Teri Bernstein, MBA, CPA has been teaching full time in the Business Department of Santa Monica College since 1985. Prior to that, she worked in Internal Audit and Special Financial Projects for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, CBS, Inc., and Coopers & Lybrand. She attended the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
Privilege. What does it mean? And why would we need to talk about this in a business context, as well as in a sociological context? Actually, privilege is a serious issue for the workplace.
Part of the problem is that even some "liberal" Americans don't truly understand how people of color experience "white privilege" on a multiple-times-per-day basis. Many white Americans feel that the civil rights movement has abolished all prejudice and bias--at least for those people who do not consider themselves racist.
But the people that are affected by the dominance of white "normative" culture and the unspoken assumptions about privilege and position feel differently. Being fully aware of these issues is essential for the next generation of ALL business managers. I will address the nuances of this issue in a future blog.
Basically, cultural differences among Americans in the United States mean differences in:
One of the first social scientists to address this issue was Peggy McIntosh --in a landmark and seminal essay that (unfortunately, but remarkably) still has relevance more than 25 years later. Her focus is white vs ethnic minority discrepancies, but the privilege she describes is inherent in many parameters.
Acknowledging that there is still a problem is the (sex) educator and social commentator Laci Green, in a piece that diverges from her usual subject matter, but is cogent and enlightening:
How can privilege can affect the workplace?:
As human resource departments and managers grapple with these issues from both a legal and employee-morale standpoint--as well as a personal ethical standpoint--everyone in the business environment must become educated and mindful about stereotypes and bias surrounding privilege and other assumptions from previous eras.
note: clarifications of language were made in paragraphs 2 and 3 on September 25, 2015.
Sources: "Is Racism Over Yet?" by Laci Green, via YouTube, June 2015.
"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," by Peggy McIntosh, Independent School (Winter 1990) excerpt from Working Paper 189, 1988.
Trailer for the financial literacy program emceed by the rock band "Gooding"
Financial literacy can mean the difference between making "smart" decisions about one's financial future...and ending up struggling to make ends meet, even as an older person. Sometimes, though, it seems as though there is a huge gap between the people that know how to invest and manage their money, and the people that feel clueless.
Financial literacy programs are trying to bridge this gap. One program uses a rock band that visits high schools and community colleges to make financial literacy seem both more meaningful and necessary...and more accessible.
What do you think?
Source: YouTube video
Netflix has certainly had its ups and downs as a content provider. In September 2011, it radically changed its product delivery model...and lost many of it clients in the process. Netflix has also been an innovator in introducing original series, including:
One of the new series of summer 2015 indicates that Netflix is starting to probe a new market: teens and young adults. Its offering "The Wet Hot American Summer: the First Day of Camp" is one example. Netflix has also optioned a few YouTube favorites:
What does this mean? It means that Netflix is trying to respond to its primary demographic, and create meaningful content. Erik Marmack, the VP for global independent content at Netflix, said that "scripted entertainment that focused on teenagers was scarce."Netflix is trying to fill this marketing niche.
Sources: "Netflix to add Films and TV Series for Teenagers," by Emily Steele, the New York Times, August 24, 2015. "Netflix to customers: Did you like the Price Increase? We've got another surprise!!!!," by Teri Bernstein, Cengage KnowNow Blog, September 20, 2011.
How is Netflix positioned now to respond to current and future trends? What other market factors help or hinder their prospects? _______________________________________________________________________
The History of the Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand, via YouTube
Ben & Jerry's (makers of Chunky Monkey) was acquired by Unilever 15 years ago. Here is how Unilever describes the Ben & Jerry's subsidiary brand on their webpage:
When Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started their company, they had three goals:
To this end, they made ice cream from hormone-free dairy products and fair-trade ingredients. They cut down on garbage waste. They made chemical-free containers. They set up a foundation to which they contributed 7.5% of their pre-tax profits. The proof that they were financially successful was Unilever's offer to purchase the company at a 25% premium.
It was rough going at first, but since the acquisition, revenue has tripled, hundreds of jobs have been added, the subsidiary company is allowed the autonomy to stick to its principles (with even more clout than before), and their multi-national reach has been extended.
Source: "Gobbled Up, but Still Doing Good for the World," by David Gelles, the New York Times, August 23, 2015 (print); (online version with slightly different title published August 21, 2015).
Stock prices have been plummeting over the last few days on the stock market. Some analysts believe that this is a response to the devaluation of the Chinese yuan. Other analysts look at this as part of the "market correction" they have been anticipating, as stocks have been over-valued as a result of the bull market. The Dow Jones Industrial average has fallen more than 1,000 points.
What's new and different about this episode of falling stock prices, is that brokers are reporting events in real time on Twitter. Several of these texts can be read in the article linked below.
It is up for debate what effect these tweets have on market prices and trends.
Source: "Tweeting the market plunge," by the Marketplace staff, American Public Media, Marketplace, August 24, 2015.
Most people think they are ethical, but that may not be the case. It is easy to be influenced by short term goals, one's immediate environment, and maximizing personal income or power in a business environment. Often people feel that they can use one set of standards for ethical behavior at work...and a different one at home...and still a different one when at religious services. Yale scientist David Armour calls this "the illusion of objectivity," and it means we are unaware of our unconscious biases.
The issues addressed in the linked articles relate to the specific biases managers may have that inhibit their ability to function ethically, and strategies to overcome them. The four main biases are:
Generally, escaping institutionalized unethical behavior can be thwarted by:
Sources: "How (Un)ethical Are You?" by Mahzarin R. Banaji, Carol Pforzheimer, Max H. Bazerman, and Dolly Chugh, The Harvard Business Review, December 2003."Managers must refrain from unethical conduct," by Shelter Chieza, The Herald, June 11, 2015.
image/chart at top from Prentice Hall slideshare
What is your Myers-Briggs personality type?
Myers-Briggs testing may be controversial, but a business student might find it useful in many ways. First, a general knowledge of the information it provides is helpful. The test identifies personality traits that constellate around four parameters. It then groups individuals into sixteen categories that are associated with various strengths and ways of being in the world. It is very useful.
If you want to know your type, TAKE THE TEST.
Underlying the test is the axiom that people's innate strengths and ways of taking in information don't really change over time. It is more productive to work with those strengths rather than fight them. More importantly, when one is working with other people, it is useful to realize that others can do things very differently, but be just as effective as someone else.
Also, some institutions and business environments cultivate certain personality types, and frustrate others. One example is the public school system's emphasis on conformity and testing. This is not a conducive environment for some types--and "success" in this environment does not measure many traits that are useful in the world.
For managers, it is particularly useful, as knowing what type a person is can help a manager motivate the employee. As a personal motivation tool, knowing one's own tendencies can help one structure work flow so that it is a good fit for one's type. It can also help a person have objectivity about how others may see him or her.
Knowing the basics about the Myers-Briggs types is also useful when there are conflicts. If a leader can give voice to how different types might perceive a divisive issue--giving credence to various values and proclivities--it might help individuals not take the conflict as personally. Everyone's needs have a value, and the workplace needs also must be met. It helps people get on board--even if a project requires a different work style than one's own--if their own proclivities are understood. Their willingness to adapt for the good of the group can be acknowledged.
Knowing these types can help a person understand and motivate people in difficult environments--in other words, be a better leader. The Comprehensive Myers-Briggs Chart in the linked article provides a good summary of the types. For a more in-depth understanding of how the types apply to work relationships, love relationships, family dynamics, and career choice, the book Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey is an excellent resource. Keirsey's shortened form of the analytic test can be found in that book and on his website. It can provide an accurate and user-friendly assessment of one's own type.
By the way, I am an INFP.
Source: "The Strengths and Weaknesses of Every Personality Type," by Megan Willett, The Business Insider, February 13, 2015.
AP photo by Andre Penner published in The Guardian
Protestors in angry-looking Ronald McDonald masks and make-up staged demonstrations in Brazil this week. On August 20th, workers are scheduled to be testifying at a Brazilian Senate committee hearing.
The issues include:
The protest efforts are part of a world-wide expansion of a United States-based movement to obtain the reasonable and fair wage rate of $15/hour, and to make labor issues more sustainable by unionizing McDonald's workers across the globe. Global movement leaders are focusing their efforts on Brazil this week in order to clarify and publicize the many abuses that workers and sympathetic observers feel are being perpetuated by McDonald's.
AP photo by Andre Penner published in The New York Times
An on-going lawsuit is being arbitrated in the United States by the National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB). Under review is the concept of whether workers at different owner-operated franchises are "jointly employed" by the McDonald's corporation. If ultimately this determination is made, it will make it easier for a union to organize and bargain for workers. It will also create an entity of thousands of workers that will have more clout in bargaining with McDonald's--and whose victories will apply across the corporation, rather than to a few dozen workers at a given location.
Sources: "Union Takes a McDonald's Challenge Overseas," by Noam Scheiber, the New York Times, August 20, 2015.
"McDonald's faces global scrutiny at Brazilian senate's human rights hearing," by Bruce Douglas, The Guardian, August 20, 2015.
This is an important question for a small investor, a business mergers-and-acquisitions expert, an accounting student and anyone reading a business periodical. The answer is: there are several ways to value stock.
Market valuation is determined by checking the stock trading price: What are other people willing to pay for this stock at this point in time? This is useful to an investor who is going to make a short-term or "available-for-sale" type investment in a stock. A company's "market cap" is determined by taking the stock price and multiplying it by the number of shares outstanding (owned by investors). Fundamental valuation takes more work. Anyone investing in a significant portion of a company's shares, or who wants to buy a controlling interest in a company, would do this kind of in-depth analysis. This requires looking at the value of company assets, its existing liabilities, and analyzing the projected net income streams from prior years and predicted into the future. This type of analysis may also include intangible assets (such as a trained employee force, or existing loyal customers), which are not included in a "book value" assessment.
Book value (which is covered in every accounting text, but is not addressed in the video above) is the value of stock as determined by the audited financial statements, with the conservative treatment of some assets required by GAAP. It is a number that is often far below the share price of the stock, and useful only for comparison from year-to-year, rather than as a way to determine stock price.
Source: "Why a share's price and its value might not line up," by Paddy Hirsch, American Public Media: Marketplace Whiteboard, July 22, 2015.
Google is re-structuring. Corporate businesses can re-create and re-organize themselves by dividing their business segments, and managing them separately. A "parent company" oversees the segments, which usually have different business goals. Each segment company has its own stock and management. The parent company owns 100% (or at least more than 50%) of the stock in each subsidiary segment, thereby controlling each segment's operations.
Since 1998, Google's first and primary business has been providing an internet search engine and various tools to support that search engine. It is a well-known product--which may even be in danger of losing its copyright protection on the word "Google," due to the common usage of "google" as a verb to mean "do an internet search."
Looking toward the future, Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brim, see the company moving in many different directions. To support these corporate business goals, they have created a new entity: Alphabet, Inc. Under the aegis of Alphabet, Inc., Page and Brim will separate its stable money-making internet search engine products (Google and others) from its more research-and-development oriented projects, some of which are also already generating revenue. Two of these segments are Nest and Calico, but the Alphabet "umbrella" will house several other companies as well.
Source: "Google to Reorganize as Alphabet, to Keep Its Lead as an Innovator," by Conor Dougherty, New York Times, August 10, 2015.
Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods have a plan. "Frugalwoods" is the pseudonym of a couple in Cambridge, MA, who blog about their journey anonymously so that their employers don't know their plans. Mrs. Frugalwoods is a communications manager; Mr. Frugalwoods is an IT specialist. They own a 4-bedroom home in walking distance of Harvard and MIT, and they are expecting their first child.
They plan to retire at age 33. In 2017. Here are a few things that make (or will make) their plan work:
Part of their plan includes extending their income years beyond their retirement dates for their jobs. These revenue streams include:
A plan to retire early takes vision, discipline and courage. Do you have what it takes?
Sources: "How a couple of "frugal weirdos" are saving 71% of their income sot they can retire at age 33," by Lauren Gensler, Forbes, August 4, 2015
If you land your dream job, do you want to keep it? There are "cultural differences" in workplace expectations between the newly hired Millennials and the Baby Boomer or GenX bosses. Inc magazine recently wrote about three serious disconnects between Millennials and their new job situations:
Source: "3 Reasons Millennials are Getting Fired," by J.T. O'Donnell, Inc.com, August 4, 2015.
Experience Grand Rapids For more of a "full body" experience:
For fun and profit: the Insane Inflatable Event at Grand Rapids Millennial Park, August 2015
When thinking about where to locate for quality of life or business and investment purposes, many factors must be considered. Some of these involve personal preferences (weather, closeness to family), while others involve practical and financial considerations. For the practical side, SWOT analysis can be employed:
AreaDevelopment, a business-to-business consulting and publishing company that specializes in evaluating where businesses will thrive, used several sources primarily based on government data to determine the top cities for economic growth to determine the top cities for economic growth. In this study, number one was Denver, and number two was Houston.
Here is what they have to say about Grand Rapids:
For a "rust belt" city, this economic recovery is remarkable. It may be in part due to the growth of tourism sparked by the city's support of cultural events. Experience Grand Rapids is an organization devoted to making the city's events accessible to both tourists and residents. Their training program for service providers, CTA (Certified Tourism Ambassadors), is a national certification alliance that sets high standards for customer service interactions. This positive experience for residents and tourists alike may be a factor in the city's growth.
Sources: "Grand Rapids Joins Big Leagues: Ranks 3rd in Nation for Economic Growth," by Shandra Martinez, mlive.com, June 23, 2015.
"No. 1 Grand Rapids," for Forbes, 2015.
consultant Susan Stripling shows how to do "highly targeted" ads on Facebook
Most of us have had the experience of using social media, and seeing ads pop up on our page that are directly related to something we have recently researched online, purchased, or talked about in an email. The euphemism for this type of advertising is "targeted" or "highly targeted" advertising. Some people call it "creepy" advertising.
My first experience with this was somewhat unsettling. I'd sent a friend a children's story I'd written about two sisters running away to Catalina Island, off the coast of California. The next time I hopped onto Gmail, my right margin was populated with places to stay and eat on Catalina. Yikes.
Social networking platforms are aware that there is a fine line between effective targeted advertising, and advertising that is so personal that it makes potential customers feel as though their privacy is being invaded. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is promising to address this issue to maximize effectiveness by use of its 3V Advertising:
Snapchat CEO and 3V Advertising
Source: "Snapchat CEO Promises Better, non-'Creepy' Digital Advertising," by Martin Beck, MarketingLand.com, June 22, 2015.