Saturday, October 5, 2019

First Look in Your Own Backyard

This is an article I read in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.   Innovation is definitely in, we read, watch, think and try to implement it.  You hear so many talking heads and consultants promise to deliver innovation to you.

The thrust of this article suggests you look at your front line employees.  In some cases you may find the best ideas to innovate come from these people.  It makes sense.

As pointed out in the article, so many CEOs say employees are our most valued asset.  Or something to that degree.  If so, trust them.  Ask them.  Solicit them. Nudge them.  Listen to them.   You may find a few great ideas that are innovative and lead to major strides in productivity.  And it may not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the idea.

The examples are excellent. All three of the company executive team certainly trust their employees.  That is a key to the success. And the concept applies across almost every industry.

Before you read this article, and yes is it old. However, the fundamentals have not changed.

Link to the article:  http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-10-16/the-untapped-innovation-factory#r=nav-f-blog

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Are You Absolutely Sure You are Ready to Start a Business?


As you know from my blogs, I read a lot of business magazines.  The October 1, 2019 Fortune magazine ran several articles about entrepreneurship.  It is a very good read.  And I will highlight a couple of the individuals profiled.

The first one is Mir Imran.  He is from India.  He is an engineer by training, but he has a very keen business sense.  You will find his effort to get a better education impressive and the sacrifices he made to achieve the degree he earned.  Equally interesting are his comments about closing a couple of his businesses and how he had to stretch his skill sets. 

However, among the most important tidbits I learned was when he freely admitted that his second business failed because he did not do a business plan or understand how much funding he would need.

You will enjoy his “Best Advice” piece. 

Title of the article: “How This 20-Time Founder With Hundreds of Patents Got His Start”


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Binge Watching- Late 1970s

Part I - background.  In the 1970s and 1980s several networks ran miniseries, usually based on a book by a famous author. These were generally historical novels. The authors were experts as interweaving history with fictional characters.  

if you love history, specific industries,and vibrant characters, these books can be excellent reads.  And you may learn some history you did not know or about an industry you closely follow.  

Examples of historical novels converted to a miniseries are Captains and Kings; Roots; Shogun; Lonesome Dove; Rich Man,  Poor Man; The Winds of War; North and South; The Moneychangers; Backstairs at the White House, Washington: Behind Closed Doors; and Kane and Abel. 

Authors of historic novels included Arthur Hailey, Alex Haley, Taylor Caldwell, Jeffrey Archer, and Irwin Shaw.  These authors and others painstakingly researched specific eras and industries to give the reader a realistic picture.  

If you read the book, part of the fun was seeing who was cast in roles and did the casting make sense.  The other part was seeing how closely the miniseries followed the book.  Generally, from the books I read and the miniseries I watched, the writers and directors did a very good job keeping the the spirit of the book. 

Many younger actors actresses got a firm start in a miniseries. Several actors and actresses became miniseries stars, like Peter Strauss, Robert Vaughn, Lois Nettleton, and Richard Chamberlain.  Actors you recall from earlier movies and TV shows may show up in a miniseries cast in role you could not picture them in but each one carried it off superbly.   


Some miniseries were highly anticipated and watched by a lot of people. I recall that my dad would pick up my friend and me from Boy Scouts on a Monday evening so my friend's mom could watch each episode of Roots in its entirety  

To young people this might sound odd. But back in the 70s and 80s taping shows could be a challenge and cable just gave you more channels.  So if you wanted to watch a specific miniseries, you had to be home when the show on at the advertised time to watch it.  


Part II - binge watching. Starz is running all of the Centennial episodes over two days. I have not seen any episode of the miniseries in decades.  So I am binge watching.  

Centennial is one of my favorite miniseries and book. The book is by James Michener. He was one of the best historical fiction writers to me. I read several of his books, including Centennial.  

The last binge watching I did was with my wife and we watched Ken Burns Civil War all day on a Sunday at least 20 years ago.  We even had popcorn. 

Oddly enough, I remember major parts of Centennial like it was yesterday. I am not sure if it was because I loved the book so much or the miniseries followed the book very closely.  I watched the miniseries with my parents.  

A fun piece of trivia, one of the key characters in Centennial played James Bond several years later.  You could see why in the miniseries.

The miniseries runs 12 episodes and starts with Indian tribes in Colorado and ends present day (when the novel was written). The miniseries was over 20 hours.  It ran over 4 months.  It has been a fun and different way to spend a weekend. 

Link to background on the book:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centennial_(miniseries)


The Impact of Unintended Consequences

In 2001 I was fortunate to be nominated as an attendee to the South Carolina Executive Institute.  This program was for up and coming leaders in state government.  It was sponsored and administered by the South Carolina Budget and Control Board (BCB). BCB is responsible for developing a budget and selected administrative jobs for state government.  The primary teaching vehicle was case studies. It required a lot of reading and analysis, but it was well worth it. 
BCB recruited faculty from all over the U.S..  Faculty came from the University of Washington; University of Tennessee; Baruch College; and the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.  Each class had approximately 50 students and the eight sessions were held across the state. 
Facilitated by an outstanding faculty, discussions were lively and educational.  Each member brought his/her own experience and knowledge. You always left a class smarter than when you went in.
Of all the issues I recall and of all the discussions, I most remember the phrase and concept of “unintended consequences”.  It basically means an action may result in outcomes not foreseen or anticipated. 
The example I recall from class was the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978. The US government through the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) determined fares, routes, and market entry of new airlines.  President Carter appointed Alfred Kahn chairman of the CAB. Dr. Kahn was asked what will be the impact of deregulation.  (I am paraphrasing).  He responded lower fares and an increase in productivity.  He also noted a few unintended consequences.  The number of airlines will decrease to 4-5 majors.  A raft of mergers will take place.  Some airlines will fail.  Service to rural areas will decrease. 
I remember all of this.  My reason for posting this is an intro to the following article.  New York City raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour.  It promised several benefits like reducing income inequality. However, other impacts also appeared and were mostly negative in its impact.  This excellent article in the Wall Street Journal highlights a few of the unintended consequences. 
I post this because any new legislation should be examined and analyzed to include unintended consequences.  As we know from a history of government programs and laws, once a bell is rung, it is almost impossible to unring it.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

An Entrepreneur and Fine Man

One of the advantages of working in economic development is the amazing people you meet.  One man who I met was a leader in the oil industry, a true pioneer and entrepreneur.

I met him twice. Both times with potential investors. I was not one, but at the Chamber we were helping him with two groups that came to the area looking for investment opportunities.  More on this later.

After reading his obituary, I learned even more about this unique individual. His name is Marvin Gearhart and he co-founded Gearhart Industries.

Gearhart Industries made wire logging tools used by the oil industry when drilling for oil.  However, he came up with a digital tool that could feed data into a computer, leapfrogging competitors still using an analog system.  Now this small oil service provider competed with large industry leaders. like Schlumberger.  

This is a fairly common story today. A small, innovative firm develops a new technology and jumps ahead of the industry leader.  Except this was done about 45 years ago. 

Two notes of interest.  The first one, I went to the Fort Worth article in Wikipedia.  In section 11 it lists famous people who were born or lived in Fort Worth for a period of time. Marvin Gearhart was not listed.  That is a significant oversight in my opinion.

The second one.  He was giving a tour to potential investors on a bus. We were driving around the Gearhart Industries property.  We would get off, see a part of the operation and get on.  He would always as the bus driver to go to the next stop by saying "Mr. NAME, please take us to..." That always impressed me. From his obituary it sounds exactly like him. 

Link to article:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/marvin-gearhart-applied-digital-technology-to-oil-drilling-11564756202?shareToken=stce8e3cc5610b4fa8bf4d2cce3e04cd90

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Checking Regulations

I read an interesting column in the Wall Street Journal.  It was about Ohio's serious effort to curb regulation.

Regulations are important and necessary in a complex society.  It is the effort to balance individual rights with the impact to society.  From another angle, regulations also protect individuals from potential abuse.  But to ensure the maximum and positive impact of regulations, it should be under review on a consistent basis as society constantly evolves.  However, we generally do not do this.  Instead, we generally add regulations and do not ask if current regulations are still valid.  Or even worse, conflict with existing rules. 

In addition, technology changes and so do society's expectations and needs.  New technology offers more precise and accurate measuring of regulations and the impact of current regulations.  But do we use this new technology? 

However, in economic development, regulation is often viewed as an unknown. Businesses need some level of assurance and consistency.  The method and practice of determining, implementing, and enforcing regulations are a major concern to executive team expanding or siting a new facility.  Uncertainty is a major negative.  Inconsistent rules and enforcement are also negative.  To put it another way, every day a facility is not in operation, revenues are lost. It is a double hit because those revenues cannot be easily recovered. 

That is why Ohio's efforts to review and reduce regulations are an outstanding example of a positive initiative.  Ohio's new law states that for every new regulation implemented, two must be taken off the books. It is innovative and will force regulators to seriously consider new regulations and think hard about useless ones that can be removed. I do recognize that not all regulations impact business. 

Other states are considering this this innovative law.  It is a valiant effort and one worth following over the next few years.

Link to article:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-dark-day-for-red-tape-in-the-buckeye-state-11564782053?shareToken=st7989dffe4e4d4cae8feccc7d7717bda3

Friday, August 9, 2019

You Know You are (INSERT SOMETHING ODD) when You (INSERT SOMETHING EQUALLY ODD)

Yes, this is likely somewhat of a confusing title to you.  Frankly, it is to me too. 

So here is an example.  Today I confirmed one of my traits.  I am wonky (something odd) because I love history and writing (perhaps not odd things) when I chose to read a Wall Street Journal book review about the Semicolon (definitely odd).  

Yes, I get it. The title does not precisely fit the example.  So it is a work in progress.  Most writing is.  But I digress. 

Some background.  Ms. Cecelia Watson wrote a book titled “Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark".  The book reviewer is Barton Swaim.  I bet this was one of the least read book reviews in past editions of the Wall Street Journal.  However, I sure enjoyed it. The first paragraph is quite humorous. The review gave me some history (Massachusetts and liquor laws) and an excellent discussion about the ever unique semicolon. 

Frankly, I am surprised that anyone can write an entire book on the semicolon. Better yet, someone else actually wrote a review of the book. And finally, of all the stories in the Journal, I would read that one.

Well, that is my odd example. What is yours?

Link to the book review:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/semicolon-review-between-a-pause-and-a-hard-stop-11565301903?shareToken=st2a121b9eac164aadb632b2918584cf6a