"Today the Afghans have proven that, just as they were ready to die for their country, today they are ready to sacrifice and hand over power peacefully." -- Younus Qanooni, chief delegate of the Northern Alliance, at the Bonn meeting on Afghanistan Cash-strapped companies cutting back on travel and new hires have dealt a big blow to an annual ritual: MBA on-campus recruiting. Elite and not-so-elite business schools report big drops this year. At MIT's Sloan School, 47 of the 240 companies at the January, 2001, job fair have canceled this year. Others report 40% fewer recruiters, with the sharpest drops in consultants and investment banks.
So rather than wait for the jobs to come to them, students are going to the jobs. Field trips--in which students visit companies and seek out networking opportunities in the hope of getting an offer--have long been part of campus recruiting. But this year, some B-schools report doubling the number of trips and making more out of the ones they take. Cornell's Johnson School usually takes 100 students on two fall trips, to Wall Street and Silicon Valley. This year it added Boston and Seattle. "We're stressing that they need a plan A, plan B, and plan C," says Associate Dean Dick Shafer.
More students are going: A Wharton tour of Philadelphia companies had 150 students, double last year's number. "With the economic state we're in, these visits are a critical outreach tool," says Wharton's director of MBA career management, Robert Bonner. "If you're in their city, they'll open the door because you're there." MBA students at Duke are signing up for a "full blitz" of January treks to cities such as New York and San Francisco, says Duke's Sheryle Dirks. But the bigger issue, she notes, is if companies "actually have hiring to do." A nasty bicoastal legal battle is erupting--but not in court. On Nov. 30, Harvard Law School Professor John Coates published a controversial article in the California Law Review. One of his key points: Companies taken public by Silicon Valley law firms in the early '90s didn't get good advice when it came to protecting against hostile takeovers, compared with those advised by New York law firms. As a result, Coates, citing one example, says these unlucky clients will have a hard time fending off unwanted suitors. The California firms "have powerful brand names and hold themselves out as `corporate law' firms, yet they seem to have provided inferior advice," writes Coates, 37, who used to be a partner at a Manhattan firm, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
The professor's targets accuse him of misunderstanding the unique needs of technology companies--many of which do not want takeover defenses. "The article is a bunch of nonsense," says Craig Johnson, who left one of the critiqued firms, Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati in 1993 to start Venture Law Group. "It reflects a provincial, East Coast-centric point of view." Coates is now planning his next article, investigating, among other things, whether Valley lawyers make more mistakes. More companies are jumping on a folksy-familial ad trend, using elderly family members to promote the authenticity of their products. Here are some examples:
Samuel C. Johnson, the 73-year-old retired chairman, debuted in November talking about the strengths of family ownership.
Retired former owner Bob Colombosian and his Armenian-immigrant mother discuss starting the family business in Massachusetts.
Chairman Gert Boyle, 77, tests jackets on her son, Tim, in extreme conditions such as being iced over in a skating rink.
WENDY'S PERDUE CHICKEN
Founder Dave Thomas has been the chain's folksy spokesman for 13 years. Frank Perdue started owner-turned-spokesman ads in 1971. Son Jim took over in 1995.
Data: BusinessWeek The magic of Harry Potter knows no bounds--not even language. The wildly popular boy-wizard books will soon be translated into Latin, ancient Greek, and Welsh, and out by 2003. J.K. Rowling's books are already available in 40 languages, including Zulu. "Harry Potter has become a modern-day classic," says Emma Matthewson, Rowling's editor at Bloomsbury Publishing.
Harrius Potter, as he'll be known in Latin, is in good company. Winnie Ille Pu was the first children's book to appear in Latin, in 1961.
Rowling, who studied classics at Exeter University, is thrilled, says Matthewson: "The books are a treasure trove of references to classical mythology." Bloomsbury has found a Latin translator, a retired professor who also translated Paddington Bear, or Ursus Nomine Paddington. But it's still looking for someone to handle what Bloomsbury says will be the first children's book in ancient Greek.
If Harry can revive a dead language, he really must be a wizard after all. With tech in a slump, lawmakers feared the industry would reduce political giving this year. Not to worry: Silicon Valley is maintaining a surprisingly high profile despite the dot-com bust and recession.
In just the first eight months of this year, computer, software, and Internet companies and their execs funneled a hefty $5 million to candidates and political parties, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The political action committee Technology Network has raised $300,000 for House Republicans this year, vs. $200,000 last year.
Why are these relative newcomers to the Washington game giving generously now? Partly the Microsoft (MSFT) case. Says Technet's President Rick White: "In the last few years, CEOs started to understand that they can't afford to ignore the government." Execs also have more time to focus on policy than during the boom, he adds. Legislation benefiting the industry also has slowed. To keep their seats at the table, techies have to keep the checks coming. Not many magazines are devoting special issues to technology these days. Then again, most don't share Martha Stewart's view of the subject. In "At Home With Technology," the December special issue of Martha Stewart Living, the doyenne of domestic chic takes on everything from making slipcovers for unsightly stereo speakers to ordering exotic foods off the Internet. Stewart's goal is to make technology accessible and aesthetically pleasing. Her tips for the tech-challenged include:
-- Cord labels. Use old, plastic bread-bag clips to identify and label individual cords and wires.
-- Computerized quilts. A $4,000 digital sewing machine makes embroidering and quilting a cinch.
-- Monitor whirligig. Use glassine or origami paper to make pinwheels that "spin languidly in the warm air that rises from a [computer] monitor."
-- Electronic gardening journal: Software can help you decide if that purple smoke bush really belongs beside a chartreuse creeping jenny.
It makes for an eccentric package at a time when tech coverage at other publications has plummeted. Maybe victims of the dot-com purge can find comfort in computer crafts. The number of consoles moving on eBay (EBAY) may show what the game crowd really wants. As of late November, eBay was listing the following, often new, and at prices not much higher than retail:
4,124 consoles, 826 games
2,642 consoles, 524 games
1,238 consoles, 5,331 games