business

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Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton - inspiring the troops
Sam Walton inspired Wal-Mart "associates" (ie. employees) with his own attentiveness, imaginative promotions, relentless expansion, and strong commitment to customer service.As well as incentivizing gung-ho employees with profit-sharing and stock-option plans, Walton became the cheerleader for the chain. He once cajoled workers with a remarkable promise: If the company surpassed projections, he would do the hula on Wall Street.To the delight of countless observers, Walton kept his word.["Weekly staff meetings at HQ begin with a cheer conceived by Sam Walton, starting with a 'Give me a W...' When they get to the hyphen in the store's name—called a 'squiggly'—Wal-Mart workers are required to shake their rumps."][To let off steam, workers at Matsushita Electric Company (in Japan) may visit a "worker ...
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Cornelius Vanderbilt - Vigilante Justice
Cornelius Vanderbilt, returning home after a long absence, was dismayed to discover that Charles Morgan and C. K. Garrison, his associates in the Accessory Transit Company, had used their power of attorney to wrest considerable control from him. Having recovered from his initial shock, Vanderbilt dictated a letter. "Gentlemen," he wrote, "you have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I shall ruin you."[Though Morgan and Garrison were not ruined, Vanderbilt did manage to regain control of his company.]
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Otto Kahn's Cousin
The financier Otto Kahn, famed for his patronage of the Metropolitan Opera House, was surprised one day to find a sign hanging above a run-down store: "ABRAM CAHN. COUSIN OF OTTO H. KAHN." Kahn's lawyers, ordered to have the offending sign removed, promptly threatened the owner with legal action. Several days later, Kahn personally visited the store again to see whether the offending sign had in fact been taken down. It had. In its place, however, was a new one: "ABRAM CAHN. FORMERLY COUSIN OF OTTO H. KAHN."
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Brendan Behan - Anglo-Saxon Swine
While working in Paris in 1949, Brendan Behan—a housepainter by trade—was asked to paint a sign on the window of a cafe to attract English tourists. Behan kindly complied, composing a short poem:Come in, you Anglo-Saxon swineAnd drink of my Algerian wine!'Twill turn your eyeballs black and blue,And damn well good enough for you!After receiving payment for the job, Behan fled before the cafe's proprietor had time to have the rhyme translated.[Behan was later imprisoned (twice) for IRA-related political offenses.]
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Young Bill Gates' First Business Contract
William H. Gates III had business on his mind from the very beginning. One day when he was ten years old, Gates drew up a contract—giving him unlimited access to his older sister's baseball mitt.
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Ray Kroc's Surprise Visit To A Local Mcdonald's
One day while driving through Southern California, McDonald's chief Ray Kroc reportedly paid a "surprise visit" to one of the company's restaurants. When he arrived, Kroc was annoyed to find employees rolling out a red carpet to welcome him. What could have tipped his employees off? Perhaps... Kroc's arrival in an 80,000 limousine. When a friend teased him about the incident, Kroc called the story utter nonsense, but added, "It was a $40,000 limousine.* Only an idiot would pay $80,000 for a car." * In any case, a lot of money in the '60s or '70's when this took place.
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H. L. Mencken asks Joseph Conrad for a story
As editor of The Smart Set, H. L. Mencken took Joseph Conrad under his wing at a time when he was virtually unknown in America. Years later, when Conrad had established himself as a writer, Mencken wrote to him asking for a story, noting the magazine's tight budget. Many weeks passed with no word. Finally, Conrad's agent wrote to say that Mencken could have his story—for 0. "For 0," Mencken replied, "you can haveThe Smart Set!"
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Sir Squire Bancroft, notorious tightwad
Sir Squire Bancroft was a notorious tightwad. Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree once took Bancroft to view His Majesty's Theatre, which Tree had recently built and lavishly furnished. Bancroft issued his verdict while examining the building from across the street: "There'll be an awful lot of windows to clean!"
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How Balzac's Poverty Cost Him Money
A Parisian bookseller, having pegged author Honore de Balzac as a promising young writer, decided to offer him 3,000 francs for his next novel. When he discovered that Balzac's address situated him in a squalid quarter of the city, he dropped his price to 2,000 francs. When, visiting the writer's home, he saw that Balzac was living on the top floor, his offer dropped to 1,500 francs. Finally, he entered Balzac's garret, where he found the man dipping a stale roll in a glass of water—whereupon he dropped his price to 300 francs.  The manuscript in question? La derniere fee (1823).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Balzac was so poor while writing La Comédie Humaine that he had to lock himself up in ...
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Banner Blooper At The Independence Motorcycle Rally
Every Fourth of July weekend, between eighty and a hundred thousand bikers and gawkers descend upon Hollister, California for the Independence Motorcycle Rally. In 2002, Mark Singer visited the town on assignment for The New Yorker. As he chatted with Ellen Brown, executive director of the rally, a caller delivered some embarrassing news: A giant banner which had been strung between utility poles on the town's main street was welcoming visitors to, oops, the 2001 instead of the 2002 rally. Brown's explanation? "It's hard to find good free help." [Why did Singer drive a car to the rally? "The only time in my life I attempted to operate a two-wheeled motorized vehicle—a Vespa, slightly larger than a child's stroller—I was ...