Archive for June, 2013

Revive the Dream Recruiting Session on June 2, 2013

rtdinstitute-logoOne organization I work with is having a happy hour and recruiting session next week on Tuesday June 2, 2013.  Email me at if you are interested in attending and becoming a Fellow.  Hope to see you there.

The RTD mission is: “To revive the American dream for underserved children. The program recruits emerging community leaders and develop them into education reform catalysts to improve the life prospects of millions of underserved American children.”


Revive the Dream Happy Hour

Please join us for a Revive the Dream (RTD) happy hour /  Information session on Tuesday, July 2nd from 6-9 PM, at Citizen Bar.

Learn about the mission of RTD and how you can get involved.  Also, Mike Rosskamm, RTD’s founder and a charter school principal will speak about the importance of getting involved in urban education.

RTD is a unique way for professionals to get deeply involved in improving urban education in Chicago.  Documentaries like “Waiting for Superman” and news reports showing that <10% of CPS students graduate with a bachelors degree in ten years have demonstrated how terrible urban education is in this country.  RTD teaches you how to help improve this critical economic and civil rights issue.

We recruit ~20 fellows from outside the education world who we then train for 10 months about how to have an impact (1 two-hour session per month).  After the training, fellows will be partnered with local education organizations for at least a year and help those organizations improve through activities like board service, project management, and fund-raising.

Training with RTD revolves around interactive sessions with leading education practitioners.  A few of them will be on hand at the event to answer questions about the current state of education both in Chicago and across the country.

Join us on Tuesday the 2nd to learn more or if you can’t make it, visit our website at

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Sunday, June 30th, 2013 Education No Comments

Ask Dan Savage: How Much Better Has It Gotten?

itgetsbetter_highresIn the aftermath of DOMA and Prop 8 legislation the past two days, everyone has been talking about the decision.  Not only my MBA and law school friends, but really just about everyone. Especially on Facebook.  One person talking about it is Blogger, Dan Saveage, founder of It Gets Better Project.

In a recent video Savage discusses: How much it has gotten better since the project.



Friday, June 28th, 2013 Business School, Other Blogs No Comments

Best Brands in the US

US MapVerizon, AOL, Apple and Starbucks all have something in common.  In a recent study, each of the companies was listed as its state’s most famous company by where the company was founded.  Just one question: what happened to McDonald’s in Illinois?

Here’s a map of the U.S. by each state’s most famous company.  If you go to MBA programs, many of these companies will recruit on campus, like Starbucks, Nike, Apple and Coke. In fact I have friends at all of these companies.

If you go to law schools, these companies tend to have big GC’s offices but don’t usually do any formal recruiting.  But these are the companies you will probably want to go after one day to pay your law firm bills. I know people at firms who work with Aol, Verizon and Bank of America.

My one comment and concern is trend with the size and purpose of most of these companies.  While many of these companies have done well running their businesses over time, I would also love to see more innovative and socially conscious companies make the list. Start-ups, nonprofits or bigger companies who care more about the world around them and are doing more about it. Starbucks does come to mind as one of those companies that did make the list. Otherwise, it’s a pretty interesting list to discuss.

Do you see any companies that should be on the list but didn’t make it? Dell, Google, and again McDonalds? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

NOTE:  By the way, a hat tip to my friend PJ Leonard, who recently started as a Product Manager at Starbucks corporate headquarters in Seattle on Monday.  

US Map














CLICK HERE for the full article.


Thursday, June 27th, 2013 Business School, Leadership 1 Comment

Guest Post: Edward Cox on the Common Core

CommonCoreIn a mathematics class at a Southern California high school in the suburbs, students competed with each other to see who could assemble the largest rectangle from snap cubes holding to the golden ratio.

Nogales High School Algebra 2 teacher John Cox watched his summer school students outperform their classmates even after they had surpassed the required dimensions in the analytical problem they had been given.

“They were just doing it on their own, it was hard to stop them,” Cox said.

Teachers across California are adjusting to new teaching standards called the Common Core Standards which focuses on analytical thinking and real life application of mathematics. Although the state adopted the standards in 2010, California Governor Jerry Brown has funneled funds into the program in this year’s budget for implementation from 2014-2015.

The state’s investment in teacher training, technology and new books in the shift to the new standards will trickle down to mathematics and language arts classrooms. Although Cox acknowledges many teachers are unfamiliar and even suspicious  of the oncoming changes, he said he to shift to a more student oriented teaching approach.

Questions that fall under the Common Core Standards resemble free response questions, Cox said. For example, he asked his class to design a fund-raising game for the Associated Student Body  that would turn a profit. The game consisted of finding the diameter of a disc to toss into a rectangular plain that would result in the student winning 40% of the time.

After three to four days testing measurements, students learned how to use the quadratic function to determine the appropriate size of the disc.

Implementation of Common Core will lead to a different approach to testing in addition to teaching. Instead of gauging students’knowledge through California Standardized Test booklets stocked with multiple choice questions,   Common Core will test students through technology.

Students will be able to manipulate graphs and drag answers on their computer screens during Common Core tests.

“(Common Core) is more project oriented instead of lecturing on all the different standards,” Cox said. “that’s the way I usually like to teach so for me it’s not a big deal.”

– Article originally written by Edward Cox on Education Matters


Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 Education No Comments

We’ve Come too Far

ObamaTake a quick break from work today and hear Obama singing the best song of this summer.





Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 Business School 1 Comment

MBA Mondays: Starting a Business

StartBizMany of my friends from business school have started businesses.  Far more of them will fail than succeed, but that’s just how the numbers work. But some will be successful and some will even be wildly successful.  But all that feels so far away the moment you are getting started.

It’s not always clear what to do when you first want to start a business.  Most people think about writing business plans but it’s not always clear why people do that either. Don’t get me wrong, business plans are useful to organize your thoughts and present your ideas to future teammates and investors. But they don’t usually make an idea better, and they certainly don’t give a bad idea more sales.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about four other things that matter a little more.

1.  Money

2. People

3. Advisor(s)

4. Overcoming fear

5. Formalities.

In the legal world, we help business people work on formalities.  We help determine organizational structure.  We organize the companies, file the paperwork and ensure they are in compliance with state law.  We help them formally create rules, which are known as Bylaws and we help them elect managers of the company, which you know as officers and directors. We do this far more seamlessly and quickly than they could by themselves.

When we do this we also help with the money and people part, where we help draft agreements when a company wants venture investments or wants to hire employees or contractors.  We also draft agreements when the person or company wants to give equity in the company to employees or investors.

This is important because the business side of money and people are critical.  All companies need budgets and deadlines and sales to be successful. They need to make more money than you spend but have to analyze cash flows, balance sheets, margins and return on investments to measure their success.  Many lawyers run as fast as they can from these things but the good ones speak the language very clearly and help business people incorporate them into their overall plan. To structure the incentives and all the agreements the company has to fit its financial strategy.

But none of this is possible unless you work with people that are smart and compliment each other.  This is the people element. This doesn’t always mean their resume, though a resume can be a good indication of what someone will contribute. But it also means their passion, attitude and track record.

Most service providers understand their element pretty well, but not the entire process. Lawyers, tend to see the legal side. Consultants know the operations or strategic aspect. And bankers tend to get the numbers.  VCs think through much of this stuff pretty well too.  But the advisor is the person that understands all of the elements. And the more of these an entrepreneur has, the more he or she will overcome the fear of starting the business.

Just a few thoughts, as I’ve been working a lot of the Formalities part recently.  It’s a big topic for one blog post. Much more to come.


Monday, June 24th, 2013 Business School, Entrepreneurship No Comments

One Summer Day

Mary OliverBelow is a Poem for the beginning of summer, which started yesterday on June 22, 2013.

One Summer Day: by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 Business School No Comments

The (not) Tipping Point

TipsSushi Yasuda, an expensive restaurant in New York, recently made the choice to eliminate tips for its waitstaff.

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s true.   No more tips.  Instead of spending 30 seconds after getting your check and pondering how much to write on the tip line, instead you just pay the bill and leave. It’s that simple.

The good thing about it is that there is no confusion.  On every receipt, the restaurant has the following  statement:

“Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted.”

This example is rare because the vast majority of restaurants do not do this … at least not in the U.S.  In the US, tipped employees are paid minimal amounts and customers are accustomed to paying at least 15% extra, even when the service is not great.  But in this case, Shshi Yasuda actually compensates the staff with more money (and with benefits) so the tip is not needed.

Other higher end restaurants are considering as well, but there is no word on whether any will adopt the new model or if less expensive restaurants would consider it.

On one hand, I think it would be great not to have to worry about tipping.  Get your check, swipe your Visa, and head out.  On the other hand, there is the obvious risk that this will make prices appear too high, even if the final bill would be the same once the tip had been added.

I’m sure all the MBAs of the world have opinions about this.

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 Labor Economics 1 Comment

Race and College Admissions

Surpeme CtSome time this month, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case that could further restrict the use of race as a factor in college admissions.  The issue is whether a student’s race or ethnicity can factor into admissions decisions.

There are many arguments to support why considering race is important, notably the legal rationale of correcting past wrongs.  But there are also others who argue that affirmative action does not work or that using economic status will do far more to help.

Ten years ago, the court’s stance is that student diversity is a compelling interest that can justify the use of race, but only as one among many factors.  A recent NY Times  article discusses the updoming decision.

The biggest obstacle to class-based affirmative action, as Richard Perez-Pena pointed out in The Times the other day, is the obvious one: cost. Poor and working-class students are by definition in need of more financial aid. That is why universities have shown little interest in switching. It’s cheaper to bring in students of color from middle-class or affluent families. (It also brings in kids with higher SAT test scores, which count so heavily in the obsessively watched college rankings.) Cost is the reason that even many proponents of class-based affirmative action favor what Tienda calls “a holistic approach” — class and race both.

Head nod to Bill Keller for surfacing this important issue in his article yesterday.

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Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 Admissions, Diversity, Education 2 Comments

MBA Mondays: What Is Due Diligence?

Due DiligenceI’m going to try to address business and MBA topics on Mondays where possible.  I’ll start with a simple discussion on due diligence.

Due Diligence. I hear these words so often I can’t even remember how many times.  In fact, I’m sure I’ll hear them before today is over as well.

But what does the phrase, Due Diligence really mean?

Wickpedia defines it as “A term used for a number of concepts, involving either an investigation of a business or person prior to signing a contract, or an act with a certain standard of care.”

Investopedia defines it as “An investigation or audit of a potential investment.  Due diligence serves to confirm all material facts in regards to a sale.

At it’s simplest form I think it comes from contract law and refers to the level care a company is required (due) to make before entering into an agreement with another company (by being diligent).

At investment banks, it is the process by which bankers assesses the appropriate marketing strategy and develops the appropriate list of potential acquirers for a client.

In practice the due diligence process varies from, industry to industry, firm to firm as well as deal to deal.

In venture capital, it means the process by which a VC firm learns all he or she needs to know about a potential investment.

And in the legal world, it means the process of doing a thorough investigation of a company as a first step in a pending merger or acquisition.

In every deal I’ve been on, due diligence has been different.  The merger agreements looks different. The checklist all turn out different. And the number and types of documents reviewed is drastically different.

With VC firms, diligence is about making phone calls and taking meetings with people who know the company.

For PE firms, diligence is about running the numbers, looking at similar companies and understanding the operations of a company to come up with the true value of the company.

For legal due diligence, we have to understand both the business issues and the legal issue to help clients uncovering the necessary risks.  Sire the people, the market, the technology matter, but we do a deep dive into the agreements that can at times make or break a deal.  We look for provisions such as change of control, right of first refusal, competition, and other covenants, and we focus on the terms of the most valuable customer and vendor contracts.

In the end, we can never do enough due diligence.  We can and should request and read every document.  Uncover ever risk and opportunity.  Think in detail about everything we find. And be sure we communicate that to the client.

Due diligence can be absolutely critical in corporate law.  Be sure check out later posts on due diligence for more detail.


Monday, June 10th, 2013 Business School No Comments

In 10 Years

FutureImagine what the world will look like in 10 years.  In 10 years, it will probably be totally different than it is today.  Just like it was ten years ago in 2003. And just like it was ten years before than in 1993.

In ten years, here are a few things that could very well happen:

The retirement age will probably go up another 5 years.

The Iphone battery will be capable of lasting twice as long

We might see our first woman President

Wal-mart will still be the biggest retail chain. Their margins and their inventory will be even bigger.

The middle class in the US will be even smaller.

There will be twice as many Facebook users.

Online dating will be the best way to find a partner and get married.

The legal profession will get smaller. Fewer people will pass the bar and work at big firms.

MBAs will still flock to consulting and banking jobs.

Your airport experience will be entirely digital-the check-ins, baggage check, ticket swaps, everything.

Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding will be the norm, not the hot topic of the day.

Social networks will be video-based.

People will still be biased against people of other races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds.

Then, what will happen ten years after that?

Saturday, June 8th, 2013 Leadership No Comments

Risk and Reward

risk-and-rewardRisk is all around us. When we encounter potential failure, we come face to face with it.  And in that moment we have to decide, what are we going to do next?

Fear is the most natural reaction. We are uncertain of the outcome and how that will make us look, especially when the stakes are high. So fear makes us nervous and we decide not to go forward.

On the other hand, risk is inevitable if you are want to do great work. And there’s no better way to do great way than to work on something you care about. Your passion. Your art.

It’s easy to to avoid risk at all costs. That whenever possible you mitigate risks with the products you launch or the people you meet by only taking things that look flawless and where there is no downside.

But there’s just one problem. In almost every single situation, a small increase in risk can double the reward. And where there’s more downside, there is also often upside.

Taking that first step can be impossibly hard. But it’s almost always worth it in the end.

Just a thought.

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Saturday, June 1st, 2013 Leadership No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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