Rock My World Innovations – Part III – Driverless Cars – Stuff We Can Live With

Driverless car

Driverless car

Technology waits for no man.  Technology will solve many problems  politicians refuse to solve, such as energy independence.

What if we could eliminate DUI’s?  No more accidents?  No more collision insurance?  No more speeding tickets?  No more traffic cops?  No more traffic jams and erase handicaps, too?  PLAY SHORT VIDEO

What if we save the billions with a “B” the DOT is spending on high speed rail?  Politics aside, what if we spend our billions more wisely on potentially more ubiquitous technology, like driverless cars?   What if driverless cars were allowed 1-2 HOV lanes on a perpetual traffic jam like the notorious LA freeway system?

What if we send a driverless car to pick you up for work?  What if the system of freeway Park and Ride’s was expanded to use driverless cars at the same rates per seat as other mass transit?  What if what we do for bikes in the inner city, like Divvy bikes, we do for cars?

One idea Google has been studying is how its vehicles could become part of robo-taxi systems in which a fleet of self-driving cars would pick up passengers and work commuters on demand, according to people familiar with the matter. Google believes that such systems could potentially reduce the need for people to own cars and reduce accidents. Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car, Considers ‘Robo Taxi’ 

We know politicians.  Money is burning a hole in their pocket.  If they are going to spend taxpayer dollars on infrastructure, would our dollars go further if driverless car makers were offered responsible loan guarantees and driverless car buyers were offered the same subsidies we afford to other green initiatives?

Electric cars and gas-electric-hybrid models currently for sale in the U.S. have captured just 3% of total sales through the first eight months of this year. The Toyota Prius line accounts for more than half of the hybrid sales. Electric cars such as the Leaf account for barely a 10th of the market. About 1 in 10 of today’s new-vehicle owners say they will consider an electric the next time they buy a car, says Strategic Vision.

driverless intersection

VIDEO – Driverless Car Intersection

Watch the VIDEO of a Driverless car intersection.  Technology advances rapidly. Consider in a 2004 desert test the Google driverless car went 8 miles.  In 2010 it went 140,000 miles.  They used the staggering amounts of data collected for Google Maps and Google Streets. View to provide as much information as possible about the roads their cars were traveling. Their vehicles also collected huge volumes of real-time data using video, radar, and LIDAR (light detection and ranging) gear mounted on the car; these data were fed into software that takes into account the rules of the road, the presence, trajectory, and likely identity of all objects in the vicinity, driving conditions, and so on. This software controls the car and probably provides better awareness, vigilance, and reaction times than any human driver could. The Google vehicles’ only accident came when the driverless car was rear-ended by a car driven by a human driver. Google’s is now looking to build their own driverless cars, has a fleet of Toyota Prius’s, that exist today and have traveled over a half million miles without an accident.

We already have the technology to automatically parallel park cars, from Toyota Prius, Ford Escape and VW Tiguan. New technologies also include early warning systems to warn drivers if they are following to close.

 “Giving automobiles auto-piloting features—up to and including completely hands-free, eyes-closed operation with trusting souls aboard—is the Space Race of global auto makers, and you are the monkey in the capsule. Last month Nissan and Renault chief Carlos Ghosn promised that Nissan would bring affordable autonomous cars to the public by 2020. Mercedes-Benz already markets some of its driver-assist technologies as “semiautonomous”: automatic lane keeping (positioning the car between the lines during brief periods of hands-off operation); and Stop & Go Pilot, an optics-and-radar-based cruise control that can see traffic ahead and adjust speed in heavy traffic.” Excerpt from the Wall Street Journal September 2013

UPDATE: Fully self-driving cars expected by 2030, says forecast

The future is now if we stop playing politics and start employing innovation, entrepreneurship and the technology at hand.  See Part II PCs are dead and Part I on Smart Phones.

Gallup Poll – Small Business Gains the Trust of Americans

Americans' Confidence Gallup Poll

Americans’ Confidence Gallup Poll

Virtually all American small businesses hire Americans.  They spends their money here.  They pay their taxes here. Their profits stay here, helping to grow our economy. They support local businesses.  Small business grows American jobs.

While big government, big business and big union continue to capture the headlines in the Mainstream Media (MSM) the latest Gallup Polls tell the real story – Americans’ Confidence in Congress Falls to Lowest on Record. Small Business continues to garner the trust of most Americans – 76%!

Americans don’t discriminate when it comes to entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship and American exceptionalism is an equal opportunity endeavour.

This message needs to resonate with more politicians, whose confidence with the American people is at a new low – only 10% according to the Gallup poll!!  Yet who do politicians pander to, Big Business 22%, and Big Union 20%, right there with them.

While Big Government is busy making deals with major corporations like Amazon and Time Warner here in Florida, small businesses are left to compete for business at lesser margins.  They compete for qualified employees at higher salaries.  Why?  Big government subsidized competition for big business through tax incentives, tax breaks, and now even Obamacare, delaying the corporate mandate.

What politicians need to do, is pay attention more attention to small businesses. Recently I tested my own theory that small business grows jobs at a much greater rate than big business. I arrived at some interesting conclusions.

Using a calculator from PoliticalCalculations.com How Many People Are Employed by Small Businesses? I did the math and here is what I found.

A large portion, over 50% of the 55M employees recorded by the SBA in 2008 employed by small businesses, are concentrated in the 1-50 employee businesses. One could then draw the conclusion, the more start-ups the better. Feeding start-ups to grow quickly into the categories of 5 – 25 employees is a path to greater job growth, than big business.

Business size – Category No. Employees Percent of Total Employees under 500 Increase in Employment by Business Size
1-4 3,724,975 7%
5-10 6,338,025 11% 63%
11-25 11,124,498 20% 53%
26-50 8,761,696 16% 29%
51-100 8,397,904 15% 22%
101-250 10,299,022 18% 21%
251-500 7,186,709 13% 13%
Total 55,832,829

There needs to be more start-ups, a.k.a., small businesses.  To encourage the increase in numbers of employees in the 5 – 25 employee categories would mean enabling small businesses to create more jobs, at a faster pace.

To demonstrate this further, another US Government Small Business Administration (SBA) study shows companies between 20 and 100 employees produce the most significant rate of growth both in employment and revenues.

Legal Form U.S., All Industries Employment Size of Firm
of Organization Total 0 * 1-4 5-9 10-19 20-99 100-499
Firms 3,781,343 13% 43% 19% 13% 11% 2%
Employment 45,087,926 0% 8% 10% 14% 37% 30%
Est. receipts 7,168,325,343 2% 9% 10% 13% 35% 31%

More of the incentives afforded to the large corporations should shift to smaller businesses to increase the numbers of smaller businesses who succeed.  Check out: America Runs On Small Businesses Infograph.

Consider as larger corporations continue to downsize, largely due to technology replacing people, where is job growth going to come from? The answer, entrepreneurs and innovation. There’s more to this story. Let me know what you think?

If politicians want to win elections, they need to run on a small business for jobs platform.  They need to ask, “What can be done to increase the success of start-ups, reduce their failure rate, sustain their growth and the rate of employment to the extent they can grow and produce significant gains in employment and revenues?”

A combination of small business development, combined with technology and innovation will grow this economy faster than dishing out boondoggles to big business.

Why in the World Would You Build a Small Business!?

Small business owners

Small business owners

The ideacapitalist interviews… the ideacapitalist, family guy, entrepreneur and small business owner.

How did you become a small business owner, and why?

The simplest answer would be, no one would hire me.  My first job out of school was working for my dad.  Nine months later, my dad fired me.  I knew it was coming.  My dad ran the business out of the house.  That morning my mom had made me my favorite breakfast, blueberry pancakes. 

Thereafter, I have had successful stints with large and mid-size companies, but there’s only so much a person will do for money.  I had reached my limit.

What do you love the most about running a small business?

Gainfully employing good people.  Growing the business.  Being more innovative and responsive than our larger competitors and winning.

What does owning a business allow you to do that most folks do not get to enjoy?

This question has the potential to be long on clichés, but the right answer is that I never have to think twice about getting out of bed in the morning.

What is your biggest challenge right now and how are you dealing with it?

Ok, now it’s time for a clichés.  My favorite expression is from Alan Kay, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” In the software development (technology) business we are reminded of this expression daily.  We have to constantly reinvent ourselves.

What has been your proudest moment as a small business owner?

I’m going to equate pride with reward and say my most rewarding moment was when an employee, I held in high regard, walked into my office, and stuck out his hand.  We shook hands and I asked him, “What is this all about?”  He said, “You promised me within five years, I would be making “x-amount” of dollars per year and I am.  Thanks.” 

My proudest moment was March 7, 2013 when we celebrated 25 years in business.

What have you not yet achieved that you would like to?

I’m not a “bucket list” kind of guy.  Certainly I have revenue goals and long-term objectives for the business.  Call it 20/20, annual twenty (20) percent growth in both revenue and profit.  The real challenge is balancing the physical challenges with the mental challenges.  Next year, I’m looking forward to both cross-country skiing and cycling around Crater Lake.

What is the best part of your day?

Getting out on my bike for an hour or two in the middle of a work day, and not getting run over.

What do you read?

I’m reading an amazing, gut-wrenching, inspirational story of personal struggle and entrepreneurship titled Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential by Deborah Kenney

What has been your biggest mistake and how did you learn from it?

I’ve made many. I’m going to make many more.  My biggest mistake would be not to learn from them. 

There Is No Lance

Washington ParkI’m no Lance.  You’re no Lance.  There is no Lance.

Since early childhood I have lived by the creed, before you judge someone else, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.”  I am a cyclist, albeit, a sorry ass one at best.  Sadly I will never be compared to the elite cyclists one speaks of, in the same breath, with Lance Armstrong.

I am and will remain a huge supporter of Livestrong.  The work Livestrong does for cancer victims is excellent and incontrovertible. The organization and the people behind it, sans Armstrong, are absolutely amazing.

Even before Lance’s true confession, I have tried to put myself in Lance’s shoes.  First and foremost, it becomes extremely difficult, unless you have been diagnosed, been treated and lived with a life threatening cancer.

There are many of Lance’s detractors who have never had cancer, let alone been on a bike seat, or experienced the extreme sport of competitive cycling or can even begin to appreciate his inimitable brilliance and determination.

Still there will be many of Lance’s detractors who have been diagnosed with cancer, so thank God, I’m at a distinct disadvantage here.  I can fall back on the fact I have one sister who is a breast cancer survivor, another sister who is battling breast cancer as I write this.

I am here to say, I have a serious problem with many of Lance’s detractors who have never experienced his amazing journey from serious life threatening testicular and brain cancer to recovery.  Back to trying to put myself in Lance’s shoes, as a cancer survivor, in his case, it was nothing short of being raised from the dead.

The problem is he had already doped.  He already knew how to dope.  He knew the culture of doping in pro cycling.  He knew other elite athletes in his profession were doping.  So he doped.  Somehow he won.  It was off to the races.

His genius and competitive furor brings to mind Steve Jobs and his achievements in cycling why competing with co-conspirators were immeasurable.  If you have read the book or studied the life and work of Steve Jobs, the comparison to Steve Jobs, is to say Armstrong is also a complete asshole.  It begs the question, is ruthless determination, the price one must pay to celebrate incomparable success?

The saddest of all, for me in this and for other cycling enthusiasts is the effigy of a championship cyclist.  We may never know.  How tragic.  Lance will never know.  We will never know if he was truly a great champion.  If in fact, if there was someone who rode clean, who could remotely challenge Lance, will we ever know who the greatest cyclist(s) in the history of the sport is, truly?

I will say this, if they were complicit in any way, they aren’t going to receive a pass.  If they were innocent and Lance rolled over them, he needs to make it right.  I would hope he would.  If not, he’s still the biggest loser, because this is one of his only means of redemption.  The other, is to protect and nurture his love for his family, especially his children.

I can’t remotely place myself in Lance’s shoes when it comes to his admonitions, accusations and confessions.  Lance was larger than life.  For a time, Lance’s achievements were larger than his lies.  No more.armstrong confession

In the end, none of his perceived success either on the pro circuit or in his work for charity can be applauded.  Neither can it be easily and lightly be disparaged and denigrated.  Why?  Simply, no one can ever possibly imagine, or conceive to “put yourself in Lance Armstrong’s shoes.”  Lance Armstrong is an enigma.

I’m no Lance.  You’re no Lance.  There is no Lance.

What I know for certain is we can Livestrong!

“If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

I made a point to take my two young daughters to NYC shortly after 9-11 even though they missed the ascent to the top of the Statue of Liberty for security reasons, they were able to ascend to the top of the Empire State Building. 

“Today the World Trade Center is again the tallest building in New York one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden and more than 10 years after the attacks that brought them down.  It is still a work in progress: The hulking steel structure known as the Freedom Tower is still 500 feet shorter than it will be when complete.  But it is already a tribute to American resilience, a reminder that whatever devastation we face, we can still come back bigger and better than before.”  Aaron Vaughan

Tallahassee Fire Dept Extrication Team. Liberty Street across from Ground Zero

I can understand where the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is coming from.  I was young once upon a time.  I took sociology in college and a course called American Ghetto Environment, if you can imagine how “not PC” that course name would be today.  I wanted to help people who had a hard time helping themselves.  A Nelson DeMille character in the General’s Daughter reflected, while “Life’s Grown Soft, I’ve Grown Hard,” reflecting on growing up in a post WWII era.  Life was hard.  Today life is soft by comparison.  There are plenty of folks out there that deserve help.  I say “help” because I detest the word “entitled.”  To me the word entitlement defines a benefit given someone in need, not in want.  Our so called entitlement programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, other mandatory spending programs were programs designed for hard working people who need and whenever possible contributed to their own welfare. 

A lifetime of work experience allows me to say there are people who believe everyone regardless of work ethic and moral fiber are entitled to the American Dream and those who believe the American Dream is earned through a good work ethic and morals.  I am from a middle class family.  I was the second child of six.  I was always wanting but never needing.  If I wanted something I would find a way to get it.  Ok, I could pout with the best of ‘em for a nickel package of bubble gum and baseball cards.  Mostly I learned to earn what I wanted.  Since the age of 11-12, I always had an after school job, be it paper route, bagger or stock boy at a local grocer.  In high school I washed pots and pans in the cafeteria on my lunch hour.  Later, I was promoted to making and serving milk shakes and sandwiches to my fellow students.   If you have ever worked in a school cafeteria at age 16, worn a hair net, while serving sandwiches to your fellow students, in particular, the girl you had a huge crush on, you would understand the price you pay to earn a few extra dollars.

During college, I worked for a janitorial service from 4 – 7 AM daily at a local hotel to help supplement my $15 per week expense allowance.  Summers I worked on a crew with 3 occupational day laborers, landscaping and mowing lawns.  My boss was a machine operator and had a landscaping business on the side. 

He made me, the 18 year old college kid the crew chief.   I made less than my crew, but I wanted a job.  My crew was ages 18, 30-something and 40-something.  18 had a wife and a new baby.  He showed up for work every day.  If he didn’t want to work, he’d sit in the shade and smoke.  He outweighed me times-two and that was just his arms.  If I pressed him to pick up his shovel, he wanted to arm wrestle or place a lit cigarette between our forceps to see who would pull away first.

30 and 40-something worked 4 days a week.  My boss paid them on Friday.  They got drunk on weekends, nursed a hangover on Monday’s,  then dragged their sorry asses back to work on Tuesday. 

The summer break next year, I went to work for the local school district doing the same thing.  At the school district, I worked with 3  guys also.  One was a friend and fellow college student.  We worked our butts off.  The other two guys complained and cajoled us to slow down and slack off.  The experience wasn’t much different than the summer before.   To me acting busy was harder than being busy, but in the end there are no great gigs in the lawn care and landscaping business.  Did I mention the mosquitos were nasty?

Life is so much softer now, but we all have a responsibility to pull our own weight.  We have a/c, cell phones, flat screen TVs and cold beer on every street corner.  So what’s the big deal?  Go to work.  Get a job.  If you can’t get the job of your dreams you can still go out and earn a living.  If you want something more, go out and earn it.  I know some retired guys who worked hard all their lives.  Now that they are no longer working, they are willing to live (want) with less.  It’s habit forming, but we can’t all be retired.  So if you need something, go to work.  Work can be habit forming, too.  My experience wearing a hairnet left me wanting more. 

Coming into this election, there’s an underlying current of ill will.  Call it hate, dividing Americans. I have never before experienced such divisiveness before between conservatives and liberals, in my youthful 60 years of age.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”  

This quote should serve as a warning to all of us, especially this President, Congress and influential leaders.  We are at risk of a great divorce, with all the ingredients including hate, resentment and financial ruin.  Worst is how it will affect the children, many who call themselves Occupy Wall Street (OWS) the citizens of this great nation.  It’s always the children who get hurt the most.

Note from author on 11-27-2012:  Now that the election is over I feel more strongly than ever this message should resonate with anyone who is concerned about the future of this country.

Have You Hugged Your Building Custodian Today?

You cannot lead from behind!

Leadership begins with mutual respect.  The leaders I respect the most lead by example.  Politicians, pundits and the media can go around trying to divide people into haves and have-nots, but there’s really no divide between most of us. 

Small business owners don’t have a problem hugging their building custodian.  How about the lawn care person, the handy person, the painter, the delivery person; most of all the bug person, who you may feel at risk… to hug?  Hug, hug, hug them, anyway.   Many of the aforementioned live enriched, fulfilling lives with or without millions; and need not be classified otherwise.  Many of these folks are small business owners, too!  Like me.

I’m sure there’s a more PC way to describe some of your favorite “small business owners,” but here’s mine.  They probably fall off ladders.  They are probably mechanically deficient and they’re probably a danger to themselves and others, with a hammer.  OK, that’s just me… but most small business owners have a great deal of respect for those who wield a mop or a nail gun.

You’ll find small business owners in and amongst your family, and amongst your friends.  People you know and respect.  I’ve also come to learn, most small business owners, including me, are generally opposed to big government.  To them, big government prescribes life to be easy, convenient, comfortable and mindless.  To me government is the voice saying, “Eat your vegetables, go to school, do your homework, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, play golf, get cancer and die.”  I already have parents, thank you.  Small business owners know, even if you were to try to live such a mundane existence, government can’t save you.  They know there’s no such thing as a mundane existence.  There’s always going to be something that requires you to be extraordinary

Government isn’t extraordinary and it doesn’t make money, you do.  Government spends your money.  Frankly government spends money you don’t have and you are personally on the hook to pay back that debt.  You and your family, as citizens of the United States of America, now stand to own a piece of over $5 trillion dollars in debt in just the past 3-4 years alone.  This is the new normal.  Are you willing to double down on that much debt?

News flash!  For many small business owners like me, life isn’t easy.  Like most Americans who are willing, I have to earn every dime.  Still no one can speak for those of you who were dealt from a rigged deck, who live a life of marked cards.  Your life may include poverty, possibly abuse, neglect or worse.  To escape this life you may need or have needed to be extraordinary. To escape you may need or have needed extraordinary luck.  To escape you may need or have needed extraordinary help from other people, places including the institution of government and beyond.  You may need private investment, support from charities and organizations supported by those who have been more fortunate.  In this fashion, there are plenty of small business people, again like me, who support those in need.  What small business owners don’t need is more big government, big union and big business getting in the way.

Without free market capitalism, small businesses can’t thrive or even survive.  Many people disagree.  They think more government is the answer.  Where will the jobs come from?  Government?  Where will the tax revenues come from?  Rich people?  Hardly!   All the institutions that are getting a pass include big government, big union and big business.  So where do you turn?  Most small business people know how hard it is to make money and to pay off debt.  That’s what most small business people do.  That’s leadership.

So why are politicians, pundits and the media so hell-bent on dividing this country into haves and have-nots?  I say, it’s time to go dish out some hugs!  Start with the folks that keep me off ladders and off my roof.  Start with people who take away my hedge trimmer and my chain saw, too.  That’s just a scary movie to me.  You can start with a hug for me.  If I am still in one piece, I’ll hug back.

Recently I ran across this open letter to Romney called The First Four Years Are The Hardest… that echoes much of the sentiment conveyed here… a great read…sorry you had to come this far to get to this

Who isn’t afraid of failing?!

The Wallenda factor is just a normal fear of falling!  Who isn’t afraid of falling?!

“Just in case you haven’t heard, the Wallenda factor refers to the fear of falling or failing. Shortly after Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 (traversing a 75-foot high wire in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico), his wife, also an aerialist, discussed that fateful San Juan walk, “perhaps his most dangerous.”  She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”

Life is like traversing a tight rope.
If you think you need a safety net,
It won’t be long before you fall. 
Live your life without a safety net,
Or be prepared to live your life
Closer to the ground. 
 
Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist says, “Pessimism is complacency.”   I think generally speaking I would have to say at times I exercised pessimism in certain situations.  I can relate it to looking in the mirror each morning and thinking, “I’m not getting any younger or thinner,  for that matter.”  I’m over that now!

To see the video – just click on the picture

Last year I spoke of challenges.  This year, I believe anything’s possible!  Last year I spoke of good fortunes, we were fortunate enough to have earned another year in business.  I said I was proud of the intellectual property (IP) and talent we had.  This year I am confident our talent pool here is second to none.    Everyone has bought into The Rational Optimist theme, “Everybody is working for everybody else.” Last year I said opportunities present challenges.

We have faced those challenges.  We have conquered many and we are prepared conquer the future.   While politicians in Washington scrum over the economy and jobs,  free market goes out and creates 100 mpg cars, even driverless cars. We need to tell our politicians…anything’s possible.This year we will focus again on making our products easier to use, easier to install and cloud ready.   Inside Integra, we will continue to concentrate on developing and acquiring better tools to do our jobs in a more productive environment.  Last year’s message was, “Attitude is everything.”   

This year we will continue  to encourage a positive attitude in the workplace, with our customers, partners and suppliers.  Everybody is working for everybody else (click on the picture to the left for the video) because again…. anything’s possible.  Finally, last year I predicted growth would be next our greatest challenge and we grew significantly.  We remain well positioned to take advantage of those significant gains in 2012 and beyond.

To see an awesome video – just click on the picture

I’ll leave you with a great video (click on the photo below) and when you feel that wave of pessimism coming on, remember, anything’s possible.

“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.” — Aristotle

Leave it at the Door

Leave it at the Door

They should change the expression from the Holiday Blues to the Holiday Reds

Tis the season we all go a little crazy spending money.  Debt can pile up.  It can pile up for your Company, too.  The expression, “those that help, help themselves.” is never more of a challenge than it is right now.

As a business owner, I’m here to say, “We’re all in this together.” There’s no one, no one, who will be more disappointed than myself, if I cannot compensate you fairly, provide great benefits and a bonus for this year. 

So it’s worth sharing just a few observations from a guy that’s been doing this a while…

·        The longer it takes to deliver our products and services, the less likely we are to get paid.  Customers go out of business, get sold, or change suppliers.  We need to deliver.

·        We carry a large sum in Accounts Receivable each month – that’s money our customers owe us.  Imagine the possibilities for all of you if we could cut our delivery time by one-third or in half?

·        These are competitive times.  We are good, we are very good, but we still have a great deal of competition.  That means we need “great references.”  Great references come from great products and great service.  Great products and great service have to come from you.

·        The longer we stay in business, now 20 plus years (imagine… some of you were still in diapers) providing our customers with great products and service, the more opportunities will present themselves.

Imagine… some of you were still in diapers.

So what it all comes down to, everyone depends (not for diapers) on you.  So when it is all said and done and with the all the best of intentions, “Look to yourself , look to your fellow professionals and then ask yourself, “What can I do to produce opportunities?”  Then go do it. 

No one needs you to be looking at your watch.  You don’t need someone to tell you just to show up and get less done.   And everyone is entitled to take time to commiserate, socialize and share their personal lives here at work.  It’s a healthy work environment.  Still you want your time to be well spent.  BTW no one wants you to bring your personal problems to work.  In a work environment that delivers great products and great service, no one needs to hear you’re less fortunate than the next person.  So take care of your personal lives and your personal problems first.  If you do, you will receive more support from your co-workers and from me.  There’s more willingness to help those trying to help themselves. 

You can’t get better at what you do if you’re too stressed, too tired or too sick to help yourself and your company professionally.  Help yourself personally first and second professionally.  For all of us here the best medicine is a healthy, happy and productive you. 

We all have the tendency to have good days and bad, lick our wounds, get down in the mouth and to think no one cares.  If you know me, you know I care.  I truly care!  I do, but I don’t employ a priest, a doctor or a shrink.  If you need professional help, go get it.   If you’re a part of the company, you’re a part of my family. 

Family pulls together and as my Dad would always say after I have had a bad day, “Just leave it at the door.”

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Technology Can Drive Us Out of This Fog

Driverless cars, don’t worry there’s a BMW and Audi, too.

“Driverless cars,” what better message to tell government to get out of the way!

“This fog” being the deficit.  In fact we are in a fog and missing the “byte”when we as a country, look towards investing more in asphalt highways, in roads and rail and less towards technology, the information highway to invest in our future competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The future is technology and “smart or driverless cars” Yes, cars that drive themselves. 

Admittedly they have to “learn the course.”  Like on HWY 5 in LA bumper to bumper smart cars will drive at 80 mph during rush hour.  Think about navigating your iPad or reading your Kindle while your smart car drives itself.  Your commute can be cut in half because your car’s the ass who tailgate the car in front of you without getting flipped “the bird” or into a “fender bender.”  Who needs more infrastructure?

Currently we are chasing four economies in global competitiveness, including Number One, Switzerland.  Number Two is Singapore?  Number Three is Sweden and Number Four is Finland.  We’re Number Five.  Number Five!

Read my Blog post India Gets IT! Information Technology that is….  The message should be clear.  Most ground breaking technology (IT)  is spawned by small business.  I know.  I am the founder and CEO of an IT business who has spawned new products that include all the ingredients of a successful small business that can compete globally.

I consider myself a grinder, maybe a lone wolf.  Prideful.  A do-it-yourselfer.  Is that the definition of an entrepreneur?  It depends on who you ask.  Is that the definition of a small business owner?  More than likely the answer would be “yes.”  The difference between an entrepreneur and a small business owner?  None, until the entrepreneur, who is an idea capitalist who chooses outside angel or VC investors.

Everybody has heard of the IPO bubble in the early 2000’s where billions of investment dollars were squandered on ideas.  I pride myself by coining the phrase, “An idea is only worth it’s execution.”  The idea capitalist who decides to  forego outside investors, the grinder, the small business person, is more likely to sustain upticks and downturns in the economy.

We have a 14B deficit.  We have  over 9% unemployment,  We can argue how we might cut entitlements or raise taxes on the rich all day long.  The bottom line is all we want is our cake and eat it too. So I’ll let the experts argue what we need to do to stimulate the economy, reduce the deficit and add jobs.  Afterall they have all the answers, don’t they?

Unfortunately the answer is “no.”  Instead of idea capitalists, we have intellectual genocide where MSNBC pundits who have never had an original idea in their lives, interview (bait) Herman Cain about his 9.9.9 proposal and dismiss it with the age old adage that assumes “poor people” spend more of their  income? on consumer goods than rich people therefore a national sales tax is a burden on the poor.  Since poor people have little or no income how does this equate?  Herman Cain is an idea capitalist.  He is a grinder.  Given the opportunity, he will be successful in helping the US create jobs, lower the deficit and increase our global competitiveness.

The real answer is to increase small business competitiveness in a global economy.  The Obama administration wants to spend billions more on infrastructure.  All I can think of are traffic cones and hard hats standing in our way and in the way of the progress we are making in new technology.  Technology that solves the infrastructure problems and creates jobs.

“It makes little sense for the United States to turn away highly educated immigrants who seek to come here. It makes equally little sense to train talented foreign students in our universities but then fail to integrate them into our economy. Nearly 300,000 foreign students are enrolled in advanced degrees programs here, but the great majority will return home. We are casting away the fruits of our own investment. As has long been our American tradition, we should encourage the world’s innovators, inventors, and pioneers to immigrate to the United States and we should encourage those we train to settle and create jobs here.”  Romney for President (2011-09-01). Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth

 Visa Caps for Highly Skilled Workers

As president, Mitt Romney will also work to establish a policy that staples a green card to the diploma of every eligible student visa holder who graduates from one of our universities with an advanced degree in math, science, or engineering. These graduates are highly skilled, motivated, English-speaking, and integrated into their American communities. Permanent residency would offer them the certainty required to start businesses and drive American innovation.  Romney for President (2011-09-01). Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth.

Mitt Romney, Idea Capitalist

Are jobs coming back to the US?  Case in point.  A big business goes overseas to China  to make an integral component of a product going to market.  The product can be produced at 50% of the cost to produce the part in the US.  The product made overseas requires a delivery timeframe of 12 weeks as opposed to 4 weeks in the US.  The part is produced and delivered but not according to spec.  A US company, TJH Manufacturing, Zion, IL, with a stellar reputation is recruited to re-engineer and deliver the part in time for market.  The big business with the overseas propensity ends up paying four times the originally anticipated product cost.

My vote is for a “driverless government,” but first we have to put Congress and the Administration through the course.  Let’s start by teaching them the constitution.

If You’re Going to Lay Pipe, Why Not Do It Right?

How Do I Mix Oil and Water?

These oil spills can be prevented, not to be confused with the term “Oil Sands,”but do I have your attention?

You don’t.   Not unlike capitalists and environmentalists.  

But if you’re going to lay pipe, why not do it right (twice)?  The Calgary-based TransCanada’s $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline is the dubious answer.  The proposed pipeline is a major infrastructure project that would create 20,000 unionized construction jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax and other revenues in the six states through which it would pass. How about we appease both sides of this controversy; the environmentalist hate it and the capitalists love it; by adding to the mix?  Add a water pipeline.  An irrigation pipeline.  Bury it right next to the oil pipeline.  Collect and dispense water from the pipeline as needed.

Send it down and dispense it through parched draught stricken lands and collect it from flood swollen, land dispensing and collecting water as needed, creating the most progressive irrigation system the world has ever known.  Where in the world are we experiencing droughts?  Think Texas.  Not to mention Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  Check out Wall Street Journal Business article called “Facing Up to End of ‘Easy Oil’” by Ben Casselmann, dated May 24, 2011.

The sweetest part of all… the oil companies and the Canadian government and Canadian corporations can subsidize it.  Just ask Exxon.  They’re spending millions to advertise it.  Ask Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer.  He can hardly refuse a slam dunk.  Don’t forget our environmentalists.  Ask Margot Kidder arrested for protesting the pipeline.  Is she going to deny the drought and flood victims the relief from water?  Water, life giveth, life taketh away.

Oil Sands!

Oil Sands

Now it’s up to our State Department.  They need to decide before year-end (2011).  Move over Bill!  Maybe it’s time for Hillary to lay some pipe.  How do you mix oil and water?!  Wired  Magazine has some ideas.  Maybe we lay less pipe?

In any case, nothing is ever easy.  Unless you’re Bill.

 

A Suggestion On How The Government Could Help The Housing Industry

The housing glut has the entire economy in handcuffs!

Here’s a great approach to get the folks who “deserve” the American Dream a chance!  This proposal from Blair Rugh at Trinovus is a government stimulus plan that will work! 

A Suggestion On How The Government Could Help The Housing Industry

by Blair Rugh

I have a suggestion on how government could help the housing industry. I am reasonably confident that neither President Obama, his economic advisors nor members of Congress read this weekly newsletter. But when you write something that has a reasonable circulation you never know where it will wind up, so here goes.

Three facts we know for sure. (1) The U.S. housing market is in the dumper. Some areas are worse than others, but no area has been unaffected. (2) The volume of foreclosures has harmed low- and middle-income borrowers, particularly African- Americans and Hispanics disproportionately. Many of the people foreclosed upon had no significant asset other than their home. (3) The provisions of the Dodd Frank Act relative to underwriting requirements and loans that can be sold in the secondary market, market conditions and enhanced regulator scrutiny and criticism of all lending will make it much more difficult for future borrowers to get a loan. For good, bad or indifferent the actions of the government and the regulators make it significantly more difficult for the housing industry to recover. Until it does, it will be difficult for the economy to recover.

There are a lot of qualified people who still have a job and can afford a reasonable payment on a home but cannot or will not be able to purchase one because they do not have the down payment. In today’s world, for a working class family, it is virtually impossible to save enough for a reasonable down payment. The husband and/or the wife may both have stable jobs and a stable income but saving the $20,000 or $30,000 required to make a down payment that will qualify them for a loan that they can afford is almost out of sight. Today’s housing prices are as low as they have been in the last 10 or 15 years. If we can just get qualified people into the system, it would be a great advantage for them and if we can deplete the nation’s housing inventory at the same time it would be a great boon to an economic recovery.

Let’s lend qualified borrowers a reasonable down payment on a home purchase, say a maximum of $20,000. Were it mine to do, I would make it available only to persons who do not presently own a home. The goal is to deplete the existing housing inventory, which is not accomplished if someone who owns a home is just moving up. Second, I would limit it to homes that were built before a specified date, say June of this year. The purpose of my plan is not to spur new construction directly. That will happen if the existing inventory of vacant housing is depleted. I would not have the federal government do it directly as I am not sure at this point if the federal government can do anything efficiently. I would have the federal government provide block grants to the various states depending on each state’s inventory of vacant homes.

I would grant the homebuyer a loan that would be secured by a junior mortgage on the home. The mortgage would not bear interest in the initial years and then after a reasonable period of time would require interest at some reduced rate. The loan would be payable upon the sale or transfer of the property or at some reasonable time in the future, say 10 years after it was granted. That should provide the homebuyer sufficient time for the housing market to recover its value and to reduce the first mortgage so that refinancing is achievable.

If 100,000 people qualified for the program, the government outlay at the maximum amount of $20,000 per loan would be $2 billion. While that is a lot of money to anyone I know, the federal government seems to treat it as you and I treat pocket change. And more to the point, it is not an expense of that amount as if properly handled the bulk of the money will be eventually repaid. What I suggest has to be refined and better thought out, but I think it is a viable solution to the housing mess. Moreover, it will put qualified people into housing that they can afford. I am generally pretty conservative and against any government assistance programs. I don’t like social security, Medicare, food stamps or anything similar to those programs. I think government should provide everyone an equal opportunity and then let the chips fall where they may. In this instance, however, the government created the problem so I think it takes a government program to hasten the recovery. The purpose of the program is not to provide relief to anyone but to rescue the housing industry. If it has a collateral result of helping people that is even better. I know you can improve on what I suggest. Add your improvements, and if you think it is a good idea make your representative or senator aware of it.

Threadbare – Not just a pretty face – Reg update

Reg Update – Resume

Reg’s story Threadbare – Not just a pretty face.

Jobs in the retail profession and clothing business remain scarce in Atlanta.  I recently spoke to Reg who was taking an OSHA class for his not so temporary job.  He had taken a “temporary” supervisory job in construction to help with the Lepper household cash flow.  That was almost three years ago.  It requires a hard hat and steel toed boots.  Hartmarx evidently, doesn’t sell steel toed boots.  He bought the boots from Wal-Mart – $19 bucks.

There are blisters on every toe.  He’s up at 5 AM.  It takes an hour  to get to the job site.

It’s 6:45 PM,  so he’s just getting home now.

I hear some of our Congressmen and women are complaining about the hours they’re spending away from home and now they are complaining about how much they make.  They’re getting a steady paycheck and Cadillac benefits.

They won’t pull this economy up by it’s boot straps.  Reg and people like him will.

Maybe they need a swift kick in the keester from those boots I’m talkin’ about.

Maybe they should just go home and be with their family?

Meantime, Reg has been and is actively looking for work.  Sending out his (click on the link to Reg’s “resume“) doing  job interviews, volunteering his time for Career Ministry and consulting their members regarding many aspects of their search for new opportunities and careers.

Threadbare – Not Just Another Pretty Face

“When you bust through all the layers of brevity and you have shaken all the hands of hope, you can begin to share the depths of depression joblessness can bring.”

This pretty much sums it up if you are over 50 and looking for employment.

Reg – Not Just Another Pretty Face.

When I decided to do this story about my good friend, Reg Lepper I thought maybe it would help him by building on the social networking he had already begun on LinkedIn and Facebook.

As I began learning more from him about his 27 plus year career at Hartmarx, known for its Hart Schaffner & Marx and Hickey Freeman suits, and for making President Obama’s inauguration tuxedo and topcoat, I realized the complex struggle he and his cadre of sales professionals and the plant workers endured.

The company and its United States subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy in January, 2009. Workers threatened to occupy Hartmarx’s plant if the company’s creditor, Wells Fargo Bank, attempted to lay off workers and liquidate the company’s assets.

In August 2009, Emerisque Brands UK and its partner SKNL North America completed their purchase of Hartmarx.While Reg survived the bankruptcy of Hartmarx, the acquisition, ultimately of a foreign owned conglomerate based in India, many of his friends and fellow employees lost their jobs.

Not to be outdone Reg took it upon himself to write an impassioned plea, (click on the link “a letter to the President”) a letter to the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, the beneficiary of the afore-mentioned Hart Schaffner & Marx suits.  Fifteen (15) months after the acquisition Reg, too lost his job.

Like many who are unemployed, Reg wants to work.  He wants to support his family.  Like millions of Americans, there have been forks in the road and to make ends meet, he needs a job.  Reg is, as I describe him on LinkedIn.com business social networking site.

Reg’s now been unemployed for 7 months.  Not for lack of trying.  Reg has employed every means of looking for work.  Shunned by “head hunters” most likely due to his age, Reg is 64.  I can personally vouch for the fact he doesn’t behave or look a day over 30… OK so he looks a bit older, but he’s a firm believer in exercise, has been a long time distance runner.  Now his knees are telling him he needs to go shopping for a good bike – cheap!

That aside, Reg has been and is actively looking for work.  Sending out his (click on the link to Reg’s “resume“) resume doing  job interviews, volunteering his time for Career Ministry and consulting their members regarding many aspects of their search for new opportunities and careers.

Reg isn’t alone.  This is a nationwide plight affecting thousands of households across America.  If you are over 50 and unemployed in today’s economy, you could be facing many challenges including a mortgage underwater.  In such cases, how can you move to accept a job offer across the country?  What if you took a second mortgage out to pay for your kid’s tuition?  What if your kid is living at home because he or she can’t find a job or can’t afford to make ends meet on their own?

So is Reg’s story only about being a high income earner and over 50 an age related layoff?  I began to see there are many other dynamics in play.  Those dynamics include government and politics; how an increase in payroll taxes on corporate America has impacted US manufacturing jobs; and the shift in manufacturing jobs overseas.

Add TARP and “too big to fail”. i.e., Wells Fargo into the picture.  Let’s not forget the unions. Hoping to save their jobs and start a national movement, Hartmarx workers were pressuring Wells Fargo, the company’s main creditor, to approve the sale of Hartmarx to a buyer that would keep it alive instead of liquidating it and most likely putting its celebrated labels on suits made overseas, The New York Times’s Steve Greenhouse reported.tty face.

While I’m not going to rehash all the events which took place and detail the timeline I think it is interesting to point out there were a number of high profile players involved in the decline of the 124 year old company.

While researching this debacle 9 out of every 10 – news articles or posts reference corporate greed or the big bad bank, in this case Wells Fargo, as the culprit.

“That begs the question, “who buys Hartmarx suits?”

The answer is, “Wall Street bankers.”  OK, so who is demonizing Wall Street?  Obama and his posse, including Dick Durbin, Chuck Shumer and Barney Frank those who were championing the case for Hartmarx and union labor against Wells Fargo.

As reported by Progress Illinois:   The news of a potential liquidation (of Hartmarx) caused workers, union leaders, and members of Congress to spring into action to aid the company, which employs 3,000 people nationwide, including 1,000 in Illinois.  Rep. Phil Hare, who spent 13 years as a Hartmarx employee, described himself as “livid” at the bank, which accepted $25 billion in federal bailout funds. He went on to enlist the help of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Rep.  Jan Schakowsky, whose great-aunt found a job with Hartmarx after emigrating from Russia, called Wells Fargo CEO John Strumpf and urged him to keep the company running.  Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, meanwhile, sent a letter to Strumpf threatening to sever the state’s business with the bank if Hartmarx was ultimately liquidated.

Days after suit maker Hartmarx was sold to Emerisque and its Indian partner S Kumars Nationwide Ltd, SKNL a textile giant three US plants of the clothier have been shut down resulting in the loss of over 500 jobs.  Not a peep out of President Obama, then or now and the Hartmarx factory making his suits in Des Plaines… still open.

Obama, proudly flashing the Hartmarx label

While they may have saved some jobs, politicians and union bosses who should know better and who have voted consistently for more government and more spending weren’t helping the cause.  They may have acted like they are helping Hartmarx employees but their votes for higher taxes and more spending were helping to drive manufacturing jobs overseas.

Reg, on the other hand took it upon himself to champion the cause for Hartmarx workers.  He wrote a letter to the President and stirred the political “hornet’s nest” to get politicians pontificating and deserves a lot of credit for saving US worker’s jobs.

Let it be stated, from all accounts, Emerisque, a British private equity firm working with SKNL, has been doing all it can do to promote and keep the US plants open. In fact, Bud” McCullar, a partner at Emerisque called Reg and commented on how much he cared about the company and fellow employees.  Here’s a quote from Mr. McCullar on Reg’s LinkedIn profile.

“Reg is the consummate seller for an ever evolving apparel and consumer products segments.  From presenting to closing, ever the professional.”

There’s a great book called Built to Last written by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  A very dear friend of mine recommended the book to me.   She has been fighting breast cancer for the past 10 years or more.  Apparently she, too, is “built to last.”  Thank God.

The authors define their choice of successful companies’ continued success to be built on “core values” and continued innovation by trying many things through change and recognizing and staying with what works.

If you are the management (CEO) of a company large or small it is your job to see to it you take care of the bottom line and all that goes with it.  That would be principally “cash  flow” management.  Too often, cash flow management is lost on CEOs who are paid for short term gains which inevitably cause long term pain.

That’s why small business is the backbone (more than 70 percent) of the US economy.  For small business cash flow is king.  Our only short term goal is to stay in business, cash flow and grow.

Maybe if more corporate giants and Wall Street bankers had stuck to their core values we wouldn’t be in as big a mess as we are now in today?  Case in point, the merger and acquisition (M&A) frenzy in the 90’s.  Corporate giants, including banks, joined in the M&A rush, to the extent some industry experts were predicting there would only be 3-4 large bank holding companies left in America.

Hartmarx too, jumped into the fray with an acquisition in late 1996.  They added two more in 1998.  In late summer 1999,they added another.  Maybe these acquisitions were good for the company.  I’m not here to judge.  What’s intriguing about the acquisitions is the correlation with offshoring.

In the 1990’s Hartmarx began the offshoring of production facilities to control costs. During that period, they closed ten domestic factories and shifted production to the Far East, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Someone should have written a book titled Built to “Be” Last – The Decline in Manufacuring Jobs in America – as American manufacturing companies began moving production overseas.

Now here’s the strongest argument yet to keep as to why there are fewer and fewer manufacturing jobs here in America.  If it were not for payroll taxes many more manufacturing jobs in America would have been saved.

While everybody was pointing fingers, blaming everyone but themselves for plant closings and lost jobs, you need not look further than, “it’s payroll taxes… (I’ll let you finish the sentence).”  Granted corporate greed is a factor here.  The problem is many large corporations are multi-national and feel the pressure from foreign competitors not burdened with the higher payroll taxes on workers.

Our government raised payroll taxes in April 1983.  The illustration here shows the investment US corporations began to make overseas according to PoliticalCalculations.com as “unintended consequences” of the payroll tax increase.

If you are a “for profit” company and it is your job to increase shareholder value, you are going to look for ways to lower your costs.  Increasing the payroll taxes on American workers was a major impetus to shift American manufacturing overseas.

We vote to place politicians in office to spend our tax dollars wisely.  They don’t.  On the other hand, we vote with our investment dollars to allow corporate “greed” to profit on the backs of American workers.  They do.

It’s time politicians wake up and reverse the course of lost manufacturing jobs by eliminating payroll taxes and adopting  the FairTax – see www.Fairtax.org.

Ultimately it is up to us as individuals to make the right choices.  This debt crisis is our wake-up call.  Let’s get back to our core values.  If you ask Reg it’s about God, family the desire to contribute his tremendous talent and work ethic to a company and a country “built to last.”

Made in the USA doesn’t have to be about politics or unions.  My good buddy Reg and many of those that have suffered the “unintended consequences” of increases in payroll taxes and lost  manufacturing jobs, will find no comfort here.

For more on Reg click here resume.

Life is Large!

A Trifecta! Klondike Bluffs in the foreground, Arches National Park and the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the background. Awesome photography by Glenn Smith

Life is large!… and so amazing!

Don’t let  a few bumps in the road stop you from experiencing your potential.

You have an awesome future.

Don’t waste time on worry, anger or reproach.

Life’s too short.

The “what if’s?” can be endless.

The “why not’s” can be endless too.

Choose one and you will be lost in life. 

Choose the other and you will find endless possibilities.

 So “why not?”

How fortunate am I?

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?

I have been bowed over in anguish over a job lost; I have placed my hands over my face and head, elbows to my knees gasping for breath; I have barricaded myself behind closed doors.

So, I have often wondered, does a job lost make a sound?

If you have asked our government, technically the answer to both questions is , “No.”

I would have to agree.  Neither seen nor heard, you’re  on your own.

I have experienced both, the latter being much more traumatic, although both are deeply disturbing, I would have to say the tree was less personal and the lesser of two evils.

Symbolic in a fashion, like our government, the tree had been leaning.  It’s weight no longer sustainable, it roots no longer able to bear its growth.

I was deeply affected by the sight of the fallen tree in its magnitude.  It’s beauty and majesty held me in awe.  I often crossed it’s path, never imagining it’s demise.

Falling across a sidewalk, in a city park, the tree was swept away in a day; a series of sawing, grinding and chipping away.  At times the noise was deafening.  And then it was gone.

I, too, had moved on.  Picked myself back up.  Started a new venture.  Today I am rooted strongly, my business supported by faith, family and my business.  Supported by partners, fellow employees, suppliers and customers.

How fortunate for me, I am not a tree.

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