In business, disruption can promote innovation, growth, and agility. But, what impact is continuous change and instability having on people, especially younger generations? Deloitte’s 2019 Millennial Survey takes a look at the human side of disruption and its effects on millennials and Gen Zs. Learn more about the survey’s key findings in the infographic below. For more information and the full report, click here.
The travel industry has constantly evolved, leading changes in technology, society and consumer tastes. Travel was the domain of the wealthy until technology and leading travel companies rapidly changed this in the latter part of the 20th century. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that there were 25 million tourist arrivals in 1950, today we see 1.4 billion.
Travellers of the 21st century are tech savvy consumers. They’re not wandering into their local high street travel agency to seek out the best deals for their next holiday. They are getting both advice and inspiration online, as well as of course booking their perfect travel experience online. Social media platforms play a central role in this, showing organic posts and paid for promotions enticing people to book that next trip to their dream destination.
Crucially though travellers continue to seek advice from travel professionals for expert advice. While there are many ways in which travel companies can meet these consumer needs, AI driven chatbots are playing an important role in an age of instant access.
AI-powered chatbots can make or break the difference between a good and bad customer journey on your website. Many chatbots are rudimentary, but the companies at the leading edge are pioneering the way forward with high levels of customer satisfaction. Their use is only expected to increase in the coming years too, with Sales Force’s research State of Service projecting that their use in the travel industry will nearly double by mid-2020 to 29%.
While chatbots first came about in the 1960s, so might not be considered cutting edge innovation, it is the machine learning innovation behind them that is constantly evolving and critical to ensuring people receive the efficient advice and level of customer service they are expecting. Recent improvements in AI are making it such that companies who invest significantly in this and leverage their data correctly, can provide meaningful customer experiences while managing costs more effectively.
We are operating in a world where people expect robust answers and they expect them fast; the advent of mobile phones paved the way for this and apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat ensured this. As such, a business’ technological capabilities are having to constantly evolve to deliver: AI driven chatbots are just one example of the way to meet these needs.
As we increasingly carry out our lives online, digital and mobile is changing the face of the high street. In Britain during the first six months of 2019 16 stores closed every day, resulting in a net decline of 1,234 shops. The travel industry is not immune to these shifts in consumer habits as highlighted by the recent collapse of Thomas Cook, which has impacted the livelihoods of thousands.
This recent failure is reflective of a wider trend which has seen the number of travel agents in the U.S. decrease by 45,200 between 2000 and 2018. Digital transformation is constant, and businesses need to be awake to the changing impact on their employees. It is predicted that by 2023 companies will have to retrain or replace a quarter of their staff in response to technological change.
Training programms and a focus on upskilling are essential cornerstones of a successful 21st century business. To stay at the forefront of technological advances and to support day to day operations e-commerce businesses require hundreds of employees and we need to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge to succeed.
Technology puts the world at your fingertips and for travel–the largest e-commerce sector in the world–that saying is quite literal. People tap into their phones, launch apps and manage their lives. In Q2 2019, mobile broke records with consumers downloading more apps and spending more money in app stores than ever before.
Apps streamline customers’ journeys, increase customer loyalty and create regular touchpoints with the customer. 80% of us use our mobile phones to search for information online, 27% then go onto download an app related to our searches–a business without an accessible and appealing app will be cast aside for their competition. According to the latest research on the travel industry by Euromonitor International, online travel sales will account for the largest share of travel bookings by 2024 and a quarter of all bookings will be made via mobile.
Travelling habits have changed significantly over the last 80 years and they will change again over the next 80. It is anticipating how it will change and how consumers will travel in the future that is essential for a business to not just survive but establish itself as a sector leader.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.9% of the business population in the U.K. This totals around 5.9 million businesses.
Transforming your dream into reality by starting up a new small business can be both exciting and challenging. However, it’s entirely possible to do but requires some knowledge about what and how small businesses succeed.
Familiarising yourself with recent trends is a great starting point. We’ve put together these small business statistics, including the latest trends in 2019 just for you.
Facts & Statistics
- Small and medium enterprises represent more than 90% of the business population
- It is estimated that there are up to 445 million micro and small and medium enterprises in emerging markets around the world
- 99% of all businesses in the European Union are classified as SMEs
- 96.4% of manufacturing exporters in the US are SMEs
- There are currently 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S.
- 75.3% of private-sector employers are micro-businesses or those with less than ten employees
- 69% of American entrepreneurs start their businesses at home, and 59% of businesses continue to be home-based even after three years of operation
- The fastest-growing small business industries in 2018 (with the most number of startups) were business services and food/restaurant tied at 11%
- The majority of small business owners are over the age of 50, a fourth is in the 40-49 age range, and the rest are between 18 to 39 years old
U.K. Small Businesses
- There were 5.8 million small businesses at the start of 2019
- SMEs account for 60% of the employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector
- In 2019, there were estimated to be 5.9 million UK private sector businesses
- 1.4 million of these had employees and 4.5 million had no employees
- Wholesale and Retail Trade and Repair accounted for 14% of all SME employment
- London (1.1 million) and the South East (940,000) had the most private sector businesses, accounting for 35% of the UK business population
- Nearly 1/5 of all SMEs were operating in Construction
- Between 2018 and 2019, the total business population grew by 3.5%
- Turnover in 2018 was estimated at £2.2 trillion for SMEs
- It takes roughly 13 days to start a small business in UK and Ireland
U.S. Small Businesses
- On average, it takes 6 days to start a small business in the U.S.
- 56% of small businesses think finding great talent is their biggest challenge
- 37% of business owners offer higher salaries to make their business more appealing
- 26% of people say their biggest motivation to start a small business is to be their own boss
- In 2018, there was a 34% increase in health, beauty, and fitness industries
- 73% of small business owners are male
- Only 26% of small business owners have a college degree
Small Business Growth
- Each month an average of 543,000 new businesses are started
- As of 2018, 99.9% of US businesses are small businesses
- Small businesses employ more than 47.5% of the private workforce in the US
- Businesses with less than ten employees are the most common, accounting for 75.3% of all private-sector employers
- 50% of small businesses survive five years or more
- The Small Business Association has stated that only 30% of newly founded businesses are likely to fail within the first two years
- 66% of small businesses will survive throughout the first ten years
- Every year 1 in 12 businesses closes
- 4 out of 100 businesses survive past the 10-year mark
- 82% of companies fail because of cash flow problems
- 50% of small businesses are home-based
- 60.1% of firms are without paid employees
- 81% of small business owners work nights
- 70% of small business owners said they work more than 40 hours a week with 19% working over 60 hours
- 86.3% of small business owners take less than $100,000 a year
- Technology, health, and energy are the most popular industries to start a small business in
- Real estate, retail, and hospitality are also among the industries that are set to have the most substantial growth in jobs in the future
Small Business Financials
- In 2018, the average SBA loan was $417,314
- 26.9% of small business loans get approved
- 12% of employer firms and one-third of non-employer firms use no startup capital whatsoever.
- The average amount of small business starting capital is $80,000 a year
- 1/3 of small businesses are founded with up to $5,000 of startup capital
Women-owned Small Businesses
- In the U.S., 12.3 million businesses are owned by women
- In 2018, 207,900 of women-led businesses (1.7%) generated more than $1 million
- 17% of all women-led businesses are Latinas
- 48% of women business owners are between the 45-65 age range
- 31% are age 25-44
Small Business Marketing
- 70-80% of people research a small business before visiting or making a purchase from them
- 64% of small businesses have a website
- 61% of small businesses invest in social media marketing
- 39% of small businesses use email marketing
- Nearly 50% of small businesses spend $10,000 or less on digital marketing each year
- 80% of small businesses don’t use content marketing
- 89% of small business owners believe that using SEO helps drive business
- 92% of small business owners think that having a website is the most effective digital marketing strategy
- 10% of small businesses engage in AR and VR technology for digital marketing
Topline: Although the U.S. and China have finally agreed on an initial deal that’s expected to defuse the 19-month-long trade war and result in a rollback of both existing and scheduled tariffs, the stock market didn’t surge on the news. Instead, markets ended the day largely flat: The S&P 500 finished the day up by less than 0.008%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.012%.
Here’s why stocks didn’t make headway on Friday’s trade news, according to market experts:
- The market may have already priced in expectations for an agreement prior to Friday: “Stocks already ran up 7% in just the past two months alone on the belief that a deal would be signed,” notes Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.
- Some experts remain wary: “The devil remains in the details,” points out Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick. “We await further word on purported aspects of the agreement including purchases of U.S. farm goods, intellectual property protections, technology transfers and access to China’s financial sector.”
- “Investors are right to be skeptical,” says Joseph Brusuelas, RSM chief economist. “There’s a limited framework to the deal, since both sides just wanted to agree and avoid the looming tariff deadline on December 15th.”
- “Contrary to what many believed—and were told in news stories—there is no immediate tariff relief, just an agreement to eventually rollback tariffs later as phase two negotiations progress,” Zaccarelli points out.
- “I’m still suspicious of a major rollback on existing tariffs,” Nicholas Sargen, economic consultant at Fort Washington Investment Advisors, similarly argues. “Don’t rule out a selective rollback, since Trump needs to maintain bargaining power—he has to keep his powder dry.”
Crucial quote: “Is this deal enough to give the US economy an added lift? I doubt it because to get that added lift we need businesses to ramp up capital spending—and they’re going to stay on the sidelines until there’s greater clarity and less uncertainty,” Sargen says. “If trade uncertainty was behind us, we’d have gotten a bigger pop in the market.”
What to watch for: “Both sides need to figure out translation and legal framework first—and if they don’t come to an agreement on that this deal could fall apart very quickly,” Brusuelas says. “We’ll have to see if it survives the weekend and into next week.”
Key background: Officials from both sides have been working tirelessly to hammer out a deal ahead of the looming December 15 tariff deadline. Reports came in on Thursday that negotiators had agreed to terms, and President Trump signed off on them later in the day. Wall Street cheered the good news, sending the stock market to new record highs, though the market’s reaction was notably more tempered on Friday, despite further confirmations that an agreement had been reached.
I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at email@example.com
Fifty-two public health companies and LGBTQ organizations wrote a public letter to Facebook Monday demanding it remove misleading advertisements about HIV prevention medicine.
The posts imply that HIV-negative people could suffer health complications from prevention pills only seen in a shrinking group of HIV-positive people, thus deterring them from treatment, the letter claims.
Advocacy groups say that they’re not able to spend a comparable sum on counteradvertising and that Facebook should consider the real-world implications of the ads, which in effect make HIV transmissions more widespread.
Facebook told The Washington Post that its third-party fact-checkers didn’t find falsehoods in the campaign, which is largely pushed by private injury attorneys.
Indeed, a component of Truvada, the only Food and Drug Administration–approved prevention medicine for HIV, has been shown to cause kidney failure and bone density problems in people with HIV treated between 2001 and 2015. The ads don’t include these details and instead reference Truvada more broadly.
Misleading HIV campaigns are nothing new, according to Rich Ferraro, a spokesperson for GLAAD, the national LGBTQ advocacy group that helped spearhead the letter’s demands. He said GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, was founded in the 1980s because of the “misinformation and disgusting coverage of HIV” at the time.
“Since GLAAD’s founding almost 35 years ago, we have worked together with other leaders in the HIV and AIDS activism community fighting back against misinformation, factual inaccuracies and stigmatizing ads,” Ferraro added.
More broadly, today’s HIV campaigns are also noteworthy for what they don’t include—the fact that people with HIV are living very long and healthy lives when taking the proper medications, Ferraro said. “That has been a proactive push that has yet to catch on in mainstream media,” he said.
In 2013, the National Library of Medicine launched a traveling exhibit examining the “confusing and at-times counterproductive” response in the 1980s to the HIV epidemic. In its digital gallery, posters, comic books and postcards offer a range of warnings about HIV transmission.
Some have withstood the test of time, like one campaign by the New York State Department of Health that clarifies that HIV “does not discriminate.” Rather, anyone, male or female, straight or gay, can pick up the virus from shared needles or unprotected sex.
But some warned that AIDS causes blindness or endorsed masturbation in lieu of having sex with strangers. Others associated sex with death more directly, like one poster by AID Atlanta that depicts a handsome young man above a caption that reads: “This man killed 17 women and loved every minute of it,” implying he passed HIV to women during intercourse.
Advertisements abroad could be even more sinister. One featured a grim reaper, meant to represent the deadly HIV virus, that came after men, women and children in a bowling alley. Commissioned by the Australian government with that country’s National Advisory Committee on AIDS, it was pulled in 1987 amid a backlash.
While less dramatic than ads from decades past, the “frightening” Facebook campaigns are doing more damage, according to Peter Staley, a co-founder of PrEP4All Collaboration and longtime AIDS activist. “I must say, this is in a class of its own. This example, we think, is directly spreading HIV,” he said.
The campaigns also target LGBTQ communities and people of color because of their higher rates of HIV infection, according to Raniyah Copeland, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. These groups already have more medical distrust than their white or straight counterparts, Copeland said.
One such post features a person of color with a somber look on his face. It lists side effects from “taking an HIV drug,” such as “kidney disorders,” and claims “the manufacturers had a safer drug & kept it secret.” Another features a young white man with his eyes closed and hands clasped. It reads: “Truvada & other TDF drugs prescribed to prevent or treat HIV may harm kidneys and bones.”
Both feature links to law firms or ongoing lawsuits.
In the letter, the advocacy groups asked Facebook to remove the ads and commit to a review of current policies meant to prevent false public health statements from reaching users.
Facebook relies on its independent fact-checkers, including those from the Associated Press and conservative website the Daily Caller, to vet dubious claims, the Post reported.
Asked whether HIV advertisements should be treated with stricter standards, a Facebook spokesperson told Newsweek that its fact-checkers were all certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, which maintains a commitment to nonpartisanship and fairness in its code of principles.
“Since we don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be the arbiters of truth, we rely on the International Fact-Checking Network to set guidelines for these high standards,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
At around 02:15 a.m. ET, Dow futures rose 55 points, indicating a positive open of more than 56 points.
Futures on the S&P and Nasdaq were both slightly higher.
On the data front, the Labor Department will release nonfarm payrolls for November at 8:30 a.m. ET.
At around 02:15 a.m. ET, Dow futures rose 55 points, indicating a positive open of more than 56 points. Futures on the S&P and Nasdaq were both slightly higher.
Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, following an upbeat tone from Donald Trump.
On Thursday, Trump said the world’s two largest economies were inching closer to a trade deal. His comments come as investors continue to closely monitor the prospect of a so-called “phase one” trade agreement, with less than 10 days to go before Washington is poised to impose even more tariffs on Chinese goods.
Dec. 15 is the date when tariffs on another $156 billion in Chinese goods will go into effect.
The U.S. and China have imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of one another’s goods since the start of 2018, battering financial markets and souring business and consumer sentiment.
On the data front, the Labor Department will release nonfarm payrolls for November at 8:30 a.m. ET.
The eagerly-anticipated figures are expected to show strong job growth last month, reflecting a temporary boost from returning General Motors autoworkers. Economists polled by Dow Jones are expecting 187,000 jobs added in November — one of the highest estimates this year ahead of a jobs report.
Unemployment rate data and average hourly wages for November will both be released at the same time.
Consumer sentiment for December, wholesale trade figures for October and the latest reading of consumer credit will all follow slightly later in the session.
In corporate news, Big Lots will publish its latest quarterly figures before the opening bell.
By: Sam Meredith
The jury is out on whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs will one day make the world a better place. But this much is pretty clear: They’re already benefiting the companies that have implemented them. And in some unexpected ways.
Specifically, CSR has become the weapon of choice for what is known as, in corporate speak, the three R’s: Investor Relations, Human Resources, and Public Relations.
But before we dive into details, a CSR mini-lesson is in order. First off, CSR isn’t an overnight sensation. Over the past couple of decades, companies have been embracing the idea that they need to do more than just make a profit for shareholders. Do-good efforts slowly evolved from passive and limited corporate philanthropy programs—giving to the United Way, for example—to broader and more active CSR programs. Those would take on major social issues like Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women program, which in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (World Bank) has delivered $1.45 billion in loans to women-owned businesses in developing countries.
Now, they have evolved even more. Many companies are now incorporating impact-on-society considerations into core business activities. For example, Starbucks only uses “ethically-sourced coffee.” Programs like these are often focused on “sustainability.” In August, 181 CEOs of the country’s largest corporations signed a Business Roundtable statement committing to managing their companies not just for shareholders, but also for customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.
The idea behind all of these efforts is the well-worn slogan “doing well by doing good,” which means that being a positive force in the community will enhance a company’s reputation, which in theory will pay off in more sales, lower costs and over the long term, more money for shareholders.
Can you even measure something like this? Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute in Boston, says you can. He reels off a string of statistics, like “40% of the reputation of a company is related to corporate responsibility” and says his organization’s research proves that reputation is a leading indicator of stock market capitalization, or the total value of a company’s shares. In other words, he adds, “CSR has a multiplier effect” when it comes to a company’s value. But CSR can be risky. And take a little guts.
According to analysts, CVS’s 2014 decision to stop selling tobacco products cost it $2 billion a year in sales and caused the stock price to drop. (Investors took a $1.43 billion hit that year according to Martin Anderson of UNC Greensboro.) In 2010, Campbell Soup announced it was reducing the salt levels in many of its soups, a decision they reversed the following year when sales fell by 32%.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault rifles. On a panel at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, CEO Ed Stack said that decision cost them customers and employees. He notes that many of the customers who applauded the decision at the time seem to have forgotten, but those who were in opposition have not. “Love is fleeting,” he says. “But hate is forever.”
But many companies feel the do-gooder dividend outweighs the risks, both in relations with consumers and in day-to-day operations.
Brad McLane, who recruits high-level positions at RSR Partners, says, “Companies aren’t doing it just to say they have it. My clients are incorporating it into how they do business—what ingredients they use, where they source, how they design products.” Megan Kashner, clinical professor at the Kellogg School of Management’s Public-Private Interface agrees. She’s says that we’ve moved from “greenwashing programs that mimic CSR” to an era of “authentic CSR.” Greenwashing is the practice of making misleading claims that make a company appear more environmentally or socially conscious than it is, for example, when BP began touting itself as being environmentally conscious through a $200 million public relations campaign, only to have a string of environmental disasters—some of which, according to a government report, were caused by corporate cost-cutting to boost profits.
Simon Lowden, Pepsico chief sustainability officer, says, “It’s woven into how we operate as a business. For instance, we need to maintain our license to operate in water-stressed regions, so we’d better focus on being responsible stewards of water. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s important to our business.”
CSR is particularly useful in human resources. Rebecca M. Henderson, holds the John and Natty McArthur Chair at Harvard and is finishing a book on this topic, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. She says: “CSR has a tremendous impact on the morale of employees. Authentic purpose, which may mean occasionally sacrificing profits, accesses a whole range of emotions difficult to get at otherwise, like trust and engagement.”
In other words, it gets through. And that is a good thing. It leads to higher levels of productivity and employee retention.
CSR can also be a big factor in recruiting, particularly for younger employees, says Eric Johnson, executive director of graduate career services at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He says, “Social impact is a big piece of the recruiting process. Probably 50 percent of that initial conversation is about what the company is doing to make the world better.”
“Beer companies used to talk about fun and sports. Now they talk about their programs to save water in the world. Social impact can tip the scales. Is a student going to choose an $85,000-a-year job over a $125,000 job because of social impact? I doubt it. But my observation is that jobs heavy in social impact often pay up to 10 percent less than comparable jobs that don’t.”
Professor Kashner adds, “These newly minted MBAs care and they care about the type of work they’re going to be doing. Maybe previous generations drew a line between work and personal life and values, but those boundaries no longer exist.” Korn Ferry, the giant executive recruiting firm, recently surveyed the professionals in its network. “Company mission and values” was the No. 1 reason (33 percent ) they’d choose to work for one company over another.
CSR is increasingly part of the conversation with individual shareholders and investors, like the world’s largest investment firm, BlackRock, which manages $6.5 trillion dollars for its clients. In his last two annual letters, CEO Larry Fink has called on companies to do more and said that BlackRock will evaluate companies on more than just financial numbers. His 2018 letter said, “As divisions continue to deepen, companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity.” Many investment firms now have someone in charge of building portfolios around companies based on their performance on Environmental, Social and Governance or ESG. (Measuring which companies are woke is an industry in and of itself.)
One aggregator of ESG ratings,, lists 634 data sources. They range from the very broad (for example, Alex’s Guide to Compassionate Shopping) to the very specific (for example, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety).
For public relations, CSR is both an offensive and a defensive weapon. CSR can be used to pre-empt the conversation in areas where companies have been criticized. Procter & Gamble’s “Ambition 2030 program is heavy on recycling and biodegradability.
But CSR can also be a useful defense. It not only builds up a stock of goodwill with the media and the public, but it generates good news that crowds out the bad. Large corporations are going to get a certain amount of press and awkward questions each day—better that press and those questions be about CSR than, say, worker safety or GMOs. For example, in 2018 when Johnson & Johnson was accused of knowingly selling baby powder with harmful levels of asbestos, Harvard professor Bill George wrote a stirring defense of the company, focusing not on the merits of the claim, but on J&J’s “Our Credo,” a commitment to integrity and customers written in 1943 (and likely the first CSR document ever produced.)
Still, not everyone is convinced. There are many who adhere to the late economist Milton Friedman’s argument that the sole purpose of the corporation is to make more money for shareholders, who can then choose for themselves whether or not they want to save the world.
Judith Samuelson, vice president of Aspen Institute and founder of their Business and Society Program, who’s worked with many of the companies currently leading the way in CSR, says, “The shareholder primacy viewpoint hasn’t gone away. And even if attitudes have changed, measures haven’t. Many executives, including CEO’s, are still paid in stock, and those who manage portfolios for institutional investors are still bonused on the value of those portfolios.”
Samuelson worries that “Companies may think these (current) programs are enough and not make fundamental change.” Kashner is more optimistic. She cites work that says large public companies are increasingly incorporating CSR metrics into executive compensation contracts.
Those who oppose CSR programs argue that trying to do two things at once, like making a profit and serving society, will destroy the effectiveness of companies.
Samuelson scoffs at this. “Of course companies can do more than one thing. Public companies have to manage multiple objectives all the time. No public company in the world would last a week if the only people they cared about were shareholders. What about customers? Employees?”
She believes that CSR really boils down to responsible decision making, doing what it takes for companies to succeed in the long term. Whatever, CSR is here to stay. It’s become part of the fabric of investing, company operations, and business school curricula.
It’s now being tracked and measured, and in business, what gets measured gets done.
In 2017 Farzan Dehmoubed, a marketer, and his wife Jennifer, a schoolteacher, created the Lotus Trolley Bag, a set of washable bags with attached rods that can be hung inside a shopping cart. The bags, with features like secure pockets for egg cartons and wine bottles and an insulated pocket for frozen foods, quickly became the top-selling reusable bag on Amazon, and are now sold in stores like Wegman’s, Albertson’s, Kroger, and TJ Maxx. But getting to that point required overcoming a mishap that nearly sunk their startup. –As told to Kevin J. Ryan
We invested $45,000 into our first inventory. It sold out in 10 days. We were really excited. We called up our manufacturer and placed another order. We wired them $50,000–everything we made on the first batch and more.
Six weeks later a big container arrived. We had our friends and family help us unload it. We opened up the boxes and looked at the product, and it was nothing like the first set of bags. It looked the same from a distance, but when you actually looked at the stitching and the quality of the printing and the logo, it was not what we had ordered. My wife and I looked at each other and said, “This can’t be real.”
I remember thinking to myself, ‘We can fix this, maybe it’s just some loose thread.’ But it wasn’t salvageable. We placed a complaint with the manufacturer, even though we knew it wouldn’t go anywhere, since we were just a family business with very little leverage. We later learned it had outsourced the order to save pennies on the dollar.
We decided pretty quickly we couldn’t sell the bags. We didn’t feel comfortable putting our name on them. That meant we would have to take the $50,000 loss. I don’t think Jenn and I talked for the rest of the day. It took a day or two to absorb the shock.
Even though the manufacturer promised us they would do better the next time around, we weren’t going to be fooled twice. I flew to multiple manufacturers in Vietnam until we found a new one we were happy with. We hired a third-party quality check company. When the goods were ready to ship, they would go in and do an audit: open up each box and check them, and send us videos. We kicked ourselves for not doing that in the first place.
We placed a new $50,000 order, which required emptying our life savings and practically maxing out our credit cards. It was two months before the new inventory came. We were pretty upfront with our customers during that time. We told them very frankly: The bags didn’t come out the way we ordered them, the shipment is going to be delayed, and we really thank you for your patience.
I think letting your customers know you’re just like them, and that you’re just trying to provide a product that they’ll be happy with, goes a long way. People related to us. They were very understanding.
We still had a lot of orders canceled though, and we gave discounts to customers who had been patient. We were nervous when the new container came–if the product was bad, we would have lost everything. But it was exactly what we’d ordered. We sold out almost right away. Because of the discounts, we didn’t make much money at all on that order, but we had our reputation.
Not putting that product on the market was one of the best decisions we ever made. If we had, I can guarantee you we wouldn’t be where we are right now. It would have killed our reviews. It would have ruined our brand.
We now have a 4.6-star rating on Amazon with more than 700 five-star reviews. We’re on pace for $3 million in sales this year. We just launched our second product, a reusable produce bag, and those same early consumers are buying it.
Who has time to shop small?
I’m the president of a company, a wife, a mother, and an active member of my community. I get stressed out just thinking about the commitment it takes to go to stores in my small town and shop. Truth be told, I don’t have time to do much purchasing that can’t happen on a flight or after I’ve put the kids to bed — even for groceries. If that’s the case for me, I know that it’s the same deal for your potential customers. That’s why, as business owners, it’s important to educate the community about shopping local.
I live in Sonoma County, where the Kincade fire recently devastated the region. Local businesses have been hit especially hard by the fires themselves and by PG&E power outages. The last time I was at the grocery store, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be buying strawberries from seven states away or a different country. I need to put my money where my mouth is and shop local businesses. I love farmers’ markets, but struggle to make time to get there. I still have to buy groceries, so I’ve switched from my nearby Safeway to a store that sources food only from within Sonoma County called Oliver’s Market.
That’s just one way that I’ve found that I can give a boost to small businesses without going out of my way. In honor of Small Business Saturday, here are others ideas for how to help your area entrepreneurs this holiday season.
Challenge customers to eat local for Thanksgiving and other meals.
I already talked about how I’m doing this every day, but even confirmed local diners sometimes find it challenging for the big events.Your job is to convince your customers that it’s worth the effort.
Do you have a cracker company that would be perfect for a celebratory cheese plate? Consider partnering with a local dairy to get the word out. Whether you’re a turkey farm, are smoking up the best hams in town, or have a small business selling tamales to add variety to shoppers’ holiday tables, your community needs your flavors right now.
Dessert is easy. There are plenty of people looking for local bakeries ready to fill up a flaky crust with pecans or chocolate cream. Being mindful of where your food comes from isn’t just good for local business people, either. It’s better for the environment (bye-bye food miles) and is likely to be healthier, too.
Buy from small businesses on Amazon.
Most of us think of Amazon as the big, bad brother. I mean, it’s been accused of being a monopoly. You can’t get any further away from being a small business. But in reality, there’s more to it than that.
Amazon Sellers are small-business people. They are just using the biggest platform they can to get their products to the masses and I respect that. One user I know is Crystal Swain-Bates, whose excellent line of children’s books ensure black children are highlighted throughout stories. Goldest Karat Publishing made her an Amazon featured seller. For the holidays, I especially love Amazon Handmade, a community just for artisans to sell their handcrafted wares.
But I promise this isn’t just an ad for Amazon. I also love Etsy. You can search it by location so you can specifically choose gifts made by someone in your community. I’m always surprised by all the cool handiwork my neighbors are presenting.
Make time to go analog.
Yes, I know I said I’m too busy to shop downtown, but I can make an exception a few times a year. Heading to Main Street has many advantages. If your business is brick-and-mortar, congratulations. If not, it might be high time to get involved in a holiday market or two.
Connect with real, live people with whom you can have lasting relationships for years to come. As you get to know their likes and dislikes, you’ll help them learn to shop smarter — and with you.
Look at your own company.
OK, you’re not buying your business a Christmas present, but when it comes to shopping for yourself and your team’s daily needs, you can keep small and local in mind. For example, at my company, we use a local business for many of our printing needs. It’s harder than going to Office Depot, but well worth it. In our Houston division, we just moved offices, and we’ve made it a point to work with local designers to get everything on point.
Whether it’s candies or technology, we try to shop among the people who need us most. In my experience, that’s how you find the best gifts of all, just shop small.
In stunning news, healthcare lost a major leader today. Bernard J. Tyson, the Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, unexpectedly passed away in his sleep at just 60 years young. Unexpected is an understatement since it was only yesterday when Tyson was a guest speaker at the AfroTech gathering in Oakland as shown by this tweet:
And three days prior, he had been in New York City to speak at the Fast Company Innovation Festival as seen in this picture:
Discussing and advocating for key health issues was a big part of Tyson’s life. Through my career, I have met many hospital, health clinic, and insurance executives, and Tyson without a doubt has stood out from most of the rest. He was far from a “mind the store and pick up the paycheck” CEO. Sure, we can rattle off what happened to the typical metrics used to measure hospital and insurance CEO’s since he became Kaiser Permanente’s CEO in 2013 and it’s Chairman of the board of directors in 2014. Kaiser Permanente went from having 9.1 million members to 12.3 million, employing a workforce of 174,000 to 218,000, and generating $53 billion in annual revenues to $82.8 billion. These are all very impressive jumps but do not begin to capture the larger and what I think are the more important steps that have occurred.
Tyson has helped Kaiser Permanente become a leader in transforming how healthcare systems can have a greater impact on population health. Historically, many hospitals and much of the health care system in the U.S. have been way too focused on inpatient and “sick” care, because surprise, surprise, that’s where the immediate money seems to be. You can make a whole lot more money today trying to fix a medical problem (and even failing horribly to fix it) than preventing the problem in the first place.
This has made much of healthcare far too reactive, waiting for problems to occur, too focused on repairing people after they have already been broken. It’s like waiting at the of the wall for Humpty Dumpty to fall rather than helping him down from the wall or at least installing some seat belts. It can also be analogous to waiting for a car to fall into pieces before you take it (or rather carry it in a bag) to the shop and ask the mechanic, “hey, can you do something about patching everything together? I need to drive to a date tonight.”
Under Tyson’s leadership, Kaiser Permanente has taken major steps to expand the role of health care beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics. For example, as I reported previously for Forbes, there are the ongoing initiatives to address obesity and homelessness in the communities surrounding Kaiser facilities. Tyson covers the latter in this Kaiser Permanente video:
Another example is their first-of-its-kind partnership with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to tackle (or rather, since it’s basketball, assist with) children’s health issues, which I also have written about for Forbes.
Then there’s climate change, which for Pete’s and everyone else’s sake exists. Recognizing the impact that all of their facilities and many employees can have on pollution and the climate, Kaiser Permanente has been taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2020.
If this doesn’t sound like your typical hospital system or clinic, it isn’t. Tyson hasn’t been your typical healthcare system CEO either. When I spoke to Tyson earlier this year, the conversation was more about a vision of how healthcare should be and what a good healthcare system should be doing rather than a review of how great things already are. He didn’t dwell on dollar signs and listing the clinical services that Kaiser and its many physicians offer. Instead, he talked at length about how Kaiser was trying to not just be reactive but rather address the “social determinants of health” such as “improving basic infrastructure, promoting healthy eating, working on exercise, and taking care of the key ingredients to promoting health.” As he emphasized, “great health care is not just engaged with treatment.”
Tyson also pointed to a part of the body that healthcare systems frequently neglect. No, not the feet or the spleen. It’s the head or more specifically the mind, which incidentally should be connected to the rest of your body. As Tyson mentioned, Kaiser has been “extremely focused on the mind, as in mental health and well-being,” and “looking at the whole person.” He spoke of the “comprehensive package, looking at health and health care.” Again, while healthcare systems may talk about mental health and well-being, talk is cheap. They often don’t mind the gap or rather address the gap in taking care of the mind in the community. How many have actually invested in community well-being programs as Kaiser Permanente has?
Of course, Kaiser Permanente does have strong incentives to keep its millions upon millions of members healthy since it serves the dual purpose of insurer and healthcare system. However, this dual role alone may not necessarily lead to transformative change. When you talk to Tyson, you never got the sense that he was just spewing platitudes. Rather, expanding healthcare these directions seemed to be a passion.
For example, take a look at his experiences as a child. As he related to me, he was “greatly impacted by a wonderful mother, who was sick all of my life and wonderful doctor who take care of her and us.” This combined with the fact that his “father was a minister” meant that his “line of sight was always the community of the congregation. The community was the family.” He spoke of “having resources in the community and encouragement with multiple ‘moms’ who raised me as a child. The community came together,” and offered “a support system that you can rely on, that was in your corner,” that was encouraging, “you to be all that you can be.”
Certainly, Tyson was much more than the color of his skin. Nevertheless, in this day and age, color of the skin still unfortunately can be a major barrier in healthcare. It was an important step that Tyson, as a racial minority, became the leader of the largest nonprofit health plan and integrated delivery system in the United States. This brought a little more demographic diversity to healthcare leadership, which remains way too homogeneous. If you look at pictures of many healthcare system executives, the colors of the neckties are often more diverse that the colors of the skin. Tyson helped get many people more used to seeing an effective and forward-thinking healthcare system leader from a different background.
Tyson didn’t shy away from talking about how race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation either. These demographic characteristics still unfortunately affect healthcare inside and outside hospital and clinic walls. In fact, he had strong interests in reducing disparities of care as well and said, “The fact that someone may not be getting what they should be getting because color of skin or sexual orientation is unacceptable. Period. No sentence to follow.”
The Kaiser Board of Directors has named Gregory A. Adams to fill Tyson’s shoes as Chairman and CEO on an interim basis. These are certainly big shoes to fill. Adams is no stranger to the Kaiser system as he had been reporting to Tyson as the Executive Vice President and Group President, overseeing all eight Kaiser Permanente Regions that includes 38 hospitals and 651 medical office facilities. Additionally, Adams has led Kaiser Permanente’s national Medicare care delivery strategy and was responsible for Kaiser Permanente’s partnership with the NBA. Adams appears in this video covering the launch of the NBA partnership:
Adams has been with Kasier Permanente since 1999, beginning at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California and subsequently holding positions with increasing leadership responsibility. Adams’ Kaiser Permanente biography includes more information on his background.
In a statement, Ed Pei, Kaiser Permanente board member and Chair of its Executive Committee and the Governance, Accountability and Nominating Committee, said: “Bernard was an exceptional colleague, a passionate leader, and an honorable man. We will greatly miss him. The board has full confidence in Greg Adams’ ability to lead Kaiser Permanente through this unexpected transition.”
Indeed, in his five years as CEO and over 30 years in the Kaiser system, Tyson made a major impact on healthcare that went well beyond hospital and clinic walls in many ways. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see all that he could have done with more years at the helm.
I am a writer, journalist, professor, systems modeler, computational and digital health expert, avocado-eater, and entrepreneur, not always in that order. Currently, I am a Professor of Health Policy and Management at the City University of New York (CUNY), Executive Director of PHICOR (@PHICORteam), Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, and founder and CEO of Symsilico. My previous positions include serving as Executive Director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University, Associate Professor of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Pittsburgh, and Senior Manager at Quintiles Transnational, working in biotechnology equity research at Montgomery Securities, and co-founding a biotechnology/bioinformatics company. My work involves developing computational approaches, models, and tools to help health and healthcare decision makers in all continents (except for Antarctica) and has been supported by a wide variety of sponsors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the NIH, AHRQ, CDC, UNICEF, USAID and the Global Fund. I have authored over 200 scientific publications and three books. Follow me on Twitter (@bruce_y_lee) but don’t ask me if I know martial arts.