SEE YOU IN COURT . . . OR NOT

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Class action lawsuits have been a traditional legal recourse for groups of consumers who believe that a corporation has wronged them. They have been effective. Simultaneously, corporations (especially in the financial services sector) constantly trying to reduce litigation expenses have increasingly built consumer arbitration clauses into their consumer agreements. This maneuver neatly eliminated litigation options by consumers. Both sides of the argument have merit as Elizabeth Dexheimer reports (“Suing Your Bank Could Soon Be Easier” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/16/16–5/22/16, pp. 49–50):

Consumer advocates say class actions are an essential tool to help the public win relief and to hold companies accountable for bad behavior. Industry groups argue that curbing arbitration clauses will result in more frivolous lawsuits and higher legal costs that banks will ultimately pass on to consumers.” (p. 49)

Which side is right? That is a good question especially now that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering a new rule that would require financial institutions to eliminate their consumer arbitration clauses. If the new rule were passed, consumers would again have the ability to file class action lawsuits against financial services corporations.

Although both sides of this one could be argued endlessly, here is my take on the situation. I’m hoping the new rule is approved and the right of consumers to file class action lawsuits is restored. Moreover, I think that the obvious consumer upside is surpassed by an even greater upside for consumers and corporations together.

The renewed possibility of class actions being filed should motivate corporations to take quantum steps to improve their customer experience. Let’s face it. The more stellar that customer experience is, the less reason consumers will ever have to believe that they have been wronged by the corporation. The consumer has a better customer experience while the corporation enjoys lower litigation costs. That is a win-win.


THE ENTREPRENEUR’S BENEFITS TO US

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Last week, I was privileged and honored to attend a very special meeting of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community. After about a three-year run, Dr. Julie Edge (founder of Creelio.com) decided that the wisest decision was to shut down her business. Rather than quietly closing, she, her colleagues, and her supporters chose to host a special meeting at Village Square to commemorate the event. It included a panel discussion with questions and answers on such topics as how entrepreneurs function, how they succeed, why they fail, and lessons learned. In reflecting on so much of what was shared, my own entrepreneurial endeavors, and what I have been told by other entrepreneurs, I believe that we need to honor the entrepreneur for many reasons.

The entrepreneur teaches us that competition is good. Not only does competition refine and improve the marketplace of products, ideas, and services, it simultaneously challenges the entrepreneur to be the best person possible. The entrepreneur experiences a richer, smarter life. The inspiration of the entrepreneur is contagious. Others will choose entrepreneurial paths partially due to the examples of entrepreneurs.

Win, lose, or tread water, entrepreneurs learn a lot. That learning is passed on to others and we all benefit. Truly, our world is enriched in infinite ways by our entrepreneurs. Finally, simply choosing to be the entrepreneur is fundamentally noble and enriching. Alfred Tennyson said:

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The same concept is manifested in entrepreneurs. The next time you might be tempted to poke fun at the entrepreneur’s business model, think again. At least someone is willing to try something new. Why can’t that be the entrepreneur? Why can’t that be you?


FAILURE’S LESSONS

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Last week, I was privileged and honored to attend a very special meeting of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community. After about a three-year run, Dr. Julie Edge (founder of Creelio.com) decided that the wisest decision was to shut down her business. Anyone even remotely connected to the startup community knows how heart wrenching and difficult such a decision is for everyone involved. Untold hours, blood, sweat, and tears go into creating a business from the ground up. Shutting it down is life altering.

In spite of that visceral truth, Julie chose to handle the shutdown in a way that is not always seen among entrepreneurs. Rather than quietly closing, she, her colleagues, and her supporters chose to host a special meeting at Village Square to commemorate the event. It included a panel discussion with questions and answers that fundamentally focused on one idea: What can we learn from failure?

In reflecting on so much of what was shared, coupled with my own experiences, here are three inescapable conclusions that arise from a reflection on failure:

Failure Is The Brand Of Passion. The passionate person pursues the dream knowing that failure might occur. Nevertheless, the passion for the plan overrides failure’s fear. Otherwise, nothing new would ever be done.

Crisis Is The Driver Of Creativity. Sometimes it is only when we are facing a crisis that we become incredibly creative. Those are so often the times when our most brilliant ideas, plans, and direction arise. Although creativity is a wonderful gift that often functions quietly in the background, sometimes it must be stoked. Crisis will do that.

Humility Is The Fruit Of Failure. It is when we do fail that we are shaken off our throne long enough to consider that our throne is not quite as impervious as we thought. In experiencing that fall from the throne, we have opportunity to bear a new crop of fruit—humility. I don’t think any one of us would disagree that our world could use more of that fruit.

Entrepreneurs often know failure in a very painful business context. We all know failure in many contexts. Here is my advice:

  • Be passionate.
  • Be creative.
  • Be humble.


DONE WITH DIGNITY

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Last night, I was privileged and honored to attend a very special meeting of the Kansas City entrepreneurial community. After about a three-year run, Dr. Julie Edge (founder of Creelio.com) decided that the wisest decision was to shut down her business. Anyone even remotely connected to the startup community knows how heart wrenching and difficult such a decision is for everyone involved. Untold hours, blood, sweat, and tears go into creating a business from the ground up. Shutting it down is life altering.

In spite of that visceral truth, Julie chose to handle the shutdown in a way that is not always seen among entrepreneurs. Rather than quietly closing, she, her colleagues, and her supporters chose to host a special meeting at Village Square to commemorate the event. It included a panel discussion with questions and answers that fundamentally focused on one idea: What can we learn from failure?

In today’s competitive world where some have incredibly high and often unrealistic expectations of success in life and business, it is a breath of fresh air to understand that failure is as much a part of life as is success. Moreover, we sometimes learn more from our failures than our successes. Julie called upon the startup community to reflect on these matters, appropriated naming the event, “Zen and the Art of Failure” and adopting the theme “Done With Dignity” (#DoneWithDignity).

We reflected on what we have learned and can learn from our failures. It isn’t always fun when we are in the middle of them. Nevertheless, the learning that we can receive can carry us into a future that is superior to the past. If we embrace our failures, they hold the promise of making us wiser, stronger, and better.

Done with dignity truly was! Thank you to Julie, each entrepreneur, colleague, associate, friend, and supporter who participated to make it so.


3D PRINTING JUST ADDED A NEW DIMENSION

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3D printing is already an amazing new technology that is on the cutting edge of hi-tech manufacturing. Nevertheless, the technology is becoming even more astounding. In Redwood City, California, a new company, Carbon, has expanded on the technology to improve its output significantly as Jack Clark reports (“An Object Rises from the Goop” Bloomberg Businessweek, 4/4/16–5/10/16, pp. 33–34):

Using new materials, hardware, and software, Carbon’s printer, the M1, fires UV light at its syrupy resins to produce prototypes and production parts that can be more bouncy, stiff, tough, or heat-resistant than rival products, printing at speeds competitors can’t match.” (p. 33)

These technical changes allow Carbon to perform more of a continuous building process as opposed to printing one layer at a time. The UV light curing step enhances final product strength and durability. Several other companies observing the amazing success of this new process are now becoming clients. Carbon now offers an annual subscription service for the M1 printer.

Carbon’s story illustrates one of the enduring, intrinsic aspects of science and technology: no matter how good the process is today, tomorrow will only make it better.