Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Recommendation - Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

I recently had an opportunity to interview Brigid Schulte, author of the new book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.  Author Brigid Schulte, an award-winning journalist for the Washington Post -and harried mother of two - began the journey quite by accident, after a time-use researcher insisted that she, like all American women, had 30hours of leisure each week. Stunned, she accepted his challenge to keep time diary and began a journey that would take her from the depths of what she described as the Time Confetti of her days to a conference in Paris with time researchers from around the world, to North Dakota, of all places, where academics are studying the modern love affair with busyness, to Yale, where neuroscientists are finding that feeling overwhelmed is actually shrinking our brains, to exploring new lawsuits uncovering unconscious bias in the workplace, why the US has no real family policy, and where states and cities are filling the federal vacuum.

In our discussion we covered a few topics that you will likely find interesting - take a listen to the following excerpts of our conversion.

We talked about the current dysfunctions of corporate culture - specifically automatic assumptions about our roles in business that create this culture of becoming face time warriors.

In her book Brigid gives the example of what the Department of Defense did to change this face time warrior mentality.  She describes this in further detail:

Work has become a religion - that is the conclusion she comes to in this excerpt regarding poor leadership across the board and the role that fear has played in getting us to this place.

Our discussion about what men can learn from this book takes us to a place that concludes that "our workplaces are trapping us in lifestyles we don't want to live."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Protecting Broken Business Models

While Apple has been a disruptive force in multiple industries for the past decade, Tesla is poised to be the disruptive force for the next decade.  I have written on some of the reasons I believe that Tesla is disruptive in the past including the fact that it has innovative technology, their approach to the media and a pioneering leader who isn't afraid to invest everything he has into his ideas and convictions.

So when I read this recent article in Fast Company it re-affirmed my belief that Tesla isn't just a pioneering company but they are a disruptive force.  It might seem odd that this article would be the impetus for these impressions given that the headline has a general negative tone.  The phrase 'Tesla hits another speedbump" doesn't exactly scream 'disruptive force'.  However, when you dig a little deeper you begin to see how disruptive they are.

The nexus of the article is that as many as five states now have or are in the process of limiting Tesla's direct sales model.  No franchised middle men means they control the entire experience and the entire cost structure of the car.  The problem is that there are many people getting rich being the middle men in the car buying process and in 2013 new car dealers (excludes used cars) generated sales of $592 billion and employed nearly 1 million people.
 This despite evidence from the Department of Justice's antitrust research group, which found in 2009 that state bans on manufacturer direct sales of vehicles are unequivocally bad for fueling economic engines such as competition and innovation.
When you see governments stepping in to protect broken business models you know something powerful is happening.  And I think we can all agree that the current car dealer model is broken.  The constant haggling, salespeople who are seemingly un-empowered and need to check with their manager hiding in a backroom, large markups, hidden fees and limited options are all hallmarks of the current car buying process.

This isn't the first time that a company has entered a market dominated by middlemen with a direct sales model and bested everyone in market share.  You need to look no further than Geico in the insurance market to see how this game plays out.  In the mid-90's they went all-in on a direct model that included a massive advertising blitz and they tripled their market share during that period to become the third largest car insurance company, taking a significant chunk of the market share from leaders State Farm and Allstate.