Forgotten Genius – Nikola Tesla

With all due respect for Thomas A. Edison, Nikola Tesla was an equal, if not greater, American inventor. Edison is highly lauded. Tesla is nearly forgotten.

Broadly speaking, Edison could be described as an innovator. He improved on existing technology. He did not invent the incandescent light bulb, for example.

That was patented and demonstrated publicly by Joseph Swam of Britain in 1878 — a year before Edison. Later, Swam and Edison formed a brief partnership and Edison bought him out.

Tesla, a native of Serbia, also began as an innovator. He wanted to be an electrical engineer. At that time, “direct current” electricity was produced by chemical batteries charged by a steam-driven generator.

Direct current is affected by resistance in the wire conducting it. Within a mile or so, electricity is used up in the form of heat. At the University of Prague, Tesla was challenged to solve the distribution problem.

Tesla had a phenomenal memory. He memorized the complete works of Goethe and Voltaire. While strolling in a park, reciting poetry about the sun, Tesla suddenly perceived the direct-current solution.

An electric current that alternated from negative to positive could be sent in separate wires. At the receiving end, the two currents would be “induced” to flow to separate magnets — one stationary, the other rotating like the sun.

Tesla patented his idea. “Alternating current” and “induction motors” is the principal system we use today for our homes and factories.

Upon graduation in 1882, Tesla worked for the Continental Edison Company in Paris. He came to the United States a year later to work directly with Edison. Upon arrival he had four cents in his pocket and a sheaf of his poems.

Edison held several patents on direct current improvements, which he leased to General Electric. His installation of a complete direct- current lighting systems at lower New York City was widely hailed.

Inevitably the two men quarreled over the merits of their two systems. Tesla quit, opened his own laboratory and became a naturalized citizen in 1891. He sold his alternating current patents to George Westinghouse. A battle of titans ensued.

Edison tried to convince the public that the low-voltage Edison-General Electric system could be handled with complete safety, while the Tesla-Westinghouse high-voltage system was dangerous.

Someone in the Edison camp toured state fairs mildly shocking stray cats and dogs with direct current – then killing them with alternating current. The pitch was that the Tesla/Westinghouse high-voltage alternating current was fatal if touched accidentally.

First Human Electrocution

During this public relations war, the state of New York bungled several gruesome hangings. Condemned prisoners sometimes were slowly strangled or decapitated.

A Dr. Brown, dentist and spokesman for the Medico-Legal Society of New York, searched for a “more humane and scientific way” of applying capital punishment.

He convinced state authorities that alternating-current electricity was the quickest and surest.

The warden of the Albany Penitentiary asked Westinghouse to install an AC generator with which to execute an axe murder named William Kemmler.

Both Westinghouse and Tesla were strenuously opposed to capital punishment and refused.

Through subterfuge, someone – Historian Theo Benson says it was Edison – obtained a Tesla generator for the world’s first human execution by electricity.

The voltage was too low. Kemmler was literally cooked after repeated jolts of current. The disgusted Westinghouse later said, “They’d have done better with an axe.”

For years thereafter, people killed accidentally by electrical mishaps were said to have been “Westinghoused.”

Tesla System Wins

Westinghouse and Tesla forged ahead of General Electric and Edison by winning a contract to illuminate the 1893 Chicago Exposition with 200,000 light bulbs. It was a sensation.

Three years later they installed the first hydroelectric alternating – current system at Niagara Falls for the city of Buffalo. Edison and General Electric thereafter manufactured light bulbs and other appliances compatible with alternating current.

With royalties pouring in, Tesla could concentrate on the nature of electricity and its potential.

His approach of exploring the nature of energy was science – as contrasted to inventing things for specific purposes. During the next few years, he filed 830 patents.

Tesla’s watershed invention was a particular coil of wire that ushered in hundreds of uses we take for granted today. They were however, too futuristic for the time.

He achieved illumination with “filamentless” bulbs filled with various gases. Today we recognize these as fluorescent lights and neon advertising letters.

He experimented with “shadowgraphs” of human bones through clothing years before Roentgen published his work.

His “Tesla coil” created high-voltage “energy waves” by which he projected radio signals to “telautomaton” model ships. They maneuvered in response to levers on a control box.

Tesla said he could replace the lever box with a telephone to transmit voices, music – and, ultimately, images. No commercial backer was interested because there were no instruments to receive ethereal waves.

This was two years before Marconi succeeded in broadcasting a single telegraph click. After a legal suit, Tesla’s primacy was upheld.

The Navy was mildly interested in a tiny submarine without a crew that could be controlled by Tesla’s waves. However, the admirals did not foresee the smart bombs and torpedoes of today.

The ‘high-power oscillator” – that Tesla invented to control ships at sea — is the power supply for our television cathode-ray picture tube.
Man-made Lightning

The U.S. War Department in 1893 asked Tesla to expand his wireless communications systems. The request came at an awkward time. Tesla’s patents expired. His New York laboratory and papers had burned.

The manager of the Colorado Springs municipal lighting system offered Tesla free electricity for his project. He moved to Colorado Springs and built an experimental radio station 10 miles out of town.

He determined that the Earth is a huge magnet with energy flowing between positive and negative poles. Also, he computed the frequency necessary to project an electrical spurt completely through the planet and recapture the spurt when it bounced back.

It was his intent – by a huge Tesla coil — to add additional spurts to successive bounces. When a massive voltage had been built up, he would release it from a tall antenna to zoom around the world.

When all was ready, Tesla, wearing shoes with two-inch-thick rubber soles for insulation, threw the switch for one second “to see what it would do.” The plateau was carpeted momentarily with blue St Elmo Fire — but no explosion.

Tesla threw the switch again and stepped outside to measure the expected lightning bolt. Amidst deafening thunder, a bolt leaped from the antenna and lengthened as earth charges accumulated.

Folks in town were alarmed. Sparks crackled from fire hydrants. People in leather shoes, or barefoot, skipped from heat.

At 130 feet, the bolt collapsed. All was silent.

Tesla ran to the phone and called the Colorado Springs municipal electric plant. “You have ruined my experiment?”

“To Hell with you,” was the reply. “You have burned out our generators.” They sent him a bill for damages and electricity. .

Nevertheless, Tesla had learned a great deal about earth resonance and aerial propagation of radio waves. He became obsessed with the possibility of capturing earth energy and broadcasting it free to the whole world.
Search For Free Energy

Tesla returned to New York City to build a radio transmitter capable of reaching Europe. He obtained backing from J.P. Morgan, a prominent financier of promising projects.

A huge Tesla coil and 85-foot broadcasting tower was built at Wardenclyffe on Long Island. It soon became apparent to Morgan that Tesla was more interested in broadcasting free energy than commercial radio programs.

Morgan wanted to know, “Where will you put the meter?” He refused to advance any more money. Work stopped. The huge transmitting tower fell into disrepair and was finally demolished as a hazard.

The laboratory and land was acquired by the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in payment for a $20,000 room bill.

In the ensuing years Tesla experimented with a “particle beam accelerator” that could destroy invading airplanes. The newspapers dubbed it a “death ray.” Today we call it microwaves for kitchen ovens.

He invented a small “energy turbine” consisting of closely-spaced disks on an axle that spins on any gas or liquid containing energy – gasoline, hydrogen, propane, or methane – without burning the fuel.

Unfortunately the disks warp or melt from the molecular action of energy atoms. Energy and pollution problems would be solved if we could invent a suitable disk material.

Tesla postulated that sunlight could be converted directly into electricity (solar panels), energy could be extracted from atoms (bombs), hundreds of messages could be transmitted simultaneously over one circuit (fiber glass cable), drone planes could be powered by electricity (NASA has one powered by solar cells circling indefinitely at a high altitude).

During the First World War he proposed bouncing radio waves off enemy airplanes to learn of their approach. The War Department ignored his proposal. It wasn’t until World War II that RADAR was introduced.

He detected radio waves from outer space and thought they might be signals from aliens. We now know that radio waves from space are static left over from creation of the universe.

Modern Financial Management Theories & Small Businesses

The following are some examples of modern financial management theories formulated on principles considered as ‘a set of fundamental tenets that form the basis for financial theory and decision-making in finance’ (Emery et al.1991). An attempt would be made to relate the principles behind these concepts to small businesses’ financial management.

Agency Theory
Agency theory deals with the people who own a business enterprise and all others who have interests in it, for example managers, banks, creditors, family members, and employees. The agency theory postulates that the day to day running of a business enterprise is carried out by managers as agents who have been engaged by the owners of the business as principals who are also known as shareholders. The theory is on the notion of the principle of ‘two-sided transactions’ which holds that any financial transactions involve two parties, both acting in their own best interests, but with different expectations.

Problems usually identified with agency theory may include:

i. Information asymmetry- a situation in which agents have information on the financial circumstances and prospects of the enterprise that is not known to principals (Emery et al.1991). For example ‘The Business Roundtable’ emphasised that in planning communications with shareholders and investors, companies should consider never misleading or misinforming stockholders about the corporation’s operations or financial condition. In spite of this principle, there was lack of transparency from Enron’s management leading to its collapse;

ii. Moral hazard-a situation in which agents deliberately take advantage of information asymmetry to redistribute wealth to themselves in an unseen manner which is ultimately to the detriment of principals. A case in point is the failure of the Board of directors of Enron’s compensation committee to ask any question about the award of salaries, perks, annuities, life insurance and rewards to the executive members at a critical point in the life of Enron; with one executive on record to have received a share of ownership of a corporate jet as a reward and also a loan of $77m to the CEO even though the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US bans loans by companies to their executives; and

iii. Adverse selection-this concerns a situation in which agents misrepresent the skills or abilities they bring to an enterprise. As a result of that the principal’s wealth is not maximised (Emery et al.1991).

In response to the inherent risk posed by agents’ quest to make the most of their interests to the disadvantage of principals (i.e. all stakeholders), each stakeholder tries to increase the reward expected in return for participation in the enterprise. Creditors may increase the interest rates they get from the enterprise. Other responses are monitoring and bonding to improve principal’s access to reliable information and devising means to find a common ground for agents and principals respectively.

Emanating from the risks faced in agency theory, researchers on small business financial management contend that in many small enterprises the agency relationship between owners and managers may be absent because the owners are also managers; and that the predominantly nature of SMEs make the usual solutions to agency problems such as monitoring and bonding costly thereby increasing the cost of transactions between various stakeholders (Emery et al.1991).

Nevertheless, the theory provides useful knowledge into many matters in SMEs financial management and shows considerable avenues as to how SMEs financial management should be practiced and perceived. It also enables academic and practitioners to pursue strategies that could help sustain the growth of SMEs.

Signaling Theory
Signaling theory rests on the transfer and interpretation of information at hand about a business enterprise to the capital market, and the impounding of the resulting perceptions into the terms on which finance is made available to the enterprise. In other words, flows of funds between an enterprise and the capital market are dependent on the flow of information between them. (Emery et al, 1991). For example management’s decision to make an acquisition or divest; repurchase outstanding shares; as well as decisions by outsiders like for example an institutional investor deciding to withhold a certain amount of equity or debt finance. The emerging evidence on the relevance of signaling theory to small enterprise financial management is mixed. Until recently, there has been no substantial and reliable empirical evidence that signaling theory accurately represents particular situations in SME financial management, or that it adds insights that are not provided by modern theory (Emery et al.1991).

Keasey et al(1992) writes that of the ability of small enterprises to signal their value to potential investors, only the signal of the disclosure of an earnings forecast were found to be positively and significantly related to enterprise value amongst the following: percentage of equity retained by owners, the net proceeds raised by an equity issue, the choice of financial advisor to an issue (presuming that a more reputable accountant, banker or auditor may cause greater faith to be placed in the prospectus for the float), and the level of under pricing of an issue. Signaling theory is now considered to be more insightful for some aspects of small enterprise financial management than others (Emery et al 1991).

The Pecking-Order Theory or Framework (POF)
This is another financial theory, which is to be considered in relation to SMEs financial management. It is a finance theory which suggests that management prefers to finance first from retained earnings, then with debt, followed by hybrid forms of finance such as convertible loans, and last of all by using externally issued equity; with bankruptcy costs, agency costs, and information asymmetries playing little role in affecting the capital structure policy. A research study carried out by Norton (1991b) found out that 75% of the small enterprises used seemed to make financial structure decisions within a hierarchical or pecking order framework .Holmes et al. (1991) admitted that POF is consistent with small business sectors because they are owner-managed and do not want to dilute their ownership. Owner-managed businesses usually prefer retained profits because they want to maintain the control of assets and business operations.

This is not strange considering the fact that in Ghana, according to empirical evidence, SMEs funding is made up of about 86% of own equity as well as loans from family and friends(See Table 1). Losing this money is like losing one’s own reputation which is considered very serious customarily in Ghana.

Access to capital
The 1971 Bolton report on small firms outlined issues underlying the concept of ‘finance gap’ (this has two components-knowledge gap-debt is restricted due to lack of awareness of appropriate sources, advantages and disadvantages of finance; and supply gap-unavailability of funds or cost of debt to small enterprises exceeds the cost of debt for larger enterprises.) that: there are a set of difficulties which face a small company. Small companies are hit harder by taxation, face higher investigation costs for loans, are generally less well informed of sources of finance and are less able to satisfy loan requirements. Small firms have limited access to the capital and money markets and therefore suffer from chronic undercapitalization. As a result; they are likely to have excessive recourse to expensive funds which act as a brake on their economic development.

This is the term used to describe the converse of gearing which is the proportion of total assets financed by equity and may be called equity to assets ratio. The studies under review in this section on leverage are focused on total debt as a percentage of equity or total assets. There are however, some studies on the relative proportions of different types of debt held by small and large enterprises.

Equity Funds
Equity is also known as owners’ equity, capital, or net worth.
Costand et al (1990) suggests that ‘larger firms will use greater levels of debt financing than small firms. This implies that larger firms will rely relatively less on equity financing than do smaller firms.’ According to the pecking order framework, the small enterprises have two problems when it comes to equity funding [McMahon et al. (1993, pp153)]:

1) Small enterprises usually do not have the option of issuing additional equity to the public.
2) Owner-managers are strongly averse to any dilution of their ownership interest and control. This way they are unlike the managers of large concerns who usually have only a limited degree of control and limited, if any, ownership interest, and are therefore prepared to recognise a broader range of funding options.

Financial Management in SME
With high spate of financial problems contributing to the high rate of failures in small medium enterprises, what do the literature on small business say on financial management in small businesses to combat such failures?
Osteryoung et al (1997) writes that “while financial management is a critical element of the management of a business as a whole, within this function the management of its assets is perhaps the most important. In the long term, the purchase of assets directs the course that the business will take during the life of these assets, but the business will never see the long term if it cannot plan an appropriate policy to effectively manage its working capital.” In effect the poor financial management of owner-managers or lack of financial management altogether is the main cause underlying the problems in SME financial management.

Hall and Young(1991) in a study in the UK of 3 samples of 100 small enterprises that were subject to involuntary liquidation in 1973,1978,and 1983 found out that the reasons given for failure,49.8% were of financial nature. On the perceptions of official receivers interviewed for the same small enterprises, 86.6% of the 247 reasons given were of a financial nature. The positive correlation between poor or nil financial management (including basic accounting) and business failure has well been documented in western countries according to Peacock (1985a).

It is gainsaying the fact that despite the need to manage every aspect of their small enterprises with very little internal and external support, it is often the case that owner-managers only have experience or training in some functional areas.

There is a school of thought that believes “a well-run business enterprise should be as unconscious of its finances as healthy a fit person is of his or her breathing”. It must be possible to undertake production, marketing, distribution and the like, without repeatedly causing, or being hindered by, financial pressures and strains. It does not mean, however, that financial management can be ignored by a small enterprise owner-manager; or as is often done, given to an accountant to take care of. Whether it is obvious or not to the casual observer, in prosperous small enterprises the owner-managers themselves have a firm grasp of the principles of financial management and are actively involved in applying them to their own situation.” McMahon et al. (1993).

Some researchers tried to predict small enterprise failure to mitigate the collapse of small businesses. McNamara et al (1988) developed a model to predict small enterprise failures giving the following four reasons:

- To enable management to respond quickly to changing conditions
- To train lenders in recognising the important factors involved in determining an enterprise’s likelihood of failing
- To assist lending organisations in their marketing by identifying their customer’s financial needs more effectively
- To act as a filter in the credit evaluation process.

They went on to argue that small enterprises are very different from large ones in the area of borrowing by small enterprises, lack of long-term debt finance and different taxation provisions.

For small private companies, these measures are unreliable and textbook methods for judging investment opportunities are not always useful in organisations that are privately owned to give a true and fair view of events taking place in the company.

Small Business Marketing Ideas: Discover Your Niche

Small Business Survival: Wage War on the Competition with New Marketing IdeasIn these difficult economic times, small businesses are closing their doors everyday. But there are a wealth of low-cost or free marketing possibilities still available to aid small business owners.The low-price offers of big retailers like Target and Walmart on items from clothing to electronics in an effort to dominate the market has forced countless small local retailers to shut down. When small businesses lose the competitive battle against these massive companies, hard-working entrepreneurs lose their shirts and irreplaceable establishments are lost by local communities. I live in a remote community of 10,000 people and I have certainly experienced this. It has been a terrible blow to watch people I know suffer. Our community has lost many businesses near-and-dear to our hearts and we are left with few shopping options.So, how is a small business to make its mark n these difficult times?Business owners who run a physical business location are fighting an uphill battle, particularly if they offer anything which is sold by corporate giants. To carve out their own niche in the marketplace, they need to be well-versed in their product or service, endeavor to be unique in their approach while delivering the finest customer service to attract and retain customers. Certainly a massive undertaking, but one that will pay off.Determine what your large competitors don’t offer: that’s where you, as the small business entrepreneur, can find your niche, or your targeted segment of the marketplace.1. It is clear when visiting chain stores that they do not place value on customer service.
2. Every location looks the same.
3. If they don’t carry what you want, there is nothing they can or will do to help you.Find a better way to serve the market in at least 2 and possibly 3 of these ares.1. Provide the FINEST service possible to your customers. Always keep an employee available in the store or at the register to answer questions. Hire friendly and courteous people to answer incoming calls. Try your best to learn the names of your frequent customers and address them by their name. That’s a great way to endear yourself and your business to your customers and will encourage shopper loyalty!2. Make your location a destination-a pleasant place to visit. Paint a mural inside. Provide free water and cups. If you are in the food business, hand out samples. Isn’t it fun to visit Trader Joes to taste the new food they are sampling each day? Setup a comfortable sitting area for people to relax who have come along with their friends to the store. Set aside a little area of the sales floor for a kids corner with toys and possibly a TV or DVD playing. If your customers’ children are being entertained, they will spend more time at the store and visit your business more often. I personally have chosen to shop at a specific store because my children enjoyed coming and I could look forward to a half hour of uninterrupted alone time to concentrate on what I wanted to buy!3. You are hopefully in the business you are in because you are excited about your product or service and interested in helping others learn more about it. Make yourself available to your customers. Give them tips and suggestions. Display signs that say “if you can’t find what you need, let us know and we’ll order it for you.” Now there is something Walmart and Target can’t provide. A personal touch.How Google & The Web Can Expand Your Reach1. Google is pulling out all the stops to entice small local establishments to develop an internet presence. Sign up to be listed on the Google Local service. If you serve a very specific market niche, your website can jump to the top of the search page for Your Town and your exact product or service. Just this easy-to-execute, low-cost marketing strategy can attract plenty of new shoppers.2. For a minimal cost, get listed on local directories and your city’s Chamber of Commerce website.3. Try getting connected to Angie’s List.4. Make sure your business is listed on Yelp with stellar reviews! Yelp has a great reputation among consumers and is a trusted source for finding local business options. Place a link to your website on Yelp and provide directions so those searching on Yelp can find your location. Ask your loyal customers to write a glowing review for your business. You can even create a promotion or coupon that you email to customers when they write a Yelp review for you.5. Setting up a website and keeping it updated is not hard to do or cost-prohibitive. These days, a professional-looking WordPress page can be created in just a few hours. The only expenses include monthly hosting fees and purchasing a domain name. You can use GoDaddy or NameCheap for these services.6. Once you have your domain and site setup, another way to generate income is through affiliate marketing and adding Google AdWords to your site.7. Your company can build an email list by placing an opt-in box on your site. Use the email list to send promotions, special offers and coupons to your customers. This will promote good will and increase customer loyalty.8. Get online visitors, or traffic. To establish a stronghold on the top of the search engines, you need to get a high-ranking and then stay highly ranked so online surfers will come across your website when searching for your particular niche. Some of the factors for staying at the top of Google and other search engines include: the online age of the site, the total backlinks to your site, the price and relevance of your offerings and how often you update the site’s content.