The Last Chance for Gold

Growing up in my corner of Florida, there used to be an old gas station on the edge of the Everglades. The proprietor did a lot of business with his oversized, hand-painted warning sign:

Last Chance for Gas.

Beyond the fuel pumps were a thin two-lane ribbon of asphalt and 90 miles of swampy wilderness. No smartphones. No “emergency call boxes.” And, in most places along the highway, no guardrails either.

You were on your own – much like the economic wilderness we’re all forced to navigate today.

Which is why the sharp decline in gold prices and mining stocks is much like that warning sign… and a monetary gift…

In short, if you were waiting on the sidelines after this year’s monster rally, this is your second chance – and, in my view, your last chance – to buy gold at these prices. And it comes at just the right time. Typical Moves for Gold

Gold’s done a full round trip in buyer sentiment during the past 12 months: from being the world’s “most hated commodity” at its lows near $1,050 an ounce 12 months ago to “gotta buy it” status at $1,350 an ounce this summer.

With gold now fallen from those lofty heights, an investor is more likely to ask: “Gold, what have you done for me lately?”

In all, gold’s given back about 60% of its 2017 rally. Yet such sharp declines followed by a resumption of a broader trend higher is a typical early bull market move for this volatile metal. Most famous of these pullbacks was gold’s run to all-time highs in the 1970s.

Starting out at $35 an ounce in the early ’70s, as gold became legal for Americans to own once again, bullion prices soared to almost $190 an ounce in 1975. That’s quite a run all on its own. During the next 18 months, gold prices dropped back nearly 60%, falling to $100 before running to a then-record $800 an ounce in the next three and a half years.

The Song Remains the Same

Most important, when it comes to the companies that dig this stuff out of the ground… nothing has changed.

As I have pointed out in past months, gold mining firms have done a great job getting their costs down and making money to boot.

We noted as early as February that the elite companies in this group were making an average of $215 for every ounce of gold they were digging out of the ground and said, in no uncertain terms, to anyone who’d listen: “Stop panic selling gold mining stocks. Likewise, after cutting dividends in 2014 and 2015 as gold prices plummeted, many of the same companies have not only reinstituted payouts, they’ve started raising them again. In the meantime, mining firms have cleared away much of their old cost structures. That’s why Newmont Mining, as one example, has been able to drop its “AISC” – all-in sustaining costs – from $1,170 in 2012 to $910 so far in 2016.

The point is that there are many reasons to own gold: for speculative profits, as discussed above; for insurance; and for wealth preservation. But you can’t benefit from any of those strategies without taking advantage of the gift that is low gold prices and low expectations put on our table by Wall Street’s hair-trigger traders.

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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LYFT Driverless Car Network

Not so long ago in the past and to be more specific, it has been just 4 years since the announcement of LYFT as a large competitor for Uber. Today the company has grown in size and popularity and is definitely making waves in terms of pricing along with coverage. This company was first thought of as a fly by night company to be hauled away in the next big growth of Uber. However, this has been a far thought for LYFT. This company has been silently building itself and engulfing its efforts in technology. Their most recently talked about innovation to be brought online will be a Driverless Car Network.

Now many have bogged at the idea of Driverless cars, but they are becoming more and more trendy as time moves on. Innovators such as Mercedes has put self-driving capabilities in many of its models, followed by General Motors Nissan, Toyota, Audi, Volvo, and Tesla. Self-driving cars are no longer a talk of possibility; they are now here to stay. For that reason, GM has jumped on the forefront to invest $500 million in LYFT’s initiative for their Driverless Car Network. This effort essentially will change the way how we commute and reduce the risks associated with impaired drivers or drivers which are inebriated. As opposed to going out in the car yourself to make a pickup of a friend or parents, a simple call or selection in the LYFT app will send a Driverless LYFT vehicle to the pickup aid of the designated person and taking them safely to their next location without incident. This means that the 94% of road accidents which are caused by human error will be drastically dropped due to the car being driven by Artificial Intelligence. Roadways will be more accessible with less vehicles cluttering the highways as more accessibility for carpools and more ability to work while riding effortlessly to work or to school. Many traffic jams are accounted by accidents which occur during morning or evening rush hour. Imagine not having to deal with such delays and being able to effortlessly get home while finishing up a project for work, school, or leisure. This is the future the LYFT is in the process of unveiling to the world in 2017. As far as designs for the Driverless Car Network that LYFT will unveil in 2017, its all just speculations as LYFT along with General Motors has managed to keep talks or leaks about the designs under heavy guard. At the moment these companies stand at the cusp of changing the way how we all use our vehicles and LYFT is the company that is driving the helm.

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Tips for Developing Astute Investing Skills

Learn to discern conflicting analyses, reports, and data as you research investing opportunities

As an investor, you must make decisions based on your study, research, and personal opinions and beliefs. You should not depend solely on the research and opinions of others. There is much good advice and information available to you.

However, there’s also a lot of differing information that you must cut through to make informed investing decisions. Here’s what you can start doing now:

Understand decisions made by entities independent of publicly traded companies

General Electric (NYSE:GE), through its Power & Water division, GE Hitachi, offers advanced and sophisticated technology for the nuclear energy industry. The GE Hitachi nuclear alliance unites GE’s design expertise and history supplying reactors, fuels, and services worldwide with Hitachi’s proven experience in advanced modular construction. This is all well and good.

Nonetheless, previously, the Canadian Press noted that, “A Federal Court ruling has thrown out the preliminary approvals for a series of new nuclear power reactors in Ontario.” Therefore, this is a case of weighing company initiatives against the landscape and mindset of the jurisdiction in which they operate, or may wish to operate with new projects. You must be aware of this when you invest.Understand the difference between company outlooks and what’s going on in the marketplace

Cameco (TSX:CCO) (NYSE:CCJ), regarding its long-term prospects was very positive about its outlook and the outlook for the uranium industry in general. The company did say in its 2013 annual report that any development or expansion of its remaining projects would depend on how market conditions develop. Cameco’s intention is to build up Cigar Lake and to expand the McArthur River/Key Lake operation.

Commercial production commenced in May 2015 at Cigar Lake with a total of 11.3 million pounds (100% basis) produced by the end of the year. The expectation is that the build up to licensed capacity of 18 million pounds per year will be in 2017.

What’s’ happening in the marketplace? In 2014, Mining.com reported that poor markets caused Cameco to put its Millennium uranium mine on hold. The highly prospective Millennium deposit is on the shores of Slush Lake in Saskatchewan. Cameco had asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to postpone a hearing scheduled in June 2014 into a licence application for the Millennium Mine project. The estimation is that this project has in excess of 50 million pounds of uranium.

Consider company strategies and the new economy

Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) never seemed to transform its operations as other retailers. Sears Canada dispensed some of its best stores and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Sears Canada was a mainstay in Canadian downtowns and major shopping malls.

The Company’s Toronto Eaton Centre flagship store became a Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) store. Sears Canada has seen its target consumers taken away by bulk stores and higher-end retailers, not competing with them effectively.

Consider government reports

These are reports prepared by any level of government: federal, provincial/state, or regional or municipal. Oftentimes, federal government pronouncements paint a rosier picture than what is really happening in the economy. This is especially true at election time. You must look at what other government agencies are saying, not just the political figureheads of parties. Consider what U.S Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen said in the past. She told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that under present policies, the federal government’s deficits, “will rise to unsustainable levels.”

As an investor, you must consider what that will do to the U.S economy, the business environment, and businesses. By extension, what will this do in the coming years to Canada’s? When the U.S. rolls over, it typically nudges Canada who’s napping on its shoulder.

Due diligence means more than just studying the latest quarterly results of companies. It means studying and discerning between different government, economic, as well as marketplace reports that often are contradictory. It’s your responsibility to discern between the wheat and the chaff. If this means taking longer to make an investment decision, so be it. In the end, you will make a better investment decision.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…