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This Family Business Has Thrived for 64 Years by Selling Old-School Products Popular With Nostalgia Lovers–and the Amish

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Editor’s note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

Galen Lehman will take on anyone with his scythe. “I can cut grass fast or faster than a weed eater,” he says. Furthermore, after that grass is shorn, his electric-tool wielding opponent will be left with ears ringing and the stench of burnt oil clinging to his skin. Not Lehman. “I won’t smell like petrochemicals,” he says. “And my ears will have been filled with birdsong and the gentle swish, swish, swish of my scythe.”

Lehman’s, a family business in the small farming community of Kidron, Ohio, harks back to the days when a product’s bells and whistles were actual bells and whistles. In 1955, while the rest of the country swooned over newfangled inventions like wireless TV remotes and  microwave ovens, Jay Lehman started selling all things non-electrical to the local Amish population. Over the next six decades, others discovered the business, says Galen, who is Jay’s son and the CEO. (Jay’s daughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin, is vice president of marketing.) Today, gardeners, environmentalists, preppers, homesteaders, and the chronically nostalgic flock to this 120-employee business for their cook stoves and canning jars, candle-making supplies, and composting toilets.

Galen Lehman, CEO of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

What those populations share is the desire for a simpler life. Simple doesn’t mean easy, Galen explains: “It is not simpler to light an oil lamp than it is to flip on a light switch.” At Lehman’s, simpler means closer to nature. It means labor performed with your hands. It means understanding how products work just by looking at them. Often it means working alongside neighbors: easing one another’s loads.

Those values are cherished by the Amish, who still account for 20 percent of retail sales. The company also wholesales some products, like gas refrigerators, into Amish communities. In addition, about 250 of Lehman’s roughly 1,600 vendors are Amish. “Now we are buying more from Amish manufacturers than we are selling to the Amish,” says Jay Lehman, 90, who remained active in the business until a few months ago.

As more tourists and other outsiders (known as “English” in the Amish community) have descended on the store, most of Lehman’s Amish customers have retreated to the company’s second, smaller location in nearby Mount Hope. “The outsiders are sometimes a little invasive with their cameras and their questions and even just staring,” says Galen.

The Lehmans, who are Mennonite, embrace technology for their company: using high-tech to sell low-tech, as they like to say. E-commerce comprises half of sales, and the business is active on social media. But walk in the store on a given day and you might see a wood carver fashioning country scenes for display in the buggy barn or wander into a yoga class that incorporates goats.

Hank Rossiter, a retired nurse who lives nearby, has been buying sprinkling cans, kerosene lamps, axes, wood splitters, kitchen gear, and many other goods at Lehman’s for decades. Trying to give up plastics, he and his wife Marilyn recently went there to pick up some stainless steel drinking straws, and the tiny brushes to clean them. “I may think, how can I simplify this? How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” Rossiter says. “I’m pretty sure Lehman’s will have the answer.”

What would the Amish do?

Jay Lehman was born and raised in Kidron, a farm kid who plowed and planted, then worked as a mechanic in the local garage. In 1955, the owner of the local hardware store was retiring, and he got loans to take it over. For the first few years he had to pay rent on the building, so he drove a school bus while his father looked after the store.

Jay Lehman, founder of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

The previous owner had carried a large stock of goods for the Amish, and Jay decided to stick with that strategy. In the evenings, he roamed around the countryside in a pickup truck delivering purchases too large to fit in his customers’ buggies. “I would do it until the houses had no more lights in them,” says Jay. “Then I knew it was time to go home.”

The business grew slowly. Then, in 1961, Jay moved to Africa, where he arranged travel for missionaries. A period in New York doing similar work followed. His brother, David, ran the store until Jay’s return in the mid-’70s. The oil crisis was in full swing, “and everyone was panicking,” says Jay. “They said, what do we do? Well, what do the Amish do? They get along without these things. If the Amish can do this, we can do it too.” Sales soared.

Then a magazine called Organic Gardening published a laudatory article about the Victoria Strainer, a product sold by Lehman’s for separating out seeds from applesauce and tomatoes. Orders poured in from around the country; and the new customers wanted to know what else Lehman’s sold. The company mailed out product brochures and a catalog that by century’s end would reach more than a million customers and eventually earn Lehman’s a place in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

During the 1980s and ’90s, nostalgia largely drove new sales “People in their 60s and 70s wanted to do things the way they remembered when they were younger,” Galen says. Eventually, the rosy glow of a cherished past gave way to the dark clouds of an uncertain future. Lehman’s next big surge occurred in the late 1990s. Y2K fears stoked the Prepper movement, and even non-survivalists stocked up on lanterns, water filters, and kerosene cookers. Subsequent end-time panics–the end of the Mayan calendar, the blood moon prophecies–sparked mini-booms.

Angelo Merendino

But recently the Preppers have grown less important to Lehman’s. Galen is OK with that. “We don’t think being prepared means hunkering down and arming yourself against the zombie apocalypse or whatever is out to get you,” he says. “Being prepared is being ready with supplies that can help you and your neighbors and your family.”

Looking for the last big thing

For a business that regards “new and improved” as an oxymoron, sourcing can be a challenge. The non-electric market has been shrinking since the store’s earliest days, causing manufacturers to shut down or switch product lines. As a result, the Lehmans have sometimes scrambled for new suppliers, sourcing kerosene cook stoves from South America and gas refrigerators from Sweden, for example. The large majority of products, however, remain American-made.

The company has occasionally acquired expiring product lines, like apple peelers from the once-mighty Reading Hardware Company. In 2015, Lehman’s took over the struggling 108-year-old Aladdin Lamp Company, whose kerosene models incorporate a mantel over the wick to produce an unusually bright, hot light.

Occasionally, Galen designs products himself. Working in Lehman’s R&D facility–a corner of the store with some plywood benches and hammers–he recreated the Daisy butter churn, which had been out of production since midcentury. “It’s a pretty good replication of the original with some improvements,” he says. “It churns faster because of changes I made to the paddle.” He has also produced a hand-cranked grain mill out of cast aluminum rather than cast iron, which allowed him to cut the price in half.

Angelo Merendino

The store’s Amish-made products are extensive, ranging from rocking chairs and cherry baskets to whisk brooms and croquet sets. Amish manufacturers suit Lehman’s because they operate on a small scale and so don’t require huge minimum orders. The flip side is they typically can’t or won’t ramp up volume when demand for something unexpectedly surges. “A lot of times they will say, ‘I can’t make your product because it is time to make hay or I need to plant the fields,'” Galen says.

Wherever they’re sourced, many products arrive without instruction manuals or other documentation. As a staff resource, the company maintains a library of old books on subjects like canning and butchering. Galen has bolstered that knowledge by interviewing people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s about the finer points of operating old-style tools and devices. Working with an employee he created training programs for the company’s main product lines. Employees certified in the operation of oil lamps, water pumps, and other devices receive a bump in pay.

While the company’s nostalgia-driven demand is, by law of nature, declining, Lehman’s is enjoying both more and new business from other sources. The Amish population is growing both in the United States and around the world. And those notoriously screen-addicted Millennials have been surprisingly receptive to the company’s message of living simply and well.

“You talk to people who work in technology,” Galen says. “They go home, and more than anything else, they want to get some dirt under their fingernails.”

Leigh BuchananEditor-at-large, Inc. magazine

https://youtu.be/0WohxniaPHg

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Peter instills in us that doing things a different way can be the right way. Your own way. He walks the line of family business and business being his family flipping traditional business models upside down. While some would caution never to mix the two, he has by putting “place first” creating an environment that is welcoming to all those who are lucky enough to find this hidden gem of a restaurant – 2017 Restaurant of the year in Portland, OR – HAN OAK. With special thanks to core the TEDxPortland organizing team, 70+ volunteers and cherished partners – without you this experience would not be possible. Our event history can be found TEDxPortland.com In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. Peter’s restaurant, the Korean-inspired Han Oak, was Portland Monthly’s 2017 restaurant of the year. Inside its walls unfurls a world rooted in both tradition and fresh interpretations on authentic cuisines. Peter cut his teeth in New York for 13 years in the kitchen of Michelin star chef April Bloomfield before his desire to be closer to his family called him to the Rose City. In 2017, he was recognized by Food & Wine as best new chef and is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

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Bill Gates: High Schoolers Should Cultivate 1 Skill to Thrive in 2030 and Beyond

No one can predict the future. Not even Bill Gates. But the billionaire founder of Microsoft and philanthropist can tell you which skills he thinks will give you a competitive edge in the future.

Gates recently touched on this topic when he delivered a lecture at his high school alma mater, Lakeside School in Seattle. Fun fact: Another famous alumni is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The two met when they were students there.

The first question the school’s head Bernie Noe posed to Bill Gates was this: “What do today’s students need to know to thrive in 2030 and 2040?”

You’re never too old to keep learning.

Gates encouraged the high school students to cultivate their curiosity. The more knowledge they seek out, the better they’ll be prepared for what’s ahead.

“For the curious learner, these are the best of times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or lectures that are online is better than ever,” Gates said.

To do that, Gates said students must build your sense of curiosity and basic framework of knowledge. History, science, and economics are the subject areas he sees as being particularly useful to be successful in the future.

What Bill Gates predicts for the decades ahead.

During the decades ahead, the digital revolution will surprise us,” Gates said.

This is where that foundational knowledge and drive to keep learning will come into play. He thinks having the self confidence and willingness to keep learning will help prepare students for that revolution.

For example, he says changes that will take place in healthcare and climate change will require an understanding of the sciences.

He also believes teeangers must be more informed than ever on current affairs and past events. “Democracy is going to more and more require participants,” he said. He says understanding history — both of the United States and the entire world — will prepare students to understand why the world is in the situation it’s in.

Bill Gates is his own case study.

When Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973, he didn’t know what the future would hold. There was one thing he took with him though that prepared him for his future success: “I had the ability to learn.”

He never expected that he would drop out of Harvard. In fact, Gates was so hungry for knowledge that he took extra classes in college just because they sounded fun and interesting. He admits that he wasn’t very sociable because his heavy course load was all-consuming. “I managed to get two and a half years there, and I loved every minute of it,” he said.

Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft with his former Lakeside buddy Paul Allen in 1975. The rest is history.

Betsy MikelOwner, Aveck

Source: Bill Gates: High Schoolers Should Cultivate 1 Skill to Thrive in 2030 and Beyond

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Check out these books by and about Bill Gates: * Business @ the Speed of Thought: https://amzn.to/2PAw27v * The Road Ahead: https://amzn.to/2QfWPDh * Gates: How Microsoft’s Mogul Reinvented an Industry: https://amzn.to/2PGLvmu * Who Is Bill Gates?: https://amzn.to/2PF7bzu * Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire: https://amzn.to/2qrh5Xc He consistently ranks in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people. He’s one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. He is also the second-most generous philanthropist in America, having given over $28 billion to charity. He’s Bill Gates and here are his Top 10 Rules for Success. * Join my BELIEVE newsletter: http://www.evancarmichael.com/newslet… 1. Have energy 2. Have a BAD influence 3. Work hard 4. Create the future 5. Enjoy what you do 6. Play bridge 7. Ask for advice 8. Pick good people 9. Don’t procrastinate 10. Have a sense of humor Sources: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldPh0… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGZb9… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyg-D… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJcFs… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBdIe… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS6ys… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynQ5Z… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxaCO… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY2j_… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fI_xu… ENGAGE * Subscribe to my channel: http://www.youtube.com/subscription_c… * Leave a comment, thumbs up the video (please!) * Suppport me: http://www.evancarmichael.com/support/ CONNECT * Twitter: https://twitter.com/evancarmichael * Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvanCarmicha… * Google+: https://plus.google.com/1084697716903… * Website: http://www.evancarmichael.com EVAN * About: http://www.evancarmichael.com/about/ * Guides: http://www.evancarmichael.com/zhuge/ * Coaching: http://www.evancarmichael.com/movement/ * Speaking: http://www.evancarmichael.com/speaking/ * Gear: http://evancarmichael.com/gear SCHEDULE * Videos every day at 7am and 5pm EST * Weekends – Top 10 Videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list… * #Entspresso – Weekday mornings: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list…

The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For In 2020

As the world evolves to embrace the 4th industrial revolution, our workplaces are changing. Just as other industrial revolutions transformed the skillset and experience required from the workforce, we can expect the same from this revolution. Only five years from now, 35 percent of the skills seen as essential today will change according to the World Economic Forum. While we’re not able to predict the future, yet, here are the ten most important job skills (plus a bonus one) every company will be looking for in 2020.

1.  Data Literacy

Data has become every organization’s most important asset—the “fuel” of the 4th industrial revolution. Companies that don’t use that fuel to drive their success will inevitably fall behind. So, to make data valuable, organizations must employ individuals who have data literacy and the skills to turn the data into business value.

2.  Critical Thinking

There’s no shortage of information and data, but individuals with the ability to discern what information is trustworthy among the abundant mix of misinformation such as fakes news, deep fakes, propaganda, and more will be critical to an organization’s success. Critical thinking doesn’t imply being negative; it’s about being able to objectively evaluate information and how it should be used or even if it should be trusted by an organization. Employees who are open-minded, yet able to judge the quality of information inundating us will be valued.

3.  Tech Savviness

Today In: Innovation

Technical skills will be required by employees doing just about every job since digital tools will be commonplace as the 4th industrial revolution impacts every industry. Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, blockchain, and more will become a part of every worker’s everyday experience, whether the workplace is a factory or law firm. So, not only do people need to be comfortable around these tools, they will need to develop skills to work with them. Awareness of these technologies and relevant technical skills will be required for every job from a hairstylist to an accountant and everything in between.

4.  Adaptability and Flexibility

As quickly as the world is changing, the half-life of skills is constantly reducing. Therefore, people need to commit to learning new skills throughout their careers and know they must be adaptable to change. Important to this is understanding that what worked yesterday isn’t necessarily the best strategy for tomorrow, so openness to unlearning skills is also important. Additionally, people must be cognitively flexible to new ideas and ways of doing things.

5.  Creativity

Regardless of how many machines work beside us, humans are still better at creativity. It’s essential that creative humans are employed by companies to invent, imagine something new and dream up a better tomorrow. Tomorrow’s workplaces will demand new ways of thinking, and human creativity is critical to moving forward.

6.  Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Another area where humans have the edge on machines is with emotional intelligence—our ability to be aware of, control, and express our emotions and the emotions of others. This ability will be important as long as there are humans in the workforce since it impacts every interaction we have with one another.

7.  Cultural Intelligence and Diversity

Organizations are increasingly diverse, and effective employees must be able to respect differences and work with people of a different race, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation. Also, businesses are increasingly operating across international boundaries, which means it is important that employees are sensitive to other cultures, languages, political, and religious beliefs. Employees with strong cultural intelligence and who can adapt to others who might perceive the world differently are also key in developing more inclusive products and services for an organization.

8.  Leadership Skills

Leadership skills will be paramount for not only those at the top of a traditional corporate hierarchy but increasingly for those individuals throughout the company who are expected to lead in the 4th industrial revolution. Enabled by the support of machines, there will be more individuals who are in decision-making positions, whether leading project teams or departments. Understanding how to bring out the best in and inspire every individual within a diverse and distributed workforce requires strong leadership skills.

9.  Judgment and Complex Decision Making

Machines might be able to analyze data at a speed, and depth humans are incapable of, but many decisions regarding what to do with the information provided by machines must be still made by humans. Humans with the ability to take input from the data while considering how decisions can impact the broader community, including effects on human sensibilities such as morale, are important members of the team. So, even if the data support one decision, a human needs to step in to think about how a decision could impact other areas of the business, including its people.

10. Collaboration

When companies are looking to hire humans in the 4th industrial revolution, skills that are uniquely human such as collaboration and strong interpersonal skills will be emphasized. They will want employees on their team who can interact well with others and help drive the company forward collectively.

BONUS: In addition to the skills listed above that every company will be looking for in the 4th industrial revolution, there are several self-management skills that will make people more successful in the future, including self-motivation, prioritization/time management, stress management and the ability to embrace and celebrate change. Those people who have a growth mindset, are adept at experimenting and learning from mistakes, as well as have a sense of curiosity will be highly coveted in the 4th industrial revolution.

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Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, blockchains, and the Internet of Things. Why don’t you connect with Bernard on Twitter (@bernardmarr), LinkedIn (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/bernardmarr) or instagram (bernard.marr)?

Source: The 10+ Most Important Job Skills Every Company Will Be Looking For In 2020

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5 Things Your Resume MUST HAVE To Get More Job Interviews: https://youtu.be/WATpBoVprRk J.T. Free Job Search Resource: https://www.workitdaily.com/why-shut-… Get hired faster by working with our team of experts. Learn more here: https://www.workitdaily.com/pricing/ Showcasing the right skill sets is essential when you’re on the hunt for a job. If you want to stand out in the hiring process, you need to consider other skills that can give you an advantage over the competition. Here are some skill sets that can give you a “leg up” in the hiring process (even if they don’t directly relate to the job to which you’re applying): 1. Experience With Relevant Technologies Do you have experience with any programs, applications, software, or other technologies that relate to your field? Be sure to emphasize them on your resume and LinkedIn profile, especially if they’re listed in the job description. 2. Fluency In A Foreign Languages If you speak another language, make sure you showcase it! Although most jobs don’t require fluency in other languages, it’s not a bad thing to add to your resume or LinkedIn profile. In fact, it can actually give you bonus points because there are so many people who aren’t fluent in other languages. 3. Customer Service Skills It doesn’t matter if you were a server at a restaurant, a customer service representative, or a retail associate, if you dealt with customers in the past, you likely developed some good customer service skills. The ability to work with people is such a valuable skill set. Even if you won’t be working directly with customers in the role to which you’re applying, these people skills you’ve developed can help you work with colleagues and navigate tricky situations in the workplace. These are just a few things you can do that can give you a leg up in the hiring process. However, there could be things you’re doing that are holding you back… To get insight into what these are and how to fix them, be sure to check out my free resource here: Thousands of other professionals have found this helpful, so be sure to check it out. Free Tutorial: https://www.workitdaily.com/why-shut-… And, if you want J.T. and her team to help you become a pro at interviewing, negotiating and more, then you need to check out our career support platform. Want to learn more about our affordable Premium Subscription? Learn more here: https://www.workitdaily.com/pricing/ Follow Work It Daily: https://www.workitdaily.com/ https://twitter.com/workitdaily?lang=en https://www.facebook.com/groups/WorkIhttps://www.facebook.com/WorkItDaily/ #JobSearch #JobSearchTips #Resume

Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

Every entrepreneur wants consistent monthly income to fuel their cash flow and business goals. However, between economic cycles and changing customer interests, that regular revenue may be hard to achieve.

I’ve talked with more and more small business owners lately who use a subscription business model. It involves offering monthly subscriptions for various products and services. Options for these subscriptions cover all kinds of items. Maybe you know someone who receives a subscription box filled with clothing or makeup. Perhaps you’ve tried making meals prepared by Blue Apron or you receive shaving supplies from Dollar Shave Club. Millions of people enjoy Netflix and Spotify for streaming. Other companies offer toys for kids and treat boxes for pets.

The subscription e-commerce industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. A 2018 McKinsey survey noted that nearly 60 percent of American consumers surveyed had multiple subscriptions. The monthly subscription economy doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. People love the time and money they save, as well as the excitement of personalization and convenience.

Besides attracting and retaining customers who want these benefits, there’s a significant advantage for subscription companies: recurring revenue. Instead of a one-time payment, monthly subscription businesses collect a monthly fee (or sometimes a year of fees in exchange for a lower monthly rate) before sending out the product or service.

This revenue model provides an upfront spike in cash flow along with a longer-term outlook for stable income. Moreover, you’ll get a better sense of product volume for inventory planning and management.

There is no time like the present to start a monthly subscription business to ride the lucrative wave. Here’s how to launch:

Decide on a subscription model type.

There are three main sub-models that can frame your monthly business within the subscription model. The curation model involves creating a personalized box for customers based on interests they share when they sign up. This might include sample-size versions of products related to a hobby or lifestyle.

The replenishment model is the one I use most often. It offers a regular stream of products the customer uses. For example, Amazon offers this under the name, “Subscribe and Save,” for many food items, cleaning supplies, vitamins, and more.

The access model provides a feeling of exclusivity for customers who get products and experiences not available to anyone without a subscription. Again, let’s reference Amazon. Its Prime program gives members special discounts, offers, and products not accessible to non-Prime members.

Consider a service-oriented subscription model.

You may be wondering how to find your niche. Consider a service-oriented skill set you have that could fit this approach. For example, if you specialize in graphic design, web development, or writing, consider this model for your monthly business.

In contrast to a monthly retainer model, a service-based subscription model provides upfront revenue while giving clients the opportunity to select a pricing tier with accompanying services that fit their needs.

Proceed like any business startup.

I’ve met many a startup founder that didn’t do the basics. Make sure you conduct research, determine a market need or interest, think about what the new product looks like, scope out any competition, and establish pricing.

Create a business plan that outlines your monthly business model, marketing plans, launch timeline, budget, and profitability forecast. Explore technology that helps automate the ordering, processing, and payment aspects of your subscription. I know entrepreneurs who use SaaS companies like Zuora or Zoho here. Also, study how other subscription brands have used marketing tools and platforms to launch and grow their business.

When you are ready to share your subscription business with your audience, consider a no-obligation trial. This entices people to try it on their terms and get excited to sign up for a longer period. In addition, make sure your website or social media promotion has a transparent subscription pricing guide that describes what customers receive at each pricing tier.

Taking all these steps prior to launch can set your monthly subscription business up for success. You want to know that you can attract customers and then deliver an exceptional experience so they maintain their subscriptions and spread the word.

Offer a recurring automatic payment method.

As part of establishing a successful subscription business, it’s ideal to offer old and new customers a way to select recurring automatic payments for their monthly subscription service. They can choose where to deduct the money from — a bank account or credit card.

This model works because it saves them from having to remember to make a payment each month. Instead, they can set up a payment method and comfortably receive the service on a regular basis.

By: John Boitnott

Source: Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

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The Fear Fund: Nancy Davis’ ETF Aims To Protect Investors From Scary Stuff, Like Recession And Inflation

Stocks have recovered from last fall’s crash, low interest rates stretch out to the horizon and the VIX volatility index is half what it was at Christmas. Sit back and coast to a comfortable retirement.

No, don’t, says Nancy Davis. This veteran derivatives trader runs Quadratic Capital Management, where her somewhat contrarian view is that investors, all too complacent, are in particular need of insurance against financial trouble.

The Quadratic Interest Rate Volatility & Inflation Hedge ETF, ticker IVOL, is designed to provide shelter from both inflation and recession. Its actively managed portfolio mixes inflation-protected Treasury bonds with bets, in the form of call options, on the steepness of the yield curve.

Those options are cheap, for two reasons. One is that, at the moment, there is no steepness: Yields on ten-year bonds are scarcely higher than yields on two-year bonds. The other is that the bond market is strangely quiet. Low volatility makes for low option prices.

                                   

“Volatility has been squashed by central bank money printing,” Davis says, before delving deep into the thicket of option mathematics. If volatility in interest rates rebounds to a normal level, her calls will become more valuable. Alternatively, she would get a payoff if the yield curve tilts upward, which it has a habit of doing when inflation surges, stocks crash or real estate is weak.

If IVOL is all about peace of mind for the investor, it’s all about risk for its inventor. Davis, 43, has poured her heart, soul and net worth into Quadratic, of which she is the founder and 60% owner. If the three-month-old exchange-traded fund takes off, she could become wealthy. If it doesn’t, Quadratic will struggle.

The fund showed its worth in the first week of August, climbing 2% as the stock market sank 3%. But it needs a much bigger shock to stock or bond prices in order to get big. It has gathered only $58 million so far. A crash had better arrive soon; IVOL’s call options expire next summer. Quadratic, moreover, needs to somehow scale up without inspiring knockoff products from ETF giants like BlackRock.

Davis was a precocious trader. As an undergraduate at George Washington University, she took grad courses in financial markets while earning money doing economic research for a consulting firm. She put some of her paychecks into a brokerage account. “Some women love to buy shoes,” she says. “I love to buy options.”

This was in the 1990s, a good time to indulge a taste for calls. Davis made out-of-the-money bets on technology stocks, which paid off well enough to cover the down payment, in 1999, on a New York City apartment. Nice timing.

There may be a sour grape, but there’s also truth in her current philosophy that hedge funds are not such a great deal for investors. ETFs, she says, are more liquid, more transparent and cheaper.

Davis spent a decade at Goldman Sachs, most of it on the firm’s proprietary trading desk, then did a stint at a hedge fund. At 31 she quit to actively manage two kids. Returning to Wall Street after a three-year hiatus, she worked for AllianceBernstein and then did what few women do, especially women with children: She started a hedge fund.

Quadratic, whose assets once topped $400 million, used a hedge fund platform at Cowen & Co. When Cowen ended the partnership last year, Davis set about reinventing her firm. There may be a sour grape, but there’s also truth in her current philosophy that hedge funds are not such a great deal for investors. ETFs, she says, are more liquid, more transparent and cheaper.

IVOL’s 1% annual fee is stiff, but Davis says it’s justified for a fund that is not only actively managed but also invested in things that ordinary folk cannot buy. If you want to duplicate her position in the Constant Maturity Swap 2-10 call due July 17, you’d need to know what banker to ring for a quote, because this beast is not traded on any exchange. Each of these calls, recently worth $7.71, gives the holder the right to collect a dollar for every 0.01% beyond 0.37% in the spread between ten-year interest rates and two-year interest rates. The spread has to move a long way up before the option is even in the money. But at various times in the past the spread has hit 2%. Could it do that again? Maybe, at which point the option pays $163.

Starting a firm like Quadratic is like buying an out-of-the-money call: long odds, big payoff. Davis is doing what she was doing in college. You can’t stop a trader from trading.

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Source: The Fear Fund: Nancy Davis’ ETF Aims To Protect Investors From Scary Stuff, Like Recession And Inflation

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Nancy Davis, founder and CIO of Quadratic Capital Management, introduces her new ETF that takes advantage of interest volatility and inflation expectations: IVOL. In this interview with Real Vision’s co-founder & CEO Raoul Pal, Davis deconstructs the structure of the ETF, highlights the cost of carry associated with the strategy, and discusses her macro outlook and where she thinks the yield curve is headed next. Filmed on May 29, 2019. Watch more Real Vision™ videos: http://po.st/RealVisionVideos Subscribe to Real Vision™ on YouTube: http://po.st/RealVisionSubscribe Watch more by starting your 14-day free trial here: https://rvtv.io/2KHDkoc About Trade Ideas: Top traders unveil their specific plans for cashing in on the market’s next move. In these short videos, our traders cut straight to the point and lay out their thoughts on the best risk-reward trades of the moment. Each episode concludes with a visual recap of trade details including profit-loss potential and trade duration. About Real Vision™: Real Vision™ is the destination for the world’s most successful investors to share their thoughts about what’s happening in today’s markets. Think: TED Talks for Finance. On Real Vision™ you get exclusive access to watch the most successful investors, hedge fund managers and traders who share their frank and in-depth investment insights with no agenda, hype or bias. Make smart investment decisions and grow your portfolio with original content brought to you by the biggest names in finance, who get to say what they really think on Real Vision™. Connect with Real Vision™ Online: Twitter: https://rvtv.io/2p5PrhJ Instagram: https://rvtv.io/2J7Ddlw Facebook: https://rvtv.io/2NNOlmu Linkedin: https://rvtv.io/2xbskqx The ETF Play on Interest Rate Volatility (w/ Nancy Davis) https://www.youtube.com/c/RealVisionT… Transcript: For the full transcript visit: https://rvtv.io/2KHDkoc NANCY DAVIS: So we invest with options with a directional bias on everything. So our new product that we recently launched, IVOL, is the first inflation expectations and interest rate volatility fund out there. It’s a exchange traded product. RAOUL PAL: Does anybody even know what that means? NANCY DAVIS: So what we do is for an investor, if you’re an equity investor, you want to have tail protection, for instance. It’s hard to own equity volatility as an asset allocation trade because it decays so aggressively. So it’s a more benign way to carry volatility as an asset class from the long side using fixed income vol. It’s not as sensitive as equity vol, but it’s a lot lower level. Like, the vol we’re buying is 2, 2 basis points a day in normal space. So it’s very, very cheap, in my opinion, and it gives you a way to have an asset allocation to the factor risk of volatility without having as much decay as you would in the equity space. And then for a fixed income investor, the big risk there is obviously Central Bank policy, fiscal spending, trade wars, as well as inflation expectations. And we saw a need to really give a fixed income investor a way to capitalize on the deflation that’s been priced into the market for the next decade. I mean, so current US inflation is around 2%. The five-year break-even is 1.59%. So that’s an opportunity in an option space. And so it’s long options with TIPS. And so that gives investors exposure. It gives you inflation-protected income, but also options that are sensitive to inflation expectations. And we think it’s pretty– you know, you’re never going to time these macro calls perfectly. But given the Central Bank in the US is so focused right now on increasing inflation expectations, and there’s been so much talk about the yield curve inverting– and that’s kind of crazy. If you step back and you’re like, all right, we have a $3.9 trillion balance sheet. We have a fiscal budget deficit. We have unclear or radically changing monetary policy. If you look where we are now with so many cuts priced into the interest rate markets in the US versus where we were four months ago, it’s wildly different. And at the same time, interest rate volatility is literally at generational lows. Equity, while people talk about equity vol, I think VIX today is 17. It’s low, I guess, in the context. But when you look at a percentile, like one-year vol over the last decade in equities, it’s about the 70th percentile. So it might be low, but it doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Interest rate volatility is literally at, like, 2, 1, you know, 0.

How to Start a Business in 10 Steps

A little less than two-thirds of Americans want to start their own business. Perhaps surprisingly, this is true among both younger and older workers. Like the drive to write a book ( 81% of Americans) or work as a full time freelancer (soon to be half of all workers), starting your own business is a widely shared dream.

For good reason. People who work for themselves tend to love it. Although it comes with the complexity of having to manage every piece of an operation, as well as the stress of knowing that success rides completely on your own shoulders, there’s nothing quite like being your own boss.

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It’s also very possible. Here’s how.

1. Research Your Market

This guide will assume that you already know what your business will do. If not, we have an excellent guide to coming up with your small business idea here.

Once you have your idea set, you need to do your research.

Starting your business will inevitably be a learning experience, but you want to get as much information as you can beforehand. So take some time to study your planned market. Ask questions like:

• What kind of competition will you face?

• Who is your target consumer?

• Where will you locate your business?

• What are the logistical and practical concerns about that location?

• What do consumers like and dislike about the existing market for your product?

• What do consumers say they want right now?

• What kind of spending power does your target consumer have?

Your market will be different depending on the nature of your business venture. A corner store has entirely different demographics and challenges than a web-based service vendor. In both cases, though, it pays to know your audience. Literally.

2. Write a Business Plan

The business plan is the blueprint for your company. It’s where you’ll apply your research and planning into one document that describes in detail the who, what, when, where, how and why of your new business. In it you will address issues such as:

• Who you will market to;

• What you plan to sell;

• When you anticipate hitting certain benchmarks, your timeline for development;

• Where you will locate this business, whether online or brick and mortar;

• How you will operate this business day-to-day;

• Why this business, what opportunity did you see in the market.

Your business plan should also address critical issues such as:

• Monetization and cash flow. How do you anticipate making your money and turning a profit?

• How much will it cost to run this business? Don’t miss the details.

• When do you expect to become profitable?

• Specific challenges you anticipate and how you will overcome them.

• What will it take, step by step, to operate this business and create this product?

The business plan article linked above goes into more detail, and the Small Business Association has a template here. Both are worth reading in further detail, because starting a business without a business plan is like setting off on a road trip without a map or GPS.

And, of course, don’t forget to pick a terrific name.

3. Get Feedback

Now stop.

Writing your business plan should be exhausting. This should be a detail-oriented document that takes a hard look at your planned venture and how, precisely, it will work. If you’ve done it right, by now you should be ready to tear into the building phase of your new business.

Instead, take a step back and solicit feedback. Call friends, family and colleagues who might have some knowledge of the industry you’d like to enter. Seek out mentors or professional guidance if possible. Get their opinion of your business plan. They might have questions you didn’t think of or notice something that slipped by you.

Hopefully this business will be around for years to come. You can afford a small delay while you get a few more eyes on your proposal.

4. Find the Money

Cards on the table, this is the hardest part for most entrepreneurs.

Not every business needs a lot of startup capital, but you will almost certainly need some. How much will depend a lot on what you want to do. A web-based services firm might require very little in the way of funding, while a retail store can require a substantial amount of cash to pay for rent, inventory and staff.

Regardless of how much, now is when you need to find this money.

This is something every entrepreneur faces, and small business owners turn to a variety of sources for startup capital. No matter where you get funding, expect to invest at least some of your own money. Lenders and investors will want to see that you have “skin in the game,” to use industry speak. Beyond your personal accounts, called self-funding, small business owners also rely on:

Bank Loans

Many businesses start with a small business loan from local banks.

You will need to have all of your paperwork in order to pursue a loan. Expect the institution to ask for details from your business plan, including monetization strategy and financial projections. If you have trouble securing a loan, you can turn to the Small Business Association which runs a loan guarantee program to help make this type of financing more accessible.

Personal Loans

While not an option for every entrepreneur, many people do rely on loans from family and friends.

If possible this is typically better than securing a loan through the bank. You’ll likely pay little interest and will have more generous terms in case of default. However, it also depends on knowing people who have that kind of cash lying around.

Grants

While not lavishly funded, programs such as Grants.gov operate small business grants for entrepreneurs.

Investment

Professional investors typically look for potentially large-growth business opportunities. Depending on the nature of your intended company, this could be a good fit for you.

A venture capital firm is unlikely to sink money into a small legal practice or restaurant. These tend to be low-growth relative to the returns that they seek. However, someone looking to launch a new product or web-enabled service, something with high potential scalability, might be a good fit for the private investment model.

Local angel investors, such as those found through AngelList, are more likely to invest in a regionally focused business. While beyond the scope of this article, you can learn more about finding private investors here.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly common source of startup capital for small businesses. This model tends to reward retail style projects (someone looking to create a specific thing that catches the public’s eye). It can also be an excellent way to hone your sales pitch to a general audience.

For more information on financing, the SBA has a comprehensive information sheet on common sources of funding here.

5. Choose a Location

Where you locate may determine some of your legal obligations and paperwork, so it’s best to get that done at this step.

As much as possible you should try and do this with specificity. While you’re not ready to sign a lease just yet, the closer you can come to a specific address the better. Meanwhile, if you’ll be starting this company online, now’s the time to pick up your domain if you haven’t already.

Pay attention to local laws! We cannot overemphasize this. The best location can be killed off by a zoning ordinance that makes your business illegal on that particular street corner. Municipal laws can be petty and confusing, so make absolutely sure your business is street legal.

6. Establish Legal and Tax Structures

If at all possible, at this step you should retain the services of a lawyer and/or accountant. You will absolutely want professional advice. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing details that come back to bite you down the road. We also must note that nothing here constitutes legal advice. This is just a general primer on what you need to know.

Now is when you’ll actually begin forming your business and filling out the necessary paperwork with federal, state and local governments. This can involve (but is not limited to):

Choosing Your Corporate Structure

There are many types of businesses you can form, including LLCs, S-Corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships and more. Those listed here are the most common corporate forms for a small business. The right one for you will depend on issues like cash flow, number of participants and how you want to structure potential liability. You can read more about this issue here and here.

Register Your Business

How you have to register, and with who, will depend on your specific corporate form. However, if you have formed a corporation of some sort you will have to file articles of incorporation to create this legal structure. For more information on registering your business, see this resource.

Register With State and Federal Tax Agencies

You will need a tax number and may need an employer ID number. The SBA has a guide to finding and filling out your appropriate tax forms here.

Determine Any Licenses and Permits That You Need

Depending on the nature of your business, you may need a license to operate. The SBA has a database of federal and state licensing requirements here.

Be certain to also look up zoning and location-based regulations. You may need additional permits based on where you’ve chosen to operate your business. These are typically a city-level concern.

7. Open Bank Accounts and Sign Leases

Once your business has been properly formed you can begin to act in its name. Now is when you can start actually executing on many of the opportunities you’ve already lined up.

Open bank accounts in your new business’ name. Take out a corporate credit card and, if your bank offers it, work to pre-establish a line of credit. You will find this easier to do now that your company exists and has established funding, although it may not become an option until you have operated for some time.

Go out and actually get the funding you secured earlier, because now you have someplace to put it. You should have already gotten the “yes” by now from someone, but you don’t want to deposit corporate seed money into your personal checking account. This may technically constitute a felony that rhymes with “schmembezzlement,” and is poor form either way.

With the money in hand and a functional checkbook, now is when you sign the necessary leases on real estate.

8. Take Care of Little Details

Once again step back and take stock, because the best ideas can be broken by the smallest details.

Make sure your business has comprehensive insurance for issues ranging from fire to property damage and legal liability. Many business owners overlook that last issue, and it can be a career killer if someone slips and falls or even just decides they don’t like you.

If you will hire employees put a documented process in place for hiring and firing. Have your workers compensation and unemployment insurance paperwork filed and in order.

If you haven’t already, talk to both a lawyer and an accountant. This is especially critical if you will employ people. Even if you don’t formally retain an attorney, buy a few hours of an employment lawyer’s time to make sure you have your bases covered. Figure out how your business will do its accounting and have that system set up and operational, whether you’ll do it yourself or have hired a professional.

9. Start Making Things

Now, at long, exhaustive last, we get to the fun part. It’s time to start actually making things.

You have the money, you have the location. You have all of your paperwork filed and are legally bulletproof. Now begin making your product.

How you do this will, obviously, depend entirely on what you specifically do. A manufacturing company will need to source suppliers for raw materials and the necessary machinery. (Because you took our advice and checked out all the local laws you won’t need to worry about any noise complaints from the neighbors.) A retailer will source vendors and set up an inviting, fun storefront. A consultant will finish making her office look tasteful and professional.

A restaurateur should stock the kitchen, buy appliances and write out a menu.

The details of getting to work depend entirely on your industry and profession. Fortunately, you’ve got a well written business plan for figuring out what those details are. Whatever you do, though, now’s the time to start actually doing it.

10. Scale and Hire

Your business is operational. Now’s the time to think about how to keep the lights on.

Some businesses will require employees from the very beginning. A cafe, for example, is almost impossible to run alone. Those employees are part of your startup costs and will be with you from the very beginning. As your business grows you may have the luxury of hiring more people to take some of the work off your plate.

Now is also the time to begin marketing.

To be fair, this is something you should be considering all along. You should always think about how to get your business’ name out into the community. Don’t let up once the doors open. Look to social media, advertising, foot traffic and local networking to get people in. Talk with other businesses in the area about collaboration efforts.

This is where you get to be creative. This is the fun part of being an entrepreneur. If you’re at step 10 you’ve earned it. So enjoy, because this is your business.

Source: How to Start a Business in 10 Steps – TheStreet

You’d Be Better Off Just Blowing Your Money: Why Retirement Planning Is Doomed

Between interest rates and poor financial planning, the comfy retirement you may have dreamed of is most likely to remain a dream.

I know this is a bold, and possibly controversial title, but retirement planning is broken and leaving people broke.

The destructive narrative is, “work hard, save money in a retirement plan, wait and it will all work out in the long run.”

The reality is, without the ingredients of responsibility and accountability, there is no easy solution for retirement. Meaning, if we just work hard and set money aside, we are putting money into a market we have no control over.

The institutions are winning though. Taking fees along the way. Convincing us to separate ourselves from our hard earned money, encouraging us to take it out of the business we know and put it into investments we don’t.

Low interest rates are great for those borrowing money, but terrible for those wanting to take income from a retirement plan. Those low interest rates are not providing enough cash flow, so that even if you’re a millionaire on paper, you still may be living like a pauper. For example, if you could find 4% interest in a fixed income account, that is only 40,000 dollars a year per million in your retirement account. Oh, and that income is taxable if it isn’t coming from a Roth IRA.

The concept of retirement has robbed the public of the responsibility and accountability required with personal finance. It has become too easy to hand money over to so-called experts due to the busyness of business, kids, hobbies, and other obligations competing for our time.

The reality is, we have more opportunity for time now than ever. For thousands of years people were limited and constrained with the monumental duty of providing for their family by having to hunt, farm or provide shelter with less technology, efficiency and access to resources. We have become addicted to saying yes to things less important than financial stability and freedom…..

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/garrettgunderson/2019/07/16/youd-be-better-off-just-blowing-your-money-why-retirement-planning-is-doomed/#18c0d351302d

Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

Following the news that Chevron had agreed to pay a nearly 40% premium to acquire Anadarko Petroleum, investors quickly bid up the shares of other potential acquisition targets.

As I argued in the previous article, I believe the Permian was the key to the Anadarko acquisition, but there are plenty of other targets in the region. There are also several companies with the capability of making acquisitions.

In recent years, the few mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry have been largely focused on the Permian Basin. The supermajor integrated oil and gas companies have been increasingly making forays into the Permian.

In addition to Chevron’s new acquisition, in 2017 ExxonMobil paid $6.6 billion to acquire Permian acreage from the Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas. ExxonMobil also spent $41 billion in 2009 to acquire XTO, which has a major presence in the Permian.

Permian Players

Today major acreage holders in the Permian Basin include the supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as Occidental, Apache and Concho Resources. Occidental, in fact, reportedly attempted to acquire Anadarko prior to Chevron sealing the deal. But Occidental may now find itself in the crosshairs of a bigger player looking to shore up their Permian portfolio.

But there are many other major producers in the region, including ConocoPhillips, EOG Resources, Pioneer Natural Resources, Noble Energy, Devon Energy, and Diamondback Energy. Smaller producers in the region include WPX Energy, Parsley Energy, Cimarex Energy, Callon Petroleum, Centennial Resource Development, Jagged Peak Energy and Laredo Petroleum.

Let’s first take a look at the largest companies operating in the Permian according to enterprise value. This metric is preferred over market capitalization, because it includes a company’s debt. In the case of a potential acquisition, the acquiring company would be responsible for this debt in addition to the purchase price. Hence, it is a more comprehensive representation of a company’s market value.

I have included the integrated supermajors that could have the ability to make major acquisitions, three of the larger exploration and production companies (which could make an acquisition or be a target themselves), and Anadarko for comparison. All data were retrieved from the S&P Capital IQ database.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • EV – Enterprise value at the close on April 12, 2019 in billions of U.S. dollars
  • EBITDA – TTM earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization in billions of U.S. dollars
  • TTM – Trailing 12 months
  • FCF – Free cash flow in billions of U.S. dollars
  • Debt – Net debt at the end of the previous fiscal quarter
  • 2018 Res – Total proved oil and gas reserves in billion barrels of oil equivalent at year-end 2018
  • EV/Res – The value of the company divided by its proved reserves

Potential Buyers

Based on their size and debt metrics, ExxonMobil and Chevron still appear to be the most capable of pulling off a major deal. Shell has been moving in the direction of becoming a natural gas company, and has already made major capital expenditures in this area in recent years. Further, in 2016 they made their own major acquisition — a $70 billion deal for BG Group.  Meanwhile, Total hasn’t shown much interest in the Permian.

BP may not have an appetite for an acquisition as it continues to be weighed down by its obligations from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As an aside, the continued fallout from that disaster has also resulted in BP having the cheapest reserves on the books by far of any company listed in the table. Also note that the EV/Res metric for integrated supermajors isn’t directly comparable to pure oil producers like Anadarko, as the former also have midstream and refining assets.

ConocoPhillips appears to be the most attractive target for an acquisition from a pure valuation perspective, but as the largest pure oil company it would be a large bite for even ExxonMobil. With respect to making an acquisition, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance stated earlier this year that the company isn’t feeling any pressure to do so.

Occidental also falls into the category of potentially making an acquisition or of being acquired. On a relative basis, they are more expensive than ConocoPhillips, but on an absolute basis the price would be more manageable.

What about smaller players like Parsley, WPX Energy, or Cimarex Energy? Based on the price movement following the announcement of the Chevron-Anadarko deal, investors are clearly betting that more deals will follow. Below are some of the metrics of potential acquisition targets (with Anadarko for comparison), including some of the large players listed in the previous table:

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • 1-Day Change – Change in share price on April 12, 2019, the day the Chevron-Anadarko deal was announced

Note that the double-digit gains of both Pioneer Natural Resources and Parley Energy imply that investors believe they could be next on the acquisition list. Parsley looks attractively priced according to its enterprise value and total reserves. Several other companies stand out, such as Devon Energy and Cimarex, although all of these companies outspent their cash flow in 2018. An acquisition by one of the larger players could give them the efficiencies and economies of scale to rectify that.

Another name on the list that stands out is Diamondback Energy, which has long been one of my favorite Permian Basin oil companies. Diamondback has been an outstanding performer in recent years, but now looks to be the most richly valued according to several metrics following its 2018 acquisition of Energen.

The biggest challenge with the smaller players is that they may not have enough reserves to really move the profit needle for the biggest players. Laredo Petroleum’s 200+ million barrels of oil and gas reserves might not be sufficiently appealing to ExxonMobil, which had 24 billion barrels of reserves at the end of 2018. But it could be appealing to a company like EOG Resources, which closed the year with 2.8 billion barrels of reserves.

Ultimately, price and valuation are only part of the equation. Anadarko wasn’t the cheapest acquisition target for Chevron, but Chevron liked the synergies of Anadarko’s locations. Thus, every major operator in the Permian is more likely to acquire companies whose properties are adjacent to their own. A deeper dive thus becomes an exercise in not only value, but in studying maps of the Permian producers — large and small.

Robert Rapier has over 25 years of experience in the energy industry as an engineer and an investor. Follow him on Twitter @rrapier or at Investing Daily.

Robert Rapier is a chemical engineer in the energy industry. Robert has 25 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable ene…

Source: Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

World’s Largest Business Organization Embraces Blockchain

From the embers of World War I emerged a new kind of organization, led by entrepreneurs, committed to ensuring the free flow of goods across the world’s war-ravaged borders.

The International Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is to streamline global business, is one of last vestiges of the League of Nations, founded in 1920 by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to peacefully settle international disputes. By 1923, following the League’s lead, the ICC had established international courts to arbitrate business disputes, and in the aftermath of WW II, it represented global business interests at the Bretton Woods conference, which established the current monetary order.

“If goods are able to move across borders without the need to be accompanied by troops,” says John Denton, the ICC’s current secretary general, “there is a higher probability of peace and prosperity.” The Paris-based group, which represents 45 million businesses in more than 130 countries and brands itself the world’s largest business organization, is now making its boldest play in a generation.

With global borders hardening once again, this time behind border walls, broken unions and looming trade wars, Denton signed an agreement with the Singapore-based blockchain startup Perlin Net Group to explore how the technology, made popular by bitcoin for its ability to move value without banks, could help the ICC continue its mission to facilitate the free flow of goods.

“We can trace back the ICC interventions that made a big impact on the global economy in the 20th century,” says Denton, who was a fellow at the Australian Institute of International Affairs before being appointed secretary general of the ICC last year. “We think this might be one which we can look back on in 100 years and say the ICC shifted blockchain in a way that enabled the private sector to function more effectively in a sustainable way and actually create more opportunities for people.”

According to the terms of the agreement, part of which was shown to Forbes, the ICC and Perlin will create a new group, the ICC Blockchain/DLT Alliance, a reference to distributed ledger technology similar to the blockchain that powers bitcoin. The companies are exploring how Perlin’s blockchain platform, which has yet to publicly launch, could be used to shine a light on obscure supply chains and simplify cross-border trade finance.

As part of the agreement, the ICC will help Perlin recruit members to its nascent blockchain alliance, specifically by making introductions to the organization’s massive member pool, which in addition to most national chambers of commerce includes direct membership from companies like Amazon, Coca Cola, Fedex, McDonalds and PayPal. Also, as part of the agreement, Perlin will join the ICC as an official technology partner, offering free access to its blockchain platform during the early stages of the project.

Denton shared his plans with the ICC Banking Commission at its annual event in Beijing earlier this week, and the agreement, which was signed on March 20, will be formally announced at an ICC event in Singapore later today.

Unlike some early blockchain consortia, the ICC Blockchain/DLT Alliance already had projects under way when it was announced. According to the agreement, the ICC and Perlin will share the results of their first blockchain proof of concept, a collaboration with the fabric giant Asia Pacific Rayon (APR), in May at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

For that project, called “Follow Our Fibre,” APR is logging data in the blockchain at every level of its supply chain, from the trees that are harvested to the chemical treatments that turn them into the silk-like rayon substance through to the massive spools that are later sold to clothing producers.

“Globally, there is a dynamic shift in the textiles and fashion sectors calling for a more traceable and transparent supply chain,” says Cherie Tan, vice president of communications and sustainability at APR. “Follow Our Fibre will enable us to leverage powerful blockchain functionality to drive greater efficiencies.”

Other proofs of concept in the works that stand to benefit from the ICC partnership include a project with Mfused, a cannabis processor in Washington State that is using Perlin’s tech to prove the origin of its plants by recording every level of its supply chain, from when they are planted to when the cannabis is inhaled, in a shared, distributed ledger; a project with an unnamed tuna processor in Latin America; and a developing project in Africa to trace the origin of cobalt, which has a long history of being mined by unethical supply chain participants.

Assuming enough supply chains are unified on the Perlin blockchain, businesses could log digital representations of the commodities, called tokens, on the platform. This will enable the counterparties to trade directly, with bills of lading required to move freight and letters of credit, which are typically handled by banks, all tracked directly on the shared ledger.

“An interesting economic model is we could effectively launch governance around this,” says Denton. “If we’re able to tokenize this we could insert ourselves as the trusted intermediary, and there would probably be an admin charge, but not much.” A 2018 report by the ICC, the World Bank and others found that 90% of the world’s trade finance was being provided by 13 banks, something Denton thinks is evidence of a need to decentralize.

Perlin’s blockchain, like ethereum’s, is being designed to let users track and move all kinds of value and write distributed applications (dapps) that don’t rely on centralized processors. Also like ethereum, Perlin will have a native cryptocurrency, called perls, which are expected to be minted over the coming three months or so, depending on regulatory considerations.

While supply chain management is increasingly seen as ripe for disruption by blockchain, models like Perlin’s, which rely on tokens, have had difficulty gaining traction as regulators clamp down on what is required of such tokens. By contrast, models using permissioned blockchains, such as what IBM is doing with a number of industry-specific consortia, and what R3 and Hyperledger are doing more generally, are seeing broader interest.

Perlin founder Dorjee Sun positions the nascent ICC network as similar to competing consortia but for small and medium-size businesses. “This is a massive democratization effort of DLT, because now any company of the 45 million ICC members can give the benefits of DLT a try,” says Sun. “Not just massive companies that can afford IBM’s services.”

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Whopper Of A Turnaround: At Burger King, The 3G Capital Model Actually Worked

Challenge: Make a 60-year-old ham­bur­ger chain into something cool. Daniel Schwartz accepted that assignment six years ago after 3G Capital took over Burger King and named Schwartz chief executive. He was 32.

Burger King was a tired outfit, with a confusing menu and sales going sideways. Its restaurants averaged half the revenue of McDonald’s. But where there is underperformance, there is ­opportunity. Schwartz slashed overhead at the Miami headquarters. He streamlined food preparation. He dished out stock to middle managers. He shrank the payroll and the capital budget by selling company-owned stores to franchisees.

In the years since, Burger King has become Restaurant Brands International (following some more classic 3G dealmaking). Restaurant Brands is now a growth stock. Bur­ger King opened up 1,000 restaurants around the globe last year, to 600 for McDonald’s. McDonald’s stores still have a bigger average volume, but Burger King’s are gaining on them; in the U.S., BK boosted its average volume per outlet by 30%, to $1.4 million, while McDonald’s had a gain of only 20%. All of Burger King’s success is, of course, in stark contrast to what’s going on at Kraft Heinz, another 3G turnaround that went the other way. In February, Kraft Heinz said it was taking a $15.4 billion write-down, a signal that its classic food brands were losing value.

The situation is different at Burger King. At the parent-company level, where revenue consists mostly of franchise fees, Restaurant Brands took in $5.4 billion last year, up 17% from 2017. McDonald’s revenue was off 8%.

“How many companies that have been around since the 1950s grow the top line at 10%?” says Schwartz, 38.

For a fast-food conglomerate that oversees 26,000 locations with combined sales of $32 billion, Restaurant Brands is quite agile. Three months ago the company introduced the Whopper Detour promotion, in which Burger King offered its signature item for a cent if the customer ordered food on the BK phone app within 600 feet of a McDonald’s location. In February came the 45-second Super Bowl ad featuring historic footage of Andy Warhol slowly unwrapping and methodically eating a Whopper. The BK app topped the charts in Apple’s App Store during the campaign; throughout the Super Bowl, “Andy Warhol” was the most searched term on Google.

Maybe Schwartz can even make his ham­bur­ger chain cool enough for New Age customers. Plans are under way to introduce a plant-protein patty from Impossible Foods, the startup backed by investors like Bill Gates and the venture capital arm of Alphabet. This is a big deal for Impossible, with an expected rollout in 7,000 Burger Kings soon.

The past decade has been a whirlwind for Schwartz, who combined a certain amount of luck—in the right place at the right time—with a large amount of energy. A lanky guy who has a big smile and a tendency to speak with his hands, Schwartz left Cornell in 2001 with a degree in applied economics. Four years later, he landed a job at 3G Capital, the private equity firm that became famous for engineering the Anheuser-Busch InBev merger (and later infamous for the sickly Kraft Heinz merger).

Schwartz became a 3G partner at 27. “The group believes in investing in young people and giving them opportunities,” he says. “I worked hard and proved that I really cared. More so than anything else, I put the business and the firm ahead of myself.” His wife tolerated the long hours, perhaps because, as a physician in residency, she worked late too.

A Burger King restaurant with the brand's new look.

McDonald’s has ruled as America’s top burger for decades, but Burger King is making gains with newly refurbished locations made to resemble this conceptual drawing.

Schwartz went hunting for deals. Burger King looked intriguing. “I’d ask my wife or my mom, ‘If McDonald’s is worth $70 billion, what do you think Burger King is worth?’ They’d say, ‘$30 billion?’ ” Schwartz recalls.

Paying a 46% premium for the publicly traded shares, 3G acquired the chain for $4 billion, ­including debt. Schwartz then raised his hand to help run it. “I wanted to be part of this. And I didn’t want to just sit in an office and get monthly reports.”

At 29, Schwartz became BK’s chief financial ­officer. He sold the corporate jet. He told employees to use Skype to make free international calls. And to get a feel for the whole business, he worked shifts off and on at Miami Burger Kings, cleaning toilets, cooking burgers and manning the drive-thru.

In 2012, 3G took Burger King public again, and Schwartz got the chief executive slot in June 2013. In the next 18 months, Burger King stock doubled, while McDonald’s lost 8%.

Focused as he was on selling hamburgers, he hadn’t left behind his deal-making instincts. ­Rechristened Restaurant Brands, his company ­acquired Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons in 2014. In 2017 it spent $1.8 billion in cash to get the Popeyes chicken chain.

Warren Buffett is a fan, having put up $3 billion in equity to help finance the Hortons deal. So is Bill Ackman, whose Pershing Square hedge fund owns 5% of the stock; 3G owns 41%.

The second-largest shareholder: the employees, with more than 5% of stock. Thanks to a match for those who invest their bonuses in RBI shares, nearly all 300 middle managers (average age: 37) own shares; at least 100 have become millionaires. Schwartz is sitting on about $100 million in stock and options.

“I’m comforted as an owner when all of the key employees own a lot of stock,” Ackman says. “It makes them much less focused on short-term things. They’re much more focused on ‘Will this make the business more valuable in five years, ten years?’ ”

Recently, Schwartz was moved up to ­executive chairman, and longtime ­Bur­ger King exec Jose Cil, 49, became CEO. “We take bets on people,” Cil says. “When they are ambitious and willing to work harder than anybody because they’re driven by something beyond a paycheck, they want to do something big.”

Schwartz lives in Florida with his wife and three kids. He has been working out of RBI offices in Miami and Toronto, but now he’s going to be spending more time at the 3G office in New York, with assignments that range beyond the restaurant chains. “I’m not gonna be CEO at another company,” he says. “But we aspire to do more, and over time we can buy another business down the road.”

Or perhaps repair some of the ­businesses that 3G already owns. Could someone who has engineered a turnaround at Burger King work some magic on old ketchup and cheese brands? His diplomatic answer: “Maybe you could ask me that question in six months, when I ­hopefully get a little bit closer to the business of Kraft Heinz.”

3G’s business is as much about building as buying and selling. Schwartz says: “Most traditional investment firms, if they were in our shoes, probably would have sold [RBI] many years ago. Not only did we not sell, we bought more brands along the way. We are building this into a big company with a long-term mindset.”

Follow Chloe on Twitter and Instagram.

I cover all things food and drink as a staff writer at Forbes, from billionaires and ag tech startups to CPG entrepreneurs and wine. I head up the 30 Under 30 Food an

Source: Whopper Of A Turnaround: At Burger King, The 3G Capital Model Actually Worked

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