Monthly Archives: July 2012

Business Travelers Survey: The Upsides of Travel

Market research company TNS recently conducted a survey of business travelers for Marriott’s Fairfield Inn & Suites.

“We know very little about the emotional state of frequent business travelers and were surprised how positive travel was for their lives,” said Fairfield Inn & Suites VP Shruti Buckley.

According to USA Today, the top findings from the survey include:

  • Experiencing new places- followed by meeting new people and dining- are the most enjoyable aspects of business travel, most business travels said.
  • Nearly half find the most enjoyable aspect of business travel is earning miles or points in airline, hotel and car-rental programs. Not going into the office was most enjoyable for 36%.
  • A majority of business travelers- 88%- feel ‘a positive emotion’ when preparing for a business trip. Half feel confident, and 48% feel knowledgeable as they prepare.

Companies and Consumers Grow Nervous as Economies Stagnate

CEOs across the globe are concerned with Europe’s deteriorating state.

Andrew N. Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, said: “The new reality is that this world is not in a normal growth mode. And it does now appear that we will see this for at least 12 to 24 months.”

Wall Street analysts, investors and other finance experts have taken scores of phone calls and comments from CEOs across the board- all of which stating that Europe is ‘making them nervous’.

“The steady drumbeat of negative news emanating out of Europe is certainly having an impact,” said Richard D. Fain of Royal Caribbean.

Daimler AG CEO Dieter Zietsche also expressed concern, referring to “economic clouds in the sky, which are floating especially over Europe.”

Major companies have discussed the situation and its impact on their business. McDonald’s, for example, saw a 4% drop in the second quarter. Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen explained that the fact that economies have remained weak for this long is especially disheartening.

“People are staying at home. And the magnitude of the issues in Europe is having ripple effects around the world.”

The United Parcel Service, commonly known as UPS, added to McDonald’s statement, saying:

“Economies around the world are showing signs of weakening and our customers are increasingly nervous.”

UPS, however, showed their determination and a more upbeat outlook:

“I wouldn’t say we’re pessimistic about the future. We’re just a lot more uncertain about how much the economy will grow,” said Chairman and CEO Scott Davis.

Other companies are even more optimistic despite the recessions.

“Our strong position on world markets will help us exceed the development of the overall market despite the challenging environment,” said Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen.

Focus on Companies: BrightSource Energy, Inc.

How Solar Power Works at BrightSource

BrightSource Energy is an alternative energy company and a leader in harnessing the energy from the sun and using it to meet the world’s energy needs in a clean and renewable way. They are striving to take responsibility for the safety and healty of their employees and customers; uphold the highest standards of integrity; insure excellence; protect the environment and create a more sustainable energy source; and they are working hard to create an integrated global team of professionals with the same goals.

Joel M. Woolward is the president and CEO of BrightSource. He has over twenty years of experience in the energy technology sector from the perspective of executive, entrepreneur and invetor.

In April of 2012 BrightSource, together with partners NRG Energy, Google, and Bechtel announced that they were the recipients of the 2012 Energy Project of the year Award for their work on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert. The USC CMAA Green Symposium sponsored the award for the project, which is at the moment the world’s largest concentrating soar power (CSP) plant under construction. When it is completed the plant will double the US output of solar power.

On June 28 of 2012 BrightSource named a new senior vice president, Mathew Brett, to head International Development.

“Mathew’s deep understanding of international energy development and project finance will help BrightSource capture the growing global demand for cost-effective and reliable clean power,” said John Woolard. “We’re extremely happy to be adding Mathew to our leadership team and look forward to growing our global business as we deploy our solar thermal technology solutions around the world.”

Top Schools for an Executive M.B.A. Programs ranks and reviews business schools across the United States.

According to a 2012 poll, the schools with the best Executive M.B.A. programs include:

  1. University of Pennsylvania
  2. University of Chicago
  3. Northwestern University
  4. Duke University
  5. Columbia University
  6. University of California- Los Angeles
  7. New York University
  8. University of Michigan- Ann Arbor
  9. University of California- Berkley
  10. University of Southern California
  11. University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
  12. University of Virginia

New Housing Starts Slowing as Inventory Declines

Construction Lagging Behind Demand

In what was a surprise to economists hoping that at least the housing market was getting out of the doldrums, new housing starts plummeted in June from what was a two-year high the previous month.

The market for new homes fell by 8.4 percent to an annual rate of 350,000, the lowest since this past January, according to the a report issued by the Commerce Department in Washington.

“A dearth of construction has led to a very significant inventory shortage,” said Carl Riccadonna, a senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “If you want to buy a newly built home, good luck finding one.”

Supply could not meet demand in June as record-low mortgage rates and dependable home prices pushed buyers into the new-home marketplace. One indication that the new-housing market is on the verge of advancing is the projected growth of equipment suppliers such as Caterpillar Inc, manufacturer and supplier of heavy building equipment such as excavators, scrapers and bulldozers. Today Caterpillar raised its full-year earnings forecast based on the belief that construction companies will need to replace old equipment as the new-housing industry begins its upward move.

Company Focus: The Yocaipa Companies

The Yucaipa Companies, LLC was founded in 1986 by Ronald Burkle, a self-made billionaire who started his career as a bag boy at a local grocery store. Based in Los Angeles, the holding company focuses primarily on private equity investments. Yucaipa first turned over Jurgensen’s Markets in 1986, and has since established a record of numerous successful supermarket and grocery chain leveraged buyout investments.

Some of Yucaipa’s most recent acquisitions include Wild Oats Market in Colorado, Minnesota’s Supervalu, and New Jersey-based Pathmark Stores.

According to the company’s website, “The Yucaipa Companies is a premier investment firm that has established a record of fostering economic value through the growth and responsible development of companies.

As an investor, Yucaipa works with management to strategically reposition businesses and implement operational improvements, resulting in value creation for investors.”

In addition to Yucaipa Companies, Ron Burkle has established several other organizations.  The Ronald W. Burkle Foundation, for example, is a non-profit working to “support programs that strengthen international understanding, foster workers’ rights, empower underserved communities, nurture the arts and architecture, engage children in learning and advance scientific research.”


Apple Disappoints Investors as Stock Falls Short of Expectations

Tim Cook of Apple Inc

The manufacturer of iPhones and Mac computers, Apple Inc dismayed Wall Street investors on Tuesday when shares in the exceedingly stable and world’s leading technology company fell over 5 percent of their value, the second quarterly fall in under one year.

The disheartening results show that even the usually rock-solid Apple brand is becoming vulnerable to the inevitable product cycles and economic pressures that its rivals have always been subjected to.

Tim Cook, who has been in charge at Apple for almost a year, cited two reasons for the poor stock market performance. Consumers in Western Europe are holding back their spending as they ride out the storm of uncertainty in their economies; and a lagging of demand as consumers wait it out until the much anticipated new iPhone is released this coming fall.

"Clearly it was a disappointment," said Channing Smith, Co-Manager of Capital Advisors Growth Fund. "We expected a lot of consumers will probably delay their upgrade and their purchases until the iPhone 5 comes out. We saw a similar trend occur last year with the iPhone 4S."

Stock Markets Spiral Downward as Spain’s Crisis Worsens

Spain’s gaping economic crisis has pushed stock markets down this week triggering a fresh wave of doubt concerning the Eurozone’s progress and recovery.

The Washington Post explains that Spain’s unemployment rate, currently higher than that of the U.S. during the Great Depression, has contributed to the economy’s downfall.

“Spain announced that its economy shrank by 0.4% in the second quarter of 2012 and that it would remain in recession until 2013. The country’s borrowing costs soared to all-time euro-era highs as uncertainty about the finances of its banks and regional governments gripped investors,” the paper explained.

It continues, “The new bout of doubt about Europe’s financial stability sent investors fleeing to the safety of U.S. Treasuries and German government bonds, driving already low rates even lower. In Germany, the yield on two-year government bonds was slightly negative for the 12th consecutive day, meaning people were effectively paying the German government to keep their money safe for that period.”

Experts agree that European leaders may be able to stave off major crises for a short while, but that a new intervention by the European Central Bank is inevitable. The fate of the Eurozone, they say, is a political issue, and not just a financial one.

Spain’s struggles are likely to have a much greater impact than Greece’s; Greece’s economy is the size of Maryland’s, while Spain’s is the 12th largest in the world, according to the Washington Post.

Women in Tech: Marissa Mayer

The tech world is progressively becoming one of the most important sectors in today’s business world. Though there is no obvious reason, women have been relatively slow about breaking into the market.

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, recently spoke up about being a (fashion-loving, six-months-pregnant) woman in the tech industry.

“There’s all kinds of different women who do this,” she said. “You can wear ruffles; you can be a jock, and you can still be a great computer scientist, or a great technologist, or a great product designer.”

Last year, Mayer inspired women across the globe with her advice:

“Find something you’re passionate about and just love. Passion is really gender-neutralizing.”


Focus on Companies: Patagonia- Where Less is More

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard says, “Every time we’ve made a decision to do the right thing it ended up being good business.”

In 2011 Patagonia posted $500 million in sales. The Ventura, California-based outdoor apparel company has grown close to 30% for the past two years running while simultaneously setting the highest possible standards for sustainability.

Here are some of the practices Patagonia has instituted to make it one of the most successful and innovative companies around:

•    Common Threads Initiative: About 24,000 individuals have taken a pledge to actually buy less, and when they do buy, to make their purchases of used goods. Patagonia has teamed up with eBay to make it as easy as possible for people to adhere to this pledge, and then buy and sell their gear from each other. So far their customers have resold Patagonia items for about $500,000.

“Smart consumption is built around resource conservation,” says Rick Ridgeway, VP of environmental initiatives.

•    Sustainable Apparel Coalition: Patagonia organized thirty global apparel companies, including Walmart and Nike, to join together and set sustainability best practices.

•    Music Collective: Artists can donate unreleased tracks of their music with the net profits given to the artist’s favorite environmental charities.

•    Provisions: Organized to focus on sustainable fishing, Patagonia will inaugurate an organic wild-salmon jerky this coming year.