Image‘Bout a half century overdue with this one…  today, Bayard Rustin would be a UPS executive or Postmaster General, but he was born a half century too soon. Bayard was the civil rights movement’s logistician, and his crowning achievement was getting a quarter million people to the 1963 March on Washington and safely home. That’d be a big challenge with a few billion dollars worth of assets like UPS has, but Bayard worked his magic with virtually no budget and a staff of 200 volunteers. To complicate matters further, the march’s logistics were a moving target… Get enough buses and a bunch more people sign up and want rides, find more buses for them and then hope that enough donations come in to pay for them. Sadly, the world of a half century ago wasn’t ready for a black gay logistician, no matter how talented. But Bayard didn’t let that bother him, and he passed away in 1987 doing relief work in Haiti.

ImageObligatory credit to GM for the pix… Yup, they’re still GM.

The ascension of Mary Barra to the top of GM’s vast management is no surprise, diversity has long been GM’s strong suit. Nearly a half century before the Americans With Disibilities Act, GM was hiring disabled World War II veterans. And by the time the ADA passed, GM featured a wheelchair using employee in one of the cleverest ads I’ve ever seen, demonstrating the utility of the S10 extended cab pickup’s suicide doors in a way most folks never imagined. But the real news is that Ms. Barra was literally born into GM by virtue of her father being an assembly line worker, and she herself started on the line then moved up through management after earning an engineering degree. For the GM of the past that was run by marketing men, this is a revolution. An engineering lead GM, who woulda thunk it? Yup, GM’s delivered some disappointments like the new pickups, but the ‘Vette is now the equal of Porsche, the Volt delivers an affordable and practical electric/gas car solution, and the new Impala is being compared to BMW’s sedans. I suspect there’s a lot more good stuff to come from Ms. Barra and GM.

Eric Buell and the “elves”…

Four years ago Erik Buell’s Buell Motor Company had just been shut down by HOG(NYSE) and they wouldn’t even let him put his own name on a product. Exiled to a tiny rented garage, a couple round the world riders on ancient Danish (yes, Danish) Nimbus sidecar outfits stopped to visit, and one of their ancient hack’s engines was failing deep down inside. And what did Erik Buell do? Put aside rebuilding his motorcycle company from scratch, and pour new babbitt bearings for the bike!

That’s the kind of guy Erik Buell is, and he’s attracted a cadre of similar individuals to work with him. Buell’s new company, Erik Buell Racing (EBR) is the motorcycle equivalent of a tech startup. Not even four years old yet and they’ve brought a whole new motorcycle to market and they did it the hard way- They actually build their own engine right in Wisconsin as well as assemble the bike. Ducati et al, watch your back!

Postal workers…

While UPS and FDX crashed and burned at the close of this years peak season, the clerks and carriers and everyone else (except top management) at the Post Office delivered just like they have for over two centuries. And while UPS and FDX took christmas day off, the Post Office, as always, delivered next day packages on christmas day. That’s what dedicated employees and the currently unfashionable “surplus capacity” can accomplish… Congress, you listening?

And last but not least, all you gearheads… Keep up the good work!