According to Money Magazine, now is the time to purchase if you’re considering a second or vacation home. Across the country, prices are near or below their five-year lows. In Vail, Colorado, home prices are down 30% from their highs. Pebble Beach, perhaps the most renowned golf area in the U.S., has seen a decrease of 36.3% in square-foot prices compared to five years ago. And prices in Orlando, Florida, home of the Walt Disney World theme park, are down more than 50% from their highs.
America spends nearly 18% of its gross domestic product (GDP) for healthcare, more than 50% higher than the next highest nation, Switzerland. However, it is probable that, unlike Switzerland, the United States will be required to spend additional money to improve national defense, to replace our aging infrastructure, and to expand our investment in education. America simply does not have enough funds to go around.
The impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally referred to as “Obamacare,” is likely to be felt by Americans in the near future through higher healthcare insurance premiums, increased difficulty in making doctor appointments, and decreased face-to-face consultations with their personal physicians. While the exorbitant annual increases in healthcare costs of past years could moderate – and possibly reverse – in the long-term as a result of the act, everyone should be prepared for higher healthcare expenses in the short-term.
Internships, both paid and unpaid, have become increasingly popular over the last decade with employers and candidates. Employers have long recognized the significant expenses incurred to identify, recruit, hire, and train employees, only to lose the employee who then quits and moves to another company or industry. Presently, one in three employees in the U.S. leaves his or her job for a new position each year – this is substantially higher than the rate of one in four that existed in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The purchase of a health insurance policy for the first time is, in many ways, a rite of passage – a signal that you have passed from child to adult. The purchase of a health insurance policy is also one of the more expensive acquisitions you will make during your life, rivaling the expense of buying a home. At the same time, most people do not understand health insurance or the components of the contract between insurance companies and themselves, often learning to their dismay that coverage they thought they had is actually nonexistent.
There are no flashing lights, no clatter of coins hitting the metal bins of slot machines, no raucous shouts of victory or envious looks when a winner hits it big. But some believe that Wall Street is no different than the Las Vegas Strip – less glamor, less glitz, but still a place for gamblers to risk all where the house has the edge.
Dr. Leon Cooperman, the noted hedge fund founder and president of Omega Advisers, Inc., warned President Obama on CNBC television that “the best capital markets in the world were turning into a casino.” And The Motley Fool, a popular newsletter for individual investors, said in November 2011 that “market volatility had become so erratic this summer that it often felt like a rigged game.”
All companies claim to value and provide great customer service. But the fact is, few companies understand the components of the customer service model they promise, or deliver the level of customer service expected. In fact, according to a poll by American Express, 78% of customers surveyed chose not to make an intended purchase due to poor service, and 60% of purchasers were willing to try a new brand or company solely to receive better service elsewhere.
In an environment where all competitors have broad selections, similar brands, and low prices, excellent customer service is what differentiates retailers from their competition. Why then is mediocre or poor customer service commonplace, and how can management make a difference?
Private placements – the sale of securities by an issuing company to a limited number of private investors – have become the venue of choice for “bad brokers, disingenuous dealers, unprincipled promoters, and iniquitous issuers,” according to Jeff Joseph, a noted venture blogger.
A private placement transaction is exempt from the registration and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under rules detailed in Regulation D (Reg D) found under Title 17 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 230, Sections 501 through 508. As a consequence of the exemption, use of Regulation D is the favorite vehicle of those looking to fleece unsuspecting investors.
Since prehistoric times, men have adorned themselves in paint, animal skins, and feathers to impress, intimidate, and influence their fellow humans. While people no longer wear such accoutrements, many, particularly those employed within the financial industry, continue to enhance their status by appending alphabetic symbols to their names, the psychic totems of a modern world. Of course, the value of such acronym symbols depends upon the recognition and understanding of their meaning by the viewer.
H.R. 3606, Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) was passed by the House and Senate on March 27, 2012 and signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012. While most economists believe the act will have little impact on increased employment, the restrictions and costs faced by private companies seeking to access public markets during their early growth years will be reduced.
However, the benefits are likely to come at the expense of private investors who have lost long-established protections provided under prior securities laws. Many observers believe that the increased risks of frauds and scams to the public at large outweigh the small benefits to a limited group of companies, investment managers, and broker-dealers.
Cell phones first began popping up in the early 1990s. Cute, brick-like objects weighing two-and-a-half pounds, they seemed to be perfect companions for long road trips. However, over time, the cell phone underwent a makeover, shrinking in size and growing in capabilities. Initially purchased by electronic aficionados and early adopters of technology, cell phones spread rapidly through the world’s populace, with approximately 5.6 billion phones in use by 2010. The question, “Why would I want a cell phone?” quickly became, “How can I live without one?”
United States presidents since Richard Nixon have sought the development and implementation of a comprehensive energy policy without success. As a consequence, the country became heavily dependent upon foreign oil imports in the early 1970s. The first supply crisis occurred with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-1974, which, in his “Memoirs,” Henry Kissinger called the “worst crisis to the free world since World War II.”
When was the last time you enjoyed a truly superb shopping experience? According to research, less than 10% of consumers are satisfied with the customer service they receive, whether purchasing a new television or staying in a luxury hotel.
Access to worldwide products, improved logistics, new technologies, and similar business philosophies and strategies have created a standardized, homogenized marketplace in consumers’ minds. While the rewards of being an industry leader are great, the risks of a wrong decision can be disastrous. As a consequence, few in management are willing to “think outside the box” or try new approaches to create a robust link between themselves and their customers. The result is a lack of differentiation that creates an environment where consumers are indifferent about the companies from whom they buy goods and services, viewing each as offering similar, if not identical, benefits as the others.
While sales are the muscles of a business, cash flow is its life blood. Cash flowing regularly into a company is necessary to pay salaries, buy materials, and literally keep the lights on and the doors open. Many companies are forced to slow their growth simply because they lack the cash inflows necessary to support the cost outflows.
Speeding up the flow – converting sales into cash as soon as possible – and increasing the spread between inflows and outflows to build a cash cushion are essential to the long-term, sustained growth of every company, large or small.
The costs of running a company are often hidden, but can be substantial. Cutting these costs is as effective as cutting the direct variable costs of labor and materials. Unlike manufacturing costs, most administrative costs are “fixed,” in that they rarely vary from month-to-month, even though revenues go up or down.
Figuring out how to reduce or eliminate specific administrative costs is essential to the profitability and long-term success of your company. Trimming these expenses will decrease the revenues necessary to break even or make a profit, provide greater flexibility in long-term pricing strategy, and improve cash flow.