A GRAVE WARNING

A GRAVE WARNING

He’s wrong, at least in large part and as to ultimate effect.

The historian, at least. The reason the Roman state was the economic engine is the fact that the Roman state had in effect monopolized higher industries and technologies (used for architecture and building, military expansion and defense, manufacturing, mining, road building, ship building, etc.) and those capable of employing them.

The Roman economy was, in fact, far more reminiscent of the Nazi economy (a state-centered command and demand economy) and had been since the late Augustan age, than ours.

Having stripped away this human talent from elsewhere, and what the ancient world had as an equivalent of private enterprise (just as the Ptolemies did in Alexandria with all the scientists and inventors and philosophers and information specialists) was a Roman state that basically consumed all of the best pragmatic and technological specialists; engineers, administrators, military personnel, inventors, etc.

Once the state began to collapse there was, in effect, no private industry, markets, enterprises, or places to escape to. And trust me, if history is any guide at all then all states will eventually collapse. Entirely, or so thoroughly that it really doesn’t matter if it does survive in some crippled and hamstrung remnant.

He’s right about the fact that the state was the engine of growth, but wrong about that being any kind of real advantage. It assured that once the state had monopolized skills and industries and specializations and knowledge that any kind of state collapse would be utterly disastrous for the wider Roman world.

Once the state fell apart there was little to no private (or higher non-state) infrastructure left with which to rebuild it. The grand effect of relentless centralization is that once the center collapses so too must the frontiers.

This should be a definite warning to us. Binding American civilization wholly or too closely to the government of the United States is the mindset of a propagandized and state-educated fool.

Sure, we are still far from the state being the true engine of enterprise or the monopoly of most human talent in America (if anything the state is the very antithesis of most higher human talent and enterprise, or at least the counter to the same), but a great many ignorant and ill-educated people wish that were indeed the case.

A grave warning for us.

If you wish to bury America then make the state the center of anything and everything truly important.

That kind of ridiculous and simple-minded state-centered bullshit has been going on since Athens and Sparta and even far longer (the Assyrians, the Akkadians, the Hittites, and so on and so forth) and it rarely ends well.

Oh, it might go on a while, true enough, as long as your neighbors have nothing better to offer or are no stronger than you.

But once they do, or once they are, and your state collapses, so does your entire civilization.

Tying your civilization and its achievements and abilities too closely to your state is the most moronic of all human enterprises.

Don’t do it. It assures not only a steep and rapid decline of your nation, but an ultimate and thorough collapse of your entire civilization.

 

 

Why did the Roman Economy Decline?

I want to reflect on one leading account for the economic decline of Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. I recently encountered an explanation of this decline that strikes me as deeply problematic.

This argument is worth paying attention to as it is advanced by Peter Brownof Princeton University, who is among my favorite historians of late antiquity, and the author of influential, insightful, and often beautifully written reflections on religion and society in the late antique world. As a writer, he has the ability to make the ancient world come alive in original and unexpected ways. I particularly admire his biography of Saint Augustineand recent work on wealth in early Christianity. Nevertheless, in recent work he has been advancing a particular explanation of the decline of the Roman empire which strikes me as incompatible with both basic economics and what we know about other comparable preindustrial societies.

I’ll focus on the summary of the argument that he presents in The Rise of Western Christendom (I’ve been reading the 2013 Tenth Anniversary Revised Edition). His presentation draws heavily on Christopher Wickham’s Framing the Middle Ages . But I focus on Brown’s version here.


It should be clear that I am writing this as an economist and not as an ancient historian. But the problem with Brown’s account does not lie with his treatment of evidence or mastery of the source material but in his use and misuse of economic concepts.


The Roman State as the Engine of Growth?

In the Rise of Western Christendom, Brown summarizes the new wisdom on the transition from late antiquity to the early middle ages. He accepts that this transition brought about an economic decline — a decline evident in the radical simplification in economic life that took place. Long distance trade contracted. Cities shrank and emptied out. The division of labor became less complex. Many professions common in the Roman world disappeared.

All of this is relatively uncontroversial. At issue is what caused this decline? Traditional accounts emphasized the destruction brought about by barbarian invasions and civil wars as the frontiers of the Western Empire collapsed. These accounts emphasized a collapse in trade and increased economic insecurity. Brown, however, argues that the bulk of modern research rejects this old fashioned view. Instead, according to Brown:

The fault lay with the weakening of the late Roman state. The state had been built up to an unparalleled level in order to survive the crisis of the third century. The “downsizing” of this state, in the course of of the fifth century, destroyed the “command economy” on which the provinces had become dependent (Brown 2013, 12).

The barbarian invasions, of course, play a role in this story because they put pressure on the Roman state. But their role is peripheral. Rather, Brown contends that the Roman state was the engine of economic growth of late antiquity. Turning on its head the old view associated with Michael Rostovtzeff that attributed the decline of the Roman economy to high taxes imposed by the Emperor Diocletian and his successors, Brown argues that these high taxes were in fact the source of economic dynamism:

High taxation did not ruin the populations of the empire. Rather, high tax demands primed the pump for a century of hectic economic growth. Fiscal pressure forced open the closed economies of the countryside. The peasantry had to increase production so as to earn the money with which to pay taxes” (Brown, 2013, xxv)

He unabashedly presents the state as key to the late Roman economy:

With its insistent gathering of wealth and goods through taxes and their distribution for the maintenance of large armies, of privileged cities, of imperial palaces, and of an entire ruling class implicated in the imperial system, the late Roman state was the crude but vigorous pump which had entered the circulation of goods in an otherwise primitive economy. When this pump was removed (as in Britain) or had lost the will to tax (as in Merovingian Gaul and in the other “barbarian” kingdoms) the Roman-style economy collapsed (Brown 2013, 13).

This, I should add, is not presented by Brown as a tentative hypothesis or conjecture, but introduced as the current historical consensus. Brown is damning of historians who deviate from it, and particularly contemptuous of those inane enough to blame the decline on invading hordes of Germanic barbarians.


Let us grant that Brown is correct to present this argument as the current consensus among historians of late antiquity. The problem with it is that it is at odds with what standard economics and with what economic historians know about other preindustrial societies. To see why it is so flawed, I’ve done my best to reconstruct the argument.

  1. The first premise of Brown’s argument is that the Roman state was a sufficiently large player in Roman economy, in terms of the taxes it collected, and the money it spent on wages and armaments, that a reduction in state expenditure would have had a major impact on the rest of the Roman economy. And that any reduction in state spending would not have been compensated for by an increase in private spending.
  2. The second critical premise in Brown’s argument is that, in the absence of the demands of the tax collector, peasants would not have participated in the market economy. When “the great engine of enrichment stalled and, eventually stopped,” Brown writes: “No longer disciplined by the tax collector, the peasantry slacked off. They returned to subsistence farming”. It is crucial for Brown’s thesis that, without the pressures of the state, peasants would have produced only for subsistence.
  3. The third premise is that urban economy of the Roman empire served solely or predominantly to satisfy demands of Roman elites whose incomes were crucially dependent on the state. So when these state incomes declined so did Roman cities.

From these three premises, it follows that when the ability of the Roman state to collect taxes and spend tax revenues became severely damaged in the fifth century, the Roman economy went into fairly rapid decline. No longer forced to pay taxes in cash, peasants ceased producing goods for market. No longer emporia for the disbursement of state largesse, the cities of the western Empire went into decline. As the Roman fiscal state declined:

incomes dwindled, the rich no long reached out, as they had done in the glory days of the fourth century, to buy fine pottery, statuary, high-quality wines and exotic foods. They made do with the products of their region.

This, then, is Brown’s explanation for the decline of the Roman economy. It turns out that when examined one by one each one of these premises is either on shaky grounds factually, economically, or requires us to make implausible assumptions.


I think the first premise rests on a misunderstanding of textbook Keynesianism. Simply put, conventional Keynesian theory suggests that in a recession when resources are unemployed, an increase in government spending can in the short-run increase aggregate demand (either directly or via inflationary expectations). The details of this simple proposition have been endlessly critiqued and debated. But we will skip over this. What is important to note is that for standard textbook Keynesianism, this is a short-run effect. In the textbook models aggregate demand should eventually recover (via the real-balance effect). Government spending has the ability to speed up the recovery.

None of this suggests that in the long-run government spending is required to “prime the pump”. Indeed this language suggests a misunderstanding. For conventional Keynesians, the multiplier on government spending boosts short-run aggregate demand, but aggregate demand is not the binding constraint on long-run growth, supply is; growth depends on the productive capacity of the economy.

If anything, the impact of the Roman tax state on the productive capacity of the economy was more likely to be negative rather than positive. Resources were diverted from the private hands of peasants, merchants and small landowners and diverted into the hands of soldiers and officeholders.

For Brown’s thesis to hold, therefore, the Roman economy must have been in danger of continuous secular stagnation. Brown’s second premise alludes to one such source of stagnation. If peasants refused to participate in the monied economy this could indeed be a source of involution. That is, if peasant incomes went up and they spent none of this on urban-based manufactured goods but consumed the entirety of their higher incomes in the form of greater leisure. That is, Brown’s argument requires that at the margin, peasants preferred additional leisure to the wide array of affordable manufactured consumers goods that were on offer in markets and shops across the Roman empire. This is not impossible. But it is at odds with what we know about peasant behavior in other commercial societies such as early modern Europe. If we relax this highly implausible assumption, then the argument that the urban economy required the fiscal-military state, falls apart.

A similar knife-edge assumption is required for his third premise. Research on the earlier Roman empire suggests that the large cities of the empire were not merely “consumer cities” parasitical on the countryside but centers of urban production and manufacturing (see). Brown’s argument requires us to believe that if, for instance, the Roman state stopped spending on armor and weapons in a city, then the blacksmith and armor manufacturer would go out of business. This is a classic case of focusing on the seen and missing the unseen. It neglects the fact that lower taxes would give individuals more disposable income and they would likely spend some of this income to purchase amphora, pottery, textiles or other urban goods that we know the Roman economy was capable of producing. The blacksmith might switch to producing pots and pans rather than swords but he would not then go out of business.


If Brown’s account is implausible, what does account for the decline? The best account I am aware of is Bryan Ward-Perkin’s The Fall of the Roman Empire and the End of Civilization which Brown dismisses as “tendentious and ill-supported polemics”.

The collapse of the Roman state was catastrophic, not because the Roman state was an engine of economic growth, as Brown contends, but because it provided, albeit imperfectly, the public good of defense. In the absence of this, transactions costs greatly increased, long-distance trade declined, markets contracted, and urbanization declined.


Addendum: The Size of the Late Roman state.

Here I explore a related aspect of Brown’s account that appears problematic: his claims about the size of the late Roman state.

Brown claims that the post-Diocletian Roman state was a “command economy” capable of mobilizing tremendous resources and driving the Roman economy. I am skeptical of such a description being an accurate description of a premodern state. Prior to the railway and telegraph, there were severe limits to ability of states to direct economic activity. To get a feel for things I tried a back of the envelope calculation of the size of late Roman fiscal military state.

The main component of the Roman state was the army. The army grew considerably after Diocletian’s reforms. The exact size of the new army is subject to considerable controversy. John Lydos estimated the Roman army to comprise 389,704 men and a navy of 45,562. The largest estimates are based on Agathias and date from the mid-sixth century. These suggest that the total size of army and navy was around 645,000 (580,000 in the army and around 65,000 in the navy). Historians tend to think these number are too high but we will accept them for the purpose of the argument (Agathias is critiquing the government of his day by showing that the army had declined greatly from the days of Diocletian).

Unfortunately estimates of the Roman population are extremely rough and we don’t have any good numbers of the 3rd century. The population of the Roman empire c. 160 is estimated to have been between 60–70 million. The population in 300 was likely lower than this, though it is unlikely that it was substantially smaller, as recent research suggests that the economic vitality of the empire did not collapse as rapidly in the 3rd century as was once thought.

If we take the largest estimate of the size of the Roman army and take a pessimistic view of Roman population in 300 estimating it to be 50 million (noting that is a pure guesstimate and not based on any definite evidence), we obtain an estimate that the Roman army made up 1.3% of the population. If we employ John Lydos’s numbers we obtain an estimate of 0.87% of the population.

These numbers do not suggest that the Roman army was especially large or burdensome in comparison to other advanced preindustrial societies. In the late seventeenth century, the armies of Louis XIV represented as much as 2% of the French population of 20 million. The Dutch Republic in the 1750s also employed 2% of its population in its armed forces (45,000 out of a population of 2.25 million). The Prussian state employed around 3.5% of its population in the army in the mid-eighteenth centuries. Even Britain employed around 1.2% of its population in its army as perhaps as much as 3.8% of its population in the navy at the height of the Napoleonic wars (approximately 400,000 out of a population of 10.5 million).

What about the size of the Roman bureaucracy? It is accepted that the bureaucracy of the principate was tiny (perhaps 10,000 individuals, many of them freemen and slaves of the imperial household). The late Roman bureaucracy was substantially larger. But even if the bureaucracy after Diocletian was ten or fifteen times larger than that of the Augustinian empire, it would not meaningfully change our comparisons. At most around 1.6 % of the population would have been state employees (either soldiers or bureaucrats).

These numbers are not trivial. They certainly attest to the tax-raising powers of the Roman state. The successor states would not be able to maintain professional armies or bureaucrats at all. Nevertheless, it seems implausible to describe a state that employed less than 2% of the population as a “command economy”.

PROSPERITY AND ACTION

A good article from my friend Steve. You should pay his site(s) a visit and read his advice.

5 things prosperous copywriters do all day

Steve Roller, prosperous copywriter trainer

One of my favorite blog posts ever appeared exactly eight years ago in the Daily Reckoning, titled, “The Three Things Rich People Do All Day.”

In the piece, Chris Mayer concludes that reading, conversing with people who know what you’d like to know, and thinking are the three things rich people do all day.

After hanging out with some pretty high achievers the last couple years, and aspiring to be one of the wealthy myself, I have to agree with him.

On the ride home from my Ultimate Writing Retreat™ in Chicago nine days ago, I came up with my own list of 5 things that prosperous copywriters do all day:

1. Read. Read classic copywriting books by Eugene Schwartz, David Ogilvy, and Claude Hopkins. Read contemporary classics by Dan Kennedy, Clayton Makepeace, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton.

Read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and your local paper (if you have local clients.) Read classic literature by Hemingway and Hugo, as well as airport paperbacks by John Grisham and Stephen King. Read!

2. Think. You simply have to spend time deep thinking about Big Ideas. How else are you going to come up with a new angle for a client promotion? It’s not all nose-to-the-grindstone, furious writing time that accomplishes that.

Or think about Big Ideas for your own business.

How are you going to convince your prospects to do business with you instead of the dozens of other copywriters who are just as good as you, in the same niche? How can you provide more value while working faster and making sure your clients get a good return on investment? What is your Big “off the chart” Idea that could send your business soaring?

3. Talk to interesting people.

I spent 67 hours recently hanging out with some very interesting people in Chicago. We coined at least three new terms that you’ll probably be hearing about in the next few months. We launched two new businesses, re-launched two more, and came up with strategy that could turn two of them into million-dollar businesses.

When I’m in my office, I probably spend two hours a day on average conversing with copywriters who are trying to get to the next level. I ask  questions to get them thinking in a different way. I challenge them. I offer critiques if they ask. I give offbeat advice.

Once in a while, I inspire someone to go out and do really big things. Very rewarding, all of it. I benefit from these conversations, too.

Be selective about the company you keep, and spend the time in meaningful discussions.

4. Write stuff that other people will pay you for. Ask yourself at every turn, “Is this making me money?” or “Is it leading me quickly to a place where I’ll make money doing it?”

If you’re writing a special report that prospects will download to get on your mailing list, which you’ll then use to market your other services to them, the answer is “yes.” Writing an article for “exposure” and the promise of possible work down the road? Your call, but I’d say “no.”

5. Write things that build your own business. One of the “eureka” moments at the Chicago retreat was that you don’t have to figure out how to write copy for clients. Create a business around something you love, and write all the marketing copy for it.

When you’re writing copy for your own high-end luxury watch tours to Basel, Switzerland, or for helping CEOs become insanely great at presentation skills, things get pretty fun! Think of copywriting as a means to an end.

If you were a fly on the wall of my office, those are the five things you’d find me doing every day. Reading, thinking, talking to interesting people, writing stuff that people pay me for, and writing to build my own business.

Do you have any others you’d add to the list? Any you’d take off this list? Where can you do all five of these at once, in a three-day intensive writing experience like you’ve never seen before? Asheville, North Carolina, of course. July 17-20.

It’ll be another one for the ages: http://cafewriter.com/asheville/

Hope to see you there. I have a few ideas of what we’ll talk about.

the copywriter's life

the copywriter’s life

SILVERCAR AND AUDI

Audi Leads $28M Investment In Rental Startup Silvercar

Silvercar, a startup rethinking the auto rental experience in airports, already seems pretty tied to Audi — after all, every vehicle that Silvercar rents out is a silver Audi. Now the companies are deepening that relationship with a $28 million Series C investment.

Audi led the round, with the company’s North American president Scott Keogh joining Silvercar’s board of directors. Silvercar and Audi are also looking beyond airports with a new initiative called the Audi Shared Fleet, where businesses will be able to offer cars to employees on their corporate campuses.

“Silvercar represents not just the future of the car rental industry, but a vision for the future of mobility,” Keogh said in the funding release “We want to utilize the company’s strengths in technology and innovation to merge connectivity and mobility for today’s consumer.”

Silvercar has raised a total of $60 million in funding. Previous investors Austin Ventures and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin also participated in the new round.

The service doesn’t just offer every customer access to the same high-end vehicle. It also streamlines the reservation and payment process, allowing you to make bookings through a mobile app and unlock the car by just scanning a QR code.Writer Ryan Lawler (now sadly departed from TechCrunch) tried the service out three years ago in Dallas-Fort Worth, Silvercar’s very first airport. He came away impressed with “the ease of getting in and out of the airport rental dock,” and he suggested that business travelers, in particular, might be willing to pay a premium to get a better experience. (The exact pricing varies from market to market.)

The company says its business tripled in 2015, and it’s now launching in its twelfth market, Las Vegas, just in time for this week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

FEATURED IMAGE: SILVERCAR

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

THE ESSENTIAL WORK METHOD

I have been experimenting with a new way of Working that is succeeding quite well. I have narrowed down all of the really important things I do every Work Day plus on my 3 Sabbaths and reduced them to 4 (or less) Essential Items. I therefore get up every day and do these 4 Essential Items every day first thing.

Then, and only after these 4 Essential Items are done do I go on to the rest of my schedule and whatever else I have to do. This assures I do the most Essential things first and foremost without excuse or interruption or interference.

This system has worked out extremely well for me… I highly recommend it. This is my Personal System (below). Of course develop one of your own to cover what is most essential to achieve for you.

________________________________________________________

DAILY AND WEEKLY ESSENTIAL THINGS

Monday

Blog
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Writing Submissions

Tuesday

Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Gaming Project
Business Submissions

Wednesday

Site Commenting and Sharing
Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Invention Submissions

Thursday

Book or Novel or Story Writing – 1000 to 2500 words per day
Start Up Business or Entrepreneurial Projects
Songwriting and Composing and Poetry
Songwriting Submissions

Friday

Blog
Idea and Invention and Investment Generation and Mental Sabbath
Meetings and Networking and Travel and Field Trips

Saturday

Sharing and Reblogging
Recreation and Psychological Sabbath and Rest

Sunday

Spiritual Sabbath and Church
Prayer, Study Bible, and Theurgy and Thaumaturgy
Rest

IN NEED OF

IN NEED OF

I am in immediate need of the following things:

  1. BETA READERS for my fictional writings and novels and (if you wish) the poetry and songs that I intend to publish. I want only brutally honest opinions, and I want a wide range of readers/reader-types. (There will be no pay but I will exchange favors and see to it that you are provided with free copies of the finished works). Confidentiality regarding my writings will be expected of course, and I will restrict my beta readers to maybe 6 to 8 people, but I will treat you right.
  1. A good, decent, hard-working, and ambitious LITERARY AGENT (to match myself).
  1. An EMPLOYEE TEAM for my start-ups. (People to run the businesses, handle marketing, and run day to day operations while I and my partners handle funding and investors, etc.) More on that later.
  1. A TEAM OF BUSINESS BUILDERS/DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS (start-ups primarily but we may also handle brokerage and turn-arounds on rare occasions) to be put together to found and profit from new business ventures. More on that soon.
  1. PARTNERS to work with me on developing and designing (CAD and prototype designs) my inventions and app designs.
  1. GAME DESIGN PARTNERS who can take the games I’ve designed and/or written and either build physical products out of them or in the case of computer and video games program basic builds that we can use to pitch to game studios.

 

A brief word of explanation on the above:

Beta Readers – I tend to write my fictional works, short stories, and novels in the following genres: children’s stories, detective and mysteries, espionage, fantasy and myth, historical fiction, horror, and science fiction. My current novel is a high fantasy/myth about Prester John and the Byzantine Empire. I tend to insert a lot of historical and literary references into most of my works. I would not expect my Beta Readers to provide me with detailed critiques or edits, though if you wished to do so that’s up to you. I’m really just looking for basic opinions and do you like the plot, stories, works, etc., and do you have any advice for improvements? As I said I’m open to favor exchanges and free copies of my works.

Also, when it comes to my songs I write the lyrics but I have no real time right now for composing. If you are a composer or lyricist and you wish to enter into a song-writing partnership with me then we will split the credits and your contributions and shares of any successful songs will be protected by contract.

Literary Agent – I want a literary agent with a wide range of interests and one with whom I can develop both a professional relationship and a personal friendship. (I much prefer doing business with people I enjoy.) I want a literary agent who is ambitious, as I am, and one who can help me make my writings successful so that we may both profit handsomely.

Employee Team – more on this later but I’m looking for a good employee team as well as a strong, tight, efficient, and profitable team of administrators, managers, and officers.

Business Builder/Investor/Investment Team – more on this later but I need good people from all areas/sections of the country, and possibly members from outside the US, who can look realistically at start-ups and help develop and fund them into successful enterprises. Backgrounds in brokerage, business building and development, communications, entrepreneurship, investment, and deal-making most desired. But we can also look at other backgrounds. Realistically risk will be high, and loss always possible, but profits should be considerable on successful ventures. This will be both a business creation and development and investment team, sort of like an Investment Club but with a far wider range of interests and with more hands on developmental involvement.

Invention Partners – partners in design and prototyping and product development. We’ll start out with my inventions and maybe yours as well and possibly graduate to taking stakes in other inventions and related businesses if the idea seems solid and viable.

Game Design Partners – people who can take my game designs, and your own, and build programs or physical products out of them. Depending on how much you contribute we’ll take profit shares on sales of the games, regardless of whether it is by the game or we sell the designs outright. As with the inventions your work will always be attributed in the design and protected as a share of profit by contract.

Finally you should know that in working with me my very basic and fundamental Worldview is that I am a Christian by religion, spirituality, philosophy, and nature, a Conservative (with some strong Libertarian leanings) in cultural and political and social matters, and a Capitalist when it comes to economics and monetary affairs.

Therefore I am a disciple and proponent of the teachings of Christ (Truth, Justice, Personal Honor, Honesty, and Fair Treatment of all based on individual behavior are extremely important to me, and I tend to like Charity and Philanthropy), God is my mentor and my best friend, I am Conservative in nature and very much believe in Hard Work and Personal Effort and Individual Initiative and Self-Discipline, and I am pro-Business, Development, Entrepreneurship, and Wealth. I also like to see people exploit their own talents and benefit and profit thereby. I set extremely high goals for both myself and others, and I expect much, but think I am fair and just to work with. I do discriminate and unapologetically so, but not regarding matters of background, class, race, or sex. I only discriminate between good and bad behavior, and between industry and laziness. As a boss or partner I will not long endure intentionally bad or destructive or self-destructive or foolish or apathetic behavior. I am not at all bothered by failure if you seek to improve and advance the next time.

If that all sounds fine by you and you are interested in any of these ventures then please contact me via email or by my Facebook or Linked-In pages or through my blogs or other webpages. We’ll begin Work.

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT from POLITICAL CAUSE

WHEN GOVERNMENTS DIRECT THE MARKETS

When governments direct markets the very best that they can possibly hope to achieve is misdirection.

 

Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

By SPIEGEL Staff

Photo Gallery: The Costs of Green EnergyPhotos
DPA

Germany’s agressive and reckless expansion of wind and solar power has come with a hefty pricetag for consumers, and the costs often fall disproportionately on the poor. Government advisors are calling for a completely new start.

If you want to do something big, you have to start small. That’s something German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier knows all too well. The politician, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has put together a manual of practical tips on how everyone can make small, everyday contributions to the shift away from nuclear power and toward green energy. The so-called Energiewende, or energy revolution, is Chancellor Angela Merkel’s project of the century.

“Join in and start today,” Altmaier writes in the introduction. He then turns to such everyday activities as baking and cooking. “Avoid preheating and utilize residual heat,” Altmaier advises. TV viewers can also save a lot of electricity, albeit at the expense of picture quality. “For instance, you can reduce brightness and contrast,” his booklet suggests.Altmaier and others are on a mission to help people save money on their electricity bills, because they’re about to receive some bad news. The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike.

German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energypolicy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany, and one of the country’s most important future-oriented projects is acutely at risk.

After the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan two and a half years ago, Merkel quickly decided to begin phasing out nuclear power and lead the country into the age of wind and solar. But now many Germans are realizing the coalition government of Merkel’s CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) is unable to cope with this shift. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the public has any more confidence in a potential alliance of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. The political world is wedged between the green-energy lobby, masquerading as saviors of the world, and the established electric utilities, with their dire warnings of chaotic supply problems and job losses.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin.

Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”

Paying Big for Nothing

For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. Solar panels and wind turbines at times generate huge amounts of electricity, and sometimes none at all. Depending on the weather and the time of day, the country can face absurd states of energy surplus or deficit.

If there is too much power coming from the grid, wind turbines have to be shut down. Nevertheless, consumers are still paying for the “phantom electricity” the turbines are theoretically generating. Occasionally, Germany has to pay fees to dump already subsidized green energy, creating what experts refer to as “negative electricity prices.”

On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.

If there is still an electricity shortfall, energy-hungry plants like the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Hamburg are sometimes asked to shut down production to protect the grid. Of course, ordinary electricity customers are then expected to pay for the compensation these businesses are entitled to for lost profits.

The government has high hopes for the expansion of offshore wind farms. But the construction sites are in a state of chaos: Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting.

In the current election campaign, the parties are blaming each other for the disaster. Meanwhile, the federal government would prefer to avoid discussing its energy policies entirely. “It exposes us to criticism,” says a government spokesman. “There are undeniably major problems,” admits a cabinet member.

But this week, the issue is forcing its way onto the agenda. On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.

The experts propose changing the system to resemble a model long successful in Sweden. If implemented, it would eliminate the more than 4,000 different subsidies currently in place. Instead of bureaucrats setting green energy prices, they would be allowed to develop indepedently on a separate market. The report’s authors believe the Swedish model would lead to faster and cheaper implementation of renewable energy, and that the system would also become what it is not today: socially just.

Trouble Paying the Bills

When Stefan Becker of the Berlin office of the Catholic charity Caritas makes a house call, he likes to bring along a few energy-saving bulbs. Many residents still use old light bulbs, which consume a lot of electricity but are cheaper than newer bulbs. “People here have to decide between spending money on an expensive energy-saving bulb or a hot meal,” says Becker. In other words, saving energy is well and good — but only if people can afford it.

A family Becker recently visited is a case in point. They live in a dark, ground-floor apartment in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood. On a sunny summer day, the two children inside had to keep the lights on — which drives up the electricity bill, even if the family is using energy-saving bulbs.

Becker wants to prevent his clients from having their electricity shut off for not paying their bill. After sending out a few warning notices, the power company typically sends someone to the apartment to shut off the power — leaving the customers with no functioning refrigerator, stove or bathroom fan. Unless they happen to have a camping stove, they can’t even boil water for a cup of tea. It’s like living in the Stone Age.

Once the power has been shut off, it’s difficult to have it switched on again. Customers have to negotiate a payment plan, and are also charged a reconnection fee of up to €100. “When people get their late payment notices in the spring, our phones start ringing,” says Becker.

In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000.Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted. As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.

UNFINISHED PROJECTS

Had a superb idea for a new on-line business venture (start-up) called Unfinished Projects. I’m going to be approaching some potential partners with the idea later this week.

At this point I am merely creating the design sketches and outline for the business, but in a relatively short period of time I could easily develop both business and operating plans.

SHEDQUARTERS

I think this is an absolutely superb idea, especially for small businesses. I wish I had thought of this product.

Introducing “Shedquarters”: The Hot New Trend Home-Based Business Owners Are Drooling Over

lighterside-staff-authorBy Lighter Side Staff  |  Read More
 

Space-efficient work spaces are becoming all the rage these days. They’re great for maintaining privacy and uninterrupted workflow, and they can also be cozy and stylish as well. Here are some examples of a growing trend of miniature studios (for offices and living structures), that are small enough to fit in someone’s back yard.

We’re fond of calling them, shedquarters. Whether you need your own getaway space, an office, an art studio, or a full on extra home, there’s something for everyone out there!

Kanga Room: Based out of Austin, Texas, Kanga Room has backyard studios in three styles: modern, country cottage, and bungalow. The basic package is an 8×8-foot shed that starts around $5,900 and you can add on a bathroom, kitchenette, and front porch for additional cost.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Modern Shed: This Seattle-based company was founded by husband and wife, Ryan Grey Smith and Ahna Holder. They create flat-packed prefab structures. Basic 8×10 sheds start at $6,900.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Weehouse by Alchemy Architects: The Weehouse Studio was designed by Minnesota’s Alchemy Architects. They start at 435 square feet, and include a main room and bathroom. It can be used as either a home office, guest house, or even a main residence.

Via Apartment Therapy

KitHaus: The KitHause was designed by Tom Sandonato and Martin Wehmann. It is a modular site-constructed prefab housing system. The K-Pod is the starting model and measures 117 square feet. They also have larger models.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Modern Spaces: “Forts for grown-ups!” Yep, that’s how they describe them. These come in four pretty boxy styles. A fully installed shed with a foundation and finished exterior starts at $6,000. On-site installation is currently only available to California residents.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Loftcube: Werner Aisslinger designed these sheds to make the extra space on top of city skyscrapers more productive. He was able to fit a kitchen and bathroom within these 400 square foot glass-walled studios.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Modern Cabana: The sheds from this San Francisco company start at 10×12 feet, but they have full studios with kitchens and baths. The basic model is perfect for a backyard office, with its sliding door.

Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy
Via Apartment Therapy

Metroshed: The MetroShed, by David Ballinger, is a prefab, flat-packed model that starts around $6,000. This a simple design is made of a cedar wood beam post frame with aluminum-frame sliding doors, and comes in 9×13 feet or larger.

Via Metro Prefab
Via Metro Prefab

Related article: ‘Pub-Sheds’ Quickly Becoming Hot Trend in Backyard Entertainment

MARK CUBAN’S ADVICE

Simplistic, yet very sound and useful advice.

Mark Cuban’s 3 fundamental rules for running a business

Mark Cuban is the billionaire investor best known for his roles as a “Shark” and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

Throughout his career, he’s made over 120 investments, from large companies like Landmark Theatres to startups on “Shark Tank.”

For all of the businesses he’s been a part of, he’s developed a set of “rules that have been almost infallible,” he writes in his 2013 book “How to Win at the Sport of Business.”

We’ve summarized the three he’s used “religiously.”

1. Understand the difference between adding value and benefiting from a bull market.

In the same way that some stock market investors think they’re geniuses when they keep picking stocks that go up, failing to acknowledge that all stocks are doing the same thing, Cuban says entrepreneurs can fail to recognize that a good deal of their success is due to a fad or trend.

“There is nothing wrong with going along for the ride and making money at it, but it will catch up with you if you lie to yourself and give yourself credit for the ride,” he writes.

Cuban says that he saw this happen with professional sports leagues in the aughts. He says that many team owners became enamored with rising revenues from television rights deals, crediting it to their own “brilliance.” He says, however, that he and his Mavericks partners recognized that revenues were actually rising due to competition among cable and satellite providers. Cuban couldn’t become complacent.

“It’s a bigger challenge to recognize that the bull market may end and our programming needs to be of sufficient value to our customers and viewers for it to maintain or continue to increase in value,” he writes.

2. Win the battles you’re in before moving onto new ones.

Cuban writes that he had a chance to take Landmark Theatres international but that any time spent on developing a global presence was time not spent growing its national presence, and so he decided against it.

“You do not have unlimited time and/or attention,” he writes. “You may work 24 hours a day, but those 24 hours spent winning your core business will pay off far more. It might cost you some longer-term upside, but it will allow you to be the best business you can be.”

3. Don’t drown in opportunity.

“If you are adding new things when your core businesses are struggling rather than facing the challenge, you are either running away or giving up,” Cuban writes. “Rarely is either good for a business.”

Melissa Carbone, president of horror attraction company Ten Thirty One Productions, tells Business Insider that after the $2 million deal she made with Cuban on “Shark Tank” went public, she was flooded with partnership and investment offers, some of which were quite attractive.

Cuban told her to take a step back and not let emotions make her impulsive. She says she still hears Cuban’s voice in her head reminding her, “Don’t drown in opportunity.”

REFERENTIAL TREATMENT

Wise advice when referring to such enterprises.

In my opinion references are not only a two way street, they are a multi-lane overpass leading in so many possible directions that you never know where the road might eventually end. If it does end.

References should be looked upon the same way you look upon clients and employees, as Human Capital.

 

5 Things Super-Smart People Do to Prepare Their References

Great references can help you clinch a job offer or new client. So why not help them help you?
IMAGE: Getty Images

You’ve applied for a job or pitched a new customer. Interest seemed high, and you’ve provided a list of references in hopes of closing the deal. But do you know exactly what those references will say, and whether–even inadvertently–they’re failing to make you seem like a top contender?

Before you give a reference, your best strategy is to know exactly what that reference will say. And while it can seem awkward to prepare a reference for questions he or she may receive, that’s exactly what you should do. That advice comes from career counselor Peter K. Studner, author of the book and website Super Job Search IV. Here’s the approach he recommends:

1. Choose your references carefully.

You want your reference to not only sing your praises, but also support any claims you’ve made about your skills, or the qualities of your product and service. So try to choose people who’ve had specific experiences that will show you and your work in the best light. If you’re referring customers, look for those who can tell a good story about how your product or service solved a problem in exactly the way you want to promote. If you’re applying for a job, consider former managers–but also people you’ve managed and helped to mentor, particularly if you’re looking for a managerial position.

“In addition, put some thought into how your references might present you to potential employers,” Studner advises. “Effective references are good communicators who can discuss you and your work in an objective manner without exaggerating.” A reference who’s bad at communication, impossible to reach, or will offer an unnecessarily long-winded tribute might do you more harm than good.

2. Figure out how each reference can best help you.

An innocent comment about your personality or approach can easily raise a red flag with a hiring manager or cautious customer, so try to have as good an idea as you can of what your reference might say. If you can, set the stage by letting each reference know the specific skills or benefits of your product you would like them to mention. This might be different from reference to reference, and depending on the customer or job you’re seeking.

3. Meet with your references.

Ideally, Studner says, this should be an in-person meeting, but you can also talk by phone or video chat if that’s impractical. Keep in mind that, both for the meeting and for the reference itself, you’re asking someone to sacrifice their time–the most precious commodity any professional has these days. So use that time wisely, and express your appreciation.

4. Ask the tough questions.

That is, the same tough questions that a prospective customer or employer is likely to ask. An employer might ask why you left the company, what your greatest areas for improvement were, and whether they would hire you again. If you’re applying for a managerial position, they will ask about your leadership skills. They are also likely to ask who else in the company managed you–and then also contact these others and ask for their thoughts as well, even if you did not list them as a reference. Both you and your reference should be prepared for this question.

A prospective customer may ask about anything that went wrong with your product or service, whether they would purchase it again, and may also ask if your reference can refer them to any other of your current or past customers. They may also ask about any price concessions you made. Your reference should be prepared to answer all of these.

5. Keep in touch.

Don’t think of your references as a one-time need. They’re an asset to your career just like your resume or branding materials. So keep them in the loop about jobs you’ve applied for or customers you’ve pitched so they’re not caught by surprise when these companies get in touch. If appropriate, ask the reference to let you know if they’ve been contacted and how the conversation went.

Going forward, nurture the relationship. Look for opportunities to send your reference useful articles or make introductions that might benefit him or her. Remember that references can make or break your career. “Don’t treat references as an afterthought,” Studner says.

HARMONIZING BUSINESS AND CAREER – THE MARKETS

An interesting article.

But this is exactly why I have harmonized my Business (as a non-fiction writer and copywriter and inventor) enterprises and my Career (as a fiction writer and designer) ventures.

By having my Business and Careers complimenting each other I avoid the “I hate this job syndrome” (actually I very much enjoy everything I do) and I expect this will inevitably advance and accelerate both my Business and Career successes.

Whereas both sets of markets may by separate by nature, and operate differently to some degree, both are complimentary and entirely cross-fertilizing in the long run.

Vonnegut Sold Saabs: 11 Author Day Jobs

Gabe Habash — August 5th, 2011


We all have that same romanticized image of The Writer: sitting alone, hunched over his/her desk, pen in hand, thinking deeply about Writing before putting the pen to the page and Writing. But, unfortunately, doing this for long stretches of time doesn’t pay the bills, and that’s why things like Sylvia Plath working as a receptionist in the psychiatric unit at Massachusetts General Hospital happen. Writers are normal people, too. Just how normal? Here’s a few of our favorite writer day job finds:

1. John Steinbeck was a caretaker and tour guide at a fish hatchery in Lake Tahoe, where he worked on his first novel and also met his future first wife, Carol Henning. She was a tourist on one of his tours.

2. Douglas Adams first thought of the idea for A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while moonlighting as a hotel security guard in London.

3. Jeanette Winterson, in addition to driving an ice cream truck, was a make-up artist at a funeral parlor.

4. Dashiell Hammett was hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency as an “operative” at age 21. His job description included staking out houses and trailing suspects. He was thankful for the work; his previous job had been a nail machine operator.

5. Robert Frost changed light bulb filaments in a factory in Massachusetts shortly before he sold his first poem, “My Butterfly: An Elegy” in 1894 for $15.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was the manager of a Saab dealership in Cape Cod, after he’d already published his first novel, Player Piano. The dealership was supposedly Saab’s first in America.

7. Jack London was an “oyster pirate.” At night, he would raid the oyster beds of big-time oyster farmers and sell them in the Oakland markets.

8. Jean Rhys, a 23-year-old and in need of money, posed nude for a British artist.

9. James Ellroy led a life of petty crime and shoplifting as a wayward youth, most likely as a response to his confusion following his mother’s unsolved murder.

10. Harper Lee struggled when she first moved to New York at age 23, working as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines before befriending Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown. In 1956, Brown gave Lee a Christmas present: a year’s wages so she could devote herself full-time to her craft. During this time, she began work on what would eventually become To Kill a Mockingbird.

11. Ken Kesey, in order to earn some extra cash, was a guinea pig for the psych department at Stanford in a CIA-sponsored drug experiment. As a result of the drugs, Kesey had hallucinations of an Indian sweeping the floors, which compelled him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Which mundane (or strange) day jobs for writers have we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

 

A VALIANT EFFORT

I have to admit that if I were Valiant comics, and given Valiant’s roster of characters, having a Chinese entertainment company as a capital and marketing/production partner would probably seem like a near ideal arrangement.

 

Valiant Comics Plans to Launch Its Own ‘Cinematic Universe’

By

Fear not: There will be no shortage of comic-book movies in years to come, even if DC and Marvel give up on constantly rebooting Batman and Spider-Man. The independent comic-book publisher Valiant Entertainment has secured an eight-figure equity investment from Beijing-based DMG Entertainment, plus an additional nine figures for the production of film and TV projects. The publisher has a library of 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar and Harbinger, and films based on the titles Bloodshot, Shadowman, and Archer & Armstrong were already in the works. Valiant says its partnership with DMG — which co-produced and co-financed Iron Man 3 — will allow it to “begin to establish its cinematic universe in the United States, China and beyond.”

The two companies plan to develop more superhero films for simultaneous release in the U.S. and China, and to expand Valiant’s Asian audience via Chinese-language publishing, animation, online games, merchandise, and theme parks.

“Audiences in China and the rest of the world are hungry for heroic stories that they can more easily relate to … and with the international box office accounting for the biggest piece of the total gross, the time is right for a truly international superhero franchise,” said DMG President Wu Bing in a press release. “DMG will bring its unique global perspective to the task of transforming the Valiant Universe into the first international comic-movie universe.”

 

NO MAN IS A CHAMILLIONAIRE UNLESS HE WANTS TO BE

I don’t know this guy from Adam, and I don’t care much for modern rap. But I will say this, many rappers (not all, but many) seem to have a good eye for business and turn out to be excellent entrepreneurs. So it is no surprise to me at all that they would turn their attention to or be involved in Capital Ventures and Start-Up operations.

So I say let the boy run as far as he can run, and Godspeed to his ventures.  Hope they are enormously successful.

And I fully and definitely agree with this sentiment on the part of the author of this article: No man should restrict himself to a single venture when he could master many.

 

Chamillionaire Is Now An Entrepreneur In Residence at a Venture Capital Firm

In a letter penned by VC Mark Suster explaining the head-turning week he’s had at Upfront Ventures in Los Angeles, he explains the presence of a new face around the office: Chamillionaire. The same Chamillionaire who was showing us how to get our respective shines on not a decade ago. But if Kanye has taught us anything, it’s that we can find success in multiple creative outlets. In the past five years or so, Cham has been quietly but actively involved in the tech startup scene, from speaking on social media engagement in the music industry to hanging out with Y Combinator associates.

He’s also been making some investments himself. He was one of the earliest investors in Maker Studios, an online video network founded in 2009 and sold to Disney for $500 million last year. The firm he’s currently hanging with and advising, Upfront Ventures, has a vast portfolio that includes some acquired startups such as Bill Me Later (Rick Ross may or may not have been referring to this method of monetary transaction on his verse for Nicki Minaj’s “I Am Your Leader”). Suffice it to say that Chamillionaire has transcended the days when he explained on YouTube how Michael Jordan sonned him, or maybe that was just an early example of his Internet savvy and ability to manipulate viral stories and plant social media engagement. At any rate, in a world in which Internet entrepreneurs like Ben Horowitz make business decisions through the inspiration of rap songs, it’s not surprising to see that we now have rappers getting their own piece of the pie.

We can all agree that Chamillionaire should be given a platform to speak at the next TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

 

 

THE ADVENTURES OF END-OVER: THE BUTT-NAKED BUSINESSMAN

I thought about posting this to my literary blog, but… then I thought to myself, no, this story contains so many of the lessons I’ve learned in business and regarding corporate espionage that I’ll put it here, on Launch Port.

I’ll continue writing the story in sections and then serialize it here on Launch Port. Enjoy.

 

THE BUTT-NAKED BUSINESSMAN


Chapter One: The Breeched Bureau

(First Draft)

End-Over placed his luggage at the foot of the bureau. The important thing about a bureau in his mind, if you were going to have one at all, was that it be tightly arranged and well ordered. Most people didn’t understand this, even those who made much use of bureaus. Then again, most people started at the over, and not at the end. He had been born breeched. The end as the logical starting place was natural to him.

It also struck many people as either odd, or humorous, or both, that he would bring so much luggage to a Nudist Camp. But to him, if you were going to camp, the important thing was to always be prepared. Being naked in the face of being nude was to him a very different thing than being both naked and nude. The nude part he had worked himself up to without much trouble. Truth was he had always preferred being nude. The being naked though, that was another matter. They didn’t mesh well in his mind with the other parts of himself. Nude was just another form of camouflage, and another form of gregarious sociability. Naked was, well, it was being naked. You either got that, or you didn’t. End-Over got it, and because of that, he avoided naked.

Everyone at the colony, for he preferred to call it a Colony rather than a Camp, called him John. Or Tule. Because he told everyone his real name was John Tuli. It wasn’t of course, and it wasn’t the only alias he employed. After all real names left one naked, and considering that he was a businessman and considering his business, he was satisfied to let everyone else see him nude rather than naked. His name didn’t interfere with his time at the Colony, it didn’t interfere with his fun, it didn’t make him any less likely to be what he was or to do what he’d do, it was just a name. A corporate structure. He wasn’t attached to it. He wasn’t even attached to his real name. It implied certain things about him, helped clarified aspects of his past. Like all names though it was self-limiting, wasn’t really descriptive at all, other than the meaning others attached to it. Public names, real, or imagined, or created, were like terms to him. Something you could hang an idea on, not something you could develop a solid, working description from. He had a secret name for himself, something no-one else knew. Well, no-one else except maybe God. But it wasn’t a naked name, and it wasn’t a nude name, and it wasn’t a public name, and it wasn’t even a private name. It was a name he used when he talked to himself. Which was often enough that he was respectful of it. So he never used it otherwise, and never spoke it in vain.

He turned from the bureau and examined the room he stood in. It was part of the same cabin he always stayed at when he visited the colony. The floors were stained hardwood, dusty and warm, it seemed to him, no matter what time of year he visited. The furniture was typically resort issue. Standing floor lamps, warm yellow bulbs that shed very little light. That was perfectly fine by him.

The bed was low slung, with no headboard. The mattress was new, and the sheets clean and well tended. On his pillow lay a single wrapped chocolate and with a white rose topping a crisp, bright, white envelop with gold, calligraphic insignia cut to conceal a card rather than a letter. The card was no doubt the typical greeting he always received whenever he visited.

The small kitchen would be clean, swept, dry, and sterile. The floor tiles black and white, the polished faux granite counters would gleam dully. The sinks would shine, the faucets would be scrubbed. Dishes would be neatly stacked and put away in their proper places. The silverware would look as if just purchased. The white-frosted, spherical, enclosed light fixtures would hang halfway between the roof and the floor of the vaulted kitchen ceiling. The refrigerator and freezer would be completely empty of anything but ice, which would be plentiful, and the cabinets would be entirely bare. This didn’t matter to him though; he would stock his own larder. He preferred it that way.

The single bathroom of his cabin would be spotless, the toilet almost pristine, a large shaving mirror would hang above a sink free of all traces it had ever been previously used, and a full length door mirror would decorate the inside door of the bathroom. The bath would be part programmable Jacuzzi, part rounded tub, and would conceal a detachable, multi-pulse showerhead. He liked the set up and looked forward to a few long, relaxing soaks at night while he listened to opera and dozed in the warm water. Which he would salt and pour white wine in for the smell, and because it would relax him all the more…

 

LESSONS LEARNED

Traditional Intellectual Property Lessons Learned

Over the past few months, we have been talking to many entrepreneurs about their knowledge-gap around intellectual property (IP) and other important startup matters that actually impact IP or intangibles (and therefore valuation and ultimately their success). This is the first in a three part series detailing the lessons learned by these early stage companies.

First, what do I mean by traditional IP? I often joke that if I had a dollar for every person who told me they didn’t have any IP in their business, and a second dollar for those who think IP is only patents, I would be rich. Traditional IP to me is the patent or trademark protection. That is not to say that copyrights, trade secrets, and so on are not IP—far from it—but the most common IP is patents and trademarks. Unfortunately there remain some big misconceptions around protecting traditional IP.

A few brave entrepreneurs have shared their stories to help others learn about the importance of IP identification early and often.

Timing is everything

Phillip Felice, Founder of Bridge Optix, described his recent brush with IP horror in a single sentence: “I realized I have underestimated intellectual property timing importance.” Phillip was weeks away from a public release of his product when he was grilled on his company’s IP protection and strategy. He realized that his patents needed to be filed before his public product release.

We have heard other horror stories where companies have spent thousands on branding for websites, signage, or product packaging without first securing rights to a name, including trademarks. Register and secure rights before spending too much of your limited startup capital.

Location, location, location

Patents filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) only cover the US. The same goes for trademarks and copyrights filed with the US Copyright office.

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ENTREPRENEURIAL CREDIBILITY

How to Build Credibility as a Young Entrepreneur
Selena Rezvani , Contributor

Any entrepreneur will tell you that startup life is not for the easily daunted. Rejection, product failures, and isolation are just a few of the tests that many entrepreneurs are put through on a routine basis. Add youth and inexperience to the list of things working against you—and you can see how a startup can seem like nothing but a harsh, uphill endeavor. Luckily, entrepreneurs tend to be more optimistic than other workers, a factor that keeps them pitching to prospects and looking for ways to prove their value.

As I gather my thoughts for a panel tomorrow on how to build credibility as a young entrepreneur, I’ve been reflecting on what has helped my partners and clients say “Yes” to the diversity consulting and training pitches I’ve put in front of them over the last five years. Mind you, even if it’s not your age that presents a credibility issue, some other factor (industry experience, knowledge of a certain product type, geographic reach) may put you or your business in an ‘underdog’ position.

Here are my top strategies for proving your worth, regardless of your age, experience level or other factors you’re being judged on:

Identify What’s Sacred To Your Customer: What quickens the pulse of the group you’re pitching to? What most excites them or eludes them regardless of their efforts? In my case, a focus on amassing lots of cutting-edge inclusion best practices and focusing on Gen X and Y women helped turn pitch meetings into signed contracts. Additionally, tying innovation payoffs to diversity efforts more often than not grabbed clients’ interest. Still, what ‘did the trick’ last year for many entrepreneurs won’t necessarily pay off now. Who can inform you about what this group cares about most now? What groups and discussions are they participating in on LinkedIn? What types of events or publications do they promote and with what angle?

Don’t Wait To Go After Whales: As a new entrepreneur, I pitched to top business programs around the nation to train their students on the lessons in my first book, The Next Generation of Women Leaders. Plenty of deans and career offices didn’t respond. But thanks to casting a big net, plenty of people said “Yes.” To my sheer delight—and admittedly, terror—the first client to invite me to speak was Harvard University. That wonderful opportunity served as an instrumental “door opener” for future pitches, helping me get into Princeton, London Business School, Duke and inside many large organizations. As a new entity, many people will advise you to start small or go after the “low hanging fruit.” Don’t. Aim high.

Borrow Credibility Where Needed: Many a deal has been closed thanks to a warm introduction being made early on. When a trusted professional enthusiastically introduces you to a corporate insider, you’re getting an endorsement, and therefore a chance, that others won’t. Even if you don’t have deep relationships inside the company, go through the exercise of asking yourself who in your network could act as a strategic partner or co-creator of a compelling pitch. Your partner may have age and experience you don’t, a value added service, a Fortune 500 company on their resume, or experience in a key area that you lack. I have personally benefitted from partnership and found repeatedly that two minds were better than one, especially in client meetings.

Forecast Future Success: Even if the vision for Year 3 of your business depends heavily on performance in Year 1 and 2, have a clear path forward to share with your clients. The fact that you may be adjusting your plans minute to minute is not going to be compelling to decision makers. In a large bid that a partner and I made and won, one of the last questions we were grilled on was, “Where do you see yourself making an impact in 3-4 years?” We had a ready answer about an exciting area of research we wanted to spearhead and how we’d devise services around our learning. How can you look ahead and create a vision for the future? Your prospect may not be looking for total certainty, but they need to know you have a strategy with future mile markers of value.

More than anything, if you want to get hired, you need to promote trust. Are you creating certainty that you’ll deliver ably on what you’re selling? Even more important, are you demonstrating to prospects that if you take a wrong step or a crisis erupts on their end, that you’ll have the kind of smarts and agility to correct your course of action or manage the change?

What has worked for you to build credibility? Would do you think that young entrepreneurs need to know most?

Selena Rezvani is a women’s leadership speaker, workplace consultant, and author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask–and Stand Up–for What They Want. Connect with her at nextgenwomen.com and @SelenaRezvani on Twitter.

THE FALCON IS FLYING

I got up at 5:00 this morning to watch the SpaceX launch. Regardless of how this mission ultimately goes in a few minutes the future of Space Exploration, of course, lies in the private sector.

THE GOAL

The goal should not be to degrade, lessen, or sabotage the ranks of the 1%. Much less to abolish the ranks of the 1%.

Rather the goal should be to create so many wealthy persons that they become the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth. But to do this the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth must become truly ambitious, industrious and productive. They must also become real risk-takers.

It is for immediately obvious reasons (to anyone who bothers to observe) that the vast majority of one-percenters are consistently ambitious, industrious, and productive. And habitual risk takers.

They are not dependent-minded people with a constant desire for indulgence and security. They are rather the makers of manners. And the shapers of self-effort and worth.

If you would be in the 1% you must become the 1%.

It is not indecipherable magic, it is good and well-practiced habit.

THE NOVEL START UP

He’s absolutely right. You shouldn’t just market and “get on people’s radar” after you fund and start operations, you should do that to get funded and to start operations. As a matter of fact you should market continuously and at all times.

Richard Branson on How to Raise Money When You’re Just Starting Out

December 15, 2014

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q.: G’day Richard. I am a young engineering student with little to no practical experience as an entrepreneur. I think I’ve got a great idea, a ready and capable team, but have little money to pursue commercializing my novel product. I fear that potential investors will not take me seriously because of my age (21) and inexperience. How can I convince seasoned investors to believe in my team and invest in my idea? — Jordan Gruber, Australia

My friends and I came up with the name “Virgin” one day when we were 15 years old, sitting around in a basement. I was keen on the name “Slipped Disc” for our new music venture, but then one of my friends pointed out that when it came to business, “we’re all virgins; why don’t we call it that?” In our case, inexperience proved to be a huge asset — if we’d gone with the safer option, I’m not sure that many people would be working out at Slipped Disc Health Clubs or banking at Slipped Disc Money!

Innovation and entrepreneurship thrive on the energy of people who are dipping their toes into the water for the first time. Budding entrepreneurs with fresh outlooks have the freedom to think quite differently, which is tremendously exciting to potential collaborators. However, as you’re finding out, Jordan, translating a new concept into a product can be very daunting.

While you might not yet have the right connections or an “in” with major investors, other people out there do — experienced businesspeople, in your sector or in others, who were once in your shoes and went on to be successful. These people are potential mentors who can help you on your way.

Mentoring is a subject that is very close to our hearts at Virgin; I myself have benefited from many mentors throughout my life. However, don’t consider mentoring as a quick way to gain useful contacts. A good mentoring relationship is based on more than that — it’s a way to learn valuable lessons from the mistakes someone else has made.

Additionally, I noticed in your message an emphasis on convincing “seasoned investors” to back your idea. While securing huge sums of money from major business figures might seem like the ideal way to propel a business forward, the reality is that very few ventures win this kind of funding. A better alternative might be an online crowdfunding platform. Websites such as Indiegogo not only have the potential to fund the creation of a prototype to get your business up and running, but they also can result in significant publicity.

Another option is taking out a small business loan. In the U.K. we launched Virgin StartUp, a program that provides loans of up to 25,000 pounds to companies trying to get their ideas off the ground. It is well worth your time to look into similar initiatives in your area, and decide whether a loan is the right step for you. As an added benefit, both crowdfunding and small business loans will mean that you can retain full ownership of your business — you won’t have to give any equity away to investors.

Here are three steps that can help you discover which approach is best for you:

1. EVALUATE AND RESEARCH.

Always be honest with yourself about your abilities, the work you’ll have to put in to get your company up and running, and the amount of money you’re hoping to raise. Research all the options that are available, and evaluate how they would affect your end goal.

Ask yourself: Is your crowdfunding target realistic? How much of a stake in your business are you willing to give to potential investors?

And if you want to find a mentor who can help give you direction and guidance, make sure you find a suitable one. Find out what they do, whether they’ve mentored others before and which sectors they are interested in.

2. GET ON PEOPLE’S RADAR.

Attend industry events such as seminars and conferences. Talk to as many people as possible, and do not immediately launch into a pitch of your product. Be sure to listen and learn from what people have to say.

Networking doesn’t stop at face-to-face contact, either; interact on social media, join LinkedIn groups and keep the relationships going online. When you do approach potential mentors or investors, or if you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll have a degree of visibility.

In fact, the more proactive you are in building your profile, the more likely it is that potential investors will feel confident enough to put their faith in you — and their money in your company. Remember that the more relationships you build, the better the chances that your network will put you in touch with the people who can help your business.

3. KEEP AN OPEN MIND.

Remember to be flexible. While winning investment might look like the best option now, don’t discount any other opportunities that come your way. For example, crowdfunding might not have the prestige of an investment from a big-time entrepreneur, but it will connect you directly with future customers, and you will have more control over the process.

Keeping an open mind is especially important when it comes to mentoring. Don’t see mentorship as a quick fix for problems, and do not brush off advice. Consider your connection with a mentor as a long-lasting business relationship that can teach you lessons and reduce the potential for failure. But also remember that, as with anything else, you’ll get out of mentoring what you put in.

Making sure that your potential business is a success is not contingent upon gaining a large investment. Many successful companies — including Virgin — started with modest funds. Right now, investors might seem like they are the gatekeepers between you and your dream, but the one person who can make your business succeed is not an investor, or even a mentor. It is you.

Good luck!
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Isuama Kennedy
Isuama Kennedy from Facebook8 hours ago

the one person who will make your business to succeed is not an investor or your mentor but YOU
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Meg Columbia Walsh
Meg Columbia Walsh from Facebook9 hours ago

Great Mr. Branson, then tell me a time to pitch my business that is doing well!!! Woman and gay owned…
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Silvia Khouzame
Silvia Khouzame from Facebook12 hours ago

Natalie Khouzame
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Samantha Binetter
Samantha Binetter from Facebook17 hours ago

Robbie Binetter
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Chandé Dusina
Chandé Dusina from Facebook20 hours ago

Nick Timmer
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Maria Petromanolakis
Maria Petromanolakis21 hours ago

Thank you very much Sir Branson!
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Alexandra Ferrer
Alexandra Ferrer from Facebook2 days ago

Thomas Caldwell
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Ryan Poh
Ryan Poh from Facebook2 days ago

Nitin Ahuja
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Duc Hoang
Duc Hoang from Facebook2 days ago

one story for strategy 😀
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Peachy Keen
Peachy Keen from Facebook2 days ago

Wont work in the south. These old geezers aren’t giving up their money unless its for an oil well!
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Kiều Công Bình
Kiều Công Bình from Facebook2 days ago

Duc Hoang Nguyễn Trung Kiên 😀
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Jason Lobo Sedillo
Jason Lobo Sedillo from Facebook2 days ago

Great insight
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stephen hardacre
stephen hardacre 2 days ago

O.K. THE RICHSTER DID YOU EVER WATCH JERRY MCGUIRE WELL RUMOUR HAS IT THAT IT WAS FICTIONAL CERTAIN GUYS ARE SAYING THAT IT IS ABOUT THEM BUT WHAT I AM ABOUT TO ACHIEVE IS REAL TIME AND WHILE I AM AT IT THE PLAN IS TO BRING THE CRIME RATE DOWN IN MY ALREADY ROUGH AS TOAST AREA YOU SEE IT IS NOT BRAINS I NEED IT IS BRAWN AND A FIGHTING HEART BASICALLY I WONT THE KIDS WHO THE TEACHERS SAY HAVE NO HOPE AND I WAS AND LIVE IN THE COMMUNITY ALL MY LIFE I KNOW THE KIDS THAT ARE DESTINED FOR A LIFE OF CRIME AS I WAS BROUGHT UP WITH THEIR PARENTS THE ONLY REASON THEY GO TO CRIME IS BECAUSE THEY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL JUST BECAUSE THEIR PARENTS ARE A WEE TAD ROTTEN BUT THAT COMES HAND IN HAND WITH BEING POOR IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO STEER CLEAR OF THESE FUTURE CRIMINALS AND THATS THE WAY IT IS I HAVE NOT “THROWN A BEVVY ON IT ” THAT IS HOW IT IS THE PLAN IS TO PAY THEM WHAT I CALL A ” WOW WAGE ” BEYOND THEIR WILDEST DREAMS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN LOOK AFTER THERE WAYWARD PARENTS AND HOPEFULLY THEY CAN CHANNEL THEIR KNOWLEDGE FOR ME THIS IS WHERE THE DIAMONDS ARE IN THE DIRT PEOPLE SAY I AM CRAZY BUT AS IT SO HAPPENS IT WOULD BE A SIN NOT TO PUSH FOR IT WITH THE FORWARD MOMENTUM I FEEL AROUND ME last but not least i must say it when i was a kid”I USED TO WANT TO BE YOU BUT I DON’T NO MORE I WANNA BE ME “IF YOU GET TO THIS WEE MESSAGE THINK OF US AND YOU WILL GET INTO HEAVEN THANKS

THE GAMECHANGER
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JDGO
JDGO 2 days ago

Great advise sir,
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RadoslavVujaklija
RadoslavVujaklija 2 days ago

Yeah kick it sir Branson!!!
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MONEY AND POWER 101

As a child my parents taught me almost nothing at all about money. (Other than earn and save it.) Despite the fact that my father was a successful tool and die maker, an inventor, and had owned and sold his business (at a nice profit) I nevertheless received a very scant education in money matters.

I remember many times, seeing my parents doing their taxes and asking them, “teach me about taxes, teach me about money, and how this works.”

They always basically told me, “You’re a child, you don’t need to worry about this right now, you’ll learn about this when you grow up – on your own.”

I guess that was simply the Weltanschauung of their generation and age. It is, however, not mine.

Because of that when I entered college, and for the rest of my life, I have been learning about business, capital, Capitalism, economics, finance, investment, money, and all other related money-matters. Money is a big part of my Personal-Education Plan (PEP Program), and my self developed IEA (Individual Education Account).

When I first got married I realized pretty quickly that my wife had no idea about money, how it operated, or why it worked as it did. She, likewise, had little to no real education on money matters from her parents either.

Determined not to let financial ignorance and bad money management work against her, me, our marriage, or in the lives of my children I have developed Economic and Monetary Educational Materials to use for their instructional benefit. Since I homeschooled my children for their entire primary educational period (pre-college) I made sure to incorporate both basic and advanced course materials on budgeting, business, Capitalism, career, economics, entrepreneurship, finances, investment, profit, etc. I also make sure they practice what they learn. Both are far better at money matters than I was at their age.

I am to the point now that regardless of what happens to me I feel confident that they are in possession of enough useful materials, and have been trained and habituated in such a way as to assure they will be successful in their own businesses, careers, and with money.

Below you will find a very basic summary of the most fundamental things I have taught them concerning money. They are well advanced beyond these simple ideas, but, in starting any venture it is always necessary to begin with the fundamentals. Often, over the course of time, it is necessary to return to the fundamentals as well.

Beneath the section on Money and Power 101 is a short document I developed regarding the Hoards I believe each person should develop over their lifetimes and how to employ and use these Hoards.

This “List of Hoards” is hardly exhaustive, but it does include most of the Hoards I consider most basic, except for the Word Hoard. Which technically could be a part of your Charisma Hoard, but really I consider a person’s language, linguistic, and vocabulary (Word) hoards to be an entirely separate set of treasures.

I offer these posts in the hopes that they may assist you, especially if you are just starting out in the world, to master your own Money and to develop the Hoards that you will find most useful.

I do not insist you necessarily agree with my definitions, but I do urge you to make your own studies of Money and the Power it engenders, I do urge you to master Money (rather than be mastered by it, wither as a poverty-stricken person or as a wealthy person), and I do urge you to develop and grow your own Hoards.

You will thank yourself for such efforts later on in life, and very likely the world will thank you for having made such efforts.

Comments are welcome.

____________________

MONEY AND POWER 101

MONEY is the financial power to do as you need and wish in the world. The more money your have the more power you have, the less money you have the less power you have.

SURPLUS is the amount of anything you have in excess to your actual or current needs. Your surplus should always be as great as possible of imperishable items.

PROFIT is the amount of money earned or generated in excess of expenditures.

INSURANCE is a money pool set aside for emergencies. If possible it is best to self-insure.

TAXES are the amount of money lost or exhausted to an individual by being seized by the government.

EARNINGS are the amount of money you generate for yourself through various actions of Work. Earnings are divided into three separate subcategories.

Income is the total amount of earnings one generates through all earnings sources. Originally it was that income (come-in) generated by investments.

Investments is the amount of earnings generated by whatever vehicles one is invested (vested) in. Investments are earnings or income vehicles generated by Risk.

Salaries or Wages is the amount of earnings generated by working for or laboring for others paid in the form of salary or wages. (Time or Work for money.)

SAVINGS – the amount of money already earned but not invested or spent but retained for long term goals or for emergencies.

EXPENDITURES – all monies spent to buy or pay for non-income producing items or services

Bills and Living Expenses – those monies paid to creditors or service providers for goods and services purchased. Bills and Living Expenses are monies lost to others.

Necessities – those monies expended for all goods and services of a necessary nature: food, shelter, power, necessary maintenance, etc.

Emergencies – those monies expended for emergencies and immediately unforeseen expenses, such as medical bills and repairs.

Entertainment – those mines expended for entertainment, recreation, etc.

GIVING – all monies given to the care and well-being of others to service their needs, also any resources given to others for their support.

Charity – giving to Church and/or Charitable causes with the intention of supporting the long term needs of an individual or an organization.

Philanthropy – giving to humane and other causes with the intent of addressing or solving specific needs or problems or projects. For instance one might found or support a philanthropic enterprise to support literacy, to build a hospital, to fund a scholarship, etc.

PREPARATION – always keep your money growing, in motion, invested, and in use for worthwhile things. Always plan as far ahead as possible regarding expenditures to be made. Always have accurate and complete information about all aspect s of your money and how it will be used.

RISK – all enterprises require risk. Risk is the amount of danger required to service a worthwhile enterprise or investment relative to the potential reward or Return on Investment (ROI) the enterprise or investment will generate (in the case of business, financial, and monetary activity). Generally speaking the higher the risk the greater the return or reward, and the lower the risk the lower the return or reward. However measures should always be taken to favorably mitigate risk as much as possible.

REWARD – is the amount of gain generated by the successful conclusion or progress of a worthwhile Risk. Another term that is synonymous with reward in financial and monetary matters is Return on Investment, which is a measure of gain generated by risk relative to the danger of initial loss of the initial loss of the investment.

MONEY – having more than enough money needed to meet all of your needs and the needs of others should make you happy. Making money should make you happy, and having a large surplus of money should be associated with pleasant thoughts and feelings and with security. Money is a personal, physical, financial, economic, psychological, social, and spiritual force, or power, and should be treated and employed as such. Money should not master a man, either by having too little, or by being consumed and over-powered by it. Money is a servant, not a Lord.

CAPITALISM – is that form of economic activity, or that system of economics, that seeks to build and generate Capital Pools, or reserves of money, that can thereafter be employed to build businesses, funneled into investments, grow and expand enterprises, etc. and thereby generate even more Capital and ever larger reserves of Profits. Capitalism depends on the fact that money is constantly invested and employed and that new ventures and enterprises are continually started and grown so as to continually create New Wealth. Capitalism also depends heavily upon Free and Unfettered Markets.

 

____________________

THE HOARDS

ACTIVE HOARDS

Always make ongoing use of and constantly develop your hoards for an unused hoard is useless and an undeveloped hoard has no value.

 

ABILITY HOARD – every ability, capability, skill, and talent that a person possesses and develops in life

ACHIEVEMENT HOARD – every good and worthwhile achievement or enterprise that a person ever accomplishes

CHARISMA HOARD – all beneficial influence and powers of persuasion an individual possesses to sway others to participate in worthwhile endeavors

CHARITY AND PHILANTHROPY HOARD – all charitable and philanthropic works that one engages in to assist others

CREATION AND WORK HOARD – everything of value that a person creates, and all of the valuable Work that one ever does over the course of life.

ESTATE AND LAND HOARD – all estates, lands, and real properties that one owns or controls

INVESTMENT HOARD – all good and profitable investments that a person is engaged in or is participating in

RELATIONSHIP HOARD – all beneficial relationships which an individual may rely upon for advancement, comfort, friendship, and support

TREASURE HOARD – all objects, things, or possessions that are of economic, monetary, and physical value

VIRTUE HOARD – all of the Virtues that a person possesses and can command within his person

BLESSINGS, HEIRLOOMS, LEGACIES, AND INHERITANCE – all of the blessings, heirlooms, legacies, and inheritances passed down by one individual or one generation to another

BUILDING YOUR BRAND

http://www.forbes.com/pictures/fgdi45ehikj/5-must-read-tips-for-building-a-brand-3/

THE ADVOCATE OF ADVERSITY

Indeed. And I completely agree.

Malcolm Gladwell on Why You Need Adversity to Succeed

The best-selling author explains why coping with tough challenges as you start up will make you a much more successful entrepreneur.

Learning disabilities like dyslexia aren’t typically regarded as advantages, but for some entrepreneurs, being dyslexic has been a key part of why they succeeded.

That’s according to New Yorker writer and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, who, while researching his last book, David and Goliath, spoke to roughly two dozen dyslexic entrepreneurs.

“Their stories are all the same,” Gladwell says. “They don’t think they succeeded in spite of their disability. They think they succeeded because of it.”

While learning disabilities present unique challenges for individuals from an early age, they can also serve as what Gladwell refers to as “desirable difficulties,” or challenges that force people to learn new skills that prove extremely helpful later in life.

“They’re learning delegation, how to communicate with other people [and] motivate other people,” Gladwell says.

Successful dyslexic entrepreneurs that Gladwell points to include Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, JetBlue founder David Neeleman, and longtime movie producer Brian Grazer, whose dyslexia forced him to learn how to negotiate his way to getting better grades in school, according to Gladwell.

“By the time he hits college he’s brilliant at it, and then what does he do? He becomes a Hollywood producer, [which is] about negotiation, among other things, and he’s been practicing his entire life,” Gladwell says.

“In order to learn the things that really need to be learned we require a certain level of adversity.”

To hear more from the conversation, watch the video below.

Why Obstacles Can Improve Results

Certain obstacles that seem undesirable at first may ultimately help you get ahead.

THE WAY OF SUCCESS

Here Are The Epiphanies That Made Panera A $4.5 Billion Restaurant Chain

In 1980, Ron Shaich was just a 20-something kid looking for a way to draw customers into his single cookie store in downtown Boston.

Today, he is the founder and CEO of Panera Bread Co., which has nearly 2,000 locations in the US and Canada, 80,000 employees, and a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.

Through a series of ah-ha moments and happy accidents, Shaich took a simple idea — sandwiches, soups, and salads that people feel good about eating — and built it into a dominant American brand.

It wasn’t always easy. The company started as Au Bon Pain, and Panera was just one of its divisions. In 1998, Shaich made the difficult decision to sell off most of the business and bet on the little-sister brand Panera. He also stepped back from his role as CEO four years ago. The time away made him realize all the ways the company was vulnerable, and he wrote a 20-page memo about how he would destroy Panera if he was a competitor.

Shaich sat down with Business Insider to talk about how he got here, the single most important strategy in Panera’s success, and what’s next for the business.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Business Insider: When did you first want to be an entrepreneur? 

Ron Shaich: In college, I was the treasurer of the student body and came up with the idea of launching our own nonprofit convenience store. We ended up building it, and for a kid who couldn’t dance or sing, I found the creation of this store the most creative thing I ever did in my entire life. I loved it. I began to realize that business was creative and a way to make a difference in the world.

BI: How did Panera get its start?

RS: I went to business school. I tried to figure out my life. I ended up in D.C., running a chain of cookie stores for a large company. I established that this is the food I want to eat and created a single cookie store in downtown Boston in 1980. By late ’80, I had 50,000 people a day coming in, but no one bought cookies before noon. So I decided to put in French baked goods, and I became a licensee of a classic French bakery called Au Bon Pain.

They were the most screwed up vendor I ever dealt with — sometimes they delivered, sometimes they didn’t. I went to them with a proposal to merge the businesses. In February of ’81, I took on their debt, their three stores, and my one. And, after a number of iterations, that became Panera today.

BI: What was the moment when everything clicked for Panera?

RS: In 1984 I had an epiphany. I’d been working in the bakery, and people would walk in and say, “I want that baguette. Slice it from top to bottom.” So I do and hand them the loaf, and they pulled out a bag of deli meat and some cheese and made a sandwich out of it. You didn’t have to be a marketing whiz to recognize it was an opportunity in sandwiches.

panera bread tomato soupPanera Bread In the early ’90s, Shaich decided to shift to serving soup, salad, and sandwiches.

We said, “Let’s be the platform to sell soup, salad, and sandwiches.” It took off from Day 1. In 1991, we took it public, and by 1996, we had evolved to a thesis that I call “decomodification,” today called “fast casual.” Then, the contemporary paradigm of fast food was a lot of food for not a lot of money. We recognized that there was a large niche, say 30% to 40% of the market, that wanted something more special. It was not simply how much food they got for the money, but the quality of the food and how they felt about themselves eating there.

Then I had another epiphany. I was sitting on the beach in 1999 and thought, “Wow, for every 100 guys who talk about having a dominant brand, one makes it. Maybe one out of 1,000.” It’s so hard. Panera was one of four divisions. Somebody said to me: “What would you do if Panera owned Au Bon Pain and not the other way around?” I said, “This thing is a gem. If I had any guts, I’d take myself and the very best people we had, and I’d let it fulfill its destiny.” So I did it.

BI: Just like that? How did it feel to say goodbye to most of what you’d built? 

RS: The next few years of selling everything else off but Panera were the most horrible years of my life. Au Bon Pain was my first child. It’s only in retrospect that these decisions feel OK. When you’re going through them, if you’re honest, they’re horrible and difficult. Bottom line, I did it. We made the bet on Panera.

BI: If you could pinpoint one strategy, what do you think made Panera so successful? 

RS: What sustains a company over the long term is how it thinks, not what it does. Because what is does is a byproduct of how it thinks. Panera in its core comes from a view that competitive advantage is everything. If we don’t have a reason for people to walk past competitors and come to Panera, then we don’t exist. Losing competitive advantage is the greatest risk in business, and that’s where our focus is.

Ron Shaich servingPanera/David ElmesRon Shaich serves a customer in a Panera Cares cafe, the nonprofit arm of Panera offering pay-what-you-can prices.

BI: How do you stay ahead of the curve?

RS: I view my role as CEO as protecting those that discover ways to build competitive advantage. Often, when businesses first start up, they’re driven by people who discover new ways of doing things. They’re able to best the competition because they’re clearly disruptive and better. Then they get larger, and behind Discovery People come Delivery People, and they speak a different language.

Discovery is the language of what could be, of where the world is going. Delivery is the language of what happened yesterday, of limited risk. And in most companies that scale, you eventually wake up and realize you have tremendous delivery muscle and no discovery muscle, no ability to regenerate competitive advantage.

Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith, making sure the company is there when the future arrives.

BI: After being CEO for decades, you stepped down from the role about four years ago. Why did you come back?

panera bread customers Reuters“Competitive advantage is everything,” Shaich says.

RS: I didn’t step down; I stepped back. I became executive chairman. Instead of six days a week, I spent three days a week on Panera.

My mind started racing one weekend, and I sat down at the typewriter and wrote a 20-page memo about how I would compete with Panera if I weren’t Panera. I undertook this vision and, after a year, found myself working 60 to 70 hours per week on it!

Panera has 80,000 employees and serves 10 million people a week. I’m back as CEO because I ultimately concluded it’s the most powerful platform I have to make a difference in the world.

BI: A lot of leaders talk about the need to carve out time to think about the big picture. How do you do it?

RS: I go to the beach every Christmas, and every year I write down initiatives for myself, my family, my health, my work, and my God — all the things that I think matter. I write where I’m trying to get to and how I’m going to get there.

BI: What’s an example of one?

RS: In my 50s, having never really exercised, I realized if I don’t do it now, I never will. I committed to it and hired a trainer to help me. I’ve been at it for over eight years, and I’m in better shape today than I was 20 years ago.

BI: Is that how you approach business strategy? You have annual think sessions?

RS: That’s exactly how it works! We sit down every year and try to figure out where we want to be in five years. How do we stay competitive? What do we have to do to ensure we feed the growth monster that goes with being a public company? And then we literally draft on paper what we want to achieve in the next 12 months.

Ron Shaich 2Panera/David Elmes“Our job as leadership is to protect and enable leaps of faith,” says Shaich.

Good strategy is continually changing. Strategy begins with where we think the world is going. Innovation begins with understanding what job you’re trying to complete for whom, and then determining what matters to that audience, looking for patterns, and trying to understand it. That’s hard work; that’s in the details.

BI: Tell me about the Panera 2.0 initiative.

RS: We’ve been working on it for four years. It brings together a range of technologies, and it’s meant to change the guest experience. If you’re coming to eat in, you simply walk in, sit down at a table, and use your phone to place an order. That order goes up into the cloud and comes back down to our kitchen, goes to our production systems, and the food is delivered directly to you.

Alternatively, if you want the order to go, you can place it from your office, from a kiosk in the café — anywhere you like — you just walk in and that food is waiting for you at a designated time. We’ve made this major commitment to technology.

BI: Panera was among the first retailers to integrate Apple Pay into stores. Why did you decide this was something you wanted to be a part of?

RS: Anything that offers convenience to our guests would only be good. We already have a very significant digital presence, and we’re moving aggressively in that direction.

BI: Is this something your customers have shown an interest in?

apple payJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesPanera is aggressively incorporating new technologies into its service.

RS: What customers want are things that add joy and value to their lives. They don’t want another app; they don’t want more technology. What they want are things that make their lives easier.

Apple Pay offers the potential to be significantly easier for those carrying their iPhone 6s. All you have to do is tap it and you’ve paid. It also offers a very high level of security, since there is no transfer of the credit card number. On both of those fronts, it offers the potential for ease and joy and a reduction of friction, and those are positives for the guests. 

BI: What advice would you give to others who want to follow in your footsteps?

RS: If you can do something to get somebody excited — not everybody — but if you can be the best for somebody, then you can win. What it’s all about is figuring out what you can do for somebody that nobody else can do better.

THE WILLING SLAVE from POLITICAL CAUSE

When a nation begins to willfully confuse liberty with license it will certainly willingly confuse self-discipline with slavery

LESSONS LEARNED

Bill Gates Reveals The 3 Most Important Business Lessons He Learned From Warren Buffett

buffett gates budsAnthony P. Bolante/ReutersEven the ultra-rich still look for ways to improve their business.
Few people in the US are more successful than Bill Gates. But that doesn’t mean the 58-year-old billionaire knows everything.

There are still important business lessons to be learned by America’s richest man — and who better to learn them from than Gates’ friend and fellow billionaire Warren Buffett?

In 2013, Gates traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting. “It’s always a lot of fun, and not just because of the ping-pong matches and the newspaper-throwing contest I have with Warren Buffett,” Gates writes in a LinkedIn post. “It’s also fun because I get to learn from Warren and gain insight into how he thinks.”

Gates outlined the three most important lessons he learned from Buffett. Here are the highlights:

Look At The Big Picture

When Gates first met Buffett, his immediate instinct was to focus on the surface of his success: picking and investing in stocks. But Gates quickly learned that key to Buffett’s success ran much deeper — it’s about the big picture of a business. “He has a whole framework for business thinking that is very powerful,” Gates writes. 

Instead of focusing on the day-to-day details of the market, Buffett looks at overall growth. “He talks about looking for a company’s moat — its competitive advantage — and whether the moat is shrinking or growing,” Gates says. “He says a shareholder has to act as if he owns the entire business, looking at the future profit stream and deciding what it’s worth.”

Be Honest With Shareholders

Buffett famously takes time every year to send a letter to his shareholders, a practice that inspired Gates to start doing the same. While Buffett’s letters offer business and investing insights, Gates believes Buffett’s candor is what makes them stand out. “He’s been willing to speak frankly and criticize things like stock options and financial derivatives,” Gates says. “He’s not afraid to take positions, like his stand on raising taxes on the rich, that run counter to his self-interest.” Gates’ key takeaway: transparency is highly appreciated.

Value Your Time

“No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time,” Gates reminds us, noting that Buffett understands this better than anyone. Buffett makes an effort to be available to his close advisers and always finds time to personally answer phone calls from them. “He’s very generous with his time for the people he trusts,” Gates says.

However, Buffett knows how valuable his time is, and doesn’t waste it in useless meetings, Gates says. Buffett prioritizes his time and spends it in ways that matter most to him.

Click here to read the full LinkedIn post.

THE NEW START UP CLUB

  The $5 Billion Startup Club: The 9 Highest Valued Startups That You Should Definitely Keep An Eye On

dollar billsMark Wilson/Getty ImagesBillions of dollars are flowing into these startups.

There used to be a time when a $1 billion valuation was considered a massive success for tech startups.

But in recent years, there’s been so many of them that billion-dollar valuations are almost starting to feel routine in tech.

So we’ve raised the bar and narrowed down WSJ’s “The Billion-Dollar Startup Club” list to companies that are valued at more than $5 billion.

These startups are transforming our lives and they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY LIE-ING

I promised you a story.
Here it is my friend.
It may be a little bit hoary, 
But if you get it, then...
 
You'll be way ahead of the game.

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY LIE-ING

 

A guy decides to go into business for himself. Not really knowing how to start he goes to a local “business start-up expert-consultant.” She tells him everything he’ll need to know about all of the technical aspects of getting started, what local offices to visit, bureaucracies to speak with, etc, etc.

So after taking copious and careful notes he goes the next day to the local government offices and begins his trek to start his new little enterprise. First he goes to get a business license but they tell him that he will need to make sure he’s zoned properly first. So he goes to the zoning office and they tell him that they cannot help him until he gets a business certificate. He goes to get a business certificate and they tell him that in order to get a certificate he will have to be approved for business by the local business council. He goes to the council who tell him they cannot approve of his business until he pays his business taxes in advance. He goes to the office of the tax assessor who tells him that before he can pay his taxes he must first have a business certificate.

Thoroughly bewildered, disgusted and angry he starts to go home thinking he’ll just give the whole thing up, so stupid, useless and illogical is the procedure for even getting started. On his way out he passes a little glass door which he had not noticed before, with a sign which read: Office of Doing Business. Curious and with nothing to lose he knocks to announce himself and then walks into the office. Behind a little desk sits an old man in a causal shirt with a desk clear of anything except a battery of telephones and a glass of water.

“What can I do for you?” asks the old man in a friendly and helpful tone.

The guy starts to unload about all of his problems, how he was passed from office to office and bureaucratic desk to bureaucratic desk and how no one would help him actually get started in his business. Then he tells the old man how he did everything right according to the consultant and how he had tried to follow every procedure of every official he encountered and how that only led to disaster. The old man listens patiently and with great sympathy and then bursts into laughter.

“Son, you might know a lot about how business is supposed to work but you haven’t learned anything yet about how it really works.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean business is not a game of rules kid, it’s a game of people who know what the rules really are. If you know the proper people and play them in the best way possible then even the wrongest of rules can be made right as rain. Because business is all about people, and those people are either standing in your way, or standing beside you going your way.”

With a sudden look of understanding spreading over his face the guy asks the old man, “So suppose you help me set up my new enterprise…?”

“Yes…” asks the old man.

“Then what can I do for you in return?”

To which the old man replies with a smile, “Son, pull up a chair, because now you’re talking real business.”

COSMIC RADIO

Hearing the silence… I have often wondered if humans, and other creatures, might not just be sensitive to these sounds (though not as sounds, but as electromagnetic vibrations, similar to being sensitive to a powerful magnetic field) through their brain and body, and if it would not be worthwhile to invent a miniaturized for-home-use radio telescope that could detect, discriminate, and convert these sounds for human listening and recording.

This device would have to be programmable, it would have to be sensitive enough to detect and track specific “sound sources and frequencies,” within the given and desired detection ranges, and it might even later lead to a in-home Cosmic TV (which could convert such sounds and vibrations into visual images similar to the way TV converts radio waves into visual images) for viewing such signals.

 

NASA releases actual recordings from space — and they’re absolutely breathtaking

on October 20, 2014, 10:45am
Earlier this year, Lefse Records released The Space Project, in which acts like Beach House, Spiritualized, The Antlers, and more used actual recordings from the Voyager space probe to create songs and soundscapes. Though a neat gimmick, with some intriguing submissions, the resulting album didn’t necessarily reflect the true sonic aesthetic of our solar system. For that, we turn to NASA, who has shared actual electromagnetic recordings taken from throughout our very own solar system.No one may be able to hear you scream in space, but that whole great, black abyss miles above our heads is just teeming with noises. From the brooding, slightly ambient rumblings of Saturn and its rings to the more romantic Neptune, which sounds like sitting on a back porch in Tennesse in mid-July, our solar system’s soundtrack is as emotionally-nuanced as it is almost cinematic. Just wait till you hear what Uranus sounds like, though.Listen in below. Or, enjoy live, 24-hour sounds via Radio Astronomy.

MULTIPLYING BOTH PEOPLE AND PROFIT

Concur.

It has been my personal experience that profits wisely shared with Wise Employees only serve to multiply profits.

 

Why The Container Store Pays Its Retail Employees $50,000 A Year

Kip TindellAP/Mark LennihanThe Container Store founder and CEO Kip Tindell.
Despite starting out with just a $35,000 investment in 1978, The Container Store founder and CEO Kip Tindell has grown his business to one that has 67 US locations and rings up annual sales of nearly $800 million.

 

Equally impressive is the fact that he’s done all that while paying his retail employees nearly twice the industry average.

 

According to Tindell’s book, “Uncontainable,” the average Container Store retail salesperson makes nearly $50,000 a year compared with what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is a national average of just above $25,000.

 

In an interview with Business Insider’s Jenna Goudreau, Tindell says the secret to the company’s high wages is what he calls “the 1=3 rule,” meaning that one great employee will be as productive as three employees who are merely good.

 

As a result, Tindell feels he gets ahead by receiving three times the productivity of an average worker at only two times the cost.

 

“They win, you save money, the customers win, and all the employees win because they get to work with someone great,” he tells Business Insider.

BLIND MAN’S INTUITION

For some reason I could not reblog this post, so instead I am linking to it directly here, with my comments.

My Comments:

This is actually quite a good idea.

Merit and capability are what you actually want to promote in any efficient company, corporation, or organization.

It would be very difficult to maintain “true and objective personnel blindness” all the way through the recruitment process, as the farther along the hiring process proceeds the more necessity for the applicant and the employer to interact personally.

 

But at least at the initial stages it would be an excellent early screening technique.

I am not of the opinion however that what is actually needed is less white guys, but simply more of everyone else who is actually qualified (for whatever is actually needed).

Or put another way what you actually need in any well-functioning organization is the very best qualified candidate, the one best suited to the position and the one who is qualified by capability and who will continue to perform in the future on merit. That is where, and at whom, you need to center your real rate of fire.

Otherwise, that observation aside, I think this idea has real merit of its own and should be experimented with and tested further for usefulness.

 

Dylan’s Desk: How to improve diversity without compromising on excellence

Dylan’s Desk: How to improve diversity without compromising on excellence

Above: This is literally the only image representing a “blind audition” I could find on Flickr.

Image Credit: thomas.leuther
Sign up for the weekly Dylan's Desk newsletters to get insights delivered right to your inbox. 

Silicon Valley often prides itself on being a meritocracy, where people advance solely because of their talent.

Yet it has an obvious diversity problem. Big companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook regularly release diversity statistics that show clearly that women, blacks, and Hispanics are underrepresented. Venture capital firms are populated largely by white and Asian men, and the companies that get funding from VCs are disproportionately similar.

And, yes, tech journalism has a similar skew: Too many of us are white guys.

It might be that there’s a smaller pool of talented engineers, entrepreneurs, and tech journalists among women and minorities. That’s why the argument is often framed in terms of meritocracy vs. diversity or excellence vs. affirmative action.

But it’s also quite possible that there’s something wrong with the recruiting process and that the lack of diversity is actually getting in the way of hiring the best people.

Orchestrating excellence

This is where a lesson from classical music might come in handy.

Orchestras in the US used to be 95 percent to 100 percent male and zero to 5 percent female.

But after instituting blind auditions, with the applicants performing their music behind a screen so they can only be heard, not seen, that ratio changed dramatically.

According to one study, the number of women in top orchestras rose from less than 5% to 25% after those orchestras implemented blind auditions starting in the 1970s and 1980s. One quarter to one half of that change, the study found, is attributable to the blind auditions, which force auditors to focus on what they’re actually hearing, not what they see.

It’s not just music, either: Double-blind reviews of scientific papers have increased the number of female authors in professional publications, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year.

Recently, people have started suggesting that Silicon Valley needs to make a similar change. Startup guru Eric Ries made a similar experiment by removing names, gender, and ethnicity from résumés.

And Google has made its own efforts to tackle unconscious bias. Even well-meaning people sometimes skew their judgements unconsciously, because of shortcuts our brains have internalized over a long period of time.

The fact that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella can so easily put his foot in his mouth with an ill-considered offhand comment shows that unconscious bias is real. It’s not that he meant to say anything patronizing or belittling to women; he probably didn’t even think about it.

Despite the best efforts of many well-meaning people in the tech industry (and beyond), women still earn less, get their startups funded less, and find their way into the ranks of VC firms less than men do. And that’s not even considering other aspects of the tech diversity problem: race, sexual orientation, religion, or political leanings.

People just naturally tend to gravitate towards people they are comfortable with, and that creates a self-reinforcing circle of sameness — unless we take deliberate steps to break out of it.

 

A THING UNQUESTIONED from THE BUSINESS, CAREER, AND WORK OF MAN

A thing unquestioned and untested is unproven and unimprovable.

S’PLANATION

The Tech That Drives The New Tesla Model S, Explained

47,768

The Tech That Drives The New Tesla Model S, ExplainedExpand

Last night, Elon Musk took the wraps off the new Tesla Model S. Dual motors and all-wheel drive don’t just make it faster, a new sensor array will make it safer too. Let’s break out each innovation, figure out what it is and how it works.

THE FUTURE

Indeed.

This May Well Be The Coolest Feature On The New Tesla

Elon Musk is touting one incredibly futuristic option on the new Tesla.

Produced by Matt Johnston and Alex Kuzoian.

IT’S THE D, BRO

Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit - Day 1

Need a few more breadcrumbs to follow until Elon Musk “unveils the D” (and something else) tomorrow? During an interview tonight at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, Tesla’s CEO told Walter Isaacson a few juicy tidbits about his news, without really revealing anything — other than what we’ve already seen. According to Musk “One of the things is already there, and people just don’t realize it.” Also, some of the internet’s guesses (dual engine? autonomous driving? AWD?) are apparently on track, as he said people are “directionally correct,” but that they don’t “appreciate the magnitude.” You can watch a clip of of the interview embedded after the break and leave your own theories in the comments, we’ll be reporting live from the unveiling in LA tomorrow night to find out the truth.

PROFITS AND THE PROPHETS OF PROFIT

My daughter is young and has recently had a few new jobs. These are her first jobs (entry-level) and we are letting her work some during her gap year between graduation and college. She was not allowed to work during the time she was homeschooled and prior to graduating High School.

(This is the way my parents did it as well, although I was not homeschooled. That is to say that I was not allowed to work a real job, except during the summers, before graduating High School although on the weekends as I got older I would often sneak off on my own and work secretly without them knowing of it.)

Anyway, that aside being what it is, my daughter has recently held a job at a deli preparing food. At the close of each business day any food not sold must be disposed of. And so they do. By throwing it away like garbage.

Now I fully understand as both a business and a health matter that any food that might be rotten or unsanitary in any way must be disposed of in this way. But what about the food that has simply gone unsold during the day’s normal business operations?

Many employees have written to the owner of this particular establishment asking, even begging, that this food not be disposed of meaninglessly but rather be donated to public shelters or to the homeless or the poor.

The owner’s answer to these requests has, so far at least, always been along these general lines, “I pay for the food and pay my employees to prepare and sell the food for a profit, if I give the left-over food away for nothing I make the same profit as if I just throw it away (that being none) so it is easier to just throw it away.”

Now I fully understand that as businessman this can be a somewhat complicated and even tricky issue for several different reasons. First of all, you have individuals, people who could easily work to make the money to buy their own food but choose not to harassing you all of the time for “free food,” especially at closing time. Many people nowadays feel as if they are owed something and will happily beg and live a life of outright dependency simply because they can, not because they must or should. They wish to be a consumer of society only, and never a real producer. How do you avoid encouraging or promoting this disastrous habit (and it is a disastrous and malignant habit – both individually and societally) by giving away free food to undeserving recipients?

Secondly you might very well end up with several organizations vying for your leftover food, and how do you determine who is truly needy or in the most need. (This might be the organizational equivalent of the undeserving individual, or it might simply be an honest contest between equally needy or equally responsible organizations.) Indeed nowadays you might even inspire bad publicity from one organization or another offended that you chose another cause over them in their quest to obtain your leftover foods.

Third, as a businessman (or as anyone who has ever started-up or run their own business or company) I know that there is the simple but sometimes daunting logistical problem(s) involved – how is this left-over food distributed, to whom, where, and when?

Finally there is the liability issue. Suppose some of your donated leftover food is consumed by someone who becomes ill, and regardless of whether it can be reliably and scientifically established that your organization was at fault, or not, you might still face a lawsuit or at least the threat of one at some point in the future?

Now, as I said above I am fully aware of the difficulties involved in giving away free and left-over food in this manner. I happen to agree that all of the points I addressed above are valid concerns and worth consideration. They are all liabilities arguing against the giving away of free and left-over food at the end of each business day. (And since food is an immediately perishable item it is difficult to store and properly retain, it is not like simply putting paper products into inventory. Food must be used and used quickly, or it will be wasted. Therefore it has a very short-lived half and shelf life.)

However, all of that being said and true, I am nevertheless both a Cristian and a Capitalist. In either case I do not believe in or find it to be a good business or personal or economic or even spiritual practice to needlessly waste perfectly good resources (even if those resources have a very short useful shelf-life).

And to be perfectly honest there are viable and workable solutions to each problem I listed above. You could rather easily (though it may take some time and experimentation) develop a relationship with reputable non-profit organizations that assist and feed the homeless, the helpless, the poor, the wounded veteran, or the medically disabled. You could develop contractual agreements with such organizations that state that they accept any left-over foods at their own risk and that you are free of liability.

(An unnecessary risk you say, and not worth the effort? Well, anyone who works with food knows that sooner or later, either through the food itself or through the employee handling it, you will make a customer or client ill, possibly even, though no fault of your own – such as undetected infection at a processing plant – kill someone with the food you serve. Tragic accidents such as those occur all of the time handling food, and although people don’t like to even honestly and realistically consider the idea, it is true. Sooner or later, whether the food be sold or given away as free leftovers, someone will be made sick or worse by consuming it.)

As for encouraging unnecessary and counterproductive dependence in the lazy and slothful, that will require a policy similar to that of determining the best organizations to work with in distributing the leftover food. You don’t want to give your leftover foods to the lazy and irresponsible but to the deserving, hard-working, truly indigent, and responsible end-user. But that can be done.

Finally, as regards the logistical problem(s) you can insist that anyone that takes the left-over food do so at their own expense, that they provide their own pick-up and transportation services so that this does not eat into your own profit or disrupt your own business operations. The risks might seem great at first glance, but each problem is soluble and just to be honest all of life and all of business is, by very nature, risk. Modern people might not like to hear that, they might do all they can to flee risk or to mitigate risk (and mitigating truly reckless risk is always wise, mitigating all risk always foolish) or to simply avoid risk, but the truth remains business and life itself is risk. That’s just the way life works. Many modern people don’t like that fact but it still remains, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a true and unavoidable fact. Business is risk. Life is risk.

Now let me return to the fact that I am both a Christian and a Capitalist.

As a Christian I am in no way in favor of unnecessarily wasting resources, especially resources that given our current national and world economy people are both in desperate need of, and which are perishable and not immediately replaceable or retainable (to many at least). As a Christian I do not want to encourage dependency but personal productivity, and the useful and vital employment of each individual’s particular talents. That is one reason we exist as human beings, to make best and most productive use of our individual human and God-given talents. Yet I am also fully aware by both simple observation and personal experience that individual people fall on hard times, become injured or ill on occasion, or become faced with some problem (sometimes unwittingly, sometimes through no fault of their own) that they cannot solve alone. That is exactly when charity is most needed and most effective. Therefore it behooves the Christian businessman, or any businessman, to remember those salient facts of human existence. And to assist others whenever and wherever and however they can. This is not only a business matter, it is a moral matter.

As a Capitalist I am also acutely aware of this Truth – the injured or ill man, the needy man, the indigent man, the man who yesterday or today was down on his luck or awash in unfortunate circumstances may very well tomorrow be the successful man, the profitable person, the businessman, a potential partner, or even a wealthy client or customer. Capitalism feeds itself in this way, as it should, for it is not a static and self-consuming economic system (when functioning properly and when properly applied) such as socialism, but a dynamic and vital system that continually makes millionaires of paupers, and sometimes paupers of the wealthy. Therefore as a Capitalist it is a reckless and entirely self-defeating act to ever senselessly waste vital and useful resources; especially much needed resources that perish quickly. Resources that could save and rebuild lives. Just to be honest to waste food is an entirely anti-Capitalistic idea because contrary to the current and popular misconception of Capitalism as a purely profit-driven (in the low sense of the term) and inhuman mechanism (it is definitely not) it is always actually an entirely voluntary exchange of free human motivations and drives seeking both best self-interest and the best self-interest of the other in commercial and social exchange. For if your client and customer always remains indigent and poor and ill and incapable then he is also too indigent and too poor and too incapable to purchase your own products and services. Especially your best products and services. In other words the poor client or customer is not a good client and customer, whereas the wealthy client and customer is a good client and customer (in a business and commercial sense). Therefore the Wise Capitalist seeks communal and mutual Profit, not just individual and personal Profit. The True and High Minded Capitalist is like the True and High-Minded Christian, he knows that the better off is the Other Person, then the better off is he himself. And it will always be that way. The profits lay in the margins of advantage between the Self and Other, not in the separating disadvantages between the self and the other.

Therefore my conclusions in this matter are that it is both a senseless and anti-Capitalistic act to dispose of and waste food such as my daughter’s employer and business owner does, and an immoral and un-Christian act to do so.

This is not even to mention the obverse of the equation: the possible enormous public relations advantages that might be gained by being widely known as a responsible, morally-driven, and socially beneficial company or corporation as well as a highly-profitable one, both now and in the future.

I am writing this article therefore, and this is far from all that might be said on the issue (as a matter of fact this might even become an Interactive Essay on the issue, and perhaps it should), so that currently operating companies and corporations can take a good and honest look at their own operations in this regard. Are you needlessly and senselessly wasting valuable customer, human, and property resources merely because you have a misguided conception of both Capitalism and Profit, or merely because you fear risk in making and developing your True and Foundational Profits?

Because if so then I say to you, my friend, “there are profits, and then there are Prophets of Profits.”

Be not a slave to mere profits, but rather a Great Prophet of High-Profits. And you will discover that as a result not only you, but the whole world will thrive.

THE SLIP SUIT

This morning while walking in the woods with Sam I was watching a leaf fall, saw it hit a spider’s web (a big one) then turn in a certain way, slip the web, and continue on to the ground.

Suddenly I was hit by a superb idea for a new type of ballistic armor I’m going to call the Slip-Suit. The basic idea will not be to absorb impact from projectiles, but to “slip impact.”

The way I have the Slip-Suit envisioned it should easily be able to be created using current technologies and current materials, though some materials may have to be reconstructed or realigned din design of the suit to function properly.

Also the idea is so close in basic concept to some of the functions of my Aisthpleis Suit that I am seriously considering seeing if they can be integrated in some way. But both suits are so radical in function that their separate technologies may not be integrate-able. It may be possible to put a Slip-Suit beneath the Aisthpleis, but because the Aisthpleis relies so heavily on direct contact with the human body that may not be possible. It may be possible to coat certain areas of the outer surface of the Aisthpleis with parts of the Slip-Suit material (The Slippage) but I’ll just have to see.

This will be a fairly high-tech development so I’ll need the Museus to eventually help me build and capitalize it.

I have classified it – (HT) 1f,g,h:4c:5:7:8

 

The whole incident also gave me an idea for a much more advanced type of personal suit I’ll call the Explacesure Suit. But this idea is really along the liens more of a science fiction development, than a Real World Invention. The technologies involved and the energy consumption rates that would be required would be enormous and well beyond current technological limits.

As a matter of fact Explacesure is really base upon a defensive combat system I designed for human spacecraft back when I was a kid.

So Explacement will probably have to remain more just a speculative concept and an idea I use in my fiction writings, rather than a viable product invention.

THE REINVENTION OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

An excellent business lecture on Entrepreneurship, Start-Ups, Financing, Marketing, and general principles of Innovation.

I recommend it.

 

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