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Amazon, Facebook and Other Tech Stocks May Be a ‘Disaster Waiting to Happen,’ Investor Bill Smead Says

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Tech investors could face brutal losses if regulators dismantle the companies and tax them more effectively, Smead said.

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October 16, 2020 2 min read

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

Growth stocks may be a “disaster waiting to happen,” the heads of Smead Capital Management warned in their third-quarter newsletter this week.

Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google have monopoly power over their addicted users, Bill Smead and his co-portfolio managers, Tony Scherrer and Cole Smead, told their shareholders. Offering services such as YouTube and Instagram for free means rivals can’t compete with them on price, they continued.

The coronavirus pandemic has only strengthened their position by putting their userbase in a “state of near-complete dependence,” they added. Millions of people, scared or unable to leave their homes, are relying more on their devices and apps to stay connected, productive, and entertained.

Related: Test, build, accelerate and scale: Meet the 4 cycles of Jeff Bezos

However, shareholders in the US technology titans could suffer heavy losses when regulators drop the hammer, the trio said.

They pointed to Amazon’s profits from its cloud-computing division, which enable it to cut prices in its core e-commerce business and kill competitors. Its sky-high valuation could be “obliterated” if the two segments are separated and the company is lumped with a massive tax bill, they said.

Smead and his team managed $1.6 billion in assets as of September 30. Their flagship portfolio has returned an average of 10% over the past 12 years, but was down 9.5% for the year at the end of the third quarter.

The trio are betting on companies that provide tangible necessities such as pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, houses, and storage. Their biggest holdings include Target, homebuilders Lennar and NVR, biopharmaceuticals giant Amgen, and American Express.

“Value has beaten growth by over 3% per year for 94 years and is the most depressed it has been in 57 years,” they said in the letter. “We look forward to the next five years as we believe the remedies will play out.”

Cole Smead echoed his team’s comments in a CNBC interview this week, arguing the market has ballooned to unfounded, unsustainable levels. US stocks have become a “total nightmare” driven by “young and dumb investors,” he said.

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Making a New Start in a Business of Their Own

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In April, Dave Summers lost his job as director of digital media productions at the American Management Association, a casualty of layoffs brought on by the pandemic.

Mr. Summers, 60, swiftly launched his own business as a digital media producer, coach and animator who creates podcasts, webcasts and video blogs.

And in September, he and his wife, who teaches nursery school, moved from Danbury, Conn., to Maryville, Tenn., which they discovered while visiting their son in Nashville. “My new work is all virtual, so I can live anywhere,” he said. “Not only is it a cheaper place to live, we love hiking and the outdoors, and our new town is in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.”

Droves of small businesses have been shuttered by the economic fallout of the coronavirus, but for Mr. Summers, starting a new one was the best option.

“I’m not sitting on a massive nest egg, so I need to work to keep afloat,” he said. “It’s also about being healthy and happy. I can’t just retire because underneath it all I’m creative, and I have to be busy doing stuff and helping people tell their stories.”

While the coronavirus pandemic is causing many older workers who have lost jobs, or who have been offered early retirement severance packages, to decide to leave the work force, others like Mr. Summers are shifting to entrepreneurship.

In fact, older Americans had already been starting new businesses at a fast rate. In 2019, research from the Kauffman Foundation, a nonpartisan group supporting entrepreneurship, found that more than 25 percent of new entrepreneurs were ages 55 to 64, up from about 15 percent in 1996.

Across the age spectrum, there has been a rise in new business start-ups since May, according to the Census Bureau. The surge is likely “powered by newly unemployed individuals opting to start their own businesses, either by choice or out of necessity,” according to the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan public policy organization.

“Older women, in particular,” said Elizabeth Isele, founder and chief executive of the Global Institute for Experienced Entrepreneurship, “are highly motivated to start their own businesses to foster their own economic self-reliance, support their families and also provide employment for others in their communities.”

Losing his position during the pandemic was a blow for Mr. Summers. He was depressed for a day or two, he said, but he already had been doing what he calls “out of school projects” and had a personal website that he quickly remade into a professional one.

Start-up costs for his virtual business were under $2,000. The biggest challenges, he said, were “finding time to keep my technical skills up-to-date, and pricing my services right.” The biggest reward? “It is a freedom I could not have imagined.”

For many retirees, or those nearing retirement age like Mr. Summers, “starting a new business by repackaging the skills and experience honed for decades into a new career is exciting,” said Nancy Ancowitz, a New York City-based career coach.

“It hits you, especially during the coronavirus crisis, that time no longer feels unlimited,” she said. “You’re aware of your own clock ticking. Since you don’t have a seemingly endless vista of work ahead of you, you may be motivated to finally retool and learn a new trade, or just try something different.”

For some of Ms. Ancowitz’s clients in their later working years, a buyout from an employer is “the seed money to fuel the venture they’ve been hankering to launch,” she said.

They see it as “a treat to get that kick-start rather than have to hunt for a job, with all of the loneliness and fear of rejection that comes with it, especially when they haven’t looked for a job in ages.”

Two years ago, Vanessa Tennyson, 62, retired from her job as a human resources officer at a large consulting engineering firm in Minneapolis where she had worked for 32 years.

To find her footing, Ms. Tennyson enrolled as a fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Advanced Careers Initiative. It was the push she needed to begin an executive coaching business.

Before she hung out her shingle, though, she went back to school to obtain certification in executive and organizational coaching from Columbia University’s Teachers College and a graduate certificate from Columbia Business School’s Executive Education platform in business excellence. She also made sure her credentials met the standards required by the nonprofit International Coaching Federation.

“I didn’t want to be retired,” she said “Retired implies done. When I moved on from my job, it wasn’t completely on my own terms. The firm changed management, and I was out faster than I had planned.” But at 59, she said, she wanted something new. “I longed for something more purposeful, more meaningful, more challenging.”

Money, too, played a role.

“I had saved quite a bit of money, but I had also spent quite a bit of money,” said Ms. Tennyson, who realized she needed to keep earning.

Start-up costs for Ms. Tennyson were around $50,000 for tuition and to set up a home office so she could coach virtually.

“The positive result of the pandemic,” she said, “is I can work with people anywhere.” But the coronavirus has also taken a toll on her business, and in June she took a job as director of human resources at an addiction treatment center. “I continue to run my business on the side and coach clients. I expect that to bounce back next year.”

It turns out that the importance of entrepreneurship, or self-employment as a form of work, increases significantly with age, according to a report by Cal J. Halvorsen and Jacquelyn B. James of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

According to the report: “While about one in six workers in their 50s are self-employed, nearly one in three are self-employed in their late 60s and more than 1 in 2 workers over the age of 80 are self-employed.

Joe Casey, an executive coach, advises his older clients to focus. “The sooner they’re clear about their ‘Why,’ the easier some of their decisions will be.”

ImageRati Thanawala’s new nonprofit aims to help women entering the technology field, where she spent her career. 
Credit…Kayana Szymczak for The New York Times

For Rati Thanawala, 68, it was her time as a 2018 fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, which helps professionals apply their skills to social problems, that led her to start a nonprofit, the Leadership Academy for Women of Color in Tech, this summer.

“As a fellow, I did research on why the careers of so many women and minorities get stalled in the tech industry,” said Ms. Thanawala, who spent 39 years working in technology, the last 17 as a vice president at Bell Labs.

After she retired three years ago, Ms. Thanawala sold her car and home and moved to Cambridge, Mass., for the Harvard program. “My husband had passed away, and our two children were grown,” she said. “I wanted to get rid of the old to make room for the new relationships and new people who can teach me.”

For Ms. Thanawala, the central issue for her next chapter was clear — she wanted to have an impact on the industry she had been immersed in. “I had tremendous knowledge in the tech area, and I saw firsthand how few women of color were in leadership positions,” she said.

Her pilot program, which she designed as a fellow, was funded by a $20,000 grant from Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates.

And this summer, Ms. Thanawala partnered with faculty members at the University of Massachusetts and the Harvard Kennedy School to create a free six-week, 120-hour Virtual Summer Leadership Academy taught via Zoom for 54 women undergraduates. Most of the students were sophomores or juniors pursuing degrees in technology and engineering at schools in Massachusetts, including the University of Massachusetts, Harvard, M.I.T. and Boston University.

Ms. Thanawala said she hoped to expand the program and make it available to all women of color who declare a major in technology across the country.

In devising her business, money was not a stumbling block. “I didn’t need a start-up that was going to make me millions of dollars,” she said. “And I didn’t need money to support me. I could focus on changing the culture in tech and change the mind-set about women of color.”

Embarking on social entrepreneurship has been a one-woman show in many respects, she said. “I had to do everything myself. It was not like at Bell Labs when I had all of these people around me to bounce ideas off. It was harder than I predicted.”

Her mantra: “At this stage of life, it is really important to focus and not spread myself too thin. I picked something that is transformative, game-changing and innovative. I don’t need it for my ego. I don’t need it for my credibility. I don’t need it for money.

“But it is going to be the best chapter of my life in terms of the impact that I will have had in this world. People will remember me for this.”

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‘The Startup Story Presents’ Episode 3: ‘The Artisan’

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The owner and founder of Dallas-based clothing brand Mi Golondrina is the subject of this new profile from the “Startup Story” series.

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October 21, 2020 1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The Startup Story” podcast launched in 2019 to deliver the authentic stories of entrepreneurship. The stories we’ve been fortunate enough to unpack across our 90-plus episodes have been inspiring, gut-wrenching and incredibly raw. Contrary to most headlines, entrepreneurship does not follow the Field of Dreams model of “if you build it, they will come.”

There are learning moments in all stories, regardless of industry or product offering. Every single founder story speaks to the resilience and belief necessary to build a business that can survive, despite the truth that most businesses will fail. While the audio experience of “The Startup Story” podcast delivers these real and raw stories, some stories warrant a visual approach. That is why “The Startup Story,” in collaboration with Think Branded Media, will be presenting a featurette to accompany the release of one of our remarkable episodes.

With that in mind, “The Startup Story Presents: The Artisan.”

Listen to Cristina Lynch’s complete podcast episode of “The Startup Story.”

Related: ‘The Startup Story Presents’ Episode 3: ‘The Activist’

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10 Dangers of Becoming an Entrepreneur (and How to Face Them)

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October 21, 2020 8 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Millions of people around the world dream of becoming an . Be your own boss, work your own hours, and get to sit back and relax while telling others what work needs to be done.

Now if only being an entrepreneur was that easy!

Venturing out on your own path to not only run your own but succeed at , is a lot of even if you are only choosing to do it in your spare time. However, by implementing a to handle the following dangers, you will have in place to “get your ducks in a row” before jumping into the business owner pond.

1. No steady paycheck 

All businesses must reinvest capital back into the company to allow for growth and it can take months, if not years to finally be able to pay yourself a steady wage.

Solution: It is recommended to have a minimum of 6 months of regular income saved before jumping into the business owner pond. Plan for the unexpected, as you may need to cut back to the bare necessities and live a minimalist lifestyle until your business venture becomes a success. Now you may not have to be so drastic but again…be prepared! 

2. Relying on cash flow

Your cash flow depends solely on the income from the sales of your products and/or services. So what happens if a client doesn’t pay their invoice on time? Do you have the capital to cover the daily expenses should unforeseen circumstances arise?

Solution: Have a strong business plan in place and the capital to back it before leaping into the business owner pond. Do your research. Secure reliable clients and know the costs of not only the daily operations, but also account for breakdowns, loss of clients, legal fees, market changes, technology advancements, and so much more. You should also have a collection agency you can use in your back pocket, so they can go after what is owed to you just in case.

Related: 17 Passive Income Ideas for Increasing Your Cash Flow

3. Market demand for your product and/or service

The marketplace can and does change very quickly. You must have a plan in place and be flexible enough to pivot your organization to match market demand. Perhaps you sell goat hand soap, but suddenly everyone wants non-animal based products. Do you have a backup plan?

Solution: Diversifying your products or services can be the key to ensuring market changes don’t crush your business.  Your business plan should also have a pre-planned exit strategy especially for “trendy” products. 

4. Time

As a business owner, your time quickly becomes swallowed up as you are the key to ideas, marketing, sales, prospecting, closing, etc. You are responsible for every detail surrounding your business from legalities to the final decisions and without time, you will quickly be overwhelmed and fall victim to

Solution: Remember to take time to unwind. Perhaps a set time at the end of the day to turn off your cell phone and close your laptop to focus on yourself and your family. Delegate responsibilities to employees you trust and get organized with a schedule so you never miss a deadline or suddenly feel overwhelmed or rushed.

5. Health 

Unlike working for someone else, you can no longer call your boss and request a sick day and expect business to run as usual as, without you, there is no business. Burnout, stress, and illness are hurdles every entrepreneur must face and they all can have detrimental effects on your health. 

Solution: Burning the candle at both ends may initially give your business a boost, however, you will quickly discover that sleeplessness, stress, and burnout have a detrimental affect on your thought process, ideas, and temperament hurting your business in the long run. It is important to always make time for you because a healthy you grows a healthy business.

Related: Startup Founders Can’t Afford to Ignore Mental Health

6. Employees

As a new entrepreneur, you likely will not have the initial capital investment needed for a large team of employees making it vital to either learn it all yourself or find and hire a small group of people who match your goals and energy. 

Solution: Do your research, ask tough questions, and don’t be afraid to hire on a trial basis with set deadlines for projects to ensure your employees are the right match for your business. You need people who match your business vision and when working with a small team, one wrong employee can drastically hurt deadlines and goals. Be prepared to fire if needed and trust your instincts. The right team is out there, don’t be afraid to recognize when it is not working and do what is needed to rectify it. 

7. Emotional 

Becoming your own boss is an exciting opportunity! Unfortunately, many startups also fail within the first year. Markets change, clients dry up, and you could face bankruptcy, legal action, and several other unforeseen circumstances that could cause an outstanding amount of emotional and physical stress.

Solution: Be prepared for downfalls and stress by having support systems, mentors, and plans in place to help your emotional well being during trying times. 

Have you accounted for your support system? Do you have someone who can listen, emphasize, and be your cheerleader? If not, I highly recommend you build that foundation from the start.

8. Competitor risk

Every business has competitors to compete with and you must be vigilant in learning the ins and outs of your competition while protecting your own business. There are several legal costs involved when it comes to your intellectual and proprietary rights as there are always going to be copycats out there who will attempt to steal your name, designs, etc. and market them as their own.

Solution: File trademarks, copyrights, and have professional legal contracts readily available for clients, staff, manufacturers, etc. to protect your interests. Your business is your baby…protect it!

9. Operational risk

IT technology systems, supply chains, record keeping, fraud, system maintenance, etc., all fall under operational risk and the more you neglect each system, the higher the risk of one or more failing. Record keeping for example must be done accurately and consistently to avoid errors on your books that could cost you thousands if not millions of dollars in fees or fines.

Solution: To mitigate operational risk, you may choose to hire a team to ensure your systems and internal workings are protected from fraud, hacking, etc., and always take the time to monitor and evaluate staff and systems at regular intervals to ensure you have the right people for the right job. 

10. Family

Sacrifice is essential in business. Sometimes you have to give one thing up in order to have the bandwidth for something more important. Family should not be sacrificed but it often is. Trying to have a balance between being an entrepreneur and a mom as an example doesn’t really exist. 

Solution: Preparing your family in advance of your goals and time away will help them understand that you may not make it to every game, or family dinner. Inviting them to join in your journey can be educational for them as well so allow them to be your ambassadors! 

Taking on each day as it comes and choosing to be flexible in the moment will allow you to eliminate the stress and guilt you may feel for being so distant. It’s not about balance, it’s about fulfilling your needs, by making a choice in that moment, of that day for what will fulfill your spirit.

Related: How To Tell If Your Work-Life Balance Is Messed Up

I am always reminded of the story behind a hot dog vendor. Seems like a simple investment, but let’s break it down. 5-6K for the cart and 4k per year for the permit totaling a 10K investment upfront for a simple hot dog cart and you have yet to purchase hotdogs to sell or put aside money for unforeseen expenses such as machinery breakdowns, advertising, and more!

This is only the beginning of the total investment. You must have a full understanding of how long until you make a profit. How many hotdogs must you sell before you are able to pay yourself a wage and reinvest in your business? What about or circumstances beyond your control such as weather that may limit your sales dramatically.

In short, becoming your own boss on the road to being a successful entrepreneur has many dangers, however, by implementing a strong business plan, understanding and reacting to the inherent dangers, creating a support team, and having a strong knowledge of the capital investment, time, and energy involved you will be able to respond to risks with a clear plan in place minimizing the risk of failure.

Now that you have a clear understanding of some of the risks to entrepreneurship, go out there and give it all you got because there is nothing better than being your own boss and making your dreams come true!

 

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