Pittsburgh for Breakfast

Suppose you want to set up a meeting with a colleague, or a prospective customer or partner, or a networking target, or someone who you would simply like to get better acquainted with -- all of these in a professional or business context.

Do you set up lunch? Or breakfast? Here's a hypothesis:

Pittsburgh is a lunch town. Pittsburgh is not a breakfast town -- setting aside Saturday mornings at Deluca's or Pamela's or the many other good and not-so-good places to breakfast or brunch on the weekend.

Why does this matter? Here's a further hypothesis: On the whole, Pittsburgh rolls into work at a sensible hour -- say, between 8 and 8:30 in the morning, and on the whole, Pittsburgh rolls home at an equally sensible hour -- say, between 5 and 6 in the afternoon/evening. That leaves some time for family, friends, and non-work interests.

Want to know, then, why Pittsburgh lags more growth-oriented cities? We don't work hard enough. Palo Alto is a breakfast town. Out the door at 6 a.m.; business breakfast at 6:30 or 7 a.m.; in the office by 8, with the deal all but done. New York isn't a breakfast town, but it's a late-night-with-dinner-in-the-office town. In the office by 9 or 9:30 a.m.; home at 10 p.m.

Pittsburgh's work-life balance may be a sensible one; as they say, no one dies saying that they wished they had spent more time at the office. We might like it the way it is, and that's a reasonable judgment. But we shouldn't kid ourselves that we can work like we do AND ramp the economy up to light speed (let alone the infamous "ludicrous speed") at the same time.

At least, that's my hypothesis.

UPDATE: An article from last week's P-G covered a talk that strikes a related note. Jack Roseman, who teaches entrepreneurship at CMU, argued that local investors should embrace more risk -- and more startup companies should fail.
Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05285/586699.stm


9 Responses to "Pittsburgh for Breakfast"

Amos_thePokerCat said... 10/13/2005 5:49 PM

That is the same "We" I was using. I think it is also a west coast early morning time zone thing.

There is also the working smarter vs. working harder. It is alot easier for people to just work harder. It is also easier for people to see you working harder.

It is also a "no-no" to be too ambitious here. Look at alot of the CMU start up that stay toy vanity companies.

Mike Madison said... 10/14/2005 8:21 AM

Amos, you have me on "we," for sure.

"West coast early morning time zone thing" -- I'm not sure I follow. Some businesses get up early on the West Coast to keep up with the opening of the markets in New York. But those folks are few and far between. The early morning culture I've seen is early morning for the West Coast's sake, not early morning for the East Coast's sake.

If working harder (and working harder to be seen more) were so much easier than working smarter, then you (the collective "you" ;-) would see people working like crazy that all over this region. But you (;-) don't. My view -- and only mine, FWIW -- is that "working smarter v. working harder" is a big myth. There's no avoiding the fact that getting ahead requires putting in the hours.

Anonymous said... 10/14/2005 9:20 AM

I disagree with the premise. Take a walk some morning through downtown. At places like the Duquesne Club, the William Penn, the Rivers Club, various Starbucks,and food courts at PPG and Oxford Center, a lot of business is getting done before 8:00 a.m.

Anonymous said... 10/14/2005 9:31 AM

In my experience in Philly, Chicago, etc... I've noticed the opposite. Getting them to work by 9:00 is a stretch. I've always been somewhat jealous that my colleagues in these cities get to arrive to work over an hour before I do. I'm not sure, but I don't think they are generally "striking deals" at breakfast or anything, but this has always been my experience. They always look at me strangely when I suggest an 8 or 8:30 breakfast meeting.

Josephine said... 10/14/2005 12:50 PM

This is a really interesting theory, Mike. I wonder if part of it is logistical? I serve on a board and work on a committee that have breakfast meetings - by conference call. Because these groups are made of folks from all over the city, it's much easier to work via phone than to get us all into a downtown location and find parking first thing in the morning.

I spent most of my career in Palm Beach Co., FL where breakfast or after work meetings were much easier to get to no matter where in the county you came from and parking was usually free.

Now, we had no public transportation and everyone was obligated to take I-95, but that's another story...

Jonathan Potts said... 10/14/2005 5:48 PM

Combined with your thoughts on custard, and you may be close to developing a Unified Culinary Theory of Economic Development.

Amos_thePokerCat said... 10/16/2005 4:00 PM

Arg, too many pronoun puns for a Sunday.

By "West coast early morning time zone thing" I meant not only people that were involved in securities trading, but that have colleges, customers, branch offices on the East coast tend to want to come in earlier to keep in touch. Staying later would not be any advantage.

In DEN, TV prime time starts at 7pm, not 8pm. People seem even more eager to have meetings earlier than just about any place else I have worked.

Granted you always have to put the time in, but I think this is a fundamental difference between professions, law, and software. Two classic software project management books, "Mythical Man Month", and "Death March", deal directly with this impulse, that is to throw warm bodies at a project behind schedule, and the inevitable result, the project becomes even further behind schedule. This is specifically what I was referring to about working smarter. A commonly used allegory is if it takes one woman nine months to give birth, then if we had nine women it would only take one month.

Another anomaly of software is a long held heuristic that a skilled programmer can produce 5x to 10x the amount of clean tested working useful code that an average programmer can. Not everyone agrees with this. I would point to the whole Linux open source movement to show just how much can be done. These are people mainly working part time, remotely from each other, with little, or no coordination.

Mike Madison said... 10/16/2005 4:37 PM

I've read Mythical Man Month (but not Death March). The legal profession suffers from the same problem, and law firms compound it with compensation and billing systems that reward hours committed rather than quality of service, or results. So I certainly agree that mindlessly throwing bodies (or hours) at a problem, or an industry, or a region, is no solution. On the other hand, my hypothesis (that the Pittsburgh economy doesn't put in the hours) does not imply that our current time is wisely spent.

Anonymous said... 10/21/2005 12:20 PM

We don't work hard enough.
Well, what is it we don't work hard enough at? What's the priority? If the priority is to ramp up the economy, create more jobs and better-paying jobs for more people, then perhaps we should be working harder. I do believe that giving someone a job may be the best thing you can do, civically. On the other hand perhaps our priority should be the pursuit of happiness. For some, this would entail work success, and for others not so much. Would we be better off if there were a way that a job that is currently performed 45 hours per week by one person, could instead be performed by two people, each working 25 hours per week and each having health insurance, if those two people were willing to put in 4 hours per week in civic duty (picking up litter, assisting a teacher, being part of the civil defense, whatevs)? Would the city or region be better off if working folks had more, not less, time to spend building civic life, publicly or within their family?

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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