Executive Digest

* It's official: Venture capitalists are dramatically cutting back their investments. Venture Capital Journal (June) reports: "By virtually every measure, the news for portfolio companies in search of capital -- regardless of their development stage -- is bad." According to the magazine, venture-capital investments fell 43% from 1989 to 1990; meanwhile, seed-capital financing dropped even more, by 57%. VCs now are putting 70% of their money into later-stage expansions, leveraged buyouts, or acquisitions.

* Sexism isn't dead: One third of U.S. workers say they would rather work for a man than a woman, according to a new Gallup survey reported in American Demographics (June). Only 13% of workers surveyed said they would prefer a female boss.

* A few small companies have discovered the Trade Remedy Assistance Office (TRAO) of the U.S. International Trade Commission. According to Electronic Business (June 17), TRAO is designed to help companies with fewer than 500 employees whose technology is being threatened by foreign trade practices. TRAO can recommend actions -- such as tariffs -- to the U.S. Department of Commerce. "These guys essentially tell you for free how to protect yourself from dumping," Philip Wyatt, president of Wyatt Technology, which has used the office, told the magazine.

* Automating your sales force doesn't just make it more efficient; it can provide vital market intelligence. That's the argument of an article in Business Marketing (June). The key? With salespeople using computers to keep their notes, headquarters can get their market observations without forcing the salespeople to do extra work. Combined, those little scraps of information can yield powerful insights about market trends -- and competitors' activities.

* What will the factory of the future look like? Depends on where it is, according to a recent study by researchers at Boston University, Japan's Waseda University, and the European Institute for Business Administration, in France. U.S. companies are concentrating on improving quality and reducing costs, often through the involvement of production workers. But the Europeans are busy planning for 1992's market unification with "borderless factories" that can serve all of Europe. And the Japanese? Having started the quality revolution in the 1970s, they have moved on to a new trend: "design factories," which produce small runs of customized products.

* The Environmental Protection Agency hopes that a proposed new rule will help improve small businesses' access to bank loans, according to American Banker (June 6). Ever since a court decision in May 1990 held a bank liable for environmental cleanup at a company to which it had lent money, banks have been wary of making loans to companies that might pose environmental risks. The new rule sharply limits lenders' liabilities under the Superfund laws.