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5 things this week including a new lexicorn, tips from normal and more

1. employee engagement

We are, according to popular wisdom, in the middle of “the great resign”. The pandemic has encouraged people to reassess their work-life balance (including where they work from and how often they commute, if at all) and this has led to more people moving jobs. With a shortage of skilled labour and a growing economy, replacing staff can be tough. But, as this article in Management Today highlights, new research shows the need to pre-empt staff considering a switch. By the time someone starts to look around in earnest, the damage may already be done and the employee may have already disengaged. The researchers found that employee engagement for people just thinking of changing jobs is on average 36%, less than half that for those who intend to stay with the company. It highlights the importance of keeping employees fully engaged and the need to take seriously employee concerns on issues such as work-life balance and the requirement for fulfilling and satisfying work. It may be possible to have too nice a culture, but it's very expensive to lose good people for no reason. Supper Club members can join an online discussion on this subject with fellow Club member and founder of Invisble Edge, Rick Snyder in early December.

2. The ever-expanding lexicorn

As is the way with business jargon, it hasn’t taken long for the new(ish) use of unicorn – meaning a company with a £1bn valuation – to become debased and abused. Those of a delicate linguistic nature may want to skip to the next paragraph. The business “lexicorn” is growing, with decacorn and hectacorn already added to unicorn (£10bn and £100bn valuations respectively), but also minicorns (start-ups with £1m valuation and big dreams) that along the way are hoping to cross over to be either soonicorns (firm close to that magical £1bn valuation, but not yet there) or the presumably less immediate futurecorns. It’s even more cringe-inducing than either all the "preneurs" of the 2000s or all the "techs" that followed fintech. There's clearly a place for a portmanteau word (motel and brunch seem to pass muster), the real question has to be why are we so addicted to these ugly portmanteau?

3. lessons from normal

I refuse to call it a hectacorn, but this has been a big week for electric truck maker Rivian. Its IPO this week saw the firm, based in the splendidly named town of Normal, Illinois, land a valuation in excess of $100bn. This is despite it having never turned a profit and having delivered fewer than 200 trucks (most of them to employees). In fairness, it has the backing of Ford and the support of a little-known businessman called Jeff Bezos, whose niche delivery business has placed an order for 100,000 electric vans. True to the odd world of Rivian, Ford’s interest waned almost at the point it signed the deal (allegedly aboard a less-than-environmental private jet), and it has since dropped plans to tap into Rivian's know-how and developed its own rival electric pick-up. One of the keys to Rivian’s success appears to be having a charismatic technologist founder, the newly minted billionaire RJ Scaringe, who is social media savvy and culturally astute enough to recognise the power of a new car brand that promotes a net-zero lifestyle (tagline, preserving the natural world...forever). No wonder observers are calling it the new Tesla (although Scaringe is more often compared to Bezos) and no wonder investors have jumped in with both feet.

4.It’s not what you say, but how

Ever since Steve Jobs set the pattern, technology business founders are expected to give dynamic presentations (although few will ever match this 2012 presentation from then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer). Rivian’s Scaringe did a great job on his IPO investor pitch, majoring heavily on the company’s story, from his own childhood obsession with cars to Rivian's origin story, through funding struggles to its recent successes. The ark of the narrative would be familiar to those Supper Club members who joined the Club's workshop this week on how to give TED-level presentations every time. Expert presentation coach Susie Ashfield offered some excellent key tips.

5. Book of the week

Although he’s also a member of the tech billionaire club, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, allegedly gets so nervous and sweaty before a presentation that he has his assistant blow-dry his armpits. This is one of the less powerful insights offered by Russell Davies in Everything I Know about Life I Learned from PowerPoint. We have, Davies contends, become so familiar with presentation software, of which Powerpoint was the first and remains the most widely used, that it has become a tool “we hate to love”. But he adds, we should give it more time and more respect and remember to love it just the same. Read this book and it's hard to argue with him.