This post was published in the Rochester Business Journal on July 17, 2020.
The pandemic has knocked a surging economy flat on its back. Predictions on its recovery range from the V-shaped curve we’d all like to see to the forecast by the Congressional Budget Office that implies it will take a decade to return to our former glory. Many, including Wall Street Journal columnist John Stoll suggest we put our green dreams on hold saying, “businesses that were trying to save the world are now simply trying to save themselves.” It’s a fair point. But it ignores some fundamental principles of how we should analyze our businesses at the bottom of the cycle and make strategic investment decisions.
Guiding a company out of distress into a stable and competitive future is no small task. Survivors will have spent time reevaluating their companies with an eye toward eliminating unproductive activities and unprofitable products and services. The outcome for those who succeed will no doubt be a leaner, more efficient enterprise. A disciplined approach to restructuring balance sheets and operations will yield an opportunity to develop new strategies for the future. And, those new strategies should include green energy and carbon neutrality.
This post was published in Rochester’s daily newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, on June 21, 2020
Will Hurd is the only black Republican in the House of Representatives. In a Wall Street
Journal op-ed, he laid out his proposal for reforming the police. Included was the implementation of best practices for police departments to be eligible to receive their portion of the $2 billion the federal government provides to police departments annually. Implicitly, Rep. Hurd is saying Congress will defund police departments that don’t meet federal standards.
The clarion call to defund the police sounds like one end of a binary choice: either eliminate police department budgets or leave things as they are. Of course, neither of those options are acceptable.
Milton Friedman was a brilliant economist and, like all economists, a moral philosopher. His pronouncement in 1970 that the only social responsibility of business was to “use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits…” has been taken to heart by two generations of business leaders – perhaps a bit too much. Friedman was talking about what we now call corporate social responsibility (CSR), an expense in his view that undermined a corporation’s true purpose: to create jobs, returns for investors and downstream wealth effects for society.
A poor attempt at humor by someone in the JPMorgan Chase marketing department led to my faceoff with the co-founders of the Rochester Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) on live radio. Chase’s tweet made fun of those who can’t figure out how to keep their bank accounts out of the red. In our debate, I maintained that people should take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions while the DSA crowd advocated that people are victims of marketing and should get some relief from those who impose unreasonable costs on them.
Have you ever repeated a phrase so often that you find you’ve forgotten what it means? In a group meeting this week, I referred to a company’s “mission” using a phrase that I’ve repeated for years. A new member of the group challenged me and threw me off balance. What I was really referring to was the company’s purpose.
Regular readers know that I am “old school.” As a hiring manager, I focused on finding talent not hiring for skills. “Skills can be learned,” I would say. “But, you can’t fix stupid.” That approach to hiring has faded away. We now focus on functional skills.
About every three months, I join a group of colleagues for dinner followed by an all day meeting. Our goal is to share best practices, bond with one another and have some fun. Nothing unusual about that, right? What makes it different is that there is no corporate sponsor. It’s an Ad Hoc group of people who share a profession and a common interest in getting better at what we do. Most of us hop into our car and head to a central location within an area bounded in the north by Toronto, the south by Pittsburgh, the east by Rochester and the west by Indianapolis.
We’re flush with new college grads this month. This crop has graduated into a rare economy – one in which employers are challenged by the dearth of candidates to fill the jobs they’re offering. Contrast that to ten years ago when even those with advanced degrees from top schools were kicked to the curb.
The effort to help Japan rebuild after World War II included sending leading American management guru, W. Edwards Deming, to embed his Total Quality Management (TQM) ethic into that country’s manufacturing industries. Perhaps if Detroit’s Big 3 had simultaneously embraced Deming, we would see more Chevys and fewer Toyotas on our highways today.
Among the biggest challenges for corporate leaders is to establish trust. It’s not difficult to understand why. Most management positions are filled by the person most successful in a non-managerial role, not the person who exhibits the most leadership potential. Unsure of what to do or how to behave, they emulate their superiors, most of whom got their role the same way.
The default mode of the worst bosses turns people off. Many are unwilling to admit what they don’t know and often act on impulse. They lack empathy, often expressing the attitude that “if you can’t do it, I’ll find someone who can.” In short, they make excuses for their own Continue reading “Three things to get your team to trust you”→