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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Outsourcing and Liquidation: Business Topics for Our Times

So it’s a jobless recovery after all. Is anybody still waiting for Godot? Better to contemplate the insights in these two handy volumes for our post-recessionary times. With The Black Book of Outsourcing, the cult of outsourcing will be your friend whether you’re a still viable business or a downsized employee. If the Black Book fails to save your business, then turn to Last Rights: Liquidating a Company. It’s sure to smooth your transition to the business afterlife.

With their jet black dust jackets, both volumes would sit smartly on a doily beside the guest log at your local undertaker’s. But you can’t judge these books by the wry subtext of their covers. Inside, they are all business and absorbing reading if you find strategy to-do-lists and taking inventory scintillating.

Remember the verbal inventiveness that begat rightsizing from downsizing? You’re gonna love the verbal spawnage from outsourcing. The Black Book identifies backsourcing, cosourcing, heresourcing, insourcing, multisourcing, massivesourcing, and the self-congratultory smartsourcing. Surely writers of The Office could make hay by goosing up this material a la Seinfeld’s Label Maker episode, which explored the deeper meanings of gifting, re-gifting, and de-gifting.

While The Black Book ‘s primary audience is established businesses, its dust jacket, among other things, promises that by reading the book you’ll learn What to do if Your Job Is Outsourced. Wouldn’t you know that the book’s upbeat advice to fallen employees is essentially, Outsource Thyself!—either by brokering your skills with established outsourcers or by founding your own outsourcing kingdom.

When All Else Fails. If outsourcing can’t save your business, head straight for Last Rights, which serves up the mechanics of business liquidation from soup to nuts. “The day-to-day management of a business undergoing a liquidation involves many of the same matters as running an ongoing business, except that the goal is to reach a point where there is nothing else to manage,” observes coauthor Ben Branch, a professor of finance at the UMass Isenberg School of Management.

One of the book’s revelations involves Federal Bankruptcy Code Chapter 11. Chapter 7 offers straight-up liquidation. Chapter 11 allows you to restructure—to take another crack at business viability. But seven of eight firms that file Chapter 11 go down the tubes, notes Branch. Many,in fact, wind up deploying Chapter 11 to morph more advantageously into Chapter 7.

When Last Rights first appeared in the spring of 2007, it became the first book on the planet to offer a pragmatic guide to business liquidation that integrated business and legal perspectives. Considering that more than 95% of America’s businesses fail within their first five years, Professor Branch was puzzled. “I’m not entirely sure how to account for our singularity,” he observed. “I do know that most books on the subject have focused on the legal side of bankruptcy. There’s also a bias on success stories in business writing. In a sense, Last Rights is a guide to the management of salvaging as much as possible from a failure.”

For a view on the sunny side, check out the video below, which explores the benefits of Laughter Yoga in the workplace.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Walking the Walk with Mayor Bloomberg

Mayor Bloomberg

When New Yorkers elected Michael Bloomberg as their mayor, they knew that they had chosen an independent spirit who could not be bought politically or financially. Now, with 2/3 of polled New Yorkers ambivalent about his determined advocacy of a 13-story Islamic center near Ground Zero, the mayor's steadfastness on the issue has offered us rock-solid evidence that he indeed "walks the walk."

That is consistent with Mr. Bloomberg's recollections of his own wonder years. The mayor, a secular American Jew, grew up with admirable tolerance toward Arab-Americans, Albigensians, Shriners--you name it.

Wig & Pen Walks the Walk. With that in mind, this blog's proprietor--also a secular American Jew--aspires to be more of a mensch, like Mayor Bloomberg. In other words, he asks, what cultural prejudice or angst might he give up to walk the walk, just like the mayor?

After hours of neurotic High Holiday deliberations, I’ve settled on a high-risk course of possible action--ownership of  a Rottweiler. Let me explain. American Jews--secular or otherwise--typically steer away from ownership of Rottweilers and other Teutonic dogs. In 1910, Rottweilers joined Dobermans, Airedales, and, of course, German Shepherds as the breeds of choice for German police work. That arrangement lasted right through the Third Reich. (The original German police Rottweilers had catchy names--Max von der Strahlenberg and Flock von Hamburg.)

Over the decades, this writer has encountered but one American Jew with a Big Four Reichdog under his roof. The man was a victim of circumstance: His wife, an arid Dane, lorded over an intimidatingly powerful Doberman.

Rottweiler reconciliation now?
There must be other exceptions. Next week, at the corporate water cooler, please poll your workmates. And please share any titilating findings with the readers of this blog. (A second exception:  The Israeli armed forces make prudent use of German Shepherds. A friend of mine who gushes with conspiracy theories speculates that Mossad agents smuggled and rehabilitated the first of the recruits from Argentina.)

My back pages. As a grade schooler during the 1950s and 60s, I first learned about the dark side of German Shepherds from my grandfather, Abraham Isaac Sandman . We regularly bonded over TV, but he drew the line at Rin Tin Tin, the show about a crowd-pleasing Shepherd boarded by the U.S. Cavalry and his young pal, Rusty. One day, when Rinty was making life challenging for a Comanche, I overheard my grandfather just outside the TV room mutter, He’s NO good, that Jew-eating dog.
Several years later, my grandfather—a fan of the WWII stalag comedy Hogan’s Heroes, adamantly refused to accept that its two brightest “Nazi” stars—Sergeant Schultz (John Banner)  and Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer) were both played by Jewish actors. (Klemperer was the brother of Otto Klemperer, the great conductor.) My grandfather was adamant:  No Jew--no matter how despicable--was capable of such camouflague.

A Change of Heart and a Proposal to the Mayor. For me, then, owning a Rottweiler would be a cultural stretch, perhaps even an exorcism of atavistic cultural demons. And I’d have an opportunity, just like Mayor Bloomberg, to walk the walk. But the more I think about it, a second, thornier issue emerges like a hound at the gate: I'd be respponsible for a high-maintenance beast. For me, the Maginot Line for pet ownership has always been: Do I need to walk it?  My late gouramis--Bisquick and Sapphire--and my several cats never presented such challenges. After they went to the pet shop in the ground,  I leapfrogged right over dogs to the high-maintenance vicissitudes of a son.

Mayor Bloomberg is clearly a better man than I for the job. He could adopt a Rottweiler himself--or perhaps take a position in Rottweiler futures, or even create a Rottweiler futures index. Mayorissimo: How about leveraging a dust mite among your billions in a start-up hedge fund that embraces all four breeds of German police dogs and that spreads your risk with positions on chihuahuas and "Yin" pooches like Black Labs and Goldens? And you could manage the fund in New York's financial district not far from the new cultural center .  .  .

Wagner, of course, was another of my grandfather's betes noires.
Here's a Nazi propoganda homage to Wagner that I found on  music critic
Alex Ross's New Yorker blog, Unquiet Thoughts.