Fighting Coronavirus and the National Shutdown

Hello readers – Scott Asner here.

I hope that you are all staying safe.

Today, I thought I would take some time to think out loud about the state that we find ourselves in regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It has been several weeks since most cities and states have implemented shelter-in-place orders – closing non-essential businesses and public areas and placing millions sheltering in their homes. This strategy has certainly worked to help mitigate the spread of the virus, but it has also presented new challenges. As of this point, more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs and we could be facing some long-term economic damage.

Essentially, we are at war with this virus, and we have difficult decisions to make in the weeks and months ahead. Whether it be at the federal, state, or individual level – decisions for how to respond will inevitably come to a point of factoring in the common denominator of cost. Hopefully as we learn more about this virus, it will help us make more informed decisions that will allow us to balance safety and our way of life.

As is so common in life, there are no perfect solutions. We are having to triage, as we balance the sanctity of life verses our way of life. But there are ways to think about balancing safe measures with opening our nation back up and running.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, researchers are finding that many people who contract coronavirus display zero symptoms, which also indicates that the virus is much more widespread than we know. And while the research is still out on the lasting effects of the virus, this seems to be good news and gives us hope that it is less deadly than our worst fears.

It will require thorough studying, research and solid testing to confirm just how dangerous this virus is, but I believe that we will eventually ascertain a reliable hospitalization and death rate – hopefully sooner rather than later. We can also expect to learn more about which underlying medical conditions may place individuals at a higher risk, and under what circumstances the virus may spread. Once understood, all of these factors and more will provide experts and leaders with a better guide for balancing the economy and public safety.

If it is discovered that the virus is far less of a public safety threat than originally thought, then states and cities will likely begin to lift restrictions in proportion to the risk that comes with doing so.

And the cost of risk is not a foreign concept. You could also take car manufacturing and safety testing as an example. Every day, automotive manufacturers make decisions to balance safety mechanisms with the cost of production. Everything from the types of material used on seatbelts, to the types of airbags installed – all parts of a vehicle and design choices are based on practicality and the risk involved.

As we move forward against the coronavirus outbreak, we should continue to implement smart and practical safety policies as best we can, but in continuing to do so, we will eventually be forced to factor in the inescapable risk involved.

Testing is the key. The most important thing we can do right now is test as many people as possible. Knowing the likelihood of various health outcomes is a critical step in allowing the public to make an informed decision. Obviously, each individual’s decision tree would be dramatically affected if the actual lethality of the virus is found to be 1/1000 as opposed to 1/10.

I am confident that with the world mobilizing its brightest minds to help solve this crisis, we will find the right balance and can begin to repair the damage done to our economy and communities.

Wishing you all the best,

~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

The NFL Draft Might Be the Most Watched Sporting Event of 2020

Hey there, Sports fans –

As many of us tuned into the 2020 NFL draft a couple of weeks ago, I had a realization that seemed somewhat surreal to me. Due to the ongoing pandemic: the NFL draft may be the most watched sporting event in the entire year of 2020.

The draft has continually earned more viewings every single year, with the 2019 event attracting nearly double the viewership than in just 2015. And new ratings show that this year’s draft saw a record-breaking 15.6 million viewers; a 37% increase from last year. Needless to say, the NFL has never been hotter.

But with reports of a potential “second coronavirus wave,” expected to arrive in the fall, this year’s NFL season may end up being exclusive to TV, or even postponed.

Interestingly, due to the enormous amount of TV revenue generated in a typical season, the NFL is in a better position than other sports financially to play to empty stadiums. In fact, due to the postponement of virtually every other sporting event – including the Olympics – TV viewership will most likely be higher this year.

At least the NFL season has until the fall to figure out their strategy. Perhaps by then, we may have figured out a way to mitigate the spread of another coronavirus outbreak, or possibly even have an effective and reliable treatment. For the time being, we can all still boo Roger Goodell and hope for the best.

Until next time, Go Chiefs!


~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

The Coronavirus Pandemic and Control Groups

Hello readers,

I hope you are all doing well as we continue to endure the coronavirus pandemic.

It has been a difficult time for many of us. People we know may have become ill, and others may have lost their sources of income. Here in Kansas City, and in many other parts of the country, we are currently under shelter-in-place laws that have essentially shutdown businesses and public spaces. These are unprecedented times, and we all want nothing more than to resume our lives as normal, and as fast as possible.

In the meantime, we may finally have the opportunity to study and make headway against the virus with a few cases that could somewhat serve as control groups. What is interesting about these groups, is that they could be tremendously helpful in determining how the virus functions under various conditions and the true likelihood that it can spread from person to person.

Unlike in places like New York City, where there is no true way to manage or measure just how many people come into contact with the virus, these are groups that we can observe with confirmed numbers at the outset. We can use these fixed numbers to then calculate important factors involving the virus. I.E. the severity of the disease by observing the number of mild cases and severe cases, significant symptoms, percentage of fatalities and cases of permanent harm.

With accurate data, we can make better policy decisions to deal with the virus.

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Diamond Cruise Ship

Now known as the “Coronavirus Cruise,” this ship suffered one of the earliest known widespread cases of COVID-19 outside of mainland China in late January 2020. With nearly 4,000 passengers aboard the ship, the virus infected around 800 passengers over the course of a few weeks while docked off the coast of California, 107 of which were American.

This widely reported incident has become a major case of study for researchers, who have now determined that nearly half of all infected passengers were asymptomatic at the time of their diagnosis.

Marion Correction Institute

This case is interesting, if only to illustrates how a tiny virus originating in China could find its way to a landlocked facility located in the American Midwest in a matter of months. With nearly 2,000 confirmed cases, a shocking 78% of prisoners in this facility have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Unlike the Diamond Princess where passengers boarded and disembarked at locations all over the world, this population has remained fixed in a defined area for long periods of time. Researchers may be able to use this case to gain insight into how the virus spreads in closed spaces and help them understand what makes it so contagious.

South Dakota Smithfield Plant

In another example of how the virus can quickly spread in self-contained environments, this meat processing plant has confirmed 238 cases of coronavirus. This particular facility produces about 5% of the entire nation’s pork supply, but as of now, reports indicate that 2,200 workers at 48 different meat packing facilities have been infected, representing 1/3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. At this rate, we may be facing a severe shortage of common meat products, as many of these plants have been forced to close temporarily.

Here, we again see the potential for this virus to spread to remote areas with very little international travel. And with the high infection rate at these plants, researchers may be able to learn valuable clues about the nature of this virus and COVID-19.

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With the sheer number of variables present in typical cities and towns, it can be difficult to gather accurate information about the nature of this virus and its spread. We need a stabilized environment to assess the reality of the dangers we are facing, and the cases mentioned above may be the closest examples of control groups that we have had thus far. It will be interesting to see what we can gather through studying them closely.

In the meantime, I wish you all the best and hope that you and your loved ones continue to remain safe.


~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

Best Apps to Make Your Life Easier

Hey everybody,

As someone who has always been interested in the tech space – I want to take a moment to talk about apps. They’re everywhere and it seems like more options are coming out every day. There are apps that manage finances, apps to manage social media, and even apps to manage your home.

As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.” So today, I thought I’d share some of the best apps that I’ve been using recently. Maybe they can help you too.

Brave – a Peaceful Internet

I hate ads. They’re everywhere and advertisers never seem to run out of ways to annoy you with their increasingly intrusive targeting capabilities. If you feel the same way, you should check out Brave – it’s an internet browser that blocks pesky advertisements as soon as you start using it. Say goodbye to obnoxious popups, side panel display ads and questionnaires. It is also worth mentioning that the added bonus of this app is a dramatically improved battery life for your mobile device, as it will no longer be constantly pinging between trackers. If you want a faster, lighter internet experience, I highly recommend this app.

Soundcloud – a Better Way to Listen to Music

Have you ever wanted a way to download and listen to your music, podcasts, shows all in one place? If so, then you should download Soundcloud. This app has apparently been around for a while now, but it is new to me and I find myself using it all the time.

I use this app to catch up on news shows and to listen to some of my favorite music, anytime and anywhere. One of the reasons that I recommend using this app is because the sheer number of platforms and users it has. It has become so popular that anything you’d like to listen to is available through the app.

Nwsty – News Source from One Location

This is a fantastic app that I think everyone could use these days. Nwsty is an app that puts together the biggest headlines of the day and places them all in one location. With this app, you won’t have to go from one news outlet to the next. It’s all just right there, conveniently curated for your interests.

Not only does this make keeping up with current events easier, but it drastically reduces the amount of time that you use for browsing media content. As a news junkie myself, I know all too well how easy it is to get sucked into different news stories – this app keeps me informed, but in a way that doesn’t require a huge time commitment.

My Fitness Pal – Easy Nutritional Guide

This is an app that anyone into healthy lifestyles will enjoy. It’s a combination of a calorie tracker and a nutrition guide. The app comes with a library of nutritional information that stores and tracks your diet – giving you a complete view of how many calories you’ve consumed while also giving you the nutritional breakdown as well.

One of the neatest things about this app is the ability to scan barcodes, which retrieves information directly from their library and places it into your phone. This is a great app for anyone looking to mind their calories or anyone interested in learning about their nutritional habits.

Mint – Automated Finances

This app was recommended to me as a way to keep track of personal finances without having to spend too much time managing budgets. Most people sit down at the end of the month to gauge their spending and income; however, that can be a pain and very time consuming depending on how disorganized the month has been.

With Mint, the user simply syncs their accounts with their bank, and it will automatically keep track of everything for you. Mint automatically groups purchases and incomes into various categories and allows you to view how you are handling your finances. The only thing that is required on your part is to establish your budget and occasionally assign a category to a purchase here and there.

The creators of this app are the same people who made Quicken, so they are trustworthy and are sure to protect your information. The app also allows you to check your credit in real time and offers interesting charts and graphs to give you a visual level of your budget.

Venmo

Keeping in the same area of finance – Venmo is an app that you’ve always wanted but might not have heard about. It allows you to set up an account, link it with your bank information and then send/receive funds to and from other users. In an increasingly cashless society, it’s the digital equivalent of borrowing a dollar from a friend.

This app is a good tool to have in case you need to transfer funds to someone, but in a much faster and easier way than a wire transfer. You can even pay rent and utilities with the platform. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll use this app.

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Hopefully you found these apps interesting and maybe they will help make your life just a little bit easier. Do you have any that you recommend? If so – let me know in the comments.

Talk again soon,

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

How to Make 2020 a Great Year

Hi folks –

At the start of every year, millions of us take the time to come up with New Year’s resolutions and think of ways to maximize the year ahead of us.

Now, it is very likely that these resolutions fall by the wayside early within the new year – in fact, it is estimated that around 80% of set resolutions fail. The simple reality is that it can be very difficult to make definite changes or accomplish specific goals in your life just by basing them on an arbitrary date.

So this year, how about just resolving to make it a GREAT year in general? I thought I would take today to share a few ways that you can make 2020 a great year – by taking a different approach.

Trying for Too Much, Too Quickly

When most people think about what they would like to achieve at the beginning of each year, they tend to set large, sweeping goals in many different categories. Filled with the motivation and cheer leftover by the holiday spirit, they might say things like, “I’d like to get healthier, make more money, spend more time with my family and learn a new language.”  And while these are great intentions to set, it may not be the best strategy to target so many different aspects of our lives at once and expect to make significant improvements by the end of a 365-day period.

By taking on too many goals and expecting too many results at the end of the year – you spread your focus too thin. It would be much more productive to set smaller goals in specific categories, then move on according to need.

Recognize that January 1st is just a date and focus on the single most critical category of your life that you would like to see changes in. Try breaking your life down into groups: health, finances, relationships, spirituality, etc. Then, take a step back to gauge which area you would like to improve most, and commit to tackling that aspect first.

Get a Hobby, Get a Life

It doesn’t matter who you are, or what kind of improvements you would like to make in your life – one sure way to making this coming year great is to get involved in a hobby. Hobbies are activities that you pursue simply out of curiosity and enjoyment, not because you want to “accomplish” something.

In many ways, finding a hobby can introduce a new, exciting and fulfilling aspect to your life. This is especially helpful to someone who may be living well and doesn’t feel a strong need to jump on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. Even if you do stillwant to get a sense of making improvements to your life – you can use your hobbies as a tool for doing so.

For instance, you may wish to take up hiking, which is both a great way to explore and appreciate the natural world around you, while also giving you health benefits of exercise. Of course, there are other healthy hobbies to pursue, such as: picking up a sport, diving into culinary arts, or even taking dance lessons.

The great thing about hobbies is that they allow you to focus your attention and energy onto an activity that is both fun and productive. They’re a sure-fire way to enhance your life and make the year one to remember.

Practice Gratitude

Developing a strong sense of gratitude may be one of the most effective and easiest ways to make this a phenomenal year. Gratitude is a powerful way to instill a strong sense of appreciation for all aspects of our lives. It realigns our perspective to focus on the good things that we already have and enjoy.

Of course, striving for improvement is a natural instinct and reaching higher levels of success should be celebrated – but gratitude reminds us that we already have so many things to be thankful for and to celebrate.

By cultivating gratitude, you will find yourself happier, more optimistic, more inspired to tackle new challenges and with a stronger appreciation for friends and family. The simplest way to do this is by starting a gratitude journal and begin every morning by jotting down a few things that you are thankful for. Over time, you will begin to notice just how much you already have going for you, and it doesn’t cost anything other than a few moments every day.

Wishing you the best,

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Rewarding Things about Running a Business

Hey there – Scott Asner of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) here.

In a previous post, I laid out some of the things that business owners should know about running a business. Now, I’d like to touch on some of the most rewarding aspects of creating and running your very own business.

It is one of the most freeing and gratifying journeys that anyone can embark on, and despite the hard work, there is a lot that makes the risk worth the reward.

So with that, let’s dive in!

Escaping the Rat Race

Many people have the same fundamental dream – to escape the boring 9-5 in exchange for endless free time and the funds to make the most of it.

While some people play the lottery, business people play their own kind of lottery in creating their own company. The idea of any business is to generate income that exceeds the possibilities of a normal job and to eventually be able to spend their time as they’d like while still receiving passive income.

Some want to build a business and sell it off to the highest bidder for a quicker payout; some want to build a legacy to pass down to their children; others want to establish a stable passive income stream that lets them enjoy their life while also taking a check.

These are all valid strategies and good reasons to start your own business. Few things are more rewarding than having free time for yourself, and the funds to enjoy that free time.

You Are the Boss

Almost everybody at some point had a boss that they had a hard time with, and some people simply cannot work under the direction of other people. When you run your own business, you become your boss.

This is a great and rewarding aspect for people who are more independently minded and do not like the idea of their livelihood being left in the hands of someone other than themselves. It is a mindset that comes from self sustainability and a vision of only being held to your own standard.

Ultimately, when you are accountable to yourself for your own success, you feel empowered and satisfied they you are more in control of your life. It can be terrifying to truly think about at first, but there is a sense of great satisfaction that comes with calling your own shots, taking chances as you see fit and directing your professional life purely from your own point of view.

You Are Always Engaged

A lot of people stuck in the 9-5 work model are unhappy with their jobs. It has been stated that half of Americans do not feel engaged at work, and 16% say that they would go so far as to say that they are actively disengaged.

They don’t feel connected to the company, its mission, their role within the organization or what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. This can be a soul-crushing reality for so many people who feel stuck and lost – like they’re just killing time shuffling papers while they miss the world going by.

Well, creating your own business is a ticket to the action. When you create your own business, you have no choice but to be completely engaged with the vision that you’ve carved out for yourself – otherwise, it will all come falling down around you.

What’s more, creating a business opens the door to pursuing a hobby or field that someone is passionate about and gives them an ability to make a living in that area. Even if someone is not particularly “passionate” about a business venture that they have started purely for profit, passion actually builds up around their business once they begin to see a level of success.

The Life of Your Dreams

Building a business is a golden ticket to the life of your dreams. It certainly isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice – but it offers you a ticket to what people crave most in the human condition: freedom.

The freedom to be your own boss. The freedom to spend your time doing what you like most. The freedom to control your own destiny.

It is exhilarating and any business owner would tell you that they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until next time,

~ Scott Asner, Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Things Potential Business Owners Should Know Before Getting Started

Greetings from Kansas City – Scott Asner of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) here.

As somewhat of a lifelong entrepreneur, I have never seen such an exciting time to start up a new business venture. The rest of the country seems to feel that way too – the enthusiasm is everywhere. We are always hearing about the “gig economy,” “startup culture,” and “hustle.”

Clearly more and more people are interested in creating their own business. So today, I wanted to share some helpful tips from my life that all prospective business owners should know about the realities of running their own business.

Understand Your Market, and Develop a Solid Business Model

It doesn’t matter how much startup capital you have, how great your idea may be or how little competition you may have out there – without a strong business model and a general grasp on the overall economy, your new business might be little more than a pipedream.

Before taking out a loan or ditching a solid income, it is vital to have all your ducks in a row and to be prepared for hard times ahead. It is said that 20% of all businesses fail within their first year, and 50% fail by the fifth year.

You have to understand the risks that you’re undertaking when stepping out into a new venture. To do this, you should know whatever field you’re hoping to get into, from inside and out. This includes networking and speaking to other businesses owners in your field, researching the industry and its current/future challenges, and staying up-to-date on trends. Any business owner will tell you that running a successful business is not something that you can set and forget once the clock strikes five – it requires serious consideration and understanding.

This also requires developing a fail-proof business model, especially for the first couple of years. You will need a product or service – something that you can offer the market – and then you need a way to provide it. Whether that means developing a sales funnel, working out operational logistics, or prepping for a lack of demand – you must have an answer for any challenge.

One helpful tip here is to work backwards from your goal and anticipate the worst case scenarios to plan for them for when disaster strikes.

Concentrate on Meeting a Demand

Some aspiring business owners get too carried away about “what could be” rather than considering the realities of the market. While it’s always great to dream big and to be ambitious with your business goals – the ultimate focus of a new business should be to meet the customer’s demands.

We have all seen novel ideas that were neat, but ultimately did not meet a substantial demand. These types of businesses tend to come and go because they simply did not have a market.

For instance, apps are a new market that a lot of younger people seem to want to explore. You may have heard the phrase, “there’s an app for that,” and there seems to be no limit to what people can package into a simple software platform – but for every wild success story of a new app, there are always the unknown ones that failed.

I am NOT saying that business owners should not pursue their dreams or off-beat business ideas – but ultimately, the customer is what matters most in business. Your idea should be marketable to their demands.

Having said that, sometimes novel ideas – to downright silly ones – can turn into huge money makers. Remember pet rocks? They swept the nation like wildfire and certainly made somebody a lot of money.

If you have an idea that can capture the interest of consumers – by all means, try to generate interest and capitalize off of it. But understand that profits might be short lived before trying to establish a larger business around a singular idea or gimmick.

Monitor Your Budget and Income

Sometimes when business opportunities explode, it can become quite a challenge to keep tabs on all of your financials. Once your business starts to really take off, you will want to have someone or a team in place to manage and analyze all of your income and expenses. Those who fail to do so can miss out on a mountain of profit and not even realize it.

Things can add up when you’re running a business: office equipment, software subscriptions, staffing and all of the overhead that comes with any organization. If you’re starting out – try to minimize these expenses as much as you possibly can or it may force you to scale back and stagnate, or go bust completely.

New business owners should keep a close eye on their expenses and maintain detailed ledgers of transactions. Make sure that every item and every purchase is kept on record so that you can balance your budget at the end of every week, month and quarter.

New business owners who experience explosive growth can easily lose track of factoring in all of their expenses, as they’re riding high on success. But they should understand that growth spurts also come with contractions, and they should be prepared accordingly.

Risk and Reward

With any business venture, there is an inherent risk that comes with it. Sometimes it requires the help of a loan from a bank or business partner; sometimes it takes giving up a sure thing to journey into the unknown. That is just a natural part of business.

Running a successful business is always worth the risk, but anyone thinking about jumping into the fray should consider everything that goes into the process. Hopefully these insights can help anyone seeking to make that jump.~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)