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SAVING MAIN STREET

SMALL BUSINESS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Compelling stories at the intersection of entrepreneurial aspirations, personal obligations, and public policy.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist reports on how small-business owners in northeast Pennsylvania—and one in New York City—weathered the challenges posed by the pandemic.

In the best of times, running a small business is a precarious proposition; the pandemic made it nearly impossible. In early 2020, Rivlin, author of Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.―How the Working Poor Became Big Business, among other books, set out to document how a handful of businesses dealt with the precipitous decline in customers, unrelenting mortgage and utility bills, and costs that escalated as supply chains faltered. Among others, these include Vilma’s Hair Salon, Cusumano’s Italian restaurant, Lech’s Pharmacy, J.R.’s Hallmark, and Sol Cacao, a chocolate bar business. During the pandemic, owners worried about their employees and rethought their businesses. They navigated shifting shutdown orders and mask mandates and applied for financial assistance from the federal and state governments. Making matters worse was the lack of a “coordinated federal plan”; each state made its own rules. In addition, there were the constant threats posed by large restaurant and pharmaceutical chains, retail behemoths such as Walmart, and, of course, Amazon. These large corporations not only undercut their prices; they also gutted the downtown centers that brought in customers. Politicians might celebrate small businesses for being essential to living in a community and for embodying the independent spirit that ostensibly defines the American character, but economic policy always favors big business. That many businesses survived was due, in part, to the loyalty of employees and customers, the support of local business associations, and governmental grants and loans that carried them through the worst of the pandemic. For Rivlin, though, most important were business owners’ “creativity and fortitude,” the tenacity and improvisational talent to get the job done.

Compelling stories at the intersection of entrepreneurial aspirations, personal obligations, and public policy.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-306596-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

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THE CULTURE MAP

BREAKING THROUGH THE INVISIBLE BOUNDARIES OF GLOBAL BUSINESS

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

A helpful guide to working effectively with people from other cultures.

“The sad truth is that the vast majority of managers who conduct business internationally have little understanding about how culture is impacting their work,” writes Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, an international business school. Yet they face a wider array of work styles than ever before in dealing with clients, suppliers and colleagues from around the world. When is it best to speak or stay quiet? What is the role of the leader in the room? When working with foreign business people, failing to take cultural differences into account can lead to frustration, misunderstanding or worse. Based on research and her experiences teaching cross-cultural behaviors to executive students, the author examines a handful of key areas. Among others, they include communicating (Anglo-Saxons are explicit; Asians communicate implicitly, requiring listeners to read between the lines), developing a sense of trust (Brazilians do it over long lunches), and decision-making (Germans rely on consensus, Americans on one decider). In each area, the author provides a “culture map scale” that positions behaviors in more than 20 countries along a continuum, allowing readers to anticipate the preferences of individuals from a particular country: Do they like direct or indirect negative feedback? Are they rigid or flexible regarding deadlines? Do they favor verbal or written commitments? And so on. Meyer discusses managers who have faced perplexing situations, such as knowledgeable team members who fail to speak up in meetings or Indians who offer a puzzling half-shake, half-nod of the head. Cultural differences—not personality quirks—are the motivating factors behind many behavioral styles. Depending on our cultures, we understand the world in a particular way, find certain arguments persuasive or lacking merit, and consider some ways of making decisions or measuring time natural and others quite strange.

These are not hard and fast rules, but Meyer delivers important reading for those engaged in international business.

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-250-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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