Category Archives: Market Trends

Private Investment Funds in 2020

Private Investment Funds in 2020: Focus on Optimizing & Streamlining Existing Portfolio Company Investments to Grow amid Volatility

The whirlwind of 2020 has rattled businesses across the country, and it has been no different for the private investment/fund industries. Even prior to this year, trends were moving toward funds (private equity, venture capital, family office, etc.) establishing platforms that focused on a suite of key business functions, such as business development, marketing, finance, PR, etc. to assist their portfolio companies with scaling their operations. Some funds have stood up internally1, while others have engaged external strategic partnerships.

In the first half of the year, a slowdown in new deals was caused partly by valuation discrepancies between buyers and sellers, resulting in a 63% decrease in activity in the Americas region2 after the onset of COVID-19. According to a PitchBook report, U.S. private equity exits dropped by 70% (1st 6 months of 2020 compared to year-ago period) because private equity firms marked down portfolio companies; they chose to hold investments rather than sell them3. Although this may sound alarming, a study by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson showed that despite a drop in exit transactions in the first half of 2020, there is little evidence of forced exits at least3. Furthermore, private equity firms raised $348 billion in the same time frame, which is only 10% shy of what they raised during the first half of 20192.

If funds have the capital raised but are not deploying it because of the risk of an unfavorable valuation or investment, the question must be raised: what have they been doing in the meantime?

In addition to simply boosting investments for current portfolio companies, funds are increasing aid in the strategic side of these businesses as well. “Increasing returns during ongoing fiscal and geopolitical uncertainty pushed top executives from PE firms to maintain focus on value and digitalization, and a commitment to developing the organizational and business models of their portfolio companies.”4 Many Funds have turned to delegating these duties to outside firms.

Outsourcing operations, sales, marketing, and other core functions provides a new perspective for funds. With another set of eyes on current investments, funds can squeeze every penny of revenue out of their portfolio companies to boost chances of success. Outsourcing allows current portfolio companies access to the same professional team as their fund, which consolidates consultants, agencies, people, and expenses for a more efficient operation filtered through a single entity.

Furthermore, with investment funds specializing to extreme degrees these days1, funds can focus on what they have specialized in, while letting the collaborative agency facilitate other aspects of the business. This allows them to keep the main thing the main thing so they can keep investors happy and informed, as well as assist their portfolio companies with more high value activities.

Not only does outsourcing provide more expertise with experienced professionals, but it tends to cost less than hiring someone within the fund or directly at the portfolio companies to manage these responsibilities. VC start-ups are staying private for an average of eight years longer than they would have back in 2000. It only makes sense to provide them with an experienced team for business development, marketing, and more. Without a team, the firm must manage all of this themselves or, for example, hire a business development manager. The average venture capital business development manager salary is nearly $80,000, not to mention additional benefits and expenses. Eight additional years of paying this salary (not including escalators and other contractual advancements) raises that investment to $640,000 allocated towards one person, when a team of experts can be hired to do an even better job.

Over the last decade, the appeal of going public has decreased as companies do not want to deal with inevitable scrutiny after releasing financials and other information. There has actually even been a shift of public companies switching back to private, with 8 out of 10 of the largest buyouts being Public 2 Private (P2P)4. Many companies would rather stay private, or be bought out through M&A, than to receive heat from the public. If a start-up does not go public, having that business development manager can continue as a growing yearly expense (regardless of value), even if the business isn’t in a growth or blitzscaling stage. Similar to the recession from a decade ago, companies are thinning out and hiring more contractors because it is a more manageable and flexible commitment.

Further along this line, “We are starting to see some changes that may signal a strategy shift by private equity to help struggling portfolio companies amid the crisis. Additional stake purchases by private equity investors are up by count and volume compared to same period last year and second- and third-round funding’s are also up from last year. Both are ways to inject cash into companies that need it most now.”5

In volatile times, more of the focus should be on what can be controlled. “Leaders should identify digital innovations such as business intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning, and business processes automation to help companies evolve and gain the skills needed for better performance and outpacing the competitors.”4

While not every business model is 100% perfect, and there are pros and cons to each, there are certainly many advantages both financially and operationally to leveraging a consulting firm to assist funds and their portfolio companies with scaling. Regardless of whether the macro environment is volatile and capital is tougher to come by, or when conditions are great and capital is flowing freely, running a tight ship focused on streamlining, growth, and ROI will always be in style and appreciated.

Written By: Mike Simmons and Evan Shirreffs

References:

1) https://tomtunguz.com/is-venture-capital-worth-the-risk/

2) https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b1mqkqqx3g0k5v/Private-Equity-s-Answer-to-a-Frozen-Deal-Market

3) https://www.pionline.com/private-equity/private-equity-deals-tumble-20-2020s-first-half-pitchbook

4) https://bspeclub.com/2020/04/17/private-equity-2020-outlook-the-start-of-a-new-decade/

5) https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bloomberg-law-analysis/analysis-how-is-private-equity-optimizing-the-downturn

The primary mission of WIMS Consulting is to help your fund and its portfolio companies generate a higher ROI not only internally, but on behalf of your investors as well. We can assist with scaling your investments to help increase valuations in advance of additional funding rounds, liquidity events, exits, or IPOs. We can provide a lot of different services, create and implement a robust strategy, and execute each tactic, but everything that we do truly boils down to that one single objective of adding more value to your firm.
The WIMS Guide CoVid 19 Edition South Florida

THE WIMS GUIDE COVID-19 ECONOMY EDITION AKA “THE SOUTH FLORIDA CORONACONOMY”

By now we’re well into the quarantine period and pretty deep into the business disruption that’s been the byproduct of the spread of CoVid-19/Corona Virus. At this point many of us are (at least relatively) beginning to adjust to the new normal and catch our breath in terms of what this means to our various businesses. Hopefully you’ve been able to strategize on potential pivots, are making the necessary adjustments, and are getting closer to finding a new groove for the path forward.

On the other hand, it would be naive to think that every businesses is going to make it through unfortunately. To think where we are now compared to even a month ago is pretty horrifying. But that being said, the ONLY thing to do now is continue to march onward with an unrelenting focus on doing whatever it takes (even if that means closing up shop and going in a different direction) to get through this. Looking forward is really all that matters now.

In that light I want to use my company’s (WIMS Consulting) platform, clients, partnerships, relationships, etc. to help share resources, ideas, insights, hope, strategies, etc. to help you and your business navigate these waters. I know a lot of people are doing this too and some of these things may be redundant, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t do my part and just let others do the leading during this time.

Considering the majority of our our business is based in Miami, FL and Charlotte, NC I’m going to create a page for each with specific local information in addition to the more macro/federal stuff. Further, I’ve volunteered to help lead the “South Florida Business Continuity Task Force” so will be sharing more information about that too as we launch the website later today (3.27.20). In Charlotte, we’re going to spearhead something similar via the Charlotte Business Group. Stay tuned!

In the mean time please reference the content below which I’ll be updating regularly. If you have anything else you’d like me to add please email me directly at msimmons@wims-consulting.com.

It may sound insensitive right now, but as the saying goes: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is going to produce unprecedented opportunities if you look for them. Another extremely applicable quote: “This too shall pass!”

-Mike

 

Financial Support

SBA/Disaster Relief Loans:

By now just about everyone has been spreading the word on this. But this page from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce includes specific info for Florida. “The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans are NOW OPEN for Florida. Small businesses & non-profits impacted by COVID-19 can apply for up to $2M in assistance.”

IRS – Federal Tax Relief protocol.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity: Short Time Compensation Program for Employees is here. Reemployment Assistance Guidance is here.

The Miami Foundation has seeded The Community Recovery Fund with a $300,000 contribution. That number is growing with various donations from citizens and organizations alike.

The United Way and The Miami Herald have come together to activate a short term relief fund as well called Operation Helping Hands.

 

Miami Impact/Next Steps

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce – CoVid-19 Resource Portal is great and continues to be updated. They also have a “Members In Action” page that highlights what many of the specific businesses within the Chamber are doing to help the community.

The Beacon Council’s “Business Continuity: COVID-19 Business Resource Center” is phenomenal as well.

The Miami Foundation’s CoVid-19 Community Recovery Resources rocks, it covers organizations and funds that are helping out in the community too including many non-profits. This is one of the most well done and robust pages I’ve seen.

The South Florida Business Continuity Task Force has formed, including many of South Florida’s best and brightest minds from the legal, accounting, financial services, and entrepreneurial sectors among others to share specific insights and action items to help business owners survive the current cycle as best as they can and position themselves to try to get ready for the other side of it.

The South Florida Business Journal is offering it’s CoVid-19 related stories to be accessed for free. They also have two guides, one that’s for general South Florida businesses, and then another specific for small businesses.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Follow Facts, Not Fear” page is another solid resource.

Legal Services of Greater Miami provides free civil legal services for the low-income communities of Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties and is recognized as one of the most outstanding legal services programs.

The Miami Herald “What do you need or what can you give in this crisis? We’re connecting people with people” is beautiful and yet another great idea/program.

The Fountainhead is “working to compile an extensive list of resources for artists.”

The Miami New Times created a piece called, “Here’s How and Where Creatives Can Apply for Relief Funds” very good as well and covers a community that can be overlooked.

 

Business Ideas/Strategies

65 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic (Entrepreneur Mag)

On CRM: How Companies Are Leveraging Their CRM Systems To Help Navigate Through COVID-19 (Forbes)

Coronavirus: What Every Business Owner Needs to Know (Wix) great article with a lot of sound ideas, even if some are seemingly obvious.

Email Marketing: This was a great article from Fast Company, and insightful. Just because everyone else is sending emails doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do one too. Just make sure it’s really well done if you do and that it adds value to your audience (don’t be self serving).

List Of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Small Business Relief Programs (Forbes)

COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation (Entrepreneur Mag)

How to Get Mortgage Relief (Investopedia)

 

MORE TO COME!!

The WIMS Guide CoVid-19 Edition Charlotte

The WIMS Guide CoVid-19 Economy Edition aka “The Charlotte Coronaconomy”

By now we’re well into the quarantine period and pretty deep into the business disruption that’s been the byproduct of the spread of CoVid-19/Corona Virus. At this point many of us are (at least relatively) beginning to adjust to the new normal and catch our breath in terms of what this means to our various businesses. Hopefully you’ve been able to strategize on potential pivots, are making the necessary adjustments, and are getting closer to finding a new groove for the path forward.

On the other hand, it would be naive to think that every businesses is going to make it through unfortunately. To think where we are now compared to even a month ago is pretty horrifying. But that being said, the ONLY thing to do now is continue to march onward with an unrelenting focus on doing whatever it takes (even if that means closing up shop and going in a different direction) to get through this. Looking forward is really all that matters now.

In that light I want to use my company’s (WIMS Consulting) platform, clients, partnerships, relationships, etc. to help share resources, ideas, insights, hope, strategies, etc. to help you and your business navigate these waters. I know a lot of people are doing this too and some of these things may be redundant, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t do my part and just let others do the leading during this time.

Considering the majority of our our business is based in Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL I’m going to create a page for each with specific local information in addition to the more macro/federal stuff. Further, I’ve volunteered to help lead the “South Florida Business Continuity Task Force” so will be sharing more information about that too as we launch the website later today (3.25.20). In Charlotte, we’re going to spearhead something similar via the Charlotte Business Group. Stay tuned!

In the mean time please reference the content below which I’ll be updating regularly. If you have anything else you’d like me to add please email me directly at msimmons@wims-consulting.com.

It may sound insensitive right now, but as the saying goes: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This is going to produce unprecedented opportunities if you look for them. Another extremely applicable quote: “This too shall pass!”

-Mike

 

Financial Support

SBA/Disaster Relief Loans:

By now just about everyone has been spreading the word on this. But this piece from the Charlotte Business Journal was really well done. “What small businesses in North Carolina need to know about SBA disaster-relief loans”.

IRS – Federal Tax Relief protocol.

North Carolina Department of Revenue CoVid-19 Tax Relief Guidelines.

Charlotte/Mecklenburg County:

Carolina Small Business Development Fund: Small Business Lending: COVID-19 Update from Our President & CEO, Kevin Dick

Mecklenburg County ​Office of Economic Development another incredible set of resources surrounding things not solely business related but also with an expanded scope.

How to Get Mortgage Relief (Investopedia)

 

Charlotte Impact/Next Steps

Charlotte Regional Business AllianceCoVid-19 Resource Portal this expands well outside just greater Charlotte too and includes resources for the much larger regional footprint. Check it out, extremely valuable. It even goes into the personal health side of things, again which is outside of the scope of what we’re trying to accomplish here but if you’re curious this is the place to go. This also includes guidance from lawyers, accounting firms, etc.

Charlotte Inno – Startup Related: “Coronavirus-Related Resources for Charlotte Startups” This is an incredible and robust list that gets into operational recommendations among others.

North Carolina Chamber Coronavirus Resource Guide including Small Business Resource Center.

Charlotte Inno“Amid Coronavirus, Charlotte Tech Leaders Talk Next Steps for the Business Community”.

Charlotte Business Resources CoVid-19 Resources.

 

Ideas/Strategies

65 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic (Entrepreneur Mag)

On CRM: How Companies Are Leveraging Their CRM Systems To Help Navigate Through COVID-19 (Forbes)

Coronavirus: What Every Business Owner Needs to Know (Wix) great article with a lot of sound ideas, even if some are seemingly obvious.

Email Marketing: This was a great article from Fast Company, and insightful. Just because everyone else is sending emails doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do one too. Just make sure it’s really well done if you do and that it adds value to your audience (don’t be self serving).

List Of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Small Business Relief Programs (Forbes)

COVID-19 Will Fuel the Next Wave of Innovation (Entrepreneur Mag)

 

MORE TO COME!!

Charlotte 2020

Charlotte 2020: Grow Your Business in the QC

If you live or do business in Greater Charlotte then you already know there’s a whole lot to be excited about in 2020 and beyond. The opportunities here are incredible, the city and state of NC in general are growing at a crazy fast pace and receiving all sorts of recognition nationally in “Best Places to Do Business” type articles. You can see for yourself (here, here, and here). Figuring out where to get plugged in or get more involved can be overwhelming, so I wanted to give you a few quick initial steps (4 to be exact) to take in the new year to kick things off, and I’ll elaborate and expand on this further throughout Q1.

Whether you’re new here, haven’t arrived yet, grew up here, or have been here for years now I highly recommend investing your time getting to know other professionals who are doing big things in business. Networking here has led to a substantial ROI for me and my businesses and I can’t encourage it enough. There are tons of organizations and resources with which to leverage at various price points and time commitments based on you and your company’s needs.

Personally, I’ve been involved in various capacities at board and committee levels with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance (formerly the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce). I’d highly recommend it as a great place to start and get involved. However, to be fully transparent, after merging with the region’s economic development entity the organization’s mission and day-to-day focus are shifting pretty substantially.  Rather than solely focusing on greater Charlotte, The Alliance now has 15 counties across both NC and SC in its purview. Needless to say, that while it’s a positive shift overall that provides incredible opportunity, the scope and reach has shifted dramatically. Serving that wide an area comes with new challenges as well however, so clearly the day-to-day operations needed to change with it.

While I still very much intend to remain involved as a member and hopefully more, it would be a disservice to you if I didn’t say the new mission has simultaneously left a pretty sizable void for those with a more narrow focus of making an impact in greater Charlotte and don’t have the resources to have a target market that expansive. Again, yet another opportunity

This is where the Charlotte Business Group comes in. (Full disclosure: I recently joined the board in 2019 because I knew this transition was happening and wanted to prepare accordingly.) There are still a ton of business professionals who just have the capacity to focus on Greater Charlotte (it’s hard enough covering the Lake Norman to Rock Hill/Fort Mill area as it is, let alone a dozen plus other counties). So we decided to step in and do just that. We’re providing networking opportunities with our mixers, educational opportunities with our panel discussions, and we recently launched a membership program to be able to ramp up additional opportunities in the community (as well as with more focus on fostering referrals and connections but much more to come as the year rolls on). The focus will remain greater Charlotte, but everyone who wants to do business here is more than welcome to get involved. If you and your organization wants to align with that mission please reach out to me to set up a membership or sponsorship and we’ll get you plugged in.

Next up is another really non-negotiable if you’re serious about Charlotte. You need the Charlotte Business Journal in your life, by way of subscription (print and digital), attending their events, and you NEED the Book of Lists.

Charlotte Inno (formerly Start Charlotte) with their newsletter and PitchBreakfast events among others are also truly invaluable. Whether you want to learn about local start up success and origin stories, or see what other events are coming up on the horizon (they host many incredible ones themselves as well) you at least need to sign up for the newsletter and take it from there.

 

We’ll leave it here for now, as that’s 4 invaluable steps that you need to take in the new year if you haven’t already. But I’ll be adding much more with respect to the specific Charlotte focus moving forward (including a non-profit edition). Would love to hear your feedback on what organizations you’re involved with, what you’d recommend and to continue the conversation as it’s one that’s a major priority for me.

Charlotte Fall Updates

Charlotte in Fall

As the calendar has turned to October the temperatures in Charlotte are finally cooling off slightly after some record heat through September. While the weather may be cooling down and the fall spirit is spreading from Ballantyne to Belmont the business community around the Queen City is staying busy. Cranes can be seen all around the city and the roads are packed with dump trucks and construction vehicles. The real estate market is continuing to be very active as new residents continue to move into the Charlotte area and millennials embark on their first home buying purchase. Technology jobs are expanding across Charlotte bringing high paying jobs to the city and diversifying the entire regional economy. As job growth continues the real estate market in Charlotte is becoming one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. As an increased number of jobs are being created and the major infrastructure investments are made across the region the area is striving to move forward and be positioned for the economy of the future. While challenges including access to affordable housing and congestion exist the improvements and efforts of public and private leaders across the Charlotte region are addressing critical issues and moving the city towards a brighter future.

 

A Southern Tech Hub

Charlotte is expanding beyond being more than a financial services hub, it is becoming a major destination for tech talent. The CompTIA Tech Town Index 2018 ranked Charlotte as the best city to embark on a technology career. The lower cost of living, 1.3% below the national average make Charlotte a desirable place to move, begin a family and purchase a home. The cost of living is particularly more affordable than other tech hubs including the Bay Area, New York, and Boston.

Many workers from the Midwest and Northeast are relocating to Charlotte to settle down in a place with lower taxes and an abundance of recreational activities to supplement career growth. The projected number of openings over the next five years in the tech sector is a steady 11% showing how the growth in the Charlotte tech sector is here to stay. Many Charlotte companies desire tech workers including some of the largest regional job creators including major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Mooresville, NC based Lowe’s is opening a tech hub in the South End neighborhood of Charlotte bringing 2,000 jobs by 2021. This favorable job growth is spilling into the real estate market which consistently ranks as the one of the most active markets in the US.

 

Real Estate

The Charlotte real estate market was ranked fourth in the 41st annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate behind only Raleigh-Durham, Austin, and Nashville. The metrics from this report combine tech jobs to real estate investments in determining the rankings. The ranking of fourth marks a move from ninth in the 2018 report showing how the Charlotte real estate market is heating up. Some of the insight from the report also highlighted how strong home building prospects are in Charlotte, ranking second in 2019 up from fourth in 2018. The ability to attract technology and manufacturing to diversify beyond financial services is another factor driving regional growth and helping the housing market. Investments in infrastructure projects have provided additional benefits to improving desirability to Charlotte including improvements at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and an expanding Light Rail system. Along with massive success comes some growing pains and Charlotte, like many other Sunbelt cities, is feeling some residual effects of growth. These include higher housing costs, additional roadway infrastructure projects, and a need to improve stormwater systems. All things considered the real estate market is continuing to be very active, attracting 1.2% of US real estate investments from 2016-2019 while accounting for only 0.8% of the nation’s population. As additional companies  relocate to Charlotte and retirees move to the desirable Carolina climate and tax situation additional single-family homes, apartments, and townhouses will be needed to handle continued housing demands.

 

Relocations and Expansion

Over the past 12 months multiple companies have announced major relocation projects. The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance has been working with local and state officials in South Carolina and North Carolina to attract companies to expand current business operations, open regional offices, or relocate their headquarters to the regions. Some recent projects which have created new jobs across the region include Honeywell, which has relocated their headquarters to Charlotte in a move expected to create over 750 jobs.

These jobs along with new jobs from Lowe’s and a continued presence by Duke Energy, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo mean some of the world’s largest companies have a major presence in Charlotte. Beyond these firms the startup community in Charlotte is growing with recent expansions coming from AvidXchange who is planning to grow to accommodate 1,200 new employees. This diverse economic landscape allows Charlotte to grow beyond traditional financial services institutions while utilizing the skills of the regions highly skilled workforce.

 

 

WIMS Partners

The WIMS team has a robust and expanding presence in Charlotte utilizing the skills of partners. As we continue to grow, we are always looking for new partners and if you believe you can grow with us, we want to hear from you to see if opportunities exist. With the continued growth of WIMS it is exciting to see the city and region around us changing and growing.

 

Concluding thoughts

Charlotte has established itself as a major economic powerhouse in the Southeast that is seeing increased investment and interest on a regional, national, and international scene. As companies continue their planning for 2020 and beyond, many in the Charlotte region continue to grow towards an even brighter future. The institutions in the city through public private partnerships are investing in the city’s institutions to continue to encourage investment and relocations to Charlotte. By focusing on sustaining growth and creating a better region for the future, Charlotte is positioning itself for long term success moving up the ranking of best places to live as the quality of life in greater Charlotte region continues to improve.

Introduction to Kanban

What is Kanban?

Kanban is the Japanese phrase for signboard or billboard. It is additionally a scheduling tool used across manufacturing, restaurants, and software development to stay on track and effectively completing tasks for project. The concept originated in Japan by Toyota under the leadership of Taiichi Ohno who worked as an industrial engineer helping to spread the technique of lean manufacturing. Kanban was initially implemented to expedite the just-in-time production method producing a specific quantity of necessary products based on consumer demand.

 

Overview of Kanban

Understanding the origin and general principles of Kanban allows for an easier adoption of Kanban. If you do not anticipate fully incorporating Kanban, understanding an additional time management and organizational design tool will allow for better results. At its core, Kanban is a form of managing work by balancing the required actions needed to complete work with the available capacity in order to complete different tasks. Since work is completed on a just-in-time manner waste is limited across the entire system. Workers only complete tasks that are necessary at the time the work is being done ensuring that the overall objective is maintained.

 

Sushi and production management

An example of just-in-time production outside of manufacturing is a sushi menu with a list of possible items and a box to check the quantity and type of each sushi roll. By completing work in a just-in-time manner customers will have fresh sushi rolls that were specifically made for them. On the production side, Kanban reduces food waste since food is prepared only when customers order a specific dish. The combination of reducing food waste and providing customers with fresher food will make the experience of both the restaurant and the customer more enjoyable.

 

Kanban board

However, the implications go beyond sushi! The seamless structure of ordering fresh rolls makes for an easy to grasp visual and edible example. The Kanban board is a practical visual tool used to follow the journey into Kanban by displaying relevant tasks on a visual board. While every Kanban board will be structured in a unique way to maximize value to the user, the general concept is that work is tracked from left to right as progress is made. Kanban boards can be utilized on whiteboards with sticky notes, in a spreadsheet of your choice, or through the online project management software of your choice including Zoho, Trello, and Atlassian.

 

Further Actions

Like any methodology, the key to becoming successful with Kanban is to stick to something that you will commit to the long run. Success through using Kanban can be maximized through additional agile frameworks ensuring that the quality of work is improved through focusing on moving tasks through the system and completing them in a timely manner. The importance of continual improvement, self-reflection, and increasing output are meaningful to the project itself and the outlook of the workers on the project by empowering them to take more ownership of the finished product. Kanban holds an important value by taking ownership of your own life and fully understanding the power of this approach and is beneficial for those who embrace Kanban and those who study it. Tools are merely the instruments used to accomplish goals and since Kanban is a tool it can be used in varying degrees to reach goals, set new ones, and complete projects in more efficient ways.

Salesforce Heads North

In June 2019 Salesforce announced that it would be purchasing Tableau in a deal worth over $15.7 billion. This deal will allow San Francisco based Salesforce to expand its presence in Seattle creating a second headquarters in Seattle, home of Tableau, like what Seattle-based Amazon did with its HQ2 competition last year. I was in the Seattle area on vacation as the news broke and was able to read local newspapers on this deal from the local perspective which went beyond the financial terms of the agreement.

This deal represents the second largest acquisition in the history of the state of Washington and shows the power of the technology sector in the Pacific Northwest and willingness of companies to expand beyond Silicon Valley (Romano, Seattle Times). With a presence of 1,000 employees already in Seattle, Salesforce is familiar with the business climate in Washington. Moving forward this acquisition is not an outlier and additional companies in the cloud computing space will look to expand their operations and establish additional offices beyond their initial headquarters.

This trend poses the opportunity for companies to benefit from the strengths of different metropolitan areas while also increasing the expectations the residents of these cities have of these companies to become stewards of the community and provide jobs to locals. This deal will change the entire landscape and power dynamics in the CRM and Business Intelligence world. This deal seems to represent a move by Salesforce to invest in research and development through the purchase of Tableau which may signal slowing internal innovation (Moorehead, Forbes). This deal comes after Salesforce paid $300 million to integrate the companies non-profit arm, Salesforce.org, into the companies for-profit side (Salesforce Press Release). This deal will have a substantial impact to the overall company and could create anywhere from $150 to $200 million this Fiscal Year depending on when the deal closes. These strategic changes show how Salesforce is moving beyond CRM and taking the potentially risky decision of incorporating its non-profit wing into its for-profit business. Although Salesforce has been on the leading edge of philanthropic causes with rising housing prices and inequality in the San Francisco Bay area and Seattle areas Salesforce will be held accountable and pushed to create more equitable growth as their operations expand.

Seattle is a city that has long struggled with homelessness and affordable housing. While the city is the thirteenth largest city it has the third largest homeless population. Driving through Seattle and talking with locals on my recent trip to the city I heard and saw homeless camps and the stories of how homelessness and affordability is an issue impacting suburbs across the Seattle area with camps in view of I-5.

While Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led his company to be a leader of philanthropic efforts and combating homelessness, he is entering a new arena in Seattle (Romano, Seattle Times). Long a leader in giving back Salesforce pledges 1% of profits, products, and employee time to philanthropic efforts. Marc and Lynne Benioff have signed the Giving Pledge and are leading advocates in the San Francisco area working to combat homelessness. Lynne Benioff cofounded a program in 2011 to provide shelters for families around San Francisco. Tableau also has taken on a philanthropic approach as well and pledged $100 million in grants and technology to global health and equality organizations (Romano, Seattle Times).

This merger has just occurred, but challenges persist moving forward. Benioff says that Tableau will operate independent of Salesforce and affirmed that this is a merger of two equals. This is rarely the case in mergers as power dynamics and even the slightest of differences can cause division between leaders in the merged companies. Time will tell how this deal will be remembered but one thing is certain which is that this will not be the last big software deal of the year.

 

Links

Image from: Romano, Benjamin. “Why Salesforce is shelling out $15.7 billion in stock for Seattle’s Tableau, in one of the NW’s largest acquisitions?” Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/salesforce-buying-seattle-based-tableau-for-15-7-billion-in-stock-one-of-the-northwests-largest-acquisitions/.

 

Moorehead, Patrick. “Salesforce.com’s Tableau Acquisition: Admitting Organic Innovation Failure?” Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickmoorhead/2019/06/18/salesforces-tableau-acquisition-admitting-organic-innovation-failure/.

 

Salesforce Press Releases. “Salesforce and Salesforce.org Combine to Drive Greater Philanthropic Impact and Success for Social Good Organizations.” https://investor.salesforce.com/press-releases/press-release-details/2019/Salesforce-and-Salesforceorg-Combine-to-Drive-Greater-Philanthropic-Impact-and-Success-for-Social-Good-Organizations/default.aspx.

Renewable Energy Insights

 

Energy powers the modern world and economy which goes without saying but can be lost in the current environment we live in. A few generations ago the world went dark at night and productivity was only accomplished during the day. The world has seen major growth since the end of the 19th century as electricity and energy production fueled this growth.

 

This has generated interest from leaders of political parties, cities, and businesses around the world as collaborated efforts are needed to reduce the carbon emission put into the atmosphere. Plans are in place to create a future where green technology will power the energy grid as effectively as possible.

 

While hurdles are in place the growth and expansion of renewable energy will grow as policies and technologies expand who and where renewable energy can be implemented.

 

The future will be powered by renewable energy and the industries including space and wind production will create new industries which will add economic value across the economy.

 

The world is facing a series of unprecedented consequences from the changing world around us. The world is seeing more extreme weather events, coastal regions face the threat of displacement from rising tides, and disruptions in crop production.

 

Now is the time to implement changes and for companies and individuals to invest in renewable energy sources as well as to learn about ways to reduce the carbon footprint they have. These will force difficult questions to be raised but leaders from a wide range of industries are already working to find solutions to help preserve our earth for future generations.

 

Even if you cannot afford solar panels here are some actions that can be made with meaningful impacts purchasing green products, donating to non-profits who are working to improve renewable solutions, and supporting policies at your place of work to become more sustainable.

 

Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle it will take many pieces to come together to create renewable energy grid which will drive the future growth in the world. Stakeholders must come together to drive changes and provide energy solutions to make the future run smoother and cleaner providing new advanced energy solutions. Renewable energy should be viewed as the way forward and a series of technological offerings which will create a more sustainable and equitable world.

Mobile Insights from Deloitte

A Deloitte perspective entitled Failure to Launch outlines the steps to follow to build mobile applications which employees will want to use. This insight shows the importance of mobile technology in today’s world as well as the attention of consumers and business partners as they shift to the screens of mobile devices. An aspect of mobile applications which is also vital but does not always receive as much attention is the importance of developing applications for internal use.

 

The focus of this Deloitte writeup is to outline some steps to follow to improve the effectiveness and use of enterprise mobile apps for employees use. With many different applications and projects to juggle daily it is becoming harder for companies to unveil and implement internal tools for employees. The key to successfully unveiling an application internally should mirror an external product release and be strategically aligned with the mission of growth for your organization. These steps should serve as a guide to review not only new app development but also a benchmark for all internal processes and the perfect opportunity to take the time to invest time and resources into improving those processes. Internal processes are not the most exciting aspect of running a successful project but are critical to the success of specific projects and the sustained success of an organization.

 

The system below should be a guideline and not a hard set of rules to stick to. Leaders and decisions makers within an organization should take the time to fully analyze multiple data points and conduct informational interviews with members of their teams to collect the relevant facts and information from their industry and company. This wide amount of information will allow the greatest amount of data available to make a well thought out decision while also bringing together stakeholders through the entire process from idea generation to implementation.

 

Seven steps are laid out to build and successfully launch enterprise mobile apps:

  1. Strategy and Value: Have a clear goal behind what you are undergoing which can easily be conveyed and understood to those who are hearing about your idea for the first time.
  2. User input: Gather information beginning with idea generation and continuing through implementation from a broad range of potential end users.
  3. App Development: During the development process have steps in place to provide feedback and convey this to your team.
  4. Distribution: Announce the launch of the app and make it known to all parties who may be interested in finding more about the specific app launch and your company in general.
  5. User Support: After the release keep contact with your team and continue to gather feedback from them. When issues arise provide a way for them to easily find the answers to questions and develop a culture where workers interact and shape the future of products in a proactive environment.
  6. Supporting organization: Reinforce the practices in your organization though best practices and foster a tech and mobile friendly company culture.
  7. Continuous Optimization: Never stop gathering feedback and look to stay ahead of the game to be an industry leader with a robust internal team.

 

These strategies were formulated for enterprise mobile apps but the tips should be used to foster change in creating a workplace culture where design, creativity, and innovation propel your company and projects forward as an industry leader.

 

Source

“7 steps to building mobile apps employees will really use.” Deloitte. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology/articles/deloitte-digital-mobile-enterprise.html.

Managing Stakeholders in the Technological Age

Over the past week Microsoft has been in the headlines after a group of employees sent a letter to company leaders protesting a contract with the US Army. This story has received major media attention from Wired to NPR who are taking an interest in this case and how a tricky relationship exists between technology companies and the government.

 

The contract in questions was awarded in November 2018 and represents the first time Microsoft products, in this case HoloLens headsets, would be used in actual combat operations. This worried Microsoft employees who did not want the products they work on to be used in combat operations and is another statement of concern voiced by technology workers in the US against contracts with the US government.

 

The Wired article included an excerpt of a statement Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave standing by the contract and highlighted the importance he sees in continuing to work with the government and military.

 

“Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella rebuffed the plea. “We made a principled decision that we’re not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” Nadella told CNN Business at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.”

 

As companies look to provide more advanced technological offerings workers increasingly find themselves working on projects where they do not know how the end user will utilize the product and in some cases who the end user is. Workers walk a fine line here and as companies provide more advanced technology to public and private sector clients an upfront policy on how to address who their clients are and be transparent about how relevant stakeholders might react to different projects.

 

Companies cannot sit idle but must be proactive and work with all stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page and have a channel of dealing with complaints internally before too much disruption occurs. As technology solutions become more advanced and integrated into all aspects of life difficult questions of who has access to technology and when technology goes too far will become increasingly more prevalent. As issues arise dialogue is needed from all parties to workout what steps are needed moving forward and when to move away from a project. An additional factor complicating issues surrounding technology is that as new forms of technology become available and trends change the norms of technology shift very fast.

 

To succeed, an organization must take the time to set aside a block of time and address where technology can fit in with their organization and under what circumstances do technology and privacy go too far. A strong organization will be able to move through this time but if transparent conversations are not had by leaders from across the organization internal conflict possess the threat of making disagreements public and damaging the reputation and name of an organization. As with any advancement both progress and new challenges will arise causing leaders to make new types of decisions about who can access information, what projects the organization works on, and what types of organizations a specific organization forms strategic alliances and partnerships with.

 

The issues raised by Microsoft employees will not go away neither will the opinions of varying stakeholders who take different stands to improve their own position within organizations. As more stakeholders enter the conversation more ideas are generated but at the same time more safeguards and guidelines are needed to limit internal strife and the possibility that different sides take a hard position which could reduce the efficiency of an organization. This is an era that goes beyond making a right or wrong choice but is centered on making a choice that leaders can stand by and defend while not alienating stakeholders to the point of rebellion. This is bound to play out in additional companies and increasingly be brought up in the legal system.