans refer to the trip as going for "compras". An illustrated example of this would be think of a mid-range 40" Samsung high definition TV. In the United States, this can be found for only $280 for at Wal-Mart (price accurate as of publishing of this article). A similar model in Mexico goes for probably $450 to $600 (disclaimer: after Trump won the election the Mexican Peso dropped to $20.8 Mexican Pesos for $1 USD; the figure in the example used was pre-election).
For lower income families who want to have new items, they have two choices. They can either pay for it in Mexico, as some larger stores offer credit (but much harder to obtain than in the United States) or they purchase it in the United States. There is also a huge market in Mexico for secondary items, but if you want it new, most people have only two choices, purchase one for a higher cost in Mexico or purchase one for much cheaper in the United States. The same goes for other electronics, like computers, tablets, and simpler things like clothing. I remember when I first moved to Mexico. Seems like I packed all my belongings except my underwear. Having to go to the store to purchase it, I was amazed to find boxer shorts at the cost of about $5 per pair. So as many Mexicans do, I ended up having to cross into San Diego to purchase boxer shorts at Wal-Mart and I think for $5 I got either a 3-pack or a 5-pack of Hanes. The price differences actually increased in border regions as one of the first things that Mexico's Presidente Peña Nieto did, with formal protest from all the border region governors was to raise the sales tax to 16%. The border region had a lower tax rate of 11% in order to help cities like Tijuana compete better with the lower prices found just across the border in San Diego. Peña Nieto saying that places like Tijuana should not get special treatment and pay the same tax rate as the rest of Mexico.
This also has had huge negative consequences to both economies. According to the International Business Times, this created a mass exodus of Mexicans doing even more purchases in San Diego with one local business leader predicting local sales in Tijuana would drop 20% and a few months after the change went into effect, according to the article, inflation spiked and the Mexican Peso has been losing value to the dollar. Prior to the raise in tax, the Mexican Peso was holding stead around $12 - $13 pesos for $1 USD. This has pumped billions of extra dollars into the southern U.S. economy and created thousands of jobs that would not exist if not for Mexicans purchasing their goods in the United States. The tax change, nearly 3 years later combined with a post President-Elect Trump dip, creates a negative situation where the Mexican Peso is valued around $21 pesos to every $1 USD. Due to this combination, it now cost Mexicans more to purchase the same items in the United States plus costs are going up in border region areas like Tijuana where there is a heavy cross-border relationship. The major problem with this is that the wages of the Mexican worker stays the same and are stagnant. This comes back to President-Elect Trump's anti-NAFTA rhetoric. It is actually hurting the U.S. economy. I know families in Monterrey and Mexico City who would pool their money together and drive to Texas and fill a van with everything the family and extended family needs twice a year. Due to the current exchange rate, instead of doing this twice a year, it may only happen once a year, if it all. It will have a negative impact on our economies.
Now it is time to circle back to my claim that one job lost equals two jobs given. We are about to go full circle. The factories in Mexico are setup only for manufacturing items that are to be sold in the United States, not in Mexico. Many of the people who take the lower-end manufacturing jobs from Americans are the same people who are most at-risk to cross into the United States illegally. These jobs are not high paying jobs. Most of them are 10 to 12 hour days, plus a half day on Saturday and typically pay between $800 - $1,000 Mexican Pesos a week. With the current loss the Mexican Pesos has suffered since the election, that is less than $50 a week, but it is enough to keep these people in a stable environment and from crossing the border illegally. Additionally, in all reality, due to having the stability of a job and if located in a border region, like Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, would provide a path for these people to obtain tourist visas.
In essence, the factory worker changed status from at-risk to cross illegally into the United States to having a visa and spending their hard earned money in America. Everyday, at almost any hour of the day or night you can see people waiting in line at the Tijuana/San Ysidro Border Crossing in order to cross into San Diego to purchase the items that they cannot afford in their home country of Mexico. It is estimated that Mexicans doing cross-border purchases pumps over $7 billion into the southern United States border's economy.
That is how -1 = +2. One displaced worker in Wisconsin for instance prevents an at-risk Mexican from crossing the border illegally and gives an economic boost to our economy, providing more jobs in cities like San Diego. If NAFTA did not exist or had tariffs added to the goods produced in Mexico there would be some negative consequences. Mexicans would have little incentive to purchase items in the United States as the prices would be similar enough, that considering the border wait, customs, etc. there is little incentive to only save a couple of dollars. There would also be less jobs in Mexico, which would lead to more Mexicans crossing illegally into the United States as they wouldn't be able to find employment in Mexico.
This would also open the door for cheaper goods to be manufactured in Asia and Africa to start entering the United States, but it would keep more factories in the United States. When you think about that, is it really a good thing to keep factories here? Doing so would create not only a rise in illegal immigration, but it would also speed up the process of creating a robotic work force. I recently visited Huy Fong Foods, manufacturer of the famous Sriracha sauce. You would be amazed. Nearly everything in the whole factory is robotic. Very little human interaction and I believe they have approximately 25 - 40 employees. This is the only way, with how high taxes are and how many regulations there are that they can afford to manufacture in Los Angeles. By forcing factories to stay in the United States, so that we can still remain competitive with pricing, we are only going to be pushing tech companies to develop job replacing robots. The irony of this claim is it would put more people to work engineering the robots to replace other people's jobs at factories.
Americans have to face the harsh reality of this isn't the America of the Industrial Revolution. Factories are no longer high-skilled jobs in a place that is overrun by regulations, taxes, and unions. From an economic standpoint, why would an employee want to pay an American, low-skilled factory work $1,000 a week, not including the hidden costs that employers pay for every employee they have, when the same employer can pay less taxes, have less regulations, not deal with demanding and sometimes bullying unions, and pay a worker with the identical same skill set about $50 a week plus the hidden costs an employer pays in Mexico to have an employee. I have had employees in Mexico and it is not cheap, compared to their legal wages, but much cheaper than it is in the United States.
Now on the consumer side, would you want to pay 20 - 30% more for a product just because it was manufactured in the United States? Sure, for some it may be economically feasible, but for most it is not. The products coming out of Mexico are high quality products. They are not like the cheaper, lower quality products that are coming out of Asia. Yes, some high quality products come out of Asia, but that is the exception rather than the rule and most of the products that come out of Asia are ran by American companies (Apple, Boeing) or other worldly giants like Sony and Samsung.
Manufacturing can be done successfully in the United States, but that is for mostly high-tech and cutting-edge technologies. Do we really want to start a trade war over where Levi jeans or Bose speakers get manufactured? Bose, while manufacturing in Tijuana, still has their headquarters in the United States, does a bulk of their engineering and R&D here also. As time goes on, manufacturing jobs that were once considered difficult and complex, like cars, cell phones, and computers are now-a-days considered "low-tech" as the processes to manufacture them have been standardized. It is OK to let those jobs go down south to our brothers and sisters in Mexico. As I pointed out earlier -1 = + 2. It benefits our country much more than allowing the jobs to turned into robots here in the United States or to be sent to Asia or Africa.
We do need to provide training for the displaced worker, but in order for this to work, the displaced American worker has to be willing to learn. A displaced factory worker in a place that produces cupcakes would more than likely have a huge educational gap in order to gain the skills to get a job in our "new economy". This is challenging because how do you retrain a 55 year old who used to manufacture cupcakes in order to find a new job? That is a difficult part of the equation to answer, but the factory who is relocating should be responsible for paying for at minimal the displaced worker to obtain a Professional Certificate that would allow them to specialize in something that could lead to them finding new employment, more than likely in a more advance position with higher pay and better benefits. Losing the position could be a life altering move for the better for the previously displaced worker. On top of unemployment, if the displaced worker is studying for a Professional Certificate, the employer should also have to help supplement the income of the displaced worker if the displaced worker is studying full-time.
This will cost the company moving a good amount of money, but it would be short-term losses as most Professional Certificates or Associate Degrees are completed within two years. It is the cost of doing business and moving the factory down to Mexico. After paying for the education of the displaced American worker, the company eventually will start making higher profits than they ever did in the United States due to the much cheaper labor in Mexico.
There is one last final option that could fix the whole problem all together. President-Elect Trump recently revealed his new policy of for every new Federal Regulation added, the government must remove two regulations. The government needs to relax regulations, and yes, that means some overreaching EPA regulations also. On top of that we have to roll back taxes and give incentives to companies who stay in America. If we cannot give American factories a chance to compete against foreign products in a global marketplace, how do we expect them to stay in America? We also need to fix how employment unions work in the United States. They are way to powerful for the current state of America. There was a time in which both unions and the EPA were desperately needed. Things have evened out since then they are not needed as much as they once were in the past.
The problem with removing regulations, taxes, and limiting union powers is that it will create more problems. As mentioned earlier, many of these low-paying factory jobs in Mexico keep Mexicans from crossing the border illegally. It also brings people from all over Mexico to the border region, where they are able to build stability, get a visa, and finally make purchases in the United States, again worth billions of dollars a year. So if the factories stay, we lose a lot of money from Mexico and would lose just as many jobs along the border with Mexico and risk a larger influx of illegal immigrants entering the United States.
If you are a liberal or a conservative, you probably have doubts in my arguments. I will prove with one company how I my claims are true: Hostess. Hostess, was a company pretty much forced out of business because of terrible deals with unions. Americans all over the country were petrified that we would lose our beloved Twinkie. We almost did, but through bankruptcy, C. Dean Metropoulos and Co. and Apollo Management Group saved the Twinkie. How did they do it? Well according to Forbes, they inherited the company pretty much free and clear of all previous union contracts. Since they were free of the union contracts, the work force was reduced by 95% and do you know how they did that? Automation. Sound familiar? It is the same strategy that Huy Fong Foods uses to manufacture Striracha in America.
You must face the facts. Americans are going to lose jobs. The question is to whom: robots and automation or Mexico? Again, that is where I come back to -1 = +2. Two jobs are earned with one displaced worker and if a proper educational program was put in place as an amendment to NAFTA requiring mandatory employer paid Professional Certificate or Associate Degree education plus subsidized income during the transition period as a "tax" on the company for moving to Mexico, the factory moving to Mexico doesn't just create two jobs but also would put the displaced worker in an position to better themselves and earn more than had they stayed at the original factory.
America, the decision is yours, but I feel the case has been made loud and clear. Keep but change NAFTA to include employer mandated education for displaced workers because -1 = + 2. The math cannot be clearer.
Debate the issue, I urge you to comment below and discuss this ever so important topic as it is one of the items that President-Elect Trump plans on attacking during his first 100 days in office.
Congratulate yourself America, you survived the most craziest election
November 8th, we had a winner. The winner though was a shocker. Most of the media thought it would be an early night. Little did they know that they were wrong. Technically, I believe the Associated Press called the race first, but in terms of actual news organizations, the first I saw on 6 computer monitors and 3 TV screens was the New York Times, followed by the Wall Street Journal, and then with what seems like took forever, Fox News called the race for now President-Elect Trump, and the last ones to chime in was CNN calling it in his favor.
There was one media outlet though, even as Trump was giving his victory speech, the screen on MSNBC said something of the sorts like: "Clinton Concedes with Phone Call to Trump" they were still showing Trump with less than 270 electoral college votes. I believe they had 248 at the time. This election comes to a surprise to the media and those who live in the D.C., NYC, and L.A. bubbles, but if you ask a majority in voters in States that Trump won, it was no surprise to them, in fact, Michael Moore said that Trump would win this election long ago and then rubbed it in everybody's face after he did win.
Surprisingly, only one media outlet actually called the race for Trump consistently, and that was the LA Times. Not even the more conservative leaning Fox News had Trump winning in their polls. Trump's internal polling though, was right. How is it that Michael Moore, LA Times, and Donald Trump's polling was more accurate than the rest of the country?
Michael Moore believed Trump would win because there is an "angry" America. The media and Democrats like to classify them as the "angry white majority", but that isn't necessarily the case. If you look at who voted for Donald Trump, he improved in nearly every category than Mitt Romney did in 2012, even with his anti-Mexico rhetoric, he had a surge in Latino voters of over 30% more than Romney. Yes, Hillary won the popular vote, but our Country doesn't work that way. The Constitution with the Electoral College gives each State to choose the President through a state-wide popular vote, ensuring that each State, regardless of population has a say in who the next President is.
What about the LA Times? Why did the have Trump winning by +6 over the past few months? Interestingly enough, they tried a test in conjunction with USC. They polled the same amount of people throughout the course of the election, doing about 450 surveys a day and asking the same questions throughout the poll. They also asked the people to rate their answers from 0 to 100, trying to add a unique view into the "enthusiasm factor". Was the poll accurate? Well ultimately Trump did win, but Clinton won the popular vote. Many people are saying that the poll was just as inaccurate and no more accurate than the other polls.
That leads us to Donald Trump's internally polling which was pretty much right. The last few days of the election, Trump, started hitting up locations located in the "blue wall", states that Republicans have not won in years. Not only did this throw everybody off, wondering why Trump was campaigning in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the final days of the campaign. Somehow, in an odd way, it also put Hillary on defense. Instead of her bringing home the "toss up States" of Pennsylvania , Florida, and Ohio, she now had to go to places that were not planned, plus, despite being one year older than Hillary, Trump did more campaigns events in more states and made Hillary to change her schedule to follow Trump's lead.
When it was all said and done, Trump lost Virginia and New Hampshire. Virginia he lost by 5 points, which equals about 200,000 votes, but if you look at the electoral map, nearly the whole State was red, except the metro areas. New Hampshire, he lost be less than 1% point, less than 3,000 votes. On the flip side, Romney lost 52% to 46.5% to President Obama (roughly a 30,000 vote difference). While at this time, Trump was not officially awarded Michigan, Michael Moore's home State, it sure looks like he flipped it. Basically, it was a modern day political "miracle" what Trump did on election night. He ran the table. He did not get a "Straight Flush, but Trump did get "4 of a Kind".
I was not an avid Trump supporter, I will admit was a #NeverHillary voter. I did like the idea of having an outsider as a President, but thought it was fantasy. I honestly thought, as most of America did, that Hillary Clinton would be the next President. Whether you love or hate Trump, you must be in awe with what he accomplished. He, single handily took down America's top two political dynasties. Prior to this election, everybody was talking about this being a Bush vs. Clinton "re-match" election. Instead of George H.W. and William Jefferson, it was pre-determined to be, the ex-Florida governor, Jeb Bush, and our former First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It started back in the primaries. Jeb Bush, with all the establishment behind him, having a Latina as a wife, and a Bush last name was something that was extremely favorable for the candidate, that is until Donald Trump entered the contest. Using his loud mouth as a press piece, spending little money, and quite frankly, breaking every rule on how a candidate should act, Trump was able to take Bush out and do so early in the race. Trump got the support of the majority of the party, except the hardcore establishment followers who would become #NeverTrumpers. In fact, the Bush's endorsed Hillary, as did Romney, the previous Republican candidate for President. That is nearly unheard of. Having two ex-Presidents and the parties most recent Presidential candidate endorse the other party prior to the election. Ironically, Ohio Governor John Kasich wrote in John McCain and did not attend the Convention held in his own state.
It didn't stop there, having fights with "Little Marco" and "Lyin' Ted" up until the end. Trump did give "Lyin' Ted" a chance to speak at the Republican Convention and to everybody's surprise, Ted Cruz did not endorse Donald Trump. Even with that, somehow Donald Trump still rose to the top and won the general election.
Now after we get past the conventions, we have to recognize how the "Trump Machine" fought and won against the "Clinton Machine". The Clinton's have essentially been running for President since Bill started his original election campaign in 1990. Then using the 8 years of President George W. Bush as a Senator to give her an office that she held in order to launch her campaign for Presidency. There was no doubt, even after losing the primary to Obama in 2008 that she wasn't going to run in 2016. The Clinton organization stayed running and operating essentially since 1990 until until November 8, 2016 when Trump, almost single handily shut it down. Again, as I stated, he did not just beat one, but he beat two political dynasties.
I think Mitch McConnell summed it up best when he said that the American people have spoken and they have chosen a path that we have never gone down before, let's see where this leads us (paraphrased). I could not agreed more. While I am against many of Trump's policies, especially towards Mexico and NAFTA (which I was very surprised that the Prime Minister of Canada said he was open to renegotiating NAFTA as well), This is the first time, we have seen an election like this. Trump spent less than any other candidate, spent much less than Hillary, but used outrageous statements to get massive press. Every good thing Hillary did was hidden due to a Trump's side show. No publicity is bad publicity and I think Trump proved that true. The more that Trump opened his mouth with crazy remarks, it gave him opportunities to plant key phrases like "Corrupt Hillary" that ended up sticking with her, and ended up costing her the election when FBI Director Comey re-opened the investigation on Clinton. Even negative articles on Trump (which was higher than any other candidate in history this election cycles), gave him ample opportunities to plant small seeds of doubt and corruption against Hillary, therefore working in his favor.
An interesting article on Engadget, shows some what how Trumps internal polling, possibly motivated by social media, had Trump believing he was going to win the election and even had Hillary saying the day before that they may not win the election. I remember reading an article based on positive social media posts on candidate and showed a map that was nearly identical to the final election day map (pending Michigan finally saying yes or no to Trump). I cannot recall where I saw it, but a quick Google search showed me a map by a Conservative website (which is not where I saw this - and is not the exact map as my map included Twitter), showed that Trump was winning massively in positive posts versus negative posts. This map is using Facebook only:
So this map is off, as she did win the Northeast, and the West coast, Illinois, New York, plus Nevada. It is interesting though that overwhelmingly received more positive responses in social media than Hillary. It made Trump look hopeful and perhaps this was some of the data that he was using when at the last moment he decided that not only was Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida were at play but also North Carolina (won), Virginia (lost), Michigan (apparently winning), and Wisconsin (won). He flipped some states that have not been won since the election of 1984 or 1988. That was an incredible feat. Bush, even with two terms did not win Pennsylvania, my native State. Again, this was an impressive win, tripling the vote in Schuylkill County over what Mitt Romney did in 2012 (WSJ).
So where does this leave us now? We have a President-Elect Trump and what will he do? We have never had a President who never held prior office nor military service. We are in uncharted water. I've taken a look at NPR's look at Trump's first 100 day plan. While very optimistic, I would find 80% of it being acceptable, again, I have problems with his Mexico plans and NAFTA plans. I urge you to read it. Things in Washington have been too partisan for way too long. The last true bi-partisan President we had, with the exception of the time immediately after September 11th, 2001 (since we were under attack) was President Reagan. Can the man who wrote "Art of the Deal" use those methods to make deals on Capital Hill that makes both his supports and haters happy?
Being a democracy, every now and then you get thrown a curve ball. It is the democratic process. Millard Fillmore anymore (who actually belonged to the Ant-Masonic Party, the Whig Party, and the "Know Nothing Party"). The curve balls can turn into a strike out or a home run. I think he can, if done right, turn this curve ball into a home run. Just as the world did not end when Obama was elected twice, Democrats need to keep an open mind, as Republicans did initially (prior to having things like ObamaCare jammed down their throats).. Give Trump a year. Let's see how who he puts in his cabinet, let's see how he works with Congress. Can he be the man who breaks through the gridlock and gets us the progress we need? Only time will tell. A year from now, I can be writing an article on how can we remove Trump from office, but in the meantime, let's wish the President-Elect the best of luck and follow down this uncharted path, together, united as one. It may be exactly what our country needs.
In my experience over the past ten or so years, I am have been surprised with how many companies work only in the "now" and really do not have long-term goals. As part of my consulting company, I have been hired by many very successful companies to work on various projects and I find it amazing how there is a true lack of planning by some very successful companies.
Before I go any further, let me clarify that yes, every company pretty much has an idea of where they want to be. For example, I recently consulted with an insurance company that said that within five years "they would like to be a provider of foreign auto insurance for major insurers". The problem with this goal is that it is a broad statement and really has no plan around it to get them there.
They were not the first company that I have consulted for that were like this. Surprisingly most companies I have consulted for were like this. As a successful business consultant, I always like to talk about the future. I like to see and think about the future. What can we achieve? What can we do? For example, with the insurance company, their goal was to get with some major carriers. However, when you try to get past that initial surface of that goal statement, what do you see?
This is often where I do have some friction with the businesses. They do not want to talk about or as some have them put it "waste time or energy" on this subject since they are not ready for it yet. I am seeing this trend across the board. Companies are being short-sighted and planning for the moment or the very near future without really setting up long-term goals and aspirations.
Another company I contracted with, when asked what their five-year goal was told me "growth". A natural response from me was, "well how do you plan on reaching that?" Again this is where the conversation was sort of shut down and was told by the client that it would happen naturally because they have seen "x percent of growth year after year".
I feel that these companies are not reaching their true potential because of their lack of planning to achieve growth and their goals. Their goals are only broadly defined, they are not specific with no targeted path to lead them to the road of achievement. Even if the goal is five-years from now, what you do today is extremely important. If you plan accordingly, the choices you make today can be your GPS navigation that take you to your destination five years from now. Without planning, it would be like driving alongside a cliff in the middle of the night with only one headlight working.
I always tell my clients and potential employers that I keep one eye on the future and one eye on the present. Tomorrow is just as important as today because what I do today will either make tomorrow successful or a rocky road. Letting your business have organic growth and success is great. I am not going to say that organic growth is bad, but if a business applied itself fully and planned for growth instead of thinking about something five years from now was "putting the horse in front of the cart", how many more businesses would be better off in five years since the decisions they make today would help them reach their long-term goals?
Goals, vision, and planning are some of the tools that businesses have for free. Perhaps the fact that they are free is the reason that many businesses undervalue them. My goal as a business development consultant is to use my abilities to help businesses learn about how powerful having a future vision of the company is, then using that vision to set goals, and finally planning to reach those goals.
How have your experiences been with your clients or your employers? Do you find my findings to be accurate? How much of a impact do you think that setting longer-term goals and plans to reach them on the longevity of the business?
Finally, after dreaming all my life and saying "one day", next Sunday, May 24th, I will complete one of my bucket list items and going to see The Rolling Stones. Wheel chairs and respirators aside, that really got me to think about how much music has changed over their career during the past 50+ years.
In the 1970's, television had a real big impact on music. Shows like Saturday Night Special put faces to the stars that only previously were known by their voices. You knew Elvis's voice, but could you pick him out of a line up out of costume? The invent of the TV really changed the way that we consume music.
Skip forward another decade to the early 80's and MTV took what started in the 70's to a whole new level by putting music videos, twenty-four hours a day on TV. The industry was changing. As the song goes, video killed the radio star. This was true. It was now harder for ugly, overweight people to become "rock stars". You had to take care of yourself. Now you didn't have to look good just for a photo shoot, but you had an image to keep up all the time. It was a different world than it was just 15 years prior.
Finally, we reach the tech era. Ever since Aerosmith released the first commercially available song for download back in the early 1990's with CompuServe things have been spinning at points out of control. Just as television and video technology shook the industry a decade earlier, I don't think that anybody could prepare the industry for what was ahead.
The digital age is probably the biggest game changer that the industry has seen yet. Napster really set the stage with connecting millions of people through a dial-up modem to any song their heart so desired. Slowly but surely, physical media was dying out. Change was impending and the music industry had a big choice in front of them, embrace it or ignore it.
My personal belief is that while they dabbed into messing around with tech, they never really embraced it until the 2010's. Instead of suing Napster (thanks Metallica!), they should have embraced it and worked with them closely to develop a better product and a new digital market. Maybe they did try and Napster was unwilling, but they should have started an alternative at minimum. The music industry is a very strong lobbying force and with very deep pockets. They could have took control of the market and drove the market the direction that they had wanted. If they had done that the current market could be totally different.
One could argue that it was best for the consumer that they did ignore it. During the 2000's after all the definitions were define of what is and what isn't piracy with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), piracy still ruled the world. People were downloading even more. Why? Not because they didn't want to pay (OK, in some cases) but mostly because the music industry failed to adopt to the market and find the solution that users wanted. Purchasing $20 albums when really all you wanted was one song was not the solution that consumers wanted.
Anybody that knows me, knows that I am not an Apple fan, but what they did was really change the market and made the marketplace that the RIAA should have made years ago. Being able to purchase high quality, secure songs for $0.99 cents each online was the answer most people were looking for and it showed because Apple made billions with iTunes over the year. For as good as the industry is with picking out music that people like, they were really tone-deaf to the actual conditions of the market.
That leaves us to today where we currently are. You have stars like Taylor Swift complaining that she isn't getting enough royalties for her music. Artists should not work for free. They deserve to be paid. They deserve to be paid a pretty penny. Unfortunately for Ms. Swift, she is suffering the consequences of the music industry to not be able to adapt to the current market or the technology that was available.
The all-you-can-consume music buffet services that all streaming services seem to offer is the future of music. The industry may not like what the free market picked as the result of their lack of vision and guidance, but to look on the bright side of things, people are once again paying for music and not downloading it for free.
I think the television industry needs to take note. Things are changing for them as well. They have been able to weather the storm so far and did a far much better job of adapting than the music industry did. Services like HULU and other streaming services offered by almost every TV station has saved the industry so far, but eventually people will want only a-la-carte programming. The cord cutting movement is growing.
One last random thought on the whole music industry. How hard is it to get a song played these days? In the 70's and 80's you had songs from only a few decades to compete against. We are now starting the last five years of the 2010's and most radio stations, especially rock stations have a catalog of songs that spans over 60 years! You could have a Beatles song from their first album in 1963 followed by a song that just came out from Royal Blood. How many songs from our past are being forgotten on the radio waves? That's where we come full circle being in the digital realm and with streaming, you can create your own station to focus on those forgotten gems. Let's hope the music industry embraces the digital age this time and works with consumers to find a good middle ground to where everybody wins.
Not too long ago cell phones were having a race to the top. Every week it seemed like one cell phone company was trying to out do another one. While the competition was great on the outside as it sped up development of getting really good and useful smartphones, it was also frustrating. Smartphone frequently bought a cell phone that was considered "top of the line" just to find out about a week or two later that the new Galaxy or iPhone just came out and beat your new phone hands down.
Those days are over. Most cell phone companies are on an equal playing field. There is little to differentiate between a Samsung or HTC. You can even stretch it and claim besides the operating system that there isn't much difference between Apple and Samsung. The differences between manufacturers is little anymore mostly falling down into implementation of technology rather than what technology it has that will make or break the device.
While the big companies have been racing for the top there has been a race to the bottom as well. Companies like verykool (Infosonic from San Diego) and Blu amongst others are creating awesome devices for small budgets. These companies are all fighting it out to see who can become the king of cheap devices.
The devices that they are creating aren't that bad either. They aren't the cheap, "generic" devices that were created a few years ago. These are actually really decent phones with pretty decent specs. Recently I had the honor to review the Spark II made my verykool and to my amazement this device was probably one of the best sub $400 devices I ever laid my hands on.
This device was a quad-core device with a super bright screen that had a sleek touch of sophistication in the design. Somehow this device only costs $169.00 on Amazon. That is amazing considering that it not only came with the usual extras of a charger and headphones but also a screen protector, a case, and did I mention that it had a dual camera flash for the rear camera and a flash for the front facing selfie camera? Really? All of that for $169?
It isn't just verykool who is doing this, others are too. They are jamming the most specs and biggest bang for your buck into the smallest package available. The race is on, especially in developing countries where phones with these specs are a hot ticket item. In the long run it will be very interesting to see how this race to the bottom of the pricing barrel will impact the pricing for those flagships on the top of the pricing food chain.
The busiest border crossing in the world, the San Ysidro - Tijuana border crossing located on the San Diego, California border is a binational megaregion that deserves more attention than what it is currently getting.
To understand the issue, it needs to be in perspective. What is the San Diego / Tijuana Megaregion? Think back during the aftermath of World War II when you had Berlin split in two by a wall. That is the reality that we live in right now in Southern California and Northern Baja. San Diego and Tijuana are literally one city split by a border that separates it into two different countries. Just as you can find a taco shop on every street in San Diego you can find a hamburger shop on every street in Tijuana. The two cities are fused together at the heart and have been for over a century.
Trillions and trillions of dollars is spent between the two countries annually. Many people lack understanding this due to their extremist views (both left and right). Due to the high cost of goods in Mexico, many are forced to cross the border into San Diego to do their "compras" where they can save anywhere from 20 - 40% and get higher quality goods. If the border was completely shut down, San Diego would suffer greatly. A good portion of the purchases made in San Diego County, especially South County, come from money earned down south. San Diego is prospering mostly in fact due to these purchases whether they want to admit it or not. It is a fact.
The same can be said about Tijuana and the Baja State as a whole. If the border was shut down the State of Baja California would suffer great economic losses. The State depends dearly on the American tourist money coming in and also benefits greatly from NAFTA that has led to many factories relocating to the region like BOSE and Samsung among others. This provides a dual benefit of decent jobs in the region and cheaper products in the United States.
There are cutting edge tech centers like the HUB STN and the BIT Center in Tijuana. These places are hubs where startups and freelancers can mingle with each other and work sparking a great amount of creativity. There are even accelerators and angel funding companies located inside these locations to further help these companies grow. The tech that is happening in Baja is amazing.
Sound pretty cool, right? Well wrong. There are a lot of good ideas and ideas should not have borders. A lot of these ideas aren't even given a chance at life due to an archaic immigration and border system from both countries. In my opinion it seems that there are groups on both sides of the border that are against trade and open borders. OK, open borders is the wrong word, what we need in the area are smart borders. Borders that allow commerce to flow freely. Borders that do not hold up law abiding citizens in long lines wasting time and money just to cross the border. In recent months the border lines have spread to the south bound lanes into Mexico as well. These type of policies are anti-business, anti-people and anti-prosperous for both regions.
The problem is with both Washington and Mexico City. The people who control the border region are out of touch with the realities of the border. Tijuana isn't the Tijuana of the 1960's or even the 1990's. It is a fast evolving city that is quickly become a tech hub not only in Mexico but Latin America. It is quickly becoming a gastronomic center as well with award winning foods and wine.
I view that the United States brings experience and the mighty dollar to the table, while Mexico brings money, but more importantly creativity and ingenuity. In Mexico the old saying "where there is a will, there is a way" holds so true that you actually have to be there to understand the meaning fully.
Historically, the trade of business, culture and money has benefited both sides greatly and it is only growing. So with this in mind, why is there so much drama and hardship caused because of the border? Why can't an engineer from Baja California easily work for Qualcomm if they want just by registering at the border as they are crossing? Why can't a "gringo" open a factory on their own in Baja with ease and not a lot of red tape that exists with most "tramites" (transactions) in Mexico? People on both sides of the border are making it a lot harder than what it needs to be. There is a solution and the solution is simple... smart borders.
How do we implement those smart borders? How do we open up the Baja Cali megaregion to expand it even further? It starts by showing the people of both countries the benefits of friendship and reaching across borders. I sometimes feel we are friendlier with China than we are with Mexico. It drives me nuts. We have a willing and able partner south of us but yet we have to treat them like North Koreans. Mexico isn't innocent in this as well, Vincente Fox had many blunders during his presidency that I feel set the relationship back with the United States. The bottom line is whether you are PRI or the GOP, PAN or DEM it is time to have a mature adult orientated conversation on how our nations can work together and create smart borders. That is the fuel needed to energize the huge Baja Cali megaregion.
To get smart borders we have to open up the eyes of the politicians. Instead of them legislating from Sacramento, Mexicali, Washington or Mexico City they need to come and visit the border region on both sides. They need to start to understand how the two countries can work together to help each other prosper. Only by opening their eyes will they finally see and be willing to engage in change. The only thing I caution is to remember that you only lead a blind man to water, but you can't make him drink.
We are about 15 years into the 21st century. Everywhere you look you see “www” this or “http” that. It is safe to say that we are well into the digital age. Moving into the digital age means that traditional methods of gathering information just are not as effective as they used to be.
Things that used to be the standard are fighting for survival. Two prime examples are newspapers and encyclopedias. In 1990’s both were indispensable. To get your news you needed to read the morning paper if you didn’t want to sit in front of the television set at 6 p.m. to watch the evening news. If you needed to research an item for school chances are you had to research it in an encyclopedia that could have been written 30 years prior and rarely updated.
While not totally extinct, both of those items still exist today, the human race has evolved and found more efficient ways of getting news, entertainment and knowledge. The Internet has taken over. Websites like Wikipedia have taken over the need for most people to want to purchase an encyclopedia. The ability to find news to your taste in a heartbeat is replacing traditional news media outlets. The bottom line is how humans absorb information has changed drastically over the past 25 years all because of the digital age.
When you really think about it and how rapidly our technology is advancing, it makes you wonder in 25 years how many of the technological advances of 2015 will be considered obsolete?
Are kids being born smarter today? I am sitting here watch my just turned two year old navigate a tablet like a pro, only occasionally yelling because she gets stuck. Isn't that amazing?
For instance, lets give a caveman or even a more recent figure like Leonardo da Vinci or Cesare Borgia a tablet. Would they be able to navigate it and understand it with the precision that my two year old does instantly? I'm sure da Vinci could, but how much of a learning curve would there be? How long would it take him to master the basic concepts and functionality. Even my daughter knows when the screen goes dim its time to charge it, how easily could somebody from 1,000 years ago understand the concept of charging and electricity in relation to tablet functions?
I look at my nine year old and he hadto learn how to use a tablet or a cell phone much as I had trouble switching from a dump phone to a touch screen smart phone back in 2005 (Windows Mobile 5.0 anyone?). While my tech savvy son got a hold of it quick, it seems that my two year old was born with those skills and as she advances will probably eventually beat out my older son.
Being born in the 80's, I understood how a lot of things work and they just became part of my life. They were there from the beginning for me in my life. Just as my parents had to learn how to use a television, a computer, the Internet, and now mobile devices, today's children are being brought up with those items as their natural surrounding.
What does this mean? I think it is the easiest way to point out that humans retain knowledge and pass it on through generations. As we advance our children advance and are not very primitive at all. We do not have to reinvent the wheel for each child that is born, but yet only give a simple explanation of why it works and the child would understand where as if you gave the same explanation to a full grown adult before the wheel was invented they would not understand you at all.
This might be considered common knowledge to some, but really take a minute to think about it. I find it truly amazing of what the human race, mind, and DNA are capable of doing. I for one cannot wait to see what the future holds.
Is it time for America to add to our most sacred document, the Constitution? The Bill of Rights was added a few years after the Declaration of Independence in the year 1791. The last amendment to the Constitution was done in 1992, which interestingly enough took 202 years to be ratified. All the changes and additions were done well before the consumer digital age that we are now living in. Thus I must ask, is it time for a "Digital Bill of Rights"?
The Constitution is vague enough to where we can use it to interpret the laws even in today's complex world. For most things, I am OK with that, but my problem with tech is that much of this is new ground. We are essentially allowing the courts, whether it be a single judge or a panel of judges decide what our rights are. That is not how our country should operate which is why there were a Bill of Rights created in the first place.
Courts have ruled that suspects can be required to unlock cell phones even with biometric security as recent as this past November. Also if a cell phone is unlocked, it can also be searched by police, no warrant is needed. We have a law under the current Bill of Rights that protect us against unlawful searches and our right to privacy. As you can see, the roughly 215 year document is failing us in the court of law to protect our most private devices. Cell phones these days have everything, banking information, email, texts, contacts, and much more all in the hands of your local law enforcement.
Then there is the issue of Internet traffic in general. The very first right in my new proposed "Digital Bill of Rights" should be that "All traffic is created equal". Why? Well because all traffic is created equal, traffic is traffic and there should be no backroom deals or preferential treatment of traffic. If I pay my ISP $xx a month for Internet service, then it should not matter where I go, I should have fast, unfettered Internet.
There are probably about eight more rights that we could discuss on my proposed "Digital Bill of Rights", but I will leave the door open for your thoughts and opinions. As long as privacy and traffic are covered, I think that is a great start and a must be for any scenario. We just cannot keep allowing our rights to get determined by judges. It needs to be determined and ratified by the people. I wish we had a politician that would stand up for the people and start such a bill.
David Strausser is a graduate of Penn State. He holds a degree in Information Sciences and Technology and is currently seeking another degree in Business.
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