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The Fight Over Water: When Business and Politics Collide

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Water, as intrinsic to our lives as the air we breathe, is becoming increasingly rare and valuable. We must stop taking it for granted.

The water situation in California is dire, and some experts predict that the state — our largest agricultural producer — is destined to become a desert. As politicians and businesses fight it out in court over aquifer rights, towns are drying up.

The Cadiz Water Project is smack in the middle of the controversy.

At the heart of the controversy is a California law that allows landowners to tap into an aquifer their land sits upon, even if the aquifer extends under property belonging to others. A handful of investors have made fortunes by investing in the state’s most valuable natural resource.

Related: These Start-ups are Coming up with Smart Initiatives to Recycle Waste

Cadiz is a private corporation sitting on roughly 70 square miles of property in the Mojave Desert over a deep aquifer. In 2012, the company agreed to sell water to Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) in Orange County and other local providers. The company proposes to pump enough groundwater from beneath its property to supply 100,000 homes in the heavily drought-impacted Southern California area. California’s eastern Mojave Desert, where the project is located, could see tremendous benefit.

Cadiz CEO Scott Slater told me the project would empower the local community by adding 5,900 new local jobs without harming the environment. “We’ve studied this issue from every angle, and what we propose will not drain the aquifer or significantly impact the local ecology,” he said. “What it will do is generate approximately $1 billion in economic growth and provide much needed water to an area parched by the long drought.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), strongly opposes the project, citing environmental concerns and long-term sustainability. On June 6, she sent a letter to David Bernhardt, President Trump’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, asking him to recuse himself from overseeing the Cadiz water extraction project. Sen. Feinstein cites conflict of interest since his law firm, though not Bernhardt, is paid to lobby for the company.

Related: Business Leaders Slam Trump’s Decision to Withdraw From Paris Climate Agreement

Winston Hickox, former California Environmental Protection Agency secretary, disagrees with the Senator. In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, Hickox writes, “The project will conserve enough water for 400,000 Californians each year for 50 years without causing a single adverse environmental impact. The best scientists and engineers assured that sustainability and protection of the environment were paramount. The project was approved in accordance with the toughest environmental law in America, the California Environmental Quality Act. It was challenged in court, but judges in 12 separate opinions affirmed the project and its protections and rejected the flawed positions represented by the senator’s op-ed. The desert will not be destroyed, nor will the bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, springs or wildflowers.”

What’s at stake?

Why does a company fight the government for 15 years? Could water, a resource most of us take for granted, be that valuable?

Water is big business. The global water industry is predicted to reach $1 trillion by 2020. As massive as the bottled water industry is, its volume pales in comparison to tap water. U.S. public water systems supply more than 1 billion gallons of tap water an hour, every hour of the day. Twelve percent of municipal water is provided by private water systems, and they serve 36 million people in the U.S.

The average American uses 176 gallons of water per day, and municipal water prices have increased 27 percent over the past five years. Advocacy group Food & Water Watch says private companies charge 59 percent more than public utilities, or $185 more per year, per household.

Crisis like the one in Flint, Mich.,, demonstrate that public water sources are not always the best option.

Conservatives like to claim that over-regulation stifles business. Liberals — including me — are primarily concerned with environmental impact over profiteering. In the end, this story comes down to evaluating the greater good.

Related: There’s a New Threat to Small Business: Water Scarcity

For the first time in a long time, I’m coming down on the conservative side. Water is still pretty cheap, and most households will pay just $15 more per month from a private source. Given a choice between shortage and rationing that comes with it, and shelling out less than the cost of a cup of Starbucks every week, most people are unlikely to object.

Generally speaking, most municipal water comes from aquifers. What environmental difference does it make if a private or public company pumps it? I’m simply not sure the objections hold water (pardon the pun).

Photo Credit: katkaZV

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How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

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He started playing poker at 18 and was winning championships by his early twenties. Despite millions in winnings, world recognition and playing at the high roller tournaments, Fedor Holz is leaving professional poker at age 24.

He’s focusing his energy on creating easy-to-access training on high performance mindset tactics. And I was fascinated to learn why.

When I met Fedor a few weeks ago, he had just finished in the top rankings of a huge high roller tournament in Vegas. But instead of talking about poker, we mostly talked about how he stays grounded when so much is at stake. We also discussed how he learned to honor his decisions, even when they turned out to cost him a game.

I loved getting Fedor’s perspective on what it takes to become great at a specific skill, but he was also honest about what it costs. I was especially interested in what he said about the skill of removing emotion from actions and how that can turn out badly in the rest of a person’s life.

Whether you’re interested in poker or not, you’ll learn valuable insights about performing at a high level in anything in Episode 544.

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher RadioGoogle Play or TuneIn.

This story originally appeared on Lewis Howes

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Why Kicking Out Counterfeit Crooks on Instagram Is So Important

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Would you spend over a thousand dollars on a pair of sneakers? There are plenty who would — a pair of Adidas Yeezy’s comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more. For those who are less flush, the market has become flooded with knock-off fakes. These are promoted via comments and sponsored ads on sites like Facebook and Instagram.

When Kanye West tweeted “you probably got bootleg Yeezy’s on right now,” followers responded in typical Twitter fashion, with a torrent of abuse from all angles, but when it came to real brand loyalty, sneakerheads were split. Die-hard fans rebuked the fakes, though others have been tempted by prices as low as $99.

A year later, these social commerce scams are running riot online, fueled by social bots and a growing underground counterfeit economy, hijacking brand advertising efforts. Andrea Stroppa’s “Social media and luxury goods counterfeit investigation revealed that 20 percent of Instagram posts for luxury brands feature counterfeit or illicit products.

At BrandBastion, we conducted an investigation into Instagram counterfeiters to examine the risks brands face on social media and what they can do to fight it.

Social media’s safe harbor for organized crime.

The luxury online retail market is estimated to reach $41.88 billion by 2019, according to Bain & Company. It’s impressive, but just a fraction of the booming business of the $461 billion global counterfeit goods market funding large-scale criminal operations. Stroppa’s investigation explains how exploitative practices force women and children to work in inhumane conditions, in turn powering illegal gangs, dictatorships and global terrorism.

Related: Evolve or Die: Luxury Brands Must Embrace Digital To Thrive

Organized crime has entered the digital realm, with counterfeit trade visible on the most popular ecommerce platforms and social media streams. These operations are largely based in China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Ukraine, though technology allows them to target global audiences.

In the U.S., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) mandates that so long as platforms have an effective takedown system, they are not liable, putting pressure on brands to protect themselves. Until now, this has mainly impacted selling tools such as eBay, Alibaba and commerce-friendly social network WeChat, to the detriment of luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But digitally-savvy fake sellers have graduated from basic host services like eBay, finding global reach and big profits as commerce takes off on social media. Complete with new mobile-oriented features like Instagram’s Shop Now and Buy buttons, these networks are becoming serious selling tools for counterfeit criminals.

As online sellers invest in social growth tactics, the frauds are hot on their heels, armed with ad campaigns and bots, retargeting their users and flooding sites with illegal goods. This social media safe harbor creates a playground for fraudsters using aggressive tactics, even hijacking a brand’s own social media posts or ads to target audiences with counterfeit copies.

The Instagram comments scam.

BrandBastion examined a sample of 36,000 comments from the Instagram posts of 12 top luxury brands — Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Marni, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Balmain, Versace and Dior — with a combined reach of more than 62 million followers.

One in 18 comments included a serious threat for brands. Major dangers included 729 (2.03 percent) comments leading to direct counterfeiting from some 94 counterfeit sellers; 1,013 comments (2.81 percent) contained spam and scams; and 208 (0.58 percent) had brand attacks from avid activists, at times launching brand boycotts. Some retailers fared worse than others; 8.27 percent of Saint Laurent comments contained a brand threat. On the other end of the scale, Dior had 3.37 percent brand threats, though with a significantly larger following and greater posting activity.

Related: U.S. Shuts Down Huge Online Dark Web Market, AlphaBay

Counterfeiters borrow images scraped from online searches, newly embed fresh information to appear unchanged, and, armed with purchased fake followers, they often appear legitimate. Fraudulent accounts post comments such as “Check out my page Got All Designer” along with contact details, such as instant messenger chat IDs, enabling encrypted conversations with so-called “salespeople.” The OECD reported that sellers post these goods via complex routes, preying on transit hotspots from “countries with weak governance and widespread organized crime such as Afghanistan and Syria.”

Fighting fire with fire.

Instagram is cracking down on fake accounts, purging millions of spam and bot accounts and using proactive tools such as spam detectors and blocking systems. But by cloning and replicating content, fresh accounts pop up every day. This proliferation of content keeps moderators busy in a cat-and-mouse chase. Meanwhile, the responsibility of tackling new social media fraudsters largely rests on law enforcement agencies, brands and innovative technologies.

A digital ecosystem to target counterfeit sellers is in early stages. Informal name-and-shame accounts on Instagram, such as @fake_education and @yeezybusta reveal identified fake sellers. Online community forums like Scamadviser, Realscam and Scamwarners allow both retailers and consumers to name and shame known offending domains. Flipping community activism on its head, third-party services and blockchain technologies, such as startup Blockverify using the bitcoin currency infrastructure, also verify goods and track sales.

The downside is that lack of formal regulation facilitates a free-for-all of independent forums and competing businesses. Moreover, uneducated consumers are often not deterred by fake labels and are unaware of real threats from criminal operations. One in four consumers report purchasing counterfeit products online —  and these forums can even aid their search for fake products.

Brand managers need to be able to monitor new social media accounts using keywords, images, handles (or account names) and trending hashtags to uncover brand violations. New accounts often have similar names, posting behaviors and messages, and third-party forums also provide new leads. It’s important that brands also have community moderation checks in place when it comes to their own content and community engagement, to ensure that sellers aren’t getting a free ride through hacking their own ads and posts.

Related: Lax Online Security Can Destory Your Brand Overnight

As fake sellers adopt new technology to mimic and automate brand posting behaviors, artificially-intelligent moderation tools help businesses to uncover the crooks. It’s a battle of the bots, cross-referencing masses of data and identifying trends in order to uncover new threats and scams.

Counterfeiters that have traditionally focused on luxury brands are branching out to all industries. While footwear is the most frequently copied, fraudsters plagiarize anything from high-fashion handbags to popular wines, automotive parts, chemicals, medication and even fresh fruit. With brands like Adidas, Louis Vuitton and Chanel fighting fakes and launching high-profile courtroom disputes, it draws attention to the crisis. Declaring war on this criminal activity, intelligent technology and anti-counterfeit partnerships seek to take control, cleaning up social media and kicking out those counterfeit crooks. It’s a new wave of rebellion against organized crime masquerading as luxury produce and trusted household goods.

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6 Fatal B2B Sales Mistakes You Must Avoid

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B2B sales can be incredibly rewarding and lucrative — if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, most salespeople in this field make the same few mistakes again and again. When everyone around you is making the same missteps and blunders with B2B selling, it can be extremely difficult to know how to fix your approach.

If you’re looking to overhaul your strategy for B2B sales so you can start to crush your competition, it’s time to start actively avoiding the most common B2B sales mistakes out there today. Here are the six fatal B2B sales mistakes you’re probably making:

1. Selling to low-level buyers.

It may be easier to get in front of buyers and purchasing managers than C-suite prospects, since you never have to deal with a gatekeeper in order to reach them. But those low-level buyers don’t have the power — or the budget — to tell you “yes.” In fact, they’re only really good at telling salespeople “no.” You won’t make money selling to low-level buyers in B2B sales, so make a commitment to seek out high-level decision makers who can actually say “yes” to what you have to offer their businesses.

Related: Want to Make Your First Sale? These Entrepreneurs Share How They Did It.

2. Highlighting your product’s features and benefits.

There was a time when prospects cared about the features and benefits of your product. But they simply don’t anymore. Prospects today only care about the results and outcomes you can create in their world. More specifically, they want to know how you can solve their key challenges and deepest frustrations. Instead of highlighting your product’s features and benefits when selling to businesses, focus on specific outcomes your product or service can help your prospects achieve.

3. Giving proposals with only one option.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make in B2B sales is putting together single-option proposals. There are two major problems with these proposals. First, they don’t provide any context, which compels prospects to shop around to determine the value of your solution. Second, customers who really want to invest in a premium option will be limited to a lower-tier solution. Instead, provide a three-option proposal — ranging from the lowest end option that will still solve their problem to a higher end option with the most value — to boost your average sale size and the number of deals you close.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

4. Relying solely on the phone and internet.

There’s been a big movement in B2B sales towards selling online and on the phone. In some cases, this can be efficient and helpful, but if you’re selling an expensive, high-end product or service that requires a serious investment, you simply can’t skip out on meeting face to face. Hop on a plane if that’s what it takes to sit across from a valuable prospect. You’ll increase your close rate many times over, and being able to close big deals at huge companies is well worth the cost of travel.

5. Failing to clarify your value proposition.

Every time a B2B prospect asks what exactly it is that you do, you should have a quick and rehearsed response that succinctly describes the value you create. Clarify, script out, and memorize your value proposition. This is the only part of your sales presentation you have to memorize, so there’s really no excuse for hazy, rambling answers to this question.

6. Rushing to offer deals and discounts.

Low prices only attract bad prospects in B2B sales. Your ideal customer cares about value, not price, so quit offering deals and discounts. It only lowers your value in the eyes of your prospects. Instead, focus on the value you create, and be proud to offer the premium solution on the market. This attitude will attract the type of customer who values you for years to come.

Related: 6 Strategies for Avoiding the ‘Race to the Bottom’ Price War You Don’t Want to Win 

Which of these mistakes have you been making in B2B sales? How will you correct your mistakes and start crushing your sales goals? Check out this free Ultimate 3-Step Prospecting Call Template for more powerful sales advice.

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