Small Businesses in New Zealand – And Elsewhere.

The particular comment I was responding to was in a private group hosted in New Zealand - hence the opening paragraph. BUT - I think it pertains to any country. In that post, this link was provided — I think New Zealand has more businesses (and hence ‘small’ businesses) per capita than pretty much any New Zealand just doesn’t have the people to support it.

BUT - when you leave New Zealand … there has been something happening for a while now. I will try to discover the article I wrote a while back ….

Here’s the nub … In the US (but I am pretty sure this applies to most countries) 50 to 60 years ago, big employers like GM and GE were the dominant market cap companies on the financial exchanges. Not entirely un-coincidentally, they were also the companies that employed the most people. Fast forward to today … the market caps of the biggest companies are an order of magnitude higher than the ones back then and the number of people they employ is an order of magnitude less. Meanwhile the population of America has doubled? Tripled?

So where are all those people now working? Answer small … or at least smallER businesses.

Some of this has been achieved by improved efficiencies … we no longer need banks of people directing calls, typing up documents, manufacturing cars …. But also … since the 70s there has been a steady drip of those organizations getting those people ‘off the books’ .. why employ people if you can off shore, outsource, automate processes … and the new one - use AI. The result is that more and more people are in smaller and smaller businesses but often working in service to a larger organization.

Quite simply - If I am building a house (actually - or metaphorically) .. do I employ everyone full time … or contract with the right resources at the right time to get the job done?

Tongue in cheek .. but for the longest time, I have had this vision of the ideal company comprising a single individual with ‘agents’ managing their ‘virtual supply chain’ that they need to deliver value to their customers.

This thought informs the graphic below - 'The Business Equation' - and is foundational thinking in the People First domain.

The Business Equation 001


Ten things that you can do to embrace the future of AI whilst mitigating the threat of losing your liveliehood.

The Newsletter.

1. Stay informed: Keep up-to-date on the latest developments and trends in AI and automation, and how they are affecting your industry and job market.

2. Develop new skills: Continuously learn new skills to stay relevant in the job market, such as programming, data analysis, or other skills related to AI.

3. Pursue higher education: Consider obtaining a degree or certification in a field related to AI, such as computer science or data science, to prepare for the jobs of the future.

4. Explore new career opportunities: Look for opportunities to work with or alongside AI, such as in fields like robotics, automation, and machine learning.

5. Be adaptable: Embrace new ways of working and be open to adapting to changing work environments as AI and automation continue to transform the workplace.

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

6. Build a strong professional network: Connect with other professionals in your field and seek out mentorship and guidance to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in AI.

7. Be creative: Explore new ways of applying your skills and expertise to stay ahead of the curve and capitalize on emerging opportunities in the AI economy.

8. Consider entrepreneurship: Starting your own business or pursuing self-employment can provide greater control over your livelihood and allow you to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the AI economy.

9. Advocate for policies that support workers: Encourage policymakers to create policies that support workers and address the potential negative impacts of AI on employment, such as job retraining programs and income support for displaced workers.

10. Stay positive: Embrace the potential benefits that AI can bring, such as increased productivity and efficiency, and stay positive about the opportunities that lie ahead.


Ten things that corporations can do to empower their employees and their use of AI whilst NOT reducing their workforce to increase profits.

The Newsletter.

  1. Invest in upskilling and reskilling: Provide opportunities for employees to learn new skills and develop expertise in areas related to AI, such as data analysis, programming, or robotics.

  2. Foster a culture of innovation: Encourage employees to experiment with new technologies and processes, and provide the resources and support necessary to implement new ideas.

  3. Promote collaboration: Encourage cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing, to bring together employees from different departments with diverse skill sets and expertise.

  4. Ensure transparency and communication: Be transparent about the company’s AI strategy and communicate clearly with employees about how AI is being used and how it will impact their work.

  5. Emphasize ethical considerations: Ensure that AI is being developed and used in an ethical and responsible manner, and prioritize the well-being of employees and society as a whole.

Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

  1. Implement AI for augmentation rather than automation: Use AI to enhance human decision-making and productivity, rather than replacing human workers with automated systems.

  2. Prioritize employee well-being: Consider the impact of AI on employee well-being, and take steps to mitigate potential negative effects, such as stress or burnout.

  3. Encourage employee feedback: Solicit feedback from employees on how AI is being used and how it could be improved, to ensure that employees feel empowered and engaged in the process.

  4. Reward creativity and innovation: Recognize and reward employees who come up with innovative ways to use AI to improve the company’s operations or products.

  5. Invest in long-term goals: Focus on the long-term benefits of AI, rather than short-term cost savings, and invest in initiatives that will create sustainable growth and benefit both the company and its employees over the long term.

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My Speciality ? Generality !

A slightly edited version of a post originally published on February 14th 2016 @ Beyond Bridges, now archived here

A friend and reader of this blog just sent me this link, which is a third party version of the LinkedIN map below. It seems to be limited due to LinkedIN's API constraints, so it can't map more than 499 of your connections. That said, there does seem to be a lot more information and analysis that surrounds the graph. Andy it means YOU can go try it out on your network. Thank you David.

A good friend of mine messaged me through LinkedIN. He is a fast thinking, witty, bright, intelligent, big thinking kind of guy. He's also interested in his next gig - so let me know if you want an introduction. Anyway, to my point. He had been on my LinkedIN profile and commented;

I think you would be well served to pare that list (of skills I had listed in my summary) to maybe 4-5 distinct and specialized areas where you really shine better than the rest. Things like Leadership, Marketing, Communications are too generic and readily available in the marketplace.

And I agreed. In fact, so much so that I pared it down to zero. My skill list is summarized in another part of the profile anyway. But it got me to thinking.

I am a big fan of Mike Pesca over at Slate who delivers a daily podcast called The Gist. Try it. You won't regret it. A couple of weeks ago he had Eric Weiner on as a guest, and they spent some time talking about where genius comes from. Turns out that Eric has just written a new book about 'how genius happens'. One of my takeaways was that genius emerges from generalism - not speciality. For example, he talked about the fact that Einstein was not the most knowledgeable physicist of his time, but his value was that he was broad in both interest and knowledge. A 'Renaissance man' if you will. This an absolute opposite to what we live with today. We eschew the 'polymath' in favor of the 'monomath'. From the site Gain Weight Journal;

Unfortunately, we live in an era of monomaths now. This means specialists. The problem with that is that people get stuck with one way of thinking, they have blinders on, and cannot see the big picture, including the relationships and similarities between different things.

I know, even our education system is driven to a singular focus and it seems to be getting worse. For myself, I focussed on Maths and Physics in my education from the age of 15. Maybe I was bored. Maybe I could see the future, but despite that formal focus, I did put an effort into ensuring that I didn't get locked up in that world and miss out on everything else that there was to offer. (Though I probably shouldn’t have read all three volumes of Lord of the Rings over a two week period shortly before some year end exams!). Back to the plot. Reading that quote reminded me of what we used to say back in my Group Partner days ... "The Last Thing You Ever Need Near A Problem Is An Expert" Good. Because I am not. LinkedIN 'Labs' used to run something that visually mapped your connections so you could see clusters of people in your network. They closed it a while back, but at the time I wrote about it, dubbing it 'Cloud Hopping'. I also observed that most people had a very tight network of very few 'clouds'. This was mine.

A highly distributed interconnected network, emerging from European and American networks in finance, technology, application  and social disciplines. I think Derek was spot on. My strength is not my speciality. My strength is my generality. And, while I would absolutely not describe myself as a genius, I am definitely a cloud hopper. A connector. And there are not many of us around, or at least we tend to keep quiet, because we live in an age where value is placed on 'what you know'. The 'who you know' is almost written off as 'the old boys club' . But once you understand the value of the role that Gladwell calls out in The Tipping Point - the pieces fall into place.

My Speciality? Generality!

I first published this post on Beyond Bridges on February 10th, 2016. That site has gone, the words archived,

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Coordination Costs

The Stripe co-founders were candid about their failure to predict where the economy was heading. They also said they overspent on things like “coordination costs.” That’s not a term I’ve heard before, but I suspect it is a reflection of getting too big and too inefficient.

💬 Jessica Lessin

It's a new term to me aswell - BUT recently on LInkedIN there was a meme running around - which used this graphic.

Coordination Costs

It's pretty self explanatory. The formula is that for every person you add to an organisation, the number of potential conversations increases - a lot. If 'n' is the number of people in an organisation, the number of potential conversations is n-1 + n-2 + n-3 .... in other words ...

3 people ... 2 + 1 = 3
4 people ... 3+2+1 = 6
5 people ... 4+3+2+1 = 10
6 people ... 5+4+3+2+1 = 15

And adding 1 person to a 10,000 person organisation adds 10,000 possible new lines of communication.


The Billable Hour Is Not Fungible

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The Times They Are A-Changin’

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

💬 Bob Dylan

With the financial problems ricocheting around the world - I see occasional headlines from 50 years ago.

Three day work week - bad.

Fifty Years Later : Four day work week - good.

I get the subtle shift in the back story, just an observation.

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Where Am I Working?

I am sitting in New Zealand writing this. It started as an idea in my head and was typed into a local file on my computer. I copied it to WordPress (my blog hosting software of choice) and saved a draft to my People First server.

The words were then sitting on a server in Iowa, USA.

From this point on, as I edit the draft, I am in New Zealand, the words I am editing are in Iowa - where am I working?

By the time you read this post, I will have published and anybody in the world can read it.

Example, a visitor in Kenya pulls up this web site in their browser and these words are 'automagically' read in Kenya.


Where is ‘the work’ done?

  • New Zealand, because that is where I tapped the original words into the computer?
  • New Zealand, because that is where I cut and paste those words into WordPress?
  • Iowa, because that is where the People First servers are?
  • Where you are reading this because until those words delivered value (you reading them), no work was done.

I ask because once you know where the work was done, you should have an idea on where you should be taxed and arguably where you should be licensed to work.

This conversation doesn’t seem to be a major part of public discourse, because the scenario is an edge case. But for how much longer?

New York has a law that says anybody working IN NEW YORK pays New York Taxes and from that emerges things like the NY, NJ and CT tri-state tax agreement.

“Like all states with broad-based income taxes, New York has asserted the right to tax nonresident income earned within its borders. But unlike most other jurisdictions with significant cross-border commuter flows—such as Illinois and Indiana or Virginia and Maryland—New York has never given nonresidents a tax pass in the form of ‘reciprocity’ with their home states.”

Read More

But if my servers are in Iowa, my customers are in Europe, my bank account is in California and I only live in New York, should I pay New York taxes?

I write more about where we work in this week's newsletter.

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Class Action Against Uber and Lyft

For example ...

  • set my prices
  • make informed decisions about which trips to accept
  • switch freely between platforms
    etc etc

This lawsuit starts instead by accepting that drivers are independent, then argues that Uber and Lyft are illegally depriving their independent-contractor workers of certain forms of “economic independence” such as the ability to set prices, make informed decisions about which trips to accept, and switch freely between platforms, at a cost to both drivers and consumers.


“Uber and Lyft are either employers responsible to their employees under labor standards laws, or they are bound by the laws that prohibit powerful corporations from using their market power to fix prices and engage in other conduct that restrains fair competition to the detriment of both drivers and riders,” the suit argues.

Full complaint : Class Action Against Uber (pdf)


The Four Day Work Week – Is New Zealand Being Left Behind?

You can read the article here.

It’s not really a question as to whether New Zealand is being left behind. I think there are many countries facing this challenge … but the question is what is the challenge?

I ask because I believe that there is a massive conflation of this as people make their arguments..

Does a 4 day week mean

  • Working 40 hours in 4 days

OR are we really talking about reducing the number of hours of a standard week to 32 hours?

If the latter we are essentially awarding people a 20% increase in their wage/salary… really? From businesses who argue that they can’t afford a 2 Percent increase in salaries?

If it is the former … what’s the big deal? It isn't that hard to reschedule the teams .. and the benefits to the staff ... priceless!

Imagine cutting out 20% of these rides every week!

This is an easy commute - try it during rush 'hour'!