Social business and fascinating market inefficiencies

I’m fascinated by those small market inefficiencies and the way they get sorted out – and often not sorted out – by business and government. 

There’s an article in The Age this morning (‘Housing Shortage: nobody’s home‘) about the number of residential properties standing empty in metropolitan Melbourne. Apparently, it can be easier and more cost-effective for an owner of an investment property to keep it maintained but empty than to sell it or rent it out. The article cites the council rates differential between occupied land and vacant land; it’s cheaper to just land bank in many cases. I remember a similar story in the Progress Press (Camberwell area) years ago, about the number of empty flats above the old-fashioned shops along Burke Road and similar shopping strips.

Here are some other examples:

Jobs/labour market: I have lost count of the number of times I have met a highly qualified scientist/professional/manager who wants to work, but has given up trying to find a part-time job. There are thousands of intellectually fired-up experts all over Australia who, because of child rearing responsibilities, disabilities or age are only able to work part-time. One could staff an entire multinational corporation that operates from 10am to 3pm every day and be highly competitive against other multinationals who never turn their lights out.

Consumer debt market (arbitrage) – seems like a good idea at the time, but just how much of a debt ever actually gets collected? Just how profitable is it to collect debts from people who can’t pay them? When I was in sales, the golden rule was, the only objection you really need to stop at is when people genuinely can’t afford the product or service. Yet thousands of debt collectors sit on the phone every day trying to do exactly that.

Taxis. In another story in the same edition of The Age, Taxi drivers are the new working poor. How can that be? When one looks at the basic mechanics of a taxi service, it is: 1) person willing to pay to be driven somewhere 2) person with car wants to earn money 3) they decide between them how much that costs. Too many vehicles and not enough customers, price low. Too many customers and not enough vehicles, price high. Why is this not working out?

There are some great internet-based businesses that are already taking care of market inefficiencies. My favourite example at the moment is Airtasker, where you can post a chore or some small task that you can’t get done yourself, and people bid to do it. We also have Drive My Car and Rent My Carpark. And many, many more. Of course, there are some great old-fashioned businesses that are growing and developing, such as op shops (charity thrift shops).

Little market inefficiencies are often caused by or solved by government policy, but it’s a clumsy and tiresome task to sift through policies for examples of such glitches compared to announcing policies that everyone will like, or your friends will like, and shoving a welfare payment or tax break at the problem instead.

It would be better to let entrepreneurs sort those problems out, in my view. But the problem is, the market for entrepreneurial problem-solving is itself inefficient. Capital will always find its best home, and honey, at the moment that home seems to be in vacant land in inner city Melbourne, not small, high-growth ventures. Innovation in small cap investing regulation is years away, unless someone like Malcolm Turnbull gets involved. Even then, people like Turnbull who advocate for such innovation often turn off the voting, investment-property-owning public with their fancy talk. We probably need the kind of economic leadership shown by Paul Keating when he introduced compulsory superannuation.



Steaming turds whose Sh!t don’t stink – some housekeeping

So. I have some housekeeping to do here.

I was having a coffee with a semi-old friend of mine who has just got back from living OS. Turns out, her old boyfriend had been so abusive some time ago that she felt she had to go and live in another country just to get away from him and, later, to recover.



I realised, to my chagrin, that he was one of my Facebook friends.

Violence against women and abuse of them is not neutral. Lots of people think they “musn’t intervene”, or “shouldn’t take sides” or that it’s none of their business etc. They feel terrible when they find out that someone they like has done something really wrong.

They say nothing, because what they want to say is yell at them , or ask them why they did it, or why they lied about it. But they pull back because they think the best thing is to say nothing. They think saying nothing but remaining friends with that person will send them the message that they support them but not their behaviour. Or that saying something might make that not nice person suddenly not like them anymore.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. An abusive man is abusive because he thinks deep down it’s okay and the only reason people talk about it being bad is to make everything sound nice. They think that underneath it all, other people also think men have greater rights than women and that they just need to get better at placating women.

So when a nice person stays silent to the abusive man, the abusive man gets the message that in fact, they’re correct – they messed up, and they weren’t good enough at placating the nagging bitch. Or whatever. They don’t know that most men want to be sick if they think about violence against women. They don’t know that many men have arguments with their wives all the time without threatening them or hurting them. They think everyone’s doing it, but they need to get better at covering it up, or come up with better excuses.

So, this acquaintance, and another friend who has supported him by staying silent, have to go. That is two less people on my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. And the world will be better for it. I urge you all to do the same. Get the turds out of your network. Not worth the smell.



Nonprofits and associations – Report Machine needs those brains of yours for 2 minutes…

Report Machine (www.ReportMachine) needs your brains for 2 minutes…

Report Machine is a new website that creates Beautiful, Affordable reports for nonprofits and associations. How easy would your life would be if you could just press a few buttons and upload a couple of files, and a lovely, reliable, professional-looking annual report came back to you, all ready to send to members, grant-makers, donors, the local council – whoever!

But to make it happen, we need your help – your experience, your frustrations, your needs.

Help us make Report Machine bethe best it can be by doing our three-minute survey.

And if you’re really interested in lightening the workload and getting some more time in front of the Olympics, you could help us out by sponsoring the Report Machine prototype project at . You can choose the level of support and you get special treatment! 😉

A note about Report Machine

Report Machine is a private business in start-up phase. Once we start operating, the business will incorporate, with 49% of shares distributed to nonprofit organisations and associations which make a difference in the community. 

Report Machine’s contacts on the internet:

Report Machine’s founder is Jenny MacKinnon. Jenny has around twenty years’ experience in strategy, writing and editing for business and non-profits, and a strong background in complex documentation such as annual reports and investor documentation.

Jenny’s information:

LinkedIn profile: