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Posts Tagged ‘business

“Zippers are primal and modern at the very same time”*…

zipper

When Tadao Yoshida was 20 years old, he got some bad news: The trading company where he worked was bankrupt. It was 1934, and his future was suddenly thrown into question.

But the bleak news came with an unexpected silver lining. Instead of dissolving the business entirely, the company’s owner gave the business to Yoshida so he could try to make a fresh start.

To say that Yoshida succeeded would be a massive understatement. Today, Yoshida’s company is valued in the billions, with profits in the millions. It’s so big, with so many divisions, that it’s tough to put an exact number on this success. As of 2016, the company employed more than 44,000 workers across more than 130 subsidiaries in at least 60 countries around the world.

In fact, you’re probably wearing one of Yoshida’s products at this very moment. If you look closely at the zipper on your jeans or your jacket, you’ll even see the company’s initials: YKK…

How one company came to dominate the world’s market for fly fasteners: “Zipped.”

* Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

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As we seek closure, we might recall that it was on this date in 1750 that the first issue of the first college student magazine, Student, or the Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany, was published.

Cover of a 20th century collected reprint

source

 

Written by LW

January 31, 2019 at 1:01 am

“If the shoe fits”*…

 

0108_brannock

When a large retail outlet is in its final throes, it can be fascinating to walk around one, not necessarily because you want to buy anything, but because of the things the natural selection process of panic-shopping surfaces. (When something is 90 percent off, you have to really not want it to leave it sitting there.) So when I learned my local Sears store was closing after more than 40 years in business, I made two stops: One, nine days before its closure; and two, on its final day. As you can imagine, the trip surfaced different sales items each time, even though it was the same massive store both times, but the different levels of decay put different levels of focus on what was there. And during the last time, I found myself utterly enthralled with a device I’ve seen a million times, as have most of you. Something about the removal of its full context, as well as the clear amount of use the product had received, made the device stand out that much more. I’m, of course (of course!) talking about the Brannock Device, a mainstay of shoe stores for decades. What’s your shoe size?…

From the ever-illuminating Ernie Smith and his Tedium newsletter, an appreciation of a device that all of us have used, but the few of us have stopped to appreciate.  The “barleycorn measurement scheme” (a barleycorn is the difference in space between one shoe size and the next); the history of shoe sizing; an appreciation of Charles Brannock and his efforts– even a visit to a minor league baseball game that honored Brannock’s creation– it’s all here:  “How the Brannock Device—a measuring tool you’ve definitely seen but didn’t know the name of—made it a lot easier to figure out our shoe size.”

* traditional

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As we wear it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1899 that the rubber heel was patented by Humphrey O’Sullivan (US patent #618128).  O’Sullivan, a printer tired of slipping on his inky floor, began by nailing a piece of rubber floor mat to his own shoes; after developing the product and patenting it, he launched a company to market his podiatric progress– in a way aimed at pedestrians pounding the (wet, icy, or otherwise slippery) pavements in America’s growing cities.

safety heel source

 

Written by LW

January 24, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”*…

 

Feed-Efficiency-4a

Eliminating waste sounds like a reasonable goal. Why would we not want managers to strive for an ever-more-efficient use of resources? Yet as I will argue, an excessive focus on efficiency can produce startlingly negative effects, to the extent that superefficient businesses create the potential for social disorder. This happens because the rewards arising from efficiency get more and more unequal as that efficiency improves, creating a high degree of specialization and conferring an ever-growing market power on the most-efficient competitors. The resulting business environment is extremely risky, with high returns going to an increasingly limited number of companies and people—an outcome that is clearly unsustainable. The remedy, I believe, is for business, government, and education to focus more strongly on a less immediate source of competitive advantage: resilience. This may reduce the short-term gains from efficiency but will produce a more stable and equitable business environment in the long run…

Roger Martin‘s eloquent argument for a longer-term perspective and for robustness as a primary goal: “The High Price of Efficiency.”

[image above: source]

* Peter Drucker

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As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that Alan Greenspan was nominated for his fourth term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  An accolyte of Ayn Rand, he oversaw an “easy money” Fed that, many suggest, was a leading cause of the dotcom bubble (which began later that year) and the subprime mortgage crisis, (which led to the Great Recession, and which occurred within a year of his departure from the Fed).

220px-Alan_Greenspan_color_photo_portrait source

 

Written by LW

January 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“He read “Principles of Accounting” all morning, but just to make it interesting, he put lots of dragons in it”*…

 

720px-Pacioli

“Portrait of Luca Pacioli [the father of double-entry accounting] with a student”

You’ve never heard of Yuji Ijiri. But back in 1989 he created something incredible.

It’s more revolutionary than the cotton gin, the steam engine, the PC and the smart phone combined.

When people look back hundreds of years from now, only the printing press and the Internet will have it beat for sheer mind-boggling impact on society. Both the net and the printing press enabled the democratization of information and single-handedly uplifted the collective knowledge of people all over the world.

So what am I talking about? What did Ijiri create that’s so amazing?

Triple-entry accounting.

Uh, what?

Yeah. I’m serious.

But don’t feel bad if you slept through the revolution. It wasn’t televised or posted on Reddit. When Professor Ijiri died in 2017, most people didn’t catch his obituary. His most famous book, Momentum Accounting & Triple-Entry Bookkeeping, has a grand total of zero reviews on Good Reads. So you’re not alone if you missed it…

Dan Jeffries at Hacker Noon does a wonderful, engaging job of telling this remarkable story– and of explaining why his claim of importance may not be hyperbolic at all: “Why Everyone Missed the Most Important Invention in the Last 500 Years.”

* Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

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As we don our green eye shades, we might recall that it was on this date in 1995 that the longest federal government shutdown in US history took place under former President Bill Clinton while Republicans, led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, controlled both houses of Congress.  It lasted over three weeks, until January 6, 1996.

clinton gringrich source

 

Written by LW

December 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

“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

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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.”

 source

 

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

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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.

 source

 

“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

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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

source

 

Written by LW

December 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

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