…and the Survey Says!
Now that I defined the origin of the name of this business model in the previous article, it’s time to put some proof in this pudding. Every once in awhile I come across surveys listing the Worst Places to Work For. This is a good starting point because it highlights the activities contributing to this business model as they are more prevalent in these places establishing a baseline of support. There are plenty of complaint sites out there but the problem with them is that more people go there to complain than praise. SiteJabber is one of the better ones because some companies do have good ratings. It is a great place to check out Gig Economy companies like Uber, Lyft, SiteJabber, AirBnB, etc but for this Glassdoor was used because they initially created this survey which was then passed on after just 2 years of publications.
The Worst Companies to Work For and Why (2013-2017)
An article on The Balance describes how the origin of this list started; “Few organizations are brave enough to release “worst” lists. We can only imagine the backlash that happens when a multi-billion dollar retailing company is identified as the “worst” in any way. However, Glassdoor.com is one organization that dared to compile and make public a “Worst Companies to Work For” list beginning in 2008, based on voluntary employee surveys that evaluate eight workplace factors:
- Senior Leadership
- Employee Morale
- Career Opportunities
- Work/Life Balance
- Compensation and Benefits
- Recognition and Feedback
- Fairness and Respect
Glassdoor stopped publishing its “worst employers” list after 2009, but using the data available on the Glassdoor website, 24/7 Wall St. has been creating its own Worst Workplaces list since 2012, based on its research and analysis of the ratings, rankings, and comments which are publicly available on Glassdoor.com.”
The majority of the names listed below come from 24/7 Wall St.’s 2013-2017 reports yet I also discovered one 2009 report which would be the second and final one from Glassdoor. The Balance article goes from 2008 to 2015 but focused solely on retail and all employers is the focus of this Business Model so it’s included in the references for review. Interestingly, I’ve worked for two of these companies. One as an employee for over 6 years and the other as a contractor for 6 months until Corporate Budgeting cancelled it without informing my manager.
24/7 Wall St. Worst Places to Work For (2013-2017)
ADT*, AECOM, Alorica, AutoZone, Bank of New York Mellon, Books-A-Million, Brookdale Senior Living*, Broomfield, The Children’s Place*, CompuCom, Computer Services Corp, CVS, Dilliard’s**, DHL, DISH**, Dollar General*, Dominion Enterprises, Express Scripts**, Family Dollar*, Fiserv, Forever 21**, The Fresh Market, Frontier Communications*, Gamestop, Hertz, Genesis Healthcare, Gibson Guitar, Hewlett-Packard, hhgregg, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jo-Ann Stores, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Kmart*, Kraft/Heinz*, L.A. Fitness, NCR, OfficeMax, RadioShack*, Rain Bird, Rent-A-Center, RGIS, Rite Aid, Ross, Robert Half International, Sears**, Spherion, Teleperformance, United Airlines, and Xerox**
*appeared in two of the four years
**appeared in 3 or more years
I went through each company summary of the complaints and aggregated them into a list. It actually didn’t take that long before they became redundant indicating the same problems are happening regardless of employer type.
- Layoffs and plant/store closures due to cost cutting measures and/or mergers (eroding or threatening Job Security and morale)
- Long work days/weeks; No Work-Life Balance with some having to be available 24/7
- Unrealistic expectations such as sales quotas or performance targets
- Low or stagnant wages, long hours and out of touch and/or unsympathetic management and/or micromanaged with poor benefits of high deductible and/or high contribution levels.
- Management Cliques resulting in Favoritism
- Management Bullying
- Management out of touch with employees
- Unacceptable work environment such as too hot or cold with no response to complaints
- Illegal activities the results of which impact employees in a variety of ways including layoffs, attrition, and pay cuts as the results of fines or other enforced restrictions.
Here are a few highlights of 24/7 Wall St. comments about these reports: Continue reading
The More I Explored, the More I Found
One of the ways to truly understand the impact of the oncoming Gig Economy is to look at what’s driving it. I have touched down on some of these elements such as “The Cold Sweeping Hand” or “The Race to the Bottom”. Another thing I come across frequently is that workers are voluntarily leaving to seek other opportunities – escaping many of the traps that exist in the workplace. I decided to start digging around to see what I could find about the overall American work experience especially in light of some of the crappy things I’ve witnessed or have been through personally. If you take a moment to think about it, this topic is not short on subject matter. At first it seemed like a fairly simple task to start with a survey I’ve seen before, “Worst Places to Work“, expecting it to highlight the issues – in general – and then proceed to looking at some alternative solutions. It’s those “out of the blue” ones you stumble upon in email newsletters or side bar news where you didn’t expect to discover additional research resources that began to open this up more. Little-by-little a larger picture emerged that has now evolved into a series of articles exploring various dimensions of this topic. At first it may seem all a tad negative because that is the most prevalent, plus more are likely to complain than praise. Yet there are good companies out there as well, begging the question of ratios as I’m certain the Bad Ones outweigh the Good Ones.
What We All Want
If money makes the world go round which is then used for the exchanges of life’s goods and services et al, then it’s not much of a stretch to add that happiness be involved with this in that all any of us want is to at least slightly enjoy what you do (preferably more), earn a sustainable living per your life’s goals, have a family if you choose, a social life, etc.…all part and parcel of living a good and decent life. Life isn’t life without its ups and downs and bumps and grinds requiring an ever growing ability to adapt to the consistency of these engaging challenges; some may refer to this as stress. Yet when I look around at today’s work environment, this is not what the Status Quo is. Job Security is said to be eroding but in reality it’s a long ago thing of the past kept alive by old “Leave It to Beaver” ideals of “The Great American Way of Life”. What came out of this and other elements such as the eroding Middle Class resulting in greater challenges of Upward Mobility, is that some even go so far as to say “The American Dream is Dead” because you have to be asleep to believe in it; that’s why it’s called a dream. Yet the majority of us continue to plod along in an ever eroding employment environment never realizing the degree to which we adhere to these outmoded versions of a Stylized Working Life. Until one day, out of the nowhere, the eroding American Dream is suddenly interjected in our lives Continue reading
In Corporate America and the Gig Economy (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) I outlined at a very high level the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Corporate America and how that is and will impact the Gig Economy. I used the following categories to do discuss these corporate elements: The Entrepreneur Spirit, Infinite Growth = Infinite Profits, Job Creation, The Cold Sweeping Hand, Infinite Profits > Life, and The Race to the Bottom. Amazon, Whole Foods and the Gig Economy (Part 1 and Part 2) covered The Entrepreneur Spirit. Part 3 will delve into Jeff Bezos’ unique approach to Infinite Profits = Infinite Growth and the reason why that unique unending approach continues unabated.
Amazon: From Book Seller to The Everything Store (Part 3)
Infinite Growth did not always equal Infinite Profits
True to being a scalable endeavor, Jeff wanted Amazon to be more than just retail, he also wanted it to be an online community which led to allowing users to add their own book reviews for everyone to view which is a mainstay to this day albeit the constant barrage of fakes ones, yet if you take the time to discern you can manage your way around it which I do all the time. He got affiliates into his game early on starting in 1996 with the Associates Program. The Initial Public Offering (IPO) occurred on May 15, 1997 as AMZN “targeted at $18, but by the end of the day, public demand had pushed the share price to more than $24 per share.” (Techwalla) In that same year they added movies and music. The following year began their international quest with sites in the UK and Germany. The year after, 1999, they “opened four order fulfillment centers in Fernley, Nevada; Coffeyville, Kansas; and Campbellsville and Lexington, Kentucky to handle the large mass of orders” which was followed by Jeff being features in Time Magazine as “Person of the Year in 1999, calling him “king of cybercommerce.” (Techwalla) He also expanded his product line to now include Consumer Electronics, Toys & Games, Home Improvement, Software, Video Games, and Gift Ideas Stores. The turn of the century continued his “relentless” expansion along with the now famous logo of the curve “smiling” arrow from A to Z. Starting out with one category of books, they eventually expanded to 17 main categories and 143 sub-categories. (Techie Sense) Check the Amazon Timeline Infographic in the Techie Sense link in the Resources Quoted and Referred section at the end of this post for more details of his year to year growth.
Yet unlike many other successful publicly traded corporations, this infinite growth didn’t translate to infinite profits or even just plain ol’ profits for some time and it was all part of his plan. “Amazon’s initial business plan was unusual; it did not expect to make a profit for four to five years. This “slow” growth caused stockholders to complain that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough to justify their investment or even survive in the long-term. When the dot-com bubble burst at the start of the 21st century and destroyed many e-companies in the process, Amazon survived and grew on past the tech crash to become a huge player in online sales. The company finally turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million (i.e., 1¢ per share), on revenues of more than $1 billion. This profit margin, though extremely modest, proved to skeptics that Bezos’ unconventional business model could succeed.” (Amazon.com: Get Big Fast by Robert Spector) “In 1995, when Bezos started to raise money from outsiders…he projected that Amazon would, if things, turned reasonably well, have $74M of sales in 2000 and be modestly profitable. In 2000, Amazon turned in sales of $1.6B and had a loss of $1.4B.” (LinkedIn)
These quotes would make it appear that once Amazon starting turning a profit that it would follow that infinite profit growth model that the majority of publicly traded companies adhere to. To some degree that has happened because as of September 21, 2017 the stock is trading at $964.65 making it a major player yet when reading over the analysis at that time at amigobulls.com one can easily see that this adage of not adhering to that is still in play. Here’s some quotes; “Amazon’s revenue has constantly climbed higher as the company is putting all its efforts to expand its topline. This has led to the creation of massive infrastructure causing Amazon’s assets to increase to over $65 billion. Amazon’s stock analysis highlights the contradiction in the exponential growth of its topline and its non-existent bottom line. After over two decades of operations many investors had started questioning if the zero profit business model of the company will allow it to survive in this heavily contested arena in the future.” (emphasis added) The final sentence clearly indicates Continue reading
In Corporate America and the Gig Economy (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) I outlined at a very high level the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Corporate America and how that is and will impact the Gig Economy. I used the following categories to do discuss these corporate elements: The Entrepreneur Spirit, Infinite Growth = Infinite Profits, Job Creation, The Cold Sweeping Hand, Infinite Profits > Life, and The Race to the Bottom. Amazon, Whole Foods and the Gig Economy (Part 1) was the prelude to The Entrepreneur Spirit. Part 2 will explore how it unfolded for Jeff Bezos as the creation of Amazon. I will be mostly referencing 4 separate YouTube videos that in essence will describe his Entrepreneur Spirit using his own words.
QUOTE NOTE: Many times during interviews or speeches given by Jeff Bezos he will change direction in mid sentence. This indicates his talk is not scripted and more a flow of consiousness but when using them as a quote they can be a tad difficult to follow without listening to the interview/speech in its entirety. I have cleaned these up a bit including avoiding various “ums” and “uhs” in order to make these quotes more consistent and easy to follow.
Amazon: From Book Seller to The Everything Store (Part 2)
The Entrepreneur Spirit of Jeff Bezos
Part 1 contains a reference to a summer education camp he and his girlfriend created called DREAM Institute which was an acronym for Directed REAsoning Methods designed for 4th through 6th graders with required reading of several books for a fee. This has all of the basic elements of “entrepreneur” of coming up with an idea that fulfills a need yet throughout my research from articles to actual interviews he never mentions this endeavor when referencing his first ideas of starting a business aka becoming an entrepreneur. His first ideas of starting a company first occurred to him in college; “I don’t really remember the exact day or anything but when I was in college is when I started thinking about wanting to be an entrepreneur someday. I was not the kid with the lemonade stand. I wasn’t one of these kids who was always trying to raise money. I always wanted to be a scientist when I was little…I also always loved computers…Somewhere in college I started watching some of the people who were setting up college pizza delivery services, the kind of core entrepreneurs and thinking this looks like a really fun thing to do.” (How to Start Up a Business) He ultimately decided that it would be smarter to wait and learn a little bit more about business and the way the world works. That led to his first job after college to work for a startup company using his technical skills that led to other work that was at the intersection of computers and finance with his final role at D.E. Shaw programming computers to make stock trades as detailed in Part 1. All of these experiences ended creating the foundation of what would eventually become Amazon. It was during this time at D.E, Shaw that he came across the information that the web was growing at 2300% and that’s what eventually led to the creation of Amazon. (Exclusive Interview) “The wakeup call that led to starting amazon.com was finding that web usage in the spring of 1994 was growing at 2300% a year and things just do not grow that fast. It’s a very, very unusual growth rate. You could tell anecdotally even though there wasn’t good research on this at the time, the baseline of usage wasn’t trivial. So something with a non-trivial baseline growing at 2300% a year is clearly going to be everywhere tomorrow.” (Amazing Amazon Story) This sparked that college era idea of starting a company igniting his Entrepreneurial Spirit including the best way to begin to map out how to take advantage of this massive growth potential. Many may think that starting out as a bookseller was his original intention yet it was actually a more calculated thought process. His original intention was to eventually be able to sell everything but he needed a place to start that was cost effective. So he made a list of viable products using the Mail Order Business as a common starting point. “The list was built by looking at mail order sales. When I got the original list it was sorted in order of size by mail order. For example, apparel is a very large mail order category so apparel was near the top of the list. The things that ended up near the top of the list were books, is number one, obviously, music, videos, computer software, computer hardware, those were the kind of things that force ranked list.” (Amazing Amazon Story) Anyone starting a business will tell you that you also need a Business Plan in order to map out those ideas coherently. “So the question was what kind of business plan would make sense in the context of that growth. I made a list of 20 different products looking for the first best product to sell online. Came up with books for a bunch of reasons but primarily because books are very unusual in one respect is that there are more of them that there are products of any other category. So there are literally millions of different books in print at any given time.” (Amazing Amazon Story)
He then approached his boss about his crazy idea; “I went to my boss and said to him I’m going to go and do this crazy thing. I’m going to start this company selling books online. This is something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context. He said “Let’s go on a walk.” We went on a 2 hour walk in Central Park in New York City. The conclusion of that was “this actually sounds like a really good idea to me but it sounds like it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job”. He convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. I went away and was trying to find the right framework in which to make that kind of big decision. I had already talked to my wife about this and she was very supportive so it really was a decision I had to make for myself. The framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was what I call, which only a nerd would call, a regret minimization framework. So I wanted to project myself forward to age 80. Now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have. I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried and I knew that would haunt me every day. When I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision. If you can project yourself out to age 80 and think what will I think at that time it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion.” (Exclusive Interview) One element of the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Continue reading
As a result of my extensive experience as a Metrics and Reporting Specialist I’ve come to understand or at least seriously question something about CEO’s. I would discuss this confusion with friends and perhaps associates yet I had never given it a name. I’m now calling it “The CEO Conundrum”. This may come as a surprise or even be shocking once I get into it and perhaps even irritate those in executive positions yet once I explain how it is I eventually came to this awareness it will be clear that I’m correct in what I’m saying at least from what I’ve experienced. Much of this comes from the fact that the higher you go up the corporate ladder the more accountable you are to multitude of various functions of the company with each level having some element of Direct Reports taking care of details at that level which the leader of that level cannot personally keep in touch with and therefore depends on those various direct reports to attend to those details.
How This Conundrum Unfolded
United Airlines Cargo was my first corporate job to support a monthly book for cargo service performance which eventually evolved into me creating the first weekly report in an effort to get the reporting closer to when the actual performance had occurred. Monthly and quarterly reports ensued. I was eventually tasked to build a reduced version of these metrics as guided by my manager. Other metrics from the division were added such as some financials. This was to be included in a distribution package that was used for meetings with the C-Suite. As I became more involved with reporting on the various levels of the division and then to the company at large, the higher up they went, the simpler they got. None of the upper level metrics included a lot of data. They had to be more simply expressed as meeting or not meeting a target and nothing else. This is where I came up with the phrase “Look and Go” in relation to these upper management metrics realizing if the person had to spend time analyzing what it said it was either ignored or rejected flat out. My first exposure to “metrics manipulation” happened here. The director of cargo would at times come to me with “recalculations” of the goals that were also used in the C-Suite report in order to assist them in meeting their goals so as to not be called out (aka embarrassed) for any lackluster performance in these round table meetings of all of the divisions of the company. Although the data reported was always very accurate, these “recalculations” were at times very creative as it was an attempt to avoid the embarrassment with peers. One in particular was where he asked me to remove the goal lines in the C-Suite version. I had to submit them to someone who aggregated them all into a single package. An hour later I received a call saying that the Senior VP who reported to the CEO noticed they were gone and requested them to be immediately reinstated. The director happened to pass by just as I got off of the phone and when I informed him of it his response rhymed with yuck.
My next Metrics and Reporting role was at Allstate Insurance in their application development division with the initial task of rebuilding a massive quarterly division report containing a lot of different metrics from financial to people to various ITIL based metrics. Upon completion the next task was to develop weekly and monthly reporting for the department. As I worked with the various departmental stakeholders I again noticed that these contained not just more metrics but also more detail than the executive quarterly report. I also worked on a variety of other reporting that depending on the audience would depend on the detail of the results.
The reports I created at my next role at Caremark were very similar to the Allstate metrics. I designed and created metrics that reported the same pattern of detail at the department level, less at the Director level and even more consolidated for the Vice President. Continue reading
What does Amazon and Whole Foods have to do with the Gig Economy? Funny you should ask. No really! When I mentioned this to a friend as the subject of my return to a long absence from blogging on the Gig Economy, this is the exact question she asked!! Things had finally settled down enough to where I started going over my notes where I left off and which idea I would work on when I noticed the news of this merger between Amazon and Whole Foods had been completed. The news was all a buzz with loads of clickbait Grocery Store Gloom and Doom due to some serious price drops at Whole Foods. I was already familiar with Amazon’s role in the Gig Economy from doing research on Amazon Flex and Mechanical Turk. Amazon Pantry, Fresh and Go have already been implemented as part of their move into “Grocery Profits”. Although it’s too early to tell, this Whole Foods acquisition could easily be referred to as being part of “The Grocery Plan” as it all has the essence of something big beginning to take shape.
From my extensive experience as a Metrics & Reporting Analyst I had discovered that a thing has a meaning unto itself and when you compare it to another thing that has its own meaning unto itself, the two then take on additional and expanded meanings when being compared due to the interaction between them. This is what happened when Whole Foods was added to this current Amazon comparison. Some of this involves some extrapolation and projection yet I believe I see a long term plan unfolding which Mr. Bezos is known for and quite good at. The previous posts outlined at a very high level the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Corporate America and how that is and will impact the Gig Economy. I will use this as the basic background for this subject as both of them have been involved with that to some degree. To review, I used the following topics to discuss these corporate elements; The Entrepreneur Spirit, Infinite Growth = Infinite Profits, Job Creation, The Cold Sweeping Hand, Infinite Profits > Life, and The Race to the Bottom. I will reference these categories or a variation thereof so you can see how they apply to these individual companies including this merger. Hopefully you will begin to see it in other corporations as these essential elements are quite prevalent if you take the time to look for them. There’s so much information out there on Amazon that I had a real hard time deciding what to include yet in order to tell something of a complete story I’ll be dividing it into three parts the first of which explores his history that will indicate from childhood to elementary school to high school to college and his ensuing corporate career that his entrepreneur elements have been part and parcel of his life’s journey. This is essentially the prelude to The Entrepreneur Spirit that will demonstrate that sometimes their Life’s Path have various experiences that essentially set them up to become an entrepreneur.
Amazon: From Book Seller to The Everything Store (Part 1)
The Rise of the Entrepreneur
Jacklyn Gise and Ted Jorgenson, a onetime circus performer in a unicycle troupe, gave birth to Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen on January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jacklyn had just turned 17 when she gave birth to Jeff and her marriage to Ted lasted slightly over a year. Several years later she met Miguel “Mike” Bezos, a Cuban immigrant, while working as a bookkeeper at a local bank. They quickly fell in love and were married in 1968. Mike adopted Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen changing his last name to Bezos. Although Jeff was 4 years old at this time he had already previously demonstrated his budding genius. At 3 years old he no longer wanted to sleep in a crib but his mother resisted. “One day, Jackie found her little boy playing with a screwdriver. Jeff was working on the crib, trying to take it apart himself to turn it into a bed. Others noticed his persistence. Teachers at Montessori preschool noted that once Jeff was involved in a project, his concentration became so intense that they would have to life him up, chair and all, to move on to the next activity.” (Google Books) This is an early indication of knowing what he wanted and doing whatever it took to get it with a genius mentality to support it.
His father went to school to become an engineer and supported his son’s love of science. Mike eventually landed a job as an engineer at Exxon that moved Jeff and his new brother and sister, Mark and Christina, to Houston, Texas. Here he was able to expand that love of science by spending many summers of his youth with his grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise who not only retired to a family ranch but had his own science background at DARPA working on technology and missile defense systems and then as a manager at the Atomic Energy Commission “where he supervised 26,000 employees in the AEC’s western region, including the Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Livermore laboratories.” (Wired) He was an intelligent hardworking man who “who was able to show his grandson the high-tech world and life on the ranch at the same time.” (Google Books) Jeff is known to be a hardworking man and I’m sure he got this foundation from those many bonding summers with his grandfather where they built an automatic gate opener, fixed the Caterpillar tractor whenever it needed repair, how to weld, how to castrate and brand cattle, fixing windmills, repairing pumps, and laying pipes. On the technology side, “[h]is grandfather sparked and indulged Jeff’s fascination with educational games and toys, assisting him with the Heathkits and the other paraphernalia he constantly hauled home to the family garage… Jackie Bezos’s challenge as a parent was to stay a step ahead of, or at least next to, her prodigy. “I think single-handedly we kept many Radio Shacks in business,” she jokes.” (Wired) There were times with these kits that he didn’t need to follow their instructions. Continue reading
The Gig Economy Fallout
When I first started researching this “gig economy” thing I was constantly coming across articles about the flexibility and freedom it offered making much of it seem so sunshine and rosy primarily due to the constant referencing of what I’ve come to call the Uber Et Al’s which is primarily the On Demand Economy which can be more succinctly classified using a JP Morgan Chase study called “Paychecks, Paydays, and the Online Platform Economy” (February 2016) where it distinguishes these various On Demand Gig Economy elements into the Labor Platforms and the Capital Platforms. This Platform Economy doesn’t include traditional freelancers so it’s still not a complete picture of the entirety of the Gig Economy. The majority of these articles I originally read made this whole thing sound wonderful but from my discerning eye I was sniffing marketing or at the very least a lack of understanding depending on the intention of the writer. The more I looked into it the more I discovered that they are not as wonderful as they appear especially in the level of income they generate if you are accustomed to making more than the average $15/hr many of the Uber Et Al’s yield. This is primarily because getting started in the larger income arenas of the Gig Economy such as freelancing takes time to build what Seth calls “Trusted Connections”; these don’t happen overnight so are you prepared for the interim? Do you have an Unemployment Contingency Plan? The Big Picture aka serious income generation is more in alignment with conclusions from the excellent report by the McKinsey Global Institute called “Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy” (October 2016) where it delineates the type of people involved with the Gig Economy into four categories; Free Agents, Casual Earners, Reluctants, and Financially Strapped. It is from this that I now refer to myself as “The Reluctant Gigger”. This does include freelancers which appear to be where the better income generation is overall. This is expected where labor won’t generate as much income as specifically honed skills especially when they come with some tenure. Seth’s wisdom addresses this where he discusses the difference between the Average Freelancer and the Quality Freelancer where the averages ones are more often engaged in some element of the race to the bottom in contrast to the quality ones which are in the race for the top.
The point is that not everyone entering into this arena are doing it only because they are seeking the glories of the “freedom and the flexibility” regardless of percentage of total income. Many people, myself included, dream of being independently employed, answering only to ourselves, working the hours we establish instead of those often excessive corporate workweeks of way beyond the “traditional” 40 hours without all of the corporate politics etcetera yet it’s that “Real Job” or “Permanent Employment” resulting in that “Steady and Dependable Paycheck” that we’ve been conditioned to adhere to as a form of being a “responsible adult” that keeps us going instead of voluntarily pursuing it. We admire those who have it at a distance yet cower in fear of the reality of having to always “hunt down” that next bank deposit, all of which is also mirrored in the wisdom of Mr. Godin.
Some are seeking it because they have no choice such as long term positions being eliminated resulting in immense re-employment difficulties in conjunction with depleted cash reserves essentially “shoving” them into the Gig Economy whether or not they’ve heard of it and whether or not they like it as a desperate attempt to maintain some element of their current lifestyle. Or finding work that pays the same but now you’re a contractor which then can mean when that gig is up Continue reading
The Cold Sweeping Hand
My first exposure to the devastating affect that infinite profitability has on those that supply the labor for those profits aka the employees came during the three year financial restructuring at United Airlines which was my first corporate job. There were pay cuts and employee benefit reductions that also resulted in paying more for your insurance. The combination of the cuts resulted in an average of a 15% reduction in Net Pay. Eventually the pension system was dissolved and replaced with the now standard 401K; which if you knew the history of it would realize what a joke it is as it was never designed for the purpose that its used for today. Then there were reductions in the number of people to perform certain roles which then forced them all to re-interview for the same job they may have done for years. I saw people with 10, 20, and 30 years of service to the company basically being told “Thank you for your service” which was absolutely devastating to these people who believed they had a “Permanent Job”. These very same people had many times over the length of their careers taken one for “Team United Airlines” that had some level of financial impact on them all under the guise of permanence. Some were forced into early retirement. Others were simply pushed out as Corporate Politics played out using the phrase “moved on to other opportunities in the company”. I heard a lot of inside information during this time which was jaw dropping for me being such a novice in the ways of Corporate Life. Other than the politics, it was all primarily based on cold, hard calculations because plain and simply The Corporate will survive, even if it’s at the devastation of many of their devoted employees. As a result of these observations I came up with this phrase, “The Cold Sweeping Hand of The Corporate” as I watched it sweep across divisions throughout the company with some never knowing it was coming much less what hit them when it happened. When you’ve worked at a company for so long, starting over can have a devastating impact on your personal financials regardless of the severance pay that was given. This was the worst I witnessed because it was the only company I’ve worked for that went through this deep of a financial restructuring. Yet other restructurings had many similarities so I’ve been through this a number of times in various guises.
Infinite Profits > Life
Depending on to what degree you may have researched what I refer to as “Corporate Shenanigans”, what I’m about to say may come as a surprise if not shocking. I’m an Info Junkie and Truth Seeker in conjunction with having a fascination about everything so I’m always seeking truth and understanding in its various guises. It’s not that all corporations are involved with this but unfortunately more that you may realize because the face they put on to the public can sometimes be more marketing than reality. This all derives from the previous section discussing the drive for infinite profits and how they can actually get to the level of what I refer to as “psychopathic”. I first came across this perspective when stumbling upon a documentary many years ago called “The Yes Men”. It was about these two guys who punk various elements of Corporate America exposing many of its ludicrous behaviors. It wasn’t these actions that took me by surprise but an element in the opening sequence that was demonstrating why they did these things. Someone is filming a middle aged man sitting on a chair in a suit whose tie had been slightly loosened. It had the air of being some kind of seminar. You hear the man behind the camera say something to the effect of Continue reading
This post marks the return from a very long and unexpected hiatus from regularly posting my blogs. At first it was only supposed to be a small one of a couple months while I put all of my focus on creating a course on Udemy called The Gig Economy Preparation Guide which is essentially a “One Stop Gig Economy Information Central”. It’s primarily an analysis driven course of 4 hours yet I consider it to be a “Living Course” that will constantly be updated and expanded as I continue to explore this phenomenon. That being said, I already have plans for updates and a major new lesson on the AI impact. Shortly after the course was launched essentially my life informed me that it had other plans all of which were related to dealing with becoming The Reluctant Gigger which I will go into in future posts. I’m now permanently back with lots to say so let’s get on with it…
It’s not too much of a stretch for anyone who takes even a few moments to ponder the relationship between Corporate America and the Gig Economy that they are interdependent. The purpose of this post is to bring forth elements of companies that feed into this expansion of the Contingent Worker and to some degree have caused the expansion of what has now come to be known as the Gig Economy including its many various nomenclatures. It also shouldn’t be too much of a revelation that much of this revolves around its financial aspects. Before I embark upon this little adventure I want to emphatically state that I am not in any way an economist or financial analyst. Everything I will be discussing comes from over 18 years of experience as a Metrics & Reporting Analyst coupled with my innate analytical ability to take in large amounts of information, see their eventual patterns, and from that construct well thought out conclusions.
Over the course of my career, some of my reporting has gone from the “worker bee” to the C-Suite and all points in between. Because of that level of visibility, some people in management would befriend me to get an “inside track” of their information. From that relationship they sometimes would relate some of the “inner workings” of the company. For example, one company was involved with a proposed merger that would give them a better predominance in a region they didn’t have. The news was all a buzz about how this would be used to dominate that market driving prices higher. Their response was that this was not the case and just business expansion. Yet after the merger didn’t go through, I was secretly told that dominating the market and driving up prices was exactly their intention contrary to what was said in public. A combination of these “Whispers at the Watercooler” in conjunction with various news items over the years has resulted in this perspective.
This will not be a one sided account on the “Evils of The Corporate” as I will be covering elements of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I will be using these as a foundation when exploring the recent merger of Amazon and Whole Foods where you’ll see they have participated in these elements to some degree.
The Entrepreneur Spirit
Many companies start out with what can be called the Entrepreneur Spirit. One or more people have a vision that fulfills a need or even can see a need before anyone knows it and then embarks on the creation of this vision. There are many examples of humble beginnings in a living room, garage, basement, or small store with little or no startup cash, long hours and loads of diligence. This can also easily start out as freelancing. Seth Godin says, “Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.” It is the Business Model that determines if the initial business is entrepreneurial or just an independent business. The determining element of this Business Model is the concept of scalability. The vision must be able to expand beyond the initial efforts of those that initiated their vision to the point that they eventually oversee it such as becoming the CEO. This then brings in the element of “money while you sleep”. Referencing Seth again, “Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.” This then can go in one of two directions. The Entrepreneur(s) either sell the business and move on or continue to have a hand in its ongoing development as it continues scaling. Eventually outside money becomes involved in order to reach the higher altitudes of scalability. “Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves.” – Seth Godin. Throughout several videos and articles Seth gives multiple examples of how businesses can appear to be entrepreneurial but are not because of this fundamental concept of scalability. One reference to this is “infinite growth” which is an important reference to the next foundational element, Profits. Without this, there is no business no matter how big, small, or scalable. Continue reading
It is actually somewhat stupefying the wide variety of ways the definitions used to describe the Gig Economy are used. As I continue to investigate this I keep coming across the same words but not always used in the same way. There are some basic things that are the same such as being an independent contractor and perhaps a Freelancer yet beyond that it’s almost the author’s personal preferences of how to use them especially the term “gigging”. Some gigging articles don’t even mention freelancing and only focus on the On Demand app aspect of this. If you’re like me finding yourself at the short end of a very long stick requiring you to re-invent yourself to some degree, this can be very confusing leaving you to figure it out for yourself even if it means using these terms for your own personal use. It appears that pre-Uber et al, gigging and freelancing were easily interchangeable especially in consideration of the origins of gigging. Freelancers would have a continuous flow of work or gigs some of which are one offs while others would be repeat business of some degree. When Uber et al entered the picture then this concept began to morph into something else which is when “On Demand” entered the Gigging Vernacular differentiating itself primarily via being app based, a “Tap and Go” sort of activity which is not part of freelancing because it is more connections based mostly through Social Media and referrals.
What’s in a name? Well if used to describe something you do, then your identity is involved such as Continue reading