What we've been reading: Buyouts, questions and doing what you love

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Looking for something to read this fine Friday, or maybe over the weekend? Look no further.

This week’s edition of What We’ve Been Reading includes why you should question more, buyouts and why you're not meant to do what you love.

Valme: You’re not meant to do what you love

Valme Claro

“You are not meant to do what you love. You are meant to do what you’re skilled at.” This may sound like something a parent would say in the middle of a conversation in which they are trying to convince their child to study law instead of going to art school.

However, behind this statement there is a compelling truth: when you do what you are good at, it comes naturally to you, which means it is easy – and enjoyable.

In a world in which the only two valid options seem to be doing what you love or doing what will make you rich, could this be the midpoint that made us happier individually and better as a society?

“The real joy of daily work is in what we have to give,” writes Brianna Wies in her article. The idea might not be new (almost two thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius wrote that a man's true delight is to do the things he was made for) but it is definitely worth considering.

Fran: Univision is a mess


What do you think the odds are of the Washington Post running an exposé of its billionaire owner Jeff Bezos? Or would the Daily Mail dare impugn Viscount Rothermere? You know the answer to that, don’t you...

For all the pretensions and self-delusions of the media class - that they’re fearless truth-tellers - we (and they) know who butters our bread at the end of the day. Fearless journalism is only allowed insofar as it doesn’t threaten the interests of the owner (or the owner’s buddies).

But here’s a killer exception: this scathing takedown of Univision by a team of writers at Gizmodo’s special projects desk. Gizmodo, if you didn’t know, is wholly owned by Univision.

And yes, the headline is about right: Univision is a mess. Corporate raiding, craven leadership and greed have hobbled what was once a powerful media force. And now, like always, employees are paying the price.

The story, for me, is really about leveraged buyouts. The concept has appeared in AccountingWEB’s orbit before. Companies like Toys r Us have fallen prey to it. In essence, investors borrow a huge sum of money to acquire a company and then make that company responsible for paying back the debt.

Investors will deny this, of course. They’ll say ‘Oh no, we’ll service this debt by growing the business’. Or ‘growing into your capital structure’, as it’s called. But inevitably, when a company is leveraged to the hilt, it means cuts and layoffs.

Which another reporter at Gizmodo incredulously described as “It’s legal to do this. It’s legal, if you’re rich enough, or carefully enough obscured behind the legal fiction of a hedge fund or corporation, to borrow vast sums of money, purchase a company with it, and then simply pass that debt along to the people who do the company’s work and make its products, by stripping their jobs so you can redirect their salaries toward debt payment.”

So who knows what’ll happen to Gizmodo. If it dies, I’ll be sad. The network of sites that it publishes have all thrived through fearless, funny writing. No branded content, no dependency on Facebook - just good stuff.

And now that’s in danger and the cuts have already started. “Even if we survive this round of cuts relatively unscathed,” the piece concludes, “our unstable, bumbling, debt-ridden corporate parent can decide to shut us down or turn these sites into a hellscape of branded content and inane social video at any point. But they can’t do it in the dark.”

Richard: The surprising power of questions

Richard Hattersley

I’ve got a question for you. How much do you question? Sure, Einstein once said “question everything”. But, really, does it matter if you question everything. And, frankly, do you really want to know the answer? Why bother? You’d just be wasting everybody’s time.

Accountants are no strangers to questioning. Their forensic penchant to scrutinise numbers makes questioning an essential component of their training and day-to-day skills. But why do so many shun questioning?

Perhaps it’s egotism (why wouldn’t anyone want to listen to my 20 min monologue?) or maybe it's apathy. Whatever it is, the Harvard Business Review believes that it’s a missed opportunity.

“Questioning is a uniquely powerful tool for unlocking value in organisations,” the essay authors write as they argue that businesses should hone their questioning skills.

“It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement, it builds rapport and trust among team members. And it can mitigate business risk by uncovering unforeseen pitfalls and hazards.”

So, what’s the first step? Well, as simple as it sounds, it’s just to ask more questions. So, what are you waiting for?


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Contributions from the AccountingWEB.co.uk editorial team.


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