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w.184 | End of ZIRP, Thiel at Oxford, Cheesecake Factory & 90s Nostalgia, 12 Years A Deliverologist
Hope you’ve had a good weekend. I saw a quote on Twitter that I’ve been laughing about ever since because we are only one month into 2023. The reference is to a steep incline on mile 23 of the Boston Marathon:
So, basically, we are still at the bottom of the hill, and the only thing you can do is put one foot after another.
On that note, I’ve spent the last seven days debating and discussing the market potential and consumer willingness for parents to directly pay for supplements to their children’s education. Edutainment for ages 4-18. Who has the best data / research / thinking / market sizing on this? Please send my way 🙏 I’m beginning to fear I’m going to have to do it myself…
Good Reads: Sensible Investing
12 Years as a Deliverologist
Song of the Week: Closing Time
Good Reads: Sensible Investing
Higher Rates Will Lead to the Next Generation of Great Tech Startups. Supposedly written by Chamath Palihapitiya, but I bet someone on his team ghostwrote it.
Peter Thiel: Address and Q&A Oxford Union. What is the antonym of diversity? ‘Anti Anti Anti Anti Classical Liberalism.’
The Best Stock Research Tools for 2023 from Edwin Dorsey of The Bear Cave.
Nightcap: End of a 40-Year Era of Cheap Capital in the Mattress Industry. Post-disruption Serta Simmons Bedding greets a new beginning.
TL/DR: This is an analysis of the last 25 years of the mattress industry, tracking the ups and downs of cheap capital and private equity buy-outs after one of the industry leaders, SSB, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week.
I expect that we will see similar shakeouts as the fallout from the end of ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy) continues to unfold.
The Cheesecake Factory Knows What You Want. Too big to fail: How the Cheesecake Factory defied the restaurant industry’s rules of success. Interesting article on the massive success of The Cheesecake Factory. Last July, the company reported record revenue, $769 million, in its second quarter of 2021 and improved on that with $833 million in its second quarter of 2022.
“I mean, the Cheesecake Factory is the Michelin three stars of chain restaurants”
“It seems there aren’t that many restaurants that can out-vibe the Cheesecake Factory.”
“In the Cheesecake Factory’s case, millennial fondness for the restaurant is integral to its popularity. The ’90s represented economic prosperity for a lot of Americans. Millennials were teens and tweens then (pre-social media and just at the beginnings of the mass internet), and going out to eat and going out to malls were the highlights of their social routine.”
I can attest that 90s nostalgia is super attractive to millennials.
Gen Z to Shape the Economies of Tomorrow. Market research on GenZ by Dell. Admittedly self-serving research shows that the next generation expects a lot more technology and efficiency driven by technology in the future.
My 12-year anniversary of becoming a deliverologist.
Part 1 of my response to What is Delivery? How did you build Delivery Associates? What does it mean to be a ‘deliverologist’?
Sometimes the seemingly inconsequential decisions have a massive impact on your life. Twelve years ago this week, I started work on a project with the Government of Pakistan to reform its education system. McKinsey’s San Francisco Office was not particularly pleased, my parents were not jumping for joy, and most of my peers did not think this was a great career move.
I spoke no Urdu. I had never been to Pakistan before. I wasn’t an education or a government expert. But I did have a few things going for me. I had previously worked on a project in Nigeria reforming the retail operations of a pan-African bank, which is a lot like what is required for fixing schools. I had been advising a Lahore-based founder working on an insulation company. And, perhaps most consequentially, I had made a friend in the New York Office who had happened to write his senior thesis on the need for private schools as a solution to education system reform in his home country of Pakistan and had just been staffed to the project.
The senior partner heading up the endeavor wasn’t a normal consulting partner who had worked up the ranks but rather a lateral hire from the British government who had the crazy idea that you could take the method that he developed under Tony Blair and go global.
Crucially, the Chief Minister of Punjab was Shahbaz Shariff, a unique figure in Pakistani politics - a leader who relished working hard, holding people accountable, and driving for results. My role, an initial eight weeks, was to help the provincial education department of Punjab prepare for their first stock-take with the Chief Minister and see what could be done about building data systems for setting targets, building trajectories, and measuring progress.
The government had already signed up to the strategy and the delivery plan, called The Punjab Reform Roadmap. (Yes, I still have the powerpoint. It’s still masterclass in what you should do to reform a poor performing education system even down to the details of best practices for training officials and using prescripted lessons - something The Economist published about just this week as if it were a new insight).
Now we had to actually get it done. That’s the delivery part. The premise of Deliverology (a now well-documented approach of best-in-class performance management applied to the public sector) is that getting results in government requires 10% of the effort to directed toward the policy/strategy and 90% directed to implementation.
Two months turned into eight, and I was still working in Lahore as the government was making unprecedented progress in fixing the education system. The stars lined up in our favor. There was leadership commitment at the top, we could get the data systems to work, there were talented people across the civil service who adopted the approach and our team, led by Michael, was world-class.
When effectively applied Deliverology will always work. The reality is that it is rarely applied effectively.
The results have been published in many places, but the best account is from Sir Michael Barber himself who writes eloquently and persuasively in The Good News From Pakistan.
This early professional experience of working with Michael, mastering Deliverology, and experiencing how with a small-team you could produce amazing results in the most hopeless of circumstances changed me and my career forever.
But, these lessons of how Delivery Associates came to be and the lessons learned along the way are for another time. For now, I just remember fondly the many months and later regular visits I would make to lovely Pakistan.
Song of the Week: Closing Time
Here on YouTube.
Speaking of 90s nostalgia and life-changing decisions, the song of the week is Closing Time. As an older millennial, these songs and music videos with lead singers could be teenagers out of the Midwest with nerdy glasses.
At the time he was writing this song, Wilson’s wife was pregnant with their first child. Wilson realized that part of the song had lyrics representative of this life shift he was about to undergo.
“Closing Time” by Semisonic
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
This room won't be open 'til your brothers or your sisters come
So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, yeah
Selfie of the week
No selfie because we got Pakistan picture above.
Thanks for reading, friends. Please always be in touch.