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Old 10-12-2017, 09:22 PM
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A celebrated article that appeared in famed Harvard Business Review magazine (publish or perish) in 1960, is still taught in business schools. I encountered it getting my MBA (not at Harvard) and of course we all thought, 'how true'. But, it turns out, it's only 'kinda true'.

The article is about focusing on the business you are in, rather than the business you think you're in. And author Ted Levitt, who at that time was HBR's editor, uses the buggy whip 'industry' as an example of the deluded).

I promise to get to the point in a moment.

Ted says there that, "The classic example of this is the buggy whip industry. No amount of product improvement could stave off its death sentence. But had the industry defined itself as being in the transportation business rather than in the buggy whip business, it might have survived. It would have done what survival always entails -- that is, change". In other words he was stating that their path to survival was to understand they were in the transportation business, and they didn't, so these companies are no longer in business. Of course.

On the surface this seems right on the money. But right at that moment, in 1960, America's oldest whip maker WAS surviving, and not by 'realising' it was in the transportation business: that company was Keyston Bros., established California in 1873 by a pair of English whip makers.

Backing up: the automobile heavily impacted saddlers including Keyston Bros. Several saddlers made the shift almost immediately into automobiles: Keyston Bros, H.H. Heiser, and W.T. Wroe & Sons. "Almost immediately" being around the time the Model T emerged in 1908.

Didn't work. Even the city of Denver doesn't 'remember' H.H. Heiser as being an automobile dealer in a separate part of the city from its saddlery; instead it prospered as a gunleather maker. S.D. Myres didn't ever get into autos, but he did shift out of the transportation business (saddles) into gunleather and prospered. W.T. Wroe shifted to autos after apparently selling its leather biz to A.W. Brill around 1913; that business did not last yet August Brill got to 1954 (his death) by being the businessman he always was -- real estate -- and Arno Brill to 1968 (his death) by operating Brillville on Lake Austin.

Keyston Bros. itself prospered by making children's capgun holster sets, then the real sets after merging with Heiser. And Keyston is in business today.

But, and here's the point: the saddlers who thought of themselves as being in the cut-n-sew-from-sheet-materials business were the ones who survived; Keyston's business today is to supply bulk materials to be cut and sewn into various products. Both Myres and Heiser were saved by holsters not transportation, and Brill survived Wroe by -- making holsters and getting out of carriages. In fact most saddlers added holsters to their lineup, with Heiser noting that returning G.I.'s from WWII were driving up sales in that boom era 1945-1965). The ones that didn't 'last' were largely because of their humanity: the oldies died by then and few had anyone to carry on.

So Levitt's 'theory', though plausible, wasn't based on meeting with whip makers (and related which is saddlery). If he had, as you can see from the above he wouldn't have wanted to use them as an example.
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Old 10-12-2017, 09:32 PM
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Red,
With all due respect I think you contradict your own assertion. Perhaps I'm misreading you but you seem to want to dismiss Levitt's theory of marketing myopia, i.e. companies that define themselves as their current product are dead - they just don't know it yet. Then you turn around and give examples of leather companies that survived - how - by making other products and redefining their businesses. That's all Levitt was saying. You have to think beyond today's application of your capabilities and products to tomorrow's applications. Before Levitt there was Schumpeter's notion of "creative destruction" and today it takes the form of Christensen's "disruptive innovation" but they are essentially the same idea, i.e. adapt or die.
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Old 10-12-2017, 10:39 PM
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Red,
With all due respect I think you contradict your own assertion. Perhaps I'm misreading you but you seem to want to dismiss Levitt's theory of marketing myopia, i.e. companies that define themselves as their current product are dead - they just don't know it yet. Then you turn around and give examples of leather companies that survived - how - by making other products and redefining their businesses. That's all Levitt was saying. You have to think beyond today's application of your capabilities and products to tomorrow's applications. Before Levitt there was Schumpeter's notion of "creative destruction" and today it takes the form of Christensen's "disruptive innovation" but they are essentially the same idea, i.e. adapt or die.
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Point well taken which is why I said it is 'kinda true'. But Ted said 'transportation business' and I gave specific examples where that was the path to failure, and not success, for saddlers (whip making is a subset of saddlery; Keyston Bros bought out many saddlers in the early 20th century). If you'll read Ted's paper he made the same allegations against the railroads vs the airlines. So, if prominent whip maker Keyston Bros had chosen to follow Levitt's advice of 1960, there would have been no Keyston in 1960! And that is the irony of his article. Sometimes I express myself too intricately and the foundation is overlooked by readers.

In fact prominent saddlers of the very early 20th century were carriage merchants, including Wroe and even Brill. They were in the transportation business; but continuing in it as Wroe and Heiser did, was a failure for that part of the business. If Myres had not switched to holsters he would have failed; that fact is well documented vs. being my opinion. Switching away from transportation (saddlery) was their salvation; ditto.

Get it now? Change is good, but not for its own sake. Know your business, but get it right: the whip makers and saddlers that survived knew they weren't in the transportation biz. Instead they were companies that made things out of sheet materials, like today's Keyston. Even the Heiser and Myres examples would have shown you that.

We holster makers could be argued to be in the 'article carrier business'; that's how the USPTO classifies us in its system. But the real success story, Neale Perkins who founded Safariland 1964, chose to avoid making cell phone pouches (I advised him against it). Instead he expanded into body armour and car bras (both are cut and sew operations) -- and the former led to Spiderwire and a fishing line business, literally 'spun' off from body armour for the Warthog airplane noses. He went around one SHOT show showing off his nine-figure ATM receipt when he sold up :-). The present-day Safariland is in the military, paramilitary, and LEO equipment products business; and holsters are almost incidental to that. Perhaps there will come a time when they will wish they had defined their business differently.

Did I mention that business school professors not only must 'publish or perish' to keep their university positions; but they also supplement their incomes quite substantially by consulting to businesses (some have called this 'borrowing your watch to tell you what time it is'). And when they do, it's "Levitt said this" and "Porter said that"; these sacred texts have real impacts on companies and not all are positive. Sun Tzu, for example, wrote about literal bricks and mortar defences; it was someone else's bright idea that there could be parallels in business.
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Old 10-13-2017, 01:52 AM
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Gosh! Where to start? Given your condescension I hope you can pardon my candor. Your point was not “subtle” or “intricate.” Nor am I too dumb to understand it. It was ill-conceived and poorly articulated. I’ve read Leavitt’s article numerous times along with most of his textbooks. The empirical evidence for the concept of marketing myopia (or creative destruction or disruption) is abundant and inarguable. A few examples:

1. Retail – Wards and Sears were displaced by Sanger-Harris and Kmart and Target and big malls. Malls were killed by strip centers with specialty stores like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Old Navy and the big box stores for consumer packaged goods (Walmart). These specialty stores and big boxes are being displaced by Amazon.com and other online retailers.

2. Computers – the original computer companies (IBM, Sperry, Burroughs, Univac) were all (except IBM) put out of business by mini-computer companies because they missed the inflection point. Ironically, the mini-computer companies were disrupted and put out of business by the PC makers who are being displaced by smart phone makers.

3. Railroads – by defining their business as railroads they missed the advent of long-haul trucking, affordable consumer automobiles and an interstate highway system until they were irrelevant.

So, again, the theory is pretty simple when reduced to its essence – define your business as your current product form/customer base and you face extinction. Part of the flaw in your thinking is that you are applying theories developed to explain big shifts in large enterprises and major industries to little niche craft businesses. The basic idea is still valid – adapt or die – but most of these leather working outfits didn’t survive the craftsman that founded them. The whole leather working industry is a rounding error for the type of Fortune 500 companies that Leavitt and others were studying. Again, your exposition on Safariland’s success is a perfect illustration, not a repudiation, of Leavitt’s teachings. Safariland learned to apply its core capabilities (cut and sew) to new market applications and customer segments.

You have a dim view of business professors, with which I can sympathize, but it is usually the C student who wants to blame those dumb schmuck Harvard guys for getting it wrong. Yes, they do research and publish papers. That’s terrible for exactly what reason? No, most don’t do much consulting. It is actively discouraged at major institutions as a conflict of interest, which is actually pretty dumb since contact with real businesses would keep them grounded.

This is pretty arcane stuff for a gun forum and I suspect is of interest to exactly no one. I’ve lost interest too so I will bow out and give you the last word, Prof. Nichols.
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Old 10-13-2017, 05:25 AM
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It's really much simpler than all that, as I presciently pointed out in my 2011 address to the Orlando Florida SWCA annual symposium. The problem was horse manure. Too much of it. Let's get rid of horses, consequently no need for saddles, the smart guys will make holsters instead. We'll always need holsters, won't we ?
Now, everyone go back to bed and get some needed rest.
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Old 10-13-2017, 08:55 AM
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Always remember, Everyone has an opinion! Also remember, someone will always disagree!

Some people disagree, just to be seen and heard (or in this case herd)!

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Old 10-13-2017, 09:18 AM
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It's really much simpler than all that, as I presciently pointed out in my 2011 address to the Orlando Florida SWCA annual symposium. The problem was horse manure. Too much of it. Let's get rid of horses, consequently no need for saddles, the smart guys will make holsters instead. We'll always need holsters, won't we ?
Now, everyone go back to bed and get some needed rest.
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Old 10-13-2017, 11:14 AM
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The problem was horse manure. Too much of it. Let's get rid of horses,..............


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Old 10-13-2017, 11:52 AM
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Gosh! Where to start? Given your condescension I hope you can pardon my candor. Your point was not “subtle” or “intricate.” Nor am I too dumb to understand it. It was ill-conceived and poorly articulated.
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This is pretty arcane stuff for a gun forum and I suspect is of interest to exactly no one. I’ve lost interest too so I will bow out and give you the last word, Prof. Nichols.
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Old 10-13-2017, 01:10 PM
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Railroads – by defining their business as railroads they missed the advent of long-haul trucking, affordable consumer automobiles and an interstate highway system until they were irrelevant.
I am not sure how one can call railroads irrelevant. BNSF contributes handsomly to Berkshire Hathaway's bottom line. The big survivors of mergers are huge profitable corporations. They haul BILLIONS of tons of coal, minerals, lumber, chemicals, agricultural products. (Commodities all, where price per ton mile moves buisness.) They haul Millions of containers and highway vans filled with 'no touch freight'.

Those affordable automobiles, the steel, chemicals, plastics, rubber, glass that go into cars built in north america, they were hauled to the plant by a railroad. Most of the finished cars are hauled by rail as are many imports from ship to distribution center.

Passengers who now travel in those cars were the most expensive and most regulated traffic the railroads ever dealt with. They were ESTATIC to pawn them off on Amtrak (1971) or commuter authorities.

In the 1920s when flying was a daylight only affair, the Pennsylvania RR (the biggest corporation in the USA) created an interline service with the Transcontinental and Western (predecessor to TWA and the Santa Fe), you bought one ticket, flew in daylight, landed at dusk, were taxied to a sleeping car on a train, switched from the Pennsy to the Santa Fe, then had another flight the next day. New York to California in less than 48 hours. (Once airlines petfected nighttime navigation the ICCs predecessor made the railroads leave the buisness to permit financially weak airlines an uncontested segment of the buisness. It handed over mail contracts for the same reason.

The Santa Fe bought surplus C-46 aircraft following WW2, for a few years it operated an airline until the ICC forced the railroad to sell it.

A group of railroads created the Railway Express Agency, a sort of UPS from 100 years ago. It hauled packages and 'less than car load' freight on all railroads with local package delivery. It lasted until the 60s when the government shut it down as anti competetive.

Until the 60s nearly every railroad owned a trucking subsidiary. Until the massive expensive Interstate highway system was complete (construction started 1955) the railroads handled the long haul, trucks local delivery. Some freight stayed on the van and was carried by flat car to destination city. Once the government had invested in a highway system the Justice Department used anti-trust legislation to shift this buisness to the roads. (The railroads weren't paying highway fuel taxes.)

Railroads were some of the biggest buisnesses in the USA, and until the 70s most attrmpts at diversification into other modes of transportation (pipelines and ferrys come to mind) was met by regulatory opposition.

Im the 70s many railroads formed holding companies which through a narrow reading of ant-trust laws were able to diversify.

Sprint was originally a teletype service inaugerated by a railroad SouthernPacificIndustriesNetworkTeletype.
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Old 10-13-2017, 04:27 PM
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I plead guilty as charged!
Actually I think you just saw a thread you could opine on, and didn't think through what I actually said.

I didn't even imply you were too dumb to understand my post. Instead I took responsibility for expressing myself poorly. And you agreed! So it seems you just wanted a fight; I don't see why you would go to the trouble to be insulting. I am engaged in a research project about holsters as a sequel to Packing Iron, I share information here as I go along: I'm in the information business. Why attack my personal business model?

Summary:

I went to business school. I encountered Levitt. I recently acquired a copy to remind myself of exactly what he said about buggy whips. There was a buggy whip maker in 1960. It was Keyston Bros. Levitt said it would have survived if it had considered itself in the transportation business. It did not consider itself in the transportation business. If it had followed its competitors who did it would have failed. Instead it knew it was in a different business, which was making stuff out of other stuff. It prospered -- the Keyston family had made itself wealthy (newspapers reported SA Keyston's personal wealth at the time of his death) not being in the transportation business.

C'mon, it was simple, and relevant to those of us who are holster tragics: Keyston was in the holster business, Keyston even acquired Heiser, one of the best known holster makers in the world. To try to convert my thread back to a consideration of everything that Levitt said was just to be argumentative.

Stick to your knitting, please; this is about holsters and you should have read it that way. My title was, like my 'how to counterfeit a Brill', just an eye-catcher. No offense intended to Harvard grads.

BTW, summa cum laude. No 'C' students here.
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Old 10-13-2017, 09:58 PM
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Where does this leave the people who've made polo saddles, boots, etc.? Some rich people still need that stuff. There remain niches for horse use even after cars long ago replaced horses for mainstream travel.

There are plenty of leather articles beyond buggy whips.

But I pity the makers of Liquid Paper typewriter correction fluid after computers replaced typewriters...
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Old 10-14-2017, 10:51 PM
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I'm a fan of Atlas Obscura, so I hope you'll forgive a bit of a sort-of-topical bit of trivia!
When I was hired by the Denver Police in 1979, they issued us a Keyston Bros. gun belt, crossdraw holster, cuff case, mace holder, and an interesting bullet pouch that was a single pouch with 2 snaps, as shown in the first attached photo. It was actually made to hold 10 rounds of .38, and the old cops used to stretch it a bit to hold 12. Also, if you look at the cop on the right in the second photo, he's using the Keyston crossdraw.
Many new officers preferred to buy their own modern equipment, but surprisingly the Keyston leather was around at least until the early 2000s when most crossdraws were finally outlawed.
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Old 10-15-2017, 04:26 PM
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Stick to your knitting, please;
That's just wrong.
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Old 10-15-2017, 10:53 PM
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I'm a fan of Atlas Obscura, so I hope you'll forgive a bit of a sort-of-topical bit of trivia!
When I was hired by the Denver Police in 1979, they issued us a Keyston Bros. gun belt, crossdraw holster, cuff case, mace holder, and an interesting bullet pouch that was a single pouch with 2 snaps, as shown in the first attached photo. It was actually made to hold 10 rounds of .38, and the old cops used to stretch it a bit to hold 12. Also, if you look at the cop on the right in the second photo, he's using the Keyston crossdraw.
Many new officers preferred to buy their own modern equipment, but surprisingly the Keyston leather was around at least until the early 2000s when most crossdraws were finally outlawed.
Likely you're thinking of Brauer Bros. because Keyston Bros. did not ever mark its name on holsters, either the toy or Heiser sets, except on M1916 holsters in WWI; and its holster biz doesn't appear to have lasted past the late '60s. Brauer Bros., on the other hand, was in the holster biz at least until the end of the century (I visited with Bob Brauer at his operations in St. Louis in the '90s).
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Old 10-15-2017, 10:59 PM
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Likely you're thinking of Brauer Bros. because Keyston Bros. did not ever mark its name on holsters, either the toy or Heiser sets; and its holster biz doesn't appear to have lasted past the late '60s. Brauer Bros., on the other hand, was in the holster biz at least until the end of the century (I visited with Bob Brauer at his operations in St. Louis in the '90s).
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Old 10-16-2017, 01:14 AM
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Nope, definitely not Brauer. Given that they were one of our home town holster makers, isn't it feasible that they did it for us? I do specifically remember "Keyston" stamped on the back.
I even remember where they were, across the street from our headquarters building...
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Old 10-16-2017, 03:07 AM
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Nope, definitely not Brauer. Given that they were one of our home town holster makers, isn't it feasible that they did it for us? I do specifically remember "Keyston" stamped on the back.
I even remember where they were, across the street from our headquarters building...
Indeed Heiser-Keyston was located at a Cherokee address in Denver 1945 until at least 1970 or so. Learn more about today's company at Keyston Bros.. I just have no evidence past 1968 (Keyston catalogue with a few holsters on it and still showing Heiser-Keyston there) beyond that date. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Except 1970 is where my personal experiences in the holster industry takes over, and until this century I had not even heard of them (they were not a competitor).
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Old 10-16-2017, 04:19 AM
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Buggy whip makers, too, were generally family businesses and Keyston Bros was no exception. Had A.J lived (see another of my threads about him) past 1944 it might all have turned out differently. But founder James had died by 1926, co-founder William by 1934, A.J. 1944 (grandson). S.A and James Jr by 1952. Only Fred lived past 1960.

It was a similar story with S.D. Myres (died 1953), Brill (only Arno lived past 1960), the Heisers were all gone by 1960 except Arthur. And Wroe, god bless him, was born around 1840! And so died in 1933.

It's well documented in the literature that family businesses exist for the benefit of the family alone, and generally there is no thought of the enterprise outliving the founder. Keyston was exceptional in this regard and yet may be Keyston in name only. For example the Bianchi of today is merely a brand of Safariland's.
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Old 10-16-2017, 08:36 AM
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But I pity the makers of Liquid Paper typewriter correction fluid after computers replaced typewriters...
Actually, it is still used on computers, at least in one joke.
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Old 10-16-2017, 09:38 AM
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Actually, it is still used on computers, at least in one joke.
I know that joke!

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Old 10-16-2017, 11:01 AM
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I know that joke!

Can it be posted here? If not, PM me, unless it's so long as to be a serious inconvenience.
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Old 10-18-2017, 12:55 AM
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Indeed Heiser-Keyston was located at a Cherokee address in Denver 1945 until at least 1970 or so. Learn more about today's company at Keyston Bros.. I just have no evidence past 1968 (Keyston catalogue with a few holsters on it and still showing Heiser-Keyston there) beyond that date. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Except 1970 is where my personal experiences in the holster industry takes over, and until this century I had not even heard of them (they were not a competitor).
That actually fits. These were not "new" 1979-vintage holsters; they simply had a bunch of them in boxes at the uniform division. The department used these at least as far back as the early 1950s. Colorado State Patrol used a nearly-identical holster around the same time.
Red, do you have any photos or pdfs of those catalogs? Thanks!
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Old 10-18-2017, 10:10 AM
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This Heiser model was called the State Patrol model, apologies for the Colt.
Was this the model you're describing ?
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:00 PM
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Similar. Same overall cut; no lining; brass snap. The State Patrol ones were all identical to each other with the brass buckle and strap. Some of ours had them, others had a sewn loop on the back. Many of our guys also had the loop re-sewn to increase the angle of the holster... wasn't unusual to see one so "bent over" that the grips were even with the belt buckle. (I did a few holsters and mods back then; my own crossdraws were that nearly-horizontal angle.) State Patrol was much more uniform. All theirs were worn as designed with no extra angle to them.
I have a few friends tha retired from CSP.... I'll ask around if anyone still has their leather.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:30 PM
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Can it be posted here? If not, PM me, unless it's so long as to be a serious inconvenience.
Q: How do you know someone from (insert rival college name here) was using your computer.
A: from the white-out on the screen.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:48 PM
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Yes, they do research and publish papers. That’s terrible for exactly what reason? No, most don’t do much consulting. It is actively discouraged at major institutions as a conflict of interest, which is actually pretty dumb since contact with real businesses would keep them grounded.
I don't agree that University staff don't deal with industry.

In my field we consult with academia fund projects and do research.

We hire interns from colleges and PHds for short term projects.

My Neighber retried from a fortune 50 company, became a professor without a PHd and now consults to companies in his former field and teaches at a state school.

The best colleges and universities are highly integrated with industry and government with some staff holding clearences.

Finally, incubators spawn of startup companies from universities. The local universities in my city, Rochester, NY have multiple companies startups with big name investors.

I and others volunteer at univerties to mentor senior projects with the intent of helping future professionals and exposing myself to the latest tools and ideas also to find good candidates.
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