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.
We all know the big picture. Nicely summarized by the Trump administration’s National Climate Assessment, “Human-induced climate change means much more than just hotter weather… These changes… [will] affect human health, water supply, agriculture, Continue reading “Now is the time to invest in green energy”
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.
The Internet has cemented the skills approach to hiring. In the early days of Monster.com and its ilk, job candidates had to figure out what keywords should be Continue reading “HR and AI: how technology is taking over Talent Management”
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.
At our last meeting, one of our cohort suggested we try an exercise she thought of as a best practice: tell the story of your life in 5 or 10 minutes. I am a new member of this Continue reading “Touchstones: Connection, Reflection and Failure”
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.
TQM is based upon the idea that the performance of workers is dependent upon the system within which they work. Deming believed that managers apply all the wrong Continue reading “The management guru that time forgot”
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”
The mission of my first assignment in the corner office was to turn the business around. Bleeding cash, lacking sustainable IT and other infrastructure, and having suffered through a bad leadership episode, the company was teetering on the brink of failure. My first impression as CEO of the company (Lifewatch, then called Cardiolife) was that there were some quality people on the management team who lacked a sense of direction. Most odd was that the hallways were plastered with motivational quotes – framed posters of great photographs adorned with lofty phrases about teamwork or exhorting people to “Make It Happen.”
When I asked people about them, they all shrugged and said my predecessor had hung them to motivate the staff. It was clear that their presence was widely viewed as a joke. So, I removed them. A big part of my job was to change the culture. Lofty phrases not Continue reading “So, What’s Your Story?”
The following are the author’s remarks at the Financial Leader of the Year (FLY) awards dinner on October 4, 2017, sponsored by the McCracken Institute and Rollins College. This is Part 3 of 4.
To read Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here.
At its root, shared value recognizes that the competitiveness of a business relies upon the health of the community surrounding it. Businesses need not only economically healthy customers to buy its goods and services but also a community that is willing and able to provide critical public assets like roads, schools, and police protection. The surrounding community needs businesses to provide jobs and wealth creation opportunities for its citizens.
In Michael Porter’s seminal work on this topic, he outlines three key ways that companies can create shared value Continue reading “Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul (Part 3)”
The following are the author’s remarks at the Financial Leader of the Year (FLY) awards dinner on October 4, 2017, sponsored by the McCracken Institute and Rollins College. This is Part 2 of 4.
To read Part 1, click here.
Now, you might say that pursuing such a virtuous course is a bit easier when you start with the end in mind. The founders’ firm belief that great damage is caused by burning fossil fuels is the driving force behind the creation of this great company.
But, what if you’re part of an organization whose original purpose was not so high minded. An organization like – oh, I don’t know – an accounting firm.
What would that look like?
Perhaps you’ve heard how KPMG recast its culture to reach new levels of engagement by Continue reading “Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul (Part 2)”
Neil 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”
Business 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”