• Requirement to pay union dues expected to be struck down by Supreme Court

     from Wochit Politics

    This week, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by public employee Mark Janus of Illinois. He objects to paying union dues, which are required under the "closed shop" policy allowed under Illinois state law. "Closed shop" means that if an employee benefits from a union contract, then he or she is required to pay union dues, even if they would rather not. "The decision, due by next June, could prove a costly setback for public-sector unions in 22 states, including California, where such fees are authorized by law. Labor experts have predicted a significant percentage of employees would stop supporting their union if given a choice. The other 28 states have 'right to work' laws that forbid requiring workers to join or support a union." (Los Angeles Times)

    Without the ability to collect dues from all beneficiaries, the clout of unions may be affected in terms of their ability to bargain for salary and benefits for employees. According to the Economic Policy Institute, this would negatively affect the salary and benefits for other workers over time.

    Since the appointment of Neil M. Gorsuch this year to the Supreme Court, there are now five judges who would likely vote to strike down closed shop provisions. 

    Source: "Supreme Court poised to deal a sharp blow to unions for teachers and public employees," by David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Think long term--what are the foreseen and possibly unforeseen consequences of this ruling?
    • Describe and then list the pros and cons of a "closed shop" union situation. How might the phrase "right to work" be used in a misleading way with respect to this issue?  
    • What do you think is fair? How should this case be decided in your opinion?
  • IKEA vertically integrates with new purchase

     from the LA Times

    Swedish home furnishings company, IKEA--famous for its meatballs as well as its assemble-it-yourself bookshelves--recently signed an agreement to purchase TaskRabbit. TaskRabbit is a San Francisco company that provides a platform by which various services can be arranged with independent contractors.

    When a company buys another company like itself, it is horizontal integration. When it buys its suppliers, distributors, or servicers, it is vertical integration, which applies to the TaskRabbit purchase. We can't get all the details of the purchase, however. IKEA--which is controlled by a trust based in Holland--has purchased a corporation that previously had been funded by private venture capital. Because IKEA is also not publicly traded, it can choose NOT to disclose the price it agreed to pay for TaskRabbit.

    The deal is expected to be completed sometime in October, but TaskRabbit will continue to operate autonomously. 

    Source: "IKEA enters "Gig Economy" by Acquiring TaskRabbit," by Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, September 28, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • There are marketing hurdles to overcome when any new product is introduced. What are the hurdles for a tasking service? Check out this TaskRabbit link. How do they mitigate this "new product" hurdle? What do they fail to address?
    • How do you think that the relationship with IKEA will affect TaskRabbit--both in terms of its management and its customer demographics? Any downsides?
    • What does IKEA stand to gain?
    • Describe IKEA's unusual capital structure.

  • The Yeti: united we chill

     Yeti cooler info

    While hipsters and hunters may seem to be at odds in these economically divisive times, one product seems to be enchanting those in many far-afield demographics: the Yeti cooler. The product was developed by two outdoors-y brothers in 2006 to solve their own problems with coolers that would underperform and break. Sales grew via outdoor gear outlets, and the company attracted a major investor, then filed for an IPO in July 2016. It has yet to move forward with the public offering, however. 

    The Yeti coolers are expensive, sturdy coolers, constructed like kayaks and built to last. They keep ice frozen for days rather than hours. The Tundra line can also be used as a seat. The company also makes a "Rambler" line that contains tumbler-sized products that can keep a single drink cold.

    It is interesting to note that a truly high quality product that meets people's needs and will last a long time is a product that has broad appeal.  

    Source: "Can a $300 cooler unite America?" by Steven Kurutz, New York Times, September 28, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Research similar coolers. What makes the Yeti special? Is it all hype? Compare and contrast
    • List the various demographics to which the Yeti appeals. What qualities would you market to each of them and how would you market it?
    • Why did YETI delay its IPO? (one view; another view WSJ)

  • DACA, other undocumented immigrants, and Houston after Harvey

     undocumented immigrants in Houston: AP Archive

    "Half of the workers in construction in Texas are undocumented," reports Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Construction, via Fox News. Moreover, the National Association of Home Builders reports that 54% of developers nationwide have felt a shortage in their labor pool in 2017, since the immigration ban began. These reports were made in August, PRIOR to Hurricane Harvey's devastation in Houston. This was also prior to the edict phasing out DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).  

    DACA beneficiaries (also known as "Dreamers") have undertaken training programs and have become employed in helping professions as well as construction and other trades. With their prospects suddenly at risk, the services they have been and would be providing as Houston cleans up and rebuilds are also in jeopardy. 


    Follow up

    • Do you know anyone personally who was brought to the U.S. as a child, and whose status is either undocumented or "Dreamer" under DACA? What do you think the policy on undocumented children or undocumented workers who have started businesses and lived lawfully in the U.S. should be? Do you feel the policy should apply differently to those from different areas of the world? Explain your position. 
    • What are the various trades and services that might be impacted most from the loss of immigrant labor? Research the response of small business owners and CEOs throughout the country regarding the phasing out of the DACA program.

  • Illmind: Finding a way to make money in today's music biz

     One Briton's take on how to make a living in the music biz

    Ramon Ibanga Jr., professionally known as Illmind, wanted to make money in the music business. He faced the same disrupted revenue environment as others wanting to be involved in the music business. Illmind's specialty is digital beats and sounds.

    He started out small--really small. He recorded snippets of digital drum sounds in his mother's basement (after dropping out of college). He posted them on his MySpace page...and they were stumbled upon by a record label working with LL Cool J. This led to Illmind's first "placement"--a payment for his music. He eventually created his own product: about 150 individual sounds in a digital folder. He set up a PayPal account and offered them for sale for $20 to $25 a folder.  He was surprised at his immediate sales, and continued to create product, 

    He was not the only person packaging sounds and marketing them to music producers, who in turn used the sounds to enrich the music they were producing.  Frank Dukes (real name: Adam King Feeney) is one very successful music "sample" entrepreneur--better known to producers than to the public.  He creates sound segments that are central enough to others' creative content to get him writer or producer credit--producing royalty revenue as well as one-off sales. 

    Illmind, continuing to network and develop his now unique brand of sounds, and also has been able to enter this more lucrative "sampling-ready" content market. Although he still sells his $25 folders as well, much of his current income comes from being sampled by major artists such as Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, Drake, and others.

    Illmind Beats for Kanye West:

    Source: "Episode 794: How to make it in the music business," [podcast] by Jacob Goldstein, NPR: Planet Money, September 17, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • When you were growing up, did you ever fantasize about a career in the music business? Band member? Singer/songwriter? Music producer? What has happened to the music business in the meantime? What advice might you give someone  who wanted a music business career?
    • Comment on Illmind's major fear prior to starting phase one of his business. What are parallel fears that might come up for fast-casual restaurant business, or a retailer, or any creative endeavor? What was a key factor in Illmind overcoming the hurdle? Toward the end of the podcast, what other factors are highlighted as prime reasons for Illmind's success? List the factors.
    • What was the networking platform Myspace used for? What happened?


  • Entrepreneurs and the lunacy of going public

    James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee on entrepreneurship

    Blue Bottle Coffee is a start up that has recently had an IPO. Nestle purchased it. The impetus for starting a company (especially for a person who has the soul of a musician) is at odds with the profit motivation of large corporation shareholders. 

    "Repeating to perfection" and "sensory experience" as a value, as well as "being in service" to an idea are all concepts that may not have an overlap with a focus on profits only. The experience of entrepreneurs can be at odds with the values of a public corporation. James Freeman gives some insight into his experience as an artist and an entrepreneur in the video above. The experience is put in context in the NYT article. 

    Other entrepreneurs and investors have had parallel experiences, including Clamath Palihapitiya.

    Quite a bit to ponder, as a consumer and a student of business. As well as a coffee drinker...

    Source: "Fixing the 'Brain Damage' caused by the IPO process," Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times, September 18, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • Why did Nestle buy Blue Bottle Coffee? Why did James Freeman sell? 
    • Describe "beautiful art" according to James Freeman. What does "roasting date" mean to Mr. Freeman? What is the farmer's market piece of this? 
    • Describe the growth of Blue Bottle Coffee, beginning in 2003. 
    • Do you believe that the brand won't change for Blue Bottle Coffee? What exactly IS the fix for the IPO process? 


  • Retailer Best Buy bucks the trend and stays vital

     Fox News on Best Buy's comeback

    Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly has been instrumental in turning around company sales and image for Best Buy. His strategy has been consumer-focused and experiential. If you haven't been into a Best Buy recently, you might be surprised on a visit to notice that Apple products are prominently displayed in a similar but slightly more attractive way than they are in Apple retail outlets. Microsoft and Android products are displayed in a similarly engaging fashion. This on-ground experience translates into sales numbers. What the NYT writer found was: 

    "Best Buy’s rebound has been surprisingly durable. Revenue figures have beaten Wall Street’s expectations in six of the last seven quarters. The company’s stock price has risen more than 50 percent in the past year. Workers are happy. And judging from several other visits I paid to Best Buy stores, the chain appears to have avoided the bleak fate of other big-box retailers."

    The imperatives that have made a difference to Best Buy included a focus on:

    • Price matching to online retailers (read: AMAZON!)
    • Customers-as-humans focus
    • Stores as showcase venues that can ship at will
    • Cost cutting as a stealth maneuver rather than a bully club
    • attitude of "Get lucky, stay humble and don't tempt fate"

    Source: "Best Buy's Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age," by Kevin Roose, New York Times: the Shift, September 18, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • Describe how your own shopping habits have changed over the last three years. How much do you spend online? How much do you spend in retail (non-food) stores?
    • Ask your parents or someone at least 1/2 a generation older than you are the same question. Devise a marketing plan for a product of your choice based on the results.
    • According to Fox News, who was responsible for Best Buy's comeback? How?  How do those conclusions compare to those in the NYT article?
    • What does Best Buy mean by the last imperative listed above?


  • The iPhone X has new features...or are they bugs?

     CNN Tech reviews the iPhone X

    The newly announced iPhone X (pronounced "ten") has some new features that many view as a step backwards. The thumbprint ID feature is gone...and replaced by a facial recognition ID...that uses infrared light. Supposedly the infrared lighting will allow the phone to be opened in the dark. But infrared usefulness, generally (according to experts) diminishes in bright sunlight. Also, those wanting to open their phones stealthily may not be as hidden as they'd like to be...

    The headphone situation has morphed beyond the "dongle" workaround to totally wireless functionality. As someone who still has a landline phone with a cord (for calls that really need to be crystal-clear), I am baffled by the elimination of the corded option. Oh well. 

    The charging is also wireless--done through the glass casing on a charging mat. This, of course brings up a Catch-22:

    • Can I charge the phone through a protective case (answer: yes, if it is not "too thick")
    • Isn't an all-glass device MORE likely to need a protective cover--particularly with beveled edges like many Otter cases? (not to mention that a $1000 device might actually come with an appropriate protective case)

    Consumers will decide the fate of the iPhone X. Pre-orders begin October 27, 2017, with shipping beginning November 3rd. 


    Follow up

    • What is your smartphone ownership history? When and why will you make your next smartphone purchase, and what will it be?
    • Do some out-of-the-box, zero-based product development: design and list the features of your perfect smartphone. Include dimensions, charging, features, connectivity, photo & video, pricing structure, design, and anything else of importance to you. 


  • The Equifax hack and the Equifax delayed response

     PBS NewsHour on the Equifax hack

    Equifax, one of the three gatekeepers of credit histories for individuals, recently announced a breach affecting virtually all financially active individuals in the United States. The breach occurred between May and July of this year, but Equifax opted to delay letting the public know about the breach. In the meantime, three executives, including Equifax's Chief Financial Officer, sold $1.8 million of stock. The Senate is investigating these sales to see if the senior officials had had insider knowledge of the breach. 

    The issue for most of the 143 million Americans affected is what to do to be protected from identity theft, since social security numbers, mothers' maiden names, drivers license numbers, addresses, and in some cases credit card numbers were stolen. There is some action that needs to be taken immediately, and some financial behaviors to remember for the future. 

    How to initiate a credit freeze, from CNBC News:  

    Contacting Equifax to set up a credit freeze or fraud alert by phone can be problematic. Brian Fung wrote for the Washington Post about his 45 minute phone ordeal.  I hope he also remembered that it is important to contact TransUnion and Experian as well (contact information is in the Follow Up government link).

    On a personal note, I am not surprised that Equifax had a breach and handled it poorly. They created an identity theft problem for me that I discovered in 2016. They merged my credit history with a person whose social security number differed by one digit from mine. To clear up the problem, they deleted my credit history from their system prior to February 2016. Except...they must have just pulled my prior history later from Experian and TransUnion, because the old history (including closed accounts) reappeared. In my experience, the run-around described by Brian Fung is business-as-usual with Equifax. 

    At least this breach is bringing attention to management problems and privacy issues. Savvy consumers will also be paying more attention to the accuracy of their financial profiles.

    Source: "Senators Seek Answers on Equifax Breach, Including Details on Stock Sales," by Tara Bernard Siegel, New York Times, September 11, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Have you checked to see if you have been affected by this breach? If not, do so right away. Also, set up a fraud credit freeze with all three credit reporting bureaus. This should not cost anything.
    • Need help? Check out this objective government website. (They won't try to sell you anything.) Bookmark the page and/or load the phone numbers into your devices so that you will have quick access to ways to get help. 
    • Are executives who sold stock prior to the announcement of the breach likely to be prosecuted? Explain your answer.
  • The good news AND the bad news: Tesla range increased for FL evacuation

     from PopTrigger

    "Range anxiety" is less of an issue for the Tesla Model S (200+ miles) than it is for other all-electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf (107 miles). Nevertheless, for those evacuating areas of Florida in the path of Hurricane Irma, vehicle range in congested traffic conditions was a major factor. (Projected mileage is based on normal driving conditions, not power-draining bumper-to-bumper traffic.)

    Tesla was able to remotely boost certain late-model vehicles with software enabled at 60 kilowatt hours to 75 kilowatt hours, extending their range by up to 40 miles. In non-emergency times, Tesla sells this range upgrade for $6,000-$9,500. The free Irma upgrade will expire on Saturday. 

    While the range extension may have been both practical and comforting to evacuees, Tesla's power to remotely manipulate the range of their vehicles raises other questions. What else does Tesla have control of? Does centralized control mean more vulnerability to hackers? What personal information is Tesla keeping track of?

    Perhaps consumers of all things electronic have become inured to privacy and control issues...but that complacently often abruptly ends when there has been an inconvenient error or a breach. 

    Source: "Tesla boosts car battery power during Irma, raising questions of control," by Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, September 11, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Read the article. Is the ability to remotely extend the power range of Tesla vehicles a "bug" or a "feature"? Explain your understanding of Tesla's business decision.
    • How much of a factor is "range anxiety" in the marketing of all-electric vehicles? Why haven't the manufacturers of electric vehicles with gas back-up engines exploited their no-range-anxiety advantage (e.g. Chevy Volt)?

  • Undocumented immigrants and commitment to U.S. home ownership

     brief YouTube infomercial--immigration lawyer

    A person does not have to be a U.S. citizen to own residential real estate in the United States. In fact Chinese investment in U.S. real estate was $36.6 billion last year. Nevertheless, many assume that undocumented immigrants cannot be home owners. But the value of home ownership is high on the list of priorities for many immigrants, just as it is for many born in the U.S. But regular mortgages are not available.

    Financing real estate is the big hurdle. While rich foreign nationals may be able to buy an investment property for cash, undocumented immigrants trying to buy their own home can only get a loan at about twice the current interest rate for a conventional 30 year mortgage. This loan is called an ITIN mortgage (see article and link below). In spite of this hurdle:

    " More than 3.4 million undocumented immigrants are homeowners, according to the Migration Policy Institute analysis of the 2014 U.S. census data. That’s about 31 percent of the undocumented population."

    Are the rates higher because there is a higher risk of delinquency or default? According to CEO Jason Madiedo, of Alterra, which has issued about 300 ITIN mortgages, “Out of all of the ITIN loans that we've done, we have had three loans pay off completely and we've had zero loans default or go delinquent.” 

    To put this anecdotal data into perspective, the delinquency rate on single family house mortgages in the U.S. are currently at 3.68%, and were at a high of 11.36% in 2009.

    For additional perspective on the rates of home ownership, from the linked article:


    Follow up

    • Research current 30-year mortgage rates. How do they compare to the rates that immigrants pay on the special loan product. Calculate the percentage difference. What are the factors that might explain the willingness to pay the high cost? 
    • What does ITIN mean? Who might use an ITIN? How does use of an ITIN fit into a local business economy? 
  • "Brand-Name" teachers using product placement for profit as well as enrichment

     from the YouTube page of Charmalee Kirk

    Silicon Valley firms--including Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, and Facebook--have been making donations to public school teachers willing to brand themselves and use their products in their curriculum. One teacher, Kelly Delzer in North Dakota, set the pedagogical tone which could justify her own participation via a TEDx talk: "Reimagining classrooms: Teachers as learners, students as leaders":

    Kelly is featured in the NYT article below. Inspiring though her classroom may be, she alludes in her TEDx talk to teachers being the "gatekeepers" of information about the world. If that is the case, assimilating information through the filter of a specific medium might be a major factor in slanting information in a certain direction. On the other hand, many students might be empowered by a classroom environment that is as addictive as their gaming environments. 

    Education is an arena where trends and philosophies often change. This "customer"-centered approach will be no doubt continued to be debated.

     photo by Don Koeck from the linked article

    Side note: One of the comments to the online article asked a question about the lack of diversity in the classroom pictured above. I don't know if it means anything in terms of the classroom choices made by Instagram, the demographics of the district, or an NYT editorial decision. Nevertheless, I would be interested to know the demographics of those who are being served by these programs. 

    Source: "Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues," by Natasha Singer, New York Times, September 1, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • What are the ethical issues raised by this practice, as you see it? 
    • What underlying problems are solved by this marketing practice? Are there other solutions to that problem? What are the hindrances that have stopped those solutions from being implemented?
    • Often professors assign textbooks which they have authored or co-authored. How does personal authorship and  change the ethical balance sheet?


  • Dollar Shave Club fails to thrive after buy-out by Unilever

     Dollar shave club diversifies its product line

    Five years ago, Dollar Shave Club upended the men's razor business with its subscription service and sassy advertising. Dollar Shave Club's disruptive branding included human-to-human, non-scripted, customer service. The well-trained "member service agents" were considered by Dollar Club to be an investment rather than an expense subject to cost cutting. Dollar Shave Club's  success led to a $1 billion buy-out by Unilever in 2016. As part of the deal, Dollar Shave Club remained an autonomous operation, which Unilever successfully managed with its Ben & Jerry's acquisition. The hands-off approach by a parent company is unusual. It is not unusual, however, for a company to experience growing pains when there is a change in ownership structure.

    Unilever expected Dollar Shave Club to expand its product line into other grooming products, and generate a "double-digit, year-over-year" revenue increase. But in the process of re-organizing, lay-offs, and new personnel, Dollar Shave Club has lost some of its "cheeky, underdog" edge. Sales of new product lines have not met expectations. The goal of increasing per-member spending from around $5.50 per month to $12 per month has not been met. 

    We'll see if the new website design and product campaign planned for this fall makes a difference...and if Dollar Shave Club and its CEO and founder, Michael Dubin, are able to maintain their status as an independently-operating subsidiary. 

    Source: "Dollar Shave Club succeeded with razors, but the rest of the bathroom is a challenge," by Paresh Dave, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2017. 

    Follow up:

    • Watch this recent commercial from Dollar Shave Club. Read the blog on Dollar Shave Club from 2013, and--if you can handle the bad language--watch the video from the initial launch. What has changed? What is still the same?
    • Check out the link to the article discussing non-scripted customer service. What other companies are using it? Why? List the pros and cons from the businesses' points of view and from the customers'.
    • What changes in Dollar Shave Club personnel may be directly related to its disappointing performance? (Read the whole article)


  • The ethics of price gouging in times of disaster

     from CBS News

    Should retailers hike the prices of supplies needed for survival when a disaster strikes? Does the "law of supply and demand" give entrepreneurs the right to buy up supplies, then re-sell the water and the matches and the gasoline or boat rescues to the highest bidder, or at an exorbitant mark-up? If so, should the prices go up by 20%?....or 400%? More?

    An opportunistic hike in prices, termed "price-gouging," may be divorced from ethical considerations when it comes to a hotel room on the centerline of the eclipse, or front-row seats to a Lady Gaga concert. But in the face of disaster, what are our responsibilities to other human beings? 

    Contrary to what some believe, the law of supply and demand is not actual legislation guaranteeing the right to charge what the market will bear in every circumstance. But profit-taking in times of disaster may have consequences for retailers who want to continue doing business in better times. And because the supply chains are disrupted, not all of the normal market pressures are in place to mitigate price hikes. In times of scarcity, rationing in terms of equitable distribution is one solution. Rationing by ability-to-pay is another. Not everyone agrees. 

    Here is an interview from Fox News with Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton:

    Source: "Economists don't think price gouging is a problem. But what about our social values?" by Adrienne Hill, Marketplace, America Public Media, September 1, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • What are the pros and cons of price gouging for small businesses in a disaster area? Think of long term consequences as well as short term.
    • Research and list the pros and cons of laws that prohibit or curb price-gouging. 
    • Summarize the points made in the interview with Ken Paxton, above.


  • "Spy Fight": Expanding business goals when over-crowdfunded

    When a Kickstarter or Indiegogo project meets its funding goal straightaway, what can the entrepreneur do to keep the funding coming in throughout the launch period? Here is an example. Spy Fight launched on August 27, 2017--just over a week ago. Within four hours, it had met its Kickstarter goal of $5,000--but the project will remain open for additional pledges until September 27th. The entrepreneur's immediate circle of contacts probably sponsored the project in the first week. Why would some curious friend of a friend of friend be interested in throwing "extra" money at something that has (at this point) raised more than four times the goal?   

    What the Spy Fight launcher (Cards for Gamers LLC) did was redesign the Kickstarter launch page to include three "stretch goals." These funding points, if reached, would provide a special bonus card in addition to the regular deck to those who sponsored at the "I-want-one-game" level. With 21 more days to go, the first stretch goal of $20,000 has already been met, and Spy Fight is less than $2,000 away from meeting the second stretch goal of $25,000.  The $30,000 stretch goal seems within reach. 

    My hope is that Cards for Gamers LLC personnel have already prepared a detailed business plan, and that they know their unit costs at various levels of production. I hope they have prepared a flexible budget as part of their plan, so that they know how increased demand may affect their production and delivery plans. And, if the game is good, I wish them profits galore. 


    Follow up

    • Why did the entrepreneur choose the LLC form of business for the launch of his product? What are the pros and cons of this and other choices?
    • When a Kickstarter projects funds in four hours, what marketing and pricing conclusions might be drawn?  Look at the tiers at which sponsors contributed. What marketing and pricing strategies were at play in this launch, and how are they turning out? 
    • Compare this Kickstarter site with others.  What are its strengths and weaknesses?  How (if at all) is it unique?
    • Where and how would you market this game?  

  • Skill # 11: Great Writing

    part of an unedited video series by Jason Fried from 2010

    Yesterday's blog addressed 10 skills essential to business success compiled by one analyst, but here is skill #11: the ability to write well. Jason Fried, CEO and founder of Basecamp (consulting and web-based project management), always makes sure that a potential employee can write well. The first "writing test" is the cover letter for the candidate's resume. His policy is to encourage people to write clearly about themselves--explaining who they are, what they do and why they want to work for Basecamp.t Additional writing is required at various points in the hiring process. 

    Fried believes writing is important because:

    • most communication is written
    • a lot of work is done remotely
    • "writing is quieter"
    • long-form writing documents a thorough thought process so that others can understand it

    He thinks that every single employee must be a good writer. How are your skills?

    Source: "Jason Fried of Basecamp on the Importance of Writing Skills," by Adam Bryant, New York Times: The Corner Office, September 1, 1017.

    Follow up:

    • Evaluate your writing skills, for example, writing: a cover letter for an employment application, a project report (or segment of a larger report), a personal essay, a persuasive essay, an elevator pitch, an email addressing a difficult issue, a thank you note. When was the last time you wrote each of those?
    • What other skills do you think helped Jason Fried get where he is today, based on the article, the Lifehacker link, and/or other sources?
    • What does Fried suggest is the ideal first job? Why? Do you agree? Explain. 


  • Advice from successful leaders: 10 essential skills

     10 skills distilled from successful people

    Evan Carmichael has pulled together clips in which business leaders and other inspirational and successful people dispense advice about essential skills for success. He points out that the skills might be difficult to acquire, but well worth the effort. His list includes the following individuals and, in their own words, their "must have" skill:

    Note: The links above do not correspond to those used in Carmichael's video blog, but provide useful background on the speakers.

    Source: "10 Skills That Are Hard to Learn, but Will Pay Off FOREVER!" by Evan Carmichael, via YouTube, August 26, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Which of these skills are already your strengths? Which might you want to work on? Are there any that you don't think you will need?
    • Describe what each of the leaders has accomplished. Which of the leaders represented most resonated with you as an example? Why? Were there any that you found objectionable in any way? Describe and analyze your reaction. 
    • Find some clips from other leaders that offered advice that you find helpful. 


  • Pumpkin Spice does the "Christmas Creep" into August

    from Wochit news

    It is Pumpkin Spice time again...and it isn't even Labor Day. Today, September 1, Starbucks rolls out its iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte (a week earlier than last year). Several products have been around for weeks, for example:

    • Krispy Kreme doughnuts and lattes
    • General Foods' Pumpkin Cheerios
    • Cost Plus featured products
    • Werther candies
    • Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Milano cookies

    The marketing boost of social media around limited-season products is one factor in pushing the availability of these products earlier in the season. Once the semester starts, summer is over anyway, right? In marketing terms it must be Fall already. Just like holiday marketing season has crept back to begin at Halloween.

    It is interesting to note the two ways that statistics related to pumpkin spice products are presented--first to suggest a trend toward decreasing popularity ("only 10% in 2015 and 2016") and later in terms of the growth from 2013 to 2016 (45% increase). 

    Source: "Pumpkin Spice Glut Arrives Earlier Than Ever," by Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, August 30, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • How do YOU feel about the pumpkin spice craze--both on a personal level and in terms of its viability as a continuing marketing tool?
    • How do you think the author of this article feels about the trend? Make a chart citing examples of pro and con statements about the pumpkin spice marketing focus.
    • Brainstorm some new pumpkin spice products. Then create a game where participants have to choose between the pumpkin spice products that actually exist versus the made-up ones. For inspiration, you might search out some of the pumpkin spice related YouTube videos.