Jerry Ash: The Disruptive Professor

Capitalism Can Be Good Again

Nearly 60 years ago a pair of pill pushers (pharmaceutical distributors) in a small town outside of Pittsburgh moved their operation south to another small town in the heart of West Virginia.

Eventually they decided to produce their own products — generics that would sell cheaper than the name brands all ready on the market.

That’s when they moved north again to what was then my hometown, Morgantown, West Virginia, near the Pennsylvania border.

As the story goes, the town fathers (not many mothers then) and an unspecified number of local small investors bankrolled the pair. And the company became the namesake of one of the two partners, Mylan Puskar.

Rumor still has it that Morgantown has more millionaires than any other small city in West Virginia.

Mylan Pharmaceuticals built a plant on the edge of the campus of the West Virginia University School of  Medicine, just a short walk from my home. They produced generic vitamins. In time they would produce more than a thousand different, mostly generic, drugs.

Mylan Puskar was a civic-minded entrepreneur. Evidence of his philanthropy includes WVU’s Mylan Puskar football stadium, to which he contributed $20 million, and a free clinic named Mylan Puskar Health Right.

Puskar quit the company in 1973 and died in 2011. But his company continues to this day with a claim of being a champion of social responsibility that “aspires to touch the lives of seven billion people by delivering better health for a better world.”

The company website still claims a belief that ‘access to healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.’

Mylan has the scope to make some of that happen.

Today, generic drugs represent 90 percent of the world prescription drug market and Mylan controls 13 percent of generics, employing nearly 35,000 people in 165 countries and territories. Their investors are in the stratosphere of economics, listed on the NASDAQ ticker and a member of the elite S&P 500.

But here’s the latest news.

In 2016 Mylan’s CEO, the daughter of a U.S. Senator I served with in the West Virginia State Senate (you’re beginning to see why I’m so interested), was called before Congress to explain why the price of two EpiPens — life-saving devices for severe allergies — had soared from $103.50 in 2009 to $608.61 in 2016.

People were more than outraged. They couldn’t afford the pens!

Incidentally, another company stepped in and produced the same thing with a price of two for $10. The “pens” are handy syringes loaded with fast-acting epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenalin.

A year later, in 2018, Mylan is back in the news with an announcement that shows the real impact of Mylan Pharamaceuticals on the community of Morgantown. It announced it would lay off 15 percent of the workforce (500 union members), all of them in the “production department.” A substantial hit on the local small economy.

No harm done in the upper echelons.

The reason according to the company is “right-sizing,” blaming it on a  “changing industry” and “regulatory expectation.” (Interesting choice of word: “expectation.”) That was the same excuse used in 2008 when companies everywhere downsized indiscriminately to cover the world financial crisis they themselves created.

This is a typical rags-to-riches story over the past half dozen or so decades. Well-meaning entrepreneurs launching their enterprises with good intentions, soon to be overcome by an economic system that serves greed, not need.

Fast forward to 2019.

Next year I will help a handful of people somewhere in the Tampa Bay region of Florida launch a company using a business model that will change the way capitalism works.

An employee, at mid-career in a particular trade or profession, will become an entrepreneur who adopts my socially responsible, self-managed, profit-sharing (SSP) business model. My top-tier team will help his or her team start the company and reach profitability.

And we won’t charge a dime.

The lucky entrepreneur will build and own an infrastructure and then recruit others with entrepreneurial spirits who will join the startup team as “intrapreneurs.” They will use the infrastructure, own their own work and benefit through a fair share of profit, not pay. No bosses needed. Coaches required.

What’s my motive, you ask?

I’m a startup capitalist and proud of it. I’m investing intellectual capital in other people in order to develop a franchise company that will spread the SSP business model far and wide for the benefit of everyone — the teams and their families, friends and neighbors, communities and country. We are organizing as a registered benefit corporation.

Everyone — indie entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs — will work for maximum, not minimum “wage” and the wealth created will re-circulate on Main Street, not Wall Street.

Forever!

P.S. Currently, I’m calling my company the Company of Ones. Learn more, click here.

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Not My EconomicsCapitalism Can Be Good Again