Picking The Low-hanging Fruit: Case Studies for the Innovative Business Exec

Upgrading Your IT Infrastructure

To keep pace with your competitors, you need to replace your entire IT infrastructure every year. This is quite costly and with a recent dip in sales, you’re tempted to access your line of credit in order to pay for the additional investment. A better approach is to go to the apple orchard three miles down the country road next to your office, pick the ripe apples and then sell those apples. Use the proceeds to fund your IT expenditures.

Raising Venture Capital for Your Tech Startup

Your burn rate is out of control and you’re facing a six-month runway. At this point you need a major capital injection or the company will fail. On the way to your meeting with the prospective venture capital firm, stop along the way at a strawberry field. Pick the strawberries closest to the ground (they are ripest there) and take them to your pitch meeting. Hand out the berries to the investors and tell them that they are locally-sourced, fair trade, but not scalable (unlike your app). If the strawberries are delicious, you’ll get the money you need—VCs love strawberries.

Downsizing in a Recession

An economic downturn means you have to let some of your workforce go. Firing people is never easy, no matter how vital it is to your business or how unproductive your employees are. One approach is to perform 360-degree reviews of all your employees to determine which are least essential to business operations. A better approach is to go to Trader Joe’s and buy as many berries as you can (the berries should be in season so as to reduce expenses) and put them in a big bowl in the middle of the office. The people who don’t eat the berries can be safely let go—they’re not hungry and you’re going to need hungry people if you want to regain your market share.

Presenting Bad News at the Quarterly Earnings Report

You’ve been CEO for two years and the turnaround has stalled. This call is going to make or break your company’s stock price and you need to keep the board of directors and Wall Street happy. The night before the call, sneak onto the nearest pumpkin patch and pick three pumpkins. Mash them up and smear the pumpkin paste on the touchier sections of the report, rendering the bad news illegible. Make a joke about how you shouldn’t be preparing the report while eating your grandmother’s signature pumpkin pie and promise a clean version of the report by end of week. After the call, open aggressive short-sale options on your stock and collect the profits when the stock tanks on Friday.

Navigating a Hostile Takeover

Approach the target company’s shareholders by sending them all an anonymous invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend at your cousin’s vineyard in Napa. Once everyone has congregated, invite the shareholders to spend the day picking grapes from the vineyard. Do not allow them to eat anything besides the grapes (this will be important later). At sunset, allow them to drink as much wine as they want. Once everyone is drunk, tell them the grapes were poisoned and that you will only give them the antidote if they agree to sell their stock at a discount. To show them that you’re serious, take the weakest shareholder, seal him in an empty wine cask, and roll him into the Pacific Ocean.

Thoughts on Snowpiercer

I loved this movie for the sheer entertainment although the ending was a bit of a let down and didn’t quite punctuate the action up to that point, if that makes sense. Spoilers below.

A lot of people have been talking about the social critiques and it’s the kind of movie that could be claimed by people on both sides of social/political/economic issues. You can read it as a warning about global warming, but on the other hand, the solution to global warming in the movie basically destroyed earth.

I saw it as a critique of the perils of a social structure that has an underclass for whom meaningful participation in society is impossible. They’re kept down and there’s no way to move forward on the train. In the movie, this is done at gunpoint, overtly. In America, the mechanisms are more subtle. So you feel righteous as the back of the train rises up against oppression, especially against such a decadent ruling class, but the nice little vicious twist is that the revolution, while just, basically ends civilization as they know it. The train derails and almost everyone on it dies.

It’s hard to see the ending and think “this is a great alternative to where we started two hours ago, for all its faults and injustices.” Or did you take solace in the fact that we all get to start over in the snow? Because the missing act in that movie, what happens next, is that two children starve/freeze to death and get eaten by a polar bear, which may be more or less inconsequential to the future of carbon-based organisms on the thawing planet, but it’s not an optimistic picture of the future of humanity.

The (ironic?) thing is that the movie doesn’t really consider a third way–it frames the question in your mind as a binary–society as is, or obliteration? Well obviously you choose status quo because you don’t want everyone to die. But that’s a trick because there’s also an infinite number of alternatives along the spectrum of keeping things similar but changing certain things at the margins. Keep the class structure but make it merit-based. Or keep it and make life more humane for those at the bottom. Or change it entirely to something more egalitarian. Or send everyone at the front to the back and vice versa. Just to name a few.

Why didn’t this ever occur to Curtis or Wilford?

Thoughts on The Lego Movie

I enjoyed this but not as much as people I’ve talked to. It felt a little too frantic for me, but  I thought it was a good satire of The Matrix. I saw Emmet as Neo, a basically boring guy that had done nothing of note who all of a sudden is chosen as special/the one. Basically a childhood fantasy that the world will see you as special, in the Lego movie, an actual child wishing his disconnected father (also a grown child) would see him that way and in The Matrix as an ostensibly grown man stuck in adolescence, waiting for someone to see him as he really is (well, as he thinks he is..). Normal for a child with an emotionally absent father but well, not really normal for a grown man.

A Yale Admissions Letter from a Desperate Girl

Dear Yale University Admissions Officer,

Let’s dispense with the pleasantries because I have no time to fuck around. You need to admit me. I repeat, you need to admit me to the Yale class of 2018 or there will be blood on your hands.

What, were you expecting another trite letter from some spoiled overachiever talking about how she went on a charity mission to Africa to enrich himself, only to discover the true meaning of life and giving? If only. I did go to Africa but it was to get away from my parents and the only thing I discovered is that being poor isn’t that bad if your parents aren’t psychotic.

Now I know what you’re thinking—is she playing some kind of ‘anti-admissions-letter’ angle? Trying to connect with me on some kind of meta level? And you’d not be dumb for thinking that, because let’s be honest, I know the game—you’re probably 25, you’re hip, you get ‘it’ and you want your ego massaged a little bit.

No, the truth is, I’m genuinely afraid. Not afraid of writing a genuine letter and getting rejected—oh no, the fear of failure is nothing compared to what my mother is capable of.

You see, my mother views me as an extension of herself. Her whole identity is wrapped up in my success. And for reasons that are beyond me, she distilled the image of success into one thing and one thing only—a daughter that goes to Yale. That image represents the only thing in the world that can make up for all of her personal and career shortcomings.

This won’t be any old rejection—it’ll be a full-blown narcissistic injury and God help us all when she lashes out in rage. I’m talking lawsuits, NY Time op-eds, think-pieces in The Atlantic, and violence. Lots and lots of violence.

My mother is a generally peaceful woman… until her carefully-maintained identity is threatened. Her self-worth is riding on this and if you let her shallow little world collapse, I’m the collateral damage, and you’ll be an accessory to murder.

So let’s just pretend, me and you, that I played violin because I love classical music (I don’t, it’s boring, I prefer Katy Perry any day), and that I did all that community service to help the homeless (as if passing out soup is the answer), or that I learned three different languages to broaden my horizons (ha! Like they don’t speak English everywhere else in the world already!).

Maybe you’re thinking “what’s the worst that can happen? So she gets into an honors program at the local State U, how bad can that be?” I’m with you there. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not that big a deal. I mean, sure it means having to work to get rich but I actually enjoy work when it’s for an actual purpose other than padding a resume.

No, it’s not about me or my education, which let’s face it, I’m going to get on my own anyway, Yales’s just a brand and if you don’t believe me, kindly go out to the parking lot and tell me what the sticker on your rear windshield says.

Between you and me, there’s not enough Xanax in the world to make my mother at peace with me going anywhere but Yale. Trust me, I checked—she’s at the max dose.

So do the right thing. I know there’s a thousand generic 4.0s with padded resumes knocking on your door. You gotta pick at least one of them, right? Please pick me. You’re my only hope.