Strategy & Planning Are Different

Been a while. I am back; we shall see if I still enjoy writing publicly.

Strategic Planning. Many organizations engage in strategic planning at the end of each calendar year but I dislike the term “strategic planning” because “strategy” and “planning” are very different processes for an organization. Let’s define, differentiate, and get these separate processes sorted.

A “strategy” for an organization is the theory of why the organization should be competing in a certain market, and how this organization will compete in that market space. Strategy is not a guaranteed outcome; it is dependent on your ability to execute as you desire AND the marketplace’s acceptance of your business model to solve their needs. The strategy for a new plumbing service may be to use on-call, independent, licensed plumbers who drive company vans that are fully equipped with every conceivable piece, part and tool that could be used in a home repair. This way the repair job can be guaranteed to be resolved with a single visit by the plumber. The plumbing company drive this value proposition as part of their marketing and processes they implement to win market share.

“Planning” is a process by which an organization controls how it will use resources. The company controls the expenditure of resources to accomplish a demonstrable outcome. In the plumbing case above, the company needs to plan its purchase of vehicles equipped with the ability to carry a wide variety of parts and tools. The company needs to plan its inventory management process so it never runs out of a tool or part by logging each tool and part with a barcode that is scanned when used and automatically restocked when the van returns from the job. The company needs to plan for how to get in touch with the independent contractors each time a service call comes in.

Planning is far more comfortable to do for managers. Planning is a process by which you know in advance what the outcome will be (the vans will be fully stocked each time they leave the lot. Planning is the process to compare radio systems and go through a RFQ process with 4 providers to get the best deal.

Strategy can provoke angst and worry. You can not be sure your chosen strategy will work as you expect. Other plumbing firms may offer a monthly service plan that satisfies the customer base more so that your ability to resolve issues with one visit. Your compensation plan for the independent plumbers may fail to get enough to sign up as part of your labor force.

Determining strategy is critical for organization leaders. And the better they can articulate strategy, the easier they will be able to raise funding, hire talent, and run their business. But strategy is does not have a guaranteed outcome. Planning is what happens after strategy is determined so that the organization can execute the chosen strategy. Let’s not confuse strategy with planning. And let’s skip the “strategic planning”


Inflationary Recession = Buy Hard Assets

Thinking about the $2 Trillion economic package that the US Federal government has recently authorized had me thinking about how that “money” gets used to stimulate the economy. And my first level of analysis was, inflation. That was not a complete analysis; but I could not nail down what I was missing. Then I listened to the #BloombergSurveillance interview with Robert Kaplan, Dallas Fed President, and it became clear to me.

The Federal Reserve will expand their balance sheet across multiple classes of assets, and they will be easing lending restrictions on banks. Those banks will make massive loans available to their largest of commercial clients which tend to be commercial real estate developers. With the massive influx of “money” available, those hard assets will increase in price. This means of adding “money” to the economy is what any political administration would do as it is the quickest way for a government to increase the supply of money into an economy and hopefully stimulate demand. Those who hold a large portion of their wealth in hard assets will benefit from this increase in the prices of those hard assets.

The government is also taking action to help with the consumer economy which is dominated by the services sector. But the government (any government and any political administration) does not have an effective way to quickly stimulate demand in the services industry. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loans will help, and small cash payouts to households below certain income thresholds will help, but those will take a lot longer to process and to create demand in the consumer economy. And so the consumer/services aspect of the American economy will fall drastically in the short term and take a long time to return. This is what was made clear to me in the interview with Robert Kaplan of the Dallas Fed. He expects unemployment to spike into the high teens by the end of the 2nd Quarter 2020 and only start to ebb beginning in the 4th Quarter of 2020. The Fed will not be able to take actions until 2021 to assist this part of the economy, per the interview. So we are going to see an increase in the prices of hard assets while we see the consumer/services economy stumble badly over the next year.

To this amateur economist, the Fed’s ability to decrease interest rates when it is time to stimulate the consumer/services economy is no longer available. Federal Reserve-controlled Interest rates are as low as they are going to go. So the consumer/services economy will be reliant on fiscal stimulus from the Federal government’s budgetary spending as a means to re-invigorate demand. That would mean more taxes raised to fund those programs.

It is not up to me to predict if a future Administration and Legislators will have the willpower to increase taxes, but what I see clearly now is that investments in hard assets (commercial real estate and equities) for capital gains, is a better investment thesis than investments into cash cow services businesses designed to kick off free cash flow.

Building The Plane While Flying

I’ve got a few projects going on at the moment, as per the norm. There are two particular projects that involve me learning a bit more about coding. I am no developer, but to accomplish what needs to get done, I need to be able to get further down the path of showing and explaining to the coders exactly what I want to accomplish.

I used to just draw a sketch of what I wanted the client interface to look like and I assumed the Dev team would figure it out.

I then learned to show what information was needed to get to the analysis/output that I wanted to show

Soon I realized I need to show where that raw data is, add the formulas that are needed to get to the outcome/analysis, and show the visual of the output.

Now I have learned, get down to the minutia of every step of the process and add as much detail as possible. If I do it correctly and fully, the only thing left for the dev team to do is convert my instructions into the actual code.

Regulators Cut Off Fiat Funding for Crypto Accounts

In another example of how global regulators are using lessons learned from the retail FX & CFD industry, more and more financial institutions are cutting off crypto exchanges (and all crypto service providers) from banking access.  There seems to be few formal rules that are forcing banks to take these step, but there is clearly a behind-the-scenes push.

Similar to CFD’s being outlawed in the US, but Eligible Contract Participants having access to “Total Return Swaps“, retail investors are being restricted from cryptocurrencies, but ECP’s still have easy access.

But I wonder is it just the volatility of cryptocurency trading that is causing concern to regulators?  Is it the fact that they can not easily point to intrinsic value in many ICO’s?  Is it the Anti-Money Laundering aspect?

Tangentially…..there is a bit of a catch 22 going on.  If and as more merchants start to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment, volatility will drop and intrinsic value will be easier to define.  But cutting off fiat to crypto conversion will slow this acceptance rate due to reduced supply of buyers who have crypto to use in purchases.

As for the AML…I get it.  Crypto’s are real tough to follow and to identify; they are designed that way.  But so is cash.  So if the regulators overarching goal is control of money flow and knowledge of transaction participant ID’s….then they will keep pushing for fewer and fewer, globally connected institutions.  And that is what I do not want to see.

ICO’s – Security Or Commodity?

If I set up a Silver mining operation and sell you a promise that if I extract some silver, you get a percentage of the Silver I extract, then that is pretty clearly a Security.

Many in the ICO community want their ICO’s NOT to be labeled (and regulated) as Securities.  They argue because the underlying asset is some sort of commodity (or a specific, pre-named “thing”), the ICO’s are not Securities but are Commodities.   And therefore the ICO is a lot more like a futures/options contract than a Security.

Options and Futures have a lot less regulations to deal with than Securities.  In fact, Over-The-Counter (“OTC”) derivatives are the last tranche of tradeable instruments that are not executed/reported on an exchange (though many are soon to be reported to a clearing agency post-trade)

But since there is no guaranteed commodity/”thing” to be given to the buyer of the ICO, then is sure sounds like a Security to me.   The buyer of the ICO is taking a risk that the underlying plan will be legally and efficiently executed by the ICO sellers.  Futures contracts are bought and sold on regulated Exchanges which are built and managed on the premise that there could (and sometimes is) an exchange of tangible assets at the expiration of a contract.  Options are similar.

OK.  What if instead of of a tangible commodity/”thing” promised to the ICO buyer, the buyer receives a digital token with it’s own set of rights and claims against the issuer?  Such as, “These GoogleTokens are worth 10 click-throughs anytime in the next 10 years.”  Well then it is really a company (in this fictitious case, Google) that is booking revenues early, not a financing transaction for the company.

There will be some instances of an ICO that could be thought of as a Commodity.  But the vast majority of ICO’s are really just a way to fund a business idea with little oversight.



More from @FredWilson

Legitimate ICO projects have the following characteristics:

  1. A relationship between the amount of money being raised and the complexity of the project.
  2. A very clear use case that requires the decentralization approach brought by blockchain technology.
  3. A reasonable valuation based on the size of the opportunity being pursued.
  4. A credible team.
  5. The technology has been built, at least to a point where it is demonstrable.



From a piece I wrote in July of 2016:

Guns.  Guns.  Guns.

I believe in the 2nd amendment.  I believe that a population has the right to bear arms for two reasons.  The first is attack by outside enemies of the state in which an armed population is a deterrent and resistance towards the outside attackers.  The second case is the rare case that the citizens need to rise up and forcefully take back power from a government that has abducted power from those citizens.  (Of course a preferred method of ensuring a government entity does not take too much power from the people it serves is by the citizens taking an active part in politics and the political process.)

I am not a weapons expert but in neither of those cases are hand guns or automatic weapons necessary.

If anyone has a rational, scientific argument that the number of and easy access to guns in this country had benefited anyone other than the gun manufacturers, I am willing to listen.  But until I hear a valid argument in favor of guns, I remain convinced that the US as a country and society is worse off due to the prevalence of guns.

Cryptocurrency Cold Storage

Good read compiled from a few sites:

What is Cold Storage in Cryptocurrency (aka Cold Wallets)

Some of you might know that if you hold your private keys, then only you own your crypto coins. If you don’t own your key, then you don’t “own” your coins. (See our post on Bitcoin Private Keys.)

  • It’s important to store your digital assets such as BTC, ETH, or LTC away from exchanges and hosted wallets. If you are not doing this, you are at risk of losing all of your coins in an instant.

Exchanges and third-party wallets hold your private keys on your behalf. This is a big risk because if something goes wrong with their servers, or if they are hacked, then your coins are gone.  If you use a hold your cryptocurrencies via a third-party wallet, you need to understand their policies and procedures for safety of crypto assets, any insurance and guarantees.

If you are not actively trading your cryptoassets via an exchange, don’t store your coins for more than 1-2 days with any hosted or third-party service.  Make use of the “cold storage” tools your wallet providers makes available.

Which brings us to the million dollar question:

  • Where should you keep your cryptocurrencies?
  • Which wallets/methods are the most reliable?

Cold storage (aka cold wallets) means generating and storing the crypto coin’s private keys in an offline environment, away from the internet.

The online environment is very vulnerable to hacking, as we keep seeing how ransomware extorts many people around the world. Also, we can never forget the Mt.Gox incident.  So to avoid such situations, it is essential that you keep your coins safe in an offline manner.  Luckily, the cryptocurrency space has matured a bit, and there are enough cold storage options available.

Some of the most cold storage options are:

Paper Wallets 

A paper wallet is the cheapest form of cold wallets available.  It is free to use and contains a pair of private/public keys printed on a piece of paper.  In this method of storing, your private keys are generated offline so you need not worry about security. And once your transfer the coins to paper wallet’s public address, you are safe.  For different cryptocurrencies, there are different paper wallet clients available. You can make any number of paper wallets whenever required using these clients.

How To Make A Bitcoin Paper Wallet

Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallets (safest)

Hardware wallets are the most robust cold storage option for cryptocurrencies. However, this robustness comes with a price tag.

A hardware wallet is an electronic device. It signs transactions through the private keys which are stored offline. It also allows you to recover your funds using a backup seed key if the device is damaged or lost.  Since most of these hardware wallets have a waiting period of a month or two due to huge demand, you should order one as soon as possible.  If you are looking for a single recommendation as the best Bitcoin hardware wallet, then you should look no further than the Ledger Nano S.

At the time of writing this article, there has been no reported theft or loss from using hardware wallets.

Storing Cryptocurrency in USB Drive (Not so safe)

Using a USB drive as a cold wallet is one of the easiest ways to cold store your coins.

With this, you can export and save your private keys on the USB drive.

But this choice comes with its trade-offs, as anyone with access to your USB has access to your crypto coins. More over, hardware failures are common with USB.

Cold Storage Providers

Cold Storage Providers are companies that connect to your wallet and exchange provider, and allow you to pull your cryptoassets offline.  They can be used to export files of encrypted private keys in an offline environment.

In these pieces of software, the private keys are stored offline on servers controlled by the Cold Storage Provider. The cryptoassets are stored offline and can not be hacked except while during the transfer of funds to and from the Cold Storage Provider.  Most Cold Storage Providers work directly with the Crypto Wallet and Exchange companies.  The downside to their offline protection is that it normally takes 48 hours and double verification of request to return the cryptoassets to the Wallet or Exchange and then onto the end owner.