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This CEO Writes 9,200 Holiday Cards to His Employees Every Year

Editorial Staff



Sheldon Yellen, CEO of BELFOR Holdings, Inc., handwrites holiday cards to each of his 9,200 employees to express gratitude.

“He travels with a suitcase full of stationery. He also pens handwritten notes for thank-yous, anniversaries, and birthdays,” said Business Insider in a recent report.

According to researches and career experts, the most successful corporate managers are those who can thank and encourage their employees. Even before he was chief executive, Yellen has written a holiday and birthday card to every company employee each year.

“There is an inside joke with acquisitions that I ask prior to closing: ‘How many more people?’ — “since I am constantly calculating that in my mind rather than ‘What is the EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization]?’” said Yellen in an interview.

Yellen started doing this in 1985 after he was hired by his brother-in-law, and many of the employees felt he was getting special treatment.

“If nothing else, the cards would encourage people to stop by his desk to say thank you, he thought,” reported Business Insider. “And it worked,” he said. “It got people talking, we started to communicate more, and I like to think it helped me earn respect within the company.”

Yellen is not just doing this for the thank you – he writes thank-you notes, anniversary cards, holiday cards, and writes to his employees’ kids when they are sick, said Alexandra Gort, company director of marketing communications.

According to research, good employees will quit their jobs if they are not given enough recognition. Business Insider reported that “Yellen has found taking the time to write out a card for each and every person has created a culture of compassion throughout the company.”

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Uber and Hyundai Are Planning to Offer Flying Taxi Rides by 2023

Editorial Staff



Hyundai/Uber Flying Taxi Source: Hyundai
By Cat Ellis

At CES 2020, Uber and Hyundai showed off a full-size mock-up of a flying taxi that both companies hope will be ferrying you above congested city streets by 2023.

The electric plane, called Uberdai, will carry a pilot and three passengers up to 60 miles, at speeds of up to 180mph, slashing journey times and helping get cars off the road. Eventually the craft will be automated, but for now the two companies are focusing on manned craft.

The flying taxi market is starting to get pretty lively. Last year, Boeing began test flights to test the safety of Boeing. Next, an electric aircraft with passenger pods designed to travel up to 50 miles, and Bell Helicopter unveiled the Bell Nexus, which the company hopes will “redefine air travel”.

The difference with Hyundai’s plane is its partnership with Uber, which is a name synonymous with ride-sharing throughout much of the world, and already has the infrastructure in place to offer flights as an option alongside trips by car, bike, scooter, helicopter and even submarine.

Ready for lift-off?

Uber has been aiming for the skies for several years now, teaming up with various aerospace companies to build a fleet of mini aircraft. At the Uber Elevate Summit in June 2019, it revealed a concept created in collaboration with Jaunt Air Mobility – a business that’s aiming to create a fully autonomous aircraft by the end of 2029.

This design was a cross between a helicopter and a plane, with a rotor to get it off the ground, and wings for gliding once airborne to conserve power.

“It’s called the compound aircraft, and what it’s doing is really trying to get the best of both worlds of hover and high-speed efficient flight,” Uber’s head of engineering Mark Moore said at the event.

Uber intends to launch its first swarm of flying cars in the US and Australia in 2023, with schemes planned for Dallas, Las Vegas and Melbourne. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more over the coming months. 

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Entrepreneurs Upbeat About Hiring, Researchers Find

Editorial Staff



Image via Shutterstock
By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Although many small businesses struggle to find staffers to fill their open positions, many 

That’s one of the findings of a study by researchers at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The study, based on surveys of approximately 3,000 people in the U.S. during 2018, found that 87% of entrepreneurs with young companies expect to employ workers during the next five years, and 38% expect to have six or more workers. Seventeen percent said they expected to have 20 or more workers in five years.

Those expectations reflect the confidence and optimism of owners of businesses that are in the early stages of growth, the study said. “They trust that they can recruit, hire, and develop employees to help them successfully grow their business,” it said.

The jobs entrepreneurs are contemplating may be most abundant in companies that provide finance, real estate and business services, as well as retail and wholesale businesses. Those industries combined account for more than half the new companies the Babson researchers studied.

The study, which examined a range of aspects of entrepreneurship, also looked at business ownership as a means to earn a living — in other words, how many people start companies because they couldn’t find other work. Less than 9% of 

Follow Joyce Rosenberg at Her work can be found here:

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How Can Drones and Blockchain Technology Support Agriculture?

Editorial Staff



By Adam Duvernay, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

When Eugene-based tech entrepreneur Jim Cupples came home from a National Wildlife Federation conference in Washington, D.C., he’d already turned his mind to solving a problem presented there: Is there a way blockchain technology can further the use of sustainable agriculture practices?

Yes, Cupples said, there is. And it involves drones.

He’s calling it AgCheck, and Cupples is relying on local university students to build it.

“It’s really the connection between two different technologies, one of them being drone images and the other one being blockchain technology,” said Cupples, a recent devotee of agriculture technology. “It helps up the credibility of what farmers say they’re doing regarding regenerative farming.”

Blockchain is an open list of records that’s protected from modification, a technology that has evolved from its origins as a ledger for cryptocurrencies. Cupples said he believes a database of farm photos on a blockchain will help suppliers and consumers verify that farmers are living up to practices they preach.

There’s currently only a limited ability to assure sustainable farming practices are being followed as advertised.

National Wildlife Federation Policy Specialist David DeGennaro said much of the sustainable agriculture market exists in “the Wild West of labeling,” leaving consumers to make their best guesses about what they’re buying because there’s no government agency overseeing that kind of branding.

“For consumers to be confident that the products they’re purchasing have a certain sustainability footprint, there has to be some accountability there. One of the weaknesses for many of the sustainability initiatives that exist is that they’re self reported by the producers,” DeGennaro said.

That’s why a Lane County Community College drone recently flew patterns above Moondog’s Farm in Marcola.

Cupples recruited LCC Chief Flight Instructor Sean Parrish and his drone pilot class to participate in the first step of building the AgCheck prototype. Earlier this month, the class programed their drones to map Moondog’s Farm with aerial photographs and document the farmer’s planting practices.

Cupples likewise brought in two Oregon State University engineering students to use those photos in building the AgCheck blockchain prototype.

“What I found instructive for the students was the fact that we’re combining the technology they know very well, drones, with the blockchain,” Parrish said. “These are developing technologies and will be something they’ll deal with in the future. It has a lot of forward-looking applications.”

The drone snapped away as it flew over the farm, providing topographical mapping for owners Dan Schuler and Shelley Bowerman, which would help them better plan for their farm’s future. But because Cupples has been documenting local agriculture practices for his other project, a database called All The Farms, he knew Moondog’s Farm would present an opportunity to provide the first blocks in the blockchain he’s hoping AgCheck will offer.

“There’s a lot of things you can do in regenerative agriculture, but there’s a few that are really visual,” Cupples said. “They’re really the big three in regenerative agriculture: No till or reduce till farming; the second one would be using cover crops; and then the third one would be crop rotation.”

The Dec. 6 Moondog’s Farm flight was the first, and so far only, opportunity for the AgCheck team to collect images of farming practices. But OSU engineering student Aaron Galati and Josh Fisher are working on a server and website for AgCheck and how to communicate with the blockchain.

“We can verify the pictures are from where they say they were and at what time they were taken. We can take the data from the images and push that onto the blockchain system, which is a public ledger, and that data would be unchangeable,” Galati said. “It’s 100% verifiable.”

AgCheck will serve as the engineering program capstone project for Galati and Fisher, which means the prototype must be finished by next spring. Galati says he envisions a user-friendly website that helps people sort farms by their practices, empowering them to make better purchasing decisions.

But Cupples sees other future applications: supporting organizations that offer farm grants for sustainable practices, identifying farms that use appropriate vegetation for thriving bee hives or providing a resource for grocers who want to assure they only purchase from earth-friendly farms.

“The knowledge that we’ve gained in understanding how to move drone images directly to blockchain is something that has wide applications,” Cupples said. “You could have drones capturing images of boats and prove they were at this time and place and that they actually did capture these fish in a sustainable way. I think there’s a ton of other ways that you can use drone-to-blockchain technology.”

“Especially with a lot of supply chain companies who are making these really exciting commitments toward sustainability, such as certain amounts of cover crops or soil health practices, there’s issues that need to be figured out how to verify through the supply chain what’s actually happening on the ground and whether those practices are actually being implemented,” said National Wildlife Federation Agriculture Policy Director Aviva Glaser.

AgCheck is the first solution the wildlife federation’s DeGennaro said he’s heard of since the Washington, D.C., conference, but he said he sees one major flaw.

“The idea of flying drones over people’s farms is probably not going to go over very well in farm country,” DeGennaro said. “Farmers are fiercely protective of their privacy and their data and what they do on their land. I don’t think that’s something that we would be advocating necessarily.”

Follow Adam Duvernay on Twitter @DuvernayOR or email [email protected].


(c)2019 The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.)

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