By: LEADERS, The Economist, January 2015

In the early 20th century Henry Ford combined moving assembly lines with mass labour to make building cars much cheaper and quicker—thus turning the automobile from a rich man’s toy into transport for the masses. Today a growing group of entrepreneurs is striving to do the same to services, bringing together computer power with freelance workers to supply luxuries that were once reserved for the wealthy. Uber provides chauffeurs. Handy supplies cleaners. SpoonRocket delivers restaurant meals to your door. Instacart keeps your fridge stocked. In San Francisco a young computer programmer can already live like a princess.

Yet this on-demand economy goes much wider than the occasional luxury. Click on Medicast’s app, and a doctor will be knocking on your door within two hours. Want a lawyer or a consultant? Axiom will supply the former, Eden McCallum the latter. Other companies offer prizes to freelances to solve R&D problems or to come up with advertising ideas. And a growing number of agencies are delivering freelances of all sorts, such as and Elance-oDesk, which links up 9.3m workers for hire with 3.7m companies.

The on-demand economy is small, but it is growing quickly (see article). Uber, founded in San Francisco in 2009, now operates in 53 countries, had sales exceeding $1 billion in 2014 and a valuation of $40 billion. Like the moving assembly line, the idea of connecting people with freelances to solve their problems sounds simple. But, like mass production, it has profound implications for everything from the organisation of work to the nature of the social contract in a capitalist society. Read more...


By: Clayton M. Christensen, Dina Wang, and Derek van Bever, Harvard Business Review

After years of debate and study, in 2007 McKinsey & Company initiated a series of business model innovations that could reshape the way the global consulting firm engages with clients. One of the most intriguing of these is McKinsey Solutions, software and technology-based analytics and tools that can be embedded at a client, providing ongoing engagement outside the traditional project-based model. McKinsey Solutions marked the first time the consultancy unbundled its offerings and focused so heavily on hard knowledge assets. Indeed, although McKinsey and other consulting firms have gone through many waves of change—from generalist to functional focus, from local to global structures, from tightly structured teams to spiderwebs of remote experts—the launch of McKinsey Solutions is dramatically different because it is not grounded in deploying human capital. Why would a firm whose primary value proposition is judgment-based and bespoke diagnoses invest in such a departure when its core business was thriving?

For starters, McKinsey Solutions might enable shorter projects that provide clearer ROI and protect revenue and market share during economic downturns. And embedding proprietary analytics at a client can help the firm stay “top of mind” between projects and generate leads for future engagements. While these commercial benefits were most likely factors in McKinsey’s decision, we believe that the driving force is almost certainly larger: McKinsey Solutions is intended to provide a strong hedge against potential disruption.

In our research and teaching at Harvard Business School, we emphasize the importance of looking at the world through the lens of theory—that is, of understanding the forces that bring about change and the circumstances in which those forces are operative: what causes what to happen, when and why. Disruption is one such theory, but we teach several others, encompassing such areas as customer behavior, industry development, and human motivation. Over the past year we have been studying the professional services, especially consulting and law, through the lens of these theories to understand how they are changing and why. We’ve spoken extensively with more than 50 leaders of incumbent and emerging firms, their clients, and academics and researchers who study them. In May 2013 we held a roundtable at HBS on the disruption of the professional services to encourage greater dialogue and debate on this subject.  Read more...


By: ROB BIEDERMAN, Denver Business Journal


Today's businesses have a new secret weapon: Employees who are available at any time from anywhere in the world.

Do you need a blog post written, but don't have the time to do it? What about a new logo? Freelancers are perfect for tasks that you can't complete internally or those that would be cheaper to outsource.

But to ensure you're hiring the right person, you need a solid process for vetting and working with freelancers.

Here are six strategies for forging a successful partnership:

1. Vet your freelancer
When hiring a freelancer, you need to make sure you bring on someone who's suited for the task you need completed. Don't be afraid to ask for references or samples of past work. Take a close look at the freelancer's portfolio so you can see what she's delivered for similar assignments. A quick chat with a former client can tell you whether this person is right for your project. You can also have freelancers go through your standard HR vetting process or speed it up by using a hiring site that lists freelancers' ratings and client testimonials. Read more...


By: CAITLIN HENDEE, Denver Business Journal

Q&A: Brad Feld talks how tech and social go hand-in-hand

One of a series of interviews with Colorado's business social-media leaders.

Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group LLC, speaks at Bloomberg Link Empowered Entrepreneur Summit in New York, U.S., in April 2011. Peter Foley

Brad Feld, managing director of Foundry Group LLC, speaks at Bloomberg Link Empowered Entrepreneur Summit in New York, U.S., in April 2011. Peter Foley

Many techies know the name of Brad Feld— that's because he's been investing in small software startups since the early 1990s, many of which have gone on to be extremely successful companies. 

With a Klout score of 79 and over 220,000 cumulative followers on  Twitter,  Facebookand  LinkedIn, it's safe to say that when Feld talks, people listen. 

How do you leverage social media for your business?

I just write and tweet what I feel like. There’s a huge amount of interaction. I've been blogging since 2004, so I generate a huge amount of content about what we do and venture capital and what I do as a human. I tweet out my thoughts, things I find interesting. ... I have a lot of interaction with people on Twitter and on my blog feed. ... I directly respond to email and tweets. ... And anything that you see that has my name, I have written...Read more


By: JENNIFER SMITH, Wall Street Journal 

Despite Advances, Women Still Lag Behind Men in Billing Rate, Management Roles

Despite notching significant gains in the legal world, female law-firm partners continue to lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to billing rates, commanding on average 10% less for their services, according to a new analysis of $3.4 billion in legal work.

Lawyer Patricia K. Gillette said some female rainmakers 'are not getting the credit for what they do.' Ramin Rahimian for The Wall Street Journal

Lawyer Patricia K. Gillette said some female rainmakers 'are not getting the credit for what they do.' Ramin Rahimian for The Wall Street Journal

The gap begins at the junior lawyer level, and is more pronounced among seasoned attorneys at major firms, persisting even when partners possess similar levels of experience and work in the same market, according to the review by Sky Analytics Inc., a provider of software to help companies track legal spending and invoices.

For example, senior male litigators at regional firms in Los Angeles with more than 25 years of experience charged on average 8.3% more than their female equivalents—$487 an hour versus $450.

In New York, the average male partner at a 1,000-plus lawyer firm with 13 to 24 years of experience representing investment banks was billed out at about $679 an hour, nearly 25% more than the average female partner, whose rate was $544.

"It was very significant, across all categories," said Silvia Hodges Silverstein, vice president of strategic market development at Sky Analytics. Ms. Silverstein, who teaches law-firm management at Fordham and Columbia law schools, looked at three years of billing data from more than 3,000 law firms.

The findings highlight a persistent gender gap in the legal profession despite inroads made by women over the past four decades. The statistics echo results from earlier surveys that found similar discrepancies in the compensation realm.

One-third of U.S. lawyers and judges are now women—compared to roughly 4.8% in 1970, according to U.S. census data—but they remain relatively rare among the top ranks of the profession.

Women make up only 17% of so-called equity partners with ownership stakes at the 200 top-grossing U.S. law firms, according to the National Association of Women Lawyers, and they are similarly underrepresented in management roles and on powerful governing committees. By contrast, an overwhelming majority of so-called "rainmaker" lawyers credited with bringing in substantial business are men, the association's most recent survey found.

"Women are less likely than men to reach the highest levels…and when they do they are still paid somewhat less than their male peers," said Stephanie Scharf, a senior partner with Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago, and a past president of the association.

Ms. Scharf said hourly rates are often tied to a lawyer's status in the firm—whether an attorney is a department head of a particular practice, for example, or sits on the firm's executive committee—and don't necessarily reflect a person's marketability or skill level.

"To the extent women partners are not advancing into the highest levels of firms," she said, "then their billing rates will reflect that situation."

Some women attribute the broader achievement gap to the often subjective ways that law firms evaluate, reward and promote partners.

"It's all a series of backroom assessments and backroom deals," said Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. "It's just like a petri dish for gender bias."

Firms that responded to the National Association of Women Lawyers survey said key obstacles to women's advancement include lack of business development opportunities, work-life balance issues and attrition, as women lawyers leave firms for better job opportunities elsewhere.

Some prominent women lawyers say they charge as much—and are as well compensated—as their male colleagues, but note that is not always the case for women with less power.

"If you are a woman and you control a lot of business, the firm is going to want to keep you happy," said Patricia K. Gillette, an employment lawyer at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco who is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at increasing retention of female lawyers.

It’s all a series of backroom assessments and backroom deals. It’s just like a petri dish for gender bias.
— Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law

She said the problem often occurs one rung below, among female partners who may bill thousands of hours a year but aren't regarded as rainmakers—even if their skill, time and energy has helped land a client or significantly expanded that relationship. "They are not getting the credit for what they do," she said, or opportunities to inherit big clients, which at some firms she said "tend to get handed down to men."

One of the more surprising findings in the Sky Analytics billing analysis: female associates were also billed out at lower rates, even though junior lawyers are often paid on a so-called lock-step basis according to the number of years they have been in practice. The average hourly billed rate of a female associate at a 1,000-plus lawyer firm was $27 less than that of her average male colleague—$377 compared with $404.

Several factors could affect the averages when it comes to billing. Different practices command varying rates, and legal services typically cost more in top-tier markets. Women may also make up a higher proportion of some practices, such as family law, that charge less, or be underrepresented in the priciest realms of legal practice, such as mergers and acquisitions.

One potential sticking point: so-called origination credit given to partners who are considered responsible for landing a piece of work. Firms vary widely in how they award those credits, but origination has traditionally played a significant role in determining how much partners earn, and therefore how much firms charge for their services.

According to a 2012 survey by legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, the average male equity partner reported getting origination credit for $2.7 million in billings, while the average female equity partner reported $2.3 million, or about 15% less.

Many women feel shortchanged by the process, said Ms. Williams, who surveyed about 700 mostly female partners on law firm compensation in 2009.

Among respondents whose firms awarded origination credit, four out of five said they had been denied their fair share in past years. Many also felt that when they got new clients, they were expected to share origination credits with others, while men weren't, she said.

Andrea Kramer, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP who has served on the firm's compensation and management committees, said women lawyers also tend to be asked to take on administrative and nonbillable "housekeeping" tasks that help law firms run smoothly but do little to boost individual pay or internal prestige.

Ms. Kramer, who often writes on gender and professional advancement, said conditions have improved somewhat since the 1990s, when men might not invite female partners out for drinks or to work-related dinners that provide internal networking opportunities. To help even the playing field, she advises women to refer business to other women, and to tout their accomplishments during pay negotiations.

Jennifer Smith - May 4th, 2014



Got a small project and a small budget? For some companies nowadays, the solution is simple: Rent an M.B.A. to do the work. Companies get trained talent to help with marketing, financial modeling and investor pitches for a fraction of what they would have to pay big firms like McKinsey & Co. or Boston Consulting Group Inc. Read More




Women's entrepreneurship has hit a media tipping point. The question is: Is it just a passing media fad that will soon be a blip on the radar screen, or is it actually a real, fundamental economic force that's reshaping the world? I think it's safe to say that it's the latter. Women-owned entities in the formal sector represent approximately 37% of enterprises globally — a market worthy of attention by businesses and policy makers alike. Read More > 


By JUDITH WARNER, The New York Times

In the early 2000s, the 'Opt-Out Generation', a group of women who were "highly educated, very accomplished, well-paid professionals with high-earning spouses, made headlines for leaving the work force just when they were hitting their stride".

Since that time, the economic landscape and culture of motherhood has altered considerably.

After 10 years and many, many “why women still can’t have it all” debates, Judith Warner wanted to know what happened to the mothers who gave up promising careers in the late 1990s and early 2000s to be home with their children.

"The 22 women I interviewed, for the most part, told me that the perils of leaving the work force were counterbalanced by the pleasures of being able to experience motherhood on their own terms. A certain number of these women — the superelite, you might say, the most well-off, with the highest-value name-brand educational credentials and powerful and well-connected social networks — found jobs easily after extended periods at home. These jobs generally paid less than their previous careers and were less prestigious. But the women found the work more interesting, socially conscious and family-friendly than their old high-powered positions." Read More > 



Harvard Business School is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of female MBAs. To commemorate, HBS created the W50 Portrait Project: a profile of 50 outstanding women alumni who were asked the following question: "Why do you do what you do?" Canopy's own Brooke Borgen was selected as an entrepreneur who is forging an independent path for herself and members of the Canopy portfolio. Read More > 


By JEFF WALD, Forbes

Due to the rapid growth of the freelance market, which is projected to outpace full-time workers by 2020, the BLS jobs report is quickly becoming obsolete in measuring the health of the employment landscape. Currently, the freelance market has 42 million independent workers, up from 10.3 million in 2005. Read More >




There is something about your youngest heading off to kindergarten. It makes you feel as if you will suddenly have time on your hands. It fills your head with ideas about working out again, reading again, taking up a hobby, and of course, going back to work.

We too once wore lipstick and shoes with heels that click-clicked down long marble hallways. We used to close our office door when we needed to think. We had lunch meetings.

We strategized and launched businesses, wrote white papers and crunched numbers for annual reports. We hired and fired people who did our bidding. Despite the high heels, we climbed corporate ladders… some to glass ceilings, which we sometimes broke. We put in hours and hours at the office, with our next promotion always top of mind. Read More >



By DAVID WESSEL, The Wall Street Journal

In case you missed the 43-year-old Facebook executive speaking with Oprah or on the cover of Time, the thesis of her "Lean In" book is this: We have educated a generation of women well, but too few make it to the top rungs. That's partly because of societal barriers and subtle biases remain, partly because of women's behavior.

Ms. Sandberg argues that, among other things, this is economically self-defeating. "If we tapped the entire pool of human resources and talent, our collective performance would improve," she says. Read More >



By JODY GREENSTONE MILLER, The Wall Street Journal

Why aren't more women running things in America? It isn't for lack of ambition or life skills or credentials. The real barrier to getting more women to the top is the unsexy but immensely difficult issue of time commitment: Today's top jobs in major organizations demand 60-plus hours of work a week.

In her much-discussed new book, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg tells women with high aspirations that they need to "lean in" at work—that is, assert themselves more. It's fine advice, but it misdiagnoses the problem. It isn't any shortage of drive that leads those phalanxes of female Harvard Business School grads to opt out. It's the assumption that senior roles have to consume their every waking moment. More great women don't "lean in" because they don't like the world they're being asked to lean into. Read More >



By LESLIE KWOH, The Wall Street Journal

McKinsey & Co. wants its moms back. The big consulting firm is quietly reaching out to female employees who left some years ago—presumably to start families—to see whether they are ready to return.

The issue of lost women workers remains a delicate one for many companies, particularly in highly skilled professions, such as consulting or banking.

Read More 



"Ahead of Health-Care Law, Small Firms Worry About Crossing the Crucial 50-Person Threshold"

By EMILY MALTBY, The Wall Street Journal

During her two-plus years in business, Elizabeth Turley has steadily recruited new employees for her apparel company, Meesh & Mia Corp., to keep pace with its rapid growth. But this year could be different. Instead of increasing her staff, she plans to hire independent contractors for tasks that can be outsourced, such as marketing and product development.

Her reason? Meesh & Mia is on the cusp of having 50 full-time employees. If the company hits that threshold, it will have to provide health coverage that meets government standards or potentially pay a penalty. Read More > 



Ed Trevisani hangs with his young sons when they come home from school. He volunteers as a Boy Scout leader, serves on nonprofit boards, and teaches management at Philadelphia-area universities. He’s even been known to sit on the back porch in the middle of the workday. Not bad for a guy who’s still pulling down as much as he did when he was a partner with IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Trevisani is a Wharton MBA and GE alum who now manages high-powered projects for Fortune 500 companies and advises executives on operational issues, change management, and potential mergers. He does all these assignments on a temporary basis, working as an independent contractor.

Let’s call Trevisani a supertemp. He and others like him belong to the “free agent nation” popularized a decade ago by the author and workplace guru Daniel Pink, but they inhabit its most rarefied precincts. Supertemps are top managers and professionals—from lawyers to CFOs to consultants—who’ve been trained at top schools and companies and choose to pursue project-based careers independent of any major firm. They’re increasingly trusted by corporations to do mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms. New intermediaries have sprung up to create a market for such marquee talent. Supertemps are growing in number, and we think they’re on the verge of changing how business works. Read More >



The recession brought widespread unemployment across the U.S., but it also prompted a spike in the number of freelance or independent workers.

More than 30 percent of the nation's workers now work on their own, and the research firm IDC projects the number of nontraditional office workers — telecommuters, freelancers and contractors — will reach 1.3 billion worldwide by 2015.

Typically, freelancers get to choose when and where they work. Many opt to set up shop in "co-working" arrangements, where they can rent a cubicle and other office resources by the day or the month. Read More >