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Tag Archives: Risk Management

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A strategic plan dilemma: Organizational infrastructure

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A strategic plan guides the board, communicates value to members and empowers the staff. Most have three to six goals.

The dilemma is whether to include anything about the infrastructure in the plan. Infrastructure is internal, focused on governance and management. It would include technology investment, leadership pipeline, professional staffing, and financial resources.

Without infrastructure, the other goals cannot be advanced.

Quandary

Some boards believe members are only interested in goals that communicate value. “They don’t care that we have a leadership pipeline and money in the bank.”

Other boards believe the community should know about the strengths of the organization. “We were founded 50 years ago; members should know about our structure and leadership as a part of the strategic plan.”

To include or not?

When it is included, it is often the last goal in the plan, purposely. The goals are intended to deliver value to the membership; for instance, professional development, community outreach and governmental relations.

The infrastructure goal might be titled “Organizational Excellence,” “World-Class Organization,” or “Sustainability.”

While the board may not insert structure and resources into the plan, it is important that directors realize their responsibility for oversight. For instance, the need to upgrade technology may necessitate multiyear funding. Creating a pipeline of future leaders will require initiatives.

Parthenon

Most groups include an infrastructure in their retreat discussions. But when communicating the strategic plan to members, they focus on the deliverable, value-added goals, leaving the infrastructure invisible or silent.

Others include it so members know the strengths and structure of a well-established organization.

Another approach is to promote only the goals, also called pillars of the organization. Then, promote the infrastructure distinctly.

Imagine the Greek Parthenon. The pillars represent the goals and priorities. They sit upon a solid base that demonstrates the infrastructure necessary to advance the goals.

“By positioning the organizational infrastructure as the foundation upon which other goals are built, leadership clearly sees and better understands its importance,” said Chris Hart IV, CEO at the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers.

Membership

Another quandary is whether membership is a goal or an outcome.

Associations and chambers rely heavily on recruitment and retention. The board may feel it is important to include a goal titled, “Membership Growth” or “Member Participation.”

However, those reading the strategic plan will judge its relevance and return on investment. Growing the membership may not resonate as ROI.

Position membership as an outcome. If the organization achieves its mission and goals, it will draw members without having to state it in the plan.

For Bob’s new 2021 Board Orientation Workbook, please click here.

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CES 2021: The year of staying home with gadgets

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As CES 2021 rolled out, it was not in Las Vegas. In fact, it was not anywhere in particular this year after more than a half-century of taking over the neon gaming mecca for four days of immersion in a veritable ocean of newfangled stuff and portentous technology. Last year, the event attracted 171,268 attendees and more than 4,000 exhibitors.

This year, the more subdued event brought in some 1,000 exhibitors and maybe 150,000 attendees. It was online-only and navigated through a tornado of tech talks and virtual kiosks. Still, there was news, analysis and plenty to talk about this year as the coronavirus continues to rage and a new administration takes over and changes some key commerce and trade policies.

For starters, retail sales revenue for the technology industry is expected to reach $461 billion in the U.S. this year, marking a 4.3% increase over last year — according to new surveys by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). As millions of Americans remain home and rely on tech to stay entertained, connected and healthy during the pandemic, streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will stand out in the tech sector in 2021.

“The pandemic has pushed the fast-forward button on tech adoption — from our homes to our work to our doctor’s offices,” said Gary Shapiro, CTA’s president and CEO. “While the road to a full economic recovery is long and intertwined with a complex vaccine rollout, the tech industry’s ability to meet the moment during this crisis has been critical. I look forward to seeing the global tech community come together this week to share its vision for a reimagined future.”

Total spending on streaming services and software is projected to reach a record high of $112 billion in 2021 (11 percent growth over 2020). This follows 31% growth in 2020 over 2019.

Video: Exclusive content and cord-cutting are driving multiple subscriptions per household to push spending to $41 billion in 2021, up 15% over last year.

Audio: Music, audio book and podcast listening, with services including Apple Music and Pandora are expected to reach $10 billion in revenue, up 19% over last year.

Gaming: U.S. households are playing video games more than ever before, for entertainment or staying connected socially. CTA projects the video game software and services category will reach $47 billion in revenue this year, up 8% from 2020.

Gaming Consoles: The release of next-gen game consoles from Microsoft and Sony will continue to drive sales, as the supply chain catches up with consumer demand.

Televisions: Households channeled discretionary dollars into upgrading TVs in a record-setting year for shipments in 2020. CTA expects steady demand for displays in 2021 as TVs remain the centerpiece for entertainment in homes. Growth areas for TVs in 2021 include sets over 70-inches (3.3 million units, up 6%) and 8K Ultra High-Definition TVs (1.7 million units, up 300%).

Centered on Connections

Smartphones: Shipments will increase 4% to 161 million units, earning $73 billion in revenue (up 5% over last year), following a year of slight declines. Over 67 million 5G smartphones are expected to ship in 2021 (298% growth over last year for this nascent category) and generate $39 billion in revenue (a 218% jump), as consumer awareness of 5G grows and service is available in more locations across the country.

Laptops: 2020 was a record year for laptops (enterprise and consumer), with more families than ever working and learning from home. CTA expects laptop shipments will remain strong in 2021.

Wireless Audio: For the first time ever in 2020, total wireless headphone and earbud shipments surpassed wired headphones and earbuds. True wireless earbuds, including Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds, are driving growth (up 32%), representing $9.3 billion in revenue.

DIY Smart Home Products: With millions of Americans spending more time at home, safety and convenience upgrades are top of mind, driving DIY smart home products shipments to 99 million units in 2021 (up 9%). Category growth drivers include smart displays, smart doorbells and smart appliances.

On Health Tech

Connected Health: As more people monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms and more manage chronic conditions from home using devices such as smart thermometers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure monitors, shipments of connected health monitoring devices will grow to 14 million devices in 2021 (up 35%) and earn $845 million in revenue (up 34%). The entire health and fitness technology category, including smartwatches and fitness activity trackers, will increase 13% in 2021.

Electric Bikes: Included in CTA’s forecast for the first time, personal mobility options such as electric bikes will see growth as people remain wary of public transportation during the pandemic. In 2021, electric bikes will reach 1.6 million units, up 6%, and $2.6 billion in revenue, up 44%.

“Streaming services, 5G connectivity and digital health devices will push consumer tech forward in the year ahead as innovative technologies prove their resilience during challenging times,” said Rick Kowalski, director of industry analysis and business intelligence for CTA. “The industry’s ability to meet societal needs in a variety of circumstances will bring growth in 2021 as the world emerges from the pandemic.”

However, these forecasts and projections cannot account for unpredictable factors, such as pandemics or changes in trade laws, interest rates and federal policy.

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Who should absorb home office costs?

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If there’s been one bright spot in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the ability of employees to work from home. According to a new report by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, employees love working from home, and 77% of respondents say that even after COVID-19 is over, they would be happier if they could continue working from home.

However, the report also reveals that only 20 to 25% of companies pay or share the cost of home office equipment, furniture, internet, etc. And employees believe that companies should be paying more.

“Before the pandemic, working from home was perceived as a privilege — something a person chose to do; but now they don’t have a choice,” says Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “Understandably, employees don’t feel they should have to go ‘out of pocket’ to cover new costs.”

The report also reveals that many employees are saving money by working at home. “While most are saving somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 a year, that savings doesn’t come in a lump sum they can spend on office furniture or technology.” (These savings are likely in transportation, clothing, and the cost of eating out.)

And there’s another factor that could explain why remote workers want help paying for their work-from-home necessities: the demographics of remote workers have changed. “Before the pandemic, it was mostly the older, more senior, higher-paid employees that were allowed to work from home,” Lister says. “Now, everyone’s doing it and those at the lower end of the wage scale are feeling the pinch.”

Plus, workers aren’t the only people saving money as the result of a remote workforce. Companies are saving money on utilities, security and cleaning personnel, snacks and various paper products (including toilet paper and paper towels) and some renters have even discontinued their leases. “I think people see how much money their employers are likely to save by reducing their real estate costs and some might feel they deserve a share,” Lister says.

Adam Gordon is the co-founder of PTO Genius, an HR tech platform that helps companies increase employee satisfaction and engagement. “Organizations provide employees the right supplies at the office so they can be engaged, happy and productive.” And he says that shouldn’t be any different if employees are forced to work from home. “After all, how can you expect an employee to do their best if they don’t have a functional computer or they’re spending 8 hours in a chair that doesn’t provide back support?”

Gordon points to a survey by Procurify that reveals 32% of professionals said they’d never worked at home prior to COVID-19. Understandably, they wouldn’t already have the tools needed to do so effectively. “Working from your couch or perched uncomfortably at your kitchen table gets old fast,” he says. “You want to ensure employees are both comfortable and productive, so providing employees with necessary tools is critical now more than ever.” Plus, there’s another bonus to helping employees set up a home office. “An organization that contributes to these set up costs sets an example that shows they care for their employees’ well-being.”

And Lister says that employers do feel that they should take responsibility for at least some of the home office costs. “Equipping people with necessary technology was a priority right out of the gate — without it, employees could not function.” But now, so many months into this new work arrangement — especially since there is no definite end in sight, she says they may need to increase their efforts. “Many, if not most, are realizing that an ergonomic chair and desk are important for employee health and productivity,” she says. “Working at the dining room table for eight or more hours a day is an invitation to repetitive stress and muscular skeletal injuries.”

According to research by Namely, 47% of employees say their monitors, laptops, and desks were being subsidized, and 41% felt that companies should also be paying for Wi-Fi. In addition, 11% thought ergonomic support was crucial.

“The issue of home-office reimbursements could become a legal problem if an employer doesn’t follow certain state and federal laws,” Gordon says. “In some states, including Massachusetts, Illinois, California and Montana, employers are legally required to reimburse their employees for certain business-related expenses that they pick up on the job, regardless of wage,” he explains. “Meanwhile, in every state, employers must reimburse minimum-wage workers for job-related expenses.”

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The top 10 biggest data breaches of 2020

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Last year, hackers were as active as never before, taking advantage of users’ vulnerabilities and the economic disruption amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of cyberattacks is growing steadily every year, and 2020 was again a year that saw a great peak in cybercrime. According to the Risk Based Security report, 2,953 breaches were publicly reported in the first three quarters of 2020 alone, bringing the number of exposed records to a staggering 36 billion. In comparison, there were 15.1 billion records breached throughout the entire year of 2019.

The still ongoing pandemic has drastically altered the way people work, shop, communicate, and entertain themselves. Our lives had to move online, making us leave more digital footprint, which has been attracting all types of scammers, fraudsters, and hackers who look for security vulnerabilities to exploit.

Out of the enormous number of data breaches that happened in 2020, NordVPN experts picked the top 10 biggest leaks in terms of the data volume. The list includes leaky databases that were not necessarily breached per se but exposed sensitive data to the public. Some of the data breaches outlined below might have happened some years ago but surfaced only in 2020.

10. Unknown (201 million).

In January, security researchers found a database of more than 200 million sensitive personal records exposed online. The leaky database with an undetermined owner was hosted on a Google Cloud server and consisted of highly sensitive personal and demographic data about U.S. residents and their properties with names, addresses, email addresses, credit ratings, income, net worth, property market value, investment preferences, and other explicit details.

It remains unknown if any unauthorized parties accessed the dataset, which was considered to be a gold mine for cybercriminals. Google was alerted about the case, and, after more than a month, the exposed server was taken offline.

9. Microsoft (250 million).

In January 2020, Microsoft disclosed a data breach on its servers storing customer support analytics. The breach took place in December of 2019. 250 million entries, including email addresses, IP addresses, and support case details were accidentally exposed online without password protection.

The leaky database consisted of five ElasticSearch servers, which are used to simplify search operations. Misconfigured security rules were blamed for the accidental server exposure, which Microsoft swiftly fixed.

8. Wattpad (268 million).

In June 2020, a database of more than 268 million records belonging to Wattpad, a Canada-based website and app for writers to publish new user-generated stories, was breached. The malicious actors compromised Wattpad’s SQL database containing user account credentials, email addresses, IP addresses, and other sensitive data. After the incident, the company reset its users’ passwords.

7. Broadvoice (350 million).

In October 2020, news surfaced that Broadvoice, the U.S. VoIP provider to businesses, exposed more than 350 million customer records, such as names, phone numbers, and call transcripts, including voicemails left with medical outlets and financial services firms.

Ten databases belonging to the company were easily accessible to security researchers due to a configuration error which left them open without any authentication required for access. Broadvoice patched the security flaw and notified the relevant legal authorities about the incident.

6. Estée Lauder (440 million).

In January 2020, the U.S. cosmetics giant Estée Lauder had its unprotected database containing 440 million internal records exposed online. Researchers who found the unencrypted database say the exposed information included email addresses, internal documents, IP addresses, and other information belonging to the company-owned education platform. Once made aware of the issue, the company closed the database off.

5. Sina Weibo (538 million).

In March 2020, it was reported that the biggest Chinese social media platform, Weibo, was breached, and personal details of more than 538 million users were up for sale on the dark web and other places online.

The exact timing of the data breach is unclear, but there’s speculation that it might date back to 2019. The hacker claimed that the sensitive data, including 172 million users’ real names, gender, location, and even phone numbers, was obtained from an SQL database dump.

4. Whisper (900 million).

In March 2020, news broke that a popular secret-sharing app Whisper left 900 million user records exposed online. Anonymous personal confessions and all the metadata related to those posts, including the location coordinates and other sensitive information, were publicly viewable on a non-password-protected database, which, if accessed by hackers, could result in user identification and blackmail. After the company was informed about the incident, access to the data was removed.

3. Keepnet Labs (5 billion).

In March 2020, Keepnet Labs, a U.K.-based cybersecurity firm, experienced a cyber incident during which a contractor temporarily exposed a database containing 5 billion email addresses and passwords from previous data breaches.

According to the threat intelligence company, which collects historic breach data to notify its business customers in case their data was compromised, it was migrating the ElasticSearch database and disabled the firewall for about 10 minutes to speed up the process. The risky decision enabled security researchers to access the data without a password via an unprotected port.

2. Advanced Info Service (8.3 billion).

In May 2020, Advanced Info Service, Thailand’s largest GSM mobile phone operator, had to take down one of its databases following an alleged data breach. A security researcher found an open ElasticSearch database online containing 4 TB of internet usage data, or 8.3 billion records. The sitting-to-be-found information, such as DNS queries and Netflow data, could be used to map a user’s internet activity. The leaky database is secure now.

1. CAM4 (10.88 billion).

In March 2020, researchers found an unprotected ElasticSearch server of the adult video streaming website CAM4, which was leaking 7 TB of data, or nearly 11 billion records. The exposed records included user sensitive information, such as full names, email addresses, sexual orientation, chat and email correspondence transcripts, password hashes, IP addresses, and payment logs. The database error was fixed; however, it remains unknown if any hackers accessed the highly sensitive information of members of the adult site, who usually prefer to stay anonymous.

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8 typography design trends for 2021

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Typography transforms words from mere text to artful communication. So much can be said by the font and type design — from prominent, bold sans-serif fonts to delicate serifs; from traditional, timeless variations to totally new techniques.

Typography’s prominence in modern culture and business was influenced by the Bauhaus art movement. Herbert Bayer was a student of Bauhaus and left a prominent mark on typography by adopting the principles of reductive minimalism.

Another artist, Jan Tschichold wrote “Die Neue Typographie” — The New Typography. The book was published in 1928, and called “a masterpiece of the modern typography and graphic design.” This book helped standardize and modernize communication styles that affected many designers and advertisers.

While the strong roots were laid early in the 20th century, the explosion of digital graphics mediums and designers themselves has allowed for a wide array of amazing ideas and evolution. Some ideas are simply fads, while others are trends that are here to stay. We’ve highlighted what we see as the top typography trends for 2021.

Infographic courtesy The Word Counter

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A strategic quotient for the board

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Quotient is a degree or amount of a specific quality or characteristic. One might say, “during the pandemic our uncertainty quotient has risen.”

The term is often used in describing “emotional quotient.” It is the ability to understand, use and manage one’s emotions in positive ways. This assumes people are aware of their feelings and know how to make best use of them.

Strategic quotient is the ability of directors, or the board as a group, to act strategically. Mindfulness of strategy enables a board to drive significant results.

Strategy or Tactics

Strategies set the path to achieve the organization’s mission and goals. The mission is advanced by setting goals and aligning resources (people and finances).

Tactics are specifics, such as assignments and deadlines. They are smaller steps tasked to committees and staff.

A board that understands strategic quotient is more likely to achieve its mission, advance the goals, and best serve the membership.

Strategic Quotient Graphic

Some directors, or the board itself, have difficulty distinguishing strategy from tactics. You recognize this when you listen to a discussion that seems to be on a roller coaster.

An idea is introduced at a high level. The conversation drops to specifics. “How can we do that?” “Who will make the decisions?” At that point, the chair should urge the discussion to return to a strategic level.

The strategic quotient meter helps directors distinguish between being strategic and tactical. The board wants to stay near the top of the meter.

Examples of a board with high strategic quotient:

  • Knowledge that the board meets to advance the mission and goals.
  • Milestones and successes are recognized and promoted.
  • Mission statement frames nearly every discussion and decision.
  • Strategic plan is always in the board packet or on the board table.
  • Performance measures are set to monitor progress.
  • Resources such as people and finances are aligned with goals.
  • Directors are encouraged to ask, “How does this advance our mission, goals and strategic plan?”

You’ll recognize a tactical board by their discussions and actions.

  • Board gets into management rather than governance.
  • Personal agendas and conflicts of interest exist.
  • Directors arrive unprepared or don’t show up.
  • Committee work is done at board meetings.
  • Directors think the staff work for them.

For Bob’s new 2021 Board Orientation Workbook, please click here.

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Lazy motions and casual votes

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The meeting was gaveled to order. After introductions, motions were made to approve the minutes and accept the financial report.

Next on the agenda were committee reports. Actions needing board approval were presented with rationale, performance metrics and fiscal impact.

When the recommendation had merit, the board chair asked, “Does anybody want to make a motion?”

Lazy Motions

Motions often entail a directive, deadline or have financial consequences. Specificity is key.

Lazy motions occur when directors are not paying close attention. Discussion occurs and the chair “calls the question” or asks the board to vote.

If the motion was not clear at the start, or restated before the vote, you may hear a chorus from the directors, “I’m OK with it, yeah sure, sounds good to me, aye, yes.”

Ask the group about what was passed, and some have no clue. “I voted because the rest of the board liked it,” an example of “group think.” Or, “I thought I heard the motion, but I guess not.”

As far as directors know, it could have been a motion ranging from ordering tacos for lunch to spending $10,000 on computers. Rather than asking that the motion be restated, they feign they know the specifics and simply concur.

Casual Votes

When directors, especially new ones, hear a lazy motion followed by a casual vote, they think it is acceptable governance practices.

The senior directors may have a casual approach at meetings, “yeah, whatever the motion said, I’m sure its fine.”

Newer directors will think that’s how decisions are made. They don’t want to be chastised by asking the chair, “How will we measure success? Does this fit in our strategic plan? Could you restate the motion?”

Fiduciary Duty

Directors are fiduciaries representing the interests of membership. It is difficult to fulfill one’s duty of care without knowing the specifics of the proposal.

The intent of a motion may be changed by omitting a word or two. A director understanding their duties to represent the membership should ask, “Would you restate the motion for clarity?”

Process

Proposing and passing motions is a process.

A member of the board addresses the chair asking for the floor to make a motion. The director states the motion precisely. The motion requires a second by another director or it will die.

The chair repeats the motion exactly as it was stated. Many groups require that it be submitted in writing for accuracy. The motion will be recorded word for word in the minutes.

After sufficient discussion, the chair restates the motion. A vote is taken, and the results announced.

Nobody should vote on something they are not certain of its intent or impact.

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5 services you should use for your interior design business

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Interior design makes homes more comfortable, attractive, and luxurious than in previous ages. The field is heavily driven by creativity and innovation, resulting in functional designs and beautiful spaces.

With the interior design industry booming to greater heights, you might need a helping hand to help you deliver articulate projects. The following are some services you should use for your interior design business.

Restoration and home décor retailers

Your interior design business needs a source of materials for your decorating and design needs. You will need someone to supply materials such as vases, furniture, paintings, wallpapers, flowers, and other fashionable home décor pieces. Consider creating credibility with these retailers to run your business smoothly and get the best pieces of décor.

Part of interior design projects entails general construction, carpentry, painting, plastering, and other handy jobs. Depending on your clients’ needs, you might be required to pull down ancient house structures or fittings and put up new ones. The design may also entail restoring vintage pieces of art and structures.

Vlogging, website development services, and content creation services

In an era where most people are internet and social media users, there’s a huge loophole that could boost your business. As you focus on interior design, you could consider getting a content creator and vlogger to market your business via social media. This should help you attract a wider audience, which means more business for you. Put out your blogs and videos to showcase your work and let your target audience decide.

Do you have a business website that sells your services to interested clients? If not, you need one to integrate technology into your business. If you do, you’ll need to retain your website developer to incorporate upgrades as your interior design venture continues to grow. Your website plays a significant role in showcasing your work, portfolio, and services.

Furniture refurbishing and junkyard services

As you find innovative ways to transform your clients’ spaces, you will be burdened with finding ideal spots to dump the obsolete, worn-out, or damaged items. Your business will appreciate the alliance of a junkyard service that purchases junk furniture and fittings and sells them to people that may need them for their offices and homes. Have a junkyard service provider on your speed dial to keep your products moving.

It’s easy for some clients to get rid of certain pieces of furniture. However, a significant population will want to retain their antique furniture. For this selected portion of clients, you’ll need to work with a furniture refurbishing company to help with repairing the damaged and worn-out sections instead of getting rid of them. You could select a refurbishing company that deals with all house fittings and furniture to make things easier.

Logistics services and moving companies

As an interior designer, you will be tasked with purchasing the necessary items for your clients’ projects. Organization and planning should be the core mission of your business. What better way than to outsource all your logistics services to an interior design receiving warehouse?

Have some peace of mind working on your projects as the company receives your purchases, stores your packages in pristine conditions, ships them to your clients’ destination or your office, and even installs the loads. Delegate some of these duties to make work easier for you and your employees, giving you time to concentrate on your interior design projects.

Whether you are embarking on a kitchen remodeling, bathroom upgrade, or an entire house renovation as part of the interior design project, you might want to have a moving company on your contact list. You don’t want to struggle with limited space when you can request the moving company to transport some of the items to a self-storage before completing the project.

Roofing services

A leaking roof and ugly dark streaks on the ceiling will instantly degrade a home’s or office’s interior look. While determining whether the roof is damaged or not isn’t your business, working together with a reputable roofing company will preserve the integrity of your work. Clearing the roof’s problems before proceeding to redesign the space will save both you and your client the hustle of redoing the project before its expected lifespan is over.

Conclusion

No business is an island. You need partners in the industry to help you provide quality services and make the process smoother. Consider getting into a partnership with some of these businesses discussed above for your company’s long-term success.

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Private jet travel: 2021 to be the year private flying takes off

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2020 was a banner year for private jet travel. And given the unabating proliferation of new virus outbreaks and mutations, it is likely that 2021 will not see those statistics moving backwards. While airlines see passenger counts off by more than half, private flights are running at 90% of normal — or what they were in what is now tabbed as “pre-pandemic times.”

VistaJet in October was reporting a surge of 49%in corporate interest globally since the start of the pandemic, with the U.S. driving that corporate demand and accounting for over 41% of the interest. The company went on to report:

  • Corporates are increasingly flying entire teams to multiple locations around the world to ensure business continuity, according to industry research from Private Jet Card Comparisons showing that 31% of U.S. companies are expanding their use of private aviation for business trips.
  • Business aviation is flying at 86% against 2019 levels;
  • Technology companies are driving corporate bookings, given the industry’s growth and positive outlook for future growth; and
  • A rapid growth in demand for long-haul routes — the percentage of flights over five hours — increased 44% YOY during the first seven months of the COVID outbreak in the U.S. Some 11% of VistaJet flights at that time were at least eight hours long, with popular international destination pairs running between the U.K. and France, the U.S. and China, and the U.K. and Italy.

And while not all private jet options are international, indeed many are short hops between two points. The idea of flying privately is taking off in markets not previously considered viable for these services and in ways that make this form of transport accessible and even sensible as costs, advantages, benefits, safety and convenience are rolled into smart and effective purchasing packages.

A New Type of Private Flyer

“We are seeing record interest from those completely new to travel by private jet. Recent statistics released by McKinsey show that over 90% of people who can afford to fly privately do not, so we believe private air travel is well positioned for a continued rebound and growth,” Megan Wolf, COO of Cleveland-based Flexjet, told Barron’s recently.

“Our primary demographic remains the ultra-high-net-worth individuals from all walks of life. They are trying to avoid crowds to reduce their potential exposure to the coronavirus on top of all the other benefits to flying private, like time savings and the ability to reach more airports directly. During past economic downturns and adverse world events, spending on private aviation by individuals and businesses was usually one of the first expenses cut and the last to resume. Because of the inherent safety afforded by private aviation in a Covid-19 world, this time around has been different.”

Whether it is about upgrading from a commercial airline seat in business or first, or chartering a four- to 12-passenger aircraft for a company meeting, private aviation companies are hearing from a host of new sectors seeking safer travels.

“Those who normally travel in first class commercially are elevating their experience with personal well-being in mind, especially for older clients who have more health concerns. Half of our calls are from new customers,” said Richard Thompson, president of Air Charter Service’s Americas division, also speaking to Barron’s, noting his company saw a 75% increase (year-on-year) in inquiries during May and June 2020 alone.

The United States is, by far, the largest market in the world for private aviation companies, with some 21,900 business aircraft (defined as aircraft designed for transporting small groups of business people for commercial reasons at a time convenient to their needs) in inventory in 2019. By contrast, there were 4,159 business aircraft in all of Europe.

Making sense of what is a newfangled form of flying for many is an art and a science, and one that veteran media executive and journalist Doug Gollan has been studying for years, now as a contributor to Forbes and editor-in-chief and founder of Private Jet Card Comparisons, a site that provides consumers an unbiased and comprehensive view of private aviation trends and drills down in comparing private travel options.

The Jet Card Approach

“Jet card” is a rising term heard in business travel circles referring to membership options and privileges offered by private jet companies to attract and keep travelers by managing cost-effective pricing and perks for their memberships or subscriptions. They may run from fixed hourly rates to mileage-based pricing to frequent travel discounts — easily dozens and dozens of variables to consider when choosing private jet companies for joining or partnering.

Cost is one consideration, but not the only consideration when looking into flying privately. Overall, however, cost will be the first line of entry — or the bar into this rarefied club. A per hour glimpse of cost offered by one US charter service produced these at-a-glance tiers with rates per craft, not per seat:

  • Light jet (4 to 6 passengers): $4,000 to $5,500
  • Medium jet (6 to 9 passengers): $5,500 to $9,500
  • Heavy jet (16 to 19 passengers): $11,000 to $20,000

Booking by the seat, however, is what many travelers are required to do and on a small commuter plane it can be a simpler, easier, more convenient option than booking an upgraded seat on a commercial flight — and can cost as little as $100 for short hops and close to $2,000 for a three-hour flight. Plus, commercial airlines these days may not service the points travelers want to fly.

“Companies that are doing well but haven’t been spending on airline tickets and hotel rooms are increasingly looking towards private aviation for critical trips,” said Gollan. “In many cases, teams can take care of business, returning the same day. They also avoid connections at airline hubs and longer travel times because of reduced schedules. I’m definitely hearing now from subscribers who will be using private aviation for business trips for the first time.”

For travelers who have set routes or continuing travel requirements that are not satisfied through Zoom calls, buying a jet card is the way to go. A jet card is a low-commitment way to engage private jet travel and may require little in the way of prepayment to get onboard.

“Cards are typically sold increments of dollars or hours, for example, 25 hours or $150,000, although we have seen deposit amount range from $15,000 to $1,000,000. Pay-as-you-go programs entail paying a joining fee, and then paying on a trip-by-trip basis,” said Gollan. Some cards are sold directly by the aviation companies or operators, others by brokers who match flyers with appropriate flight options. Some operate locally or regionally, others domestically and others offer international routes to private flyers.

Gollan notes that some companies operate flights with turboprops to very light jets and others offer long-range, large-cabin jets such as the Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream G650. But because there are so many companies, operators and variables to consider in this tier of aviation, the growing demand has also required services that parse though the options and differences and give travelers a transparent look at what is available to them.

“Because every flyer is different with different needs, different destinations, different budgets, different space needs and varying flexibility requirements, we help travelers move through all that. Some companies may roll in taxes and fees into quoted rates while others charge additionally for these. There are daily minimum charges, peak day surcharges, long-flight discounts, refund policies, pet policies, fuel surcharges … this is a serious financial purchase and by no means a cookie cutter product or service. The devil is in the details, and that’s here we help buyers sort through the options,” said Gollan.

In an unprecedented trend, some private jet companies, such as Jet Linx and Private Jetaway, package private flights with private villas — especially in Mexico. Mexico has remained the No. 1 destination for private jets leaving the U.S.

“Private aviation flights have less than 20 touchpoints, meaning less interaction with people you don’t know. When you buy a jet card or charter an entire aircraft and even for shared flights, you are not navigating through massive, crowded airports. Private aviation is the best way to travel,” added Gollan. “For those who can’t stay home and wait out the virus, or for those who simply want to go and go now, flying privately is clearly the option of this precarious time.”

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Why you should think about moving your business to a new city and how to do it

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Last year was not easy on anyone, and businesses have been hit especially hard. The pandemic has forced many business owners to look at ways to adapt, both in the short-term and for years to come. One way that some businesses have adapted is by considering new locations for their businesses, whether it means a move across town, across the state, or even across the country.

There are many reasons businesses should consider moving their businesses, because location could be the difference between success and failure. Taking a look at your financial situation, employees, customers and potential customers, and quality of life in your current location (and any location you are considering) will help you decide on whether you should move your business.

Finances

Moving a business’s location can affect finances in several ways, including cost of living and average wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage in the United States (as of 2019) is $19.14. There are many states, especially those with large cities, that have a higher median hourly wage than the national average, like New York ($22.44), California ($21.24), and Washington ($23.15). In many states, the median is much lower, like in Idaho ($17), Alabama ($16.73), Mississippi ($15), Arkansas ($15.84), and South Dakota ($16.71).

Being close to a larger metropolitan area can mean an increase in expenses and wage costs for many businesses. But it can also bring in an increase in your business rates (what you can charge your clients and customers). It is worth noting that expensive cities like New York and San Francisco are seeing people leave — between January and June 2020, 80% more people moved out than moved into those cities.

Also consider whether you are looking to apply for a loan when you arrive, because different states may have different rules on when and how to apply. Because the costs of moving a business can be extensive, applying for a loan may be an important consideration for the move. If you cannot get approved for a loan, there are many things you can do, but it should always be a consideration before moving.

According to Fiscal Tiger, you should first determine why you were declined and then take the actions to fix those issues, including taking some time and actions to help repair your credit, increasing your income, getting a second opinion (from another lender), asking for a lower amount, or putting up property or assets as collateral. Another thing to consider is your current real estate — if you have a current lease, make sure the lease is up or you will be able to get out of it.

Other ways finances may affect your decision to move include business tax credits, where you may be eligible to receive credits for real estate owned, number of employees, and many others. Different states have different rules for business tax credits, and many companies will choose a state based purely on their rates.

And don’t forget the cost of the move itself — which includes moving yourself and your family, any employees you are bringing with you, your equipment and office supplies, and expenses associated with opening a brand-new location in a brand-new city. Hiring movers, hiring employees, finding real estate to lease or buy, and doing initial marketing will cost you, but are necessary to set up correctly in a new location.

Before you decide on a move, research your full financial picture to see if it makes sense. Your accountant or financial advisor may also be able to help you decide the pros and cons of a move, so reaching out to them can help you decide a black-and-white way.

Employees

Although finances may be the first concern when considering moving your business, hiring will also be important. The benefits of moving a business to a large metropolitan area include having access to a larger pool of potential employees. Some companies may have a harder time finding employees in specific professions the further away they are from a large population center. The more specialized the skills needed, the greater pool of expertise that can come with a larger community may be essential for your business.

However, if the company is not near a population center but in an area with a high quality of life, drawing quality employees to that area could be a consideration.

If you are happy with your employees, you can always ask them to move with you. Some will find it an exciting new opportunity and 15% of the population relocates each year. For employees moving with the business, be cognizant of adjustment periods, especially if you’re moving to a larger community. Offer employees survival tips for moving to a bigger city, such as budgeting for the higher cost of living and making sure they get out and explore.

To hire employees in a new location, researching the local market will be an important consideration. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has tips on how to hire and manage employees and recommends looking at federal and state labor laws from the Department of Labor.

Customers

Before you move your business, you will also want to research potential customers in a new location. Customers may be one of the most important parts of reconsidering a business move. If your business has been in one location for a while and has loyal customers, it’s important to think about what that loyalty is worth to you — and how long it would take to build it back up in a new location.

But if you move to an area that is more in tune with your business niche than where you are now, losing that loyalty for a short time may be worth the new customers you will be seeing.

Taking the time to research your potential city (which includes researching your competition) will help make sure you will have enough customers and how popular your industry is in the area. You will want to budget for the marketing you will need when you get there to find new customers, and then decide if you want to hire a marketing employee or employees, a marketing agency, or if you have the time and skills to do the marketing yourself.

Quality of Life

Finances, employees, and customers are all tied to a quality of life to consider for a business move. Quality of life is a more intangible aspect of a business’ location but can include things like cost of living, housing opportunities, crime rates, health care, education, transportation, recreational opportunities, and climate and weather.

A strong business community is also an important part of quality of life for any business owner. Establishing your network as soon as (or before) you move will help you and your employees settle into your new location and will help you feel more at home. Research the new location through LinkedIn, the city’s Chamber of Commerce or Visitors’ Center, and any other networking groups you can find. Anything you can do to understand what the environment will be like in your new location — for you, your business, and your employees — will be important to your quality of life once you arrive.

Making a living is no longer the only consideration for an employee. Choosing a location for your company could make a difference in your employee pool, revenue and expenses, customers, and quality of life. Doing your research before a move to a new city will be important to understand how your business will fit in at the new location, and whether it will just survive or whether it will thrive.

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