Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Step into a casual conversation with someone about the economy, and it’s not uncommon to hear someone say “Everything is made in China”. Looking on the bottom of half the items you purchase at the store (even grocery stores are selling items from China) you’ll discover a “Made in China” sticker or engraving on the product. It would seem that “Everything is made in China” is an observation of the truth. Yet it isn’t.

I’ll digress for a moment… My company does a great deal of manufacturing in China. So, after developing a new product, we didn’t consider anywhere else but China for our manufacturing. The idea of Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, or any other country wasn’t on our mind at all. We have established relationships with factories and suppliers in China. We have agents in China that perform our quality control. It’s just the natural choice.

Delay after delay after delay soon had me thinking that something wasn’t quite right with our choice of factory, so I set out to do some research into the materials we needed. During the process, I found that the United States had a massive manufacturing industry. In fact, US manufacturing as of 2009 is still larger than China by $200 billion! To top it off, the apparel industry (which is what our new product is) was the largest manufacturing industry in the United States! My mind was ablaze with opportunity…

At the center of the US apparel manufacturing industry? Los Angeles (and New York). I found countless pointers to the California Market Center. Fashion shows, trade shows, manufacturing resources, suppliers… Everything was right here in Los Angeles, and my timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The LA Textile Show was just a week away!

Fast forward to the Textile show and mountains or research, phone calls, Internet searches later… I found the suppliers of the materials I need for our new items but what about the finisher? Fortunately, I found Fashion Business, Inc, a non-profit resource for the fashion industry in the United States. They had a couple of seminars they were doing during the LA Textile show that were right up the alley of what I was looking for, and the material suppliers at the show were very helpful as well.

The materials (of which I could choose American, Italian, and any other sources) were at the ready. There was no 30 day wait like I had with my China factory, and the materials were genuine leather as opposed to the bonded leather product we were being sold as genuine leather in China (a costly endeavor I’ll save for another blog). Finding a finishing company that was still in business was going to be hard to come by, but I was feeling quite positive about manufacturing a product in the United States! Especially one made with all US materials!

I made an appointment with a belt finishing company in Los Angeles (one of less than a handful left from an industry that used to be filled with competition). As soon as I walked into the LA location and showed them the belt… “We can’t make that type of belt. We don’t have the ability to make feathered edge belts in the United States.” Uh oh… But I wasn’t going to stop until I had checked every single belt finisher off my list!

Finisher after finisher had the same story. We don’t have the ability to do that here. I had a very memorable conversation with a finisher in New York:

Jared: I have a leather belt I’d like to make here in the United States

NY: Why?

Jared: I want to manufacture a belt in the United States, use US materials and US labor. Put people to work here. There are half a dozen more reasons I can give you.

NY: Well, it’s going to cost you a lot more than China.

Jared: I know. I’ll worry about that with my pricing, and I have a very unique product so it’s a bit different from the run of the mill belt. However, I have to tell you that I have a unique men’s belt, and I want a feathered edge.

NY: Feathered edge? We can’t do that. Nobody in America can do that. Good luck (click)

I’ll admit that I was a bit disheartened by the weeks of searching for a finishing company only to be told that my particular want is not possible by half a dozen of the dwindling field of belt factories in the United States. I even went about changing the product to a more casual design that would not require the feathered edge. I really wanted a US made belt!

I’ll admit that I’m pretty happy that all this happened. I developed a new casual version of our product that is amazing, and I did eventually find the perfect finishing company that can make both the beveled edge and feathered edge belts. They are even providing a great wealth of knowledge and resources for future designs, leathers, and other materials that will help expand the belt line.

US manufacturing is not dead. It’s struggling and merely a shadow of itself. However, when I consider the continued rising costs of raw materials on an international level, the skyrocketing costs of fuel and freight charges for products manufactured in China, and the constant problems we had in particular around this belt… Made in USA is the clear direction and entirely possible! The quality of the product is better. The turn around time is much faster. The ability to launch new styles and materials is much easier. There are a myriad of benefits from “onshoring” the production of this new product!

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It seems like everyone and their mother received money from the Federal Reserve in 2008. My dogs didn’t get any from The Fed, but my cat certainly did! The dogs aren’t too happy about it.

All joking aside, the lending to Verizon, Harley-Davidson, and countless foreign banks really helped prevent a “financial meltdown” and “Some have recorded healthy profits for taxpayers”… Oh wait! I said all joking aside. First, I don’t see how returns to The Fed benefit taxpayers in any way. Second, I don’t see how getting paid back money with interest when the USD has been devalued so significantly over the last two years is actually making a profit.

If I lend someone $10 and they pay me back $12 in two years but $12 is really only worth the equivalent to $9.60, I really didn’t make a profit. That’s what The Fed did on the scale of $9 trillion.

The logic of all this “stimulus” and “bailout” is flawed. The idea is that companies, banks, etc are “too big to fail”. The biggest problem with this logic is that a company reorganizing its debt is not a failure. Sometimes this happens. I’m not talking about completely cooked books like Enron and companies like that. Bankruptcy protection allows a company to sit down with the folks it owes money to and say that instead of going through expensive collections processes and incurring massive attorney fees for our 3 year loan, we’ll pay it back in 5 years instead. That’s just one overly simplified example, but pretty much how it works.

There is no company that is “too big to fail”. Unless there is egregious cooking of the books, the company can always be salvaged and work out deals with its creditors to solve the financial issues. The Fed just printed money and handed it out to people. So what if the money was paid back! The value of the USD has decreased so rapidly over the last 2 years that the money paid back is worth far less in terms of tangible value than it was when it was lent out.

The result of the $9 trillion money printing job is this stalled out economy. Rather than forcing businessmen to grow come cojones and take responsibility for their businesses, Bernanke dished out trillions because he read in a textbook that the idea would work. I’m sure in his mind it has worked because the alternative was a “financial meltdown” (which is patently false). I’m sure Congress and Obama won’t do anything about his reckless action.

My friend Jim brings up an excellent point about the redistribution of wealth and communism in his reply to my post about Flat Tax being communism. First, I’ll cover his question of why governments levy taxes. Then I’ll get back onto the topic of the flat tax and communism.

Jim is suggesting that income tax is communism but property tax is possibly justifiable if the purpose of government is the protect and to serve. There are a few problems with this, the most important being that the federal government should have absolutely nothing to do with property taxes. Second, the majority of Americans (and this hold true for most of the world) don’t own real property. Now, perhaps Jim is saying that you should pay taxes on all property you own so that you are paying your fair burden of the police and fire services in your area. Again, does this then mean that people who do not own a house are not deserving of police protection? They may be productive members of society that generate income, purchase cars, gasoline, clothing, rent an apartment from a property owner. They too are deserving of protection under the law.

Now, let’s get back to the purpose of government. There are several levels of government, but the purpose of all governments (at least in America) is the protection of life, liberty, and property. Jim is probably thinking to himself that I just proved his point about the property tax. However, life and liberty still come before property. The protection of these three equalities of all Americans takes place in several different ways via several different government agencies: Military, Police, Fire Departments, Department of Homeland Security, Commerce Department, Transportation Authority, FDA, EPA, FBI, CIA, etc.

All American’s are deserving of the services of all of the above, and all Americans should pay into those services. Now, there may be programs that an individual doesn’t support, but I’m not going to tackle that topic in this blog. Instead, I’m going to ask the next logical questions: Who stands to lose the most if our country in invaded, attacked, or bombed? Who stands to lose the most if there is a fire, earthquake, or other natural disaster? Who stands to lose the most if there is a severe disruption in the availability of natural resources, energy, or foreign services and labor? Not the guy making minimum wage, and not the guy paying 15% taxes (unless you implement a flat tax – communism).

The people who stand to lose the most in any of the above events are the business owners, investors, and wealthy Americans who utilize a great deal more of the protective and political power of or governments. Those who make more money stand to lose more money if something disastrous happens in this country. Therefore, they should pay a greater portion of the taxes. Some (like Jim) might say that wreaks of communism as it is a clear redistribution of wealth. Well, while there are certain programs that do redistribute wealth, most of them do not. Also, one need only look at history to know that a growing and increasingly upset lower-class is the demise of any ruling party.

Take any of the above departments and you will find a disproportionate amount of services being provided to those with greater wealth and income. Sure, there is some money redistributed to lower-income citizens, but again… History.

So this brings us back to the flat tax, which is ultimately the greatest form and supporter of capitalism. Yes, you read that right. A progressive taxation system is capitalism at its finest. How many of our Founding Fathers were in what we’d call the lower class? Was Washington? I think not. Jefferson? HA! Hamilton? Perhaps the closest. Franklin? You’ve got to be kidding me!

How many patent, copyright, and trademark lawsuits are there for the little guy? Barely any, but the giants are in the courtroom all the time. The wealthy utilize our legal system far more than the poor. The law, our government is supported and swayed by the wealthy far more than the the poor. Our governments have been created for the protection of all, but those who are wealthy have far more at stake and are easily responsible for a greater tax burden. In fact, it would be foolish to think otherwise because it would put at risk so much of what business owners and investors have works so hard to gain.

Tuesday evening rolls around, and it’s time for an international meeting. We’re talking Internet marketing for an international jewelry business. Doesn’t get more exciting than that! There were about 10 action items that came out of the meeting. I got nine of them! Making it all happen on time is going to take some serious skills. Good thing I’m an Action Hero 😀

Before I get started on my rant about Magento, I need to make it clear that I LOVE open source software and I absolutely LOVE this particular open source ecommerce platform. I think that Magento has tremendous promise and is an excellent choice for a company’s ecommerce platform. Now that I’m done with my praise, I’ll get to my rant…

Honestly, they have to be kidding! I know that the whole point of open source is to get the programmers work where they get paid. Hey, WordPress is open source. It’s not like these guys are independently wealthy and just make cool software out of the kindness of their hearts. However, Magento is far from an enterprise level platform. Even with the additional features, Magento is not at that level. Case and point… They can’t even process sales tax correctly.

The latest release of Magento (1.3.1.1) didn’t fix a bug that was created when they released 1.3.1. This bug is a rather serious bug that makes Magento practically useless for ecommerce. Since ecommerce is what this platform is supposed to be used for, Magento 1.3.1 and beyond are worthless until they fix this bug. The bug is that no matter how you setup your tax groups, there is no way to enter an order into the Admin interface that doesn’t get charged taxes if you have a tax setup for that postal code.

Now, a careful ecommerce guy will read that last sentence and find another flaw with Magento. Yes, Magento does their taxes based upon zip codes. There is no state in America that allows you to base your taxes on a postal code. Postal codes are setup by the US Post Office (which is NOT a government agency). Our local and state governments recognize cities and municipalities ONLY, not zip codes.

In my opinion, Enterprise level software should be able to handle sales taxes properly. Magento doesn’t. There is plenty of work left for the folks over there before they have an Enterprise level application. How about the fix the community edition tax problems before releasing “Enterprise” software.

I have a new idea for a business that is going to make a killing, but I need some investors to get things started. First, we need to hire tens of thousands of people. I’m thinking at least 30,000 people. We’re only going to pay them minimum wage, so we’ll be able to keep costs down. We also need to spend millions of dollars on advertising and make sure we are purchasing materials and services from hundreds of vendors in America.

You might be asking yourself, “What are we going to make?”

That’s the great part! We aren’t going to even make anything! We’ll probably just have each employee purchase a lottery ticket in the states where they are employed. The employees will get to play pool, foosball, air hockey, and basketball while on the job. We’ll have a corporate jet to fly us around. Corporate cars. We’ll have all the amenities necessary to run a large corporation.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “How will I recover my investment?”

By employing so many people and working with so many vendors, us going out of business will cause such a massive “ripple effect” that the federal government will just have to bail us out. We’ll fly to Washington in our private jet and ask them for maybe… I don’t know… Maybe $25 billion. That’s a small price for people to pay for preventing a massive economic meldown, right?

During the holiday of 2006, I posted a verbose blog about how Sharper Image is going down the tubes. My prediction was off by a few months, but reality has finally hit The Sharper Image management. Sharper Image Bankruptcy is now reality.

I had to update this blog as news about Sharper Image’s Bankruptcy started hitting the news all over the place:

Multi-Channel Merchant
DIRECT Newsline
CNN Money
CNBC
MSNBC
NY Times
Forbes
Reuters

Of course, it was all over the major news networks yesterday and today as well. So, I decided to a couple of section.

When Analyzing the Sharper Image Bankruptcy, You Might Know You’re Crazy If:

  • You think Sharper Image won’t be sued by it’s investors
  • You think Sharper Image was going to turn things around after firing founder Richard Thalheimer
  • You think Brookstone is going to fill the shoes of Sharper Images

The decline of any giant like Sharper Image is always good news for others. For instance, there will be countless lawyers and collection agents who will have additional work because of this monumental blunder. Richard Thalheimer will have to hire additional employees to handle the added traffic to his RichardSolo.com. Also, it gives the media plenty of work and has kept a lot of stockbrokers busy as of late. There are likely bound to be countless books about Sharper Image coming out. Here are a few title suggestions:

  • Tarnished Image
  • Death of a Gadget Salesman: Why Firing Richard Thalheimer Expedited the Decline of Sharper Image
  • The New Face of Innovation: Bankruptcy
  • The Rise and Fall of the Holy Gadget Empire

After having slept through most of the 2 hour premiere of the new Knight Rider on NBC last night, I was about to say it would have one season of life. That was until I paid closer attention to the sponsors: Ford and Microsoft.

The new K.I.T is a Mustang. Depending upon what happens to sales of the mustang over the next television season, we can expect Knight Rider to be back because Ford will be willing to pay for the show.

Microsoft has considerable interest in NBC (MSNBC). Depending upon how well Ford vehicles with Microsoft’s Sync system sell, you can bet that Microsoft will be willing to help pay to keep the show on their television partner, NBC.

In much more simple terms: Knight Rider is an infomercial for Ford and Microsoft. I’ve tried this before on a much lower budget when I produced a television talk show starring Christine Eads. It is a brilliant idea if sales pan out for Ford and Microsoft.

Is Microsoft on the verge of creating the modern equivalent to Soap Operas? Will we call them Sync Operas? Stay tuned to NBC and Knight Rider to find out!

What would happen if everyone in America watches The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch on CNBC? First, there would be a run on the cable companies because you can only get CNBC on cable. Second, fellow blogger Tony Iovino would take his $600 check he’ll receive from the Federal government in May and actually cash it to invest it into a new invention (and he would start using the vastly superior WordPress blogging system). Third, the US economy would flourish.

Today, Bush signed his stimulus package, creating checks for millions of people in our economy. Lots of people love to complain about the symantics of the deal. Call it welfare. Call it a rebate. Call it what you want, it is our Federal government giving money to people that live in America.

Using some of the people I’ve seen on The Big Idea as an example, what those $600 checks have the potential to do is generate billions (yes, you read that correctly, BILLIONS) of dollars in revenue/income for Americans. How? Well, you should watch The Big Idea. The show has featured scores of people who have started their business for little more (sometimes even less) than $600. These people has created jobs, used resources that support other businesses, and made people a lot of money.

Sure, if everyone who receives a check goes a spends it on a toy at Walmart, it won’t do much for boosting the economy. However, let’s have a little fun with the math here. 130,000,000 Americans are going to receive a check. If even 0.1% of the people who receive checks become Donny Deutsch success stories, we are talking about generating $130,000,000,000 of revenue for the US economy over the next year! That’s correct, just one-tenth of one percent of the people who receive the checks need to become Donny Deutsch success stories for the checks to pay for themselves in just two year. One-tenth of one percent. That is about the same as a run-of-network banner advertisement on ValueClick!

Anyone who says the Bush stimulus package of a $600 tax rebate is not going to stimulate the US Economy hasn’t been watching The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. I’ve seen more millionaires made from $600 or less on that show than I ever thought was possible. The moral of the story: Your wealth is what you make of it.

Every time I watch that show, I’m completely inspired. Regular people making it big because they had a dream that they pursued. My favorite episode was a few days ago. I can’t remember the guy’s name, but there was a venture capitalist on the show who said that the “side job” never becomes the next million dollar idea. Got me thinking about how many “side jobs” I’ve had over the years. None of them took off. Watching the show, I see nearly all of the stories have something in come: they quit their job went after the dream.

What dream is worth dreaming but not pursuing? Time to take the plunge. Grab that $600 tax rebate and do something with it!