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Posts Tagged ‘business

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”*…


A new report from global management consulting firm McKinsey examined 1,000 companies in 12 countries, analyzing both financial data and the gender and ethnic makeup of their workforces. Researchers found that firms with diverse executive teams posted bigger profit margins in their respective sectors than companies lacking diversity.

Ethnic diversity was more important than gender diversity, according to the study. Companies that ranked in the top 25 percent in terms of the ethnic mix of their executive boards were 33 percent more likely to be profitable than firms in the bottom 25 percent for diversity.

Women-led companies still had an advantage, however…

See why defeating discrimination to achieve diversity isn’t just an ethical issue, but also an important economic concern: “Companies with Diverse Executive Teams Are More Profitable: McKinsey.”  Read the McKinsey report here.

[See also: this.]

* Maya Angelou


As we celebrate variety, we might send powerfully-painted birthday greetings to Alice Neel; she was born on this date in 1900.  A painter of people, landscape, and still life– and a pioneer among women artists– she is probably best remembered for her expressionistic portraits.  Indeed, Barry Walker, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, called her “one of the greatest portrait artists of the 20th century.”



Written by LW

January 28, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity”*…


Nearly 30 years before Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden launched their beauty brands, a former servant girl from Canada created the American hair salon industry, designed the first reclining salon chair, and went on to establish retail franchising as we know it today. Along the way she empowered thousands of young women and amassed a fortune…

The remarkable story of “Martha Matilda Harper, the Greatest Businesswoman You’ve Never Heard Of” (who counted Susan B. Anthony among her friends and customers).

* Peter F. Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles


As we give credit where credit is due, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Dolly Rebecca Parton (Dean); she was born on this date in 1946.  A singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, theme park proprietor, and philanthropist, she’s known primarily for her work in country music (e.g., 25 Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum albums; 25 #1 hits; induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame).

But for our purposes today, we might note that she is also warmly remembered for her first major film appearance: she co-starred in 9 to 5 (for which she also wrote and performed the title song), a film about sexism in the workplace.



“Regulation isn’t an obstacle to thriving free markets; it’s a vital part of them”*…



30 years or so ago, your correspondent’s father-in-law dragged him along to a cocktail party in D.C. at which we encountered Bill McGowan, the then-Chairman of MCI, the alternative long-distance company that prospered as ATT’s monopoly hold on the market eroded, then evaporated.  As another gentleman joined our little group, McGowan smiled archly and said, “ah, here’s my head of R&D”… then introduced us to his General Counsel.

Of course, business strategies that turn on challenging regulatory regimes, or practicing regulatory arbitrage, date back much further than MCI.  Indeed, Theodore’s Vail Bargain (creating the Bell System monopoly) in the early 20th century created the status quo that McGowan (and others) later attacked.

More often than not, emerging technology has enabled (if not, indeed, driven) these regulation-challenging new entrants.  So it’s no surprise that we find the marketplace today positively rife with them.

Elizabeth Pollman, of Loyola (Los Angeles) Law School, and Jordan M. Barry, of UC San Diego Law School, have studied the phenomenon…

This Article examines what we term “regulatory entrepreneurship” — pursuing a line of business in which changing the law is a significant part of the business plan. Regulatory entrepreneurship is not new, but it has become increasingly salient in recent years as companies from Airbnb to Tesla, and from DraftKings to Uber, have become agents of legal change. We document the tactics that companies have employed, including operating in legal gray areas, growing “too big to ban,” and mobilizing users for political support. Further, we theorize the business and law-related factors that foster regulatory entrepreneurship. Well-funded, scalable, and highly connected startup businesses with mass appeal have advantages, especially when they target state and local laws and litigate them in the political sphere instead of in court.

Finally, we predict that regulatory entrepreneurship will increase, driven by significant state and local policy issues, strong institutional support for startup companies, and continued technological progress that facilitates political mobilization. We explore how this could catalyze new coalitions, lower the cost of political participation, and improve policymaking. However, it could also lead to negative consequences when companies’ interests diverge from the public interest…

Further to the notion that “the Internet might provide profitable opportunities at the edges of the legal system.” see also Strategic Law Avoidance Using the Internet: A Short History” (pdf) by Tim Wu of Columbia Law School.

[TotH to Matt Levine, whose column/newsletter “Money Stuff” is quite wonderful.]

* James Surowiecki


As we’re careful for what we ask, we might send mannerly birthday greetings to Baldassare Castiglione; he was born on this date in 1478.  A Renaissance soldier, diplomat, and author, he is most famous for The Book of the Courtier.– a prime example of the courtesy book, offering advice on and dealing with questions of the etiquette and morality of the courtier– which was enormously influential in 16th century European court circles.

Raphael’s portrait of Baldassare Castiglione



Written by LW

December 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The gods keep livelihood hidden from men. Otherwise a day’s labor could bring man enough to last a whole year with no more work.”*…


Ind Rev

Upheaval more than a century into the Industrial Revolution, and more than 100 years ago:
An International Workers of the World union demonstration
in New York City in 1914. Credit: Library of Congress


As automation and artificial intelligence technologies improve, many people worry about the future of work. If millions of human workers no longer have jobs, the worriers ask, what will people do, how will they provide for themselves and their families, and what changes might occur (or be needed) in order for society to adjust?

Many economists say there is no need to worry. They point to how past major transformations in work tasks and labor markets – specifically the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries – did not lead to major social upheaval or widespread suffering. These economists say that when technology destroys jobs, people find other jobs…

They are definitely right about the long period of painful adjustment! The aftermath of the Industrial Revolution involved two major Communist revolutions, whose death toll approaches 100 million. The stabilizing influence of the modern social welfare state emerged only after World War II, nearly 200 years on from the 18th-century beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

Today, as globalization and automation dramatically boost corporate productivity, many workers have seen their wages stagnate. The increasing power of automation and artificial intelligence technology means more pain may follow. Are these economists minimizing the historical record when projecting the future, essentially telling us not to worry because in a century or two things will get better?…

We should listen not only to economists when it comes to predicting the future of work; we should listen also to historians, who often bring a deeper historical perspective to their predictions. Automation will significantly change many people’s lives in ways that may be painful and enduring.

Get a start on understanding that history at “What the Industrial Revolution Really Tells Us About the Future of Automation and Work.”

* Hesiod, Work and Days


As we hum “Hi Ho, Hi Ho,” we might send ink-stained birthday greetings to Richard March Hoe; he was born on this date in 1812.  In 1847, he patented the rotary printing press.  Hoe had invented the press a couple of years earlier and improved it before submission. His creation greatly increased the speed of printing, as it involved rolling a cylinder over stationary plates of inked type, using the cylinder to make an impression on paper– thus eliminating the need to make impressions from pressing type plates, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver.  In 1871, Hoe added the ability to print to continuous rolls of paper, creating the “web press” that revolutionized newspaper and magazine printing.  His first customer was Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.

Hoe’s “web perfecting press,” with continuous feed



Written by LW

September 12, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You can’t trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it”*…


New Yorkers like to say their tap water is the best in the world. Surely, then, it’s worth a $1.99-a-month subscription to drink it when you’re away from your sink—right?

That is the concept behind Reefill, a startup that aims to bring the subscription model to the simple, free act of filling up a water bottle at a café. The company wants to build 200 smartphone-activated water fountains inside Manhattan businesses, less to make money off the Nalgene crowd than to hit Dasani, Aquafina, and the wasteful consumption habits of bottled water–guzzling Gothamites…

Just as one field of startups is dedicated to doing what Mom won’t do for you anymore, another is reviving the infrastructure of the 19th century. Uber eventually found its way to the bus; Reefill, to the public drinking fountain…

Top up at “The Startup That Wants to Sell You a Subscription to New York City Tap Water Explains Itself.”

* W.C. Fields


As we pine for the days of bigger visions, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that President John F. Kennedy gave the historic speech before a joint session of Congress that set the United States on a course to the moon.

In his speech, Kennedy called for an ambitious space exploration program that included not just missions to put astronauts on the moon, but also a Rover nuclear rocket, weather satellites, and other space projects.

Read the transcript here.



Written by LW

May 25, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable”*…


We should remember that we will pass down a whole society to our kids—including the natural environment that underwrites the quality of life of future generations. If the cost of ensuring that large numbers of children do not grow up in poverty and that the planet is not destroyed by global warming is a somewhat higher current or future tax burden, that hardly seems like a bad deal—especially if the burden is apportioned fairly. Now suppose, by contrast, that we hand our kids a country in which large segments of the population are unhealthy and uneducated and the environment has been devastated by global warming, but we have managed to pay off the national debt. That is, after all, the future that many in the mainstream of the economics profession are prescribing for the country. Somehow, I don’t see future generations thanking us…

Economists have botched the promise of widely distributed prosperity: why they have no intention of stopping now– and why that matters so much: “The Wrongest Profession.”

* John Kenneth Galbraith


As we recalculate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1602 that Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC, or The Dutch East India Company, as it’s known in the Anglophone world) was born.  Generally considered the world’s first trans-national corporation and the first publicly to issue stocks and bonds (and the first company to be ever actually listed on an official stock exchange), it began with a 21-year monopoly on the Dutch spice trade.  The VOC also prefigured the mega-corporation of today in that it had quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, imprison and execute convicts, negotiate treaties, strike its own coins, and establish colonies.  Considered by many to be the greatest corporation in history, the VOC eclipsed all of its rivals in international trade for almost 200 years.



Written by LW

March 20, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Sameness is the mother of disgust”*…


Let’s imagine we’re on a beach that’s a mile long, and on that beach there are a couple of ice cream carts…


Let’s also imagine that the ice cream sold at each cart is identical in quality and cost, so the only reason customers choose one cart over the other is when one cart is closer. Given all of that, the best location of the carts is with each cart halfway between the middle of the beach and one of the ends. In this arrangement each cart gets 50% of the customers, and no one has to walk more than 1/4 mile to get some ice cream.


But what if one of the ice cream vendors decides to move their cart a bit closer to the middle of the beach…


They are now the ice cream cart of choice for a bigger segment of the beach, and will get more business. The other ice cream cart has no choice but to retaliate…


Now once again they each serve the same percentage of the beach-going public. Since any further movement by either cart would mean a loss of business for that cart, they end up permanently side by side, in the middle of the beach, even though this is a less optimal location for their customers.

That is a simple example of something called Hotelling’s law; the tendency of competing products to end up as similar as possible…

“Producers of products and services tend to make their products and services as similar as possible to those of their competitors.”  From The Laws of the Universe, the story of Hotelling’s Law.

* Petrarch


As we nose around for niches, we might send ambitious birthday greetings to Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; he was born on this date in 1463.  An Italian philosopher, he undertook, in 1486, at the age of 23, to defend 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy and magic against all comers, in the process of which he wrote his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man, which has been called the “Manifesto of the Renaissance”; a revitalization of Neo-Platonism, it was a seminal text of Renaissance humanism and of what has been called the “Hermetic Reformation.”

Pico’s portrait, from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence


Written by LW

February 24, 2017 at 1:01 am

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