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Circuit City is… back? Again? #ZombieRetail

(BUSINESS NEWS) Brands with wide name recognition and a positive rep are astonishingly hard to kill.

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Rising from the dead

Zombies! Dang it, there aren’t media moguls pounding on my door with briefcases full of cash just for saying that word out loud. I miss 2010.

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Besides, we’re talking about zombie retail. Brands with wide name recognition and a positive rep are astonishingly hard to kill. There’s a working RadioShack and a Family Video in my neighborhood. Really! I drop in every now and again, buy some earbuds or something. It’s like a discount TARDIS.

Alive, but not living

More plausibly – because really, I’m half-convinced those stores are pranks on me personally – everybody from Filene’s Basement to Linens’n’Things has managed to thrive online after brick and mortar stopped being tenable. Now it’s Circuit City’s turn.

Again. Circuit City already had a turn. It did not go well.

Circuit City went bankrupt in 2009. Systemax, at the time notable primarily as the owner of online-only market leader TigerDirect, scooped up Circuit City’s IP in the same year along with fellow fallen big-box veteran CompUSA.

It rebranded both as online-only tech retailers, different from TigerDirect in the way that… you know in old cartoons, when the smart cartoon character will do another voice out of the side of their mouth and do a whole conversation like there’s another person, and the dumb cartoon character thinks there are two people? That. The difference was that.

Headed South

Shockingly, the Tex Avery approach to branding didn’t work out super well. Systemax shuttered the Circuit City and CompUSA brands in 2012, putting all digital retail under the TigerDirect name. Systemax’s “North American Technology Group,” responsible for all of the above, got liquidated outright in 2015 after putting up $68 million in losses in a year when the rest of Systemax did fine.

This is where things get interesting. Systemax sold the Circuit City IP last year, and the new Circuit City Corporation announced plans to reestablish the once-mighty brand… as a chain of brick and mortar electronics stores! They even plan to put their prototype in my very own hometown of Dallas, which, if RadioShack and Family Video are any indication, offers a warm welcome to the retail undead. Everything old is new again.

Moving towards “omnicommerce”

On the other hand, that was kind of supposed to have happened in June. On the other other hand – I have three hands for the purpose of this comparison – maybe the biggest word in 2016 retail has been “omnicommerce.”

Major digital achievers like WITTMORE, Warby Parker, and JustFab.com are setting down real-world roots to work in tandem with their best-of-breed online service in the name of a more comprehensive, customer-focused buying experience.

Nobody’s quite dialed it in yet, but major moves are being made in that direction. I don’t know whether the secret to making that work is a widely recognized brand from before the digital-only era, complete with IP from when stores were stores, not afterthoughts. I’m a three-handed tech writer, not an oracle, or Oracle. But it surely can’t hurt.

Besides, every horror fan knows the hallmark of a good zombie story. Zombies are supposed to win.

#ZombieRetail

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Business News

5 ways employers can avoid age discrimination when hiring

(BUSINESS) Sometimes intentional, sometimes not, age discrimination is costing businesses big these days – make sure you’re hiring fairly and not taking unnecessary risks.

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The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against employees aged 40 and up. Federal law applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

In Texas, for example, it’s illegal for private employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate based on age. A Federal Court has ruled that age discrimination is only illegal against employees, but AARP has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.

The EEOC received over 16,000 age discrimination complaints in 2018, which is lower than previous years, but it’s not something your business wants to deal with. Age discrimination just cost one Texas employer more than $85K for casting off an older worker. Avoid costly claims and fines by making sure that your workplace is discrimination-free.

1. Watch how you describe jobs.

Identifying a position for a “young” tech-savvy college student could be misconstrued as age discrimination. Avoid using terminology that makes indicates that a person must be younger to fit into your culture. Rather than try to find the right words to fit the person you’re looking for, describe the job itself.

2. What information do you really need on a job application?

It’s not illegal to ask a person’s age or when they graduated high school, but it is illegal to use that information in determining whether you’d hire them or not. Asking for that information could be used as evidence that age influenced a hiring decision. Choose questions carefully on your company’s job application. Talk to a good recruiting specialist or lawyer to help you stay out of trouble.

3. Watch what you say during interviews.

Collecting information about someone’s age during an interview could also get you into hot water. Don’t bring up children or grandchildren. It seems innocuous enough, but if the person makes a complaint to the EEOC, it could come up again.

Make sure interviewers know what types of questions could be inappropriate. Have a structured interview guide that provides consistency across applicants, regardless of age. It is also a good idea to keep good records about how decisions were made.

4. Be aware of diversity and implicit biases in the hiring process.

There’s plenty of research that demonstrates implicit bias in hiring. Implicit bias describes the attitudes we have toward others that we’re not really conscious about. This could include stereotypes about retirement or that an older person might be uncomfortable working for a younger manager. Implicit bias is what makes you choose someone based on a similarity to yourself, rather on their skills. Look around your office and see if you have a diverse workplace.

5. Avoiding age discrimination isn’t about quotas.

To fight age discrimination, you can’t just focus on how many people you employ of a certain age group. You have to really look at the overall culture of your organization. Telling hiring managers to hire someone over the age of 65 doesn’t change attitudes.

Educate your managers about age discrimination. Encourage your team to interact with people of all ages, whether through volunteerism, classes at the local college or book clubs. Eliminate biases that cause age discrimination by widening your social circles. Seniors bring a lot of experience and soft skills to the workplace that can benefit your business.

Bottom line: Don’t discount someone based on age.

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Business News

Mystery: Who is Henry Hawksberry, ghost author of ‘Is WeWork a Fraud?’

(BUSINESS NEWS) WeWork has been a hot mess lately, and the public got involved after a list of egregious infractions was published on Medium, but the author is a ghost and no one has noticed. Who the hell is Henry Hawksberry!?

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Who exactly is Henry Hawksberry? Are you ready for a good conspiracy theory? Oh good, me too – put on your tinfoil hat and buckle up, because it’s about that time!

Yesterday, in our real estate section, I broke down how the wild WeWork IPO withdrawal could impact the residential real estate industry. Part of that breakdown was referencing the WeWork drama involving made-up accounting practices, tax ducking, wild spending from deep pockets, shady business dealings, and a fleecing of historic proportions.

By now, we all know a lot of what happened, thanks to Henry Hawksberry who penned the viral “Is WeWork a Fraud?” scathing blog post illustrating point-by-point the “ponzi scheme.”

But something bugged me.

Who IS Henry Hawksberry? I started digging and no one has picked up on the fact that it’s a ghost. A shadow. A phantom. A specter. Yet this one blog post has been republished dozens of times, and referenced thousands of times.

Let’s dig into these breadcrumbs:

1. Henry Hawksberry’s original Medium post (which is what everyone linked to, retweeted, and republished) has been deleted. By Henry Hawksberry.

2. But not just the story, the entire Medium account that posted the one blog post has been deleted. No one seems to have noticed, given that it has been republished so widely.

So, I went to the Wayback Machine, and there is only one instance of that account ever being captured – on September 20th, there was one blog post, a profile picture of someone skiing, they followed one person (which is not clickable, so that doesn’t yield any clues) and were followed by 70 (no surprise there since his post was already viral by the 20th).

3. You are prompted to set up a Medium account with a Google or Facebook account, so we dug for both looking for “Henry Hawksberry,” yielding zero results. Same with LinkedIn. And Reddit.

And, although his name is mentioned on Twitter endlessly, every single instance (yes, I read every. single. tweet.) is in reference to this one blog post. There is no account under the name “Henry Hawksberry.”

4. But Twitter is where it gets slightly interesting. There are three tweets that noticed this person is a ghost.

One British fella took issue with Herny calling WeWork out for lack of transparency, but is non-transparent, one guy posits that it’s a pen name, and an Irish fella questions his identity but immediately moves on.

The very first perked ear was from Peter Yang:

Note that this tweet has two retweets and 7 likes. In case anyone unlikes it, here is a screenshot of all Likes:

Note that one of the likes is from @ProfGalloway himself. More on that soon…

“Motorman” has a quick conversation asking who Henry is, but mainly to point out that Henry criticizes WeWork’s refusal to be transparent while ironically, Henry is doing the same. But the topic dies quickly and no one else gets involved.

Here we go – finally someone saying the very thing that I’ve been digging into. But the conversation dies and no one else on the planet ever picks it back up. Bizarre.

5. So I emailed Professor Galloway, who in the first tweet above, was referenced as the potential ghost. He liked the tweet but didn’t comment or retweet. Scott Galloway did write a blog post that same day, entitled “WeWTF, Part Deux,” referencing Henry Hawksberry as a “pen name, I think.”

Last night, I emailed his NYU Stern address: “I *have* to know – are YOU Henry Hawksberry? Is it a pen name? I saw someone ask (potentially in jest) if you were Henry, and no one responded or noticed, but you were one of the 7 ‘Likes.’ Is it you? If not, any theories?”

He responded, minutes later, “Who is Henry Hawksberry?” and nothing more.

I wrote back, “LOL okay… He penned the original “Is WeWork a Fraud?” (republished here) and you referenced him in your “WeWTF” blog post…” and he went silent.

This is still of interest, so keep this point fresh in your mind, I’ll circle back to it.

6. An entrepreneur in Zurich calls Henry out on Medium for being potential fake news, asking who Henry is, and it has 33 “claps” which are similar to “Likes” on Facebook, but zero comments. It went nowhere.

7. Oddly enough, RealClearMarkets has a blank profile page. The site is a product of RealClearPolitics, which is an actual trusted publication, so that’s a strange question mark. They have not responded to our request for comment.

8. Google has indexed 0 incidents of the name “Henry Hawksberry” aside from this one story and references to it – I reviewed every single instance of his name as indexed by Google. Dead end.

9. No comments by “Henry Hawksberry” were found anywhere at all which is usually the giveaway. Even when using a pen name, people will accidentally say something in a forum under that name years ago, but not this ghost.

10. I had hoped that perhaps I could piece together the relevance of his name – maybe it’s a nod to a famous historical figure in tech or business that would unlock this person’s true identity or goals, but I didn’t get anywhere with that either.

Hawksberry is a place in Australia, maybe a body of water in Brooklyn, but other than that, it’s a mystery.

So who is Henry Hawksberry?

Reading this, you’ll imagine that it’s Professor Galloway, and there’s a fine possibility of this, given the immediate silence.

However, my instinct is that the person who penned the blog post in question is close to WeWork, likely a former employee. Not a receptionist or event coordinator or someone at that level, but someone with real insider knowledge, likely at a Director level. Higher than that, and there would probably be too much at risk with stock options.

The author is also extremely well informed and had a firm grasp on the historical context of the timeline, and the writer’s diction level indicates they’re likely well educated.

A tech insider opined to me privately that it could be someone that has had full access to everything at WeWork, like a sysadmin who is acting like some sort of whistleblower.

That could be possible, but it seems more likely to me that it’s someone who removed their original blog post (without anyone noticing), knowing that it could potentially be used to identify them by leadership at WeWork, which would again, put them probably below VP status, and probably not currently with the company.

I’ve been obsessed with the WeWork melodrama, and I’ve had plenty of private conversations about it. But this Henry Hawksberry is the part that has really gotten under my skin. I’ve tested my gut against others that I trust, and we all agree that this is a real head scratcher.

It could be Gwyneth Paltrow for all we know (if you read the original blog post, you’d get the relevance of this jab).

Perhaps the fact that this person left no breadcrumbs IS a clue in and of itself.

Feel free to share any insights in the comments – maybe you have the key to solving this mystery??

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Business News

Price-predictable subscription to legal help for startups

(BUSINESS) Startups in growth mode need extra help, and legal services is not where successful companies cut corners. Check out this subscription option for your growing company.

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If you’re running your own business or are planning to start one, legal help is probably low on your list.

Most of us have access to free resources from your local Chamber of Commerce or state website, or may have a “friend” who can help you with the forms and other things.

For a lot of things, a DIY attitude won’t cost you much. You could float your own drywall for example. But when it comes to the law, you must trust an expert. Trying to cut corners on legal expenses can cost you a lot in terms of liability or lead to a few headaches, disputes, and litigations. And even if it didn’t cost money, it will cost you time.

Fortunately, you may not have to pay a lawyer directly, as there are several online solutions, including LegalZoom or LegalShield that can help you with forms, provide advice or help you get your business started. Legal advice could cost you hundreds per hour, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although online legal services are available, one thing that may be challenging for startups is that it can be difficult to budget for: cost transparency isn’t always available and it may be contingent on demand, time and resources.

Atrium is legal firm specifically designed for startups. This firm was founded by Twitch founder Justin Kan, and Silicon Valley lawyer, Augie Rakow in response to what his needs were as a startup: fast, reliable, and transparent services.

To date, Atrium boasts 890 completed startup deals; $5B raised by companies, and 10 companies started by it’s members. Atrium breaks down its services into four areas:

Atrium Counsel – which provides standard day to day legal processes, including board meetings, NDS, contract/personnel review, etc. – this is available as a subscription service or if you have unique needs, there are special projects available.
Atrium Financing – to help work with venture capital transactions and help explain the deal and it’s process, including upfront price estimates for advice with pitches.
Atrium Contracts – to help with contract review and form generations.
Atrium Blockchain – to help provide legal advice on the many regulatory issues involving blockchain issues.

Atrium’s major competitive advantage is the end of the billable hour paradigm and the focus on subscription models. This is great for a startup in growth mode because you can get a lot of value for a fixed price.

That said, Vitality CEO, Jamie Davidson said, “Just had a call with these folks. You pay a minimum of $1K a month (based on your company size) to be able to ask them questions. You then pay above-market prices for actual legal needs, like privacy policy/TOS generation ($5K), GDPR ($10+K), etc. Our current lawyer does not charge me to ask him questions, but he does charge for actual legal work.”

Others have noted Atrium’s technological advantage and expertise, so mileage could vary.

If you find that community resources aren’t available or not meeting your needs, Atrium could be the service that helps take you to the next level. If you’re considering shopping for legal services, check out Atrium’s site, get to know their team, and see if it’s the right fit for you. The bottom line is that there are a lot of places to cut corners for your growing business, but legal services are not one of them.

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