Economic Cycles, Stock Market Crashes and the Scary Scenarios

Here we are ready to inaugurate a new president in 2017 and our stock markets are at all-time highs after a huge ‘Trump Bounce’ after the election. Many that study stock market history admit that we are in a need for a pull back as the DOW is almost ready to break 20,000 pts. What does all this mean?

Well, many analysts are suggesting it is very possible we could get a market correction in mid to late 2017 and that it could be 10-20% by the time it is done, the longer this nonsense goes on, and the bigger the bubble builds then the bigger the drop, we are over bought, almost everywhere. Then all that money printed that ended up inflating emerging markets will look for safe haven, coming back here in the short term. As those go one-by-one, that money flies out, because the money is looking for the nicest looking house (for now) in a majorly bad neighborhood, look at the EU, Japan, Middle East, India, and who knows what the hell China’s real numbers are, they have one thing going for them, they own our debt – but that might not be worth much if things go on. All that money coming back to safe haven in the US will cause inflation here, but at what cost?

Cheap loans, another bubble burst and look at the Student Loan issues 35% in default (past 90-days) and cheap car loans is only producing higher repo rates which are hidden by increased sales figures. It’s all lipstick on a big pig, socialism doesn’t work and you can’t have utopia unless you build it, and that takes capitalism which we are crushing into next week for the falsehood of cronyism. But I digress.

If we don’t get a back pedal on the stock market soon, it will all come at once, and 2008 was 8-years ago remember? That wasn’t a recovery that I’d be bragging about – basically we’ve increased regulations, size of government, and cut our military – all very stupid things to do in the present period. We are digging a hole, and I assume when if it starts to fall apart the left will blame capitalism and get their people back into power – and they will just make things worse – this seems to be a repeating problem with humanity doesn’t it? That is what socialists always attempt to do, but it all collapses anyway – Venezuela, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Zimbabwe, hell, how about that Arab Spring a few years ago, still in shambles – Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, who’s next? Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia? Civil unrest, food shortages, people will demand what was promised and take down their governments to get what’s left. Beware the socialist mobs. But I keep digressing.

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National League Teams Already Have DH, So Why Wait?

After nearly fifty years, the experiment will finally be recognized as a success. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has hinted that the designated hitter, which the New York Times once called a “gimmick,” will be used in the National League.

It was in 1973 that teams in the Junior Circuit elected to have another player hit for the pitcher, a concept that most considered a short term effort to increase offense. History was made that spring when Ron Bloomberg stepped to the plate for the Yankees to become the first DH ever.

The DH quickly became a valuable tool for American League clubs, who went on to win five of the next seven World Series. Although the DH was not used during the Fall Classic, one must admit that it certainly proved advantageous in several respects during the season.

Because they did not have to bat, the American League pitchers were better rested with fewer bumps and bruises than their National League counterparts. The A.L. managers had happier players, since each team had nine starters and thus increased playing time for everybody.

Now that the Commissioner has broached the idea of the DH across the board, players on the National League teams can look forward to similar happiness. Manfred declared that the DH in the National League could come as early as the 2017 season. bolder move would be to institute the DH this year, an idea which would intensify the season as well as increase what has been an embarrassing lack of offense over the past half decade. This would be particularly welcome now, since almost half of the teams in the N.L. find themselves in complete rebuilding mode.

Not only would using the DH help these clubs compete, but it would also increase fan interest during the rebuild. Most clubs already have players who fit the DH mold perfectly, and here is the list of those sluggers.

Braves: Nick Swisher

The veteran has been a clutch hitter with decent power and pop throughout his career, but he currently has no spot in Atlanta’s regular lineup.

Brewers: Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter

Having Lucroy in the lineup without having to catch every day would certainly increase his production and career. He has already had experience at first, so he could occasionally allow Carter to get a defensive rest without losing his turn in the order.

Cardinals: Matt Adams

Adams would be the perfect DH, especially against right handers. A bonus for St. Louis would be using Yadier Molina as the DH against lefties, thereby preserving his health for a postseason run.

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler

Schwarber’s struggles in left were apparent in the playoffs last year, as he had been catcher for most of his career. With the DH in play, he could still catch on occasion and allow Soler to rest defensively.

Diamondbacks: Yasmany Tomas

The International free agent still has no true defensive home after an entire year in Arizona. He would be the perfect fit as DH, almost the Big Papi of the N.L.

Dodgers: Andre Ethier

Instead of trying to trade Ethier, as they have done for the past few winters, Los Angeles could have his quality bat in the lineup every day.

Giants: Buster Posey and Brandon Belt

The former Most Valuable Player and star catcher has already suffered several significant injuries behind the plate, so he has been used occasionally at first. Providing San Francisco with the option of the DH would help Posey’s production and lengthen his career, while allowing Belt more opportunities to spell the outfielders.

Marlins: Ichiro Suzuki

Another former M.V.P., Suzuki is still one of the most exciting players around. Seeing him bat every day would be a good reason for Miami fans to start coming to games. Mets: Wilmer Flores

Currently the fan favorite has no regular position, and he has enough power to warrant a role as the club’s DH.

Nationals: Clint Robinson

He is too good of a hitter to be a backup outfielder/first baseman, so Washington could really benefit from the implementation of the DH.

Padres: John Jay

He was acquired over the winter to be a backup outfielder, but a DH role could allow Jay to be a good veteran presence as San Diego undergoes a rebuilding year.

Phillies: Darrin Ruff

There is already controversy about Ruf taking playing time away from veteran All-Star Ryan Howard, a problem which the N.L. DH would immediately quell.

Pirates: Michael Morse

Had the DH come last year, the Pirates would probably have kept Pedro Alvarez. Nevertheless, Morse could fill a similar role in 2016.

Reds: Devan Mesoraco

Any doubt whether the catcher can fully recover from surgery to be an effective backstop, a situation that would leave Cincinnati without the All-Star’s valuable bat.

Rockies: Mark Reynolds

Reynolds, even though listed as a corner infielder, has always been the N.L.’s version of a DH. An edict from Manfred would simply make it official.

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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Resort Wear Trends

A style of clothing for affluent women who jet set to warm-weather climates post-Christmas, resort wear is in itself a fashion season. Spectacular destinations of the wealthy host champagne sipping water-side activities that requires donning the best of the best. Because if you’re someone, you’re wearing someone.

So what kind of apparel and swimwear is in store for 2017 resort wear?

The Lingerie Look
Sexy black lace swimwear, cover ups and resort apparel are said to rule the resort wear runway for 2017 collections. Think honeymoon meets yacht party, bring the bedroom to the beach. Opposite of the daringly sexy black lace look, you may see some white crochet swimsuits and cover ups as well. The trend is sexy peek-a-boo of skin for a demure feminine and more playful look. Festival Inspired
Festival wear, whether you love it or not, is not going anywhere. With Coachella, Stage Coach and new music festivals popping up all over the world, fashion is looking to cloth the celebrities who love festival music. The resort festival look is elevated with decorative fringe, Grecian goddess inspired straps, pretty palm tree prints, amethyst-colored tie dye that would make you reminiscence of that staple Farrah Fawcett hair, and rich feather prints for a Native American princess look. Festival swimwear pieces will look gorgeous at the pool, and even more so at the next music festival. Never grunge though. Only festival glam is acceptable.

Embellishments
Eye-catching, attention grabbing, glitz and glam. Resort wear and swimwear trends for 2017 are all about the embellishments. Think large jewel details and golden hardware that sparkle in the sun. Solid print bikinis need unique and stunning embellishments such as these to set them apart. The affluent never lead boring lives and their clothing reflect just that point. These luxury swimwear and apparel pieces are evocative of the finer things in life and meant to be pedigree proof. Getting Cheeky
Ladies and gentlemen, the cheeky bottom has arrived. The new swimsuit bottom trend will be a hybrid of the traditional bikini bottom and a thong-like look. Potentially scandalous in previous decades, this new bathing suit bottom is a new standard of bikini wear in an era of equal pay and titles. Fashion takes its cues from worldly headlines and happenings, and this trend is no different. The cheeky bikini bottom provides just enough coverage while simultaneously adding that alluring sex appeal to bring out the highest degree of confidence from every woman.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…