Business Lessons

There are many things you need to have your own successful business.

Yes, but avoid potholes.

Money is a good start.

You also need enthusiasm, your own and that of your friends and relatives.

You’ll need optimism, and perseverance for when things get tough.

 

I’ve been blessed in that my family had all these things, and more.  I’m going to touch upon little things here and there that you’ll also need to think about, that aren’t normally covered.  In our case, many of these things were mistakes.

We can learn a lot from the mistakes of others, but for some reason, most business people don’t like to admit them.  They think it makes them look weak.

Since I’m more of a teacher than a business person, I don’t mind.  Here’s the mistake.

Remote working locations.

Not remote as in someone telecommuting from their home.  No, this remote has to do with how our offices were set up, or not set up as the case may be.

As a young growing manufacturing company, we occupied rental units.  Each rental unit was about 1000 square feet (about 100 square meters).  Each rental unit had a front door, a back door, a bathroom, a garage door in back, and some office space in front.

Our little business grew, and we started in one rental unit.  The next year we needed two units.  Over the next few years we needed four units, and a few years after that we had five unit.s

Here’s the problem.  Only a few people could work in the office space of the first unit.  As we hired more people we had to put them in offices in some of the other units.

It’s taken me twenty years to figure this out, but the further away people were from everyone else, the more likely it was for them to “go rogue” and do something harmful to the company.  It was also more likely that they would goof off and try to get away with being lazy.  We put lots of other measures in place to catch them, but the fundamental truth was this.

We were spread too thin.  Many people like being secluded, closing their door, and doing what they want to do at the expense of the company, their coworkers, and the customers.

So, next company I start, everyone works in the same space, whether they like it or not.

Everyone watches everyone else, because we are all in this together, whether they like it or not.

I hope this helps you, too, you budding entrepreneur.

Good luck.

 

Grumman Human Experiments

During the years of 1940 to 1945, there was a great war.  We call it the second great war, or World War Two, WWII.

During this war, a company that made aircraft took their jobs very seriously.  So seriously, that the Navy asked them to slow down.  They were making about 600 aircraft every MONTH.  Since they were working around the clock, that means about 20 aircraft came out every DAY.

The plant manager knew he had about 20,000 people working in the factory, and thought about one of the great maxims of behavior.  If you have 20 people, there’s a good chance that one or two of them don’t work as hard as the others.

He asked his managers to choose one person out of every 20 so that they would be fired.

Word of this got around, fast.  And as a result everyone started working harder.  Jobs back then were scarce, and people in general had good work ethics.

Still, one of every 20 people were let go.  Guess what happened next?

Everyone else was working so much harder, that production went UP.  The Navy complained again.  Grumman was delivering too many HellCats.  (That was the name of the aircraft, the most successful airplane of WWII.)

So the plant manager did it again.  He went to his managers, and asked them to fire another one thousand people.

The result surprised him.

Production went up again!

When his bosses asked him if he was going to fire any more people, he said he couldn’t.  He didn’t think the Navy could handle the increased production!

That’s the funny side.

On the serious side, he probably knew that his people were working hard.  They cared, and they wanted their jobs.  They also knew there was a serious war going on.  Many of the workers were women, and that made a difference as well.  They had more personal stakes, because their husband’s and children’s lives were on the line.  Declare it a sexist statement, but in general women seem far more aware of the costs of war than men.  Perhaps that’s why most wars are started by men.

Anyway, it’s a good story showing that people do work at different levels of competence, and that organizations can produce more with fewer people, when necessary.

We should think about that the next time we think about how many government workers it takes to screw in a new light bulb.

PS – If you are at all interested in the HellCat (the forgotten warrior of WWII) please visit the site hosting the above image.

Killing Assumptions: Billionaires Create Jobs

A friend wants me to read his favorite book, part of a series that has to do with “Killing” the character of both people and countries.  This one is entitled Killing England.

I’m not looking forward to reading it, because the supposed writer (probably a true background writer) isn’t known for rigor.  I’ll review it here, soon enough.  But it got me to thinking.  We should focus on killing other things besides someone’s character.

For instance, we should reveal “economics” for what it truly is, economombo.  Mumbo jumbo.  Statements and constructs that are invalid, irrelevant, and counter-productive to society and science.

Let’s start with something very simple.  It’s a statement I’ve heard many times, even repeated by my Aunt as a fundamental truth.  And she’s as far from being an academic as you can imagine.  Here it is:

Billionaires create jobs.

Her logic follows this path.  A billionaire buys a business or industry.  The value goes up.  Everyone gets richer.  Therefore all the employees and shareholders are better off.  Profits go up.  So there’s more investment, and this creates new businesses, new industries, and therefore … MORE JOBS.

First off, why would my aunt say something like this to begin with?  I may have observed that some billionaire was trying to consolidate an industry (there are many examples, here’s one), and she retorted with her statement, essentially justifying why government shouldn’t stand in the way.

Of course, she’s forgetting why anti-trust laws were put into place way back when.  She’s also very enamored of wealth in general, even though she doesn’t personally benefit.  But let’s focus on her stated assumption.

First of all, the “value” of a company is usually given in terms of the market value.  In theory, the people trading stocks do so perfectly, only looking at the long term profitability of the company.  In reality, there are a lot of people trying to make money on stocks, willing to sell them if they need the money.  So the stock market value is a good measure of people’s willingness to bet on something.

Secondly, just because the value goes up doesn’t mean there are more jobs.  In fact, one of the reasons a company’s stock price goes up is because they eliminated jobs.  This is particularly easy when you consolidate an industry.  If you buy four companies, each of which has a president, an accounting department, R&D, and a factory floor, how can you save money?  Eliminate 3 presidents, 3 accounting departments, all four R&D departments, and think about consolidating those 4 factories into less space.

Third, what about that billionaire’s willingness to take on new investment?  Certainly that creates jobs.  Except for one small thing.  Billionaires are famously averse to risk.  They like betting their billions on sure things.  That’s why they buy companies, and don’t invest in R&D.  That’s one of the reasons they stay billionaires.

Next time you meet an economist, see what she says.  And have fun.

 

Ivory Tower Easy Street

Why does anyone want to get a PhD?

It’s TONS of hard work.  Usually means NO social life until your mid 30s.  Your ONLY friends are similar masochists who are NOT competing with you in your field.

Finally, IF you manage to get through the feudal slave system called graduate work, and are “awarded” your higher degree of philosophy, are your dreams realized?

NO.

The nightmare begins.

No matter what the discipline, you must now scamper for funding, for post-doc work, for anything related to your dream, your passion.

Yes, it’s why you started this crazy process back when you were SO YOUNG.  You dreamed.  You had a passion.  A passion for learning.  A passion for a subject.

WHY?

For a select few, the highest of the high, the luckiest of the luck, they land some form of academic job.  Not just any academic job, but a “tenured” job.  Of course, publishing and researching to the point of making tenure is yet another stressful round.  But once they make that benchmark, that holy grail, that nirvana, what does that academic do?

They can (mostly) relax.

And that’s the vision misleading our young, passionate, intensely curious dreamer who strives for the PhD.

And of all the PhD in academia, who has it the easiest?

Go ahead and guess.  I’ll wait.

…….

Mathematicians.

You never would have guessed, would you?

Of all the academic professions, mathematicians are allowed to operate in the realm of pure creativity.  No, not the creativity of oil paints or clay.  Not even the creativity of “post-reconstructionist-logical-positivism” or “economic drivers in the mid-level artificial carbon credit markets.”  No, their creativity is pure, and focused.

For in math, there is no ambiguity, there are no loopholes in logic or proofs that are allowed, as in every other possible profession.  In this sense, it makes things harder because you can’t get by merely by the force of your personality.  Mostly.

Your papers might take years before they are approved.  Or rejected.  And the only thing worse than having your enemies find a flaw in your work (and they will) is having your FRIENDS find them first.

But the work you do, the progress you make, and how you contribute to the sum total of knowledge that is Science will be solid.  That is something very difficult to do in any of the hard sciences, much harder in the biological sciences, and virtually impossible in ANY of the social “sciences.”

In sum, if you’re a dreamer who loves learning and wants to make a difference, but also wants to live on easy street the rest of your life, then math is your path.  Yes, it’ll be hard, and you will leave many bodies behind as you prove yourself, but that’s life.

But in the end, isn’t that much better than getting a PhD in, well, ANYTHING else?

Good luck!

 

Shivanomics

The time has come, as it must for all things weak and unproductive.

The old tree becomes dry, hollow, and falls to the ground, fertilizing the next generation of flowers.

Taking out the old, bringing in the new.

The old man leaves his home feet first, enabling a young couple to move in.

Who is at the bottom of all this change?

The pantheon of Hinduism has a great character for this, the god Shiva…

the destroyer.

For you must destroy in order to create anew.  Get rid of the old, bring in the young.

The time has come for that to happen to one of the oldest behavioral studies we have:

Economics.

Economists have failed us in so many ways that it’s difficult to describe.  In simplest form, consider these damning accusations:

  1. No economic model has any predictive value.
  2. After so many years and dollars of investment, there is yet to be a single (actual) statement that can be considered a LAW of economics.  Not one.

It’s best if we leave this simple.  And here’s the simple solution.

Shiva.

Yes, the destroyer must come and eliminate all things economic.  All tenured positions, all funded chairs, all areas of grant funding.

Shiva must visit the Nobel committee and get them to rescind the award, saving it for something more meaningful.

Shiva must erase every professional in government, banking, and finance house that carries the title of economist.  Shiva must come with her large eraser and make every journalist, every commentator, and every column that refers to economics go away.

That is what must happen for the situation to improve.  For now we spend so much time, energy, and money asking experts for their insights, and they have none.  For this they are never punished.

And for that, we must plead to Shiva.

It’s time to study Shivanomics.

 

 

Pornography on the Brain

Sorry guys, it’s not that kind of post.

A few porn stories caught my eye recently.

There’s a recent-ish movie about how young women are consumed by the porn industry.  The average 18 year old lasts about 3 months and only make a few thousand dollars in profit.  Meanwhile the producers make millions.

There was a story about a young Australian women, very religious, who discovered pornography on her fiance’s phone.  She was so appalled that she called off the wedding a week before the ceremony.  She had many things to say against the pornography.  She didn’t say anything about her lack of respect for his privacy.

Finally, an Australian report on how licensed brothels are being run out of business by illegal massage parlors that have “extra” items on the menu.  It seems that the illegal parlors charge about $160 (Aussie I’m guessing) an hour.  But the illegal parlors don’t have as much overhead.  The women only make a fraction of that anyway.  Most of it goes to the pimps.

As you can imagine, the pimps, the producers, and the vast majority of consumers are all men.  When society tries to contain any of these “evils,” the typical prisoner is going to be the prostitute or the actress.  Yes, sometimes a producer gets arrested, but it’s more likely they are major contributors to the local judges’s campaign coffers.  As for the pimp, they can afford lawyers.

Here’s a thought.

Make it all legal.  Pornography.  Prostitution.  Let men consume it.  Perhaps it will make them a bit less “handy” on real dates.  Of course, that is a another subject.

Here’s the other half of the twist.  Also make it totally illegal for men to have any part of the production or distribution of the material.  Women only, from start to stop, in only public corporations.  Even male actors, if they can’t be replaced by “man”-iquens or robot actors, must work for minimum wage.

Women actors get paid, fairly.  Women directors, stage hands, sound stage, stunt doubles, medical support, producers, marketing, communications, distribution, makeup, wardrobe, and even accounting and janitorial, all possible functions must be women.

Will you know it when you see it?

Now the “policing” function becomes easy.  The customers go free, they are paying.  The women go free, they are working.  Based on what I’ve read, they are mostly performing as psychologists anyway.  As for the pimps and every other male, arrest them.  Even if it’s a guy who owns the cameras that the women are using, it’s illegal.  His wife can own the cameras, so that when she gets paid it’s all her money.  But not him, not one little bit.

So, that’s the idea.  Play with it.  See if it has legs, or sticks to the wall, or whatever you want to do with it.  And the next time you see some porn, consider where that money is going.

If that doesn’t turn you off porn, nothing will.

Capsule Surfing

You’ve heard of couch-surfing, no doubt.  Heck, a lot of us were doing it way before there was a term for it.

In all fairness to the English language, there was a term for it.  Our parents called it free-loading.

It was quite a tradition amongst some folks.  In fact, a few very famous people lived their lives doing it.

Why don’t we take this to the next level?

For instance, there are lots of very high rent districts that feature very small apartments.  What if you could stay there?  Or if you live in one, start making some money without having to lose a room?  Or a couch?

What if you’re having a big party and have many friends wanting to stay the night, but all you own is a single bed?  Yes, you can all sleep on the floor, but that’s no fun.  (Yes, you need to SLEEP.)

Here’s an idea.  What if you could go to your local rental place and rent a sleep capsule?  They are already in use in many places throughout the world, especially Japan.

Instead of an inflatable mattress, you get a capsule.  Set it up, maybe even stack them up.  Slide your friends inside and let them get some rest.

They’d have their own ventilation with heating and cooling, so the temp would be their own.  It would be sound-proof so that their music doesn’t bother you, or the neighbors.  They could power their phone and laptop, the same as having their head propped up on a pillow.

Best yet, you don’t end up with a hugely messy room.  At the end of their stay, the capsules go back into storage, and you never notice the difference.

It’s all part of the trend to make things easier, more personal, smaller, and potentially profitable all the way around.

It may be hard to believe, but it’s coming.

Sleep on it.

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Soft Science

You’d think that living in infinite space with only a few other people on the entire surface of the moon meant you could do whatever you wanted, believe whatever you wished, and have no restrictions because there’s nothing around.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.Here’s the rub.  There’s no room for mistakes, no room for wishy washy, no room for fuzzy and no room for ambiguity.

Am I making myself clear?

So, for all you wannabee spacers, think about what you’re going to take up there in terms of knowledge.  Because you want to be useful, what?

What are the soft sciences?  Anything that has to do behavior.  Economics comes to mind.  Psychology, sociology, even law and religion.  Go ahead, you can name a few.

What? you say.  How can you make such crazy outlandish claim?

I’m not.  I’m repeating something Richard Feynman once said.  He was a truly smart guy who thought about a lot of things.

Here’s what he said about understanding living things.  He came to this conclusion after spending hours watching paramecia under the microscope.  He decided its behavior was far more complicated than anybody recognized.  How then can we ever hope to understand humans if we cant even understand the behavior of such a simple animal.

Here’s a quote from his book, “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman”

So my impression of these animals is that their behavior is much too simplified in the books. It is not so utterly mechanical or one-dimensional as they say.  They should describe the behavior of these simple animals correctly.  Until we see how many dimensions of behavior even a one-celled animal has, we wont be able to fully understand the behavior of more complicated animals.

So, if you plan to head for the great beyond, plan accordingly, pack light, and for heaven’s sake, take only hard science.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

Space isn’t big enough for: God

Yes, you heard it here first.  As infinite as outer space is, and as powerful and willfully teeny tiny any god can be, there is no room for it.  Or him.  Or her, as the case may be.

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

Are you shocked?  Are you a true believer who also has dreams of seeing humanity colonize the big bang?

Then, consider this.

 

God, or gods, or powers that be, are fine and dandy when you need to explain the unexplainable to those who can’t handle much explaining.

God is great for kids.  God is great for people who don’t have time or energy for deep thoughts.  God is great for trying to keep families together, especially during times of crisis when everything seems to be going wrong.

On Earth, that works fine.  There is time for those kids to grow up and find their own answers.  On Earth, even if every last possible thing goes wrong for a family, they still have themselves, and at the very least they still have air.

Those don’t come free on the moon, or anywhere else in space.  There is no time for anyone to pray that a solar flare might miss.  The stakes are much much higher than they ever have been for the human species.  Anyone who thinks they can mitigate the risks by taking time out for prayer is fooling themselves.  And by association, increasing the risks for everyone else.

To be clear, if a Moonster (or Lunite?) wants to pray on their own time, and invoke a deity on the sly, that’s their business.  It’s not like god will be outlawed.

But anyone who is hoping that the almighty intervene in lieu of doing actual work to protect the colony, that’s what this is all about.

The colony is going to be filled with the smartest people this planet can collect.  And if they can’t make it on their own, then there isn’t a god on Earth who can make up the difference.

Strike me now if I’m not telling the truth.

Amen

 

Space isn’t big enough for: Big Sports

Imagine that you’re one of the first colonists on the moon.  Go ahead, enjoy the feeling.  Now, add in your love of big time sports.  What happens next?

The further we look, the more galaxies we find.

If you’re lucky, you might get to watch the big game beamed to the moon especially for you.

If you’re not lucky, no game.

Let’s get real.  The only way someone will send you the big game is if there is money in it for them.  After all, major league sports is no longer about the sport; it’s all about the commercials.

If the population of the moon is less than 100, or 1000, or 10 000, oh heck, if it’s less than a million, why should a sponsor send you the transmission?

Wait a minute!  That’s the wrong logic.

Even if there will a hundred million people on the moon, why would a sponsor want you to look at their commercials?

Because you would be buying their products.

Let’s face it.  There’s little chance you’ll find any Nestle products on your moon-shelves.

Now let’s look at sports in the other direction.

What are the chances that YOU will be playing those sports on the moon?  Or anyone else for that matter?

Pretty much zippo.  For one thing, you’re going to need room.  And as we’ve already covered, there isn’t going to be much room up in space.  I know, sounds crazy, but there it is.

For another thing, all the rules will have to change.  After all, gravity on the moon is less than on Earth.  A lot less.  Baseballs and golf balls will travel kilometers.  In a rugby scrum, a single player might be able to pick up the entire scrum and move forward.

So, what will you do up there on the moon?

There’s cards, maybe some chess.  Perhaps you can enjoy some virtual wrestling, or even real wrestling.  Finally, there’s going to be the most interesting sport of all.

Survival.

Go Team!