The New Cash Crop, The Right Way to Give Feedback, and Honoring the Super Soaker

Get the Oxford Morning Report every day. Click here for a free subscription.

Good Monday Morning,

DAYLIGHT  

The New York Times gives credit where credit is due—to Oxford member Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker: “One day in 1982, Lonnie G. Johnson, an aerospace engineer who grew up in Mobile, Ala., was at home working on an ambitious idea: He wanted to create a refrigerator that ran on water, rather than ozone-layer-depleting chemicals.

“While tinkering in the bathroom with some vinyl tubing and a homemade metal nozzle, Mr. Johnson made a discovery that led him to create one of the world’s most popular toys: the Super Soaker. Instead of the simple water pump used in squirt guns at the time, Mr. Johnson’s design used a large air pump to create a more powerful stream.

“The patent was approved in 1986, and a few years later, it was snapped up by the Larami Corporation, a water gun manufacturer. That company was later acquired by Hasbro, and sales for the toy reached $200 million in 1992.”

MARKETING  

Instead of leaving regulation to Facebook, is it time to ban targeted advertising? “Do advertisers get more value from personalization? This is not proven. Tech platforms have repeatedly been caught lying to advertisers about the reach and effectiveness of their ads. Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, cut its budget for targeted digital ads last year because they found it to be a waste of money.

“There’s nothing wrong with media companies sampling their audiences to determine average income or age or voting preferences; market research has been a staple of advertising for decades. But when you build specific profiles of individuals, copy the information, and distribute it for use by advertisers, problems emerge. And the government cannot enforce what it cannot see, so the abuses occur far under the radar.”

If you were forwarded this newsletter, click here for a free subscription.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Marcus Buckingham thinks you and almost every other manager are giving feedback wrong: “What they should stop saying is ‘can I give you some feedback?’ And they should start saying ‘here’s my reaction.’ Second, the best and most powerful thing you can do is give your reaction to what works. When someone does something that makes you lean in or think ‘that really flowed,’ what they want to have you do is go ‘yes, that. That.’ If you’re going to be a great performance coach, stop us in the course of our day and go ‘that. Yes, that.’ Think about it as strengths replay. The best sports coaches record the winning plays in each game and say ‘this is what excellence looks like for you.’”

With the Trump administration requiring supplemental information for many more applications, approval rates for H-1B visas have declined: “Some businesses contend that requests for evidence, in particular, are choking up an already hamstrung system. Other observers say that tighter scrutiny of outsourcing firms’ use of the H-1B program is long overdue.”

SELLING THE BUSINESS

The hot market for the sale of businesses could be coming to an end: A survey “questioned 319 business brokers and mergers and acquisitions advisers. Eighty-three percent of the survey participants said the strong M&A market will be over within two years. Nearly a third of the participants were more pessimistic, saying it wouldn’t last through 2019. The problem is the economy. Participants said they were concerned that overall business conditions will decline, putting pressure on companies’ profits and making them less desirable to buyers.”

ZACK ELLER’S DEALS OF THE DAY

Pinterest, a search and discover startup where users find pictures that interest them, has filed to go public, seeking a valuation of approximately $12 billion. “The visual search site could list toward the end of June, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details aren’t public. A final decision on the San Francisco-based company’s IPO plans hasn’t been made, the person said.”

Food delivery company DoorDash has raised $400 million in a series F round that values the company at $7.1 billion. “DoorDash was previously valued at just over $4 billion following its $250 million Series E in August 2018. The company has banked $1.372 billion in aggregate known funding, according to Crunchbase at time of writing, with more than half of that total raised in 2018 and 2019 alone.”

FEEDBACK

Jim Gray, owner of Jim Gray Designs, has a few things to say about the four-day work week item from Friday’s Morning Report as well as Disney World. Here are some highlights:

“Back in 1976, when I was employed by The Walt Disney Company, I was part of a small group that was put on a four-day, 10 hours a day schedule and it was wonderful. I was a Walt Disney character and part of the ski team, so a few extra hours on the water, playing Pinocchio, Mr. Smee and Peter Pan weren’t exactly more hours of hard, manual labor!

“In 2008, when I turned 50, I ‘retired’ from Saturdays, which sounds funny, but I needed to get some balance into my life and get to a reasonable schedule. As much as I still loved the people and the work, I could feel myself slowing down and I wasn’t as healthy or active as I had been. I knew I had to make a change…I also knew I might take a pretty big financial hit (and I did), but I felt it was worth it and two years into the new schedule in 2010, I got ‘greedy’ I threw away Mondays and never looked back!  That was a defining moment.

“For years, I had been reading and hearing about the benefits of a four-day work week and it never made any sense why more companies were not experimenting with it?”

STARTUPS

Outlaw is a startup working to break through the mumbo jumbo of corporate contracts. With clients like Barclays and Virgin Hotels, the company wants to eliminate legalese: “The service is not a contract depository–in other words, it’s not an app that you can download to create a contract for selling your car. It’s really a contract platform, designed for medium-sized businesses that send out a frequent cadence of contracts. Once a contract is set up in Outlaw, the software allows the contract to be tweaked in plain language between two parties, without involving legal counsel…”

The Kauffman Foundation has some fresh data on the state of entrepreneurship in America: Percent of the population that starts a new business every year: .33 percent. Percent of startups that are still active after one year: 79.78 percent. Average number of jobs created by startups in their first year: 5.27.

ENVIRONMENT

Insects are vital for our ecosystem and they are in trouble. As of 2016, 58 species of insect have gone extinct which is providing an opportunity for a bug breeder, Ÿnsect, that just raised $125 million. “The company claims this deal will let it build the world’s largest insect farm. It’s also believed to be the largest-ever round for an agricultural technology startup outside of the US. The specific bet here in on mealworms, which Ÿnsect argues are more nutritious than the flies bred by its competitors.”

ENERGY

Across the flatlands of Illinois, a growing number of farmers are trying a new crop: solar panels: “Randy DeBaillie pointed to the power meter on his snow-covered farm: Even on a foggy, monochromatic day, with the sun barely piercing the clouds, the flat black panels planted nearby in two long rows were generating electricity. ‘There’s enough energy produced to run the whole complex,’ said DeBaillie, 50, who farms 6,500 acres with his brother and cousin.

“They typically grow corn and soybeans each spring, but this year they want to put more solar panels on 15 acres—and sell the energy. The earnings, he said, would be about three times what an average harvest would yield there.”

ENTERTAINMENT  
With the Oscars wrapped up and “Green Book” taking home the hardware for Best Picture (albeit to a cascade of controversy). We want to ask you: What is the best business movie of all time and why? Millennial Matt goes with Glengarry Glen Ross and he challenges anyone to tell him different. Send your picks to mattg@oxfordcenter.com.   

And that’s what’s ahead.

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