Tag Archives: Want
[unable to retrieve full-text content]Rule #1 for employers: Be transparent.
It’s not a plan really, not a hidden secret message. It’s more of an expression of emotion. Maybe a realization of necessity.
In fact, while the text Amazon posted on its blog on February 14 runs 363 words, the most important part of this crucial passage is just four words long. But those four words speak volumes.
It starts with a dig at “state and local politicians” in New York, and a statement about how many New Yorkers supposedly supported the deal. Then, we get to the crucial part:
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion–we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture–and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents.
There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
Those four crucial words? “We love New York.”
They’re not included by accident. In fact, I’ll bet this statement probably went through more writing, editing and rewriting than anything in Amazon’s history.
But the passage is crucial. It’s a recognition that even in a post-HQ2 world Amazon, still depends big time on New York. That’s why I think the company is at pains to reassure everyone that it isn’t going to try to just reopen the HQ2 search and do this elsewhere.
The brutal truth is: New York City is special.
I know people don’t like to admit this. I know that there are many trying to make political points, attacking union leaders and politicians who they say are to blame for Amazon running away.
But there is no other place truly like New York City, and Amazon isn’t really going to run — not completely. It’s not just chest-thumping; it comes down at least partly to sheer numbers. Here are three of them:
- By far, New York is the largest city in America, with 8.6 million people–almost as big as the second, third, and fourth largest cities combined.
- By far, it’s the largest metropolitan area: more than 20 million people. If it were its own state, it would be about as big as Florida — but much more densely packed.
- By far, it has the largest GDP of any metro area, at at $ 1.7 trillion. That’s nearly 9 percent of the entire country.
Was it ever possible that Amazon would direct a personal insult at the largest and most important market in the country, by jilting it for say, Nashville?
No offense to Nashville, the so-called runner-up. It’s a really great city too, but numbers don’t lie: it’s tiny compared to New York.
Remember, they just proved it at Amazon, too.
After staging a 14-month beauty contest, playing off more than 200 cities against each other, and keeping the terms secret so that none of them could know what they needed to do in order to win, the result was almost comically predictable:
Amazing n couldn’t do better than New York and an area right outside Washington, D.C.
You know what I think’s going to happen now? Amazon is going to redistribute those 25,000 jobs around a lot of different places. (Remember, it was only planning to create 700 jobs this year, and wouldn’t hit the full number until 2028 at least.)
Now, New York will still get the largest share, only without having to give an average of $ 120,000 per job in tax breaks to get them.
And, it will make up the rest and still more–because Amazon just did the legwork for every other company in America.
Especially if the state and city can come up with anything even approaching a small percentage of the deal they were willing to give Amazon, and offer it to a wide array of smaller employers, think things look pretty rosy.
No matter your size, and as long as you don’t try to squeeze completely one-sided terms out of the deal, if you want to attract amazing workers and expand in one of the greatest cities in the world, Amazon just proved where you should go.
Amazon loves New York. And a lot of other people do too.
Perhaps you’ve been thinking that 2019 is the year that you’ll finally do it: You’ll take control of your destiny and do what’s required so that you can work from home.
Of course, it’s not as if most people who work for someone else can just flick a switch and suddenly have the right to work from home. They have to negotiate with their employers, make their case, and act.
But, if you’ve been on the fence about doing it, one U.S. state might have just the impetus you need to make the jump: $ 10,000 for up to 1,000 people who can show that they work from home for an out-of-state company.
I wrote about this when the Vermont government first approved the program, but now it’s finally here: One of the requirements is that you have to move to Vermont after January 1, 2019, since the government didn’t want to pay people who were already going to live there and work from home anyway.
But that day is finally here today (assuming you’re reading this on the day it was published): New Year’s Day, 2019).
Beyond that, the restrictions seem pretty easy to comply with, assuming you truly and legitimately are working remotely from an out of state company. You have to:
- be a full-time employee of a business “with its domicile or primary place of business” outside Vermont
- perform “the majority of…employment duties remotely from a home office or a co-working space located in the state”
- demonstrate qualifying expenses
In theory, the payment is supposed to reimburse you for the cost of moving to the Green Mountain State (you’ll have to learn that nickname if you’re going to live there). And note that you can actually work from a co-working space, not only out of your house.
That last point seems like a good idea if you’re going to move to a new state; many of us meet people through work, but you’d otherwise literally be working alone and from home. It turns out there are at least 19 co-working spaces in Vermont, spread around a state of only 625,000 people.
That last number — the population of only 625,000 — mostly explains why the state is doing this to begin with.
That, combined with the fact that the population is aging, and that the tax base is dwindling. (There’s a similar program now for people who want to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma, by the way).
So what can you expect if you move to Vermont? In short: a relatively exercise-conscious, healthy living state with a high intelligence and a quaint New England standoffishness, apparently. Over the past year we’ve seen that it’s:
Oh, and it’s cold in the winter–but beautiful almost all year round.
If you’re thinking about it, I’d recommend visiting now or in February, so you’ll see if you’re really the kind of person who can thrive in that climate.
Then check out the fine print — including being aware of just how many people wind up qualifying — and get ready to apply.
This week’s New Yorker magazine has The Back Page by Roz Chast and it’s a cartoon called The Big Book of Parent-Child Fights. The Table of Contents has 12 entries starting with Food Arguments and ending with Miscellaneous Battles. It left me in stitches–I have two teens at home. It also made me love the way it takes a complex idea, the relation between parents and their children, and makes it super simple to understand.
Most organizations and leaders don’t know why they need designers. To put it into perspective, think about when you need a lawyer. Or when you need a plumber. Easy, right? The answer is not as easy or intuitive with design.
If you know why you need design, you can double your growth. You can build trust with your customers. You can get better at navigating the world of uncertainty with agility. I call this having a high Design Quotient (DQ).
If you don’t know when to call a designer, or how to have design embedded into your company culture, you fall behind. You follow versus lead, others eat you for lunch.
With inspiration from Chast, here is The Big Book of When to Call a Designer. If you answer Yes (Y) to any of the points, it’s time to talk to a designer.
1. You want to increase your revenues radically, and faster. Y/N
“Top-quartile MDI scorers increased their revenues and total returns to shareholders (TRS) substantially faster than their industry counterparts did over a five-year period–32 percentage points higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points higher TRS growth for the period as a whole.” The Business Value of Design, Mc Kinsey
2. You need to lower your risks but want to increase your rate of innovation. Y/N
The design process inherently reduces risk–its multiple ideas, iteration, rapid prototyping, testing, and reiteration means you can fail fast and at a low cost until you have a winning idea.
“Prototype ideas from low fidelity to high fidelity with increasing evidence that your ideas are going to work.” Alex Osterwalder, author, Business Model Canvas
3. You want to build your customers’ trust and be close to them. Y/N
Organizations that use design tools regularly, such as co-creation and user-journey maps, develop empathy for their users. This leads to a better understanding of their needs, leading to better solutions, and eventually and most importantly, leading to trust.
4. Your C-suite doesn’t include a design function. Y/N
Most organizations do not have a design function in their C-suite. Yet design can bring user experience-centered, multi-functional vision building and decision making at the highest levels. Having someone at the top who does this helps to embed it internally and creates long-term returns as noted in point #1.
5. Your organization is siloed, and it gets in the way of effective collaboration. Y/N
Design is collaborative. Designers are generalists. Often what they don’t know, and want to learn, that makes them great at bringing cross-functional teams together. In fact, their superpower is synthesizing diverse knowledge and input into a coherent vision.
6. Your research generates insights that everyone has. Y/N
If you want innovation, you need innovative research tools. Designers constantly invent new qualitative and quantitative research tools–researching other industries, studying outliers, using AI and machine-learning to generate permutations–that bring new insights to old problems.
7. You listen to the customer’s voice, but do not imagine the customer experience. Y/N
Channeling Henry Ford for a moment, the customer’s voice gives you a faster horse. Customer experience, on the other hand, gives you a Model T. Design brings physical, digital, and service together to define experiences that improve our lives.
8. You have dichotomies, but do not know how to resolve them. Y/N
“Less is more” is my favorite dichotomy. Good design at an affordable price is Target’s. Simple and high performance is Apple’s. Each is a strong design organization with an embedded design culture, and each creates long-term, high value through the resolution of dichotomies.
There’s no one easy answer to when to call a designer; there are many good reasons. But can you afford not to? The answer to that is simple and best said by, Ralph Caplan, author, and National Design Mind Awardee:
“Thinking about design is hard, but not thinking about it can be disastrous.”
We saw separately how Delta Air Lines customer service agents came up with an idea that shaves a couple of minutes off turnaround time for the airline’s jets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
I was curious whether other lines did the same or similar thing, so I reached out to all of the Big Four. Southwest and United replied, while Delta also responded with a couple of other ideas worthy of attention.
Turnaround time is a big deal. The FAA reported in 2010 that flight delays cost the U.S. economy roughly $ 32.9 billion a year. Andit’s one of the key metrics on which airlines judge themeselves.
Here are some of the other things big airlines are doing to turn airplanes around more quickly.
45 degree pushback
This is the original idea that Delta customer service agents came up with. We’ll summarize it here: Instead of pushing an airplane straight back from the gate, then turning it 90 degrees and pushing it again, the idea is to push straight back at a 45 degree angle.
This simple change shaves about a minute or more off turnaround time, which really adds up over 1,000 or more flights a day. Delta does it at Atlanta and Detroit. And, United tells me they do a 45-degree pushback at some airports as well, “depending on a variety of factors including aircraft type and setup of gate.”
The Quick Turn Playbook
This one is all United. The airline has what it calls a “Quick Turn Playbook,” which is a proprietary document that it says outlines “how all departments work together to help reduce the amount of time it takes to service and turn an aircraft.”
“The playbook was developed with the help and input of United frontline employees,” a United spokesperson told me. “We continue to go back to employees to solicit feedback on how it can be continuously improved.”
Maybe it’s working: United ranked #1 among competitors during the Q2 of 2018 for on-time departures.
Yes, this one is limited to only one big airline–Southwest–and they were quick to point it out when I asked about turnaround tactics. Letting passengers take any open seat “saves us valuable time and keeps our aircraft moving efficiently,” as a spokesperson put it.
It’s hard to understand why other airlines don’t copy this–perhaps not on entire plans, but maybe by letting economy passengers board in order of how expensive their fares are?
Self-parking guidance systems
Both Delta and United told me they use laser-guided parking systems at some airports and gates.
Instead of an employee standing on the ground and guiding the plane in with a couple of orange flags or lights, the laser system lets the pilot know how to inch the plane up to the gate, and when to stop. That means the employees can get ready to hook airplanes up to ground power and do other tasks more quickly.
Not charging for checked bags
Again, this is just Southwest, which doesn’t charge bag fees for any passengers. That’s in contrast to economy class passengers on United, American and Delta.
As a result, on any given Southwest flight there are likely fewer people carrying bags onto the plane and trying to put them in an overhead compartment to avoid a bag fee. That means less blocking of the aisles, and a faster process.
The one they’re not doing
I found a few other interesting tactics. Ryanair, the low cost European carrier, says it cut turnaround time “dramatically” by removing seat back pockets, which means there’s no place for passengers to stick trash that has to be cleaned out.
But the interesting one is a more complicated boarding dance called the Steffen Method, after the astrophysicist who came up with it in 2014. In summary, passengers would board from the outside in: window, then middle, and then aisle. And they’d board from the back, skipping every other row.
One drawback: Travelers flying together couldn’t board together if they were really strict about the process. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t really caught on.
Entrepreneurs who feel lucky report higher levels of motivation and wellbeing, both essential for sustaining performance during tough times. So how do you cultivate your own daily luck? Here are three things to do every day,
1. Choose A Lucky Attitude.
Luck is about flexibility of mind and a willingness to experiment and trust your gut. Take advantage of chance occurrences, break the weekly routine, and once in a while have the courage to let go. The world is full of opportunity if you’re prepared to embrace it. Steve Jobs emphasized the importance of trusting your gut when he delivered his now infamous commencement address at Stanford University: “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
2. Be Ready.
Luck is as much about what you expect as what you do. Do you wait for success to happen, or do you get out there and make it happen? In his book The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, England, describes why lucky people tend to share traits that make them luckier than others. This includes the impact of chance opportunities, lucky breaks, and being in the right place at the right time. He says: “My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” On the flipside he says: “Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune.”
3. Own Your Success.
At times, you might privately think you can’t go on. You must persist. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, says it best: “I failed, many times in my life. One failure that I always remember was when 36 publishers rejected my second book. Many years later, I watched Huff Post come alive to mixed reviews, including some very negative ones, like the reviewer who called the site ‘the equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar, and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. But my mother used to tell me, failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.”
Dear Future, I’m Ready.
Luck isn’t just chance but an alchemy of courage, focus and a willingness to experiment. It’s about declaring to the world ‘dear future, I’m ready’.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc faced new calls for regulation from within U.S. Congress and was hit with questions about personal data safeguards on Saturday after reports a political consultant gained inappropriate access to 50 million users’ data starting in 2014.
Facebook disclosed the issue in a blog post on Friday, hours before media reports that conservative-leaning Cambridge Analytica, a data company known for its work on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was given access to the data and may not have deleted it.
The scrutiny presented a new threat to Facebook’s reputation, which was already under attack over Russians’ alleged use of Facebook tools to sway American voters before and after the 2016 U.S. elections.
“It’s clear these platforms can’t police themselves,” Democratic U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar tweeted.
“They say ‘trust us.’ Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before Senate Judiciary,” she added, referring to Facebook’s CEO and a committee she sits on.
Facebook said the root of the problem was that researchers and Cambridge Analytica lied to it and abused its policies, but critics on Saturday threw blame at Facebook as well, demanding answers on behalf of users and calling for new regulation.
Facebook insisted the data was misused but not stolen, because users gave permission, sparking a debate about what constitutes a hack that must be disclosed to customers.
“The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook’s data practices, and the picture is not pretty,” said Frank Pasquale, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.
Pasquale said Facebook’s response that data had not technically been stolen seemed to obfuscate the central issue that data was apparently used in a way contrary to the expectations of users.
“It amazes me that they are trying to make this about nomenclature. I guess that’s all they have left,” he said.
Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner said the episode bolstered the need for new regulations about internet advertising, describing the industry as the “Wild West.”
“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said.
With Republicans controlling the Senate’s majority, though, it was not clear if Klobuchar and Warner would prevail.
The New York Times and London’s Observer reported on Saturday that private information from more than 50 million Facebook users improperly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, and the information has not been deleted despite Facebook’s demands beginning in 2015.
Some 270,000 people allowed use of their data by a researcher, who scraped the data of all their friends as well, a move allowed by Facebook until 2015. The researcher sold the data to Cambridge, which was against Facebook rules, the newspapers said.
Cambridge Analytica worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. A Trump campaign official said, though, that it used Republican data sources, not Cambridge Analytica, for its voter information.
Facebook, in a series of written statements beginning late on Friday, said its policies had been broken by Cambridge Analytica and researchers and that it was exploring legal action.
Cambridge Analytica in turn said it had deleted all the data and that the company supplying it had been responsible for obtaining it.
Andrew Bosworth, a Facebook vice president, hinted the company could make more changes to demonstrate it values privacy. “We must do better and will,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that “our business depends on it at every level.”
Facebook said it asked for the data to be deleted in 2015 and then relied on written certifications by those involved that they had complied.
Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., said Facebook was relying on the good will of decent people rather than preparing for intentional misuse.
Moreover, she found it puzzling that Facebook knew about the abuse in 2015 but did not disclose it until Friday. “That’s a long time,” she said.
Britain’s data protection authority and the Massachusetts attorney general on Saturday said they were launching investigations into the use of Facebook data.
“It is important that the public are fully aware of how information is used and shared in modern political campaigns and the potential impact on their privacy,” UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said she wants to understand how the data was used, what policies if any were violated and what the legal implications are.
Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Peter Henderson and Chris Reese
Over the past couple of days, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) surprised investors with a number of developments. Between increasing its stake in Apple (AAPL) by 23.3%, dumping nearly all of its shares in International Business Machines (IBM), and buying $ 358 million worth of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (TEVA), there’s a lot to discuss, but as an investor heavily involved in the energy space, what drew me most was Warren Buffett’s decision to part ways with a sizable stake in Phillips 66 (PSX). With shares having risen and Buffett reducing his company’s ownership in the refinery and energy wholesaler by nearly half, investors might think that now is the time to bail on Phillips, but the picture isn’t quite that simple. Despite Buffett’s move away from the firm, there could still be attractive upside for investors over the long haul.
A look at the deal
Berkshire first reported a large stake in Phillips, from what I could trace back, to September of 2014 when the firm stated in a Form SC 13G that it owned 57.98 million shares, or roughly 10.8% of the business’ outstanding stock. In February of 2016, Berkshire increased its stake in the firm by 3.51 million shares, representing 11.5% of Phillips’ outstanding units, and in February of 2017 it announced the addition of a further 19.20 million shares. This brought Berkshire’s total ownership in Phillips to 80.69 million shares, or about 15.5% of the shares outstanding at the time. Due to corporate decisions within Phillips that led to a reduction in share count, Berkshire’s stake eventually rose to 16.1%.
*Taken from Phillips 66
Over the past several years, the management team at Phillips has done well to allocate its capital toward growth endeavors. As you can see in the image above, the firm, between 2013 and 2017, spent approximately $ 16 billion toward capital expenditures. It should be noted that some of this was not from Phillips itself, but instead from Phillips 66 Partners (PSXP). In 2018, the company expects consolidated capex to be around $ 2.3 billion, up from last year’s $ 1.8 billion. Now, in the image below, you can see how cumulative distributions have changed over time.
*Taken from Phillips 66
During the same few years ending in 2017, management spent $ 16.4 billion toward distributions to shareholders (which includes buybacks mostly, but also dividends). This means that just over half of spending was put toward its distributions. In the three years ending in 2017, though, we saw a bit of a change. While the longer timeframe looked at involved a similar reinvestment into the business as what was paid out in the form of distributions, the past three years have seen a 60/40 split in favor of reinvestment.
The end result has been positive for shareholders. As Phillips saw its distribution grow from $ 1.33 per share to $ 2.73 per share during this timeframe, shares have soared. Since Berkshire reported its 10.8% stake in the firm in 2015, shares of the business have skyrocketed 30.2%. Most of this growth, accounting for appreciation for units of 21.1%, has come in just over the past 12 months as energy markets have rebounded and as the stock market has jumped.
Likely to realize some of this value, Berkshire was able to strike a deal with Phillips wherein Phillips could make a single, large transaction in order to reduce share count. The end result was the agreement that, in exchange for 35 million shares, priced at a modest premium from February 15th’s closing price, Berkshire would receive a cash payment of $ 3.3 billion. This translates into a per-share purchase price on the stock of $ 93.725.
Following this move, Berkshire will still own an impressive 45.7 million shares, valued at approximately $ 4.24 billion. Given the number of Phillips shares currently outstanding, 501.5 million, and the retirement of the 35 million units the firm is acquiring, Berkshire’s ownership in the business will shrink to 9.8%.
This is not a sign to sell
It’s legitimate to believe that Buffett has partially cashed out to benefit from the upside experienced in Phillips’ shares over the past few years. However, this doesn’t mean that owning a stake in the business is now a bad idea. If anything, now might be an attractive time to consider buying into the business. To illustrate why, all I need to do is point you to the chart below.
*Created by Author. Note: $ are in Millions
As you can see, net income and operating cash flow generated by Phillips has done well in recent years. Yes, due to fluctuations in various parts of its business, such as margins tied to the 3:2:1 crack spread, the business’ profits and cash flows have been volatile. However, in the five years starting with 2013 and ending in 2017, cumulative net income for the firm totaled $ 19.38 billion, and operating cash flow totaled $ 21.88 billion. Due in part to increased borrowings in order to fuel growth, the firm’s book value of equity (including Phillips 66 Partners) has expanded 22.5% from $ 22.39 billion to $ 27.43 billion as well.
Using 2017’s figures, shares in Phillips look quite attractive compared to the broader market. Assuming that shares remain unchanged in price following the completion of the stock purchase from Berkshire, 2017’s operating cash flow of $ 3.65 billion places a price/operating cash flow multiple on the business of 11.9 on it. Using the five-year average operating cash flow, the multiple stands slightly lower at 11.2. If, instead, we use 2017’s net income of $ 5.11 billion, the multiple on the business is 8.5, or 9.9 using the five-year average earnings. At these levels, I wouldn’t call Phillips a deep value play by any measure, but it’s certainly low enough to draw my attention.
Buffett seems to understand the business’ potential, probably better than anybody on this planet. In a statement regarding the transaction, he said the following: “Phillips 66 is a great company with a diversified downstream portfolio and a strong management team. This transaction was solely motivated by our desire to eliminate the regulatory requirements that come with ownership levels above 10 percent. We remain one of Phillips 66’s largest shareholders and plan to continue to hold the stock for the long term.”
This doesn’t mean, though, that owning shares in Phillips will be smooth sailing. As you can see in the image below, there are a lot of moving parts that can affect the profitability of the business in any given year. In particular, even a $ 1 change per barrel in gasoline margins would affect income by $ 260 million for 2018, while an identical change in distillate margins would impact results by $ 230 million. Seeing the volatility experienced in energy markets since 2014, it’s impossible to know what kind of profits and cash flow will be generated by the firm this year, let alone over the long run. However, with a strong, solid asset base, and a history of attractive performance, results should even out over any long period of time.
*Taken from Phillips 66
Warren Buffett’s decision to divest of nearly half of Berkshire’s stake in Phillips is not unreasonable. Given the huge run-up in share price, combined with the reduced regulatory burden Berkshire will have to deal with, it’s okay to take some cash off the table. What matters is that Berkshire continues to own a sizable chunk of Phillips and, absent a deterioration in the business, intends to keep it that way. With how affordable shares are, this could also be an attractive time for investors who don’t currently own any of the business to consider a stake as well.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
GitHub has revamped its pricing plans to reflect rising interest from big businesses in storing their core code on the cloud, a shift that CEO Chris Wanstrath says was impossible five years ago.