So Many Fixes, But So Little Time

I have been testing and retesting SplashPlan.com the last few days.  I’m finding out that I am not as perfect as I would like to be.  Yes, I have added some improvements to existing features but mainly I am avoiding it.  Why?  Simply because I’m worried about messing the site up and making it unusable.

I do have a separate test site that I use for changing and testing the site before I roll it out to the main site, but most of the changes, i.e. improvements, I have made have been minor.  The bugs I’ve found have also been minor but critical to the operation of the site…

An example: I used an external picture on the home page… actually a banner ad… and it was from a site that did not use SSL.  Hence a home page that is not quite secure.  Fixed now.

I removed a google ad on the interior of the site to make it look better, although the left side menu is a little low right now.  I’m going to leave that since it is not critical.

I did add a little to the forum page… it now has the most recently updated posts.  I really didn’t like having to click each link to see if anything changed so this will help me if nothing else.  Nobody has used the forum in a year so I seriously doubt anybody will notice right now.

Several of my resources needed to be updated or removed so that is done now.  I removed but did not add any resources at this moment.

So hopefully the site is more usable than ever.  Once I have a little more traffic I am hoping to get suggestions from members on new features or improvements to existing features.  Until then, I am hoping to be done for a while.  Please let me know if you’d like anything added to the site.

Some Updates

SplashPlan has really taken on a life of its own.  And that’s good, because our attention has been elsewhere.

Today I updated the site to correct some problems.  I also created code to follow up with users by email.  Something I have been wanting to do for a while.

I have heard from several of you too.  Those interested in getting back on.  Awesome.  Make sure to let us know if there is anything that we need to improve.

I have several things I want to improve upon.  If I get time I will…

What Are The Basic Principles for SplashPlan.com?

Ultimately SpashPlan.com is meant to make you money online.  But we are also looking for a few other factors:

  • Great features
  • Super useful
  • Solid execution – bug free
  • Excellent value

We want to be a free service first of all.  We do not charge for anything.  We do link to sites that charge for various services – but our service is free for all features.

We are a bit basic at this point but we have some excellent features in the works.  If possible, we are going to make it so you don’t have to go elsewhere and pay for things.

We keep you organized by providing daily reminders of things to do.  While SplashPlan.com doesn’t build your business for you, it reminds you to perform simple activities.

We provide training, free of charge when possible.  There are many great resources out there on the internet that are free of charge and we organize them for you in our resources section.  We also allow user voting so the best resources show on the top of the resource page.

We are working on the following features for the future:

  • Automated suggestion box – shows status and responses to your suggestions
  • SplashPlan.com downline list and statistics
  • Contact management and collection
  • User forums to share information
  • Multi-user support (more than one person can work with your data)
  • Email and mail (labels) follow up
  • Private store fronts – show and sell products to other members

Many of these features are already in use by my company but are not quite ready for everyone’s use.

We are really serious about making this a great, and continually free, system.

Who Will Run Al Qaeda, Inc. Now That Osama bin Laden Is Gone?

I know what you’re thinking: Osama bin Laden is some terrorist leader that orchestrated attacks against the United States and its allies, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  Osama was CEO of the biggest jewelry distributor in the world: Al Qaeda, Inc.  No no no, Al Qaeda is not a terrorist organization, it is a for profit corporation that has done extremely well in the Arab world.  Unfortunately, the misconception that Osama was a terrorist has led to his demise by U.S. special forces.

What the terrorist acts were really

Osama was a savvy business man that built Al Qaeda, Inc. up from scratch.  Though his family was extremely wealthy in Saudi Arabia, Osama had limited resources to start his fledgling business.  He devised an extraordinary way to get free publicity: stage spectacular acts of destruction against what he called the evil west.  In the Arab world, these acts brought him millions of dollars of new business and an organization name that most of the whole world is familiar with.

Why Pakistan protected Osama

Pakistan knew far too well that Al Qaeda, Inc. was one of the most powerful companies, formally incorporated in Pakistan, and feared the loss of tax revenue should Al Qaeda, Inc. have been shut down. » Read more

Boeing Quality Control At Fault For 737 Cracks

According to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and the referenced Marketwatch article below, Boeing and not Southwest Airlines is responsible for the cracks and holes in the fuselage of the Boeing 737 airplanes. At issue was misaligned rivets and loose bolts. Boeing will need to address quality control as it ramps up production to meet ever-increasing demand for its airplanes.

Boeing 737 airplanes are flown by the following airlines: AirTran, Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Miami Air, Southwest, Sun Country, United Airlines, and US Airways in the United States, and hundreds of international airlines according to Wikipedia.

In a separate development, a Boeing 737 airplane flown by Southwest ran off the runway at Midway Airport.  The likely cause was water on the runway, as the airport had been experiencing heavy rain yesterday morning.  The pilot may have saved the airplane from crashing through the airport walls by veering into mud on the side of the runway.

References:

Deepwater Horizon: Lessons From The Gulf Oil Disaster

Deepwater Horizon - Smaller Rig in HoustonThere were a lot of mixed messages in the past year about the Gulf Of Mexico disaster of the Deepwater Horizon. I want to highlight what I believe the lessons should be:

We are human, we make mistakes

Even with a perfect plan, imperfect humans will make mistakes. We will think the rules don’t apply to us. We will think the risks are less than they actually are.

There is no such thing as infallible or unsinkable

We as humans produce nothing that cannot be destroyed. We should have learned this from the Titanic, the Exxon Valdez, and Chernobyl.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster could have been much worse

Without skimmers and all kinds of technological help, the disaster could have been much, much worse. Thank God for the lessons of the past.

» Read more

Is There A Hole In Southwest Airlines?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will let you know that I own Southwest Airlines shares.  Not a whole lot, but some.  And I am not about to sell because of a bad story.  In fact I can tell you that my son Jeffery is going to fly Southwest home this summer.  Nobody in our family is scared.  Here’s why: The Boeing 737 problem is not a problem with Southwest Airlines, it is a problem with the Boeing 737, that all airlines fly.  So your choice is basically to fly the 737 or an Airbus model, or to just not fly.  Some people probably won’t fly, but that’s a very small percentage.  I personally would rather fly the 737 than any other airplane, especially after this incident.  They are going to be the best checked airplanes around.

Southwest as a company

How is Southwest Airlines doing as a company?  It is the best run domestic airline in the country. It is the largest budget fare carrier and has been profitable for most of its life.  The company announced a 10% increase in traffic in January, which increased profit 13% versus the fourth quarter of 2010.  (InvestorGuide.com)

How Southwest treats its customers

Southwest’s on time rating is very high.  Its prices are low.  Safety has been excellent.  And it doesn’t charge for checked bags.  Though Southwest is not my favorite airline to fly, it is always great for price and it doesn’t nickle and dime you for the important things – mainly luggage.  Do other airlines believe you can fly without luggage?

How Southwest manages its costs

Southwest’s cost structure is excellent as it expedites its planes in an out of airport terminals, saving on gate space.  The company also hedges fuel much better than any other airline, saving on fuel over its competitors.  There was some concern that Southwest may have overestimated the price of jet fuel this year, but at this point it seems they may have underestimated it, and is in a much better position than its competitors.

Where Southwest is short

I had said that Southwest is not my favorite airline to fly.  The main problem is that I was a frequent flyer at one time, and I was able to cheaply upgrade to first class seats.  I also had certain other advantages over other flyers, that I felt that I deserved since I flew so often.  With Southwest Airlines, everyone is basically the same.  You get the same seats and amenities.  You don’t get free flights faster because of status.  There are very few benefits of being a great customer.

In addition, Southwest only flies the 737, and they only fly domestic.  So if you like bigger airplanes or want to fly overseas, you’re out of luck.  Southwest doesn’t partner with other airlines so you can’t stretch your Southwest flight to Paris or London on United or American.  If I have a choice and I’m not paying for the trip, I would probably choose a different airline.  But if I’m paying and I have no advantages, Southwest is the choice.

I think we are only seeing the beginning of Southwest’s rise.  So I am keeping my shares, thank you very much.  I just hope I can run my own business as well as Southwest has been able to.

References:

Illinois Wants Us To Move

Many of you are wondering why the federal government does things to hurt small business when small business creates a ton of jobs in this country.  My bigger question right now is why Illinois wants us to move?  Ok, you might think this is a bit out there, but Illinois has done some major things to impact Illinois businesses recently.

1. Illinois significantly raised corporate income taxes and personal taxes.

We went from 3 to 5% income tax and 4.8 to 7% corporate taxes.  We also have a 2.5% corporate surcharge and a yearly fee for filing the coporate report (i.e. franchise fee).  How can business sustain such a hike?  I know that there are several states where corporate taxes and personal taxes are not so high.  It looks like Wyoming might be the place to go, or Ireland.

My state is starting to become the place to be from, sort of like Iowa was in the 1980’s or Michigan today.  Do you really want to lose small business Mr. Quinn?

2. Illinois now requires sales tax to be paid by Amazon.com and other web retailers that use affiliates in the state

The impact to affiliates that live in Illinois was major in some cases.  We lost the ability to use Amazon.com as an affiliate program which doesn’t impact us in a major way, but it does impact some businesses in a major way.  Enough so that they may relocate to other states, such as FatWallet.com.  We have referenced many Amazon.com books on our site here and we will have to go through and remove the references.  I am not sure if we will go to another affiliate program for books or if we will just give up on offering books through this site.

3. Caterpillar and other larger businesses are threatening to leave

Caterpillar is now threatening to leave Illinois along with 23,000 jobs.  With the hostile business environment here, we may see several others leave.  The larger companies are just the tip of the iceburg, as smaller companies may do the same thing just to stay afloat.  We won’t hear about them, they won’t make headlines.  They will just pick up and go elsewhere, and many other states will welcome them with open arms.

Governor Quinn, we need to make Illinois favorable for companies to move to, not so hostile that great companies will move away.  You think you have revenue problems now?

References:

Theoretical Implications Of The U.S. National Debt

As we begin flying missions with the UN in Libya this week, I am reminded of our national debt and how it isn’t getting any smaller with each bomb we drop.  And while this could be a very positive development for our security, I don’t see why our country has to bear the burden of policing Libya when we can’t afford it.  We are the spendthrift with the maxed out credit cards with one more emergency so we break open the new credit card.  And I can imagine that we are also going to provide financial help to Japan, and we should.  Yes I said it… we should help out Japan after this massive disaster that continues to unfold to historic proportions.  Well, I guess it was already historic, but this is truly unprecedented.  So we help out Japan and protect the people of Libya, then how about Iran and North Korea?  Where do we draw the line?

What is our national debt?

Let’s start with money.  The country prints a dollar bill, how does it get into circulation?  It either replaces a dollar bill or it is spent.

So let’s say we have a government of 10 people and we print $1000 each to pay them for gold that they dug out of the ground.  Now there are $10000 in IOU’s from the government and the government has $10,000 worth of gold.  The only reason the gold is worth $10,000 is because that is what we paid for it.  Because the government is holding gold to back the currency, we could be said to be on the gold standard or that the currency is backed with gold.  What if we took our printed money and bought food to give away to starving children in Africa (instead of gold)?  We then have currency outstanding with a face value of $10,000 and what is it backed with?  It’s backed with the holder’s confidence in the government.  You could probably understand what happens if the currency holders lose faith in the currency…

The other portion of our national debt is loans to the government, typically bonds and notes.  These are sold in return for currency and the government pays out interest payments to the holders of treasury bonds and notes.  Why does the government sell this debt really?  To take currency out of circulation so that it is worth more.  Government debt has an inherent value because of it’s interest payments, but is also somewhat backed by the holder’s faith in the U.S. government.  Government debt becomes worth much less if people become concerned that the government will default on its debt: when it is unable to pay its interest payments or unable to pay the face value of the debt when it becomes due.

In our example we have $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  How can the government spend $10,000 more without increasing the amount of currency outstanding?  They issue $10,000 worth of treasury bonds, collecting the $10,000 outstanding, then spend $10,000 more.  They must now fork up $400 per year to their bond holders but there is still only $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  They can collect taxes to pay the $400 per year to avoid adding currency into circulation.  What if there is a business person looking to borrow $10,000 to start a business?  Well, unless he can guarantee $400 in dividends, he is likely to lose out to the government that is guaranteeing $400 in interest.  That is one potential implication of national debt: that it takes away the incentive to invest in new businesses or in other more risky investments.

The effect on the individual

There are three ways for the government to fund it’s spending: Taxes, currency, and debt.  There may be more than this but for this discussion let’s just assume that these are the only ways.  So what happens when the government does not want to increase the amount of currency in circulation and nobody wants to buy its debt?  That’s right, taxes go up.  And as we know here in Illinois, taxes don’t go up just a bit when things are bad, they go up a lot.  Our state taxes went up by two thirds to cover the shortfall in the state’s budget as the state is trying to avoid new debt.  It hurts but not as much as it would hurt at the federal level.

Let’s say that your federal taxes went up by half.  That would be pretty big.  It would have a significant effect on your lifestyle.  Now extend that to the country.  People would spend much less than they do today, creating severe economic hardship within the economy.  I’m also thinking that would reduce income taxes the government takes in.  A vicious cycle begins.  But what does the government do instead of raising taxes this time?  Printing more money to improve the economy before it sinks into a depression.  This sounds familiar right?  The Federal Reserve buys government debt to put more cash into the system.  Then buys more and more to prevent the double-dip recession.  So life goes back to normal then what?  You have to take cash out of the system before it becomes inflation.

The China factor

China is a little wildcard that makes things interesting.  China holds a ton of our currency and debt.  Many Chinese businesses also hold our currency because the value is greater than their own currency.  That is on purpose.  The Chinese government depresses their own currency against the dollar by stockpiling dollars and U.S. debt.  As more dollars flow to China for the products they produce, the usual thing that should happen is that they should buy U.S. products.  Makes sense right?  You have U.S. dollars, you buy U.S. goods with them.  Or you trade them with other companies.  Or you sell them on the forex market for your own currency.  That would mean that somebody else wants to trade Chinese currency for U.S. currency.  That would be either the Chinese government or a foreign entity with Chinese currency because of something they sold to China.

What if you’re China and you want to grow your domestic businesses but want to keep foreign businesses out?  I know you’re thinking cheap labor, but eventually with enough wealth, local labor prices go up.  Another way to keep the goods flowing out and not flowing in is to keep your currency value low against foreign currencies.  You sell your currency for dollars, propping up the dollar because you are taking dollars out of circulation.  You can also use your dollars to buy U.S. government debt, transferring even more dollars overseas.  Eventually, though, China is going to want to do something with their dollars.  Buy the Euro?  Buy gold?  Spend money on social programs or military?  Regardless of the scenario, dollars come back into circulation.  Or U.S. government debt is sold, decreasing the value of the debt on the open market.  This would increase the interest rates of outstanding debt and of any new debt issued.  It would also rob from business investment because people could get a pretty good interest rate from U.S. Government debt.

I am not sure how much cash and how much debt China holds, but it’s a bunch.  It could easily depreciate our dollar creating inflation or increase interest rates dramatically.  The U.S. might be forced into cutting important programs and dramatically increasing taxes.

Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation is a situation where people lose confidence in the currency so they stop using it.  People with products to sell won’t trade for paper money, they require gold or another good to trade for.  Could hyperinflation happen in the United States?  While certainly possible, it is somewhat unlikely.  It is more likely to see double-digit inflation, but people will continue to have faith in the currency.  We have never experienced the fear and panic of hyperinflation, I am not sure people would really know what to do.  What do you do when money has no value?

What can be done?

With so much debt outstanding, the U.S. government is limiting it’s options.  It’s important for our national security to pay down our debts.  Just as important to our national security as a stable Libya.

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