Author: Noah Graff

What do you do if you are an unknown pipsqueak company with a killer idea, going up against a giant with an almost unlimited marketing budget? On April 16th at the biggest running event of the year, the Boston Marathon, tiny Spira Shoe Company of El Paso, Texas, stole the show from Nike. For two thirds of the race, two unknown Kenyan runners led, wearing brilliant yellow Spira shoes. Spira shoes have a superior design to their competition aside from just their color. Tiny springs are put into the heel of the shoes. This idea is getting traction in the…

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We now have the news that Daimler-Chrysler wants a divorce. Shocking. One more stupid merger falls apart because the people couldn’t get along. The Germans thought Detroit built crappy cars, and the Chrysler folk thought the Mercedes men dissed them. The hapless Dr. Z commercials were so discordant with American sensibilities even Beyoncé hood ornaments could not have saved the lines. About the only way GM could buy Chrysler would be to trade its interest in Delphi for it. Marrying Ford and Chrysler would be a match between Alzheimer patients. Toyota needs Chrysler like it needs a UAW contract, and…

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Tony Dungy, the coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears, are close personal friends who talk to each other at 5:00 a.m. every Monday morning during the NFL regular season. They are also the this year’s two Super Bowl Coaches. The parallels between the management styles of the first two black coaches to run teams in the BIG GAME are suggestive of important shifts in business management at this point in American history. Dungy and Smith are both soft spoken, religious, Christian men. They deflect personal notoriety and celebrity and both continually praise their…

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Copper prices are down almost 30 percent from the speculative hedge fund bubble. Brass rod is just beginning to follow with scrap prices down about 10 percent from the peak. We are in the midst of the unraveling of the commodity price squeeze which was more about avarice than scarcity. Oil is hovering around $52 a barrel for crude, which is attributed to a mild winter in the United States, but really, how many people are still burning heating oil. The reality is that the speculators who went long on petrol are on the run. If we don’t get a…

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What do you do if your core business is imploding not because you are bad at what you do, but because the world has suddenly changed. Ask the Tribune Company, parent of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Cubs, and part owner of WGN television network and the Food Network cable channel. Tribune Company’s newspapers are losing circulation and advertising weekly to Craigslist, ESPN and themselves on the web. America’s newspapers have a mass case of Parkinson’s for which there is no current cure. Younger people want their news on the Internet. It’s that simple. The…

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As I am writing, the Congressional elections are an unknown. The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats will win the House and possibly the Senate. Is this a big deal if it happens? From a legislative standpoint it is a nonevent. But from a political point of view it is significant. The Republicans have held the House for 12 years. Six years of Bill Clinton and six years of Bush, the political climate in Washington continues to sour. The animosity between the parties is stronger than I can ever remember. This is good and bad. Legislatively we will have gridlock.…

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For me, the highlight of IMTS was the Ex One exhibit. This company, led by former head of Extreme Hone, Lawrence Rhoades, and former CEO of Gleason Works Theaters John Burns, is revolutionizing the world of machining. Perhaps not revolutionizing, but replacing much of machining as we know it, using a three dimensional process, which incorporates a layering of metal powder by a version of inkjet printing. Ex One is already using this process to make sand models for casting. It is also beta testing a similar mode of making dental crowns using gold powder added layer by layer to…

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Mazak looks like a big winner. Their exhibit is almost always swarming, and they have focused on big machines well suited for the boom in energy production and distribution. Haas seems crowded. They have a million machines and hordes of salesmen and technicians. I have done a sampling of attitudes of show attendees regarding the company and its products in light of Gene Haas’s indictment. I have found a general awareness of the tax problems, but the people I have talked to feel positively about the products and service. This seems to trump anger or dismay about the court case.…

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Welcome to the 21st century Tornos. At the Tornos press conference, I was impressed with Scott Kowalski, who has taken the reins at Tornos in America. Tom Dierks, who led Tornos for many years, was a fine person, but the business in America deteriorated under his watch. Market share slipped to also-ran status, despite having a superior piece of hardware to sell. Tornos appears to realize the problem. They have improved the software by partnering with PartMaker and developing a Windows-based product. They are building a “Center for Excellence” in Naperville, IL, outside of Chicago, which sounds like it will…

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Eight days of IMTS. Are you kidding? This is an idea from yesteryear. If you compressed IMTS to three days, everybody would come for those three days. Comdex, the National Hardware Show, big medical conferences – nobody does more than three or four days anymore. The programming doesn’t even fill three days now. The weekend is slow, especially Sunday. Perhaps the downtown restaurants and hotels like the added traffic, but IMTS should be for the participants, not the city it is located in. And for the participants, eight days or six days is a big inconvenience and physically bone crushing.…

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