Category Archives: This and that

Thriving in the Gig Economy Update

“Thriving in the Gig Economy” – Research Update

So the work continues on my upcoming new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy.  It has been an interesting adventure in the word of publishing; editors seem intrigued, but some editors say my subject is too narrow, while others say it is too broad.  I guess it just goes to show you can please some of the people some of the time…

What is interesting to me though is the reaction I get when I discuss my work thus far with just about anyone. In two words, the response is, “at last.”  The managing partner of one of the biggest professional services firms in town seemed relieved that someone would finally make sense of this world for her.  Some of my Alliance of CEOs cohort working deep in various on-line spaces were thrilled to hear about the digital talent marketplace for data scientists.  I , of course wondered, since they are the perfect target for the service, why was it I had to be the one to tell them…

Even some of the players aren’t always aware of new developments in the space.  I was happy to introduce a new platform for consultants to secure professional liability insurance to several firms who had no idea such a web site existed.  Similarly, one digital platform US sales manager was delighted to hear about an industry conference coming up in the fall.

I am not saying I know everything about the gig economy world.  Although I am fairly certain, no one has a total handle on it. In fact,  I welcome any insights you may have or suggestions of avenues to pursue as I continue my exploration of the wonderful world of the professional end of the gig economy.


Discipline – or not – and the NBA

Discipline, The NBA and Interactional Justice

In the spirit of full disclosure,  I live in San Francisco and I am a Warrior fan. That said, even though I watch all the games, I am not so knowledgeable about the NBA and the rules — that’s what husbands and kids are for…Finally, as I get out all the disclaimers for this blog post, I am a fan of Draymond Green.  I know he can be a bully, but I also know he has been a true stand up guy to his community and alma mater in Michigan. Philanthropy is near and dear to my heart, so I love to see the generosity of athletes when it is done is such a deliberate and authentic way.

Like many others I found the NBA’s actions suspending Green to be  inappropriate, because it goes against all of the rules of discipline.  For 7 years I taught HR to seniors at the University of San Francisco School ff Management. Discipline in organizations is both an art and a science.  Most progressive discipline structures on built upon the framework of ethical principles and have three key elements: Interactional Justice, Procedural Justice and Outcomes Fairness.

Interactional Justice refers to the notion that the discipline takes into account the feelings of the individual involved .  Based on the news coverage, it appeared LeBron’s feelings were highly considered.  Draymond’s feelings of disrespect, which were later echoed by commentator Charles Barkley, were not given as much weight in the calculus.

Procedural Justice is that the methods used to determine the discipline were fair  and that the process is agnostic about the individuals involved.  The fact that this decision was arrived at, not during game 4 , but behind closed doors afterwards does not support a good process.  Similarly,  had this kerfuffle been between LeBron and any one else other than Draymond, a different conclusion would have been reached.

Finally, Outcomes Fairness refers to consistent fairness, knowledge of potential outcomes and penalties in proportion to behavior. Draymond did know that he was approaching the thresh hold for suspension due to his accumulated fouls.  That said, the fact that the flagrant was not assessed during the game but after the fact, makes the outcome seem less objective.  Some commentators have suggested that the suspension is  a “make up call” stemming from the failure  of the officials to call a flagrant during the prior series with Oklahoma, when Green kicked  Steven Adams. That “make-up foul” rationale is the antithesis of outcome fairness, since it occurred in a totally different play off cycle. The officials’ failure to appropriately call the game should not come back to haunt a player two weeks later.

So I think the NBA should clean up its act.  I also think the Warriors may just win this one for Draymond, and wouldn’t that be fitting.

Goldman Sachs buys into the gig economy

Honest Dollar in the Gig Economy

The headline in the Wall Street Journal yesterday read, "Goldman buys Retirement Startup". The story went on to report how the purchase of Honest Dollar, an Austin, Texas-based financial technology firm focused on retirement plans comprised of low-cost exchange traded funds targeted at small and mid-sized companies was a purchase designed to broaden Goldman's business into less exclusive services. It was also a play into a new distribution channel, where the emphasis is on technology.  The inference was that by purchasing this innovative financial technology company Goldman was buying entry into a hot new marketplace.

Although I can't speak to the technology, I can speak to the innovation because Honest Dollar is one of the few financial service providers targeting gig economy clients.  Some coverage of the transaction did mention that Lyft, the on demand car hailing service, was a client.  What was not mentioned was that they were a client not just for employees but for 1099 contractors.

One aspect of working on a 1099, independent contractor (IC), basis is that you are responsible for paying your own state and federal taxes  (FICA, FUTA and income) and managing your own benefits. The latter includes saving for retirement.  Whereas traditional employees have these payments deducted from their pay, ICs need to make the effort to coordinate it all.  Many pundits have suggested that this lack of access to benefits traditionally offered to employees is reason to eliminate IC status, unionize or at least slow the increasing presence of gig economy workers.

Honest Dollar saw this marketplace complexity as an opportunity. Providing retirement plans to 1099 workers represented a whole new target that was not underserved but unserved . William Hurley, co-founder of Honest Dollar says "It's the first retirement plan for the modern world." 1099 contractors who work for Honest Dollar clients can have retirement savings deducted from their fee payments.  Contractors can even set it up on a smartphone.

Now with the backing of Goldman Sachs, Honest Dollar is bound to expand its offerings,  the safety net for the gig economy may be improving.


The Power of Why

I am reading, or more accurately, listening to the book Start with Why by Simon Siner which is about how great leaders inspire people to action.

In one section sets up the framework of “The Golden Circle”, a derivative of the  golden ratio.The golden ratio is the fibonnaci number sequence that underscores balance and progression in everything from the angles in the columns of the Acropolis to the petals on a lilly. The Golden Circle, Siner suggests, is a similar balance relationship that is a necessary component in great leaders, where concentric circles of how and what build up to an interior focus of why. Why is the essence of everything and he goes on to support that premise. Apple, of course is the poster child for his thesis; customers buy Apple products because they believe Apple thinks differently; they believe in the why.

A far more provocative read is  one of my Favorites, A More Beautiful Question, by Warren Berger.  As Berger so rightly points out, we all want answers, but it is hard to get the best answer if you aren’t asking the right questions.  He explains why it is that despite the fact that we were question machines between the ages of 3-6, we lose that ability to inquire.  The loss is partly frustrated parents who get tired of the why questions, an education system that values answers over questions, and work environments where the”right answer” is all that matters.

He offers some easy ways for us to improve our own inquiry skills such as adding why to a question, (something Siner would no doubt endorse) or softening potentially confrontational questions.  Another technique that I particularly liked was the idea of punctuating a questions  series with 8 or 9 why questions.  By the end of the sequence, you may be discussing a different issue entirely.  For example consider this hypothetical for Company ABC:

Why are sales down? Product line x missed its targets  Why? the targets may have been too aggressive  Why? We had bad data for same store sales last year.  Why? There were issues capturing the right product IDs in the warehouse.  Why? Because we were understaffed for most of the year.  Why? We can’t find the right workers at our warehouse locations.  Why? We can’t compete with our salary packages.  Why? .Because we don’t pay enough to attract skilled workers.

Chances are, after this exercise, Company ABC may  focus more on changing its warehouse salary structure or even relocating the facilities than they would have without this line of inquiry.

The gig economy goes skiing

I don’t always flunk retirement, which explains who I am doing a mini mid week ski trip with another former CEO. At Northstar in Tahoe we took advantage of the opportunity to spend a few hours with a mountain guide, all for free. (Vail Resorts, what a nice touch…) Imagine my surprise, when as we did the requisite introductions on the first chair lift, I discovered our guide, Dave,  was also an interim CFO.

The interim world is, of course,  the upper echelon of the gig economy. These individuals walk into situations where typically, as Dave asserted, they should have been called into months  before.  “We play fireman”, he says, and because of that, the job can be stressful. The good news  though is its only a 3 ( or maybe 4 or 6 …) month gig. So when Dave needs to decompress, he heads to his other life in the wonderful world of ski resorts.

Apparently, Vail Resorts is very flexible with Dave. They have developed a specialized software system which enables seasonal employees, like Dave,  to choose scheduling options that work with the other parts of their lives. It’s a tremendous outcome; Dave gets to blend the rigor and economics of his interim CFO life with the serenity of the mountain, Vail gets an employee who is grateful for his role and not so much over qualified as other qualified for the job, and the customers get a wonderful tour of the mountain enlivened by fascinating conversation about the future of work. Is this a great country or what..

#GivingTuesday — pass it on

As the Chair of a not for profit Board, I think “Giving Tuesday” is a tremendous innovation in philanthropy.  Giving Tuesday is December 1 this year.  It is meant to follow the crazy consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday with generosity, a benevolent opportunity for people to share their holiday largess with community organizations, advocacy groups and other wonderful causes. Now in its fourth year, Giving Tuesday has become a global movement

The innovation comes in to play because it is driven by social media.  From its start in 2012, there are now 30,000 partners in 68 countries, 32.7million Twitter impressions, and most importantly a 470% increase in online donations since it was begun.


Special campaigns are now being launched around the social media power of Giving Tuesday.  A generous donor to ReSurge International, for example, has offered to match 2 to 1 every dollar donated on Giving Tuesday, meaning gifts will have 3 times the impact, enabling 3 times as many poor people to receive reconstructive plastic surgeries which will transform their lives.   If you feel so inclined, gifts can be made safely and securely online at  

Be sure to give to some organization on #GivingTuesday.It is a wonderful way to begin the holiday season.

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