Monday, May 20, 2019

Fund-House Review : What We've Been Up To


Over the last year the Fund-House has been busy - in both its investment and consulting capacities.

Detail of Projects:


  • Joint Venture w/ eMotive Pull Communications:  Fund-House entered into a business relationship with eMP, a strategic marketing company that determines the emotional motivation behind the purchasing decision of a given company's customers. The reason for the joint venture was to afford both F-H and eMP the ability provide clients a full range of marketing and brand/identity services. We are currently working with our first client, Haven Inspections, to provide these joint consulting services. 
  • Gracious Gifts, LLC: Fund-House made an investment is GG, a manufacturer of  one-of-a-kind greeting cards that come with or without a gift included with the card. These gifts, are pewter bracelets with a charm. To be marketed at the retail level and on the GG website. Indications point to a strong demand for this type of product. "It Not A Card, It's A Gift" is its tag and it serves as a convenience purchase - as both the gift and greeting card.
  • 4M Performance, concept and development: a performance mechanism that will be offered as a enhanced consult service to our clients. A revenue accelerator for already established companies looking for 2nd growth opportunities or expansion into other business lines. 4M: money, marketing, management, and momentum are the four accelerator components that are addressed under this service. We will be reporting on 4MP's success as it is implemented and executed in the marketplace. 
  •  American Modern Music Academy (AMMP): one of F-H's spheres of interest is the consult and/or investment in arts and entertainment based companies. AMMP is one such entity. A recording and visual arts production studio, AMMP is at the forefront is providing instructional and studio rental by recording artists through membership/subscription programs. It is a full-service sound and visual production facility consisting of nine separate studios - each offering a different customer service - from audio production and recording to green room video production and editing.
  • Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO): a Phoenix-based business development corporation with Federal, State, and local municipal funding has retained F-H to provide consulting services regarding the analysis of NEDCO clients requesting funding for their businesses. F-H will work with small business clients to assist them in the loan application process and their ability to service and/or collateralize funding received through ongoing business operations. NEDCO is part of the New Leaf Initiative.
It has been a busy and lucrative year and we will continue to offer our services to a diverse clientele where we truly believe we can make a difference. We have high expectations for 4M Performance and its ability to bring together a diverse skill set and essentially a one-stop consultancy for marketing, branding. corporate identity, website development, logo/image design, and financial analysis and planning. 

If you have a problem contact Fund-House and we'll be happy to talk about your particular situation and requirements. 
Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC
www.fundhouse.us
jlavorato@fundhouse.us 












               



           



Friday, May 17, 2019

Cracking Internet Passwords, It's EASY

Cybercriminals have it easy when it comes to hacking into internet user accounts. Why? Because people use simple and obvious passwords.
A small sample of the public companies that have had data breaches 


A study by the National Cyber Security Center found that simply typing in 'password' allowed access to over 3.6 million accounts. However, that is far from the most common access gift. A staggering 23.2 million users have '123456' as their password, and another 3.8 million use 'qwerty' (the first six letters on the top left of a standard keyboard) as their access code. Using favorite names, sports teams, bands, and fictional characters also exposed millions to hacking.

F-H Launch Pad's advice: use three random words as a password, that should keep your accounts safe. Or, to be really safe, use a phrase that you will remember. For example, 'to be or not to be that is the question'. A full 89% of internet users make online purchases, 39% on a weekly basis and less than half use a strong, separate password for their email accounts.

Data on compromised passwords was obtained by hackers from global breaches that are already in public domain, having been sold or shared by hackers. Favorite names, sports teams, and musicians came up as hundreds of thousands of times among the top hacked passwords.  Almost 500,000 accounts used the name 'ashley', while 'michael' was used 425k times.

Rock bands were another weak spot. While 'blink182' may seen like a strong gate-keeper word, over 285,000 people had it breached as a password. As for superheroes, 'superman' was the most popular with over 333,000 hacked accounts using it.


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So, there you have it. Use phases instead of common words. Use three random words. And endeavor to change your passwords once yearly.

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Top ECO-Trends For 2020

I'm predicting that 2020 will be a pivotal year for eco-development. New products and services that are eco-friendly will abound. Moving forward with sustainability must be incremental but constant and without disruption. 

There is great opportunity for innovation, investment, and prosperity for all economic levels as eco-based conservation takes hold in many facets of out lives.

From cork sneakers to edible food containers things are changing our lives - and changing FAST!  Below are a few of my favorites in terms of viability, usefulness, and sustainability.



Estudio 41 - a Brazilian company that manufacturers compact, eco-concious houses that are energy and water conserving.









Zero X Gear-free E-Motor Bikes - powered by a battery pack that offers up to 100 miles per charge these bikes are easy to ride and have gearless operation.









Aston Martin Lagonda - Ultra-lux 4 passenger all electric X-over. No price as yet. Design futuristic.










Alpro Edible Food Containers - not only healthy but completely reduces packaging waste. Plant-based food containers are made of a combination of nuts, spices, fennel, pumpkin and sesame seeds.









Solar powered SmartPhone Cases - outfitted with a small solar panel on the back of the phone there is no need to ever charge your phone again. The solar panels are slim and also protect the phone as any case would. Many available NOW!





These products are, in most cases, available now. Everyone needs to "think" eco. It is not hard and it is not sacrificial - it is everyday living in a sensible way. Eco-friendly does, and shouldn't, call for extremes. Conservation comes from the word conservative or those that change, but slowly.  We all need to embrace the notion of conservation which fully uses our technological advancements. Eco-concious products and services will be the norm and that starts in earnest in 2020.



Just saying,
Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures
 










Monday, April 15, 2019

Business Growth Is NOT Equal

I believe that business growth is directly related in how much invested capital is required to fuel that growth - so long as the other growth accelerators (management, momentum, and marketing) are present.

Types of Growth

- New Product/Market Development : investment in the growth of a new product or market generates the best margins, since there is limited competition and the market is growing. Hint: creating new demand for a product that did not previously exist requires outstanding innovation capabilities.  


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- Expanding Into Adjacent Markets: Moving into adjacent market expansion requires precise execution skills and organizational flexibility. It will bring very attractive margins.

- Maintaining or Growing Market Share: It takes a lot of funds and great management to make the product and its value distinctive. But, as long as, the market is still growing, margins will remain solid.

- Growing Share In a Stable Market: This type of growth does not always create value. Although investment may be small, competition for share in order to maintain scale is typically intense, and leads to lower margins.

- Acquisitions: Although for middle and large sized firms this growth type will drive top and bottom-line numbers very quickly but performance may not be sustainable without great management and momentum. 

I should mention that the timing of growth opportunities is determined within each industry. Also, it is easier for smaller companies to grow than larger ones.

All businesses must grow to survive in this very competitive marketplace - choose your type with great care and make sure you have the capital to pull it off. 

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC



Thursday, April 11, 2019

Fasting Growing U.S. Brand : NETFLIX

The word 'Netflix' has become a verb. When that happens - your company has got lots of Brand equity.  To back this up, a new brand survey, by Brand Finance, indicated that Netflix was the fastest growing Brand in 2018.

Netflix's brand value, doubled over the year to reach $21.2b.  According to Brand Finance, Netflix delivers high-quality and varied programming and has attained the premier position in the content streaming industry. It is one company that has both pricing-power and excellent consumer ratings.

Regarding Brand value, Netflix ranks as 40th in overall dollar value, up 19 spots from year earlier results. The tech giants, such as Apple, Amazon, Google take the top rankings in brand value.


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After, Netflix (which had the highest growth in brand value at 105%) were: Taco Bell (83%), American Express (81%), Hampton Inn (78%), Dunkin (73%), Pizza Hut (72%), and Discovery (70%).

There are many companies on Netflix's heels, from Disney to AT&T - all trying to unseat the number one streamer. Will they be successful. NO! Why. They are too late in the game and fighting more for second and third place than first.

Jim Lavorato
Principal, Fund-House Ventures
jlavorato@fundhouse.us

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Dems : Can't Get It Right On Net Neutrality

I've discussed the issue of Net Neutrality in these pages before, so I wanted to revisit and update you on same.

Dems : Can't have it both ways.
Under Trump, the ISPs received a better deal than they did under Obama. But now the House of Reps., under the Democrats, is trying to restore the rules to prohibit ISPs from blocking or throttling web content and selling 'fast lanes' to content providers. 

Dubbed the 'Save The Internet Act' the Dems have an uphill battle as the current rules, enacted in 2017, have not resulted in the catastrophic demise and manipulation  of the interest that was predicted at the last go-around.

I am for keeping the rules as they are. The ISPs, no doubt make money on supplying the internet pipeline but big tech make lots, lots more and use up lots of the pipe. Additionally, it is hard to say you are all about "saving the internet" (and by default pro big tech) when Democratic Presidential candidates are proposing that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Instagram, YouTube, etc. be "broken up" as they are  monopolistic usurpers of our most confidential information and huge intruders into are private lives. The Dems can't have it both ways.

Jim Lavorato
Principal, Fund-House Ventures

Copyright (c) 2019 All Rights Reserved


In Business, Self-Improvement is a MUST

In business many fear making the wrong decisions, hesitate on pulling-the-trigger, and rely too much on the past to predict the future - these all get in the way of our best interests.

These biases cloud our decision-making but there are several things one can do to prevent or diminish there negative impact.

- Make decisions at your most rational. Self-restraint doesn't come easy as we all have a tendency to gratify immediate desires. The key is not to make important decisions too close to when they'll take effect. Shifting decision-making to a moment when your most rational self is running the show can be very effective in curbing impulsive decisions.

- Commit yourself. Focus on the goal. What is it you are REALLY trying to accomplish. Take out the biases and realize that all things are grey and not black or white.

- Reframe your gains and losses. People are far more motivated to avoid a loss than they are to rack up an equally large gain - called loss aversion, it's a real issue with business people at all levels. Although you must measure loss/gain you can not be so fearful of loss that it impacts your judgment to pull-the-trigger on a decision that should be made in a timely fashion.

- Doubt yourself. We all have trouble assessing probabilities which can skew the way we gauge our performance. Until otherwise proven, don't believe it's anything but chance when things go well. It's easy to be blinded by your successes, which is why it's so important to have an objective way to assess your outcomes.

So, going forward, figure out what biases you have, use self-restraint, and assess your successes rationally. Now Move Forward!

Jim Lavorato
Principal, Fund-House Ventures

Copyright (c) 2019 All rights reserved

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

AMMP : Best Music Production in Phoenix Valley

Launching on March 22nd in Mesa, AZ will be one of the best music production houses on the West Coast. The American Modern Music Production facility, better known as AMMP, will be opening its doors and offering a full compliment of music and video production activities.

Music production, mixing, scoring, training, and instruction will be available for customers aged 14 and up.  

March 22nd will be the first day in a week long launch that will feature : rock, rap, hip-hop, jazz, and blues bands and vocal performers, EDM and original d-jaying.  Lectures and instruction on music and music production equipment will be given, food trucks will be on-site. With outdoor stage and video productions.

Plan on attending. Its all about music! 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Looking at the Bigger Picture: Fun With Our Insignificance

We are all on the move. Schedules, appointments, duties, commitments, agendas run our daily lives. We are on the move all the time. In fact, sitting while I compose this blog post I'm on the move. Yes, I'm in the same chair, at the same desk, typing on the same PC but only from my perspective.
We are on the move - all the time.


As I sit, the Earth is rotating (spinning) at 600 miles per hour. Not only that, the Earth is rotating (orbiting) the Sun at 67,000 miles per hour. Further, the entire solar system is orbiting the Milky Way core (our galaxy) at 514,000 miles per hour. From this perspective Earth was 'here, where I sit' one galactic year ago - the time it takes to complete a single orbit of the Milky Way, a quarter of a billion of 'our' years!

But even this doesn't really do it. The galaxies themselves are moving apart at vast and variable speeds and we have no idea of what lies beyond.  In fact, physicists tell us that there is no way to determine what is moving and what is standing still, because you can only speak of motion relative to something else. 

This view of the universe is not new. Galileo deduced it in the 16th Century - yet this relativity continues to defy our intuition and our perception of time and space. And, with it, our realization of our insignificance in the Bigger Picture.

Danish astronomer Ole Romer in 1676 proved that the speed of light (known now to be approx. 186,000 miles a second) was finite - or said another way, the universe has a speed limit.


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Light's speed limit is absolute, that being so, Einstein concluded that light cannot speed up therefore time itself must slow down as an object speeds up. By the time you reach the speed of light - by the time you are light - no time whatsoever passes.

What all this tells us is that the universe is strange to our comprehensions - unlike what we experience in daily-life the cosmos eludes our norm.  The reality: we are all on the move but we don't know where we're going nor how fast and it's all above our comprehension.

Go figure,

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund House Ventures, LLC





Sunday, December 30, 2018

BRANDING / CORPORATE IDENTITY - F-H's FORTE


At Fund-House our consulting strength is in Branding and Corporate Identity development. 

As a company's Brand and its vision/mission are one and the same, the process and discipline of design, development, and  management of the Brand is not only very important but requisite for success.Therefore for 2019 I will be authoring a series of posts  which address the how and why to develop and manage a Brand. The first topic is this series is Brand Positioning.

Brand Positioning -What IS IT?

A clear competitive brand positioning is essential to brand-building because it defines who you are selling to, what your business scope is, and how you create unique value for your customers.

Your Brand Positioning is one part of the strategic platform of your Brand.  It describes how you compare and compete against other brands. The other part of your strategic brand platform is your brand identity, which articulates what you stand for and believe in.

Brand Positioning Statement

For (core customer), we are the (competitive frame of reference) who does (unique value) because (reasons to believe).

Competitive frame of reference: the mental file folder you want your customers to put you in. Usually this is your industry category, but keep in mind that people don't necessarily think of products in terms of specific categories and in some cases you might be creating a new category so there is no obvious frame of reference. Plus, many purchase decisions involve 'indirect competition' in which consumers ask themselves: Water or soda? Dinner or movie? Vacation or new car?

The unique value of your Brand is what you do for people that either no one in your competitive frame of reference does as well, or no one does at all.  You should think about and articulate this in terms of customer benefit. Look at what you do from a customer's point-of-view.


Your Branding Experts

Developing Your Brand Positioning

1. What business are you in? Consider what you do for consumers instead of the product/service you produce.  Create a list of the possible businesses you might be in and identify the leading brands in each. The one that most directly reflects how your core customers think about what you do is probably your most effective competitive frame of reference.

2. Consider what life-stage your Brand is in.  If you are a start-up, you should define your competitive frame of reference more narrowly since your primary challenge is simply getting consumers to choose you over other existing companies.  Later in the life-stage of your brand, you should define your frame more broadly since you'll probably want to consider avenues for new growth through adjacent markets, categories, capabilities.

3. List key competitors in your competitive frame of reference and the unique benefit each delivers. Use industry research, analyst reports, review of competitors experiences and communications, and social media to help you understand each brand's points of strength and differentiation. Compile a description of each competitor's unique benefit.

4. Use competitive landscape maps to identify the competitive white space for your Brand. Start by drawing several charts, each with an x and y axis. For the first chart, start with axes that are standard for your category - for a snack food, for example, your axes might be low price vs. premium, sweet vs. salty, kids vs. adults. Plot on the chart the relative positions of brands in your competitive frame of reference.

On the next chart, use different axes that represent different attributes of your category. Continue to create new charts experimenting with different axes, especially those that speak to customer emotions or different usage occasions.  The more charts the better to define your competition specifically.

5. Identify the unique value of your Brand by evaluating the opportunities in the landscapes. In each chart, pinpoint where the competitive white space is and place your Brand in that white space. Then examine the positions and unique benefits of competitive brands and identify the unique value of your Brand relative to theirs in the context of that white space. After you examine the charts, the one that reveals the most compelling value for your Brand should become clear. It' the one with the most significant white space and the most differentiating benefit.

The process of Brand Positioning is both an art and science - but it works and will set your Brand apart from all others. And remember: all products or services can be copied. This only thing that can't be copied is your Brand!.


by Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC
jlavorato@fundhouse.us

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Artificial Intelligence : Changing How Businesses Operate

The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) was coined in 1955 by John McCarthy, a.k.a. 'the father of AI". Since then, AI has been on a non-stop journey (be it a slow one). But now, due to breakthroughs in computing power, the availability of big data, cloud hosting/storage, sophisticated software and complex algorithms, AI is now destined to fulfill its potential - with businesses being the most impacted benefactor.
Changing How Businesses Operate - We are at Level 1


What is AI and What is it Capable Of

- Level 1 Weak AI  Capable of demonstrating human intelligence to carry out specific tasks

- Level 2 Strong AI Capable of showing self-awareness, the ability to think and make decisions for
       itself to the same level as a human being

- Level 3 Super Intelligence Showing superior levels of intelligence to human beings and fully in
       control  of its existence.

For now, and in the distant future, only Weak AI is achievable and relevant

Weak AI is widely used by many different businesses. All of us have encountered some form of AI if you have a smartphone, watch streaming media, or order products online. Have you used Siri or Alexa? Have you searched for something and then received a slew of related ads and promos.

They are all using some form of AI software with the intention of bettering their customer experience, enhancing their financial opportunities, and improving their workplace efficiency.

AI can be summed up this way: Data is like crude oil. Valuable but unrefined. It has to change into something else before it can be profitably used.  Only 20% on available data is currently being used to generate profitable (usable) end products. The other 80% is held inside companies and not used.  This is where AI can be very useful, in: HR management, sales & marketing, best use of funds for capital outlays, analysis of new markets penetration, after-sales service are areas where AI will reine supreme.

As consulting firms, like Fund-House, exploit AI software capabilities within business suites, enterprise applications, infrastructure support services, the customer experience, and branding they will place your business on new footings and catapult it to greater growth and profits.


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by: Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC
jlavorato@fundhouse.us



Thursday, December 27, 2018

THE NEW ROLE OF THE 'RETAILER"

Fund-House is approached with more requests for assistance from retailers than any other type of business. These 'retailers' can take any form: restaurants, apparel stores and boutiques, service providers from software developers to spas,and, although diverse in product and market they all have one,major thread in common: The Customer Experience or CX .
Apple Music Session


As we have discussed many times in this blog,to succeed in today's business environment:it is not just small companies and start-ups but the biggest, most established firms with great brands that know they must 'engage' to prosper.

A perfect example is Apple. About 18 months ago, Apple launched 'Today at Apple', a program designed to enhance its retail outlets by 'enriching the lives' of their customers. Note the words 'enriching the lives' which is the ultimate customer engagement.

 'Today at Apple' offers a slew of new training sessions designed to deepen customer knowledge of Apple's products. Currently Apple offers over 60 sessions, which include courses on: music, design, walking tours, video and photo labs, just to name several. It's the focus on content and creating experiences that stands-out and resonates with the retail community. Apple is the greatest brand in the world, but the concept of 'Today at Apple' can be applied to any retailer, of any size.

By developing workshops and experiences that attract customers into the store, Apple is creating a reason, other than to shop, to visit their outlets. The act of buying or pushing product gets a back-burner, and instead customers come into the store to learn and engage. And that process, inherently leverages the very products/services they are selling.

Let FundHouse assist in developing your retail CX  
Additionally, these sessions give local creatives a platform in their community - so it's a triple win: Apple, the artist, and the customer all win.

The END GAME

Retailers need to create a compelling reason for customers to visit their outlets - reasons that extend beyond making a purchase. We see examples of retailers creating co-working spaces, utilizing special events to draw in crowds, and are beginning to offer educational sessions to get foot traffic into their stores.

Fund-House has assisted many retailers in developing these non-traditional events and sessions which have and will be the 'new normal' in the retail marketplace. Sales are the goal, but creating a sense of community and becoming a destination rather than a quick-stop has far greater long-term value. 

Talk soon,

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC
jlavorato@fundhouse.us


Sunday, December 23, 2018

SOCIAL MARKETING: DOES IT WORK?

The top concern of Social Marketers is to find out the ROI on their marketing outlays. Polls tell us that over 55% of social marketers want to know what their marketing ROI is.  Unfortunately, this financial measurement is still very illusive. 

Only 14% of social marketers are able to quantify the revenue generated from social media. So, if you do use social media to market your business look for non-financial criteria - specifically, such things as brand awareness, community engagement, upping web traffic, and increasing sales/leads.

Also, many polls have demonstrated that consumers are looking for content that feels authentic to the brand and not just an ad to push product.  So produce content that educates, tells a story, or inspires. To that end you need to have ads that: push discounts/sales, showcase new products/services, and/or videos that instruct. If consumers, on social platforms, feel they are being 'sold to' they are much less likely to watch your content/ad. 


Reach Out: fundhouse.us

Consumers are weary of ads, so it is imperative that brands have a firm grasp on the story they are telling in their ads. Social videos shouldn't be self-serving or laced with sales jargon, but offer real stories, people and situations.

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC

Marketing: The Emotionally Intelligent Experience

The Customer Experience (CX) is all the current rage in boardrooms and in tandem with CX is a new training criteria called 'Emotional Intelligence' (EI). 


EI training is aimed at heightening staff awareness to customers' needs and is required for all levels of management, but particularly upper management and marketing staff.

EI focuses on six core skills: vulnerability, self-belief, connection, anticipation, authenticity, and perseverance.  The purpose is to alleviate customer anxiety by responding to and anticipating the  stress-points people can experience when dealing with your business.

By properly using EI,  management becomes better at recognizing cues in customer behavior and uses this knowledge to foster natural and authentic connections with customers.

Customers want and will return to a brand not only because the products or services are good but because they feel that they are understood and have a sense of belonging. Customers are far more likely to continue using a service and to praise it if they feel this connection.



Reach Out: FundHouse.us



EI is also being used in business negotiations.  No longer a battle of the wills and who blinks first, business negotiations are now nuanced. EI builds relationships of trust, anticipating feelings and providing sensitivity for productive feedback.

Think of EI as an adjunct to your eMotive marketing strategy and branding components.

by:  Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC




Saturday, November 10, 2018

SWOT : Use It - It Works

Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (SWOT) Analysis has been around for a long time.  Used by small and large businesses alike in determining their Process (if it is working as envisioned) and their present and future Operating Status.

SWOT is a self-analysis as well. Are your biases being played out and have you curbed your own shortcomings. Many business initiatives can be addressed.  Here's how"

                                       Strengths               Weaknesses              Opportunities          Threats

Product/Service



Brand/Marketing



Team building



Finance



Operations



Innovation




Fill-in under each main category.  Be thoughtful and truthful in filling out the grid. What will pop-up are those things you are strong and confident in doing and those that you are weak in.  A pattern will develop and a plan-of-action will be called to address both your business's good and bad points.

Based on the information, ask yourself, What are my immediate goals/next steps? What are my long-term goals/next steps?  Try SWOT. It WORKS.

Jim Lavorato, Principal
Fund-House Ventures, LLC