The Three Levels of Planning

There are three levels of strategic planning: Corporate, business, and functional. Strategy may be planned at each level, but the plans for every level of an organization should align to insure maximum unity of effort. Without alignment, departments and functions will be working at cross-purposes, and the overall corporate strategy will be less effective. Here is how strategist view each of the three levels of strategic planning:

Corporate level: Planning at this level should provide overall strategic direction for an organization, sometimes referred to as the "grand strategy." This is a concise statement of the general direction which senior leadership intends to undertake to accomplish their stated mission or vision. Corporate level strategy is usually decided by the CEO and the Board of Directors although other senior leaders will often contribute to the strategy formulation. Strategic options at the corporate level will likely require a commitment of a significant portion of the firm's resources over an extended period, and the results will have a significant impact on the future health of the organization. Strategic planning at this level will usually include a robust analysis and identification of several strategic options based on the assumed future operating environment. In a multi-business firm, careful consideration will be given to the overall core competencies of the firm and where the boundaries lie between corporate and business level responsibilities.

Business level: Each business within an organization will develop a strategy to support the overall business within its specific industry. Business level strategy is reflects the current position of the firm within its industry, and identifies how the available resources can be applied to improve the position of the firm in relation to its competitors. There are a variety of ways that businesses will compete, but more often than not it is based on the USP (unique selling proposition) of the firm which distinguishes the company and its products from other competitors. If there are no differences between one firm's products or services from other competitors, then the product or service becomes a commodity. Competition among firms that offer commodities is usually rooted in price competition, and the low-cost providers usually take over. On the other hand, businesses that distinguish themselves can compete on their unique selling proposition. If they can successfully demonstrate why they are different and how that difference can provide a better level of service or quality product, then the business can command a higher margin for the premium service or product. This is the "value" added by the firm, and the business strategy should focus on how the firm adds value.

Functional level: Functional level describes support functions of a business: Finance, Marketing, Manufacturing, and Human Resources are a few examples of the functional level. Strategies at this level should be defined to support the overall business and corporate level strategies. If the functional level leaders can describe their activities and goals in relation to the business or corporate levels, then everyone in the organization will be aligned and as such contribute to the overall goals and objectives for the organization. So for example, functional leaders for IT or HR must ask if the strategies for their functions match and support the overall strategic direction of the businesses they support or of the overall firm itself.

The best strategic planners understand how important it is for a firm to have alignment among the corporate, business, and functional levels of strategy. The overall corporate level strategies will not be effective if the supporting business and functional level strategies are inconsistent with the overall strategic intent of the senior leaders. Thus, it is not only important to pick the right strategy for the corporate level, but also equally important to make sure that the business and functional level strategies support the overall grand strategy for the organization.

Source by Leonard Kloeber

How Do Guitar Amps Work?

Guitar amps are strange commodities in the music world. Anyone with a pickup on their guitar has got to plug into one, but it's rare that people understand just how the little boxes make your guitar sound so loud. Learning about how guitar amps work might help you learn about using the electronics and settings on both your guitar and amplifier in a more practical and efficient fashion. Here is a short lesson on how that big sound comes out of that little box.

The Anatomy

The anatomy of a guitar amplifier is quite simple. There are just three major components – the preamp, the power amp, and the speaker. Do not be confused by those big huge stacks that people use as amps too (head and cabinet designs), they are exactly the same, just the pieces are not contained in one little box like the practice amp you have at home. Each piece of the amp serves a certain role.

Preamp

The preamp is what you are actually plugging your guitar into. It receives an electronic signal from your guitar. This is also where those little controls you love to mess with are located, in the preamp you'll find the treble and bass, some fancier models have reverb and other distortion elements included as well.

Power amp

After the electronic signal is received by the preamp, it is passed along to the power amp. The power amp is what super charges the signal and makes it nice and loud. If you've got a huge and powerful power amp, then you'll be able to get huge and powerful sounds from your guitar. The power amp takes the signal from the preamp (and any information about treble and bass adjustments etc.) and finally passes it to the speaker, where it reaches the human ear.

Speakers

Bigger speakers allow the lower sounds of an instrument to be stronger, which is why you'll notice that bass amps are bigger than guitar amps. The most prominent part of the amplifier that you can see is the speaker, you may or may not be able to see much of the preamp and power amp. Typically all three of these components are housed inside the same unit, a little (or big) box.

Variations

With an understanding of the anatomy of an amplifier and how it works, you can now begin to experiment with different combinations. The head and cabinet design mentioned before features two parts, the head, which is the preamp, and the cabinet, which houses the power amp and the speakers. Head and cabinet designs are common for professional musicians because it gives them the ability to combine different preamps with another power amp and speakers. These are not popular among amateurs because they tend to be large and cumbersome, not easily transported from home to your buddy's garage practice location.

Understanding how guitar amps work will give you the ability to make adjustments in your sound more carefully, especially if you have a preamp with lots of features. As you progress, you'll get more particular about the sounds you want your amp to produce.

Source by David Smithe

What Are Characteristics of Sustainable Communities?

Environmental conservation has become an important way of life for an increasing segment of the population. Some people are committing themselves to green living to the extent that they are choosing to live in sustainable communities. These populaces come together with a common goal of living in a way that focuses on environmental, economic, and social health and resilience.

The Mindset

Economic growth and development is imperative for ongoing human wellbeing. However, if this development causes harm to natural resources by polluting water, air, and soil; destroying forests; flooding landfills with garbage; and producing toxic waste, the net result ends up being negative instead of positive. The premise of sustainable communities is finding a way to improve quality of life with economic development, while preserving the environment. Neighborhoods embracing sustainability are pursuing alternative options for economic development that do not produce harmful side effects such as air pollution, urban sprawl, congestion, and full landfills.

Strategies for Achieving Sustainable Economic Development

Use Local Resources Carefully – Every community has local resources that are available for use. When a neighborhood explores its local resources and then commits itself to meeting the needs of its residents with these commodities, everyone benefits. This internal resourcefulness creates jobs, boosts the economy, and reduces negative impacts. A community that works together to meet these basic needs internally usually thrives.

Creating an Efficient Infrastructure – Urban sprawl and inefficient city design have a negative impact on the environment. A city without careful planning requires its residents to rely heavily on their individual vehicles for transportation. An environmentally conscious alternative involves careful planning of neighborhood design so that people can reach work, school, and shopping more easily. The availability of public transportation is an integral component of sustainable communities.

Pursuing Energy Efficiency – When everyone in a neighborhood works together to conserve energy, big results usually happen. Businesses and households that focus on waste reduction, pollution prevention, and recycling can work together for the good of everyone. These types of neighborhoods usually experience a reduction in various kinds of damage such as air pollution and misuse of land.

Prioritize Quality of Life – Many people are becoming more aware of the importance of pursuing quality of life in their daily lifestyles. When a community prioritizes this type of lifestyle in its design, residents are generally happier. Creating an attractive neighborhood with clean water and air, open green spaces, and access to natural areas is a positive strategy for benefitting both humans and the environment.

Creation of Jobs – Pursuing environmental consciousness often creates new jobs. Job creation in the areas of environmental technology, waste reduction, pollution prevention, and recycling will often help to create a booming economy in a community.

Realistically, achieving sustainability is a process. A neighborhood will not attain this status overnight, but it is possible to work toward it by making important improvements. For success, sustainable communities must adopt a long-term perspective by adjusting focus to both today and tomorrow. This type of perspective will help ensure that current and future resident needs are met.

Source by Alfred Ardis

Products And – Or Services – Defining "Service-Oriented" Products and the Related Role of Technology

The economy can be analyzed using both market-driven and production-driven approaches to industry classification. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) uses a market-driven approach; the older Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) uses a production-driven approach.

Under a market-driven approach, the economy comprises goods-producing and service-providing industries. Goods-producing industries include: natural resources and mining, construction, and manufacturing; service-providing industries include: wholesale and retail trade, transportation (and warehousing), utilities, information, financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and public administration.

Under a production-driven approach, the economy comprises product-driven and service-driven industries. Product-driven industries comprise enterprises that manage inventories available for sale as primary activities (regardless of whether they transform them or not). Under this approach, the retail, wholesale, and food service industries are product-driven. (The kitchens of food service providers are equivalent to factories.) Product-driven enterprises may have extensive cost accounting and operations practices for inventory management.

Industry classifications can be applied to an enterprise as a whole (the primary industry), and to the establishments within it, which may be in differing secondary industries. Establishments are facilities that include plants (factories and warehouses) and branches (retail and wholesale outlets).

For example, the hospitality industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the bar and restaurant establishments within a hotel are product-driven. The entertainment industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the retail and bar establishments within a theater are product-driven. The health care industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the retail pharmacy establishment within a hospital is product-driven. Under the market-driven approach, all of these establishments are service-providing.

For example, a manufacturing enterprise is goods-producing under a market-driven approach, and product-driven under a production-driven approach. If it also operates a retail delivery system, the stores are service-providers under a market-driven approach, and are product-driven under a production-driven approach. If all sales revenue is sourced from its own products, the enterprise is in two primary industries. However, if forced to decide, its selection should be based upon core competencies – activities that it performs well. The enterprise can be divided into two separate business units: manufacturing and merchandising. The merchandising unit is an internal customer of the manufacturing unit. However, depending on strategy and policy, the manufacturing unit could sell products to wholesalers and other retailers, and the merchandising unit could buy products from other manufacturers and wholesalers. Under a market-driven approach, the manufacturing unit is goods-producing and the merchandising unit is service-providing, whereas under the production-driven approach, the merchandising unit is product-driven.

The make-up of the economy changes overtime as newer industries emerge and grow and older industries mature and decline. For example, the manufacturing industry is shifting from vertically integrated to strategically outsourced. Strategic outsourcers may manufacture specialized components and assemble finished products. However, by outsourcing the manufacturing of utility components to specialty scale manufacturers, strategic outsourcers can lower their production costs.

Biotechnology and nanotechnology are emerging industries. The information industries are growing as technology becomes more ubiquitous, and as knowledge is packaged in digital products. Knowledge is information that has been learned and retained. In the future, knowledge will be retained extensively in electronic form.

Products and services …

The term "product" is associated with something that is tangible – the resulting inventory from agricultural, mining and drilling, construction, and manufacturing activities. Outputs are either end-products, or components that are assembled into end-products in downstream processes within the enterprise or in its customers.

The term "service" is associated with something that is intangible – capabilities either delivered at the point or time of sale, or shortly thereafter, or as a supporting service. Supporting services can be purchased at the time of sale for downstream use, or later, and consist of such items as warranties beyond those bundled with the product, preventive maintenance, and routine cleaning and repairs.

Functions and features of products are easier to discern than those of services, which are event or activity driven, and may occur in the future.

The term "time of sale" means when a contractual or non-contractual agreement between a buyer and a seller is made, and does not necessarily mean when revenue is recognized and earned. Revenue is recognized and earned according to the accounting principles that fit the service offering, which may be over a period of time.

A commodity is a product or service that is indistinguishable and interchangeable with another of the same type because there is little to no value added. Many commodities are natural, such as produce, minerals, oil, and gas. Services can be commoditized too. The distinguishing factors of a commodity provider include convenience, quality of service, and price.

Product-driven enterprises also offer delivery and supporting services. Delivery services include arranging for transportation, dealer preparation, training, and gift wrapping. Supporting services include cleaning, repairs, and maintenance. To remain competitive over time, enterprises have to add services with their product offerings that exceed customer expectations. However, if customers require such services, then they must become part of the basic offerings. For example, bathroom facilities and color TV are included in modern hotel rooms, even though the primary purpose is providing a place to sleep.

Although services are intangible, their effects are not. Transportation services move people, cleaning services remove dirt and stains, and repair services restore items to working order. Services require facilities, equipment, and supplies that are bundled in. When products are bundled in, the enterprise pays sales or use tax, if applicable; when products are sold with services, the customer usually pays sales or use tax, if applicable.

Service-driven enterprises can produce tangible deliverables. For example, dry cleaners produce clean and pressed clothes; professional service firms, such as architects, accountants, attorneys, and consultants produce reports; and engineers produce design drawings that can be transformed into facilities, equipment, or other tangible products.

The recording and movie industries employ technologies that can capture sound and pictures. Starting in laboratories, these industries transform science into art. Hence, live entertainment performances (services) can be transformed into recorded products. As a consequence, an event or activity can be reproduced, duplicated, distributed, and repeated to the public-at-large indefinitely. Digital products are impacting traditional manufacturing, distribution, and consumer buying behaviors, and placing intermediaries at risk.

Process control and information technologies have enabled seamless integration between designers and manufacturers. The "design-to-construction" process becomes ubiquitous as computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies (CAD / CAM) enable a designer in one location to transmit specifications to manufacturers in others. The designs are virtual, and result in instructions that control manufacturing equipment in both local and remote locations. As a consequence, manufacturing can be outsourced strategically to any manufacturer that can accept electronic designs anywhere at any time. Because the process is seamless, the precision is higher.

As more enterprises adopt the design-to-construction model, dramatic changes will occur in the structure of industries. For example, in the publishing industry, books can be printed on demand from electronic files upon receipt of orders placed over the internet, eliminating the need for physical inventory available for sale at printers, publishers, and bookstores. The electronic files represent a virtual finished goods inventory from which physical products can be made when necessary. As a consequence, inventory carrying costs are lower.

Both product-driven and service-driven industries render service from centers that receive inbound and place outbound service and telemarketing calls. Call center activities can be outsourced in a similar fashion to manufacturing.

The notion of strategic outsourcing can be applied to almost every function in an enterprise provided intellectual property is protected. However, although management consultants may be used in the development of strategy, the ultimate responsibility for planning, deployment, execution, and performance remains in-house with the governance function.

Products and / or services …
The term "products and / or services" describes collectively all types of products and services.

Service-driven industries are evolving into providers of both "product-oriented" and "service-oriented" services. In order to differentiate product-oriented services from the delivery and supporting services, the term "service-oriented" products provides more clarity. Service-oriented products must be definable, duplicable, and repeatable. They are intangible outputs of processes that are represented by tangible items, packaged in a definable form. Technology plays a major role in the delivery through hardware, software, and both voice and data telecommunications. "Hard" products are tangible and "soft" products are intangible.

For example, traditional land phone line services were offerings with few differentiating features, primarily in the style of equipment. As the telephone system migrated from electro-mechanical to electronic, the offerings were transformed into service-oriented products with features such as call forwarding, caller identification, call waiting, and voice mail. Cell phone offerings are service-oriented products with more extensive functions and features than land lines. Cell phone service-oriented products have cameras built-in, and have delivery and supporting services bundled in such as account information, internet access, and application software for calculators, calendars, contact information, notes, games, music, pictures and movies. Cell phone and computer technologies are converging.

In the financial and business and professional services industries, service-oriented products are packaged with such items as accounts, agreements, brochures, contracts, databases, documents, equipment, facilities, policies, procedures, and statements.

In the leisure and hospitality industries, service-oriented products such as flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and limousine services are packaged with facilities, equipment, and supplies. The types of facilities and equipment define specific offerings. For example, an Airbus A380 renders a different experience from a Douglas DC3 even though the principal service is the same: providing air transportation. A hotel room with a view of the ocean renders a different experience from one with no windows at all, even though the principal service is the same: providing accommodation. The quality of the accoutrements such as blankets, pillows, towels, newspapers, cable TV, internet access, and fruit baskets can affect the overall experience. A Cadillac renders a different experience from a Chevrolet, even through the principal service is the same: providing a rental car to drive, or a limousine.

Travel-related service-providers bundle air, hotel, car rental, and limousine services into packages to make the buying decisions easier for consumers. Event planners bundle travel-related services with conference and convention services for enterprises.

Consumables, durables, and facilities …

Manufactured products consist consumables and durables.

Consumables are products change or wear out as they are used and comprise food, clothing, personal care, health care, household supply, and office supply items. Media such as books, records, audio and video CDs, and DVDs are classed as consumables – the intellectual property is worth far more than the media.

Durables are long lasting equipment items such as appliances, furniture, and vehicles.

Digital products may involve no media if they delivered electronically other than the server of the publisher and the electronic device of the user.

Facilities are the outputs of construction activities and are made of durable materials.

Contractual or non-contractual products and / or services …

Agreements are contractual or non-contractual based depending upon the type of offering, and the nature of the relationship between buyers and sellers.

Consumable products can be sold with the right to return for exchange or refund within a certain period of time. Durable products can be sold with agreements that define warranties and maintenance.

Service-oriented products and services can be sold with agreements that specify exactly what is to be delivered and when, with procedures for reporting problems or complaints.

In negotiations, discussions should embrace the specific functions and features of hard and soft products, and the delivery and supporting services. Experienced negotiators pay attention to both the tangibles and intangibles because the total cost of ownership comprises both.

Digital-construction and digital-manufacturing …

As technology continues to develop, service-oriented products will become more common because it makes intangible items definable. New knowledge-based industries will emerge.

The reproduction of software on physical media is classified as goods-producing, and all other development and publishing activities are classified as service-providing under NAICS. However, software and other digital products are durable because they can last indefinitely, even if they have to be transferred among storage media. Software products are developed by service-providers such as business and professional services firms, publishers, and "in-house" developers. Nevertheless, software development activities require the project management disciplines of goods-producing industries, such as construction and manufacturing, to be successful.

The "digital-construction" and "digital-manufacturing" industries are evolving: digital construction delivers software; digital manufacturing delivers soft service-oriented, information, and knowledge-based products. However, through CAD / CAM processes, software delivers hard products too. In the future, almost all hard and soft products will result from digital-construction and digital-manufacturing processes.

Defining product and / or services is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.

Source by Nigel Brooks

The Impact Of Computers On The Economy

The advent of computers has markedly improved our economy and standards of daily living as business, commerce and global trade has flourished at unprecedented rate over the past decades. Furthermore, it has significantly increased the utilization of resources which in turn resulted to a big deluge of output in many business establishments. Despite the brief periods of recession, the economy's sudden downward dive did not leave a devastating impact as predicted as it readily bounced back after a period of adjustments.

The computers served as a tool for global communication where the export and import of manufactured goods between and among countries' businesses are being arranged as communication through electronic mails or emails travel as fast as the speed of light. With the entry of imported products in the local market, consumers nowadays need not go abroad only to sample some of the world's finest food, clothing and apparel and grooming products.

As trade among nations allowed the phasing-out of some barriers, imported goods freely enter the market of a given country with a markedly reduced tax imposed on such goods thereby lowering the selling price of the manufacture. As the economic rule proves true that abundance in the supply lowers the price of a commodity. Because of the stiff competition, international manufacturers and suppliers are given no other alternatives except to mark down the price of their commodities to be able to stay on the business ladder.

Because of computers, Business Process Outsourcing or BPO has provided countries such as India, the Philippines and South Africa a kick to their economy by providing thousands of jobs to its workforce. Countries providing for outsourcing on the other hand, receive the biggest boost to their economy as they are relieved of paying for the manpower costs in their own country as cheaper labor cost in other countries allow them to cut-back expenses. Records show that India alone has revenues of US $ 10.9 billion from offshore BPO and US $ 30 billion from IT and total BPO in 2008 giving the country 5-6% share of the total BPO Industry.

The computers and the internet has provided for an avenue where scientists and researchers of pharmaceutical companies for example, to conduct modifications on certain medications, develop drugs of superior quality than other existing drugs and discover new ones that promise immense financial rewards for the sole production and distribution for a period of time.

Indeed, the invention of computers and the internet has become the most effective catalyst for competition to grow not in increments but in big deluge giving businesses the scare of their lives. As competition gets stronger, manufacturing companies employ various marketing strategies to increase sales which ultimately end up to benefit the consumers in general.

Source by Greg Pierce

Agriculture in the Qing Dynasty

Emperor Kangxi rewarded those who reclaimed wastelands, provided large sums of money for water conservancy projects and reduced the land taxation during his 60-year's reign, which greatly stimulated the recovery and development in agriculture of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Emperor Yongzheng followed his father '(Emperor Kangxi) footsteps and continued to encourage agricultural industry. The social economy was very prosperous during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, so the later historians called this period "The Golden Age of Three Emperors".

Large wasteland was put under the plough in the first 100 year of the Qing dynasty, with the national farming land covering an area of ​​5,260,000 hectares in the 18th year (1661) of Emperor Shunzhi's reign, which increased to 8,510,000 hectares and 17,250,000 hectares in the 61st year (1722) of Emperor Kangxi's reign and 3rd year (1725) of Yongzheng's reign respectively. With the output of grains increasing year after year, the number of population had reached 360,000,000 by the 3rd year (1725) of Yongzheng's reign, and the high-yielding sweet potatoes planted in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces had spread to the Yangtze River area and the Yellow River area. The planting area for industrial crops had also greatly been expanded, including tea, cottons, sugarcanes, tobaccos and mulberries, most of which became commodities in the Qing dynasty.

The number of farmers who specialized in planting vegetables increased greatly in the Qing dynasty, some of whom planted cucumbers and leeks in winter with the help of tunnel greenhouses, gaining more and more profit. With the cotton-planting prevailing across the nation in Qianlong Period, the cotton-planting area took up 4/5 of the total area in Hebei Province, and the sugarcanes were widely planted in Guangdong Province and Taiwan, while the tobaccos were widely cultivated in shandong Province, Zhili and Shangyu, all of which provided more raw materials for further development in handicraft industry.

Some plants imported from South American also contributed a lot to the increasing number of population in the Qing dynasty, including maize, sweet potatoes and potatoes, which had begun to grow in China from South America via Southeast Asian Countries since the Ming dynasty. The planting, storing and processing method of sweet potatoes was fully described in the Agriculture Encyclopedia written by Xu Guangqi from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), which enjoyed a high reputation in the filed of agriculture, and the planting method of sweet potatoes was perfected in Qi Min Si Shu written by Bao Shichen from the Qing dynasty.

Source by Duong Y Khanhvy

Are Colombian Quality Emeralds a Good Investment? – A Brief Overview

In the wake of the housing market melt down and soft market scandals investments in commodities are on the upturn. Emeralds as precious gems have always held value in the market and Colombian quality emeralds can be a harvest asset for any serious investor.

Gems are, ounce for ounce, the most concentrated form wealth man has ever known. Emeralds are extraordinarily profitable, and like other gems easy to store and conceal. An emerald worth millions of dollars could be less than 4 inches long and easily fit in your hand. The price ceiling for high quality emeralds has recently doubled. It jumped from a standard $ 40,000 per carat for the highest quality emeralds to almost $ 90,000 per carat for a 9 carat cut Muzu International emerald, which recently sold at Christie's Auction House in New York. Making it understandable how a one ounce fine Colombian emerald crystal could fetch millions at the current price levels.

Because of the rarity of large cut quality emeralds future prices are only expected to go up. Many investors are buying high quality emeralds to increase and maintain the value of their portfolios. While not everyone can afford investing at those levels, there are alternatives that can prove quite lucrative. As with any investment due diligence is advised before making a commitment. With gemstones, there is a confidentiality of ownership. At present gemstone and diamond transactions are not individually reported to governmental agencies. This however is subject to change, therefore it is recommend one consult a professional tax adviser for your personal reporting requirements.

Below is a brief overview to aid one in making an informed decision when considering an investment in emeralds.

Colombian emeralds, especially those, from the Muzo mines by far command the highest value in the market. Generally speaking they are known for exquisite appearance, large crystal size and few impurities. The Itoco emerald is a perfect example of this. Most emerald dealers agree overall Colombian emeralds are the finest. A high quality Colombian emerald will fetch a 10 to 20% premium over African and Brazilian of similar size and clarity.

Although high end Zambian emeralds do not command the prices of high quality Colombian emeralds, they do have the edge over Brazilian emeralds in today's market. Zambian emeralds mostly tend to be a medium to light green with a bluish tint. Because of their bright lively color and extraordinary clarity Zambian emeralds were originally suspect to be synthetic by established dealers when first discovered in 1976. Tiffany's was first to acknowledge Zambian emeralds as authentic in 1989. Since then their popularity has increased and jewelers and dealers alike now recognize them as natural emeralds. Zambia was the first emerald producer to provide an affordable alternative in quality emeralds. For those who can not afford the top grade Colombian emeralds, the non enhanced Zambian emerald may be a good runner up. Emeralds from Zambia are trending now for several reasons.

  • Like the cutters and polishers of Colombian emeralds, the Zambian emerald craftsmen apply the accepted way oiling using only clear oils.
  • Although Zambian emeralds as a rule do not command the prices of high quality Colombian emeralds most are good jewelry quality and some exceptionally large stone bring close to premium prices.

In the early 1960's vanadium emeralds were discovered in Brazil. Being a form of beryl, but not (chromium) most dealers and gemologists refused to recognize them as emeralds and categorized them as green beryl. After three years of fighting for acceptance in 1963 GIA issued a lab report identifying vanadium-colored beryl as natural emeralds.

Five Tips for Smart Investing

Think Big:

As with most gems large high quality crystals are far more valuable than smaller ones with the same qualities.

Point of Origin:

Large high quality emeralds no matter where they are mined are a good investment, but Colombian emeralds will return a higher resale premium.

Color:

While a deep green is usually considered a good commercial grade, that does not necessarily make it a good investment grade emerald. Brightness or 'fire' is an extremely important consideration as well as color when choosing investment grade emeralds.

Inclusions:

The type of inclusions effect an emeralds value. Investment grade emeralds will not have internal fractures, carbon build ups (internal black spots) and will have a good loupe clarity. Translucent to opaque stones, although they often make for beautiful jewelry, should be strictly avoided when investing.

Clarity:

Clean emeralds over three carats often sell for more than comparable sized diamonds. When considering color and clarity its best to choose clean emeralds with a medium color over heavily included emeralds with perfect green color for optimum investment value.

Summary

Over all it is up to the individual in choosing an investment. However, being a rare commodity, high quality emeralds certainly can increase the value of ones portfolio. Although Colombian quality emeralds often are a very good investment it should be noted; this article is merely an overview and does not reflect after the fact market changes nor guarantee a return on ones investment.

Source by Wesley Ivins

Technology Industry Risk in the BRIC – Where Should Your Firm Invest in 2013?

Without a doubt the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) – four of the world's largest emerging economies, have massive economic and investment potential, especially within the technology industry. According to Euromonitor International if the BRIC countries are able to maintain their current growth rate, the combined economies of these four global powerhouses could be worth more in US dollar terms than the G6 (Germany, France, Italy, Japan, UK and the US) by 2041. Both the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Personal Disposable Income (PDI) have developed exponentially among the BRIC nations over the last decade. This growth has fueled numerous Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) across each country making Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) a formidable business venture for any major corporations. PPP deals can often be complex, financially demanding and extremely time consuming with projects lasting several years. However, under the right economic conditions and proper business strategy, they can offer significant benefits to the private business sector, the consumer and national governments. Each country may pose a different risk and the success of these projects would largely depend on the country's ability to handle such risks and minimize interruptions to the projects. Our paper examinees the comparative risk, opportunity, overall economic climate, comparative industry market potential and structure within each BRIC countries and ultimately making a recommendation on which country to invest within the technology sector.

Brazil

According to data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Brazil is currently at a score of a "BBB" in its overall country risk assessment. This is otherwise known as an "investment grade status. Based on this assessment, Brazil is considered to be a low-moderate risk country to invest in depending on agency rating. Brazil is abundant in natural resources like quartz, diamonds, chromium, iron ore , phosphates, petroleum, mica, graphite, titanium, copper, gold, oil, bauxite, zinc, tin, and mercury. According to Bloomberg Media "Its natural riches have since propelled this nation of 200 million people to the top tiers of global markets . Brazil's economy has ascended the ranks of the world's largest, from 16th in 1980 to 6th today. "Brazil's large government debt and economic deficits in the 1990's facilitated private investment in various industries. The Brazilian Privatization Program from 1990-2002 led to privatization of 33 companies, an estimate 105 Billion in national revenue and increment in the investment opportunities, particularly within the technology driven telecommunications industries which represented 31% of this movement.

Reports regarding Brazil's economic future have varied widely. Despite unstable performance results across Brazil's five regions reported this year, the economic outlook for Brazil is fairly positive. The Wall Street Journal recently reported Standard & Poor's downward revision in Brazil's outlook to "negative" from "stable." According to the Economist Intelligence Unit "long-term growth forecast anticipates more rapid average annual GDP growth over the next 19 years (3.8% ) than over the past 25 (2.8%). Improvements in infrastructure and education, trade expansion, a broader presence of multinational business, a reduction in the debt-service burden and the development of Brazil's huge oil reserves will mitigate slower labor force growth and help to sustain labor productivity growth at 2.7%. "

The current political focus In Brazil is rapidly shifting to next year's general election. President, Dilma Rousseff (of the leftist Partido dos Trabalhadores) who became the first female president in the nation's history in 2010, announced her bid for another four-year term this past February. President Rousseff remains extremely popular despite corruption scandals, weak economic growth and a resurgence of inflation, particularly due to the fact that unemployment remained low at 5.8% when compared to historical trends. With respect to political risk Brazil is moderately stable in comparison to other BRIC nations. "Campaigning for the October 2014 elections in Brazil has already begun, President Dilma Rousseff's popularity has helped reduce the scope for sensitive reforms and contaminating the policy environment", according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.6 Furthermore, President Rousseff was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the # 2 most powerful woman in the world. Many International investors are attracted to Brazil because of its stable political and economic environment; however they do face very high levels of bureaucracy, taxes, crime and corruption that typically are far greater than in their home markets.

Brazil's economy is slowly recuperating from the 2011-12 downturns, but Brazil's potential growth rate is much lower than in 2004-10, when it grew by 4.5% annually. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit "The financial services sector will grow above the overall rate, but it will lose some dynamism as credit growth slows. Credit has more than doubled since 2003 in GDP terms, to 53% as of February 2013."

"With respect to financial risk, the Brazilian financial system is exposed to the effects of volatile international markets, especially for commodities and capital. Over the past decade, Brazil's financial sectors assets have doubled particularly due to expansion of the securities and derivatives markets, and heavy investments from home and abroad.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit "With an estimated population of 195m and GDP of US $ 2.3trn in 2012, Brazil has the largest financial services market in Latin America. However, income and wealth remain highly concentrated. A continued trend towards formalization of businesses and the labor force will support financial deepening. Rising incomes will lift demand for financial services, but Brazil's labor-market dynamics are becoming less favorable than in the previous decade. "

Some economists have suggested that Brazil may become a victim of its own success. The gross public debt ratio remains high forcing the government's borrowing requirement to also stay high. According to Dimitri Demekas assistant director in the IMF's Monetary and Capital Markets department "Rapid credit expansion in recent years has supported domestic economic growth and broader financial inclusion, but could also create vulnerabilities." Nevertheless a series of additional infrastructure improvements, it's growing population, abundant natural resources and anticipated investments from the forthcoming 2014 world Cup and 2016 Olympics promise to keep Brazil at the top of global financial strategies for the years to come.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, using the average industry risk rating for the technology sector in 2013, Brazil scores a 43.5. In order to examine the risk vs. return, we pair this with the Economic Intelligence Units business environment score. Given on a scale of 1-10, we multiply this by 10 for purposes of comparison throughout this paper; we get 66.9 for Brazil, representing an excellent opportunity within the technology sector.

Russia

According to data compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Russia currently is scores a "C" value, (54 points) in its overall risk assessment. Based on this assessment, Russia is considered to be a moderately risky country to invest in. Some of those risks include the "opaque and corrupt administration, over-reliance on commodities production and the ill-functioning judiciary."

With respect to political risk, Russia scored a "C" value (55 points) according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. President Vladimir Putin has seen various protests during his many terms, however; the country is not booming as it was in the decades immediately following the Cold War. It is evident that the government is intervening more in the economy now, causing more of a further disconnect for the working middle class. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, "there are signs that disillusionment is spreading among ordinary Russians". With the country potentially lacking political stability, investors and other countries will not want to continue to do business with Russia.

With respect to financial risk, Russia scored a value of "C" (58 points), according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Russia lacks heavy involvement from the government in the banking sector; therefore, it has been difficult to achieve any sort of reform for the baking industry. Furthermore, there is uncertainty in the position of the banking sector and its regulation and supervision by the government. When investors and business partners can not trust the country's central bank, it creates many issues for the country. Access to external financial and a weakened ruble, certainly do not attract companies to conduct business in Russia.

Just like the rest of the world, Russia suffered from the economic crisis that had a ripple effect on the entire global marketplace. GDP decreased by 7.8% during 2009, which affected the country in many ways. Russia saw a decline in the external demand for various commodities. While the economy and GDP fluctuated during the years following, Russia was still not seen as a favorable country to invest in partly because of the large uncertainty towards the political sector as well as the lack of confidence in the government nor financial stability.

Russia scored a 52.475 average risk on the Technology sector while the country scored a 58.6 on business environment. This combination of higher risk and lower opportunity makes Russia the least favorable country of the BRIC for technology investment based on the current economic and risk factors.

India

The Economist Business Intelligence unit "estimates that real GDP growth (on an expenditure basis) slowed to 3.4% in fiscal year 2012/13." The Business Intelligence unit believes that India's economy has bottomed out. The country is currently at a low point in their economic cycle with the slowest growth in ten years having taken place in the 12 months preceding March 2013. This however is good news for future investments in the country as recent economic reforms, lower interest rates and wholesale price inflation are expected to cause a real GDP growth of 6.2% in fiscal year ending 2014.

From this point on through 2030, India is predicted to be a hot bed for economic growth, making this an excellent target for global investment. India is forecasted to grow at an average of 6.4% from 2012-2030, making the country the fastest growing large economy in the world during this time. However with this growth, India will face some new challenges that could be a cause for concern.India is depending more on external investments as it continues to open its economy. This could be a risk factor for the country as it has previously been a closed economy and has enjoyed the protections from the economic downturn of 2008-2009 because of this. With the new global investments, this protection from outside influences will no longer be as strong. There is also some concern that foreign investments have recently slowed after a strong 2012 due to investors waiting to see how political uncertainty plays out.

India benefits from a relatively healthy debt to GDP ratio with the sovereign risk of the country falling between 45 and 48 for the 12 months preceding June 2013. The country has low non-performing loan (NPL) ratio's and enjoys a Banking Sector risk of 49 -51 during this same time. Though if the country adhered to international criteria for defining NPL's, this number would be higher. The currency is trending upward from 44-47 in the last 12 months due to economic reforms following India's fiscal and trade deficits as well as high inflation.

In addition to India's new need for capital infusion, the country has suffered political scandals revolving around corruption in the last three years. The country has also lost several key western allies as speculation rises that Congress will call elections early before their term ends in 2014.1 This political risk makes investment in the short term unadvisable until the political fallout surrounding the election can be determined.

Though India as a country has a lower risk ranking and an excellent forecast for economic growth, the technology sector will have to navigate some new terrain in order to continue growth. India's Technology sector risk averages 52.6, likely due to the saturation of India's IT services within the US. As India's service providers look for ways to add value and take advantage of cloud computing technology offerings, they must also look for customers outside of the US, which is not an easy task, especially considering that 9% of the 55 Asian companies in the list of the top 500 Global firms utilize outsourcing as a strategy. When weighted against the countries adjusted business environment rating of 60.4, India becomes the third rank in BRIC investment targets.

China

China's economy is the second largest and an important source of revenue for most multinational firms. China's growth has held up better than Brazil and India and the economy's expansion is expected to be 7.8% in 2014. Tightening labor markets and supportive government policy are expected to sustain rapid income growth in the next two years.

Although major political reforms are not expected, significant fiscal changes may be unveiled in late 2013 and in the meantime, authorities have tightened monetary policy. While economic growth rates are trending downward, real GDP growth in 2013 is still expected to be 8.5%.

The degree of government interference in the economy remains a worrying factor although the private sector is increasingly important. China's domestic demand of goods is expected to grow faster than its export markets. Although government has lowered man trade barriers in order to encourage more imports, still access to some sectors remains difficult.

China's leaders want continuing sustainable economic growth as well as enduring political control. The past emphasis on economic development is now being altered in favor of social priorities. Another challenge facing the government is to rebalance the economy, which is dependent on high levels of investment spending. Income growth will gradually boost the contribution of domestic consumption to economic expansion, but difficult reforms (particularly in the financial sector) will be required if household spending is to be fully unleashed.

China's business environment will become more favorable in the future, with its scores for most categories in the Economist Intelligence Unit's business environment rankings model improving. The biggest improvements are in categories that will benefit from the government's efforts to reform the financial sector and open the capital account but a number of other categories continue to score poorly by global and regional standards. Risks to China's political stability, continue to drag down the political environment score. The only category for which the country's score worsens is macroeconomic conditions. Its economy's massive size and rapid growth means that China boasts one of world's highest scores for market opportunities.

Although they are going through economic and social changes that threaten political stability, their security risk is fairly low and the overall risk of doing business in China is moderate to high. Popular discontent has been on a rise due to the rising costs of living, income disparity, urban unemployment, land seizures and corruption. Major reforms to address these issues look unlikely as the Chinese Communist Party will remain in power for the foreseeable future. They lack national standards and regulatory consistency is weak, enforcement is poor and political interference makes the legal and regulatory risks high. For this reason, foreign-invested enterprises avoid taking disputes to domestic courts if they can go to international arbitration instead.

Progress on the financial sector reform has begun to accelerate, China's banking and capital markets are immature but foreign-invested enterprises have generally good access to loans.

Infrastructure is improving fast and reaching advanced standards in some parts of the country. Mobile telecommunications are widespread. Internet penetration is high for a developing nation. Air transport networks are well developed and the logistics industry is growing rapidly.

China has an excellent outlook when comparing risk and opportunities. By weighing average technology industry risk of 44.9 against the adjusted business environment rating of 64.4, China becomes an excellent option as shown on the bubble chart found by following the link at the end of this article. With large disposable incomes, China also has massive growth potential.

Conclusion

Based on the research relating to the economic opportunity in the BRIC countries as well as the political and economic risk of entering each country, Brazil shows the strongest potential currently for firms looking to invest in the technology industry. Though there is excellent growth projected in India, 6.2% average through 2030, the technology sector is saturated. US companies are bringing Information outsourcing services back with on shoring, while Asian companies predominantly keep their information services in house. This combined with the near term political uncertainty makes India a higher risk investment. There are still opportunities in India no doubt; however this was not the most opportune BRIC country to target.Russia was the least favorable country based on business opportunity and risk factors; therefore we can also eliminate investment in Russia. China meanwhile has excellent opportunity and risk ratings as well as a large and growing economy. China does not, however, have excellent systems in place to protect patents. In fact, China has the worst policies and enforcement of any of the BRIC counties as it pertains to technology, making any investment in technology a difficult decision.

Though China has a large economy and favorable economic and risk indicators, based on China's higher comparable risk to that of Brazil's and the lower business environment rating as compared Brazil, there is a higher likelihood of success investing in Brazil in 2013. Brazil maintains the highest measure of business opportunity as weighed against risk of any of the BRIC countries as illustrated in the bubble chart found by following the Bubble Chart link at the end of this article. The growth projected in Brazil, low risk in comparison to other BRIC countries and the stabilizing political environment, we feel confident in recommending an investment in Brazil's growing technology industry. There will be bureaucratic processes to navigate, however the potential for excellent growth in technology and with minimal risk related in comparison to other BRIC countries make this an excellent investment target.

Source by Marsh

Tips to Let You Know Where and How to Obtain Sulfuric Acid

H2SO4 is a very dangerous chemical and that is why it is quite difficult to look for a place that sells it. Unlike everyday commodities that you can just readily buy anywhere, sulfuric acid presents a lot of problems when not handled properly that is why you need to know about the legal restrictions that go together with the purchasing of the acid.

Selling sulfuric acid is controlled by the UN, specifically the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988. The acid is listed as one of the chemicals frequently used in illegal manufacturing for psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs. That is why knowing how to buy sulfuric acid would prove to be quite a difficult task. Also, in the United States, production and sales of the chemical is carefully and strictly monitored by the DEA.

Amidst all of these restrictions, sulfuric acid is a very important chemical. Totally banning the use of the acid would cripple a lot of industries, including the agriculture industry, the industrial industry, among others. Not to mention laboratories which use the acid in its researches and the automobile industry that uses the chemical for testing and analysis of car batteries. However, even with these uses, you still can not purchase the acid easily, especially in its pure form.

Usually, what are being sold in the market with a much lighter restrictions are just products that have some sulfuric acid content. In its pure form, it is very difficult to purchase it. Sometime in 2007, there were some online shops that sell ninety-eight percent solution of the acid. But with all of the scare of terrorism and given the potentials of the chemical as an ingredient in making explosives, it is now difficult to find a shop that legitimately sells the acid in its pure form.

But as the saying goes, if there is a will, there's a way. Sulphuric acid can still be extracted from products that make use of the acid. In this way, you can still get the acid in its pure form without having to worry about law complications. Below is a list of sources where you could get the acid:

1. Battery acid contains the chemical. You can extract the acid from these batteries if you just know how. You can go to a battery shop and ask if you could about acid / lead batteries.

2. Drain opener liquids that you can purchase from the hardware also contain the acid. Depending on the brand, the level of concentration also varies. These kinds of drain opener liquids come in plastic containers that are placed in a heavy plastic sack.

3. Most photo chemicals contain forty-eight percent concentrations. However, it is much more expensive than the drain opener liquids.

4. You can also go to an industrial chemist and ask if you can buy some of the chemical. You can also approach a pharmaceutical chemist. Both of them use the chemical in their work. They might have some to spare you.

5. Lastly, and the most convenient option but is equally as difficult, is finding a legitimate sulphuric acid retailer. These people are legally approved and could help you with your problems without running in conflict with the law. The catch, however, is these retailers are not actually easy to find.

As much as you need to use sulfuric acid and as much as you hate how regulations have made it difficult for you to buy the chemical straight without having to undergo all of those tiring chemistry processes just to extract the acid, you need to understand that these regulations are made to keep people's lives safe because at the end of the day you need to remember that the chemical is very dangerous and hazardous to people's lives.

Source by Jo Alelsto

The Different Types Of Brokers And Their Roles

Brokers fulfill many roles, they serve as facilitators, negotiators and intermediaries. They are however essentially mediators between two parties who come together in the process of buying and selling. The broker takes the position of being in the middle to negotiate the best deal for his clients. Brokers also help their clients with making financial decisions, and help them choose the best investments. Brokers are paid on commission basis, and a get paid a percentage of the transaction of the sale once it is complete.

You will find brokers across many sectors of the financial and commodities industries. You will find insurance brokers, mortgage brokers, stock brokers, real estate and real-estate brokers, just to name a few. And in each sector they take the roll as intermediary between buyer and seller.

Insurance brokers: Insurance brokers act as the intermediary between the insurer and the insured. An insurance broker helps his / her client to choose the best insurance policy for their needs and also helps process all the documentation. An insurance broker is different from an insurance agent in that the agent represents an insurance company and only sells insurance products from that particular company. An insurance broker on the other hand is the representative of the insured only, and usually works with several insurance companies to look for the best deal for their client.

Real estate brokers: When it comes to real-estate, a broker acts as an intermediary in the buying selling or leasing of the property. When their client is a buyer they can help the client to buy a property at the best price. And when their client is a seller they can help them sell at the highest price too. They also advice and guide both parties through the buying or selling process.

Stock brokers: Stock brokers buy and sell stock and other securities in a corporation on behalf of either an individual person or a company. It is their job to connect buyers and sellers. They have the duty and obligation to behave fairly, and act in the clients' best interest of both parties. Brokers also act as advisories for investors, helping them with investment decisions and financial management.

High-end brokers and cheaper brokers: When it comes to making investment decisions, brokers can either advice you on your different investment options as well as do all the research for you having all your personal financial details in hand, or they can advice you and have you do your own research.

High-end brokers: When it comes to doing the research and the planning of your finances, the high-end broker will do it for you. They usually have a team of researchers working for them, as they study the market and how it is fairing. Brokers study the market and have to predict when it will be best to buy and sell, depending on the indicators.

Online brokers: Online brokers can be found by going to brokerage web sites. On the websites they have a list of investment information for you to access, such as investment databases, graphs and charts and investment tips. They basically offer you the information and you have to take it from there.

Discount brokers: The same applies for the discount broker, although once you have made your decision he will help you with the paperwork.

Source by Adam Coleman