Tag Archives: economy

Economy, Entrepreneurship, Fun and Behavior

Economy: Although the language is a bit salty, Mike Taibbi’s article in The Rolling Stone on how we got into this economic mess is a must read. And from the other side of the fence, read Jake DeSantis’ resignation letter from AIG.

Entrepreneurship: Here’s something you don’t hear about every day — an article from Harvard Business extolling the work of small business.  And for those of you running  small businesses, pay attention to what is the biggest benefit to your customers — communication.

Fun: Even those of you who do not like math are sure to enjoy this site, MoreNewMath.com.

Behavior: Have you heard about the woman who had the incredible memory?  A cognitive psychologist tries to figure out what makes her tick.

Behavior, Economy and Entrepreneur

Behavior: Can you name one question that Amazon uses to garner more than $2B in sales? Jared Spool can and he explains the whole process.

Economy: Hugh MacLeod, creator of the gapingvoid art and blogger, writes about how the economy of today is being purged of “Middle Seat Sellers” and how this is a good thing.

Entrepreneur: I just finished the book, The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living and I loved it. It is a very fast read and talks about the things one needs to think about before visiting your local VC or angel for funding.

Behavior, Entrepreneurship, Economy and Technology

Behavior: Last year, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist from Duke.  He gave a presentation at TED this year on cheating that discussed, among other things, a fake MIT Honor Code, sweatshirts, the Personal Fudge Factor, atheists swearing on Bibles and The Ten Commandments.

Entrepreneurship: Seth Godin wrote today about how to apportion equity in a start-up. His ideas are well thought out and I especially like the idea of appointing an arbitrator right at the start.  This advice is all the more important if your partner is also your spouse, best friend or both.

Economy: I posted recently on some ideas regarding the AIG bonus issue. Adam Davidson, writes on the NPR Blog today to tell us to look at the bigger picture and as mad as I was when I wrote about the bonuses, I think he makes some sense.

Technology: I have been a big online mapping fan from the early days of MapQuest.  Now, I normally choose Google Maps, for the richness of the experience as well as the ease of use.  Today, I found out about www.openstreetmap.org. This is an open source world street mapping program.  It is designed to be crowdsourced, meaning that like Wikipedia, everyone can be an editor.  It looks a lot like Google Maps but includes user generated features like detailed bike paths near my home that were included by a user with a GPS unit.

Fun, Economy and Technology

Fun: If this isn’t a movie soon, I will be surprised.  Joshua Davis tells the inside story of a diamond heist that although a bit long, is totally mesmerizing.

Economy: While still remaining on the topic of heists, Vanity Fair magazine has a long article on how Bernie Madoff was able to perpetuate his scam.

Technology: Ever wondered how Google prices their ads?  Here is the scoop from the Chief Economist of Google.

Technology: I wrote about tools for the entrepreneur last week.  I have found a few more that just might make the cut for you.  Officezilla is a free tool that does much of what Basecamp does for project managment.

Economy: I am not sure that I can believe this, but the Boston Globe is reporting that the FDIC needs to borrow $500 Billion to potentially prop up bad banks.  What is most interesting is that the FDIC did not collect premiums from most of their member banks from 1996 to 2006.  Why didn’t they collect the insurance premiums?  Well, Congress prevented the FDIC from collecting because they felt the FDIC was so solidly capitalized. Whoops!

Fun: What does a trillion dollars really look like? I had no idea, but half of that picture makes up what the FDIC is looking for.  Ouch.

The Big Picture, Economy and Entrepreneurship

The Big Picture: For some reason, it seems that stories come in pairs; two totally different points of view on the same topic within 24 hours.  It just happened to me.  I had read a lengthy blog post and comments on MetaFilter about a woman who is confined to a wheelchair who is looking for love.  Then along comes a New York Times article written by the husband of a woman with a spinal cord injury.  The juxtaposition of these articles certainly makes you think.

By the way, if you ever have a half hour and want to learn something new, check out AskMeFi.  There is always something interesting there. But beware, that half hour could turn into much more.

Economy: Richard Florida, an urban studies expert, wrote a very interesting article in The Atlantic about the future of the American urban centers as a result of the economic crisis.  My favorite tidbit — Mesa, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, is now larger in population than Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Miami.
Now a question for you (Not in the article).  How many state capitals have a smaller population than Naperville, IL? Answer below.

Entrepreneurship: Daniel Tenner writes about the rules about starting a business with a friend.  I ran my first business with my wife, so these ideas were near and dear to me.  We’re still together, so that says something about how we navigated these waters.

Ever Wonder Why?: Ever wonder why the Nissan.com website doesn’t belong to the Nissan Motor Company?  Well, it is a long and convoluted story.  It is a bit scary for a small business proponent.

Answers to above: Naperville had a population of 128,358 as of the 2000 census.  There are 24 state capitals with a population below Naperville’s: Juneau, Dover, Hartford, Springfield, Topeka, Frankfort, Augusta, Annapolis, Lansing, Jefferson City, Helena, Carson City, Concord, Trenton, Santa Fe, Albany, Bismark, Harrisburg, Columbia, Pierre, Montpelier, Olympia, Charleston and Cheyenne.

Entrepreneurs and the Economy

The news on the economy is bad.  Unemployment figures, credit woes and stock prices are all continuing to tell the tale of our national (and even worldwide) economy. I am not going to play the optimist here; times are tough.  But within any tough time, there are still opportunities for those willing to put themselves out there.

One of the things that I have noticed lately is that companies are looking at the expense side of their business.  In bad times, companies always look to the expense side.  That is why we see massive layoffs at the big companies.  That is also why product and service contracts are being rebid at a huge rate.

An entrepreneurial company should now be looking to increase revenue by developing clearly defined programs that will look to take advantage of this expense focus.

We know that when the big companies lay off staff, they always cut more than they should.  The common thought is that they go beyond cutting fat to cutting muscle.  Once some muscle is gone, in order to provide their products and services, they will need to go outside to get these tasks done.  The big companies look at paying for subcontractors as an advantage — no payroll taxes, no insurance, only pay when I need them.  Small companies can use this to their advantage.  Find a way to network your way into these companies — LinkedIn, recommendations from service providers, friends and family.  Demonstrate your expertise and get to work showing the big guys your stuff.

The big companies (and lots of smaller ones as well) are also looking at rebidding contracts.  Long time relationships mean less today than the bottom line.  I know of several cases where large suppliers that have a long history of working with customers are being told that the products are going out for rebid.  This is an opportunity for a smaller company, who can deliver better, faster, cheaper and more flexibly, to get into companies that were previously seen as locked down by the major supplier.

For the entrepreneur, this is not the time to huddle in your office and play the woe is me game.  This is the time to ratchet up your marketing — not necessarily in spending, but in execution.  Make sure that your story is compelling  and then:

  • Take a contact out to coffee every day.
  • Go to those networking events. Don’t be the card collector. Try to make a small number of meaningful contacts and be sure to follow-up in a timely manner with a personalized note or call.
  • Join LinkedIn or other social networking sites. Again, not to just join and collect contacts, but to understand how your network can help you find new prospects.
  • Ask someone to introduce you to their biggest client or supplier.
  • Take every opportunity to tell your story. Find any speaking engagement you can.

I don’t know when this economy will turn around.  But I do know that playing the victim will not get you where you want to be.  And the opportunities are out there.

Innovation, Leadership, Healthcare, Entrepreneurship and Economy

Innovation: When entrepreneurs get together in Chicago, a common topic of conversation is how the city fares in terms of new business.  A lot of entrepreneurs look longingly to either coast and the greener fields (in many respects 🙂 ) that beckon. McKinsey talks about innovation (not venture financing, alas), but Chicago fares pretty well in the diversity of companies that have been granted patents.  We are third in the world, behind only Silicon Valley and Toyko in one measure of developing a diversified business base.  I have always felt that this was a hidden gem in the Chicago economy, compared to the boom and bust cycles of mono-industry cities like Detroit, Houston, Denver or Hartford.

Leadership: A friend pointed me to this article on entrepreneurial leadership in this economy.  (Hat Tip: BF)

Healthcare: Should America have universal healthcare?  According to the experts, 50 million of us are not covered by health insurance.  We pay significantly more for healthcare on a per capita basis, have less access to advanced technologies and actually have worse outcomes than most other countries. Joe Conason, writes about the issue in Salon today.

Entrepreneurship: Paul Graham‘s new rallying cry is “Be Relentlessly Resourceful“.

Economy: Wonder why the prices of groceries haven’t been going down, as raw materials prices have?  So have the big grocery chains.

Talent, Wordplay, Entrepreneurship and Done

Talent: Stephen Dubner of the Freakonomics blog pointed to a poster that he found in his neighborhood in New York.  He looked at it as an interesting example of the Talent discussion that has been discussed by Colvin in Talent is Overrated and Gladwell in Outliers.  I look at it as an example of entrepreneurship starting early.

Wordplay: I love a pun more than the next guy, so I was tickled by this picture. On so many levels.

Entrepreneurship: Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo.com, wrote a deeply personal and enlightening article in Business Week on What to do if Your Startup is Failing.  No sugar coating here, but required reading for any entrepreneur in this economy. If you are still looking for that perfect business idea, check into this post on fear.

Strategy: The chatter around the The Cult of Done Manifesto is increasing.  I agree with a lot of this, but what I really love are the posters.

Failure, Warren Buffet, Writing and Wages

Entreprenurship: One of the things that entrepreneurs don’t talk a lot about is failure.  But it happens.  I know.  Failure is the toughest thing in the world to go through, but probably the best learning experience.  I know that I learned more from failures than from success, although success was much sweeter.  Here is a story of failure in entrepreneurship.

Economy: Warren Buffett writes the best shareholder letter in the industry.  He has just released the 2008 version.  Besides his recollection of “We trust in God, all others pay cash”, he recounts the good and bad (unforced errors?) that made 2008 for Berkshire-Hathaway.

Writing: I pointed last week to Paul Graham‘s article on Startups in 13 Sentences.  The folks at EtherPad, a developer of tools for collaborative editing, posted a demo of a future feature of their program that allows one to see the writing process in real time.  The sample article that they used was the Paul Graham article.  I was mesmerized.

Business: Alex Krupp writes in the SixMonthMBA blog about why entrepreneurs should get paid more than engineers. What do you think?

Economy, Reputation, Entrepreneurship & Writing

Economy: Each of us is affected by the current economic situation. Bob is a sound engineer in LA.  He has been forced to declare bankruptcy and has started a blog to document his travel along the path.

Business: One of the key guiding principles that I use in my life (both business and personal) is that your reputation is crucial to your success.  You can’t afford to mess up on a project without figuring out how to fix it, possibly at a financial loss, for example.  I may be rethinking how often I publicly declare my feelings on reputation management. Freakonomics pointed me to an interesting interview with Bernie Madoff, several years ago.

Entrepreneurship: Sales has always been one of my weakest areas.  Today, Seth Godin talked about what are the prerequisites for sales at a first grade level, just perfect for me.

Writing: As part of this blog writing thing, I have had to find my voice as a writer. I know that some of you feel that I should probably find another one, but I believe that I need to use more of a strong active voice. Cindy has written a good post today on the ways that Eric Holder is using active voice and powerful verbs. I guess I could do worse than to try to emulate him.