Protect or Die

Looking back, I was busy with the wrong issues those first twenty days of 2017. I had not foreseen the impact of the big changes which were coming. As soon as Donald Trump was inaugurated he started signing executive orders which were changing the worldwide political landscape significant. A few days after he took office I got a phone call from someone I did not know and he asked me if I was available for a meeting, he wanted to discuss something with me. We planned to meet in a restaurant in a small town not far from where I live.

He was already there when I arrived and he introduced himself as Paul. I started with introducing myself and told him about the projects I was running at the moment. After this, I asked him what he wanted from me. He started explaining his background, he had been in the Dutch army for a long time in a ‘technical’ function and had done assignments in Bosnia and Afghanistan and was now working in IT as a security expert. He still had a large network of ex-soldiers around him and participated in military training sessions all over the world. They did these trainings in secret because bad publicity was not what they wanted, they just wanted to practise their skills and meet old friends.

He had read my blogs on the International Police training Lowlands Grenade  in Marnehuizen in the North of the Netherlands. I participated during this training as an actor in June 2014. I was there for 5 days and really liked it working together with delegations of national police from 42 countries which were training there and showing each other their capabilities and skills. There were police from the US, Israel, Ukraine, Spain, the UK etc..

Working together with those policemen and women was big fun and most of the time I was walking around looking at what was happening and once in a while I was asked to play a role. I remember I had to play the role of Vice President of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment  (CPT) and drove around protected by an Lithuanian SWAT-team and an Hungarian CRC-team and visited the prison and a police station (PSS) interviewing staff there. I was impressed by the professionalism of all participating but also the friendship between the participants with these different backgrounds and had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the way they work and the technology they used.

After we discussed this Paul told me about his plans. He and his friends were very worried about the developments now happening worldwide with the election of Trump, the Brexit and the conflicts in the Middel East. They were discussing the impact of this and were investigating  what their role could be in this changing political and military landscape. He referred to the first meeting between Donald Trump and Theresa May who agreed that: “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.”

The impact of this would be that probably the number of local conflicts would increase and he expected a lot of demand on the short run for companies who could protect civilians and objects on a commercial basis. Most European countries have not invested enough in military material and capacity the last 20 years and are now facing a world in turmoil with big problems in the Middle East and Africa and potential new conflicts at locations we are not aware of yet. They need to respond to this and build up their own capacity but this will taken some time and in the meantime they need to do something to protect their citizens. 

Paul was busy with investigating if starting up a company for this in the Netherlands was possible and for this he needed some “citizens” next to the military from his network who could help with the administrative but also the ‘selling” of this company external. In the US and UK have already a lot of private military contractors (like Blackwater) working closely together with their government but there are none in the rest of Europe. This has to do with the fact that there is no political foundation for such an initiative but, according to Paul, this could change on the short run when conflicts escalate and protection is needed. He asked me if I was interested in helping setting this up with his team, he needed someone who did not talk in military terms and was able to talk to politicians and explain why this company was useful and not a threat for the official military institutions. The primary objective of this company would be to protect people and objects and do this in a professional way with high moral and ethical standards.

I was very surprised by this question, why had he contacted me? How did he now about my background? Was he maybe part of an Intelligence Service testing me?  I told him I would think about what he said and give him my feedback later. Under normal circumstances I would have never had done this but the things happening at that moment made me change my mind because of course we need to protect ourselves from the bad guys.

Donald Trump’s handtekening

Wat ik mooi vind aan Trump, om ook eens iets positiefs over hem te zeggen, is zijn handtekening. Hij maakt er echt werk van en is er zichtbaar trots op, meestal laat hij het gezette exemplaar na het tekenen trots aan iedereen zien, daar neemt hij echt de tijd voor. Obama doet gemiddeld drie seconden over zijn handtekening en Trump zeven dus een handtekening zet hij niet zomaar lichtvaardig!

Het heeft iets moois dat in deze tijd van digitalisering en beknotten van de persvrijheid de vulpen plots het voornaamste wapen van de President van VS is geworden!

The Communication Paradox

Victor’s communication paradox was about the problem that, while IT has developed more and more channels of communication for us (WhatsApp, Facebook etc.), growing up has become more and more difficult four young people nowadays and that they experience a lot of stress and problems while developing themselves. Victor called this the Information Paradox which he further explained to me.

The last decade we have created a new world next to the real ‘Physical world’ and ‘Fantasy World’ which can be called the ‘Online’ world and which is always available when you have access to a device with Internet connection. And, when going ‘Online’, you can influence your ‘User Experience’ and create your own environment and manage your content. You can, for example, only invite the friends you like on your Facebook or WhatsApp account or filter the information you like on your screen creating your own virtual world. This world also enables you to watch movies, play games and listen to music on your own and forget the world around you, it’s your unique and individual experience.

The current generation of students are the first-generation students who have grown up with constant access to the Internet. It’s not possible to explaining IT to them without considering their ‘Online’ perspective. And the funny thing is that most teachers have grown up without ICT and learned to use it at a later age. Our students don’t know how the none-connected world looked like 25 years ago before Internet was invented so you could better explain them how communication was done those days than explain how it works now.

You can compare being online with freedom: it doesn’t mean anything to those who have it but once taken away you know what it is! Of course, the new generation has experienced what it is to have no Internet connectivity. For most students this is a threat and creates stress, not an opportunity to relax. The way we communicate has changed, for example: when you take the train everybody is staring at their smartphone, in schools students check their smartphones between lessons instead of talking to each other and at home WhatsApp has replaced picking up the phone.

To investigate how young people use social media Victor asked a group of students two questions: 1) how many posts did you create yourself last week and 2) how many times did you respond to post posted by someone else. Regarding the first question most of them posted rarely something new: on average, only once a week a new post. But replying and sharing is done multiple times per day. Summarizing his findings: young people don’t create content themselves but are busy responding and having an opinion on what others publish online building their online identity.

Direct one to one communication is replaced by this new way of communication and the big difference with the old way is that in the past, when you were talking directly with someone, only the people around you were involved. Nowadays potentially the whole world can read your post which can go viral and become a hype before you know it. So doing something wrong online can have more impact now.

Our whole communication has changed significant and this makes especially young people, who are by nature very unsure, vulnerable for stress and psychological problems. And because your ‘Online World’, which you created yourself, is always available: you can escape from the ‘Real World’ to this ‘Online World’ . And the old ‘Fantasy World’ has become less important and is now underdeveloped at the expense of developing your own creativity. Direct communication is becoming difficult and even has become art like Marina Abramović performance in the MoMA in New York where she is only watching visitors in their eyes: direct none verbal communication reduced to object of art.

The only way to solve this is was developing training courses for young people in old fashioned communication skills and that’s why he was in Sedona to investigate if this course we did could be used. He concluded this was not the case, the format was to old fashioned and would not appeal young people. We did not have much more time to discuss this but we agreed we would in a few weeks and further discuss this, London after all was not so far from Amsterdam.

During my flight back home I had time to think back on what happened since New Years Eve, now two week ago. Next week I had to start working again, boring…

The IBM AS400

Flying back from Sedona I was thinking back on New Year’s Eve and my days in Sedona. During the course, I became friends with one of the other participants, Victor, a writer from the UK, and we spend time together on the airport there were delays because of the heavy snow which was fallen which caused the planes bringing us back home were rescheduled. Victor started writing when he was 12 years and published his first book at age 21: “The story Of Tess”. Only 36 he had already published 5 books, which were well received, and wrote a daily column in an English newspaper writing about social and political issues. He was flying back to Amsterdam where he had a large meeting planned with his readers in Hotel Americain and he was constantly in WhatsApp’ing his publisher hoping he would be back in time.

Reflecting on my own journey so far I was jealous on what he had accomplished. Before I started working in IT I had tried out al kind of jobs because I did not know what I wanted to become and, that is still my problem now. When I finally started working in IT at 30 this was just an easy way of earning money which I needed because my wife was pregnant and it was nice having earning money in an easy way and driving a company car: around 1980 it was very easy to get a job in IT without having the proper qualifications.

I remember being trained in Belgium as a software programmer where I was looking at a screen whole day with code and was certified after three weeks because at the end of the day I was still looking at the screen when everybody was gone. This was what the software company I was doing the training expected from me: give the impression of working and making long days so these could be billed to the customer, customers did not have any knowledge of IT in these day and you could sell them everything,

After some time, I became friends with one of the partners who always was the last to leave the building and appreciated a good glass of wine. The one thing I remembered from him is that he advised me to always wear a suit and tie and polish my shoes when wanting to make a career in IT. When I finished the course, he took care I was assigned as a software programmer to an IBM reseller who developed software for the AS400 computer designed to support medium sized companies. One day, still staring at the screen and not being productive at all, the manager of the company came to me and asked who of the programmers knew something about finance. Because nobody gave a response and I had learned you did not have to know anything at all in IT I said I was interested: after all I had done accounting on High school and had trained students in accounting during my studies. So after working as a software coder for three weeks I became instructor and in three months project manager, in no time I got a bigger car and a laptop.

On my first assignment with a customer I drove to the south to a laboratory which had just bought an AS400 and where IBM had done the implementation of the computer and the cables, and the screens. I walked in with three software tapes under my arms, introduced myself and was guided to the computer, uploaded the tape, looked at the screen and typed in INSTALL FIS and the computer started doing all kind of things. Time for me to start drinking coffee with the Finance Manager who was just appointed as IT responsible and also knew nothing about IT.

I asked him if he had any requirements about the new financial package and he did not have a clue: as long as the package worked as he was used to it was OK for him! When I asked him for documentation he told me they did not have this so I asked him to put this on paper and send this to me and made a new appointment with him in a week: too early for him and we agreed he would do this in two weeks. My first lesson: always take care next action is with someone else! After 6 hours, the software was installed and the start screen came up: time to leave and my boss could bill 8 hours to the customer: my first invoice for only drinking coffee and let others do the work!

Of course, he did not send me the requested description so I went there again, asked him for a list of account numbers, showed him how to enter them in the system, asked him to add them all before next week, had lunch and went back home after half a day. I had a list of 24 steps to be done before the system was ready to be used and it took almost 4 months before we finished them all and my boss was very happy for all the hours spend and invoices send. When I did not know something, I phoned a colleague and when this took also some time to investigate his or her hours were billed also.

I remember one customer very well who lived in my home town and, after we did the implementation, told me he and his partner both had a budget for external lunches but that he, as financial manager, did not have enough contacts to spend this. Because he also wanted to be out of the office weekly he asked me to lunch with him Fridays at his expense. For more then a year I went to the restaurant on my bike at 12:00, had lunch untill 15:00 and went home afterwards sending him an invoice for the whole day, an relaxed ending the week for me…

My boss was very happy with  this arrangement and toke care the manager got a laptop, the first one in his company. I give him some private lessons how to work with it at our office because he did not want his employees to say he did not know how to work with a laptop.  One day he called me and told he erased his computer by typing in DEL a:*.* an asked me to come to the office after working time to restore the software. If you know a little bit how IT worked when companies were first confronted with IT you could have a lot of fun and you did not need to know too much to become an expert and successful IT professional. Three years ago, after having worked for almost 30 years in IT, I stopped: time for a new challenge although I was still teaching Information Management to students who liked my stories on IT a lot.

While discussing this with Victor he said this description of the starting days of IT looked like the current impact of social media on society. While the first IT revolution was changing the way we work social media are changing the way we communicate, not only in the public but also in the private environment: while I was having lunch 30 years ago with my customers now the new generation is communicating through WhatApp and Facebook with it’s customers all over the world and which they maybe even had never seen. Social media have big impact and has changed the way we communicate significant, he wrote a lot about this issue in his columns. The reason he participated in the ‘Resurfing” course was he wanted to know learn more about this methodology because he was writing an essay on the modern communication paradox.

Resurfacing

The week after I flew to Sedona US for a two-day self-development course after being invited by an old colleague. I had some time free on the days of the course, had been in Sedona before and knew it was one of the best places to be in the US. The course was about “Resurfacing”, a technique which aimed to explore your conscience and in the end be the master of your own free will, just what I needed now to define my own Moon project!

When I presented myself at the registration desk in Sedona the lady behind the desk told me I did not pay the whole amount for the course: it was 12.000$ instead of the 1.200$ which I already paid. I was furious because I knew for certain in the invitation I received from my old colleague it stated 1.200$ for the two days and I would not have participated for this amount! I asked the lady to talk to the manager in charge of the workshop and after a few minutes a short bold guy came to me and gave me a cup of coffee and listed to what I had to say without giving me an answer on my questions. He kept smiling and told me he would talk to the legal department and could give me feedback afterwards on what he could do for me.

In the meantime, the workshop started and I had to decide what to do: stay and participate or leave. I decided to stay and participate, after all I was interested in the topic and had traveled a long distance from home. At the beginning of the workshop I met the other participants and I was assigned to a group of twelve people of which 6 were mentors and 6 participants, to my surprise my mentor was the old colleague who invited me for the course, I did not know he was invited also! 4 of the 6 ‘normal’ participants also complained on the price but we did not have much time to discuss because the workshop started and I decided to make my mind free of external stuff so I could concentrate on the course.

The next two days they kept us busy with all kind of exercises, some one to one with the mentors and some with the group. We started the course with identifying our earliest memories and life changing experiences and reflecting on what what we thought were our key drivers and ambitions, a mix of techniques I already experienced before and new ones. The mentors were all experienced master and guided us through the course with a personal approach and were alle ‘Believers” in the methodology developed by the inventor Robin Tree, a former teacher. The key objective of Robin was that by exploring the world of your mind, starting with introspection on your own experiences and connecting them to your beliefs, you will be able to get insight in your identity and will de enable you to set direction to your own life and be in control of your future.

That evening we had some time for ourselves as participants of the course while the mentors were sitting together somewhere else. During the day some of the participants had left the course and, because we were busy all day, we did not know why. In the restaurant I spoke to some other participants and they were all first time attanders and were very positive about the course although some complained on the quality of the mentors who guided them, for some this was the first time, luckily my mentor was very experienced. Only one complained about the money and thought it was a mistake because she knew others who had done the course before and had not complained about it.

Next morning we started with an evaluation of first day and this was for me the opportunity to ask the mentors when we would get feedback on the costs of the course, they were very surprised and did not know there was a problem. My mentor asked me to look at this “problem” from another perspective and ask myself the question “what is this course worth for you?”. If the course would cost nothing would it have the same value for you as if it was very expensive? If the course  would change your life in the sense that you would stop working at your current very well paid job and start a new adventure without a potential high income but more in line with your ambitions would it still be an interesting investment for you? And, if you look back, do the moments in your past life you made choices which changed your life structural had anything to do with money?

At the end of the day I concluded that is was good having done this course and not let me be influenced by the money problem. When checking out I met the short bold guy who I spoke to at the beginning of the course and he introduced himself as Robin Tree, owner and developer of the “Resurfacing” methodology. He told me he would not insist on paying the 12k $ but that I was free of course to pay more if the course was more worth than I thought before participating: on avarage participants of his course valued it ten times higher after then before. It was also a good methodology to ‘shake out” the participants early during the course who were to much focussed on the money and were not able to open their mind. I agreed, without this issue i would have been more relaxed and less focussed, pressure sometimes helps when you want change..

Waking Up

Woke up this morning with a terrible headache not knowing where I was and how late. I did not recognize the room and also noticed I did not sleep alone: it could not have been that bad yesterday… While slowly recovering I remembered I had stayed New Year’s Eve with friends in the Northern part of the Netherlands where it’s always cold and windy, the houses suffer from the increasing number of earthquakes and the people were still eating potatoes every day.

I spend the evening before talking and drinking about our lives, politics and achievements (as far as we had them) and ended the evening drinking champagne and toasting on what 2017 could bring us. We, all around sixty years old, came together every year on New Year’s Eve to talk with each other and I realized waking up that our view on the world had never been as negative as this time and our ambitions had also never been so low.

Although everybody was talking about disruption nowadays society was making things not easier for us and telling us all the time what to do and what not to do: almost all things we liked to do were under discussion: drinking alcohol, celebrate “Sinterklaas” (a Dutch children’s festivity), Christmas and making a firework at midnight on New Year’s Eve. While we were young in the sixties we were fighting for our liberty and wanted more freedom and now we were defending old values, funny how things can change…

While shaving I suddenly realized myself we did not talk about our goals or objectives like we did when we were young. What happened to us we were now so negative and low on our ambitions? When I was 14 years old in 1969 my father woke me up at night to watch the first men walking on the: a life changing experience for me! At that moment, I thought it would be possible to walk on the moon also. Over the years I understood this was not a realistic ambition. But why not define a new ambition I thought while shaving?

Walking downstairs for breakfast I decided that I would start finding a new ambition for 2017 and would call this “The Moon Project”. Downstairs I found all sitting around the kitchen table having breakfast and started asking questions but did not get answers back I did not expect. Driving back home that afternoon I decided I needed to broaden my scope and first further investigate the first moon landing, what made this so successful and why can’t we do this again  easily? Having done something should make it easy to repeat 48 years later seen the current status of technology.

The next morning I did a quick scan on the Internet on what was the most crusial succes factor for the Apollo project and was triggered by the role of Margaret Hamilton, the MIT lead software engineer who was responsible for the writing the software code. Without this code it would not have been possible to land safely on the moon. At the end of 2016 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama for her work, not only for the Apollo Project but also because she invented the concept of software engineering.

Just three minutes before the Apollo Moon lander landed on the Moon several computer alarms were triggered. The Moon lander computer was overloaded with interrupts caused by an incorrectly power supply to the lander’s rendezvous radar. Hamilton’s software indicated “executive overflows”, meaning the computer could not complete all of its tasks in the available time and had to postpone some of them. The software allowed the computer to cope with this problem by prioritising the tasks to be completed and doing only the most important ones. . Hamilton’s priority alarm warned the astronauts there was an emergency and executed the crucial tasks without blocking the system. Always wandered why it took so long before they came out of the Apollo: the board computer still had to execute the taks not yet done…

Maybe that’s our problem, I thought, we are doing to much and can’t really prioritise, that’s why we have such a poor outcome as society. What the Apollo case learned me is that it’s not enough to have an ambition and clear goal which is easily to communicate but you need also to have the right people with the right mindset and skills to execute the tasks. If one of the two is missing you will not realise your objectives.

2016 was een succesvol jaar voor Vladimir Poetin!

Ondanks de boycot maatregelen van de VS en Europa heeft Rusland politiek en economisch een succesvol jaar achter de rug en kan Vladimir Poetin tevreden terugkijken op 2016.

Op politiek terrein heeft Poetin Ruslands militaire positie in Syrië versterkt door samenwerking met het Syrië van Sadat en Iran, de relatie met Turkije hersteld, eindelijk een overeenkomst afgesloten voor de olie en gasleiding over Turks grondgebied, Ruslands positie in de Krim en Oekraïne geconsolideerd en gezorgd voor een militaire dreiging die de voormalige Sovjet republieken serieus nemen en de NAVO op stang jaagt (en waarvan we niet weten of die ook reëel is). Tevens heeft hij Donald Trump een duwtje in de rug kunnen geven in de verkiezingscampagne zodat hij eindelijk af is van die vervelende Obama zodat hij met Trump een in zijn ogen meer gelijkwaardige gesprekspartner krijgt.

Hoewel de economie over 2016 nog een lichte daling van het BNP laat zien van -0,5% voorspelt Moody’s voor de komende jaren weer groei: 2% voor 2017 en 3% voor 2018. Dit succes is het meest zichtbaar in de groei van de vermogens van de Russische miljardairs het afgelopen jaar die er voor het eerst in twee jaar weer behoorlijk op vooruit zijn gegaan, zie deze tabel van de top 10 miljardairs:

Ik heb de cijfers van Forbes over de afgelopen drie jaar in deze tabel bij elkaar gezet en de top 10 rijken (excl. Poetin want daar weten we het niet exact van) heeft haar vermogen het afgelopen jaar met 33 miljard zien stijgen, dus zo’n 25% erbij. En dat terwijl de totale Russische economie over dezelfde periode kromp. Vladimir Poetin komt in de Forbes lijst niet voor maar algemeen wordt aangenomen dat hij de rijkste Rus is met een geschat vermogen tussen de 30$ en 200$ miljard en daarmee de rijkste Rus is en wellicht zelfs de rijkste op aarde. De belangrijke oorzaak van zijn gestegen rijkdom moet worden gezocht in het feit dat steeds meer bedrijven onder staatstoezicht zijn gekomen, van 35% van het BNP naar 70% nu, en allerlei constructies waardoor Poetin zichzelf heeft kunnen verrijken. Donald Trump staat in de Forbes lijst met 4,5m$ op plaats 336, zal hij niet leuk vinden en waarschijnlijk de reden waarom hij zo zijn best doet hierover niks naar buiten te brengen. Ik ben benieuwd wat zijn zoon’s nu aantreffen tijdens de Due Diligence die als het goed is nodig is nu zijn bedrijf door zijn zoons wordt overgenomen.  Hun succes zal afhangen van de groei van het concern dus hebben ze belang bij een lage inschatting, ben benieuwd of we daar nog wat van gaan merken de komende tijd.

Ik heb tevens opgezocht wie uit deze top 10 rijkste Russen om fiscale redenen hun holding in Nederland hebben (voor zover we weten) en dat zijn er 5, goed voor onze schatkist dus. We wisten natuurlijk al dat Poetin zijn dochter in Nederland een tijdje geleden in Nederland had en er zijn geruchten dat hij via stroman Gennady Timchenko zijn vermogen via Nederland veilig stelde als aanhouder van grondstoffenhandelaar Gunvor gevestigd aan de Amsterdamse Herengracht: dit bedrijf maakt over 2014 $267 miljoen nettowinst op een omzet van $88 miljard, goed voor de Nederlandse fiscus dus. De winst van deze miljardairs moet dus met name worden verklaard door internationalisering van hun economische activiteiten en kan niet verklaard worden door een interne Russische factoren en onze fiscale regelgeving zorgt ervoor de behaalde winst niet ten goede komt van de gewone Rus.

Met zijn geschatte vermogen kan Poetin zich meten met nummer 1 op de Forbes lijst 2016 Bill Gates met een geschat vermogen van 75m$, overigens staat de eerste Rus Leonid Mikhelson op plaats 60 met 14,4m$, uit de cijfers over 2017 blijkt dat hij inmiddels  is ingehaald door Alexey Mordashov op de voet gevolgd door Mikhail Fridman. Fridman kwam deze deze week in het nieuws vanwege de arrestatie in Spanje van mede bestuurder Peter Wakkie bij telecom bedrijf Zed+ in Spanje, , op verzoek overigens van de FBO en de CIA. Wakkie wordt verdacht van het betalen van steekpenningen aan familieleden van Russische ministers. Tja, dat kan natuurlijk de flinke stijging verklaren.

Opvallend is dat er elk jaar weer flinke wijzigingen zijn in deze lijst, er zijn blijkbaar zoveel onzekerheden in de Russische economie dat je voor je het weet je plek moet afstaan aan iemand anders. Zo stond Vladimir Potanin, eigenaar van de grootste nikkel producent Norilsk Nickel nog bovenaan met 15,4m$ en nu op plaats vier. Wellicht heeft dat ook te maken met de echtscheiding met zijn dertigjarige vrouw Natalia Potanina die een schikking met hem trof en maandelijks $250,000 van hem krijgt en vastgoed in Moskou, Londen en New York: Ruslands jetset beweegt zich tegenwoordig internationaal en heeft overal vastgoed en bezittingen. Vladimir Potanin ooit vice president onder Poetin en een van de sponsoren van de Sochi Winter Olympische Spelen in 2014 en investeerde stevig in de ontwikkeling van het Olympische dorp (dat nu leg staat)  en bezit hij tevens een transport en infrastructuur bedrijf, een farmaceutisch bedrijf en een ski resort. Handig met Poetin bevriend te zijn…

Je ziet op jaarbasis grote fluctuaties onder de ranking van de top miljardairs in Rusland terwijl deze ranking bijvoorbeeld in Europa of de VS veel stabieler is. Zo had bijvoorbeeld Roman Abramovich in 2007 een vermogen van 23,5m$ en is dat nu gekrompen tot 8,6m$ zodat hij buiten de huidige top 10 valt, hetzelfde geldt voor Mikhael Prokhorov (ooit 19,5m$ vermogen) en Oleg Deripaska (ooit 28m$), over deze laatste gaan overigens geruchten dat Paul Manafort, de voormalige campagneleider van Donald Trump voor hem gewerkt heeft. Je doet er in Rusland verstandig aan qua vermogen niet te dicht in de buurt van Poetin te komen lijkt het wel, anders loop je een flink risico! Wat Poetin aan lengte mist compenseert hij door de hoogte van zijn vermogen lijkt het wel, bij Trump ligt dat waarschijnlijk net andersom…

Tevens is het verstandig geen ruzie met hem te maken zoals bijvoorbeeld Oliemiljardair Michail Chodorkovski, in 2003 8m$ waard, ondervonden heeft. Chodorkovski wilde destijds de nieuwe president van Rusland worden, maar kwam voordat hij daartoe de kans kreeg in een strafkamp terecht wegens belastingontduiking en fraude. Pas na 10 jaar kreeg hij amnestie en week hij uit naar Zwitserland. In een land met een vermogende tsaar aan het hoofd doe je er goed aan niet groter te worden dan hij zelf en doe je aan spreiding van de risico’s door je portefeuille uit te breiden buiten de landsgrenzen.

Overigens moet de totale economische waarde van Rusland sterk gerelativeerd worden, qua BNP staat Rusland op plaats acht en zelfs kleiner dan Engeland en Duitsland, vanuit dit perspectief is het eigelijk onbegrijpelijk dat we ons zo druk maken om wat er in Rusland gebeurd: de economische invloed van Rusland op ons is marginaal en dat geldt tevens voor de militaire verhoudingen waar ze in het niet vallen als je dat vergelijkt met het totaal aan uitgaven van de Westerse landen, niet verstandig aan te vallen lijkt me Vladimir!

Deze week sprak ik een Rus die uit een vermogende familie komt en die in Nederland woont die mij vertelde dat veel Russen momenteel hun positie in Europa versterken ten koste van de US en UK omdat zij verwachten dat Trump en de Brexit het wel eens moeilijker zouden kunnen maken hun bezittingen daar te handhaven en dat Nederland daarom fiscaal een goed alternatief is. Ik heb een tijdje geleden een zakenman uit Oost Europa geholpen met het zoeken van een beleggingspand in Nederland om dezelfde reden en dat blijkt nu achteraf een hele goede investering te zijn geweest. Daarbij komt dat investeerders ook zien dat de kans dat het economisch klimaat in Nederland gaat wijzigen klein is: Nederlanders zijn immers, als het er op aankomt, meer koopman dan dominee. Zelfs PvdA minister Dijsselbloem is erg blij met de winstbelasting op vermogens van buitenlandse holdings en de ondoorzichtige “Fiscal Ruling” praktijk van de Belastingdienst die toch maar mooi onze schatkist aanvult zonder dat we er veel voor hoeven te doen!

Samenvattend kan je stellen dat Vladimir Poetin goed is in marketing en door dreiging meer voor elkaar krijgt dan de eigenlijke machtsverhoudingen rechtvaardigen en dat wij zo stom zijn daar steeds weer in te trappen!

Disclaimer: De bedragen van Forbes en de Quote zijn schattingen maar ze geven wel een aardig beeld, het zou interessant zijn als iemand dit eens gedetailleerd zou gaan uitzoeken!

Channel Management: how to improve your market share in a fast changing world

The world is changing rapidly at this moment; the election of Donald Trump and Brexit are two examples of big changes which will have a lot if impact for the business of companies who sell their products and services on the world market.

While the last decades the main trend was to open markets, lower import taxes, get rid of boarders and support free trade this probably will change the coming years and will have big impact on us all. At the same time the distribution sector made it possible to transport goods all over the world for very low prices products which made it possible to produce goods at locations where they could be produced as cheap as possible and the same will happen for services outsourced to low income countries.

This will cause a lot of turbulence in the environment of companies who sell their products and services which will make it necessary for them to monitor these and take proactive actions to continue their business. And at the same time customers who have to buy products and services on an unstable market because protectionism will make products from outside the country more expensive and local products cheaper: the product landscape in their web shops and supermarkets will change significant the coming years!

What will happen when the UK decides to increase the tax products from the EU significant? What will be the impact when companies now producing in Asia must pay high import taxes when selling on the US market? What when China decides to transport products to Europe only with their own vessels? And what when a small local producer is becoming very popular because there is suddenly more demand because his product is suddenly added to a web shop for pricing reasons?

For this reason Channel Management will become more and more important because, companies continuously have to anticipate on these developments and take care their products and services keep being sold on the market through their channel network. In the past Channel Management was primary the domain of the distribution function but the marketing component will become more and more important and will need to be aligned with Business Planning when something changes in the economic and political environment of the company.

Local Business Services supports companies implementing Channel Management as a structural business function with the objective to optimize their mix of channels through which they sell their products and services to consumers. Companies should constantly ask themselves the question: “Am I selling through the right channels?” by setting up a function and process for Channel Management within the company aligned with their Business and Marketing strategy.

Local Business Services can support you to improve your Channel Management function and enable you to improve your market share by enabling you to anticipate early on new opportunities in a fast changing world and help you setting up or improving your Channel Management function:

Define a Strategy: Identify your current portfolio, margins and metrics, identify trends around your products and services, risks around current channels and the behavior of customers and important stakeholders influencing your business and potential scenario’s. We will investigate the following areas which could impact your business:

  • Currency and Stock Markets
  • Costing & Distribution
  • Marketing & Sales Channels
  • Direct & Indirect Tax (including customs)
  • Legal & Contracts
  • People/ HR-aspects
  • Financial Reporting

Per area will be investigated what actions you can take and define a Strategy which supports you building up your market position in a changing environment.

Design Channel Structure: Identify potential new channel opportunities based on your Strategy, analyse the impact of introducing new channels on your existing channels for your sales process, distribution and IT and design a new channel structure, portfolio and metrics. Take care both the channel strategy and structure are authorized by management and ownership is taken by the management team of the transition process by authorizing a proper business case regarding the new Channel Strategy and Structure both on costs and expected benefits.

Select Channel(s): Once having a channel strategy and structure start implementing this by selecting new channels and produce an implementation and transition plan how to implement the new channels. Based on this plan a budget should be allocated and ownership taken on the management level by appointing a channel manager responsible for the optimizing of the channel portfolio. Develop tools and support for upgrading your channel capabilities, implement the new channels and track the progress and define the metrics.

Implement Channel Structure: Implement the new channel structure in your organization: startup new channels, phase existing channels out you or to get rid of or change existing ones which underperform. Keep measuring the progress on your Channel metrics monthly both on channel value and margin.

Manage Channel(s): Once having implemented the new channel structure keep monitoring the key metrics on how your business is performing oer channel and keep tracking opportunities and threats in your environment.

Interested in knowing more about Channel Management? Contact us for planning a meeting or workshop for your organization.

Local Business Services B.V. 

Owner: Gerard Geerlings MSc

E-mail: localbusinessservicesnl@gmail.com

Website: www.localbusinessservices.nl

De Asscher – Baarsma flexbanen discussie

3 januari schreef Lodewijk Asscher op de website van de PvdA een scherpe aanval op Barbara Baarsma onder de titel “Een gifpil voor de middenklasse” en het motto ‘Flex is een keuze, waarom die kruistocht tegen een vast contract?”. Duidelijk bedoeld als start voor de PvdA campagne in het nieuwe jaar zo vlak na de jaarwisseling en zoals iedereen weet, die kan wel een impuls gebruiken. Ook logisch dat Asscher dit onderwerp kiest omdat aan hem, als verantwoordelijk minister voor de invoering van de Flexwet, niet het imago hangt van DE voorstander van vaste banen: onder zijn bewind zijn immers tal van wetten en maatregelen ingevoerd die werkgevers juist doen beslissen liever flex dat vaste werknemers in dienst te nemen. En dat hebben we mis is de boodschap want aan het eind sluit hij af met: “Voor mij als sociaaldemocraat blijft voorop staan dat vast werk een vast contract verdient”.

Als je je imago wil aanpassen is het wellicht handig in de aanval te gaan en dan kies je je onderwerp en tegenstander zorgvuldig uit, Barbara Baarsma is een waardige en deskundige tegenstander die het goed doet in de praatprogramma’s en door deze keuze haar te targetten hoef je niet in debat met Jesse Klaver of Mark Rutte. Dit artikel is niet zomaar even bedacht door Asscher onder de kerstboom maar duidelijk de eerste zet in een geplande campagne waarbij de PvdA het debat naar zich toe wil trekken. Ik denk dat hij beter een ander onderwerp had kunnen kiezen zoals  wat hij wil gaan doen met het extra geld dat zo binnenkomt als de inkomsten belasting verhoogd gaat worden zoals de PvdA wil: leuke dingen voor de mensen trekt immers meer stemmen dan deze discussie.

Asscher reageert in het artikel op een interview van Baarsma in De Telegraaf van afgelopen zaterdag: Asschers aanpak voedt populisme en wijst erop dat Baarsma wetenschappelijk en politieke meningen door elkaar haalt. Baarsma pleit in het artikel voor een nog meer vergaande  flexibilisering door het afschaffen van alle vaste contracten zodat iedereen evenveel kansen heeft op werk (bijv. iedereen 5 jaars contract). En dat terwijl Asscher juist voor een tweedeling is waar we nu de gevolgen van zien: vast en flex naast elkaar heeft ongewilde bijeffecten die door iedereen erkend worden en die nodig gerepareerd moeten worden en dat had Asscher natuurlijk allang moeten doen! Het zal moeilijk worden voor Asscher deze angel er de komende weken uit te halen. Waar Asscher Baarsma verwijt politieke en wetenschappelijke meningen door elkaar te halen kan je Asscher verwijten dat er bij hem een discrepantie is tussen uitvoering en ideologie en dat daar inderdaad bijstelling nodig is. Ik heb zelf de afgelopen vier jaar drie flexbanen gehad dus weet waar ik het over heb.

Maar dan nu de hamvraag: waarom werd dit item niet door de media breed opgepikt? Waarom geen discussie in Nieuwsuur of Jinek de volgende dag? Simpel: de timing van het artikel was gewoon slecht en het campagneteam van Asscher had zich voor de publicatie van het artikel niet verzekerd van een goed media strategie. Pauw had wellicht hier nog wel een item in gezien, DWDD heeft nog geen uitzending en Jinek ziet zichzelf meer als tegenpool van RTLLate dan uitdrager van PvdA standpunten. En met het social media bereik van de PvdA is het al even slecht gesteld: op Twitter heeft Asscher 187.000 volgers terwijl Wilders er 745.000+ heeft dus met één tweet heeft Geert Wilders evenveel bereik als bijvoorbeeld een goed bekeken uitzending van Nieuwsuur (het Trump effect), wat zet je daar tegenover?

Al met al een vreemde start van Asscher’s campagne voor de verkiezingen over 10 weken, het zal met zo’n start moeilijk het politieke debat te gaan domineren maar wellicht blijkt dit zometeen achteraf de eerste geniale zet te zijn geweest van een briljante campagne, je weet mar nooit. O ja: en als ik mevrouw Baarsma zou zijn zou ik niet reageren op deze aanval van Asscher die tot doel heeft zijn campagne een impuls te geven.