Weekend Briefing No. 334

Welcome to the Weekend. This week on Bourbon & Briefing, we’ll be joined by Chad Dickerson who wrote the piece on Square (below). Join the discussion during our Zoom happy hour at 5:00 p.m. ET. If you don’t have a calendar invite for this week yet, click here to sign up. Talk then!

Also, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be hosting Bourbon & Briefing through the end of July, then it will come to a close. So, there are only 5 weeks left!

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Prime Numbers

3,000—Bosses really, really want people to take vacations. Based on an analysis of the 3,000 companies that use the HR software Zenefits, there were only about 63,000 requests to take vacation in April and May.

289.28—The average one-day Avis rental car price in New York hit $289.38 on May 25, up from a recent low of $117.37 toward the end of April and fully 25 percent higher than the pre-pandemic February average.

34—For the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1965, more Americans want immigration increased than those who want immigration decreased. Support for increased immigration has risen steadily, now standing at 34 percent as of Gallup’s latest survey. Compare that to those who seek to decrease immigration, now just 28 percent of respondents.

Square

In the past few weeks, many companies have been outspoken on racial justice, but it’s unclear how much they are also examining their own role in possibly perpetuating systemic racism or how they may be unintentionally profiting from it. Take Square for instance, a company that claims to be extremely concerned with systemic racism. It published a report about lending practices (a domain that is both fraught in America’s racial history and one of Square’s big strategic bets), noted a racial disparity in lending—and then appeared to just let it pass without further comment. If a company like Square is serious about addressing systemic racism, these are the questions they should be asking themselves: (1) Is there systemic racism in our own business model? Do we have evidence that Black entrepreneurs pay higher interest rates and/or higher fees for their loans than white entrepreneurs on our platform? (2) If there are disparities in financing for Black entrepreneurs, what specific steps are we taking to address it? Has Square done any work in its own system to address the underfunding of Black businesses that it identified in its own study? If so, what are the results? Marker (10 minutes)

SpringHill

LeBron James and Maverick Carter have formed SpringHill Co., after raising $100 million. They describe it as a media company with an unapologetic agenda: a maker and distributor of all kinds of content that will give a voice to creators and consumers who’ve been pandered to, ignored or underserved. SpringHill is a platform to give people of color the creative control that’s long eluded them. Carter calls the company a “house of brands.” It’s part Disney storytelling power, part Nike coolness and part Patagonia social impact. In 2020, stories can be told in many different ways—on social media, in films, as well as with sneakers and sweatshirts. Bloomberg Businessweek (9 minutes)

Dynamite

What is capitalism? The word inspires a diversity of passionate thoughts and opinions, often based on misconceptions and instances of corporate business gone wrong. Are corporations inherently greedy? Is capitalism inherently corrupt? What must we do to establish a just economic system and a thriving American democracy? Although capitalism was created as a fundamentally moral institution, there has long been a divide over whom it serves and how it benefits the economy and society. When profits become the priority over people and over the environment, capitalism can create unforeseen issues that threaten companies and their stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, community and shareholders alike. Fishing With Dynamite is a documentary film that explores the contentious history of American corporate culture. It explores the arguments of two influential theories—stakeholder vs. shareholder capitalism—and asserts through the extraordinary success stories of purpose-driven companies (Costco, The Container Store, Whole Foods) that caring for all stakeholders rather than simply driving value to shareholders is the only possible future for business in the 21st century. The film premiers live on Thursday July 9th at 3 PM (EDT) and it will be followed by a panel discussion, which I’ll be hosting. If you enter weekendbriefing10 (all lowercase) at checkout, you’ll get $10 off your ticket, making the film free for you. Book your ticket today. Fishing With Dynamite (Sponsored)

Ambition

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, bringing life as we knew it to a standstill, more than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment and many industries have been decimated. One writer and editor can’t imagine a world where she could have a full-time job anytime soon. Just getting by feels like an achievement. The pandemic derailed her ambitions, even her medium-sized ones. There are worse problems; there always are. An enormous and centuries-long overdue reckoning is taking place regarding the flawed institutional structures that have kept so many people down for so long. Watching so many writers and former colleagues I admire coming forward with grueling new stories of racial discrimination, it’s hard to feel optimistic for an industry that for so long was perfectly content with the status quo. Among the enormous changes that must be made, my dreams are, rightly, trivial. And yet they are still my dreams. Where does ambition go when jobs disappear, and the things you’ve been striving for barely even exist anymore? And what if the things for which you’ve been striving for no longer feel important because they’re the spoils of a rotten system that needs a complete overhaul? Gen (7 minutes)

Work

As the uncertainties caused by COVID-19 continue to disrupt work environments, business leaders must be mindful of how they can improve employees’ mental health and morale. McKinsey’s Tom Welchman discusses several issues that leaders can keep in mind as they try to support employees and help them adjust to the next normal. (1) Flexibility is crucial. From managing day-to-day workloads to adjusting employee performance assessments, leaders might take into account the challenges people are encountering in balancing their work lives with their personal lives. This is particularly true for working parents and other caregivers. (2) Employees need support for mind, body and purpose. Leaders can create opportunities for employees to pause and reflect, encourage healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, and develop a sense of community and shared purpose. Delegating authority and fostering a strong sense of agency can tap into intrinsic motivation, especially for people who feel the global situation is out of their control. (3) Remote working may be here to stay. As such, companies need to consider what changes they need to make to maintain employees’ productivity and motivation. Adapted team structures, effective two-way communication and clear expectations will likely characterize successful efforts. (4) Companies’ actions now could have a long-term reputational impact. Demonstrating empathy and flexibility, prioritizing workers’ mental health, and creating psychological safety can have a meaningful impact not only on employee experience but also on how the employer is seen going forward. McKinsey (12 minutes)

Battery

Samsung Heavy Industries Co. and Bloom Energy have announced an agreement to develop cleaner power for ships by jointly designing fuel cell-powered vessels that will reduce carbon emissions and help improve air quality. They will replace all existing main engines and generator engines with solid oxide fuel cells over the next several years, investing millions of dollars in the technology. Fuel cells create electricity through an electrochemical reaction without burning fuel; the process means a reduction in particulate emissions of more than 99 percent, said Sridhar. The cells will help Samsung meet and comply with the International Maritime Organization’s goal to cut CO2 emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. The companies said a design will be ready to showcase by 2022 that customers could order. It will take two to three years to build, in line with the industry standard in maritime for building a ship. Bloomberg Businessweek (7 minutes)

Jobs

In her new book “The Case for a Job Guarantee,” Tcherneva offers an ambitious policy proposal that calls for the federal government to provide living-wage jobs and benefits to anyone willing and able to work. Here’s a bit on how a Job Guarantee might work in the U.S.: (1) $15 minimum wage and benefits. Jobs granted through the program would offer at least $15 per hour, and this base wage would remain flexible to match inflation over time. The Job Guarantee would also provide workers with health insurance, paid leave, childcare and possibly fewer hours than the current 40-hour standard workweek. (2) Jobs would be funded federally and administered locally. Across the U.S., unemployment offices would be converted into employment offices. The unemployed would be able to enter these offices and “leave with a list of employment options, public-service opportunities you’ll be able to access locally.” What would those jobs look like? Tcherneva offered some examples: performing weatherization on a local hardware store, replacing lead pipes on a construction site, helping out at a homeless shelter or working on local alternative-energy projects. (3) The program would be “counter-cyclical.” In the current economic system, unemployment spreads like a virus: People lose their jobs, stop spending money, businesses are forced to shut down and so on. A Job Guarantee could act as a buffer that absorbs unemployed people before they fall to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. And this could help to stabilize the economy during recessions, assuming these workers continued to spend money. As the economy improves, workers could move back to their previous jobs or to other employment options. (4) The U.S. might pay for a Job Guarantee. According to projections from the Levy Institute, with which Tcherneva is affiliated, the program would cost about 1.5 percent of the U.S. GDP, boost real GDP by half a trillion dollars, and create 3 to 4 million jobs. Big Think (11 minutes)

Bookshelf

Intimations: Six Essays, Zadie Smith’s latest collection, comprises her writing during the first few months of stay-at-home orders. Though a slim book, Intimations captures the uneasiness of our modern moment as Smith reflects on the COVID-19 pandemic and relates it to issues of privilege and inequity. Her urgent voice tackles everything from what becomes important during isolation to the global response to George Floyd’s killing. The author asks questions, both timely and timeless, about how we respond to crisis and suffering. Amazon

Most Read Last Week

CRISPR – Victoria Gray is the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

Wealth—While unchecked discrimination still plays a significant role in shunning opportunities for black Americans, it is white Americans’ centuries-long economic head start that most effectively maintains racial caste today.

Greatness—One of Ronald Reagan’s final speeches as president was a love letter to immigrants.

About the Weekend Briefing

A Saturday morning briefing on innovation & society by Kyle Westaway – Managing Partner of Westaway and author of Profit & Purpose. Photo Ivana Cajina.

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Weekend Wisdom

Without hard work, a great strategy remains a dream. Without a great strategy, hard work becomes a nightmare.James Clear

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