Morning Report

What you need to know one minute before daylight

Are You a Tough Boss?

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DAYLIGHT  

“Am I a tough boss sometimes? Yes,” Senator Amy Klobuchar said in a recent CNN forum. “Have I pushed people too hard? Yes.” But famously tough bosses like Klobuchar, Bobby Knight and Steve Jobs get results, right?

“Researchers who study organizations, productivity and leadership styles attribute the achievements of such figures to exceptional ability. The research thus far has found no evidence to support the axiom that tougher bosses get better results. ‘We’ve been looking for it,’ said Rebecca Greenbaum, a professor in Rutgers University’s school of management and labor relations, who formerly worked in the insurance industry. ‘We’d love to find out if there are good aspects of abusive leadership. There’s been a lot of research. We just can’t find any upside.’”

PRICING

There’s a reason farmers are charging more for avocados and olives: “The average prices of avocados, butter, olive oil and salmon have climbed as much as 60 percent since 2013, after stripping out seasonal price patterns and the effects of unusual weather events, according to various sources. Over the same period, prices of corn, soybeans, sugar and wheat either fell or didn’t change significantly…

“So-called healthy fats include Omega-3 fatty acids—found in abundance in oily fish—can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart problems, according to the American Heart Association. Nuts, avocado and olive oil are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is associated with lowering bad cholesterol levels. Consumer demand is also increasing for butter and other kinds of dairy products.”

STARTUPS

Healthcare startups are bringing back physician house calls as on-demand services grow in popularity: “Businesses can deliver everything on demand, from dinner to dry cleaning. Some will even show up at your door to give you cupcakes or walk your dog. Now, entrepreneurs are exploring a growing niche: health care.

“Startups are offering access to doctors, prescription drugs and wellness programs as fast and easy as hailing an Uber driver. Experts say this is the early stages of a movement that could disrupt the health services industry, which critics have long contended suffers from soaring costs and reduced access to care. ‘People want convenience,’ said Josh York, founder of GymGuyz, a ‘gym on wheels’ that sends a trainer and fitness equipment to customers’ homes. ‘You could get your pizza delivered but you couldn’t get your workout delivered, and I thought, ‘This is where the future is going.’”

The UK has a diversity problem in the startup sector, so in comes a startup to solve that problem. Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS) is “a community made up of founders, developers, creatives, and investors on a mission to make a difference. Being built by the community for the community ensures they know what the problems are and appropriate solutions. Recently celebrating their second anniversary…earlier this month, YSYS released its Annual Impact Report.”

The report indicated 88 percent of YSYS members are made up of ethnic minorities. It also shows more than $13 million were raised among early-stage startups in the community and 33 percent of YSYS startups have created more jobs.

HUMAN RESOURCES

In response to criticism of the prevalence of violent and exploitative content on its platform, Facebook relies heavily on contract labor to moderate its content. While the median Facebook employee earns $240,000 annually in salary, bonuses, and stock options, a content moderator working for Cognizant in Arizona earns $28,800 per year— and here’s what it’s like:

“It’s a place where, in stark contrast to the perks lavished on Facebook employees, team leaders micromanage content moderators’ every bathroom and prayer break; where employees, desperate for a dopamine rush amid the misery, have been found having sex inside stairwells and a room reserved for lactating mothers; where people develop severe anxiety while still in training, and continue to struggle with trauma symptoms long after they leave; and where the counseling that Cognizant offers them ends the moment they quit—or are simply let go.

“The moderators told me it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: ‘I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack.’”

At a Swedish fitness apparel maker, the CEO and the employees build fitness and teamwork at the same time: “A lot of companies preach clean living and team building, but nobody leads by example quite like Henrik Bunge of Sweden’s Bjorn Borg.

“Although the Friday 11:00 a.m. workout may be mandatory—as in, if you’re not sick or incapable of walking, you have to go—it’s also wildly popular. Employees say they look forward to it. They seem almost giddy by Friday at 10:45.

“All of this, ultimately, is about business. There’s limited research on whether fitness and workplace performance are truly connected, but Bunge is, as in all things, fully committed. Ditto the employees I spoke with at headquarters. ‘We believe that if we are living our brand, which means our strongest version of ourselves, that’s when we can add value in every small detail of the business,’ says Lena Nordin, the human resources chief.”

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ZACK ELLER’S DEALS OF THE DAY

Hexagon, a Swedish precision measuring technology company, has acquired Thermoplaye, a technology company that supports intelligence functions. “With the addition of Thermoplaye, Hexagon hopes to greater enable what it calls a five-dimensional experience for users in the visual location intelligence arena to help enable autonomous connected ecosystems.”

Connecticut-based Watson, a maker of solutions to enhance human health, has been acquired by Glanbia Nutritionals, an Irish food maker for $89 million. “[Company president James Watson] said his customers benefit from the deal because it provides his company with access to more technologies, more knowledge, and better solutions.”

MANAGEMENT

Harvard researchers have concluded that small teams are essential when it comes to tackling big problems: “Jeff Bezos famously said, ‘If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.’ We need larger, more interdisciplinary business teams to solve increasingly complex global problems, but smaller ventures and the teams housed within them are critical for nimbly searching through novel possibilities and identifying next year’s transformative innovations. Thus, it is critical to ensure that different types of teams can work in concert, for greater overall performance within and across businesses and industries.

“The bottom line is: bigger is not always better. Figuring out the right team size for the job may be the first question for tomorrow’s leaders to answer to unlock the potential of their enterprises.”

MANUFACTURING

Manufacturers are having trouble filling the growing 2.4 million jobs gap, and the numbers will worsen if nothing is done to interest young people in skilled manufacturing jobs. The solution: recruit. “‘We are kind of on a recruiting mission,’ Jay Timmons, CEO of NAM, told forum guests at the new Protolabs factory in Brooklyn Park. ‘Today we have about 428,000 open jobs in this country. That’s a lot of openings [and] we can’t find enough people to fill those jobs.’

“‘Manufacturing is obviously a huge part of the economy in the US,’ said Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Washington-based Manufacturing Institute and a panel member. ‘But there is no place we go where we don’t hear that companies are desperate for skilled workers. A baby boomer retires every 10 seconds.’”

CRIME

Kyle Sandler, a self-proclaimed former big wig at Google, who garnered interest from John McAfee, told the people of Opelika, Alabama he was conducting a business incubator called Round House. Problem was that he swindled the town out of millions by diverting investors’ funds to his personal expenses. But some of the startups at Round House seemed to be getting off the ground until suddenly the incubator closed its doors.

“Without warning, in mid-December 2016, the Round House closed. Days later, the Opelika-Auburn News quoted Sandler as saying the business had simply run out of money. ‘I’m sorry for what happened to Opelika and Round House,’ he said at the time. ‘I lost control, and we ended where we’re at.’

“That was only a sliver of the truth. Before the shutdown, Sandler said in an interview, some investors uncovered his secret—he wasn’t the person he portrayed himself to be—and confronted him. He never worked at Google, Sandler now admits, and he wasn’t wealthy. Sandler had arrests for theft, forgery and check fraud before he ever hit town. In 2010, he was convicted in Maryland and North Carolina of attempted theft and forgery but never went to prison.”

THE ENVIRONMENT

PG&E may be the most high-profile company to date to face collapse for reasons linked to climate change, but it won’t be the last: “If the coming climate-related business crises will have one positive side effect, it’s that acute financial losses are likely to force policy changes in a way that environmental damage on its own has not. As one commenter on a recent Wall Street Journal article about PG&E put it: ‘When capitalists decide the scientists are right, then the free market will adjust accordingly.’”

SPOTLIGHT

Couldn’t make it to Nashville? Click here to see a taste of what you missed. And as we recently noted, we have rescheduled our next Oxford Center events in Atlanta. Rather than meeting on Good Friday, we will have our next Commerce Dinner on Thursday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Murphy’s, and we will have our next Entrepreneurial Briefing on Friday, May 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the Porsche Experience Center. You can RSVP at events@oxfordcenter.com.

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com.

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