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Dealing With Complexity; The End of the Oprah Effect
 

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A long goodbye to Oprah (and the Oprah Effect). It's official. Oprah Winfrey will announce to viewers on today's show that she will be retiring from her long-running talk show at the completion of the 2011 season. No need to shed a tear for Oprah, who has amassed a fortune reportedly in the neighborhood of $2.7 billion. Instead, think of all those businesses who will no longer feel the benefit of the so-called Oprah Effect, a significant surge in business thanks to a product mention on Ms. Winfrey's show. Here's a look at some Inc. 500 companies who have felt the spoils of the Oprah Effect and will surely be sad to see her go.

How to deal with complexity. Leading a hyper-growth company means managing ongoing complexity. Venture capitalist Fred Destin asked ex-Match.com VP Joe Cohen, founder of Seatwave, Europe's largest ticket exchange, for his notes on how to do it well. Beyond the expected nuggets of wisdom--such as push your employees beyond what they think they're capable of and they'll feel empowered to deliver, or oversimplify and execute well--there are a couple surprises. For example, Cohen recommends ignoring the first request for anything. "If it's really important then they will ask again." He also suggests leaving the office each day with zero emails in your inbox and leaving the office once a week in the middle of the day to hang out with your family, even if only for half an hour. (Hat tip, peHUB)

Learning to live with the big-box stores. When the hardware giant Lowe's announced they were opening a new store in the Baltimore area, you would expect the normal outcry from the local mom-and-pops. Instead, as the Baltimore Sun reports, local hardware stores have taken a surprisingly calm outlook on the new development. The small-business owners interviewed said they believe that local stores and the big guys both have their niche customers and that the two factions can co-exist. As one hardware-store owner said, "Do I want a Lowe's there? No. Am I terrified of it? No. People will still find us."

The coming war for the web. In a blog post and a keynote speech earlier this week, Tim O'Reilly, the publishing entrepreneur and tech guru, warns of an impending "war for the web." O'Reilly observes that the dominant companies--Facebook, Google, and Apple--have made moves that attempt to wall off their offerings from those of other companies, which could make it more difficult for startups to gain traction and could eventually stifle innovation. "[I]t is becoming clear to me that we are heading into a bloody period of competition that could be extremely unfriendly to the interoperable web as we know it today," O'Reilly writes. He urges those developing new Web applications to "place your bets now on open systems" rather than cutting exclusive deals with the big players.

Goldman Sachs: the new Dear Abby for small businesses. Earlier this week we told you about how two icons of corporate America--Warren Buffet and Goldman Sachs--were teaming up to inject $500 million into the small business sector . In the wake of the announcement, the Wall Street Journal reports that the investment bank is quickly morphing into "a Dear Abby of small-business woe," with hundreds of inquiries from small businesses eager to get their share. The five-year gift will hardly buck the overall decline in small-business lending, notes the Journal. And not all entrepreneurs see Goldman's contribution as laudatory. Andrea Audibert, who runs Trinity Construction & Investment out of Slidell, Louisiana says, "Goldman Sachs was part of what the problem was," adding that any potential help would merely constitute "a little retribution." Goldman's been all over the headlines recently. Today its investors expressed their frustration over the size of its bonus pool, which is on track to be the biggest in the firm's 140 year-history (about $717,000 a person a person for 2009).

Black Friday bargains for small businesses. The day after Thanksgiving, lovingly coined "Black Friday," is historically known as the best day of the year for bargain shoppers. For small businesses, it's also a potential gold mine. USA Today offers several suggestions for making Black Friday a more painless experience, such as creating a list of things your business needs beforehand, shopping online for even better sales, and hitting up office-supply stores for all your business-related equipment.

Radical Twitter overhaul. Stop the presses! Twitter has changed its homepage prompt from "What are you doing?" to "What's happening?" Valleywag asks a linguist what this means and parses: "Twitter's new slogan reflects the microblogging service's evolution from a venue for self expression into a forum for conversation, according to Welsh linguist David Crystal." The gossip blog translates: "So Twitter's users have, at the very least, moved beyond mere navel gazing and into arguing."

Success in the mobile sphere. Some companies have definitely found ways to profit in the mobile market, but how many can say that one quarter of their users sign up on a mobile phone? Well, for one, Pandora can. The internet radio site, which has 38 million highly vocal users and counting, sees half of its first time users try it out on their iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerrys, according to GigaOM. Find out more about how to get your brand out to the mobile world.


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Last updated: Nov 20, 2009




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