Kaizen interviewee Robert Bradley, Jr. worked at Enron for 16 years. As director of public policy analysis for his last seven years there, he wrote speeches for the late Ken Lay, Enron’s CEO, who was convicted in 2005 of fraud and conspiracy. In a new article for the Library of Economics and Liberty, Bradley digs deep into the history of Enron to explore whether the company truly was an example of free market capitalism gone wrong or an example of a company using primarily political means to get ahead.
Archive for the ‘Business History’ Category
Innovation is an important component of entrepreneurship. Sometimes a product or service is so innovative and creates so much value for its customers that it makes an entire industry obsolete. Here is CNBC’s list of ten such inventions.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Blake Masters has posted in essay format his detailed notes from Peter Thiel’s Stanford course on startups. Mr. Thiel is the co-founder of PayPal, the first outside investor in Facebook, a venture capitalist, and hedge fund manger. Readers will find lots of great information on the history of startups, the tech startup bubble, the thought processes of founders, and how to begin. For example: “The path from 0 to 1 might start with asking and answering three questions. First, what is valuable? Second, what can I do? And third, what is nobody else doing?”
The Schumpeter column at The Economist reviews Repeatability by Zook and Allen. “[The authors] argue that most successful companies share three virtues. They have a highly distinctive core business. They make great efforts to keep their business model as simple as possible. And they apply it relentlessly to new opportunities.”
This strategy has worked for such companies as Nike, Lego, and Apple. But, the columnist argues, simplicity alone does not address the disruptive innovation that can crush an otherwise healthy company, such as Kodak, that falls behind the times.
Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson explains the keys to what Jobs believed was his greatest achievement: turning Apple into an enduring company. The list includes: focus, simplicity, responsibility for the user experience, improving on competitors’ innovations, and perfectionism.
James M. Lapeyre, Jr. (Jay), is President and CEO of Laitram, LLC, a diversified global manufacturer of industrial equipment. He is also Board Chairman of ION Geophysical, a NYSE company that provides seismic technology services and solutions to the global energy industry, and past Chairman of the Business Council of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the Business Council has been a driving force in reform efforts such as consolidating the Regional Levee Boards and the Orleans Parish Assessors, establishing an independent Inspector General, and supporting efforts to improve flood safety, charter schools, and criminal justice.
Kaizen: You grew up in New Orleans?
Lapeyre: Yes. I spent four years in Europe when I was a kid and four years away at college. Otherwise, I’ve lived in New Orleans.
Kaizen: You’ve lived in interesting times, as they say—hurricanes, oil spills, Louisiana politics, and other challenges.
Lapeyre: Those are just the local disasters [laughs]. We also had 9/11 and the economic crisis. But a lot of good things too: the Internet and the fall of the Berlin Wall, so the world is dramatically better today.
David R. Henderson is associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California and research fellow with the Hoover Institution. He has written for the New York Times, Fortune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Reason, as well as scholarly articles for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, the Journal of Monetary Economics, Cato Journal, Energy Journal, and many others.
Jack Stack is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of SRC Holdings Corporation, an award-winning, employee-owned organization based in Springfield, Missouri. Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation and its 22 subsidiaries provide a wide range of products and services, including engine remanufacturing, packing and distribution, business consulting and banking. SRC employs 1,600 people and generates annual revenues of about $400 million.
Kaizen: Where did you grow up?
Stack: I was born in Chicago in 1948. My father bought a house in Elmhurst, Illinois, and I lived in Elmhurst from the time that I was about three years old to about 30. Then I was transferred to Springfield, Missouri, where I’ve spent the last 31 years of my life.
Kaizen: It sounds like you were a wild card as a youth—you were kicked out of college and seminary and fired from a job at General Motors?
Check out Entrepreneur Magazine‘s fascinating profile of Angelo Sotira, co-founder and CEO of DeviantART, a popular social network (over 14 million members) for visual artists of all kinds. Sotira and his colleagues created an innovative architecture to support online creative communities years before Facebook and MySpace, with features that those more famous social networks later appropriated. The article covers Sotira’s career, DeviantART’s history, its plans for the future, and also features a short video about Sotira and DeviantART.