Archives for December 2012

MANAGEMENT BY WALKING AROUND

“Undercover Boss” is a popular CBS television series. Each week a top executive of a corporation, in disguise, assumes the duties of a lower-level employee of the company. The bosses are typically surprised by what they find out in the trenches. The current president of Churchill Downs, Inc., William Carstanjen, participated in an episode of the reality show.

Like the executives in “Undercover Boss,” business owners and upper-level managers can become isolated and insufficiently informed of what is transpiring on the front lines, where the rubber meets the road. In the 1940s, Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard coined the term “management by walking around” (MBWA) for his approach to the problem. MBWA is the practice of corporate leaders getting out of their offices and into the field to keep abreast of how well the plans and strategies formulated in the executive suite are playing out.

MBWA is nothing new. President Abraham Lincoln often dropped in on union troop encampments during the U. S. Civil War to assess for himself readiness and morale. The late Steve Jobs of Apple was a modern-day proponent of MBWA. When Stanley Gault was the Chairman of Goodyear, he would visit tire stores on Saturday morning and strike up conversations with customers, especially the customers who bought a brand other than Goodyear.

In a unique twist of MBWA, the CEO of a company that purchased businesses for its portfolio would sometimes work for a week at a prospective acquisition, while masquerading as a member of the janitorial staff. This cover provided him with ground-level insights that could not be gleaned from reading financial reports or by simply talking with employees or customers.

Racetracks and various suppliers of goods and services to the racing industry started small but are now complex businesses. Similarly, managers of large farms and some trainers can be responsible for hundreds of employees and horses. As these organizations grow, the founders and upper-echelon executives become less and less hands-on, and that is why MBWA can be so valuable.

MBWA, done correctly, is not a ploy to demonstrate that the boss cares. Nor should MBWA segue into micromanaging. Rather, MBWA is a time-proven method for corporate leaders to maintain an essential understanding of their company’s culture and operations, even in the age of instant communications.

Copyright © 2012 The Blood-Horse. Used with permission.

LESS NEWS FOR NEWS AGGREGATORS?

The Drudge Report pioneered news aggregation and the technique spread like wildfire. News aggregation is the process whereby independent websites build a following online by posting links to original articles published on other websites. Today, news aggregators are plentiful and tend to specialize, such as CNBC (business and investments), Real Clear Politics, and Huffington Post (news and opinion).

The originators of the information linked to by aggregators are often not fond of their material being used in this way, and many consider the practice to be poaching and a copyright violation. As a result, more and more newspapers and magazines are taking steps to protect content from both news aggregators and non-subscribers.

The main aggregators in horse racing are Equidaily, Goatzapper, the Paulick Report, and Race Day 360 Wire. All of these have a following and serve readers by searching the web for the most pertinent articles, blogs, and Tweets, and then conveniently providing the information in one place. The Paulick Report also posts original content.

Newspapers and magazines have adopted one of three policies regarding the content they make available online to non-subscribers. First, non-subscribers have unlimited access to content posted. Second, non-subscribers can read a certain number of news reports and articles per month and thereafter are excluded. Third, non-subscribers can view the website but are denied access to reading the stories.

Increasingly, newspapers and magazines are opting for either limiting non-subscribers to a certain number of articles monthly or denying access altogether. This trend means that news aggregators will, ipso facto, have less of the best content to offer, i.e., content from some of the most informative publishers.

For example, The Louisville Courier Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader, and the New York Times employ horse-racing reporters and thus provide far more stories about the sport than most newspapers. The Courier-Journal and the New York Times already limit access to non-subscribers and the Herald-Leader is adopting the same rule. If a non-subscriber clicks a link on an aggregation website to a story on one of these newspapers’ website, he or she can usually read the story—unless the non-subscriber is over his or her monthly limit, in which case access is denied.

As more newspapers forbid—rather than limit–non-subscribers from reading online story content, the situation for new aggregators will be even worse.

The Internet is full of free content that news aggregators can leverage. However, content from some of the most prominent newspapers and magazines is not as available as it was in the past, and more newspapers and magazines are likely to follow suit. What this means for the quality and usefulness of news aggregation websites remains to be seen, but the battle is clearly joined.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business