Fighting over suburban character: Show-Me’s in Naperville

One long-lasting idea about suburbs is that they are family-friendly places. So when a business comes to town that may not fit that image, some residents can become angered. Such is the case with a new restaurant that wants to move into Naperville:

Naperville residents will get a chance this week to formally voice their opinions about a controversial plan to open a restaurant called Show-Me’s, which opponents say will feature scantily clad waitresses who do not fit the city’s “family-friendly” image.

An open forum will be held during a Naperville Liquor Commission meeting Thursday.

But a group of about 30 people let their feelings be known during a demonstration Friday. Standing in front of the proposed site, they loudly chanted “Stop the show!” to passing cars.

The protesters have suggested this restaurant does not fit with the character of the community. The community’s mayor is on the record suggesting that he “thought it was a regular restaurant as far as I was concerned” and the clothing of the waitresses was “tastefully done.”

While this seems like just a small group of protesters, the question they raise is an interesting one: what exactly is a suburban community supposed to look like? What businesses and residents fit its image? As the mayor suggested, the proposed restaurant is not breaking any laws or rules so it would hard to reject their liquor license proposal. But necessarily following the rules or laws is not the concern of many suburbanites who have ideas about their ideal community. Local politicians have to account for (or at least acknowledge) these feelings and images even if the proposed business breaks no rules and brings in tax dollars.

(Additionally, it always interesting to read comments on stories about Naperville – it tends to bring out people who both intensely dislike and like the city.)

How the liberal arts can be good for a future in business

Edward Tenner argues that there is evidence that liberal arts degrees can be very helpful for business careers. Tenner considers the ramifications of one survey that showed that certain fields assumed to have direct links to jobs, like psychology, do not lead to satisfied majors:

The survey has clear implications for the humanities. Their degrees are not the prologues to flipping burgers that some people suppose. Many students are using degrees in humanities to launch satisfying careers. Why not study how their courses have helped them? Why not find better ways to link the humanities with business?

What might be most helpful for students is to hear this information directly from business owners and managers.

Why add this line in interview about Netflix in Canada: “Americans are somewhat self-absorbed”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the Netflix CEO (and co-founder) discussed the company’s new foray into the Canadian market. Netflix prices in Canada will be one dollar cheaper: $7.99 vs. $8.99 in the United States. But the CEO added another line that seems superfluous to the discussion and may not be helpful to his company’s efforts in the American market:

THR: American services when they enter the Canadian market typically charge the locals more than they charge stateside. Why the discount for Canadians?

Hastings: We want to provide an incredible value for Canadians, and it’s the lowest price we have anywhere in the world for unlimited screenings. And anyone can try it for free for a month. It’s pretty addictive.

THR: Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?

Hastings: How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It’s something we’ll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.

I’m guessing more Americans will pay attention now to this than would have before. Whether he is right or wrong about Americans being self-absorbed, why potentially hurt a large market when he didn’t have to?

The majors of college football players; sociology 2nd

The Wall Street Journal decided to examine the majors of “major-college” college football players (though the same story says the sample is “BCS week-one football starters”). The top two majors are business and sociology:

Only six of the 1,104 players whose majors we found were interested in art, music or film, but sociology-related topics (134 majors) and business (155) piqued their interest. An additional 108 students are majoring in a communications-related field, while only two apiece are studying architecture and mathematics. English, one of the more common majors among all college students, drew only four football players—two more than the number of players majoring in zoology. And only one player, Oregon’s Mark Asper, is studying Spanish, the lone foreign language major we found.

Some results were expected—79 players are majoring in athletics and health-related fields—but there were some rarities like fisheries and wildlife (Curtis Hughes, Minnesota) and recreation and leisure studies (Luke Stocker, Tennessee). Some majors seemed extra popular at specific schools, like the 16 starters at Georgia Tech who are majoring in management. (A team spokesman says it’s not easier than other majors, it’s just “really popular.”)

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that this count is somewhat representative of college football players. Three questions come to mind:

1. So are the top majors on this list considered easier by many players? I wonder what the colleges would say about this.

2. How many players end up in a career (after they stop playing football) related to/close to their major?

3. Considering some of the concerns about graduation rates at BCS schools, I want to know whether certain majors of football players have a higher proportion of players who don’t complete their degree.

Identifying four types of Evangelical leaders

A new sociological study examines how Evangelical business leaders mix faith and business:

A new study based on interviews with hundreds of American leaders who are evangelical Christians (including CEOs, presidents, and chairs of large businesses and their equivalents in government and politics, nonprofits, arts, entertainment, the media, and sports) finds enormous variety in how leaders engage their personal faith in workplace decision-making.

“While everyone in the workplace has to make decisions—whether they’re the janitor or the manager—the most consequential decisions are made at the top, and we wanted to look at how they affect their businesses,” says D. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University.

Lindsay found that most evangelical leaders fit into one of four decision-making categories: pragmatic, heroic, circumspect, and brazen.

Read about the four types in the rest of the article. The study suggests that Evangelicals live out their faith in a variety of ways. What predicts which type people fall into? And then how does acting as this type as a business leader affect their organization?

Of course, one could always ask if there is a more correct type…

Companies come, companies go: Blockbuster edition

Blockbuster has been on the economic edge for a while now and is apparently close to filing for bankruptcy.

Perhaps Blockbuster is a microcosm of the economic situation in America over the last 25 years: it quickly grew in size to fill a market niche, expanded to what too turned out to be too many locations, and then eventually has reached a point where it needs to seriously regroup due to technological change and some other reasons. I remember seeing them sprout in the Chicago area. Within a few years, we went from no nearby stores to numerous locations within 5 miles (and even more of its type if we were to count businesses like Hollywood Video). They were everywhere, including suburban downtown locations and strip malls.

I would be interested in reading a sociological study about how this company expanded but then had trouble adapting to the changing market for movies and video games. How did they successfully find customers early on and then lose those customers later on? How did Blockbuster’s growth accompany general suburban growth, housing patterns, and growth of other important retailers?

The land of fake businessmen

Atlantic’s Mitch Moxley reports on a Chinese business practice: hiring fake businessmen to help craft an image. Part of the job:

As we waited for the ceremony to begin, a foreman standing beside me barked at workers still visible on the construction site. They scurried behind the scaffolding.

“Are you the boss?” I asked him.

He looked at me quizzically. “You’re the boss.”

Actually, Ernie was the boss. After a brief introduction, “Director” Ernie delivered his speech before the hundred or so people in attendance. He boasted about the company’s long list of international clients and emphasized how happy we were to be working on such an important project. When the speech was over, confetti blasted over the stage, fireworks popped above the dusty field beside us, and Ernie posed for a photo with the mayor.

If this is common practice, couldn’t some companies lose face (rather than build their image) when others point out or find out that their businessmen are really fakes?

An odd subtext: the requirements for the job included “a fair complexion and a suit.” The fake businessmen are there to indicate that the Chinese company has connections. A “darker complexion and a suit” doesn’t fit the bill for connections? Perhaps a “darker complexion, a suit, and an American accent”?