What businesses can do about poverty

First published in Rochester’s daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle, on September 5. Click here.

On the heels of the release of a landmark report on poverty by ACT Rochester and the Rochester Area Community Foundation, I wrote an essay for this paper titled ‘Just Tell Me What to Do About Poverty.’ In it, I expressed my frustration at, yet, another report decrying the depth and breadth of poverty in our community without offering a prescription for what we, as a community, can do about it.

As it turns out, the response to my complaint is right here in our own backyard. The Democrat & Chronicle’s Patti Singer reported last week on four companies that are actively addressing Rochester’s greatest challenge. The companies – TruForm Manufacturing, ENEROC, Genesee Brewery, and Green Visions – are piloting programs to hire and train less fortunate members of our community. Tyrone Reaves, owner of TruForm, has gone an extra step, founding and managing a non-profit to train people on both the job skills and the social skills to succeed in the workplace.

helpSolutions such as these address local challenges in the context of a global economy. The Wall Street Journal story on September’s monthly unemployment report outlined the Continue reading “What businesses can do about poverty”

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Millennials: the next greatest generation

GGcandoitNeil Howe has a theory about generations. The founder and president of LifeCourse Associates has been studying them for most of his adult life. Each era of about 80 years has four generations that repeat themselves cyclically, according to Howe.

Baby-boomers are an ‘Idealist’ generation, much as their great-grandparents, the Missionary Generation, were at the beginning of the last era. They rebelled against Victorian values at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They fought for protections for women and children working in harsh factory conditions and for women’s suffrage. Boomers, for their part, fought for the end of the military draft and for civil rights.

Idealist generations are followed by ‘Reactives’. Generation X mirrors the Silent Generation. They are, by nature, rebellious and cynical.

In Howe’s model, Millennials would follow the same script as The Greatest Generation (as Tom Brokaw dubbed them in his wonderful, eponymous book). They are a ‘Civic’ Continue reading “Millennials: the next greatest generation”

If it were supposed to be fun, they wouldn’t call it work

hard-laborBusiness owners wear many hats. When they are just getting started, they are not only management but also labor. Their responsibilities are not just marketing, finance and customer service. They also include emptying the trash and cleaning the toilets. And, of course, they do everything in between. There is a huge spectrum between strategy and toilets that has to be covered.

If you are fortunate enough to be hired by a small business owner, with your freshly inked degree in hand, it is likely that your job will involve activities closer to the toilet end of the spectrum than the strategy end.

I’ve lived at both ends during my career and at just about every stop along the way. I am now at the stage of observer and coach (a nice place to be). Yet, I am also still a student.

So, here’s a semi-educated observation: the premise from which all job descriptions start is that we – human beings, that is – are, at our core, lazy. Adam Smith initially set out this Continue reading “If it were supposed to be fun, they wouldn’t call it work”

7 Stories to help you find the best place to work

BestWorkMy first job right out of the Navy was supervising a dozen young women in the back office at Citibank. Although I was still 20-something, I thought of them as kids – the oldest of them was about 22.

In the Navy, I was something of a supervisor too. Except the folks I supervised weren’t young women. They were young tough-guys. It was not uncommon for one of them to be cleaning his fingernails with a knife blade about 6” long while I was reprimanding them.

To say I didn’t know how to talk with the young women in my charge at Citi would not be a stretch. In fact, to say that they viewed me negatively would not be a stretch either.

It is said that company culture starts at the top. From the top of the ladder at Citi, I heard Continue reading “7 Stories to help you find the best place to work”

Our craving for connection and people of a certain age 

I drove 8 hours to Long Island last week to gather with a group of people of a certain age that I haven’t seen for decades. Yes, it was my high school reunion.

To say I had a great time doesn’t cover it. It was a warm, wonderful, grin-inducing affair. I can’t express how happy I am to have made the journey.

But, why? Why did I so much enjoy spending time with people who are essentially strangers?

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Dr. Brené Brown

In a TED talk that’s been viewed more than 30 million times (The Power of Vulnerability), Sociologist Brené Brown tells us that human beings – all human beings – crave connection with one another. We only achieve connection when we have the “courage to be imperfect,” she says. We must be “willing to let go of who [we] think we should be in order to be who [we are].” That’s why we trek many miles Continue reading “Our craving for connection and people of a certain age “

How can I help?

turnaroundI’m a fan of a CNBC reality show called ‘The Profit’. In each episode, wealthy entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis reviews, invests in, and turns around a small business.

Lemonis succeeds because he has incredible retail instincts – he knows what people will buy, how to merchandise it, and how to operate a business efficiently – and because he has terrific leadership skills.

In the last episode, he bought a 50% interest in a small business for $200,000. But, he was Continue reading “How can I help?”

Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America

flag-fireworks1From time to time, we travel to Europe on vacation. We enjoy their way of life and their respect for their history. They have managed to create a modern economy while maintaining their local and national customs. In some sense, it harkens back to an earlier time – at least for me.

Unlike most European cultures, we Americans don’t have centuries of tradition. Perhaps that’s why our celebrations – such as the 4th of July – tend to be loud, boisterous and overwrought.

America hasn’t been around that long and the waves of immigrants that have come here Continue reading “Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America”