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?”→
But suppose you’re not a Millennial with the inclination to travel to Outer Mongolia to do business directly with goat herders. (I can tell you that’s not on my bucket list.) Suppose you work for a big company. Let’s say a global corporation… like Nestlé.
Nestlé is an $89 Billion food and beverage company. The company’s mission statement is “Good Food, Good Life.” If you’re an espresso drinker, you may be familiar with one of their products: Nespresso. Perhaps you’ve seen a TV ad that features these guys:
Nespresso follows the old Gillette razor blade business model. Nestle doesn’t exactly give away Nespresso machines like Gillette gave away razors. However, selling coffee in little pods is a very profitable business for them. And, it enjoyed 30% annual growth in its first decade on the market. It’s fair to say that Nespresso expanded the market for premium coffee and, simultaneously created a huge problem for Nestle:
Where would they obtain a reliable source of coffee to feed the demand they had created?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My 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.