Tuesday, October 17, 2017

LESSONS FROM EQUIFAX

The massive data breach at Equifax has focused attention on the substantial risks for businesses that collect, store, use, and share personal information.  The CEO of Equifax resigned and the long term viability of the company is being questioned. While the full impact of the breach and its ramifications for individuals whose personal information has been compromised remains unknown, there are valuable lessons to be learned on how to prepare for a data breach.

It is not a question of whether or not your business will experience a data breach. It is just a matter of when and how often.

Are you ready? No matter what the size of your business, you should have adequate safeguards and security systems in place to protect against any unauthorized access to and use of your data.

In collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Gray Plant Mooty has recently published A Legal Guide to Privacy and Data Security.  Here are some steps to mitigate risk and be better prepared when you discover that someone has accessed your system or network without authorization.  See pages 129-145 of the Guide for a more detailed discussion of best practices and tips for your business to take before any breach.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Steve Rushin, Sting-Ray Afternoons: A Memoir (Little, Brown and Company, 2017)

Anyone who has chanced upon my blog posts and actually read them has likely noticed that my reviews usually invoke a certain reminiscent quality. Something in a book triggers a personal memory, or an experience leads me to read a book, so that the act of reading actually becomes an interaction between ideas, experiences, and memories. Having recently entered the seventh decade of my life, I have a lot of memories (and, fortunately, I can still remember them, even in my seventh decade).

Usually, any given book has just a handful of such points of contact—a song I remember, an incident I recall as if it occurred yesterday—but in the case of Sting-Ray Afternoons, we’re talking about a whole decade of life. This book came highly recommended by one of my partners, a person who is of similar vintage, and it doesn’t disappoint. Steve Rushin, a writer for Sports Illustrated, has produced a book that captures the feel and fabric of adolescent life in suburban Minneapolis during the 1970s.

One aspect of that time that I’d forgotten is how quickly technology changed. We started the decade with vinyl records, transitioned to 8-track tapes, then to cassettes, and, by the end of the decade, we found our way to the first compact discs. The entrepreneurial activity that led to this revolution in how we listened to music led to waves of change within both the music industry and the entire economy. Digital music platforms such as iTunes and Spotify would not even exist today had it not been for the technological development and entrepreneurship that led to digitized music by the end of the 1970s. Without this evolution, Apple and Steve Jobs could have ended up being just footnotes of incredible entrepreneurship in the bygone era that led to the development and proliferation of personal computers. 

The author’s father, who starts the book as a salesman for 3M’s 8-track tape department, is, by the end of the decade, looking at an industry that is quickly dying. Like any good entrepreneur, he needs to figure out how to adapt to changes in the industry around him. 

I wonder what he’d think about the resurgence of vinyl?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

What I Learned About Business from Garth Brooks

This past Saturday, hubby Mike and I road-tripped to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for Garth Brooks’ evening performance at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.  This was my eighth time (in my fifth state!) seeing Garth live, but the night was just as magical as ever.  Garth has a way of making his entire audience forget the outside world and welcoming them into his club for the night, and this has to be part of his unparalleled success in the music industry and his ability to sell out crowd after crowd, year after year
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For this show, Mike scored some incredible tickets in third row center, close enough to make eye contact with the big man himself a couple times, and to watch as my neighbors fist-bumped and high-fived him at various points in the evening.  This vantage point gave me a new glimpse into Garth’s world, and gave me a few ideas about how businesses might take a lesson from Garth to boost their own success:

  1. Play to Your Audience.  Garth uses his whole stage well, and does his best to acknowledge every person in the crowd, spending his entire show pointing, waving, and nodding to people, whether up close or in the rafters.  He speaks to the crowd often, gets emotional with them, and genuinely thanks them.  Whether a fan or a customer, you feel more loyal and engaged (and more likely to return) if you feel acknowledged.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How I Successfully Scaled a Shrimp Boil

Some people say that I tend to over-engineer the fun out of things. In typical lawyerly fashion, I would argue that over-engineering something is the fun part.  So it was that this past weekend, I found myself standing in the parking lot of my rental townhome, holding an aluminum paddle the size of a canoe oar, and stirring a massive steel pot full of boiling water while shouting over the deafening sound of a 12 inch propane flame. 

This post comes about from the deep satisfaction I take in having successfully scaled my most recent shrimp boil over the last month, from its humble, stovetop beginnings. Just like any good idea (business or otherwise), step one was the proof of concept stage. Extensive online research went into finding the best-reviewed spice mix combination, of which we hastily ordered an entire 4.5 pounds. According to the bag, this amount of spice is sufficient for a full 65 pounds of shrimp. This fact was, of course, absolutely no help at all given that “Test Batch No.1” was a single pound of shrimp, two corn cobs, and (according to my start-up-entrepreneur-style notes), “like half a bag of potatoes, or so.” Even though I’m a lawyer, the math problem didn’t scare me away from completing some back-of-the-napkin math to figure out how to convert 1/65th of 4.5 pounds into tablespoons—which I promptly dumped it into a standard stovetop stock pot. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

IT’S FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON! - A giant business and the enemy of employee productivity

As we set our rear view mirrors on Labor Day, the pastimes of summer (and the abundance of sunshine) are receding day by day, hour by hour.  For many, this means an end to evening rounds of golf, weekends spent enjoying the lakes; and, for those—such as my grandmother—more serious about the fashion implications of the holiday weekend, the seasonal retirement of our white garments.

But with every end comes a new beginning, and, to millions of sports enthusiasts, the beginning of fall marks the advent of one of the most exciting times of the year –fantasy football season.  


Fantasy football is a game where individual participants or “owners” assemble an imaginary team of real professional football players into a “fantasy team”.  Fantasy Teams compete each week based on the statistical performance of the real players in actual games. While there are many fantasy football formats, most game types award points when players on a fantasy team catch or pass the football, run for yardage, score touchdowns, kick field goals, make interceptions . . . the list goes on and on. The objective is to accumulate more points than your competitor in any given week. A fantasy football season typically culminates in a playoff where the best teams go head to head to attain the glory of league champion (and in many cases a cash prize).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Is Anybody Surprised that the SEC is Interested in Blockchain and ICOs?

If you haven’t heard of Blockchain or, like most of people, if you’ve heard of it but still don’t understand what it is, it is essentially a decentralized (or “distributed” in computer speak) digital way to record transactions across many computers. This makes it very difficult to alter the record later and facilitates easier verification of transactions.  There are both open “permissionless” blockchain networks and private “permissioned” blockchain networks.

I’m not going to try and explain the details regarding transactions, blocks, batches, encoding, hashes and links, mostly because I’m not really sure I understand them; the technical speak makes my eyes glaze over pretty quickly. What I can tell you is that there are major applications of blockchain being used in cryptocurrencies (e.g. BitcoinDashBlackcoin) and many industries (including banking and insurance) are using or at least exploring the use of blockchain. Even the Big 4 accounting firms are experimenting with Blockchain.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trade Secrets: Tips for Protecting the “Other” IP Right

Ask an entrepreneur what type of intellectual property protections are most used by businesses to help create competitive advantages and they’ll probably answer with some combination of patents, copyright, and/or trademarks. But they would be wrong. The most common form of protection used by businesses is actually secrecy.

Until recently, trade secrets received less attention than other forms of IP. The recent passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (“DTSA”) in 2016 has more companies thinking about trade secrets as a tool to protect intellectual property. Although the DTSA created more robust trade secret protections, businesses must still take active measures to protect and prevent the unwanted spread of their trade secrets.