Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul (Part 1)

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 1 of 4. 

Our prosperity is like oxygen.solarfield

Every moment, we breathe in and we breathe out. We never think about it. We simply take it for granted that each breath will allow us to keep living.

Yet, if we were to be deprived of it – oxygen, that is – oxygen would be all we could think about. We’d be gasping for our next breath.

Our prosperity is like that too. American prosperity, that is. We take it for granted. We expect that our infrastructure will support a healthy lifestyle, that our military and Continue reading “Succeeding Without Losing Your Soul (Part 1)”

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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”

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?”

The ‘Cure’ for lousy customer service

cure

I know it’s foolish to walk into one of Rochester’s most popular restaurants without a reservation on a Saturday night. But, we did it anyway; and, in addition to enjoying a great meal, it turned out to be a great lesson in how to cure the customer service ills that infect many companies.

I’ve been on a rant about lousy service lately. First, there was my experience with American Airlines (F-Bombs over Charlotte), followed by my open letter to the CEO of Delta. I got lots of responses to these posts, many of which brought to mind that it isn’t just major airlines that are afflicted with this disease.

Throughout, I have espoused a model of empowering employees first outlined for me by my good friend Cara Holland (Great Thinkers Who Are Also Great Leaders). It goes like Continue reading “The ‘Cure’ for lousy customer service”

Retrofitting Conscious Capitalism

 

The Conscious Capitalism movement made a big splash last week in our small city. A half-day conference featuring a keynote by Trader Joe’s founder Doug Rauch attracted over 100 local business leaders. The appeal to make business decisions in the context of community needs is long overdue.

Those of us raised in a business culture characterized by a focus on bottom line results to the exclusion of all else are having our consciousness raised. We must retrofit a new way of doing business or face consistent societal pressure for government to further regulate business activities.

Most often, companies wishing to burnish their brand donate to charities and participate in highly visible community activities. The public relations benefit is undeniable but the Continue reading “Retrofitting Conscious Capitalism”