How Dollar General Took Over Rural America

As the chain opens stores at the rate of three a day across the U.S., often in the heart of ‘food deserts’, some see Dollar General as an admission that a town is failing.

How Dollar General Took Over Rural America

This is an interesting take on the dollar store craze. We have one (don’t think it is a Dollar General, maybe a Dollar Tree?) by us here in St. Paul, but the economics are probably very different than in the above story. The article covers two small towns that made different decisions on allowing the store. The first town made some financial bets that didn’t pay off and the second one didn’t want to make the same mistake.

The company I work for…

Video is just under 3 minutes long and gives an overview of the company I work for. Putting it here to verify we have published it correctly for embedding.

Minco Products has been around for over 60 years, building quality Heaters, Sensors, Instruments, and Flex Circuits for applications too important to fail.

Inbox: friend or foe

If your job doesn’t fundamentally depend on your email*, then ask yourself if you control your email or if email controls you. Our Email Is A Monster (Oatmeal). Some ideas to consider:

  1. No matter how focused you are, when that little window flashes up in the corner of your screen or your phone beeps, you have at best a micro-distraction that derails your thinking and at worst a full distraction. Turn off your email notifications and schedule time during the day to open email.
  2. Signal (high priority emails) to noise (low priority emails) in your inbox is a problem. Not all emails are equally worthy of your time. If conditional formatting (like in Outlook) is available, use it. Set a condition for when you are on the CC list. Read those last. Set a condition for when you are the only one on the TO: list. Set conditions for people that you need to respond to right away.

* Customer service type jobs and a few others do require constant vigilance of an inbox so the above suggestions don’t help you. Hopefully you have other techniques to make things more efficient.

Marginal Revolution: Is the generalist returning?

This Marginal Revolution article, based off the article “At Work, Expertise Is Falling Out of Favor” from The Atlantic, brings up a good point about specialization and generalizing: our current economy may be diverging from the standard theory that bigger and more complex economies and industries require more specialists.

Or in other words, you may not wish to specialize with your truly scarce factor, namely labor. 

Marginal Revolution: Is the generalist returning? by  Tyler Cowen June 24, 2019 at 12:38 am 

We are seeing this in my company. In the past, we had specialists in most areas. In the last few years, speed and flexibility have become more important. In order to get that speed and flexibility, employees that have more general skills are more valuable because we can move them around to meet specific needs.

This is true on the production floor, engineering, and even IT. Having Business Analysts that can jump in and help any of the departments improve is better than having Business Analysts that can only support one or two departments.

Obviously, this is a function of the size of company. finding or building a BA that can effectively jump into any department of a billion dollar company is really hard. Project Managers, sure. BAs, not so much.

If this is true, and I think it is, what are the implications for those at the beginning of their career? The initial take is to head into careers that are more general or make sure you don’t limit yourself.

This does not, however, mean the death of the specialist. Maybe it means the opposite. The BA generalists I mention above will frequently require help in deeper technical knowledge. They will need programmers, deep ERP experts, deep business experts to support their efforts to improve the business. Those people will deeper more specialized knowledge for the BA to use.

So maybe developers need to be more specialized, focusing on one technology or platform? Maybe not. There has long been a class of programmers that fit the cliche of “a champion can win on any field”. They are very good at picking up new programming languages, connecting to new interfaces, understanding new kinds of databases. Maybe their specialty is not the specific of the technology, but their ability to create software to meet a need. Those developers are more valuable than a developer than only knows one language and one database.

So maybe each career (an ill-defined word here) is really a set of generalist skills and specialty skills. Those that can build a strong set of generalist skills and and apply them to needed, and ever changing, specialty skills are what is really in the highest demand.

The ability to learn quickly does then become a fundamental life skill.

Who controls Bagels & Bikes and why do we think that anyone should?

To appreciate why this is impressive, you might start by considering who decides how many retail outlets a city will have for bread and bagels. When your bakery opened in the place where it is now, it just as easily could have been a florist or a shoe store or a bike shop or a liquor store or a hair salon that rented that space. Who makes sure that bakeries have enough locations around the city so that it’s convenient for you to find bread? There is no such person. There is no bakery czar who looks out for bread lovers.

But if there is no bakery czar, then who makes sure that there are enough places to buy bread in a large city, so that no one has to go very far to find bread? Yet somehow, the process seems to work fairly well. You might love fresh baked bread but have no interest in bikes. But there seem to be a decent number of both bakeries and bike shops — the bread lover and the bike rider peacefully co-exist.

“from a C-Corp to a Public Benefit corporation”

This is a good development. I don’t disagree* with the charter of C-Corp (increase shareholder value), after all, most of us benefit from that every day (phones, cars, healthcare, most things in our homes). However, having a mechanism for a different model is a very good thing. This is an article about how KickStarter didn’t do the normal Silicon Valley thing.

In the two years since Chen and Strickler had those conversations, Kickstarter has undergone a change that makes it unique in the technology industry. At the end of 2015, it announced that it would reincorporate from a C-Corp to a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC), vowing that it would never sell the company or go public. Both announcements were radical in the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley. In a world of “grow as fast as you can and then cash out,” Kickstarter took a defiant left turn.

*[added 6/3/2019: There is more to corporate responsibility than just to shareholders.  I won’t detail my thoughts here, but the Conscious Capitalism effort is moving in the right direction. ]