A lifelong Philadelphian, Gene is president of the Marks Group, a consulting firm based in Bala Cynwyd. He writes weekly for the New York Times, Forbes and the Huffington Post on business management, economics and technology. Visit his website here.
Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! made big news last week when, in an internal memo, she told her employees that they must now come in to the office to do their work. In other words: no more working from home.
Surprising, isn’t it? Many of us are used to working from home nowadays. It’s not only a trend, but a cost-saving measure for many employers. A whole industry of remote collaboration technologies exists to help people telecommute. And besides, it’s cozy working from home. How could she be so mean?
I love writing for the Philly Post, but I feel obligated to point this out: Businesses don’t shut for President’s Day—at least businesses that plan to stay in business for a long time. Need proof? Just look at who does shut for President’s Day. The federal government ($16 trillion in debt). State governments (most with large deficits). The U.S. Postal Service ($16 billion loss last fiscal year). The Philadelphia School District ($1.1 billion budget shortfall). This is the company you want to keep?
A few months ago, I called my big, national bank and asked to do what I thought would be a simple thing: a wire transfer. No problem in this electronic age, right? Except it wasn’t such a simple thing. That’s because my vendor was a software development company that had the audacity to be located in the Ukraine. How dare they! I could understand if such a transaction were difficult in, say, 1973. But this is 2013. And this is a big bank, with branches throughout the Philadelphia area (their name is on one of our sports stadiums).
A group of about 50 small-business people gathered in Center City last week for a “think tank” session sponsored by Dell Computer. I was hired to moderate. The point of the session was to discuss issues facing the region’s small-business owners, particularly the need for financing, better technology and talent.
Just last week, Mayor Nutter created a 25-person task force for the purpose of finding ways to bring manufacturers (back) to the Philadelphia region. I’m sure that the idea came from his recent trip to Tianjin, China, where he enviously observed the impact that government investment can have on a major industrial city. "Seeing what goes on here is a reminder of the things we can do and must do to maintain our presence on the world stage," Nutter said. It also underscores "what our federal government can do if we would have, at times, a little less debate and a whole lot more work and understand that investment brings job and activity and furthers American interests."
Last week the investment firm of Goldman Sachs made a very generous offer to the City of Philadelphia as part of its three-year-old, $500 million “10,000 Small Businesses” program.
Twenty million dollars would be invested, of which $5 million would go to fund small business educational programs at the Community College of Philadelphia for the next five years. Ten million dollars would be available for low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp (PIDC). And the remainder would go to a Lancaster-based fund to make small-business loans in surrounding counties. According to Goldman Sachs, in the past three years more than 1,000 businesses in 10 cities either have received loans or completed the business-education curriculum through the program. Philadelphia is their eleventh.
I’ve been watching the progress of Philadelphia’s new school superintendent, William R. Hite, Jr., very closely. Every business person in the area should. Why? Because Superintendent Hite needs us. And we need him. A good school system trains our kids to be professionals and creators and contributors to our city someday. Ask anyone in Lower Merion or Cherry Hill or Chester County: A good school system attracts companies, incentivizes growth and construction, and improves neighborhoods.
While this week’s “fiscal cliff” agreement may have saved us from recession, many in the business community are unhappy with the prospect of increased taxes and lack of progress on solving our nation’s deficit problems. But fear not! Sure, many companies in the Philadelphia area will experience pain as a result of this agreement. But quite a few will celebrate the deal. Celebrate? Yes! Here are just a few local firms that should be happy.