• Business Books for the New Year

    Andrew Ross Sorkin has been a major force in business entertainment this year--as a consultant for the TV series Billions, and the creator of a DealBook digest of business news. He also has some reading suggestions for business aficionados, which include:

    Happy reading! I've got the Ray Dalio book on my bookshelf...

    Source: "In a Year of Nonstop News, a Batch of Business Books Worth Reading," by Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times, December 25, 2017.

    Follow up: Have you read any of these books? Which ones interest you? Why?

  • Taking the "Bro" out of CEO at MBA schools


    image by Chris Philpot for NYT

    In many MBA schools traditionally, a "bro" mentality has been fostered. Faculty offices, fraternities, exclusive meetings with alumni and appointments with recruiters have all been arenas where exclusion has been taught by example. Today, however, the atmosphere is changing. At Vanderbilt University, Professor Tim Vogus teaches about the "bro" culture at Uber. Stanford and Harvard are covering sexual harassment, free speech and human resource ethical issues. Topics such as gender privilege, empathy, and the sociology of decision-making are also being addressed. 

    From the article linked below: "An M.B.A. education is no longer just about finance, marketing, accounting and economics. As topics like sexual harassment dominate the national conversation and chief executives weigh in on the ethical and social issues of the day, business schools around the country are hastily reshaping their curriculums with case studies ripped straight from the headlines."

    A program called Manbassadors was started by two men in the Berkeley Haas MBA program, and has been gaining traction. Might this become a resume must-have?

    Source: "Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests, and Trump," by David Gelles and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, December 25, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Where and in what way(s) have you experienced the (perhaps unconscious) teaching of a men's-club-mentality for a business environment? Give specific examples.
    • Describe the Manbassador program. What are the plusses and minuses?
  • Molly's Game: entrepreneurship, poker and business ethics


    trailer for Molly's Game


    Opening this holiday season is the film Molly's Game, which is a biopic about an Olympic-hopeful who became an extremely successful poker-game-hosting entrepreneur. Molly Bloom, portrayed by Jessica Chastain, thinks on her feet, embodies an ideal of self-discipline, and takes advantage of opportunities to make money and control her own life--while assuming an increasing amount of risk. At one point, she crosses the line into what is technically illegal activity, which leads to the dramatic climax of the movie arc.  

    Thematically, the movie addresses motivation in a major way--as well as decision-making, risk, and what a clear ethical stand might mean for one's personal life. In addition, it is fun (and easy, with a little internet research) to guess what real-life characters are being portrayed by the film. 

    Source: "Molly's Game," written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, produced by STX Entertainment, et. al., in theaters beginning December 25, 2017.

    Follow up

    • What 2 events shaped Molly Bloom's Olympic career in a dramatic way? How may those experiences have shaped her business career?
    • When did Molly Bloom first commit a technically illegal act? What laws did she violate? What does the judge ultimately have to say about the severity of her crimes? What other crimes were being committed by those with whom Molly was doing business? 
  • Net Neutrality is over


     Ajit Pay, FCC Chairman; photo by Tom Brenner, NYT

    The Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, put forth a motion to repeal the rules that ensured that the internet was open in terms of bandwidth. He vigorously defended the repeal before the vote. He said the rollback of the rules would eventually benefit consumers because broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast could offer them a wider variety of service options. His two fellow Republican commissioners also supported the change, giving them a 3-to-2 majority.

    Others note that there is nothing in the rule change that would incentivize service providers to provide more content, although it may be that additional content may be provided at additional (and uncapped) costs. 

    Sources: "Farhad and Mike's Week in Tech: Net Neutrality is Gone," by Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, New York Times, December 15, 2017.

    Follow up

    • If you want to get a feel for how some people feel about the loss of net neutrality, check out the compilation of memes on YouTube. What is the overall impression that can be inferred from these?
    • List the pros and cons of net neutrality for the following stakeholders:
      • individual users who stream entertainment content
      • small entrepreneurial businesses like restaurants or specialty retailers
      • internet service providers (AT&T, Comcast, Frontier)

  • A career path of luck, flexibility, hard work, dedication and success


     short interview bites from Seraina Maag; For more, see speech after honor

    Seraina Maag (Macia), age 49, has had a remarkable international career in insurance and finance. So far, it has included these highlights:

    • An idyllic childhood in the Swiss mountains, doing acrobatic horse riding in international competition
    • A gap year in London, employed as an au pair
    • Work as an export credit specialist in Zurich for Brown Brothers Harriman--while going to night school in management
    • Work as an account underwriter for Swiss Re, an international reinsurance company. Although she did not meet the minimum job requirements, as luck would have it, her resume had been on a stack left outside on a balcony, and drew attention because it had been hit with bird droppings. She got the job and worked her way up to rating agency coordinator in the decade she was there.
    • Education at night: While at Swiss Re, she worked in both Switzerland and Australia, and continued night school. She received her MBA and became a Chartered Financial Analyst while working in Australia.
    • Entrepreneurial work as a bank founder: With twelve men, founded NZB NeueZuercher Bank in Switzerland, and served as Partner and Financial Analyst
    • Work as a global financial manager at Zurich Financial Services in Switzerland, running the Investor Relations & Rating Agencies and serving as Chief Financial Officer and President of Zurich North America Commercial Specialties.
    • An opportunity to grow and turn around a division of XL Group, whose CEO, Mike McGavick, gave her the freedom she needed to take action.
    • An appointment to the Young Global Leaders group of the World Economic Forum, which led to additional world service commitments.
    • Leadership as CEO of Hamilton, USA, between her two stints with AIG, Inc. 
    • Leadership at AIG: Worked at AIG; left in 2015 as part of a reorganization; rejoined AIG July 13, 2017 as Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Planned Technology-Focused, an AIG, Inc. subsidiary. Here she heads up a special project called Attune, which develops data analytics.
    • Service on a corporate board: Has been an Independent Director at Credit Suisse (USA), Inc. since 2015.
    • Service work in the Congo and other places as Chairwoman at BanQu, Inc.

    Inspiring, isn't it?

    Sources:

    Follow up

    • What do you think are the outstanding aspects of Seraina Maag's career history? In what ways would you like to emulate her? What aspects wouldn't work for you?
    • Have you ever applied for a job for which you did not meet the minimum qualifications?  If you were hired, how did that work out? Do you know of any others who have been in that situation? Describe.

    .

  • Schemes to make the most of the GOP tax plan


    Fareed Zakaria on the new tax bill

    Whether or not one agrees with the wisdom of the GOP tax bill, if it becomes law (as it looks like it will, as of December 17th, 2017), then each taxpayer probably wants to make the best of it on a personal basis. Some of the strategies include: 

    • Giving to charities in 2017, assuming one won't be itemizing in 2018. One strategy is a "Giving Account" which is available at some investment firms. Make your donation now to the account--then parcel it out to charities in the future. Your deduction can be taken in the year the account is set up. 
    • Have a child...OK--this is risky business and rife with Unforeseen Consequences, but maybe your employer will take advantage of the family leave provisions that they can only deduct in 2018 and 2019.
    • Regarding inheritance tax (if you are among the 2/10 of 1% of folks who stand to inherit an estate worth $5.49 million or more--since those are the only estates that are taxed): have your benefactors die later rather than sooner...but make sure they die before 2026! For this interim time, the first $11 million will not be taxed--but it goes back to  "only" $5.49 million in eight years. 
    • Move to Alaska, New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, Nevada--or some other state that doesn't have a state income tax or high property taxes, since state income and local property taxes will not be deductible over $10,000 under the new plan. 
    • Make non-real estate asset swaps (1031 exchanges) this year, as the non-real-estate transactions will not be allowed under the new law. A 1031 exchange allows an entity to sell an asset and replace it with another without incurring a tax liability on any gain. 
    • Set up and use a 529 account--not just for your kids' college education--but also to send them to private elementary and high school. 
    • Turn yourself as an employee into a pass-through corporation in order to take advantage of a 21% income deduction in the GOP bill.
    • Of course : See an accountant to make sure that whatever strategy you think applies will actually will work to your benefit.

    I, personally, am in a state where the income tax rate is high and the property taxes are a significant portion of housing expenses.  On my joint tax return, I have itemized deductions for most of my middle-to-upper-middle-class adult life--so I will have to do some "what-if" calculations to see how I should proceed in the future. I feel a bit aggrieved that the new tax law creates corporate tax rates that are lower than individual rates--especially because corporate tax-payers benefit in an extraordinary way from tax-supported infrastructure (roads, bridges, railroads, ports, police protection, fire protection, military protection). I am also concerned that the lack of support for home ownership in the current tax bill will de-stabilize the middle class and make it harder for the young to move up in economic status. Worst case, it will widen the divide between the extremely wealthy and The Rest Of Us. And create more debt. Alas. 

    Nevertheless, I may personally benefit from the GOP tax plan--but just a little: enough to take the family out to a very fancy dinner, maybe. Or to pay an accountant to crank the numbers for a few different tax scenarios, in case I don't trust myself to do it right. 

    I do encourage everyone to make the best of their own situation in light of the current reality, but also to work for other tax reform bills if this one doesn't seem to be the best the U.S. can do. 

    Source: "Hacking the Tax Plan: Ways to Make Money Off the Republican Tax Bill," by Quoctrung Bui and Margot Sanger-Katz, New York Times, December 12, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • How will the tax bill affect you, assuming that it passes? Will any of the hacks mentioned in the article help? Be specific in terms of the amount it will cost you or help you. If it will help you, what will you do with the extra money?
    • Discuss the pros and cons of "voting your self-interest" vs. "voting your conscience." If you were voting your self interest, would you vote for this tax bill, based on your short-term and long-term realities and aspirations?
    • If you were in charge of the U.S. as a whole, what would be the essential points in your ideal tax structure? Whom would it particularly benefit and why? Is balancing the budget a factor in your plan? 

    .

  • SOLFIS: an innovative and affordable retirement investment vehicle


     Arun Muralidhar, inventor of the SOLFIE, on managing financial risk

    With the declining availability of defined benefit pensions, the risk of having enough income in retirement is falling on the individual shoulders of a larger percentage of the workforce. In order to retire, not only does a person have to be good at one's profession, he or she also has to be good at investing. The current reality, however, is that only one-half of U.S. families have more that $5,000 saved for retirement. That certainly will not be enough--and the societal burden of caring for the elderly poor may become a larger problem. Fortunately, an MIT-trained person (whose profession is investing) has invented a financial product that could help prudent individuals provide for their own retirements.   

    Marketplace interviewed Arun Muralidhar, co-founder of Mcube Investment Technologies, about his proposed investment vehicle, pronounced almost like "selfies": SOLFIS (Standard-Of-Living Forward-starting Income-only Securities). These would be government bonds that would pay the purchaser $5 per bond, each year for 20 years. This would presumably create a defined-benefit retirement income from age 65 to age 85 (at which point the retiree would need to have another source of income). To have a realistic income of $100,000 per year in retirement, a future retiree would have to buy 20,000 SOLFIS over his or her working life.

    In current market conditions, a single SOLFIS would cost a 25-year old $15, and this amount would increase if the purchase was made closer to retirement. The concept is supported by Nobel Laureate Robert Merton--but can it become a reality? 

    Source: "An invention aimed at revolutionizing retirement savings," by David Brancaccio, Marketplace Morning Report, December 8, 2017.

    Follow up

    • What is a defined benefit pension? Why have they fallen out of favor with businesses? Would this type of pension be an attractive job benefit to you? Why or why not?
    • The SOLFIE does not yet exist. What, according or Mr. Muralidhar, would be an ideal first step to possible implementation? What hurdles would exist in the process of getting this implemented?
    • What are the pros and cons of this type of investment vehicle for: a) the federal government; b) purchasers? What are the major risks and benefits?
    • Summarize what Arun Muraldihar has to say about the corporate management of risk (in the video above). Would you say that he takes a realistically conservative approach to investments? Explain. 

    .

  • Korean Beauty Product Buzz


     One take on the Korean Beauty Product Business

    Marketing communication is a primary component of the sale of "Health And Beauty Aids." Magazines and social media abound with "solutions" for problems that may or may not even need to be remedied.  Sometimes the products retail for many times over the cost of the product as manufactured. What is the price tag on hope?

    People have been chasing the Fountain of Youth for generations. As Gen Xers deal with becoming middle-aged, and as millennials hover around age 30, there are new potential customers starting to panic about the aging process and becoming desperate for solutions. A current fad is a 12 step Korean Beauty System, which actually can vary from 10 to 17 steps. At any rate, because people don't know what really works--but want to believe that someone has The Answer--products that are "new" have a marketing edge.  

    The NYT article below is written by Euny Hong, an American writer of Korean descent, who is multi-lingual and has lived around the world. She wants to warn Americans that they "have been had" by the promises of Korean beauty systems. (She limits her use to snail slime.) Check out the products below. 

    image by Na Kim in NYT article linked below

    Source: "I Grew Up Around Korean Beauty Products. Americans, You've Been Had," by Euny Hong, New York Times, December 9, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • What is Euny Hong's take on the good and bad of Korean Beauty Products?
    • What marketing strategies are often used with beauty products? List at least five and describe why they are employed. Which are most effective?
    • Research and report on the mark-up on beauty products. How does this compare to the mark-up on retail clothing? What other products have high mark-ups? What does high cost communicate to the consumer? 

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  • A disruptive solution to the problem of sustainable energy storage


    a primer on Electrochaea's storage process my NTD.TV

    Think about the sources of carbon-based energy--coal, petroleum, propane, natural gas. One thing they have in common is that they are tangible, transportable products that are not consumed in transport. This also means that they are finite--as well as being a part of several causing environmental problems. Solar and wind power are different, in that they capture energy from constantly-renewing sources. But unless that energy can be used when it is produced, it needs to be stored in some separate medium so that it can be transported and/or used later.

    So far that medium has been batteries. Battery technology is becoming more efficient, but it does not represent a cost effective, long term solution in a world where a larger and larger percentage of energy is produced from renewable sources. Lead-acid battery technology has evolved into newer lithium ion batteries. And salt, silicon and graphite are also being studied as more efficient and economical battery materials. But batteries add to the expense of renewable energy...and may not be the best solution at all. One company is doing something totally different, with demonstrated effectiveness. 

    The German company Electrochaea GmbH, in its own words, "has developed a commercially viable and disruptive solution for utility scale energy storage, grid balancing and carbon reuse." In other words, Electrochaea has a completely new approach to solving sustainable energy storage: converting it into methane. Methane gas is the primary component of the natural gas that powers many hot water heaters, furnaces, stoves and clothes dryers, so we already know how useful it is. Moreover, the infrastructure for delivering methane to the final consumer already exists. 

    The process has many steps, but the most interesting step involves the use of "methanogenic archaea"--a biological catalyst. The process is described in detail in the linked article, but is summarized on an Electrochaea webpage graphic:

    A "commercial scale demonstration facility" has been built by a Danish Electrochaea subsidiary, and their initial goal is to decarbonize the Danish grid. A major revenue stream will be the sale of natural gas.  

    Source: "Batteries can't solve the world's biggest energy storage problem. One start-up has a solution." by Akshat Rathi, Quartz, December 11, 2017.

    Follow up

    • Describe the process used by Electrochaea. Do you see any places where there may be bottlenecks or problems? Do you notice any surprising benefits?
    • How is Electrochaea organized as a business? Who has invested in Electrochaea? (see their About and Partners pages) Would you invest? Why or why not?
    • What do other companies and energy industry observers have to say about Electrochaea's technology?

    .

  • No more letters of recommendation!


    from Grammarly.com

    It is a little ironic for me, as an instructor, to read an article in which the REQUESTOR of the letter of recommendation is making an argument for changing the process. Often it is the professor or former boss that is inundated by requests for letters and imagines a better process. However, it may be that the process could be improved on both sides. 

    The author of this article has requested TWENTY-FOUR recommendation letters in the current year so far--and expects to ask for more. Why? Because they are required by grants, potential employers, internships, fellowships, residencies and others. Rosen, the author, suggests that the process could be streamlined by using one or more of the following:

    Until there is a pervasive standard, however, there will be striving, duplication of efforts, occasional duplicity, and other problems. 

    Source: "Please don't ask me for another letter of recommendation," by Kenneth R. Rosen, New York Times: Preoccupations, December 1, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • Have you asked for letters of recommendation? What was your process? (include advance time, links provided, number of recommendations requested, and whether or not you thanked your recommenders) How did things turn out? What might you do differently next time, based on experience, or on having read this article?
    • Have you ever written a letter of recommendation? Describe the process and your feelings about it. 
    • Comment on the point of view expressed by the author of the linked article. Start by describing the hypothetical iRecommend, and how it might work.
    • Try this exercise: a subordinate with whom you have had several issues asks you for a letter of recommendation. On one hand, you can't think of what you might say that would be positive. On the other hand, you would REALLY LIKE him to get a new job. Write two or more drafts of recommendation letters aimed at meeting multiple objectives (including Doing the right thing; Meeting your own needs; Giving the subordinate the benefit of the doubt; and Skirting your responsibilities). 

  • Why would a business go to space?


     PBS: Why do we go to space?

    Planet Money, the podcast series on business from NPR, has obtained space on a satellite (owned by Planet) orbiting the Earth and taking pictures. (But they still need a rocket.) This may sound exciting, but then they asked themselves: Why are they doing it?

    One of the reasons is "Space Fever." And if there is "fever", it may mean there is a business "bubble" rather than a long-going investment opportunity. They rationalize their pictures as being a time machine, even though their first impulse is to find their personal homes using the satellite data. Still, that is not all that is happening with space data.

    In developing their rationale, the Planet Money people talk to spies at Genscape. Genscape professionals obtain and gather data for clients--measuring whether power plants are running for example. Genscape actually can spy on how much oil is in a tanker in a Chinese port as well. This is useful, salable data. 

    So, (again referencing a personal interest) a possible mission for Planet Money pod 1: avocado pricing prediction, based on the timing of supply. They can look at heat patterns for ripening and track avocado trucks or ships or avocados on pallets. "Tracking complementary commodities" might also be utilized in this mission. 

    All of these measurements can be accomplished from space. And Planet Money is planning on zeroing in on one of the many reasons that can be summed up as "industrial espionage."

    Source: "Space 2: Wait, Why are we going to space?" by Stacey Vanek Smith and Robert Smith, NPR: Planet Money, December 1, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • Why might any business want to do space exploration? Consider Elon Musk's SpaceX and Avatar (fictional) in your answer. Give examples and support your research. 
    • Describe what the company Planet does. What is their source of revenue? It is described in the middle of the podcast. 
    • Listen to the first episode in the series. How did Planet Money get involved in this project?
    • Do you think the backstory about how pictures were "captured" by the Corona satellites was relevant to the story? Explain your answer, in terms of marketing communication. 

    .

  • Cute rescue puppies: Supply, demand and logistics


     Tracy's Dogs, a different, non-profit, organization with the same mission

    Depending upon where you live, the puppies you see at your local adoption center may not be local strays...but rather may be imports from elsewhere in the country. There are a few factors that set up the business model that make this a reality:

    • Several states in the South have no leash laws, and no spay or neuter laws (or big fees for licensing a fertile dog).
    • Consequence: a lot of "surprise" pups. Therefore, there is an over-supply.
    • Several states in the Northeast, northern Midwest and West have spay and neuter laws as well as leash laws.
    • In regulated states, fewer puppies are being born...and therefore there is less of a selection at adoption events. Therefore an under-supply or over-demand exists.
    • Non-profit fund raising by animal lovers can help make the business model work for transporting the animals to even out the supply and demand situation.

    Entrepreneur drivers like Joy Harklerode make a difference in states where the economic hardship of paying for the spaying an animal outweigh any "greater good for the greatest number" concerns. She, and others like Rusty's Legacy and Brother Wolf Animal Rescue make the economics of animal rescue work by acting as intermediaries in the transporting of unwanted pups to states where there is an undersupply of adoptable dogs. 

    This is one example of making a business that aligns with personal values. Wanna see more puppy pictures? Visit Topic.com.

    Source: "What Rescue Puppies Teach Us About Supply and Demand," by Peter Balanon-Rosen and Lizzy O'Leary, Marketplace: American Public Media, December 7, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • Research and discuss another product that is transported across country for reasons of supply and demand: Used cars.
    • Discuss the economic constraints for those who transport rescue dogs long distance. What factors make this business work? What factors can make the thin-margin business model fail?
    • What business would YOU like to start that aligns with your personal values?

    .

  • Bots are buying up hot-selling toys for holiday resale


     KTNV report on toy-buying bots

    Have ever tried to buy concert tickets and have logged in again and again from the moment the ticket sales opened--but have failed to successfully complete a transaction? If so, it is totally possible that tickets were being bought up by "bots". Their efficiency at analyzing markets and split second timing can foil even the most dedicated of fans. Companies employing bots then resale tickets to diehard fans at a mark-up above ticket price. 

    The same technique is being used in the online retail market--against children, albeit indirectly. Bots are buying up coveted Christmas-requested toys, then reselling them on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. Some toys that have been affected for Holiday season 2017 include: 

    And from previous years: 

    Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, has taken a stand against bots: "When it comes to purchasing products online, major retailers should put forth policies that will help prevent future Grinch bots from stealing the season’s hottest toys.

    What will it take to enable consumers to get a fair deal?

    Source: "Can't Find Any Fingerlings? Bots Snap Up Popular Christmas Toys For Resale," by Christina Caron, New York Times, December 5, 2017.

    Follow up:

    • Define "bot" and list various arenas where bots are deployed.
    • Shop for each of the toys listed above online. What is the MSRP? For what cost can you buy one from at least 2 sellers?
    • Do you think that bot purchases should be regulated for all in-demand items?  Should concert tickets be treated differently than popular toys, books, or iPhones? How do bots hurt consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and marketing strategies? Who do bots help those groups?
    • What strategies can be used to combat bot purchases? A couple ways are mentioned in the video, but think of other ways as well.

    .

  • Global competition and the tax reform tax rates


     one view of tax reform from the right-of-center Young Turks

    Proposed GOP tax reform promises increased global competitiveness of American companies. One of the supporting arguments of this is that the "U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate among developed countries." This is misleading, as the taxes paid for social services are not included, AND few corporations pay the full rate, according to Jonathan Traub of the Tax Policy Group at Deloitte Tax LLP in the article linked below. Also, there is no "quid pro quo" in the tax reform bill: corporations are not required to give any benefits to workers when they take advantage of reduced tax rates. 

    One logical outcome, according to Virginia Haufler (whose research at the University of Maryland, College Park, focuses on transnational corporations), could mean that  corporations might “pay out big dividends to their shareholders instead of investing in new technology and upgrading their workforce skills.

    Duh. 

    The big question is: WHAT IS THE UNDERLYING AIM OF DECREASING CORPORATE TAXES? And Individual Tax rates? Who benefits the most? Who is hurt, or benefits the least? What is the effect on future generations of increasing the deficit?

    Source: "There's more to America's global competitiveness than the tax rate," by Kimberley Adams, Marketplace: American Public Media, December 5, 2017. 

    Follow up

    • Think about situations where you, as a teen or young adult, have gotten a reward BEFORE you achieved a goal. How did that work out? 
    • Based on your experience, or other sources, extrapolate the tax reform benefits to corporations in terms of what they get as a determinate of what they will do. What are the guaranteed results? Likely results?
    • Summarize the points made in the podcast.
    • If there were national single-payer, government subsidized health care, would you be MORE or LESS likely to  start your own business? Put all of your thoughts on the table about this. 

  • Cows, George Clooney, and South Sudan


     George Clooney discusses corruption in South Sudan

    Business has a way of sneaking into politics in every corner of the world. When celebrities get involved, they can raise awareness and money with appeals that can be understood by those in the United States--the terrible danger and atrocities described by George Clooney are an example.

    But some values are more difficult to understand. Cows as currency--and as a way of relating on a social basis--is one aspect of South Sudan that may be difficult to grasp. In South Sudan, cows function as both currency and credit cards, so cows are an integral part of a majority of business transactions.


    Cows as currency in South Sudan...and the conflict it produces

    The United States was instrumental in setting up South Sudan as a political entity...but the current administration feels that maintaining support for the entity is too expensive. But continued support is needed--primarily to contain the corruption inflicted by rustlers that steal cows and rob individuals of "their whole life." No amount of cash can compensate--though it is difficult for us in the USA to understand how that can be possible.  

    In international trade transactions, it is important to understand what is valued by cultures that are very different from one's own. Protecting and funding a farm animal might be far less costly in terms of dollar expenditures, but may produce greater value. So investing with understanding can be more cost-effective than just throwing money at a problem when cultural understanding is lacking. According to the article, 85 cows cost only $14,000--but are very valuable in terms of status, worth and security. 

    Source: "Episode 805: War and Peace and Cows," by Gregory Warner, with Noel King, NPR: Planet Money, November 15, 2017. [Transcript]

    Follow up

    • What can this story teach a businessperson regarding negotiation and pricing?
    • What parts of this story cannot be easily understood by those of us living in the United States? 

    .