Category Archives: Books

Top 3 of 25 Student Entrepreneurs

This past few weeks has been an exciting blur. I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Utah Student 25 Event, where David Kasteler and I placed in Utah’s top 3 student entrepreneurs. Third place isn’t bad for a true social venture to place in a competition like this.

I expect to see more social ventures show up in the future…

It was a lot of fun to see the businesses that were represented there. It was a spectacular event with addresses from the Governor, Steve Gibson, (I’m a big fan of that social entrepreneur), Josh James, and others.

Again congratulations to first and second placers, Taylor Turnbull and Craig Guincho. Both emerging business leaders in the beehive state!
I want to thank everyone who supported and cheered for Worldwide Book Drive!

If it wasn’t for everyone else who made Worldwide Book Drive a reality, it certainly wouldn’t have been able to donate and recycle the millions of books it has to date. Thank you!

“Click” Book Review

I recently read “Click” by Bill Tancer.

Although I thought were some interesting statistics in the book I don’t know if I would suggest taking the time to read the whole book. Really, I think you’ll get pretty thorough understanding of the entire book by simply reading a few of the Bill Tancer Blog posts.

If I had to distill a single take-away message from the book, it would probably be that we are what we search and a refined understanding of that relationship can provide some pretty helpful data for marketers and even social scientists–(Yeah I know–nothing new, but really an intriguing concept).

I would suggest “click”ing on his blog link and learning more about the concept if you’re not very familiar with it already. The implications are quite significant for internet marketers and social scientists… That makes it perfect for internet social marketers and/or social internet marketers, depending on how you look at it.

You’ve got to take a little to give

A good friend once told me that happiness was as much in taking as it is in giving. This may appear to be a simple justification for looking forward to birthday or holiday gifts. But what I’m really interested in is sustainability. I’ve been exploring more about growing businesses and starting new ventures lately and it seems that “taking and giving” is a necessary cycle for successful entrepreneurship.

Giving and taking. Taking and giving. These are sustainable cycles. Taking and taking and giving and giving are guaranteed failures over time.

Although this principle is immediately visible in social entrepreneurship, it is as vital of a component in general entrepreneurship, where fiscal profit alone may be the objective. To start any venture for a beginning entrepreneur requires borrowed human capital. Networks, expertise, advice, trust… It often feels like I’m in deeper debt of human capital than I could possibly give back in a life time. While I try to give back where I can, and as much as I show gratitude it’s probably not enough–still I’ve got a lot more to take if I want to have a lot more to give.

The Road Home… A Service Project Worth Remembering

Tuesday, May 27. Salt Lake City, Utah. Business casual and shiny cars drive cautiously to the shelter. The sign says, “Honk for Donations.” In succession the cars drive through the ominous gate.

I’ve grown up in Salt Lake. But this area of town is unfamiliar. The building and stretch of faces on Rio Grande road almost ask to be forgotten.

We step out of our cars and into the Road Home Homeless Shelter Docking area. It is a small area with a single wide ramp leading to the back of shelter. No pictures are allowed inside. No tours. We look awkward in our business casual dress shoes.

In only a few minutes we unloaded our supplies and we were done.

No fan fare. No smothering thank yous. The books, towels and blankets were delivered.

We walked around the shelter to take some final mental pictures before leaving. The people lined up outside the door looked suspiciously at the passing dockers and collard shirts.

A few moments of introspection. We get back in our cars and drive off to eat and “talk business.”

Not the normal day of work, but certainly a worthwhile one.

The fact is, we were delivering materials as part of a challenge for young entrepreneurs to give back to the community.

Getting the materials was easy. Who’s going to say “no” to sharing their extra substance with the homeless? Some of us went door to door. Some of us asked our friends and neighbors.

We were all able to contribute.

Few people will say no. But how many remember?

How often have I remembered?

The Road Home is Non-Profit based in Salt Lake City, dedicated to providing materials and support for the homeless. Visit their website to learn more about you can help utah’s homeless.

Utah Book Donation and Worldwide Book Drive

I just want to take a minute to congratulate Worldwide Book Drive and it’s faithful team of book sorters and back-brakers for donating over 100,000 books this year alone! Their contributions will certainly have an impact on generations of children in Utah, Nicaragua, Idaho and Africa for generations to come. And that’s just up to September of this year–who knows what beneficial labors wait around the corner.

In a recent conversation I had with Jaron Brown, the Regional Manager for Worldwide Book Drive, he said something that struck me as a key factor to Worldwide Book Drive’s growing success. He related a recent experience in which a retiring professor donated his entire collection of used books and curriculum before heading back to Norway. He said the retiring professor identified Worldwide Book Drive as the best place to donate books used books, because it was by far the most believable organization. It was very reassuring to hear that from an outside source. The hours of labor it takes to sort through the books and truly try to maximize the value can be a thankless task… (although the last time I helped to sort and put together a load of 5,000 books for Books for Utah Kids, my back was certain to thank me :)

Donations have been recieved from Nevada, Idaho and Utah. Their biggest source of donations come from school districts and libraries. So if your looking for a reliable place to donate used books or find used books to benefit a great cause be sure to check out the Worldwide Book Drive website, www.worldwidebooks.org

As a Man Thinketh, Harry Potter to James Allen…

As the commotion dies down over the final Harry Potter Book, The Deathly Hallows, I have searched through the rubble for a lasting moral. Of course there are a lot of morals which can come from this story: friendship, sacrifice, love etc.. but the moral I enjoyed the most is the principles that really made Harry good and Voldemort, well, bad. (And more specifically, J.K. Rowlings–Successful).

The moral is simply this: What we think about ultimately makes us who we are…

Although this moral is almost as old as written literature, and transcends even the immortal walls of Hogwarts, it is also clearly described in the little book, As a Man Thinketh by James Allen.

I first read as a man thinketh when I was about 17 years old. Haunted by feelings of frustration and failure, I read the book and experienced a significant paradigm shift. Reading the book was more a stroke of luck and laziness than really looking for a solution. I was looking for something to read and relax but didn’t want to spend more than an hour finish the book. (It just happened to be in my parents’ library). I read the book and realized that my circumstances and relationships were really only a reflection of the reality I had created with my own thoughts…

Bad people don’t just instantly become bad. Good people don’t instantly become good. We are a result of a development process. Or rather we are sum of our thoughts–Which thoughts lead to our actions. Which actions lead to our habits. Which habits become our character. Which character becomes our destiny…

In business, family, or wizardry… We create our destiny. Really. Even Harry Potter… Just ask the brilliant writer who developed his story and got millions of people reading and shaping their own destinies… I’m pretty sure that J.K. Rowlings has read As a Man Thinketh… :)

Copyright Protection for Harry Potter in China? Now that’s Fantasy.

I love Harry Potter. But I’ll admit that I’m not drawn into the popular culture as a common muggle trying to live proxy through the boy wizard. I love Harry Potter because it sells. J.K. Rowlings has created a global literary fashion that has in turn launched the perfect platform to demonstrate the gambit of global cultures international legal and economic standards.

I was in Thailand two years ago for the release of Harry Potter Six. Two months before the real Harry Potter Six came out a Thai verson of Hally Potta 6 hit the stores. It was an instant success and then of course an instant scandal… The Thais certainly didn’t seem to mind; Fakes were as interesting as the real ones.

I recently read a fun little article about the international suspense for Harry Potter SevenThe Deathly Hallows. Of course Harry Potter Seven is already out in China. Here’s an article that reminds us that Harry Potter is always ahead of his game in China.

Can a business-man not be a hit-man?

I just finished reading the book, Confessions of An Economic Hitman by John Perkins.

It was a fascinating novel with a very basic and well supported premise: Giant corporations work with the government to secure large contracts and make lots of money.

As a student of international business and development, I find myself torn in his analysis. I do agree with his logic that we could spend more money on relief and less on defense contracts. I do agree that the greed of giant corporations is creating a significant imbalance in world perceptions. I do not completely know (yet) if giant MNE’s are really such a bad thing. What about the shrinking world of Thomas Friedman? Don’t more McDonalds means less wars? Although I do question John’s zealous efforts to label himself as an Economic Hit Man, I believe the patterns he discussed do exist. I’m still struggling with the complete assault on Friedman economics.

I think before going into more analysis I need to read some of the basic documents of the United States of America, to get a more clear understanding of the ideals that John Perkins frequently made reference.

I do not endorse this book as revolutionary truth, but it is a thought provoking read for anyone involved in business. John Perkins does a great job to illustrate the three major relationships that exist in all business ventures, big or small, domestic or international: The interworkings of Companies/Products, Governments and Consumers/Workers.

Really though I would enjoy to hear the thoughts and experiences of others…

Mormons and Business… An Arrington Perspective for Development?

Utah is popular for a number of different things: The Utah Jazz, (the almost-made-it team of the NBA), The hosting of the Winter Olympics,Skiing, astronomic bankruptcy and of course, Mormons.

Now whether you are starting a business or keeping one running in Utah, it can be helpful to remember the depth of the culture you are dealing with.

Although Utah’s economy is now very strong, it has certainly not always been the case and actually has gone through a number of very interesting evolutions to become what it is today. Moreover it serves as a model that that can demonstrate the building of an impoverished economy.

In a book written by David Arrington, entitled, The Great Basin Kingdom, the economic history of early mormon settlers is reviewed. Faiths or bias aside it is an extremely interesting, (although very dense) read.

Below is a paper I once wrote as a review of this book. Feel free to skim it or read it in depth.

Great Basin Kingdom
An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints
By Leonard J. Arrington
________________________________________

INTRODUCTION
The factors of cultural and social development are among some of the more complicated and controversial topics found in present day sociology and economics. Although when discussing social and economic development our minds may instantly turn to Africa, South America or East Asia, we often overlook the incredible, “Mormon Miracle” which took place right, (and arguably is still taking place), right here in the Great Basin Valley. The development of formidable deserts among a destitute people could be considered one of the greatest development stories of all times.

In the book, Great Basin Kingdom, Leonard J. Arrington explores the development of the Great Basin Valley from 1830 – 1900. By reviewing the religious, social, political and environmental factors of the day, Arrington identifies what he feels are the key principles to the success of the Mormon Pioneers. Quite different from the general growth found in the Harrod Domar model discussed in class, it is clear to see that although increased investment and capital definitely play a role in the development of an economy, their role is only secondary to the great importance of the elusive passion and desire which fuel success: more along the lines of the “mo-jo” or Total Factor Productivity as identified by my economics professor, Professor Frank McIntyre.

DESIGN OF THE KINGDOM
The Mormon perspective the Kingdom of God was spiritual and literal. Indeed Arrington identified that Mormons saw the spiritual and temporal as being a nearly inseparable distinction. The Kingdom of God was to be resurrected on the Earth and it would need the hearts, mind and logistical infrastructure to support it.

Incentives of The Kingdom. Economics is based on the trade off of incentives and the Mormon theology, though peculiar, was no exception. Mormon theology was deeply engrained with the concept of unity and mutual wealth. To be saved and gain eternal happiness, was only possible through service and selfless development of ones families and other brethren. By stressing the long term, indeed post life perspective, the incentive of eternal happiness was extremely great and strong enough to endure the hardships of today for something greater in the next life.

Economic Programs of The Kingdom. A considerable amount of revelation received through Joseph Smith and Brigham young had directly to do with the economic development and programs of the saints. These were originally established to encourage self-dependence, equality and prosperity among Mormon believers.

From an economic standpoint, the different institutions and programs could be considered savings or investment and institutions for stability and distribution of capital. Although not all of these programs could be considered successful, it can be seen and inferred by the large number of them that the development of the Great Basin Area was a dynamic process that ran with those things that worked and if something failed they quickly adapted to revise or throw it out. A few of the different programs and institutions integral to the economic logistics of The Kingdom include the following:
• The Law of Consecration/ United Order: All things are the Lord’s and were consecrated to the building up of his Kingdom.
• The Law of Tithing: One Tenth of all the “increase” received by believers was to be donated back to the Church for the building up of the kingdom. This was done “in kind”, manual labor or by cash. (p. 18, 138)
• The United Order of Enoch: One of several variations of the United Order that encouraged trade and industrial development among members but condemned trade and development with non-members. (p. 321-322)
• Perpetual Emigration Fund: A Fund developed for the transportation of immigrant members to join with the saints. Expenses were expected to be paid back when the newly arrived saints could repay. (p. 77-79)
• Public Works: A program set up to develop the city and give work to the huge influx of migrant members. (p. 154-155)
• The School of The Prophets: An education program and school established for members of the priesthood to be trained and work together. (p. 245, 251)
• The Council of Fifty: An institution influential of members and nonmembers that worked together to shape policy and petitions for the development of the church. It was a predecessor to the school of the prophets. (p. 31, 245)
• Development and Settlement Programs: Saints were called on missions to develop different geographical areas and industries. Primarily in the agricultural sector although it did increase to include other avenues.
• The Relief Society: An institution to organize the labor and skills of women. This Society provided a system of support for needy members as well as a means to develop industry especially in silk and textiles. (p. 31, 254)
• A Deseret Banking and Fiscal Policy: Promissory notes, coins, tithing notes and in kind trade credit were among the different policies instituted among members to establish a self-sufficient economy. (191-192)
• Church Bonds and Quasi-Business Ventures: The Church as an extensive trust was able to fund a number of different business ventures and establish and sell church bonds for funding of those industrial and agricultural undertakings.

THREATS TO THE KINGDOM
Although the church had a number of different effective programs for capital, investment and institutional guarantees, there were a number of different factors that could not be controlled. These external factors threatened and hurt the development of church programs thus preventing them from being successful in the economic growth and stability.

Environmental threats. The Great Basin Area was a very harsh and undeveloped region. Terrible droughts and location near cricket breeding grounds made agricultural developments very difficult. Many important crop harvests were nearly obliterated due to these harsh conditions. (p. 49-50, 151-156) Powerful floods and other extreme climate conditions made many mining and horticultural undertakings difficult as well

Social threats. Angry non-mormons would try to undo what they could of the Mormon Kingdom by introducing different commercial or entertainment aspects into The Kingdom. Many people were confident that the introduction of the Railroad through Utah would actually end up flooding the Mormon Kingdom with so much outside influence that the Mormon incentives for unity, hard work and sacrifice would dissolve. In addition to the growing number of unhappy capitalists who could not compete with the growing monopoly of the Church, there was a great anti-polygamy sentiment that was growing among the neighbors in the territory and created powerful incentive for anti-Mormons to band together to eliminate the Mormon question.

Political threats. The Utah war definitely raised people’s awareness of the Mormons and just how far they were willing to go to defend their beliefs. A number of different political policies were put into play to address what was perceived as the growing Mormon threat: (p. 349-350)
• The Wade Bill
• The Cullom Bill
• The Ashley Bill
• The Poland Act
• The Edmunds Tucker Act

The final and most deadly act, the Edmunds Tucker Act, essentially gave the United States power to dismantle the expressed financial and some religious, (cohabitional) institutions that were sanctioned by the church. Cash, credit and capital were ravaged by the church and many leaders went to prison or hiding during this political pressure.

THE KINGDOM ADAPTS
Through the development of The Kingdom, The Church had failed in many different ventures and policies, only to adapt and develop stronger or more appropriate policies. The bounce back from the set backs of the Edmunds Tucker act and subsequent hardships were no exception to this characteristic.

Religious policies were changed to no longer sanction polygamy, thus alleviating a large amount of the social and political pressure on their organization. Without the existing trusts and financial protection of the church, members were encouraged to learn and work together with “gentiles” in different educational, political and business ventures. Many business ventures were sold off or dissolved and energies and stress on the literal logistics and building of The Kingdom were transferred to more spiritual and doctrinal unity and realization.

Although a completely different development than other parts of the territory up until that point, (meaning not a free market or capitalistic development), Utah did make the transition, (slowly but surely) similarly to that of its western neighbors.

Dissolved of much of its financial interests, The Church still remained a financial powerhouse and out of debt since 1900, growing to become one of the largest private supporters of social relief, humanitarian relief and welfare training in the world today.

THE MODELS OF THE KINGDOM
There is no question that the development of The Great Basin is one of the more significant success stories in American History; but why? What is it that made it so successful? By exploring a few of the different development models we have discussed in class, we can attempt identify the unique variable to this success.

Harrod Domar: In the terms of building The Kingdom, there are number of different fallacies in trying to apply this model. This model has no diminishing returns, and gives a tremendous amount of weight to the growth population and depreciation. There are only so many saints that can be working or on involved in one or more projects at one time. Even though there was a pretty constant flow of saints and capital investment, there was not an equal enough distribution for constant return to scale. Also the population growth rates in the Mormon community was extremely high and the depreciation rates were also extremely high, (when taking famine and things into consideration), and yet the growth rates for The Kingdom certainly did not respond according to the Harrod Domar model.

Solow: Although this model does take into consideration diminishing returns, there are still some fallacies in the response of The Kingdom economy to this model. In the long run, the growth rates of an economy based on the Solow model are zero, and yet clearly the economy responded with even more endogenous variables and even with basic agricultural technologies Mormons were continuing to increase their settlements and standards of living. In addition, this model does not recognize the importance of the level of capabilities of the population and labor.

Human Capital: Investment in human capital was undoubtedly important for Mormons and the development of The Kingdom. Various forms of training through the Relief Society, the Public Works projects, The School of the Prophets and more, increased the skills and abilities of Kingdom Members. Unfortunately, this model does not necessarily identify what it was that held the society together during all of the environmental, social and political conflicts of the time.

Total Factor Productivity (TFP): Initially introduced as a measure of technical progress, TFP could in a sense, be considered as the explainable variable for the unexplainable success or failure of a given model. This “technical progress” could as easily be substituted for progress in “ideology”, “gumption” or “mo-jo”, as one of my college economics professors once referred to it. It is this variable which, in the face of destructive environments, oppressive external forces, failed institutions, high growth rates and gross depreciation, still allowed the development of the Great Basin Kingdom to realize its success. Mormon “mo-jo” becomes the most important variable in the growth function of the Great Basin Kingdom and the deciding factor in its success. A change in that variable (as expressed by the members forsaking their memberships, failing to pay tithing or continue their charitable and communal ways) would undoubtedly have created the biggest difference in Mormon development.

CONCLUSION
Although the factors of social and economic development among The Great Basin Kingdom were extremely complicated and often controversial it turned out to become one of the greatest development success stories in modern history. In the book Great Basin Kingdom, Leonard J. Arrington explores this development and the policies and obstacles that early Mormon founders faced. Unique from normal development models, the greatest reasons for success of this model was identified as being the ideology or of the Mormon people and their unified quest to build the literal and spiritual Kingdom of God. (With plenty of hiccups along way).

This book has given me a deeper perspective of the Mormon economic structure and the development of the Salt Lake Valley. It serves as an interesting model to study and follow for development and fight against global poverty.

It is a book that would be helpful to read before any business start-up, non-profit, for-profit or social venture.

Starting Your Small Business

I hear a lot of the statement, “John, I have this great idea…” The simple truth is there are billions of great ideas out there, but the person that makes it happen is truly unique.

Listed below is a basic frame-work I developed to teach an introductory class to help people without prior business experience understand more about about their small business idea and how to make it a reality. (There are a myriad of resources available for people who wish to learn more… More will be forth coming)

Starting Your Small Business

What is your Business? Identify just what it is that your business accomplishes. For example, if Juanita sells beef tacos, she can look at her business and say, “I sell beef tacos.” Or, she can look at her business and say, “I sell quality food services”. The first statement is somewhat restrictive where the second allows the flexibility for Jane to adapt and make the most money from her venture.

Getting a mission statement. What is the ultimate goal of your business? This mission statement helps everyone involved gain a better understanding of just what it is you wanted to accomplish. It is important that the mission statement provides focus and flexibility. Jennifer should not limit her mission statement to, “Jennifer’s Taco shop wants to sell a lot of tacos”. Rather it should be more specific it outlining her ultimate goal as succinctly as possible. “Jennifer’s Taco shop works to ensure that everyone one in Chicago enjoys Jennifer’s quality beef tacos and unbeatable customer service”.

Basic marketing elements. There are four very important elements to marketing your business, and a few questions to evaluate them.

Product– What is my product? How is my product different from what other people can offer? What can I do to make my product better? What can I do to make my product more cost efficient?

Promotion– How do my customers here about my product? What is the most effective way for people to hear about my product and services? What can I do to integrate that into the promotion of my product?

Price– What is my cost of goods? What is the cost of operation? How much do I charge my customer? What are they willing to pay? What incentives do I offer to buy more product?

Distribution– How do people get my product? Does the location of the sales of my goods meet with the demand?

Organization:
Financial: maintain books that show the cash flow in your business. The more detailed you keep the records, the more information you will have to develop your business in the future.

Tasks: Outline the responsibilities of your business in as much detail as possible. This is important to not only help you be organized, but to also provide the structure by which you can expand or lighten your work load in the future.

Inventory: Make sure that you keep running count of your inventory. If the amount in your inventory doesn’t match the amount it shows you have in the books, for more or for less, do what you can to figure out what happened.

Remember what you’re doing and why you’re doing it! Your business provides incredible opportunity to learn and grow! Work to have your business work with education and family development, to provide even greater opportunity and freedom in the future.

Save as much money as you can and avoid spending money on things that do not provide benefit for the business or family. (ie. Tobacco, alcohol, entertainment magazines etc.)

Time is money. Do not waste time. Look for opportunities to further your education. Read books, watch videos and listen to audio cds that teach good business principles. Avoid watching television or movies that do not promote family unity, education or good financial practices, (this includes novellas).