What would you say are the biggest risks facing your business? Increasingly strong competition? The possibility of a global financial crash? The threat of global terrorism? Or the ever-present threat of cybercrime?
Some of these ‘risks’ might sound somewhat unlikely or implausible, but even the most optimistic entrepreneurs know that future success is never guaranteed. In order to safeguard future prosperity, proactive planning is absolutely essential, especially when it comes to protecting your assets.
But in spite of a growing list of business threats, sometimes the old ways are the best. More often than not, you can protect your assets with simple habits and age-old strategies.
Pick the Right Business Entity
The first step in protecting your assets is choosing the right business entity. For example, an S corporation or limited liability company provides more protection and will safeguard your money more than a proprietorship.
“There will certainly be multiple tax-planning considerations, but operating as a sole proprietorship definitely isn’t your best choice for asset protection,” says Mark J. Kohler, author of The Tax and Legal Playbook. “As a sole proprietorship, your personal assets are completely exposed to a potential lawsuit.”
Abide by Corporate Principles
From maintaining a separate bank account and checkbook for your business to maintaining records and logging annual meeting minutes, you need to uphold corporate professionalism at all times.
Locking away the entity’s articles of incorporation in your drawer is all well and good, but it won’t save you if and when you’re subject to a lawsuit.
Use Correct Procedure
“One of the easiest ways for creditors to pierce the corporate veil and attack your personal assets is if you act negligently or fraudulently,” says Kohler. This can be avoided by:
-Having lease agreements for rentals
-Putting property and equipment titles in the company name
-Having subcontractor agreements in place
-Never hiring people under the table
-Only using licensed, bonded, and/or insured professionals
-Not relying on emails for terms
Define your Payment Terms
Getting paid and having a healthy cash flow is the lifeblood of every small business. Unfortunately, many invoices are paid late which can have an adverse effect on your business.
When defining your payment terms, make sure to include details like accepted forms of payment (e.g. yes to business checks, no to credit cards) and late-payment penalties. This will go a long way in protecting your assets and keeping money secure.
Purchase the Right Insurance
“Insurance is an important part of your business and should be included in your startup budget,” notes Kohler. “Insurance gives you the ability to take care of an incident in your business and gives plaintiffs another target.”
You should also look into umbrella insurance, which can be personal or business and provides $1-2 million in coverage for just $300-500 a year. Just bear in mind that it doesn’t protect you or your assets in every instance including fraudulent, criminal, reckless, or negligent action.
Amazon has taught me I don’t have to wait for my next two-pack of ravioli cutter stamps, so if you can’t get them to me in under two hours, I know someone else who can. It’s 2019, and customers want what they want, when they want it. According to a recent report, the global last-mile market is now expected to hit $55.2 billion by 2025, up from $30.2 billion today – and it’s no wonder. Amazon’s deep investments in delivery continue to fuel a surge in e-commerce; meanwhile, customer expectations and the entire supply chain have been completely upended.
The good news is that the more retailers invest in delivery, the more their e-commerce revenue grows. For businesses who’ve made supply chain a top priority, it’s huge validation.
So where does that leave us in the race to the doorstep? Companies are throwing cash at everything, from drones to self-driving robots to crowdsourcing. Who’s got the best chance of success? How can each one lower costs, increase speed and mitigate risks? Can they disrupt the industry without being, well… disruptive?
Drones: The droids you’re looking for?
Drones entered the mainstream about five years ago as a cool photography gadget. Thanks to falling prices, they’re a hot item on every kid’s Christmas list this year, but they’ve also generated a lot of buzz about their potential applications for logistics.
In rural areas, drones have huge promise for parcel delivery. They’re already supplementing human workers in large warehouses – flying to far-flung corners to pick goods on high-up shelves. And they’re working out in the freight yard, too, helping to track and manage trucks, trailers and containers.
Companies like UPS, Amazon, Google and even Dominos are experimenting with drones in the last mile. One popular model uses a carrier van on the highway as a hub for an armada of drones that fly out of the back to deliver small parcels to nearby homes. It’s an impressive, futuristic version of hub and spoke. Can it work? At what cost?
Just like commercial aviation and the automobile, drones have major hurdles to navigate, especially when we think about how they’ll work at scale. We’ll need major regulatory oversight to address safety, noise and privacy concerns. We’ll need to build control towers, write better algorithms, improve GPS, and figure out what to do about the weather. But these challenges will likely all be worked out, given enough in time and investment.
Autonomous vehicles and robots: Bots with brains.
What about autonomous cars and robots? Are they more viable in the near term?
McKinsey predicts autonomous vehicles could slash last-mile delivery costs in urban areas by as much as 40 percent. And companies from FedEx to Bosch have made bets on sidewalk delivery bots, deploying prototypes in San Francisco office parks, where they’re tightly controlled. Long-term, the potential is clear, and companies with the deep pockets to make early bets could save a lot of money in the long run.
Both autonomous cars and bots cost thousands of dollars per unit to manufacture, though, and depend heavily on human supervision and maintenance. When it comes to flexibility and scalability, is a sidewalk droid really that different from a truck? Both are rigid, asset-heavy systems that require a big capex investment upfront with even higher maintenance and upgrade costs over time.
Think of it this way: earlier this year, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan from Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock bought himself a sweet new supercar: a Bugatti. He forked out a cool $2 million for it. But later that day, he was sideswiped by a driver in a Honda CR-V. It was just a minor fender-bender, but it turns out fixing a scratch on a Bugatti costs more than the entire value of the car that hit him – somewhere to the tune of $32,000.
The truth is, even if I had the cash to buy a Bugatti, I could never afford to maintain it. Will a fleet of delivery droids be the same?
Whether it’s drones or robots or some other yet-to-emerge autonomous technology, asset-heavy logistics strategies will always suffer from the same Achilles heel: whether it’s changing wiper blades or switching from lithium batteries to solar – hardware is expensive. And if a new hardware solution can’t solve for the demands of flexibility in the last mile, there will still be a need for something that can.
This doesn’t even take into account all the regulatory hurdles, infrastructure dependencies and real-world obstacles from bikes to baby strollers, pranksters to potholes, larcenists to labor unions.
But what folks aren’t talking about, and what I find most interesting, is the inherent limitations that come with any fixed-asset system.
Drones and robots may well be efficient, and hopefully one day safer. But what happens when a last-minute order comes in and the customer needs delivery now? How do you adjust a pre-planned droid route at the last minute – when the droid has already left the store?
Crowdsourcing: Using an infrastructure that’s already there.
Robots may well be our future, but how do we solve the delivery challenges we have today? That’s where crowdsourcing comes in.
Crowdsourcing lets retailers leverage existing resources already on the road to make delivery faster, more efficient and more flexible. While others are making big bets on drones, our Roadie drivers are delivering gigantic garden gnomes. We’re delivering temperature-controlled medicine that won’t be ready for pickup until 9 p.m. We’re working with Walmart to save busy parents a trip to buy groceries. We’re returning your lost luggage from the airport, and bringing you the ladder you bought online at The Home Depot this morning.
Some of the biggest brands in retail are investing in crowdsourcing. Today, we’re partnering with SMBs and Fortune 100 retailers to deliver everything from makeup to mattresses, paint to puppy food. Businesses across virtually every industry are solving today’s delivery challenges with an asset-light strategy that allows them to experiment and learn. They’re addressing delivery demand today, without making new capital investments or locking themselves into a futures bet with complex hardware systems. And most importantly, they’re not disrupting their existing supply chain in a way that can’t be undone without a huge cost if and when the autonomous tech winners begin to emerge over the next decade or two.
And that’s really the point. Retailers need optionality. Customers want to personalize their delivery for each and every purchase at the point of sale. A great customer experience means having a delivery solution for every customer delivery problem, whether you’re scheduling a sofa delivery on Sunday or sending a rescue inhaler right now. Making that work in the real world means having an arsenal of tools in your delivery toolkit.
We’re solving the problems retailers are having today, at scale – not iterating on solutions that may work at a required scale years in the future. Crowdsourcing is a sustainable solution that ensures we’ll all be around to see what delivery looks like in the future.
Marc Gorlin is the Founder and CEO of Roadie, a crowdsourced delivery service that works with consumers, small businesses and national companies across virtually every industry to provide a faster, cheaper, more scalable solution for scheduled, same-day and urgent delivery. With over 150,000 verified drivers, Roadie covers 89% of U.S. households — the largest local same-day delivery footprint in the nation.
The S-Servicepartner, Sparkasse Bielefeld and the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International, together with Dr. August Wolff GmbH & Co. KG Arzneimittel and its business partner, the pharmaceutical company s.a.m. Pharma Handel GmbH successfully completed a digital trade transaction with a receivables-based financing component on the Marco Polo platform. A special feature: the S-Servicepartner, currently the only back-office service provider worldwide within the Marco Polo consortium, the largest and fastest-growing trade finance network, was able to process a blockchain-based trade transaction for the first time together with a savings bank and its customer. Another highlight: Raiffeisen Bank International was the first Austrian bank to carry out a pilot transaction on the Marco Polo platform.
The Marco Polo network connects banks, corporates and technology-partners to streamline their working capital and trade finance activities through direct data exchange. It provides digital solutions for international trade and supply chain as well as receivables-based financing using R3 Corda Blockchain technology. Companies will be able to access the platform’s offerings via web portals, local and cloud-based platforms, and ERP-integrated applications.
The settlement and financing of trade transactions via a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)-based platform is of equal interest to companies of all sizes active in foreign trade. The S-Servicepartner participates in the development of the Marco Polo platform, representing all savings banks in Germany, and pursues the goal of providing the savings banks with access to the Marco Polo product offering. The service provider is, therefore, testing the functionality and experience of the products on the Marco Polo platform together with selected savings banks and their medium-sized corporate customers. “This is the first transaction in a pilot series with savings banks with which we want to make an important contribution towards production maturity,” says Jürgen Nagel, a member of the Management Board of S-Servicepartner Berlin. “The insights gained by all participants will be directly incorporated into the further development of the modules”.
Ralf Hüpel, Head of International Business at Sparkasse Bielefeld, states: “We are very happy and satisfied to be able to contribute the view of a savings bank at such an early stage in the development of this platform. As the first savings bank in Germany, we were able, together with our customer, to give important impulses for the further development of this international project”.
“The Wolff Group, which is always interested in cutting edge innovations, sees an opportunity for the future to raise considerable efficiency potentials and significantly improve transparency in the entire process, from ordering to payment”, confirms Tanja Niedenführ, Head of Finance and Accounting Department at the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) began looking at the existing blockchain-based trade finance solutions in 2017. Of all the available platforms, RBI ultimately opted for Marco Polo. “Marco Polo best suited our strategy as the platform combines traditional trade finance products with new blockchain-based solutions such as Payment Commitment,” says Stefan Andjelic, RBI Blockchain Hub Lead. The cooperation with S-Servicepartner and the two companies gave a good impression of the marketability of the Marco Polo platform. “The transaction showed how Marco Polo can make trade finance more transparent and efficient through automation,” says Andreas Zietz, RBI Teamlead Trade Finance.
Also for Michael Stanzig, Managing Director of s.a.m. Pharma Handel GmbH, the pilot has shown that the Marco Polo platform provides transparency and security to all sides. “The usability of the platform is relatively easy for our part and operated without any problems,” Michael Stanzig continues.
“This pilot demonstrates the benefits of leveraging blockchain technology for open account trade finance transactions. By using the Marco Polo Platform, we create a safe and digital environment, which provides the foundation for a global trade finance marketplace,” said Rob Barnes, CEO of TradeIX.
The parties to the transaction agree that the cooperative partnership not only provided a deeper insight into the innovative technology but also brought the conviction that the underlying visions can be put into practice in the near future.
The S-Servicepartner is the largest back office service provider for the savings banks in Germany. As a process industrialiser, the S-Servicepartner supports the savings banks with standardization and automation solutions using modern technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Intelligence (BI). Today, the corporate group employs more than 2,350 people at 11 locations throughout Germany and generates annual sales of around 200 million euros.
Sparkasse Bielefeld is the market leader in its area of business for medium-sized corporate customers and the most important financing partner for medium-sized companies in Bielefeld. The bank handles more than 20,000 commercial customer relationships in Bielefeld and has provided around 550 million Euros in new commercial loans in 2018.
The Dr. Wolff Group, with brands such as Alpecin, Plantur and Alcina, as well as Linola, Vagisan, Biorepair and Karex, is a family business from Bielefeld, now in its fourth generation, with 675 employees and expanding worldwide. Since its foundation in 1905, the company has focused on research and the scientifically proven benefits of its products in order to find a solution for hair and skin problems. With its own developments, the company achieved a turnover of 309 million Euros (2018). Dr. Wolff is operating in more than 60 countries.
RBI regards Austria, where it is a leading corporate and investment bank, as well as Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as its home market. 13 markets of the region are covered by subsidiary banks. Additionally, the RBI Group comprises numerous other financial service providers, for instance in leasing, asset management or M&A.
Around 47,000 employees service 16.5 million customers through approx. 2,100 business outlets, the by far largest part thereof in CEE. RBI’s shares are listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The Austrian Regional Raiffeisen Banks own around 58.8 percent of the shares, the remainder is in free float. Within the Austrian Raiffeisen Banking Group, RBI is the central institute of the Regional Raiffeisen Banks and other affiliated credit institutions.
s.a.m. Pharma Handel is a small successful company founded in 2003 in the OTC pharmaceutical sector with the aim of marketing European pharmaceutical companies that are not independently represented in Austria.
It happens to everyone: Periods of low motivation and productivity, known as decline. There are two big problems when there is a decline in the home business. First, breakdowns can become an endless cycle of low motivation and inactivity. The more you give in to the decline, the more you will fall on your head. The second problem is that if you meet your crisis, your income will go down.
What causes a decline?
Before you take action to get out of the crisis, you need to find out why you are in it. In many cases, finding out the cause can reveal a solution. Some common factors that lead to a decline include:
-Overwork and stress leading to burnout
-Seasonal affective disorder
-Failure or disappointment
-Disconnect from your goals
In the case of seasonal disorder, moving the office to a place where you have natural light or getting a special lamp can improve your mood. However, if your lack of motivation is due to other reasons, especially if you have experienced failure or disappointment or are no longer excited about your goals, it can be difficult to pick up and start moving again.
How to motivate yourself when you are in crisis
Action is the best remedy for a motivational crisis. In many cases, any activity is useful unless you plan to rock all day on social media channels.
Of course, during the crisis, it is extremely difficult to take positive action. Here are some tricks you can try to recover from your enterprising mojo.
Nutrition of your mind: If you can’t motivate yourself from the inside, let external factors arouse the desire to achieve your goals. Here are some ways to do this:
Reading: Most successful people who have a morning routine include reading as part of the ritual. Reading can give you new ideas to try your hand at business, solve problems, and inspire you.
Listen to podcasts: If reading requires more effort than you can, listen to the podcast or watch the video. Like books, you can learn new strategies to use in your business and draw inspiration from the successes of others.
Release negative energy by writing: You don’t have to be eloquent or grammatical. You don’t even need to know what you’re going to say. Just take a piece of paper or journal and start writing whatever comes to your mind. It shows writing 3-page chunks each day to clarify, prioritize, and synchronize the day. Even if you don’t want to take on everyday journalism, writing while you’re in the pound is a great way to release negative energy, unload your thoughts and frustration on paper, and get clarity about what is on your path. To offset the negative, you can also spend time remembering and appreciating the good in your life and business. Releasing negatives and refueling gratefully can give you the energy to take positive action.
Networking with your tribe: Networking is not just about making connections that can grow your business. Through your network, you can also express your appreciation, receive feedback and help, and get inspired. If possible, connect to the network in person. The level of activity required to get out of the house, stay in a new environment, and receive positive energy from your surroundings can increase your motivation. But if you can’t leave, connect over the internet.
Listen to Music: Believe it or not, music is good for the brain. According to a Berkeley article at the University of California, research shows that music can raise the mood, which is an important factor in getting out of the crisis. Music can also reduce stress, improve health, support memory and make us want to move (another way to get out of a funk).
Movement: Lack of motivation can become a spiral of lower and lower activity. Moving around is a great way to counteract this. You don’t have to do the vigorous activity at the gym. Instead, you can go for a walk or bike ride, stretch or practice yoga, dance or clean the house. Moving causes blood flow, which supplies more oxygen to the brain and muscles, which is important for improving your mood. Getting started can be difficult. One of them is playing with children (e.g. Tag in the yard) or asking a friend to go for a walk with you. People are more likely to follow if they have committed to someone else.
Change the schedule: If you are a hero because you are bored and do not feel like it, changing routine activities can make them interesting. As a home business owner, you’re the boss, which means you can organize your day as you like.
Change the environment: As your schedule again, changing the environment can also accelerate the crisis. One option is simply to go to work somewhere else, for example to a cafe, park or museum. Another option is to renew your home office. Moving the desk and changing the place can make you feel like you are in a completely new place. Consider adding some office facilities that have shown that research can help improve health, mood, and productivity.
Reward: Motivation research suggests that in the long run, hanging a carrot doesn’t work to inspire motivation. However, it can work in the short run. If you’re having trouble getting to your desk to get the job done, give yourself a reward when you do it. Choose something you want and it will work. An example would be, after completing quest A, you’ll have coffee with a friend.
Do something, something: Newton’s first law regarding motion states than an object at rest (falling) remains at rest (fall), and an object in motion remains in motion. Activity is the best remedy for a crisis. Forcing yourself to do something, even one simple little thing can give you the beginning of a leap into further activity. It can be as simple as checking email or calling a customer.
Recognize that this streak is too slow: life is filled with flowing and flowing energy. Although external and emotional causes of decline may occur, sometimes there is a decrease in energy and motivation. The key is not to give in, instead to move until you get through it.
Now that the SEC has gotten involved with FCPA along with the DOJ they have interpreted the FPCA statute to mean that a company must maintain a system of internal accounting controls that monitors FCPA Compliance not only internally within the organization, but for all its third parties including customers and suppliers
With the average Fortune 50 company having over 75,000 suppliers and 300,000 large customers the enforcement is nearly impossible and deemed as “sneaky.”
Even former DOJ Leadership acknowledges the incredible challenge around FCPA Compliance, especially now that the SEC is stepped up its enforcement (See video like below at around the 14:40 mark).
However, there is a solution to avoid or mitigate FCPA fines/actions as well as damaging public press-releases by the DOJ/SEC due to third party violations. A robust but straightforward certification program can significantly mitigate this risk.
A Certification Program is primarily an attestation or assertion document that is acknowledged or signed by an employee/and all third parties delivered by email, a simple workflow software or even post mail. It is generally language-specific but is translators are not available English only works. The attestation or assertion document is asking an individual/entity/official to certify that they are Understand FCPA, Are FCPA Compliant, and Unaware of any violations.
You might be asking yourself that there is no way that all of my hundreds of thousands of suppliers/customers/colleagues will comply, and we will have with exposure?
In the case of colleagues, its a more straightforward answer as the certification process should be mandatory using internal email or workflow tools driven from the top of the organization. In the case of third parties where there is less control, the recommendation is to send the certification communication (via email/post) up to three times in 90 days. If there is no response, this is OK!
The key to this entire process is a robust documentation and controls process over the certifications – this includes the third parties that have not responded despite three attempts.
Essential elements to an FCPA Certification process are:
-How the Certification is written ensuring that there is an emphasis on full disclosure and awareness and understanding of the FCPA Statute and any potential violations
-Process for Disseminating to third parties and internal employees
-Tracking and reporting
It is proven that a robust Certification Program implemented in advance of a certification program has lead to reduced penalties and even eliminated penalties as well as damaging Public Relations from the announcement of an SEC/DOJ Investigation.
A robust FCPA certification program may be the most significant cost avoidance and reputation damaging you can implement within your organization.
Are you an ambitious entrepreneur from the west seeking to expand to China? Or are you interested in opening a new business in China? If yes, this article is for you. We will explain the 5 most viable business openings in China today and the 5 most reliable tips on how to get started in this highly-competitive market. Please be our guest.
Which Viable Market Opportunities Can You Pursue in China?
As the affluent middle class continues to expand in China, solid economic transformations in the country are being realized day by day. The biggest beneficiaries of these transformations are multinational companies who have set up or are planning to open a shop in China. There are now bigger and better market opportunities to pursue, more advanced industries to invest in, and more tech-intensive manufacturing opportunities to consider. As a matter of fact, China now boasts of a 50% bigger manufacturing economy as compared to the USA.
If you are looking to tap into the continued increase in high value-added production, increased globalization of the service sector, as well as the increased outbound investment in China, these 5 market opportunities would be lucrative enough for you:
Rising wealth often comes with an increase in lifestyle diseases. An increase in manufacturing, on the other hand, brings forth many environmental concerns. These two factors have made the healthcare industry very lucrative in China. You will create a reliable cash cow if you could invest in a business that deals with herbal supplements or small health products- or a mainstream pharmaceutical company, so to speak. Also, the use of skincare products is on the rise in China. It’s best to set up a wholly foreign-owned enterprise for such operations.
Import and export trade
China is currently the largest exporter of tech goods and importer of processed foods globally. That means you can build a profitable importing and exporting business here in a heartbeat.
Many middle-class Chinese are keen on improving their English and expanding their knowledge of different aspects of business and politics. If you can offer them after-school private tutoring services, you will be making impressive annual returns on a consistent basis. Moreover, online tutorage is on the rise in China, which enables you to tutor more people in a more cost-effective way.
This goes without saying: Everyone needs food, everyone loves good food. And now that the middle-class in China is welcoming new entrants in huge numbers, there is a significant supply gap within this class for as long as the food is concerned. A rise in class obviously comes with a change in lifestyle, and food is at the center of every lifestyle.
Mobile phones and accessories
The whole world has in the recent past turned to China for all its tech needs. The nation is the largest producer and importer of affordable mobile phones and accessories, meaning that a business in this industry would be extremely profitable.
What kind of structure to choose when expanding to China
IF you are considering expanding your business to China, establishing the right business structure is crucial. There are several types of business structures:
-Representative Office – allows foreign companies to open their offices in China and hire staff under their own legal entity. However, the offices are not allowed to perform any business, rather it is done by the parent company which is abroad.
-Sales Office- this business structure enables foreign businesses to rent an office with a Chinese address for conducting business, without the necessity to establish a separate legal entity. All the activities and costs incurred in this office, are paid by the parent company.
-Foreign Invested Partnership- For this business entity, there is no need for minimum capital requirements. Depending on agreements, two or more investors can be joined and form this type of structure.
-Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise- Through a wholly foreign-owned enterprise, two or more foreign partners can come together and establish the company which has the same liability as domestic companies. Moreover, it provides the owner with autonomous control and ownership.
How to Get Started In China
As lucrative as China could be, many investors from the west talk about it with fear. Some of these foreign entrants tried and failed, or struggled to find their footing in this Asian economic giant. But what would render you unable to compete and survive here? For starters, the business environment here is too unforgiving and the competition too stiff for the faint-hearted. Also, cases of language barriers, cultural differences, and bureaucratic government regulations have led to the peril of many.
In the middle of all these, how do you defy the odds and succeed in China? Here are 5 actionable tips on how to get started in China:
Don’t just translate your content for China; ensure that everything about your business is localized for China.
It is important to understand and comply with all business regulations in China. The hiring process can be tricky to a new entrant, which necessitates the services of a Chinese recruitment agency. Such an agency will help you with all employment laws, privileges, and remuneration.
Ensure that you understand and respect the cultural differences that exist between the west and the east.
Never underestimate the power of customer opinion in China. Let the customer tell what their experience with your product is, respect their opinion, learn from your mistakes, and ensure that you find lasting solutions to all their concerns.
As much as possible, try to work with a local partner in order to benefit from the many favors local entrepreneurs get from the government.
Significant and sustained increases in the world trade index (an index measuring the number of times the word uncertainty or its variants are mentioned in Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reports at a country level) should be a worry for many as “the increase in trade uncertainty observed in the first quarter could be enough to reduce global growth by up to 0.75 percentage points in 2019”
In August, the US Institute for supply management latest report shows a contraction in production, purchasing, and employment indices.
Ahir, H, N Bloom, and D Furceri (2019), “The global economy hit by higher uncertainty”, VoxEU.org. https://voxeu.org/article/trade-uncertainty-rising-and-can-harm-global-economy
Uncertainty generated from Brexit, the US-China trade war, Japan – South Korea trade wars, and general discontentment with global trend towards widening income inequality is creating a toxic mix for politicians to deal with. The irony is the conventional approach of blaming your trading partners for your problems is only likely to exacerbate a general lack of confidence and increase further uncertainty.
The current round of the G7 summit in Biarritz concluded with support “to overhaul the WTO to improve effectiveness with regard to intellectual property protection, to settle disputes more swiftly and to eliminate unfair trade practices.” In essence, it’s signaling a need to strengthen the capabilities of the WTO to act faster and more decisively in resolving disputes that are even more political than structural in nature, requiring a more multi-faceted engagement approach. Whilst this may help in the long-run, in reality, companies will have to contend with uncertainty in global trade for some time to come as well as the impacts on the real economy from these disputes.
And all of this is happening as IMO 2020 approaches, the January 1, 2020, date by which the International Maritime Organization mandates a switch to lower sulfur fuels in order to achieve an 80% reduction in sulfur emissions leading to significant cost increases in the shipping goods via ocean freight (initial estimates between 180USD – 420 USD per TEU dependent on routing, base fuel costs, carrier).
So given the significant uncertainty around global trade agreements, the increasing use of trade as a political football, the increasing costs to trade and the shortening of product lifecycles as customers want faster, newer more differentiated offerings. Is it still worth it?
Of course this is very much dependent on what industry you are in. Whether you’re a global manufacturer or a wholesaler sourcing goods, your perspectives may be different based on investments made, sensitivity to current trade/tariff measures, customer demands, your markets, and the degree to which you are exposed to political debate and targeting.
However, I would offer that the benefits of specialization, economies of scale and unique factors of production that have underpinned global trade still exist as Adam Smith put it in 1776:
“By means of glasses, hotbeds, and hot walls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine too can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgundy in Scotland?”
Today this simple analogy still holds true in skills, competences, capabilities, and access to markets and insights so that over time the expectation is that trade will prevail.
While the recent outlook has been gloomy, opportunities for 2020 include a resolution to a number of ongoing disputes and a final settlement on Brexit (we hope). Additionally, the maturation in technologies such as blockchain, process automation, forecasting and demand management solutions can also offset costs associated with IMO and support greater agility in the uncertain supply-chain world that we currently live in.
Indeed, if 2019 was the year of trade uncertainty, 2020 could be a restorative year in our ability to execute global trade.
Partnering with an experienced supply chain leader will be essential to minimizing cost increases while ensuring the efficient flow of your company’s goods and services.
Successful forex trading is the art of being able to predict when currencies are going to shift in value in relation to each other, and what direction that shift is going to be in. The good news is that those fundamentals are relatively simple; is the dollar going to weaken against the yen? Will the pound pick up against the euro? Another piece of good news is that there are huge swathes of data available to the average retail trader to enable them to make these decisions. Of course, you may opt to rely on your instincts and make decisions as the situation in the various currency exchanges unfolds before you.
While there is a place for this kind of fast thinking and quick decision making in forex trading, it will only ever form the basis of a stable and successful long term strategy – one which delivers consistent levels of profit – if the quick decisions are built upon the foundations of a clear and thought through long term plan. And this kind of planning is only possible if you know exactly what kind of data to be on the lookout for, and about the tools which are available aid in your analysis.
The complexities of big data in the age of seamless digital communication are such that it would be impossible to summarise every possible metric or analytical approach accessible to the retail trader in the space available. What is possible, however, is an overview of the main planks of data analysis a trader needs to bear in mind, and a look at a few of the types of tool which can make that analysis easier and more accurate.
When a trader buys and sells shares the analysis required is focused, in the main, on the good health of otherwise of the company in question, and whether the various indicators predict that the shares are likely to rise or fall in value. Wider market conditions have an impact as well, of course, but these conditions would be the same for any stock being traded, which places the emphasis firmly on the choice of stock.
Where forex trading is concerned, however, the fundamental issue is always going to be the relative strength and weakness of a pair of currencies. Looking ahead in an effort to take advantage of shifts in value means analysing macro-economic figures such as interest rates, unemployment rates and GDP (gross domestic product). Many of these figures are firmly fixed in the economic news cycle, meaning it’s simple for a trader to see in advance when a country or bloc such as the EU is likely to announce figures which might impact on currency fluctuations (predicting what this impact will be is a more complex matter altogether, of course).
Requiring more vigilance to spot, on the other hand, are the sudden shifts which might be triggered by an event such as a comment in a ministerial press conference which is assumed to increase the chances of a no-deal Brexit and so sends the value of the pound dropping. Fundamental analysis based on one-off events of this kind requires a close attention to detail, up to the minute (or even second) access to newsfeeds and the willingness to take up positions instantly.
Technical analysis is based not on real world events beyond the confines of the currency exchanges, but on in-depth analysis of the way in which the price of currencies has moved in the past. By focusing on charts of price movements and analysing them with a variety of tools – both manual and automatic – a trader can identify patterns which have repeated in the past and can be expected to repeat again in the future. Past performance is no guarantee of future success, of course (some clichés become clichés because they happen to be true), but the relative stability of the major currencies, over the long term, means that patterns of movement can become relatively predictable.
A further method of analyzing the forex markets is by watching out for larger than usual shifts in the number of traders investing in a particular currency. As soon as a large number of traders invest in a particular currency, the future pool of people who might opt to sell that currency expands, with the result that the potential value of that currency is impacted upon. Analyzing market movements could be referred to as depending upon the wisdom of crowds. As has been shown in the past, that wisdom can often be mistaken. A stampede to buy or sell a specific currency could be triggered by knowledge of where the value of that currency is heading, but it could also be caused by a simple self-fulfilling prophecy – sometimes, if enough traders take a position, enough other traders assume there must be a good reason for doing so and follow suit, creating a pattern which feeds off itself with little or no external justification.
It’s not a question of which of these three modes of analysis is the most effective, since the best results will always be gained by combining elements of all three. The deluge of data which is available, however, particularly where technical analysis is concerned, means that the wiser trader will make use of some of the tools which are available:
One of the key attractions of forex trading is the fact that the currency markets are open somewhere in the world 24 hours a day throughout the week. The fact that different markets are open at different times of the day means that the sessions within those markets are likely to have different impacts on the pairs of currencies which a trader is working with. A session highlighter tool can be used to divide a traders charts into these various sessions, and then to highlight any movement that occurs over set periods, such as a minute, a specific number of minutes or an hour.
Volatility Tool for Forex
A volatility tool will show a trader how much, and in what way, a pair of currencies has moved on an hourly basis during a period such as the last thirty days. This enables the trader to build up a fuller picture of the way the currency pair behaves, and note any patterns such as recurring movements on specific days or at a specific time of the day. The more advanced versions of the tool will calculate the typical movement range and, given a time period by the trader, will display a percentage probability that the pair will stay within the set range.
Signal service providers offer instant information in the form of tips, delivered either by experts or AI systems, which recommend trades are made at a certain time and price on the basis of analysis. There are different types of signal services available, some based on fundamental analysis (i.e. news which might impact on the markets) and some on technical analysis. Signals shouldn’t be confused with the kind of AI that trades automatically on your behalf – they are merely providing information in a timely manner which it is up to you, as a trader, to interpret.
Undertaking and applying analysis is a key practice of any successful trader. The degree of analysis a trader carries out will depend upon their inclination and appetite for hard number crunching, but the rule to remember is that while there really isn’t such a thing as too much analysis (as long as it’s used to eventually take a position), the concept of too little analysis is all too real.
The ongoing US-China trade war has brought a renewed urgency in recent months resulting in my crisscrossing this tiny nation from the northern capital of Hanoi to the country’s economic epicenter to the south, Ho Chi Minh City – formerly known as Saigon, and every stop in between. Once viewed as an emerging market with potential, Vietnam today is considered the hottest “go-to” sourcing destination as supply chains uproot from China and President Trump and President Xi continue to work out their disagreements.
However, despite logging thousands of miles of travel and spending days upon days conducting factory audits in the remotest corners of the country, I’ve discovered Vietnam’s manufacturing industry and export products may not live up to the hype as China’s best alternative.
Myth #1: Vietnam manufacturing is on par with China.
One striking difference I noticed immediately is that Vietnam’s manufacturing is at least 10-15 years behind China. On my factory tours, I witnessed outdated machinery, lack of modern equipment and saw few signs of the latest supply chain best practices, including LEAN certification standards and supply chain manufacturing principles in action. In my daily research on vetting manufacturers, I consistently come across poorly designed websites- if I am lucky to find one at all, sales pages listing professional contacts using Gmail and Yahoo accounts, and often encounter few staff members who can converse or speak English well. These deficiencies contribute to the challenging task of sourcing products meeting global export standards.
Myth #2: Vietnam’s pricing is cheaper than China.
With labor about one-third of China, the cost of living and land is much cheaper than its northern neighbor, many falsely believe that Vietnam-made products automatically translate into big savings.
There are three contributing factors:
1. In nearly every industry, Vietnam lacks quality raw materials and must import them from China, thereby, increasing costs
2. As new foreign direct investments set record highs, industrial park land costs have increased dramatically to coincide with this boom
3. Manufacturers (well aware that the US-China trade war has put American buyers in a corner) have raised their prices accordingly.
These all contribute to the drowning out of any major cost savings. In my experience, several times North American buyers have responded that my Vietnam price offer is wildly off the mark and not competitive with their current China suppliers, China tariff included.
Myth #3: In Vietnam, you can expect to find everything as in China.
In the world of manufacturing and supply chain, I constantly hear: “Just start sourcing from Vietnam.” That would be all fine and dandy assuming an apples to apples comparison, but Vietnam is anything but China. Over the past two decades, China has perfected their manufacturing and supply chains to the point of employing robotics and automation churning out sophisticated products by the millions. Just take a trip to the hugely popular Canton Fair or attend one of the hundreds of trade shows and expos throughout the year; you will find every product imaginable, in every variant and color, too.
Furthermore, China has the most up-to-date and modern infrastructure—from container ports, highways, railways, and warehouses—to deliver goods globally. In contrast, Vietnam only in recent years has started to emerge onto the manufacturing scene, known mostly for light furniture, textiles, sewing, and electronics parts.
Exasperated by the US-China trade war, Vietnam’s manufacturing industry has been red hot, however, it’s not an equivalent replacement for China. Buyers can expect less-than-stellar quality products and choices than what China offers, met with challenging business practices and frustration due to the lack of manufacturing transparency, data, and information. While Vietnam might be a manufacturing dream destination for many of your gains, it might be just that in the end: a pipe dream.
Today marked the first day of the peak holiday season for 2019 and the beginning of increased holiday shipments and deliveries. UPS confirmed a 5 percent increase in package shipments from 2018 record is expected in addition to an estimated 32 million packages and documents per day during peak season, primarily stemming from UPS’s retailer and B2B-focused customers. This anticipated chaos doesn’t seem to be a problem for UPS, however.
“This holiday season, we’ve prepared like never before,” said UPS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, David Abney. “UPS has invested billions in our facilities, our air fleet and our workforce. We have the capacity for, and are committed to, serving the unique needs of all our customers. To our customers, I simply say: We’re ready, Let’s go! You can count on us to help you make the holiday season successful.”
UPS has prepared resources in the form of added space (five million square feet of highly automated facilities, to be precise), automated superhubs, 11 newly added aircraft (increasing payload by 2.5 million pounds), optimization technologies, and a robust employee network close to 100,000 seasonal workers.
“More than ever, the 2019 holiday season proves UPS puts customers’ needs first,” said UPS Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Warren. “That starts with eliminating residential peak season surcharges, and extends into a wide range of new services that complement our industry-leading portfolio of offerings.”
Additional service enhancements have also been added to further support the growing demand, including the fastest ground-service offerings to-date, commercial/residential weekend services for pickup and delivery for customers in the top metro areas, late-night pickups via UPS Extended Hours® to qualifying customers, and more.
“We have the right strategies in place to help our customers make the most of the holiday season, with extensive forecasting, expanded ground and air capacity, effective onboarding to bring an army of seasonal employees up to speed, and the products and services that help all our customers meet high expectations this time of year,” Abney said. “We look forward to another successful peak season.”