Monday, 22 December 2014

One person's relief is another person's burden

In an article in the Jamaica Gleaner on December 19 titled "Restore Junior Market Incentives To Spur Growth", reporter Avia Collinder presents Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) head Marlene Street Forrest's views on the need to retain the tax incentives offered to companies that list with the JSE Junior Market.

Street Forrest says “the Junior Market incentive drives small and medium-size companies to list”. The question I would like answered is, what benefit is derived by the economy as a whole from these companies receiving preferential treatment? If the Junior Market fails to attract listings purely because of the withdrawal of the tax incentive, then doesn’t that raise the question of what benefit listed companies enjoy, other than the tax incentive?

It seems to me that’s the question that the JSE should be seeking to answer. If the only way I could get a new customer to buy insurance was by giving away a tank of gas, I really, really need to re-examine the value of the product I’m selling.

Street Forrest’s argument as presented in the report rests almost solely on the basis of examples of listed companies that have had good results, or increased productive capacity. This is a specious argument, because:

  • This is likely to be a biased sample. Only well-managed companies (whom we expect to out-perform their competition anyway) are likely to qualify to list. It does not follow that listing causes better performance.
  • Even if listing does lead to better performance, you need to isolate and discount the benefit derived from the tax incentive, otherwise you have proved nothing about the benefit of listing other than the incentive.
  • Rather than hand-selected anecdotes, I would like to see an economist’s quantitative analysis of the relative performance of listing versus remaining private, alongside a qualitative assessment of the non-tax related benefits (and let's not forget to account for the costs that result from non-incentivised companies having a higher tax rate to pay for the fortunate few).
Every tax incentive that is applied selectively has the potential to give advantage to one group at the expense of another. Governments should only consider such arrangements when an overwhelming case can be made that the result is a significantly positive effect for the economy as a whole, and not just for the advantaged group.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Sales or Service - A Genius's Perspective

There's an interview with two Apple Geniuses that I read recently at

As most of you probably know, Genius is Apple's name for the support guys ​in the Apple Store who help customers with problems that they are having with their devices.

The whole interview is interesting, but there were a couple of things that really caught my attention:

Tim: When you are a Genius, you are sent out to Apple corporate for three weeks of training. The first week is basic troubleshooting. The second week is all customer interactions, how you should talk to them and listen to them. I think that’s the most important part. The third week is when you fix devices.

Greg: Training is much more focused on how to position information and ask questions. There’s lots of asking permission, being empathetic, and trying to align with people. So, you’re not just saying, “This is broken. It costs this much to repair.”​

 ​It is clear that Apple spends a lot of training time emphasizing how the Geniuses talk to customers. I think that's because they understand that while you can look up technical issues in a manual, communicating effectively is something that you have to know how to do. And if you don't Apple teaches you.

The second pair of comments that caught my eye was:

Greg: I find that one of the reasons people tend to like the Genius Bar is that we’re honest. If you don’t need a new OS upgrade, I’ll tell you.

Tim: Your job isn’t meant to make money. Your job is to make sure the customer leaves knowing they can have complete trust in Apple.​

That last one in particular is pretty powerful. It is such a clear statement that the relationship with the customer is worth more than the value of a single transaction.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Goals and randomness at the World Cup

All those reporters theorising about the reasons for the plethora of goals in the 2014 World Cup should stop comparing only with "the last world cup" which happened to have the 2nd lowest goal per game average ever (2.27 to 1990's 2.21), and is 20% lower than the overall average. Against that overall average, 2014 is running at close to par. Admittedly the average was 4.25 from 1930-1958, and only 2.57 from 1962 on. So 2014 is running about 12% higher than the 'modern' average. (I'm getting these stats from a very nice visualisation put up by The Economist)

This could just be randomness. I just flipped a virtual coin 100 times at The first 10 flips had 8 tails & 2 heads. The last 10 had 6 heads & 2 tails.


Sweet fanny adams. Just like all those articles.