For some companies, scoring a contract with Wal-Mart can seem like hitting the lottery — we're talking business bucket list.
Mark Goldstein is CEO of Scott’s Liquid Gold, a medium sized company which expects to make almost $30 million in revenue this year.
“They have been just the best and finest people to deal with,” he says.
Scott's Liquid Gold sells just under a third of its product line, like air fresheners, to Wal-Mart.
“They help companies like us to be more efficient in manufacturing and transportation,” says Goldstein.
Not all companies feel that kind of affection for Wal-Mart.
Victor Lund, a partner with Wav Group Consulting, used to own WOW, a small company that sold cookie cutters to Wal-Mart.
“Working with Wal-Mart can be a great experience but it’s very, very difficult,” says Lund.
No matter how small you are, he says, if you want to work with Wal-Mart, you have to follow the same requirements that Fortune 100 companies do.
“They have a vendor booklet, that talks about what their requirements are, that was eight inches thick,” Lund says.
With fewer than 20 employees, and less than five million dollars of revenue a year, Lund says WOW was really small,which made dealing with Wal-Mart challenging.
“Making sure that you’re working with a manufacturer in China that’s going to support you in being compliant with Wal-Mart’s rules and regulations is very, very important but it is also drives up costs tremendously,” he says.
And for some companies working with Wal-Mart is just too difficult. In Lund’s case WOW’s vendor agreement with Wal-Mart became more valuable than the company itself. So he sold it.
As the Ebola outbreak rages in West Africa, it is also unfolding — in a virtual sense — inside the computers of scientists trying to predict how far the outbreak will spread and when it will end.
After President Barack Obama saw images and video from Ferguson, Mo., where a police officer shot an unarmed 18-year-old over the weekend, he urged police there to be “open and transparent.” He also called for officers and protesters alike “to take a step back and think.”
Five days after the shooting, protests have swelled, and the police have been using what looks like pretty sophisticated, military-style weapons and gear. Many police departments across the country have that kind of equipment. And thanks to federal government programs, they have been amassing more of it.
The Pentagon has what it calls a “Disposition Services” department. Its mandate, quite simply, is to dispose of stuff. A list of what’s available includes night-vision goggles, combat uniforms, tear gas, grenades and M16s.
Robert Kane heads the department of criminology and justice studies at Drexel University, and he says the Defense Department has sold billions of dollars of equipment at bargain basement prices.
“You know, an armored personnel carrier can cost somewhere along the lines of $780,000, maybe even $800,000, and sometimes the police department can get that for $3,000,” he says.
There are also grants available, Kane says.
State and local police departments have dealt with the DOD for decades, but Congress formalized that relationship in the 1990s, during the war on drugs and after the Los Angeles riots.
“Law enforcement was in many instances outgunned and out-equipped from a technical standpoint,” says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
After Sept. 11, departments acquired new surveillance equipment, along with new vehicles and weapons.
David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, worries some departments rely on these high-end tools more and more. “You’ve got the stuff," he says. "'Isn’t this the occasion to use it?’ goes the thinking.”
You'd use it to break up protests. Even to deliver a warrant.
“When you militarize the equipment, and you militarize the personnel, you are also militarizing the situation and that can lead to escalation,” Harris says.
Police need the best training and the most suitable weapons, he says, but departments need to consider carefully how and when they use them.
Engineers have come up with an experimental technology that could make HIV prevention as easy as using a tampon. It's based on an ultrafine fabric that's thinner than a human hair.
Porsche is the most profitable company in Volkswagen’s family of brands, with a long and storied history. But it has a big problem.
Kyle Stock, Associate Editor at Bloomberg Businessweek says 85 percent of the people who buy Porsches are men.
"They do acknowledge that women are a demographic that they haven’t done great with," says Stock. "They want new buyers, new customers for this and so they’re definitely thinking about that."
After three years of research and development, Porsche rolled out a new model designed to appeal to women, called the Macan.
"Its development was a journey from the Nürburgring test track to the Whole Foods parking lot," says Stock.
Stock believes this crossover vehicle will help the car company increase their female customers, however, they probably should have jumped on the train a long time ago.
"The small SUV segment, the crossover segment, is by far the hottest segment in the market right now," says Stock. "And there is no signs of that slowing down."
We may have to start a new segment on the program: Marketplace Reads Headlines That Make You Go, "Wait... What?"
And then we'll just read headlines.
Particularly, ones like this one from the Wall Street Journal:
Swarm of 1,024 Tiny Robots Works Together Without Guiding Central Intelligence.
I'm telling you, it's got potential.
An international team of scientists is experimenting with a potential drug to block the production of a protein linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Eric Holder said federal investigators have already conducted interviews with eyewitnesses to the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in a St. Louis suburb.
Sayur manis is a green vegetable that tastes like spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked. It's packed with nutrients, but the raw leaves have been linked to outbreaks of lung failure.
Nearly 80 percent of all the U.S. currency in the world is in $100 bills. But some people want to get rid of the bill altogether.
Rev. Willis Johnson's church is just one mile from where Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Johnson explains what he's hearing from protesters.
A lot of us go on vacation and set our email to auto-reply, but that still means we spend hours wading through hundreds of emails when we return. Well, car and truckmaker Daimler is giving its employees in Germany a new vacation option: auto delete.
About 100,000 Daimler employees can choose to have their incoming email permanently obliterated while on vacation.
“To bring good input into the company you need also to rest and you need breaks," says Daimler spokesman Oliver Wihofszki. He says employees should return to work motivated and with a fresh spirit, so they "don’t have to think,‘Oh my God, I have to read 576 emails.'"
Instead, those 576 emails disappear. Their senders get a cheery notice with an emergency contact and the sign-off: "I appreciate your understanding!"
Here's the suggested auto-reply that Daimler employees in Germany can use:
Important Information: I’m using “Mail on Holiday”. Until DD.MM.YY your e-mails will be deleted.
In urgent cases please contact surname name, Tel. +49 XXXX-XX-XXXXX, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Mail on Holiday” is a Life-Balance offer at Daimler.
If you want me to read this e-mail personally, please be kind enough to send me the information after DD.MM.YY.
I appreciate your understanding!
Now, Daimler also has a plant in Tuscaloosa. But Wharton School management professor Peter Cappelli says auto-delete would be hard to pull off in America, with its always-on mentality.
“I would do it,” he says, “but that’s partly because not very many people actually need to talk to me.”
He says in the academic world, a footnote crisis does not mean imminent doom.
If you’re a company deleting email, however, you have to be sure your customers and vendors actually write to your emergency contact, so you don’t lose business.
Peter Cappelli says that means vendors might have to change the way they work.
“But it’s tricky to change the way you work for one out of your 100 clients,” he adds.
David Baggett created an app called Inky that helps manage email, not delete it. He says if you delegate email from one human to another, “then you still have a scaling issue. You still have another person that has to scale to a thousand messages a day potentially.”
Still, Daimler is forging ahead. The company piloted its “Mail on Holiday” program last year and says it doesn’t monitor which employees use it.
David Gregory announced on Twitter that he's leaving NBC News, where he's hosted Meet the Press since 2008. NBC political director Chuck Todd will be the next host of the weekly political chat show.