Category Archives: Blog

REPOST: Why COOs Should Think Like Behavioral Economists

The article below by Harvard Business Review explains why a successful COO might need to think about the environment in which his employees make choices. It could be the key to a happier and more productive workplace. Read more:


When Yelp was a startup with just 15 employees, the office manager began to stock the kitchen with drinks and snacks to get everyone through the long afternoons. Juice, water, fruit, chips, and as much candy as could be stuffed into the small kitchen drawer. Being at work was like being, well, a kid in a candy shop: a bottomless supply of Snickers, Twix, 3 Musketeers, M&M’s, Almond Joys — the list goes on.

And at first, everyone loved it. If a 3 PM hunger pang struck, it was a delight to find a Snickers to nosh on, without even having to leave the building. But within two weeks, one of us (Geoff, who was COO at the time) realized he was averaging a Snickers bar per day. This was a bit odd for two reasons. First, he had barely eaten candy bars in the years before that. Second, he didn’t really want to eat candy bars; he just did it as part of his newfound afternoon routine. A quick poll among coworkers revealed that the whole company had experienced a sharp uptick in candy bar consumption. Simply by existing, the candy drawer had created a cadre of candy eaters.

In a world of rational economic decision making, more — and more choice — is always better. If you don’t want a candy bar, skip it. If you choose to eat it, that’s because doing so is better than ignoring it. This is what economists refer to as revealed preference; in this Panglossian view, whatever choice you make must be the best one, given the information and incentives you have. Geoff and the rest of the Yelp team had run into an important limitation of revealed preference. A growing body of research demonstrates the myriad ways in which our choices run counter to our interests. That is, sometimes our decisions reveal systematic mistakes or short-run temptations, rather than our preferences.

Ultimately, the team agreed they should eat fewer candy bars. They tried their hand at resisting temptation, but to no avail. The candy bars continued to vanish at alarming rates. So they made a radical decision: They decided that less choice is better and got rid of the candy bars. And although there were days that people wished they had easy access to a Mars bar, they agreed that this change was for the better.

For Geoff, this was the moment he realized that a successful COO needed to think about the environment in which employees make choices. More broadly, this illustrates a point that all COOs should keep in mind: A successful COO needs to think like a behavioral economist. What does this mean, exactly? First, it means recognizing that employees are, well, people. They exhibit the complexities and biases that we all have. And managers need to understand what kinds of biases occur. Second, this means the COO needs to think not only about compensation packages and incentives but also about creating an environment in which employees are set up to make good decisions.

In other words, rather than telling people about their mistakes and hoping for improvement, changing behavior is partly about changing the environment in which decisions are made. Nudge, a 2008 book by Richard Thaler (winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in economics) and Cass Sunstein refers to this as choice architecture. And it turns out the workplace is full of opportunities for better or worse choice architecture. Just consider the following:

Stock a drawer with candy bars? Expect people to be tempted to eat them, even if they think they shouldn’t.

Display a performance metric on the wall? Expect it to rise, potentially at the expense of other ones.

Create more-diverse hiring committees? Expect that you may see a more diverse workforce.

Default 401(k) contributions to 6%? Six percent may become the norm.

Yelp’s 401(k) plan was initially an opt-in benefit, meaning employees needed to actively sign up for it. When the company changed the enrollment process to opt-out — meaning employees were automatically enrolled but could choose to unenroll — enrollment skyrocketed from less than 20% to more than 80%. Yelp had choice-architected its workforce into higher long-term savings rates. (Research by John Beshears, James Choi, David Laibson, and Brigitte Madrian first demonstrated the power of 401(k) defaults in other settings, which is a powerful finding that extends well beyond the tech industry.)

Seemingly innocuous decisions such as these can define a company’s ethos and employees’ well-being. The reason why is that systematic mistakes are pervasive — even among smart, well-intentioned people. And the way decisions are framed subtly shape the decisions we make.

The idea of the COO as a behavioral economist can run counter to the libertarian streak that we often see in the executives we interact with — especially in the tech industry, which prides itself on having a fierce sense of independence and autonomous decision making. But the idea of neutral decision making is in many ways an illusion. As Thaler and Sunstein discuss in Nudge, just as architects choose where to put an elevator and where to put stairs, a choice architect shapes the way a decision is framed. The COO, and the management team more generally, must choose when to default employees into a 401(k), how to shape the interview process, and whether to stock the kitchen drawer with candy.

So, when you think about the choices you make at work, consider not only the decisions you’d like to improve but also the environment in which the decisions will be made. You may find simple ways to change the environment to improve your decisions and those of others around you.

And if you are a COO, embrace your inner choice architect. Your company will be more productive and happier for it.

How history’s ‘economic miracles’ redefined growth and development

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Economy refers to the overall wealth of a particular region, city, or nation. It also describes the accessibility of resources based on the performance of both the production and consumption of the goods and services available. This very definition makes economy one of the most important factors that may contribute to the rise and fall of many countries or territories around the world.

As a major player that has shaped the course of history, the concept of economy has helped us understand how it has encouraged development and progress even among the once low-performing countries in the past.  These ‘economic miracles’ marked the stage of a sudden and unexpected strong economic development, much similar to modern-day economic booms in most developing countries.

India’s economic liberalization, for instance, has resulted into a high economic growth in the country between the 1990s and the 2000s. Its initial goal was to shift the economy’s focus on more service and market-oriented approaches, highlighting the important roles played by the private and foreign investments. Some of the policy changes fueled the reduced rates of import tariffs, inspired market deregulations and most importantly, lowered the taxes that invited outside investments.

Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea have made their mark in the economic history by dramatically transforming their economy through industrial and high-tech developments during the early 1990s. All these four nations focused huge investments on infrastructure and the development of their human intellectual resources, encouraging institutions to produce technology geniuses that have helped sparked a new technological revolution in Asia and beyond.

The policies that these four technological innovators laid out made them the top high-income, industrialized, and developed nations, giving them an unbreakable competitive edge in the world.

REPOST: 5 side hustles you can do from the comfort of your home

The digital era has made it possible for the marketing industry to reach new frontiers. With social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, among others, it is now much easier to promote products or services and build stronger brands. If you’re looking for a potential revenue stream while trying to achieve career-life balance, a home-based business may be the best option for you. Here is an article from Statesman for some interesting business ideas:

It’s not all working in your pajamas, sleeping late and eating cereal at all hours, but part-time work from home can help you earn money while you watch the kids.

Plus, you’ll avoid a commute and earn great experience you can take into the world for a later career.

Here are five of the most popular expert-recommended work at home businesses:

Business plan service
One of Entrepreneur’s “55 ideas for starting a home-based business for less than $5,000,” a business plan service costs less than $1,500 to get off the ground. You’ll complete market research, a business plan narrative and financial statements for clients. Author Cheryl Kimball advises, “Base your fee on whichever deliverable the clients wants most and bill the others as ‘add on services.'” Along with the ability to work from home, this idea has the added advantage of expansion possibilities, so you can start small and grow as you’re able to devote more time and resources.

FILE - This Tuesday, May 3, 2011, file photo, shows a Visa card in a wallet in Richardson, Texas. If you believe your bank account has been compromised, you need to act quickly and diligently to prevent money from being stolen or to recover lost funds. The steps you take once you discover your account is in jeopardy can determine whether you protect your money or lose it. AP Photo/LM Otero, File
FILE – This Tuesday, May 3, 2011, file photo, shows a Visa card in a wallet in Richardson, Texas. If you believe your bank account has been compromised, you need to act quickly and diligently to prevent money from being stolen or to recover lost funds. The steps you take once you discover your account is in jeopardy can determine whether you protect your money or lose it. AP Photo/LM Otero, File

Those willing to perform financial services for small businesses can easily choose their level of involvement, from simple bookkeeping to providing analytic tools like income statements and financial reports. If you have the requisite background and certifications, you can offer specialized services like tax accounting. If you’re new to the field, beware employment ads promising big profits, as they’re probably not legitimate accounting jobs.

Small engine repair
Not every part-time home-based job is for white collar workers, according to Entrepreneur. Stay-at-home parents or those looking for a profitable after-hours side hustle might want to consider small engine repair. Of course, you’ll need experience or licensing for this garage-centered business, but most community colleges offer courses on engine repair. You also might be able to start out at someone else’s shop to learn what you need to know. Before you put up fliers or a Craigslist ad, you’ll want to know how to repair different types of lawn mowers, rototillers, chainsaws and generators.

This home in the South Park neighborhood rents on Airbnb starting for about $99 per night. CONTRIBUTED Staff Writer
This home in the South Park neighborhood rents on Airbnb starting for about $99 per night. CONTRIBUTED Staff Writer

If you’re considering ways to make money working part-time from home, spend a few hours evaluating whether your home itself could provide sideline income. Airbnb is simply a website that acts as an online community, connecting travelers and hosts. Members list and rent lodging to other members, from entire houses to a spare bed. Airbnb handles all the transactions for a small fee from both host and renter. You’ll need to consider whether you can attract enough business travelers or tourists to your home, according to the Simple Dollar, which offers tips for creating an alluring listing and for scheduling your opening at the same time as a big local event that will boost demand.
Home call center

As more companies shift to an increasingly remote workforce, there really are opportunities for legitimate work-at-home call center positions, according to the Spruce. Having experience in a office-based call center or even previous retail experience is often enough to land you a job with a home-based call center. Speaking more than one language will also make you an extra-appealing call center candidate. Avoid scams by watching out for job offers that include testing costs, application or training fees or reqests for the job applicant to pay for specialized equipment and software.

Are there legal ways to protect your inheritance from taxes?

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Understanding what an inheritance tax is can help you plan and properly manage your wealth. In definition, this particular ‘death tax’ is slightly different from a state tax since the former are obligations paid by heirs, not by the deceased’s estate.

As of 2016, there are only six states in the U.S. that collect inheritance taxes. Two of them, New Jersey and Maryland, are legally mandated to collect estate taxes as well.  However, the rates imposed on these inheritance taxes will always depend on the relationship between the heir and the deceased—and this information is useful when handling your assets.

If the inheritance will come from parents or even from other family members, setting up a trust to manage your assets is a wise and practical way to get started. A trust will enable the beneficiaries to avoid state probate requirements and related expenses that go with them.

However, choosing between a revocable trust and its irrevocable counterpart can be tricky. Opting for the former means grantors can easily take the assets out if needed, while the latter ties up the specific assets until the death of the grantor.

It’s also important to consider can alternate valuation date. There are instances in which an executor may choose a specific valuation period, six months after the date of the grantor’s death. However, this option’s availability depends on one factor: if the change in valuation can decrease not only the gross amount of the estate but also its state tax liability.

If you’re a grantor, properly and legally managing your inheritance without being burdened by taxes can be really challenging but there’s another option that will not only reduce the size of your taxable asset, it can also provide instant benefits to your loved ones: gifting.

REPOST: Goals-Based Investing: From Theory to Practice

Goal-driven investments are often considered the best kind of investments. The age-old practice of the ‘envelope system’ still applies today, but with much better savings options and are potentially more sustainable. More insights from Forbes:

Image source: Forbes
Image source: Forbes

What Is Goals-Based Investing?

In the world of financial advice, we are seeing a welcome trend toward goals-based investing. This trend puts a greater focus on the goals that investors want to achieve with their savings —such as retirement security, paying for college or purchasing a house — and uses these goals to drive investment strategy and monitor progress.

Goals-based investing may seem like an obvious concept, but it represents a departure from the typical risk-tolerance framework, which profiles clients based on whether they have a conservative, moderate, or aggressive orientation to investment risk. These distinctions are not just semantic; they have important implications for investment strategy and for wealth management practice, as we illustrate in this blog.

Risk Is Not Just Volatility

To see goals-based investment in action, consider a highly simplified example using long-term historical results for three different stock indexes: a large-cap index often used to represent “the market,” a small-cap index, and a dividend-payers index, all measured over the 40-year period from 1976 to 2015. Note that, during this period, equity markets enjoyed returns above their longer-term (1925-present) averages. Nevertheless, in this example we are focusing on the differences between the indexes. In addition, most investors would likely invest in bonds as well as stocks, lowering both overall return and volatility. Again, it is the relative differences that matter here.

Continue reading HERE.

How Instagram can help your business earn its first million

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Today’s generation can no longer imagine a world without the Internet. In fact, every part of their meaningful interaction with other people have been made possible through online connections and the rise of social networking sites has proven to be not just a way to expand social circles but also an avenue to create successful and multi-million dollar businesses.

One of these social networking sites that is an emerging medium for entrepreneurs and businesses is Instagram. The secret to this SNS’ success is all thanks to its continuously rising popularity, making it the fastest growing media platform with over 700 million monthly users all over the planet as of 2017.


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As a businessman or a new entrepreneur, imagine having an online space that enables your company to possibly reach hundreds of millions of traffic and prospect customers. Instagram has made a tremendous effort to make their platform welcoming and user-friendly not just for its users but also for business owners. Many features have been added to cater to the needs of entrepreneurs and marketers through an option that can convert a personal user account to a business account.

As a business account, Instagram provides features such as a Contact button so your followers and prospect customers can have access to your company’s details: phone number, maps, and email address.

Advertising your products and services are also just a click away and it gives you a chance to reach fresh audience outside of your follower list. The strategic thing about it is your ads don’t have to look like a typical and painfully annoying advertisement. How? Through sponsored stories that have the same characteristics of any standard post that can perfectly blend right in.

REPOST: The case for investing in emerging markets

Emerging markets are fast becoming the prime movers of various economic phenomena. As such, they can provide explosive opportunities for portfolio boost and diversification as they are expected to grow two or three times faster than the developed world. Here are more insights from USA Today:


U.S. vacationers aren’t the only ones that should broaden their horizons and go overseas. American investors should think about it, too, Wall Street pros say.

With U.S. stocks near record highs and up 9% in 2017, it’s easy for Main Street investors to stick to a U.S.-centric portfolio. But that strategy means they won’t be able to take advantage of strength in shares trading developing countries.

The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (EEM), which invests in places like China, South Korea and South Africa, has broken out to new highs this week and is at its highest level since May 2015. The ETF is up more than 22% this year, more than double the return of the U.S. stock market.

Factors driving the gains in emerging markets: a rebound in the global economy; a sense that years of better U.S. stock performance will give way to stronger gains from abroad; cheaper valuations in developing markets, and continued hints from the U.S. central bank that it won’t too hastily pull back on stimulus that is beneficial to emerging markets. Barring a global crisis, emerging markets are likely to fare well.

“It’s a market we want to have exposure to,” says Todd Sohn, analyst at Strategas Research Partners. Sohn says performance is being driven by gains in Hong Kong stocks and a recent surge in Taiwan shares, two countries with big weightings in the emerging market index.

Adds Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist at U. S. Trust: “U.S. investors should think long-term and recognize future growth, consumption and corporate earnings will emanate primarily from the likes of China, India and Mexico and others over the next decade.”

Robots may takeover but these industries will never go obsolete

Technology is evolving fast and while its initial objective was to help humanity live a better and more convenient life, its unprecedented boom in several industries has contributed to a whole new and impressive ways of providing products and offering services, raising a very important question: will technology change the way we do work and will it finally replace human labor?


To acknowledge the role of technology is shaping the labor industry is no longer a product of fiction. In fact, some have predicted that many jobs in several industries will become obsolete in the future while others, will continue to develop and prosper. So which industries will never go obsolete? Here are some of them:


Food production

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The diverse nature of the food industry is what secures it from becoming obsolete. Instead, it will evolve and grow with technology, helping with production, processing, packaging, preservation, and agriculture, etc. Experts have predicted that the long-term demand for food and its sectors will be strong and stay intact unless humans can finally think of a substitute source of sustenance, energy and nutrition.


Medicine and healthcare

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Humans are constantly exposed to numerous health risks, which means that developing new medicines and equipment to treat various conditions will never cease. Players in this industry are in constant search for the best solutions to increase life expectancy and keep everyone healthy. As such, the medical field has been one of the strongest and most resilient of all industries.


Specialized services

Image source: LOM Financial
Image source: LOM Financial

Services requiring the specialty of professional workers are here to stay. No matter how advanced robots may become, it can never replace labor that requires skills, creativity, and human touch such as management consulting, financial services, legal matters, engineering, information technology, architecture, and design.


Entertainment and media

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Music, television, games, publishing, advertisement, motion pictures, and everything that the industry has to offer will grow in demand and secure its place in the high-tech future. The demand for these products and services currently delivers huge revenues to many countries around the world and it will continue to do so – thanks to both human talent and technology, the entertainment and media industry will endure to create, innovate, and become more diverse in the years to come.

REPOST: The Importance Of Time Horizons For Investing (And Beyond)

Volatility and time are two of the most important factors in investing, probably even more important than the amount of capital invested itself. Investments held for longer periods tend to exhibit lower volatility than those held for shorter periods. Here is an article on Forbes for more insights:


When it comes to evaluating market risk, your time horizon is a key factor to consider. As a general rule, shorter time horizons require more caution than do longer ones. I would also argue, however, that this concept applies to many areas of investing—and beyond.

Long-term investing

Let’s start with why longer-term results can be more predictable than shorter-term ones. The answer is, simply, averaging. One data point might be noisy, but as you accumulate more and average them, the outliers tend to offset each other. As a result, the signal starts to dominate the noise. The more data points you have, the closer you get to the expected result. Investors with 40 years, for example, can look at longer-term return goals with a reasonable expectation of actually getting them. But for shorter time frames, the noise can dominate. Hence, the extra caution needed as you get closer to retirement.

This trend also works in reverse. Looking at short-term results in the past (e.g., the best-performing fund on July 22, 2016, from 1:00 to 1:45 P.M. ET!) is probably looking at noise. Longer term, over five to ten years, is likely a reasonable indicator of repeatable performance. Similarly, when we look at economic data, monthly data bounces around a lot. But the year-on-year changes are much smoother and more reliable.

Translating this to the actual investment process, we have the justification for longer-term investing. Any fund will do well in some environments and less well in others. Holding for the long term allows you to receive the average return, without trying to time the good and bad periods. Planning for the long term lets you match the actual performance of your portfolio with your needs. Further, planning to consistently put money in regularly for the long term lets you take advantage of times when the market is down (i.e., cheap).

Maximizing your chances of success

The big takeaway here is that by matching the time horizon of your goals with that of your strategy, you are maximizing your chances for success.

When your time horizon starts to get shorter, particularly when it’s below the ten or so years when performance is likely to be predictable, your goals start to become vulnerable to the noise inherent in investment returns. At that point, you need to consider strategies to realign your time frame with a time period that is reasonably predictable.

One way to do that? Simply place enough money in very-low-risk assets, allowing the rest of your portfolio to have the extra time to recover, if necessary. If your time frame is seven years, say, and you set aside three years of spending needs in low-risk assets, you would not need to touch the rest until ten years. Once again, this would match the predictable time frame against your needs.

Minimizing risk

None of this is an exact science, of course, and there are many assumptions baked into what I have discussed here. As a guideline to how to think about your goals and how they relate to your investments, though, this kind of analysis can provide a meaningful framework for exactly what you might want to do, when you might want to do it, and why it might work.

As always, understanding the risks ahead of time and then planning how best to minimize them is the best recipe for success, in investing or anything else. Understanding your time frame and that of your investments is a great way to minimize the risk that noise can present to your goals.

REPOST: Top 10 Hot Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technologies

In the very near future, AI can already be as ubiquitous as smartphones in many business transactions, operations, and even customer management systems. Here are the 10 hottest artificial intelligence techs that are rapidly shaping up the business world, according to Forbes:



The market for artificial intelligence (AI) technologies is flourishing. Beyond the hype and the heightened media attention, the numerous startups and the internet giants racing to acquire them, there is a significant increase in investment and adoption by enterprises. A Narrative Science survey found last year that 38% of enterprises are already using AI, growing to 62% by 2018. Forrester Research predicted a greater than 300% increase in investment in artificial intelligence in 2017 compared with 2016. IDC estimated that the AI market will grow from $8 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020.


Coined in 1955 to describe a new computer science sub-discipline, “Artificial Intelligence” today includes a variety of technologies and tools, some time-tested, others relatively new. To help make sense of what’s hot and what’s not, Forrester just published a TechRadar report on Artificial Intelligence (for application development professionals), a detailed analysis of 13 technologies enterprises should consider adopting to support human decision-making.


Based on Forrester’s analysis, here’s my list of the 10 hottest AI technologies:


  1. Natural Language Generation: Producing text from computer data. Currently used in customer service, report generation, and summarizing business intelligence insights. Sample vendors: Attivio, Automated Insights, Cambridge Semantics, Digital Reasoning, Lucidworks, Narrative Science, SAS, Yseop.
  2. Speech Recognition: Transcribe and transform human speech into format useful for computer applications. Currently used in interactive voice response systems and mobile applications. Sample vendors: NICE, Nuance Communications, OpenText, Verint Systems.
  3. Virtual Agents: “The current darling of the media,” says Forrester (I believe they refer to my evolving relationships with Alexa), from simple chatbots to advanced systems that can network with humans. Currently used in customer service and support and as a smart home manager. Sample vendors: Amazon, Apple, Artificial Solutions, Assist AI, Creative Virtual, Google, IBM, IPsoft, Microsoft, Satisfi.
  4. Machine Learning Platforms: Providing algorithms, APIs, development and training toolkits, data, as well as computing power to design, train, and deploy models into applications, processes, and other machines. Currently used in a wide range of enterprise applications, mostly `involving prediction or classification. Sample vendors: Amazon, Fractal Analytics, Google,, Microsoft, SAS, Skytree.
  5. AI-optimized Hardware: Graphics processing units (GPU) and appliances specifically designed and architected to efficiently run AI-oriented computational jobs. Currently primarily making a difference in deep learning applications. Sample vendors: Alluviate, Cray, Google, IBM, Intel, Nvidia.


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