- Friday, 10 January 2014 08:10
Later this year, Google will celebrate its 10th anniversary as a publicly-traded company. And the conventional wisdom is that GOOG has been one of the best performing investments of the last decade. If you had invested $85 in the Google IPO back in 2004, your investment would be worth over $1,100 today... a 13x return. Over the same period, the S&P 500 has returned just 66%. And if you had taken the plunge into US Treasuries back in 2004, you would have been paid 4.15% per annum for the last ten years.
In light of all this, Google's stock performance has been undoubtedly stellar. But there's an entirely different asset class that few people ever consider which has beaten the pants off of Google's long-term performance. It's agriculture. I thought about this yesterday as I was walking around the orchard here picking fresh, ripe plums off the tree. We'll be starting our harvest soon, and the workers are getting everything ready.
The average plum tree can easily produce over 100 pounds of fruit, starting a few years after you put a well-developed seedling in the ground. And even on a standard-sized residential lot, you can plant 20+ fruit trees. Assuming a long-term average price of just $0.50 per pound and a 2004 plant price of $4, investing $85 in plum trees 10-years ago instead of Google stock would have yielded well over $6,000 so far. Even if you're not a do-it-yourselfer and allow for harvest costs, loss, pruning, water, and other expenses, you'd still be up more than GOOG. Plus you'd still be grossing $1,000 per year... not to mention the increase in your home's market value. More importantly, you would be owning (and producing) REAL assets instead of paper assets-- something that can be traded, sold, stored, or if need be, eaten.
It's not just plums, either. Or even fruit trees for that matter. You could have bought $85 worth of organic tomato seeds in 2004 and grown thousands of dollars’ worth of organic tomatoes over the last decade from your backyard. Of course, this sort of notion makes most serious investors laugh. They can't think past their own noses and only know how to follow the investment herd off the proverbial cliff.
And while this missive isn't intended to convince astute readers to rush out and plant trees, it's at least worth pointing out that there are always profitable options far from the mainstream investment mentality. (Reprinted from the newsletter “Sovereign Man”)
DEFINING THE MARKET
Bull Market: a random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
Bear Market: a 6 to 24 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry and the husband gets no sex.
Bull: what your broker uses to explain why your mutual funds tanked during the last quarter.
- Friday, 03 January 2014 08:09
Quote of the Week: "Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.” - Marilyn vos Savant
Is the convenience of today’s modern technology of texts and e-mails offset by glaring misunderstandings that compromise business effectiveness? Important findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Study (sponsored by Cisco Corp.) conclude:
• In-person communications matter to business leaders, with 75 percent indicating in-person collaboration as critical to business success, affecting business outcomes more than other forms of communication. Although results indicate that this trend spreads across the globe, slightly stronger responses from Europe (77 percent) and the Asian Pacific region (78 percent) may reflect regional experience and cultural differences in regard to business practices.
• Today, businesses are increasingly exposed by limited in-person communication options within organizations as well across their suppliers and customers. More than 60 percent of communications today do not occur in real time.
• Misunderstandings resulting from the lack of in-person communication on major projects and strategic initiatives present business risk—88 percent of business leaders indicate business exposure and resources significantly affect business outcomes.
• Successful in-person communications are characterized by fully engaged interaction—with 54 percent of business leaders indicating the most important communication factor to be discerning the level of engagement and focus through a combination of visual and audio cues.
• There is a strong desire to increase in-person collaboration, and survey results show the potential to increase productivity and business outcomes by more than 20 percent across critical business.
The importance of effective communication aligned to business goals cannot be overstated. Factors and motivations for increased in-person communication include more efficient problem solving and conflict resolution, creating and expanding relationships, and comprehension of new opportunities. While electronic communication can be handy for situations like appointment confirmations, in-depth understanding of more complex issues and proposals, and the multiple communication cues (eye contact, voice tone, facial expressions, body language) afforded by face to face meetings will ultimately prove more productive, and more human.
E-MAIL DISTORTION HUMOR
From CEO to Manager: “Today there will be a total eclipse of the sun…time will be allowed for employees to view it in the parking lot. Staff must meet in the lot at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse. Safety goggles will be available at a small cost.”
From Manager to Department Head: “Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car park. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will appear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The CEO will make a short speech beforehand to give us all some information. This is not something that can be seen every day.”
From Department Head to Floor Manager: “The CEO today will deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the form of an eclipse. This is something that cannot be seen every day, so staff will meet in the car park at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.”
From Floor Manager to Supervisor: “Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car park, where the CEO will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn’t happen every day. It will be safe, and as usual this will cost you.”
From Supervisor to Staff: “Some staff will go to the car park today to see the CEO disappear. It is a pity this doesn’t happen every day.”
- Friday, 20 December 2013 15:08
Recently there was a post on Linked-In about the concept of employee loyalty and whether the notion is outdated or not. Given the shift towards fewer full-time positions in companies and a growing market of time-defined contract employment, the expectation of company loyalty seems unrealistic and outdated. Still, there is much to be said for efforts toward employee retention in many large companies. Keeping reliable, creative workers engaged, trained, and appreciated makes for a more productive work environment and saves the employer money spent to hire and train new staff. On the other hand, there is a fine balance to be struck.
It’s not always prudent to have a company primarily filled with life time employees. This goes for both employees and employers. We’ve seen it happen with star players on sports teams, where a change of scenery reinvigorates them. Sometimes people need to move on from a company. And, like a championship team that includes a diverse blend of cagey veterans and young, talented energetic players, the workforce benefits from this complimentary mix. This kind of diversity can drive innovation which stokes productivity.
Loyalty based on current realities takes on a different context. Becoming less relevant is the traditional definition, which was driven by a sense of life-time security. Layoffs, downsizings, off-shoring, and mergers have shattered this psychological contract.
“Old school” ways are gradually being replaced with a more balanced, mutually beneficial relationship. Some employers still expect blind loyalty and consider it an affront when employees hedge their occupational bets by continually exploring other opportunities in the job market.
The best employers understand the new paradigm and work hard to connect with employees, not around a nebulous notion of corporate loyalty, but around meaningful work, flexible terms, professional and personal growth opportunities, and consistent expression of appreciation. These are what compose a value proposition for an employee. An employee who is fortunate enough to work for a value-minded employer may still take their skills elsewhere, but are more likely to stay, when their services are valued.
Should employee loyalty be laid to rest? Never! Although the concept itself is changing, loyalty will be attained by companies who understand and fill the needs of their staff consistently.
- Thursday, 26 December 2013 16:57
This blog topic proved to be a popular one, provoking much response to the inbox. Here are some of the comments:
“When it is obvious that all employees are expendable, it is hard to understand why or how any company can expect true loyalty.” – S.C.
“I tend to agree with you Terry. Employee engagement, investment in training, and focus on retention are all ways to boost productivity...and ultimately, that is what boosts the bottom line for many companies. Ironically, when that's the end game getting all the attention, employees know it and have less loyalty.” – D.P.
“It is essential to make companies 'right-sized' (not over-hire or discount attrition) and invest in employee engagement, retention, and training. We don't need to keep employees that are a liability for the company...and we shouldn’t cut company banquets for our diligent work force just to save a few bucks (it tends to create more resentment and lower productivity).” - F.M.
“I am quite confident in saying employee loyalty has come to a point from where it can only improve. Need convincing? Then look at the dilemma every union is facing." – A.W.
“We’ve seen a steady decline in loyalty since the industrial age. Given increased individualism and globalization, people now must reorient their attitude towards the workplace. In other words, with many more options like home-based locales and shorter term contractual work, both worker and company have to establish a new kind of relationship.” – J.B.
“There are still companies who prioritize their employees in difficult economic times. This results in much more motivated employees. The problem seems to be the focus only on the next quarter and an absence of long range thinking.” – B.V.
“I don’t believe that employee loyalty is dead. I think human beings by nature are loyal, that people take pride in having loyalty to family, friends, colleagues, and to an organization, if they are treated with respect and sufficient remuneration.” – S.F.
“In this new paradigm, we’re all ‘temps’. In today’s competitive global economy, organizations cannot realistically assure a permanent job. I think it is a reality that we must accept, and we must adapt ourselves to it.” – T.W.
“Nowadays, the question of employee loyalty has changed to ‘how do I move forward in my career’? The mindset is to be loyal to one's profession, expertise, and goals, not the company. Nothing else really is more important to them. If their employer provides enough opportunity to achieve those objectives, it works. The minute someone comes along to offer better opportunities, they move along.” – H.T.
“The internet has revolutionized workplace mobility, making it easy to job search and research what other companies have to offer. Most companies provide the same basic benefits, but the ones that attract and retain workers are the ones who have ‘add-ons’ such as work from home alternatives, bonus plans, flexible work hours, etc. Companies are changing with the times, and so are the people they hire. In general, the seeming lack of loyalty may have more to do with incentives offered by other companies than building tenure at their current job.” – L.J.
This will certainly continue to be a hotly debated topic…stay attuned to The Replenisher for future trends in the realm of employee loyalty.
- Saturday, 14 December 2013 00:55
A few weeks ago in The Replenisher I reported a recent study of how organic virgin coconut oil prevents unwanted short-term symptoms of neuro-degenerative disease states such as Alzheimer’s. The myriad benefits of this versatile oil do not stop with a brain tune-up. In fact, when you read the list below, and taste this deliciously natural flavor enhancer, you will want to include it or even replace other oils in your kitchen pantry, not to mention your medicine cabinet. Coconut oil is making its claim to fame for good reason.
The tropical-based oil was initially given bad publicity, as it was equated with unhealthy saturated fats in products such as margarine and shortening. But the saturated fats in coconut oil come from medium chain triglycerides. These shorter fat chains are easily put to use by the body and are not simply stored away as fat. This means that coconut oil boosts energy levels, raises good cholesterol, and balances out blood sugar without the weight gain, cholesterol, and other health risks that come from other saturated fats.
I must emphasize that it is organic virgin coconut oil I speak of, not the commercially-processed refined oil found in most supermarkets. High heat is used to deodorize refined coconut oil to remove its distinctive odor and flavor. Sodium hydroxide is often added to prolong its shelf life. To obtain the most oil, some brands use chemical solvents to extract as much oil as possible from the meat. They may partially hydrogenate the oil, too, which means it will contain trans-fats.
The healthy all-purpose organic virgin coconut oil is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, and antiviral. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins and minerals. These immune boosting properties make it the perfect oil to use in a million ways. Here are 50 of my favorites, courtesy of sunwarrior.com:
Cooking – Coconut oil doesn’t form harmful by-products when heated like most other oils and animal fats. Use it to replace butter, cup for cup in recipes. Sauté, cook, bake, broil, braise, and more using coconut oil as a healthier alternative.
Fitness – Coconut oil boosts energy, increases metabolism, improves thyroid function, and aids healthy weight loss. It is the perfect addition to any workout or fitness regimen.
Curb Appetite – Take a spoonful before meals to curb appetite so you don’t overeat.
Moisturizer – Coconut oil is an excellent way to soften and hydrate dry, rough, or damaged skin.
Face Scrub – Mix coconut oil with baking soda, sugar, or cinnamon and oatmeal for the perfect face scrub and exfoliator.
Wrinkles – Rub into lines, creases, and wrinkles to rehydrate skin and soften those wrinkles away.
Lip Balm – Coconut oil hydrates and protects lips. Coconut even offers some protection from the sun, about an SPF 4.
Cold Sore – Coconut oil has antiviral properties that will help the body get rid of the virus that causes cold sores. Rub it on when needed and add a drop of oregano oil to speed healing.
Sore Throat – Dissolve a spoonful in your mouth and let it slowly roll down the throat. This will coat and protect the throat, boost the health of mucus membranes, and fight any infection.
Lubricant – Coconut makes an all-natural personal lubricant for intimate moments without chemicals.
Massage Oil – Coconut oil soothes tired and sore muscles. Add a few drops of essential oils for more effect.
Dandruff – Massage coconut oil into the scalp to ease symptoms of dandruff, both itching and flaking.
Yeast Infections – Coconut oil fights these fungal infections internally and externally.
Athletes Foot – The powerful antifungal properties of coconut oil make it perfect for any fungal infection. Add a few drops of oregano or tea tree oil for more antifungal power.
Acne – Coconut oil gently fights the bacteria that cause acne. Dab it directly on the offending pimples and watch them shrink.
Cleanser – Coconut oil makes an effective and gentle cleanser to remove the grime of the day.
Lice – Coconut oil kills and removes this pesky problem.
Stretch Marks – Prevent and soften stretch marks from pregnancy with coconut oil for soft and supple skin.
Warts and Moles – Rub oil into area and cover with a bandage. Rub in fresh oil and place a new bandage each day.
Ring Worm – Rub oil onto affected area to kill the fungus that causes unsightly ringworm. Add tea tree oil to clear the infection even faster.
Gum Removal – Coconut oil gets the sticky stuff out of hair, carpet, and anywhere else it doesn’t belong.
Pet Health – Coconut oil can do a multitude of things for pets, both topically and internally. It improves breath, makes for a shiny coat, eases joint problems, cleans ears, gets rid of fleas, and much more.
Styes/Pink Eye – Rub a small amount of coconut oil on the sty or around the eyes to get rid of these painful and annoying infections quickly.
Earaches – Earaches, swimmer’s ear, and ear infections clear up fast with a few drops of coconut oil mixed with garlic oil.
Cradle Cap – Coconut oil is gentle and safe for infants and helps ease the itching, pain, redness, and flaking associated with cradle cap.
Diaper Rash – Coconut oil can help heal mild diaper rash gently and effectively.
Bruises – Rub coconut oil into bruised skin to speed healing and watch the bruises fade fast.
Age Spots – Coconut oil has beneficial effects on any skin blemish. Use it to help fade age spots with powerful antioxidants.
Shaving Cream – Coconut oil keeps the razor gliding smoothly while leaving skin smooth and soft.
After Shave – Don’t want unpleasant bumps and rashes after shaving? Coconut oil soothes sensitive skin and promotes healing.
Toothpaste – Mix 1 part coconut oil with 1 part baking soda and add a couple drops of peppermint oil. This makes a refreshing, natural toothpaste that whitens and cleans without added preservatives, fluoride, sweeteners, or other chemicals.
Chicken Pox – Ease the itch and encourage healing with dabs of coconut oil. It also works on poison ivy, poison oak, mosquito bites, and other insect stings or bites.
Makeup Remover – Coconut oil removes oil-based makeup easily, like mascara. It cleans, hydrates, and makes skin glow.
Conditioner – Coconut oil conditions, strengthens, and repairs hair. Massage it in and rinse it out after ten minutes. A small amount can be rubbed in to dry hair to tame frizz.
Polish Furniture – Coconut oil gives a protective shine to wood furniture. Just make sure you test it out on a small area to make sure you like the outcome.
Energy – Coconut oil and its medium chain triglycerides make it an excellent energy source to improve stamina, endurance, or just to give you a boost through the day.
Deodorant – Mix coconut oil with cornstarch, baking soda, and your favorite essential oils for a natural deodorant that smells fantastic.
Eye Cream – Reduce puffiness and dark circles with a few dabs of coconut oil.
Eczema – Coconut oil reduces the itchiness, pain, flakiness, and dryness of eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
Sunburn – Coconut oil can help prevent sunburn for short exposures. When you burn, it will also speed healing and take some of the sting away. Make sure you wait until all the heat has dissipated before applying it or you trap the heat in. Wait 24 to 72 hours depending on the extent of the burn.
Hemorrhoids – Coconut oil eases the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids and encourages natural healing both internally and externally.
Nose Bleeds – Rub a bit of coconut oil in nostrils to fight the dry cracking that can lead to nose bleeds and pain.
Canker Sores – Dab coconut oil on canker sores to kill infection and speed up healing. Coconut oil is also a far tastier way to treat canker sores than most other methods.
Toothaches – Coconut oil eases the pain and strengthens teeth. You can mix it with a drop of clove oil to almost instantly relieve pain.
Acid Reflux – Take a small spoonful with meals to keep acid reflux and heartburn at bay.
Urinary Tract – Treat urinary tract infections with a spoonful of coconut oil. It may even ease the painful passing of kidney stones.
Nursing – Coconut oil works great to repair dry, cracked skin, including sore nipples from nursing.
Alzheimer’s – Some research points to coconut oil as a way to slow the progression of or prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Bones – Coconut oil aids the body in the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Both minerals are important for strong bones and teeth.
Epilepsy – Coconut oil may reduce the incidence and intensity of epileptic seizures.
Uses for this miraculous oil seem endless. Make it an integral part of your health and well-being!