Friday, December 20, 2013

The World of Business à la Richard Branson

This is a very short take on leadership, courtesy of a man I admire.  He's a brash go-getter and fun-loving entrepreneur.  It's about being creative and making a difference, he says, because otherwise you don't need to bother getting up in the morning.  His Virgin Galactic is chock full of tall promises - environmentally friendly, economical internet and telephony, and deep space exploration - so let's see.  I daresay large portions of what it'll deliver will be past his lifetime and mine.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alabama Coach Nick Saban's Ecosystem of Success

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Forbes writer Monte Burke explains it clearly and succinctly - Five Leadership Lessons from Nick Saban.  But what I want to highlight is the ecosystem of success that Saban has helped to engineer.  From Toledo, to Michigan State and Louisiana, and at Alabama the last seven years, he has delivered the results as far as winning football programs are concerned:  165-56-1 (.743).  No doubt, the traits and skills that Burke distills drive these enduring results.  

Under a previous coach, Alabama was on the losing end of the stick, and the University was in disarray.  But for the $7 million Saban makes a year, which more than rivals the salaries of NFL head coaches, his football program brings in $77 to the University.  One doesn't have to have to know much mathematics to realize that that is one outstanding return on investment.  But because of him in particular, the University is better able to recruit talented players and, I'm sure, the best of students among applicants.  He isn't just deft on the football field, but apparently in the homes of top prospects as well.  

The better the student pool, the better the families, boosters and supporters with whom to raise even more money for the University, the better the University can drive its academic and of course football programs.  So, for me, the lessons in leadership take on greater import and complexity.  What CEOs may reflect on with Saban is how to create that ecosystem of success.

Monday, December 16, 2013

CEO Guido Damiani Looks Eastward

As the head of a third-generation family business, Guido Damiani has to keep at finding market opportunities for their luxury, fine-crafted jewelry.  He refers to the Italian rich as old, by which he means that it's saturated: The rich and famous have already bought their sort of jewelry. 
However, it must've been a boon to Damiani that their target market in Asia is enthralled with the "made in Italy" brand, quality and heritage and is moreover willing to pay extra for it.  Plans to open 40 - 50 stores in Asia over the next handful of years are a testament to results they garnered now and expect to garner.  Congratulations!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New GM CEO Mary Barra Brings the Results

Just named new CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra gets commendation from former GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre, specifically for her talent and experience, people skills, and backward-and-forward knowledge of GM.

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I daresay that women are judged on more than just, or in spite of, their results.  Such is the entrenched gender bias among corporate executives and in the workplace in general.  Anne Doyle is practically gushing in GM's Next CEO Mary Barra Blasts Hole in Auto Industry's Steel Ceiling, but this selection is a giant step in rectifying that bias.  

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I am also intrigued by an item in this truncated resume:  Head of Human Resources.  It may be even more rare that an HR leader ends up top of the heap, especially for a major but troubled company.  No doubt, her business, engineering and technology acumen bridged her toward business leader.  Whitacre even commended her performance in that role specifically.

But I cannot underscore this enough: Forging relationships is part-and-parcel of producing results and rising up the ranks.  Knowing how to work with people is the stuff of Emotional Intelligence that Daniel Goleman popularized, and he pointed out that EI is critical to leadership and workplace success.  Gallup took this point much further: That so-called soft skill of engaging, motivating and developing people lead directly to hard results like sustainable topline growth and shareholder value (rf. Engagement at Work: Its Effect on Performance Continues in Tough Economic Times).

It remains to be seen, of course, exactly how Barra will do.  But in the meantime a hearty congratulations to her!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The People Phenomena of Amy Morin

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It began with a November 13th post on Lifehack - 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do - by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist, instructor and writer.

Amy Morin
Her post resonated with Forbes contributor Cheryl Conner, who elaborated on it on November 18th, with Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid.  This way, it had a slant for entrepreneurs.  

Cheryl Conner
To her surprise, Conner's post resonated so much with Forbes readers - to the tune of 4.5 million people - that she arranged to interview Morin in person for Forbes on December 6th: How to Become Mentally Strong: A Video Chat with Amy Morin.  

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In the meantime, Morin writes an expanded article on December 3rd, as a Forbes guest contributor:
Psychology often discusses mental health — but what’s not often discussed is a clear definition of mental strength. To me, mental strength means that you regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstances. Developing mental strength is about finding the courage to live according to your values and being bold enough to create your own definition of success. 
Mental strength involves more than just willpower; it requires hard work and commitment. It’s about establishing healthy habits and choosing to devote your time and energy to self-improvement.
Reference: 5 Powerful Exercises to Increase your Mental Strength.

I am impressed by this people phenomena.  Conner did a fine job of expanding what was originally a pretty light post by Morin.  This expansion was a boon for Morin, as she found herself in the midst of viral exposure, courtesy of the Forbes community.  My hope is that this boost does indeed serve her purpose and desire well as a professional.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom Weighs Monetization

CEO Kevin Systrom

When The Guardian interviewed Kevin Systrom in mid-October - Instagram's man of vision, now eyes up world domination - he and Emily White were seen as the next Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.  They were the leadership face of a hot platform and the mastermind behind its monetizing efforts.  The big oops is a December 3rd report Instagram Business Lead Emily White to Be Named COO of Snapchat, however.

It may be honest modesty or purposeful vagary, but Systrom and White don't say much that's specific or substantial as far monetizing Instagram is concerned.  Or it may be that they're still very much figuring it out.  But they can choose to refer to users as community members as much as they want: I imagine that they (we) enjoy the site for however long it is ad-free and reserve the right to stay or leave when that idyllic period inevitably ends.  It's a challenge for Facebook, and it's a challenge for its underling Instagram.

So what are Instagram options for business models?

  • From sponsored content, to TrueView ads (rf. YouTube), there are plenty of creative ideas.  But at the end of the day it's advertising.  Any savvy, jaded user isn't impressed or fooled by the creativity.
  • Since mobile is the device of the present and future, perhaps Instagram can consider an e-commerce capability for its own services or products and-or those of user companies (rf. PayPal).
  • SaaS used to mean software as a service, but now it can also mean storage as a service (i.e., cloud).  Instagram may consider such a business model for images, videos and documents (rf. Amazon, Apple).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advice on the ROI of Social Media Recruiting

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In What's the ROI of Social Recruitment? Bucky Couch does a fine job of painting the complex picture of recruitment.  Hundreds of millions of people, plus companies, populate the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, so the advent of social media has made information on both candidate and employer far more accessible.  Engagement is more of a necessity than ever before, and consequently branding as a major vehicle for engaging is crucial.  These points have made recruiting via social media an imperative.

Curiously, however, Couch doesn't even touch on ROI.  Perhaps not surprisingly, because it seems like an even more daunting task to explicate the what and how of ROI vis-a-vis social media recruitment.  It is complex, but because managers, professionals and consultants alike don't have a good grasp of ROI, it seems even more so to them.  

Here are a handful of points to consider:
  • ROI always - always - accounts for both benefits and costs.  In fact, ROI is measured as benefits weighed against the costs of producing these benefits.
  • We begin with the end in mind.  As an employer, what are you trying to accomplish with your recruitment in general and via social media in particular?  
  • The end in mind may be about hiring more enthusiastic, more capable staff who can raise levels of engagement and performance for the company.  
  • While ROI is mainly quantitative in nature, it is also non-quantitative or even experiential and perceptual.  A manager, for example, wants to feel good about his or her hire.  
  • Clarifying the end in mind sets up not just the objectives but also the metrics for ROI.  Next is to determine what it will take to realize the end and hit these objectives.  
  • How much will it cost to do what it will take, and what time, effort and resources are necessary as well?  It isn't just about cold hard cash.  It's also all that is in fact invested to gain those benefits.
  • You may need to consult with your accounting colleagues, as they can draw on the right equations for calculating ROI.
  • To emphasize, measuring ROI must be set up from the outset, and mustn't be an afterthought in the midst, say, of a social recruitment effort.     
In Three Challenges of Return on Investment, I go into greater depth on ROI.  So I invite you to read this article as well.

Monday, December 2, 2013

INSEAD Erin Meyer on Multi-Cultural Issues

Erin Meyer, Adjunct Professor at INSEAD, speaks very knowledgeably and practically about cross-cultural management issues.  She acknowledges the complexity of such issues and calls for a shift in thinking from cross-cultural to multi-cultural.  To wit: In a global team, members from different cultures may perceive and experience particular individuals in a myriad of ways.  They have a constellation of perceptions and experiences, then, that at times may align and resonate and at other times may collide and conflict.  This is cultural relativity.  

My caution on Meyer's advice?  Learn from her teaching and guidance, but realize that this is just a starting frame of reference.  While research and analysis may surface trends or patterns in specific cultures, how individuals in those cultures actually think, behave and interact may be very different from such trends and patterns.   In other words, her teaching and guidance do not preclude the need to understand particular individuals in your global team and to forge meaningful relationships with them.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Maria Sharapova on Business and Branding

Tennis star Maria Sharapova talks to the Wall Street Journal's Lee Hawkins about her future as a tennis player and a businesswoman, her brand, her Sugarpova candy line and other products and endorsements and the rivalry with Serena Williams.
Lee Hawkins does a bit of an awkward, at times stilted interview, but he draws quite a lot from Maria Sharapova.  Business is very much underway for her, even as she still plays at the upper echelons of tennis.  Perhaps unlike hordes of other athletes, then, she is well positioned to sustain her stardom beyond the sport. 

The following are my notes: 

Time will tell, the body will tell, that is, when she retires from tennis. She wants to be in business, because she loves creating things that inspire her: You see it, you sketch it, you make it happen. Getting endorsements depends on how one uses tennis. This, in reference to Serena Williams not getting as many, even though she has won more titles than Sharapova: `I want to be greater. Forbes lists her as the highest paid woman in sports. She looks for, and partners with, companies that have similar values and understand her career: for example, Sugarpova at Henri Bendel, luxury accessories; and design venture with Cole Haan. The core of the brand is important to her, and the sustainability of brands. During recovery from shoulder injury, she focused more on her brand and worked at strengthening and extending it. Many entrepreneurs do have mentors, but for Sharapova, it's more about her coterie of trusted people, including her parents and manager. She has learned to be, and is, tough: You have to be tough in business and on the court.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chris Christie Speaks Out on Washington DC People

The government shutdown last month and the snafu with the Obamacare website have made me scratch my head. How could something like these happen to one of the most sophisticated, advanced country in the world? There seems to be such fighting between parties that it hardly makes sense to go forward with an initiative vehemently lacking in agreement.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks out, pretty bluntly, about the state of affairs in Washington DC. He confirms what I suspected. My notes: People in government don’t talk to each, and when they do, they don’t do it civilly. They don’t develop relationships. They don’t build a sense of trust. So when problems arise, they become big difficult, contentious problems. Obamacare is wrong, it’s a failure. It’s the most extraordinary overreach by government. It’s being run by people who’ve never run anything. Just a year after winning elections, Obama is being shoved out the door, and people are asking, Who’s next?

It's a doubled-edged sword, I'd say: The Governor is right, in that dismissing the President makes it difficult for him to be an effective leader. Yet, I watched a press conference, soon after the shutdown, and the President took a decidedly partisan stance. It was astounding that the topmost leader in the country reinforced an Us vs Them divide, instead of stepping above it all and taking a more reconciling approach.

There are all sorts of ways to resolve this conflict among people, but it requires first and foremost a bipartisan, or neutral but involved, leader. Conversation off the bat between parties isn't something I'd recommend. Instead, the leader must address issues, concerns and ideas with key individuals, on one side, then the other side, first. The leader works not just at understanding people as deeply as possible, but also at laying the foundation for conflict management and ultimately problem resolution.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Entrepreneurs Sound Off on Trends They Dislike

Fresh off my article Steve Blank Rethinks Entrepreneurship, I stumble on this delightful, thoughtful set of clips: Entrepreneurs themselves sound off on 2013 trends they'd like to see disappear:
  • There is something to Vine, and maybe Twitter, too, that worsens our attention deficit disorder and perhaps diminishes our critical thinking as well.
  • I am all for more meaningful fare from popular media, but as despicable as Miley Cyrus' twerking may be to many people, I am coming to see her act as a wellspring for philosophical and cultural musings.
  • Halting education cuts seems to be de rigueur.  Not only must education be held sacred in our society, but it also needs to ramped up, redone, and rebooted.

Individual entrepreneurs may have little going to them, as far as moving the needle on trends and issues is concerned.  But as a collective, they may, and some do, move mountains.

Friday, November 15, 2013

US Energy Industry Rocks the Numbers!

American track and field star Carl Lewis

ConocoPhillips posted 7 Incredible Numbers From America's Energy Revolution on their LinkedIn page, and I commented:  The energy industry alone can help us get beyond this nagging economic "funk" and radically shift geopolitics in favor of the West.

To wit, last month the US surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil and gas producer, currently at 12.1 million barrels of oil equivalent a day.  Analysts suggest that the US may be energy-independent by 2030.  

Moreover, a 2.1 million job creation impact is one thing.  But add $1200 to an average household, and Americans can appreciate the boost in very real, pragmatic ways.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Innovation Culture is Silicon Valley Secret Sauce

Booz & Company and the Bay Area Council Economic Institute set out to identify the "secret sauce" that makes the San Francisco Bay Area a global innovation leader. Our research found that the region's success stems not just from its institutions or the research budgets of its companies. It comes from a deeply ingrained innovation culture that permeates the business and research community and distinguishes the Bay Area from its competitors.
Matthew Le Merle notes the following critical success factors:
  1. Organizational alignment
  2. Culture of customer first
  3. Deep end-user understanding
Morever, Booz & Co. recommend:
  • Have a clear innovation strategy, aligned with customer needs
  • Have your technical leads report directly to the CEO
  • Develop and communicate your innovation strategy from the top
  • Constantly refresh your product development staff and welcome their ideas

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Momentary Meditations on Millennials

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think!

Ron Villejo, PhD

Friday, November 8, 2013

INSEAD Herminia Ibarra on Leadership Impact

Herminia Ibarra is Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD.  She was recognized in 2011 as among the Thinkers 50 - "the Oscars of management thinking" - and is again on the shortlist for the 2013 awards.  In this short video, she offers very practical insights on the following questions (screen shots):

Shift from solving problems, to figuring out which problems to solve.

Seek positions or assignments that push you to use a different style.

Don't promote staff into leadership positions, before they're ready.

Engage coaches who can personalize learning and facilitate achievement.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Success Factors for Veeva CEO Peter Gassner

Veeva Systems CEO Peter Gassner talks to Forbes about why his company is the darling of the stock market: So how did he engineer this, and how did he come to leave and push off on this own?
  • Stellar financials.  Veeva is the largest cloud company to go public in revenue, is the most profitable, and has high potential for growth.
  • Industry applications.  He saw the potential for cloud computing early on, especially for business enterprises.  For industry-specific applications, the cloud is even more valuable, because companies can "combine" them with industry-wide data.  Life sciences, where pharmaceuticals is housed, is a large industry with a lot of needs, and that is what Gassner wanted.  
  • Complementary partners. Matt Wallach is verse in industry technology, while Gassner brings in cloud computing.  Together they have both US west and east coasts covered, plus international markets.  Not just Wallach, Gassner also partners with  
  • Mobile devices.  Loading up Veeva's applications on an iPad makes the work of sales staff more effective and efficient, because it can access the cloud and draw on industry data.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Human Capital Report

Saadia Zahidi, with the World Economic Forum, speaks succinctly about the importance of people to an economy.  It's stating an obvious fact, of course.  But time and time again people seem to be the most neglected aspect of economic theory, modeling and effort.  Why?  Perhaps it's like the nose on our face, that we hardly ever notice, unless we look in the mirror.  Perhaps it's because people populate our world so much that we're enured to them.

A thriving economy needs healthy, educated, and engaged, working people
Saadia Zahidi looks at the full human endowment of an economy, across a lifetime
The four pillars of the Human Capital Index are:
  1. Education
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Workforce and Employment
  4. Enabling Environment
The Index can guide business, government and civil society on how best to deal with such pressing problems as talent scarcity and aging populations.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Broke, by Daymond John

A promise, a hope, a vision.  All well and good, I suppose.  But for Daymond John, Founder and CEO of FUBU, none of these matter as much as a deed.  

He argues persuasively that entrepreneurs who succeed at securing funding may be setting themselves up to fail.  A startup bakery, he says, may boast fancy cash registers.  But their funding may be depleted, well before they've even sold a single cupcake.  

It's the sale that matters.  That's the deed.  

So mistakes that John has learned from, in his business dealings, he now abides by the intriguing notion of the power of broke.  Lack of funding forces entrepreneurs to scrape by and make a sale, which ultimately may be the seeds of future success.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chairman Bill Ford on CEO Succession Planning

Alan Mulally became President and CEO of Ford Motor Company in 2006, and now, at age 68, he is closer yet to handing over the reins to the next guy.  Executive Chairman Bill Ford is personable but diplomatic about Mulally's exit - that is, he doesn't say much - but that is not surprising.  But in a sort of zen irony, by not saying much, he reveals a good amount.

Succession planning is arguably the most sensitive, complicated aspect of talent management.  More than 10 years ago, Jack Welsh engineered the hand over to Jeffrey Immelt, but the lead-up to it must've been years in the making and clearly highly classified.  Communications to external parties, like the media, must be exceedingly discreet, and so must communications within the company be as well.
But there’s something deeper at work here: the paradox of succession planning. It makes perfect business sense to any CEO to preserve leadership continuity, but laying the groundwork for a successor is an admission of one’s corporate mortality—a rude reminder for men and women whose egos, let’s just say, are not small. They won’t come right out and say it, but I’ve felt these dynamics at play during many conversations I’ve had with CEOs nearing retirement.
Reference: Ford to CEO: Nothing Lasts Forever.

It is not corporate mortality we're talking about here, of course.  It's personal mortality.  Although it's rather daunting, companies can last well past any human lifetime.  That reference is from a year ago, and writer Chuck Wardell's speculation was that the transition at Ford could happen by late 2013 (unlikely, at this point) but probably at the end of 2014 (let's see).

How does an elderly CEO hand over the reins, when letting go is essentially, deep in their unconscious, an acknowledgment that death is in the offing?  How does the Chairman himself engineer such a hand over, when his psyche, too, may be plagued by the elemental fear of the end?  

Steve Jobs was highly secretive about his medical condition, and concomitant leave of absences, not to mention the CEO succession plan.  His illness effectively forced him to reveal his secrets on both counts.  At least from what Ford shares in the above Bloomberg interview, there are efforts and plans within the company to succeed Mulally.  So, then, nature will not have to force much on any of the parties involved.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Privacy, Spying and the Quandary for Leaders

Bloomberg Contributing Editor Richard Falkenrath and John Borthwick, CEO at Betaworks, discuss the revelation of NSA spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, how the U.S. may respond and the level of overall surveillance of data by the U.S. government. They speak on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg Surveillance."
There must be loads more detail on this matter that the media, and therefore all of us, are yet not privy to.  So we must proceed cautiously, for the purpose of this short article, which is to draw lessons learned for leaders.  Obviously how President Barack Obama responds matters a great deal in crisis management, damage control, and US-German relations.

For one, weighing benefits versus risks, as Falkenrath emphasizes, is well and good.  It's a pragmatic exercise that leaders have to engage in, as part of making decisions.  But this sort reasonable approach operates in an ethical or moral vacuum, which leaders must never put themselves and their people in.  Instead, they must consider ethics and morals as an integral part of decision-making.  

For another, Falkenrath doesn't answer the question of why the US may have even spied on an international ally and arguably a friend.  To say that it's a mistake doesn't say much of anything. But leaders must probe into those underlying reasons, and if they actually know them already, then they must acknowledge them, publicly in a case that has certainly become public.  There are too many people, from leaders, to athletes, to celebrities - at least those in the US - whose knee-jerk response is one of defensiveness and denial.

Finally, as a global society, living amid rapidly evolving technology and quickly shifting boundaries, we must reflect on and talk about privacy and what I see as the ensuing ennui-cum-alarm about it.  Just because a segment of us has become blase about loss of privacy, for example, in social media, or conversely another segment of us are vehemently vocal about it, ought not diminish the fact that this is a serious, disturbing matter.  Courageous leaders willingly facilitate such conversations.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scott Adams Talks Dilbert and Success

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There is quite bit of wisdom, some off-handed, and humor, some wry, in Scott Adams' advice for people.  For example, as cartoonist par excellence, he says, don't take advice from a cartoonist.  But he's not offering advice, he clarifies, but simply offering information.  We can take that information, however we please.

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This is a brilliant formula (i.e., algorithm).  He admits to having a collection of just mediocre skills, that is, in drawing, writing and joking.  But only the sum of these, along with his business knowledge, make his offering valuable.

If you have a choice, success is better than failure.  But, he goes on, life is messy, and we're all bound to fail at some point.  Then he suggests something that is at the heart of Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm: Focus on tasks or challenges, where, no matter what the outcome, you can learn some key things and build some skills.  In which case, there is no failure.  Just good positioning for an eventual success.

In communication, less is more.  So many of us in the workplace feel the need to run down every detail of an idea, concept or lesson.  I have certainly seen PowerPoint presentations that have so much content that there is no way an audience can pick it all up in a matter of seconds, especially when you have a conference room full of people where it's more difficult for anyone of them to concentrate and absorb.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

US Economic Policy Amid Stormy Seas

I have often spoken about how tectonic the first decade of the 21st century was.  Not just the economic turmoil, but also game-changing innovation (e.g., from the iPhone and iPad, to Facebook and YouTube).  

But it's also clear that the 2nd decade is shaping up to be more radical than the first.  The political fray in the Middle East and Northern Africa has been breathtaking for its revolutionary change and at the same time heartbreaking for its scores of suffering and death.  

Moreover it ought to embarrass US officials, up to President Barack Obama, that arguably the most powerful, sophisticated country in the world is grappling with a government shutdown.  The seeds of this were apparent in 2011, with the Debt Ceiling Dispute raising policy uncertainty to an unprecedented level.  

But what drops like a lead balloon is the fact that this current shutdown is on par with the Gulf Wars in adverse impact on economic policy.  The uncertainty may be on the rise, yet.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

INSEAD Laurence Capron on Thinking Growth

In Theory of Algorithms - Part 2 - Every Problem Has a Solution - I relate how some people, even organizations, jump to solutions, methods or advice, without having much of a grasp of the problem.  Laurence Capron, with INSEAD, echoes this very point on the issue of corporate leaders vis-a-vis growth imperatives:
Business leaders often jump to their favorite mode of growth, instead of thinking very carefully how they should grow their organization.
It's often difficult for leaders to modify or shift their thinking, because (1) they have their personal biases; (2) some organizational factions are very powerful and have particular vested interests, too; and (3) they get trapped in their established processes and best practices.  Result: They rely on the same mode of growth, regardless of circumstance.

The options for growth are: (a) organic or internal development, (b) merger and acquisition, and (c) alliance and partnerships.  There are pluses and minuses to each, but these are meaningless, I'd say, unless leaders have reviewed their purpose and aims clearly and have taken a serious, honest look at the reality of their circumstances.

Capron rightfully accommodates executive students' interests and needs, for example, in grasping the mechanics of acquisitions.  But she also engenders that crucial reflectiveness among them, that is, to think more openly and carefully about how to make growth actually.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Union Pacific Delivers Smart Results

Union Pacific is well-positioned to compete with freight transportation that draws on the highway system, because it has access to an infrastructure network (i.e., rail) that it invests in regularly to upkeep.  So there are no paralyzing squabbles about finances or politics.  

It manages its operations effectively and efficiently, by interfacing old electronics and protocol with the internet and engaging engineers on staff to design such interface.  That set, they install sensors - for example, Automatic ID Reader - that monitors the movement of trains and coordinates what must be quite a complex schedule.

Sensors also monitor the wheels, analyze their condition, and prompt their replacement at the right time.  So technology overcomes human limits and error concerning safety.  The machinery that replaces worn or defective used to take 11 days to do so.  Now it's 15 minutes.  We can discern the impact on freight delivery and customer satisfaction, when downtown time is so radically reduced.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Martha Stewart under the Spotlight

How did Martha Stewart become the queen of domesticity?  Bloomberg's Stephanie Ruhle profiles the owner of the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia [MSO] empire from her humble beginnings as a working class girl from New Jersey to her carefully built status as America's household name.

Ralph Lauren and Macy's, along with Home Depot and Amazon, are among the companies Martha Stewart admires, which speak to her sense of style and her pulse on good, affordable products.  

Terry Lundgren is the CEO of Macy's, and the context of what Stephanie Ruhle raises is this:  Macy's is suing MSO for striking up a deal with JC Penney's, after Lundgren and Stewart apparently agreed on an exclusive relationship.  

Stewart is none too pleased, clearly, with bloggers.  I'm sure she is referring to particular ones, but in any case it is probably best that she doesn't indict bloggers in general.  En masse they can sway opinions, and consequently behavior, and are a veritable source of knowledge.  If she hasn't yet, she may choose to build a coalition, instead, with select ones who understand and appreciate her brand.  

I'll own up to this personal take of Stewart in this interview, but she struck me as wistful.  She had undergone quite a lot of legal issues, personal embarrassment, and brand assault in the last decade.  So if my sense is halfway accurate, then it is understandable that she'd long for the heyday of the 1990s.

In The Martha Stewart Courtroom Drama Is About More than the Legalities, Allen Adamson steers away from the legal details of Macy's versus MSO and JC Penney, but looks at the impact of this latest courtroom shenanigans on the MSO brand.
Let’s face it. Her Martha Stewart Show was cancelled last year due to low ratings. Her effort to star in an Apprentice-style spin-off of the “the Donald’s” show was not a star turn. And her media empire is fast failing, the result of its own lack of vision as well as the state of the media business, in general.
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Wall Street clearly has declining confidence in MSO, as this 3-year stock performance from Market Watch shows.  It under girds what Adamson cites as a failing empire.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

If you were to die, how would you die?

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From "The Great Gatsby," by F Scott Fitzgerald
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Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, by Dylan Thomas

From "In Memory of Steve Jobs," by Ron Villejo

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Common Sense Business from Sean "Diddy" Combs

Forbes' J.J. Colao sits down with Sean "Diddy" Combs to talk about his work with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and his advice for budding business moguls.
Diddy offers plenty of practical, straightforward wisdom in this short interview:
  • Bring your knowledge and instincts to bear on a business. 
  • Don't be afraid to close your eyes, and dream.  But then open them, and see.
  • If it doesn't make dollars, it doesn't make sense.
  • Common sense is the secret of his success.  
  • Be an actual consumer.
His last point is worth elaborating, as it requires leaders and entrepreneurs alike to step outside of themselves and look at things from the point of view of customers.

Diddy asks, What would you want?  How would you want to be serviced?  What do you think is missing in your community, which you can bring?  As paperboy, for example, he knew that homeowners didn't want their newspaper tossed on the lawn.  So he put them between the screen and the door, instead.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Success Rules from Billionaire Chris Burch

I often eschew tips from others that are so personalized and specific, that you're bound to have difficulty, even failure, if you apply them in your situation.  Either people have to fashion tips from a broader perspective and-or you have to distill their essence and adapt them accordingly to your purpose.  

So what I really like about these rules from Chris Burch, billionaire investor and fashion entrepreneur, is that they actually speak from a broader perspective and already distill the essence of how we can be successful, that is, not just in the retail space of C. Wonder but also in other business endeavors.  In the language of my Theory of Algorithms and The Core Algorithm, Burch has extracted algorithms for success.

The following are screenshots of rules from the Bloomberg interview above:

Step outside yourself, discern what and how others think

Women make buying decisions, so recognize them and praise them

Always think about what you see, learn about things, do things better

"Deep intuition, quick intuition, every decision"

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Characteristics of Three Major Generations

The very different work traits of hoodies, old fogies, and everyone in between.
You may be a senior manager, a marketing director, or a staff professional.  In the spirit of seeking first to understand, before being understood - thanks to Stephen Covey, and his seven habits of highly effective people - I suggest watching this highly engaging, informative video from The Economist.

Keep in mind that these are aggregated findings, so you are bound to possess some characteristics that do not fit the profile for your generation.  The drawback of any empirical study is loss of granular insight into individual differences.  Nevertheless, these broad strokes of understanding give us a frame of reference for communicating, interacting, and collaborating effectively with people across generations.  This very process of communicating, interacting and collaborating, then, allows us to get at those unique traits in each other and thereby forge meaningful relationships.

Friday, October 4, 2013

How Would You Spend $1 Billion

A few years ago, some business friends and I half-bemoaned, half-laughed at the realization that $1 million isn't what it used to be:  You just can't buy as much with it.

So now we might say, $1 billion is the new $1 million.  Not only have the costs of things gone up, but also the range of things to buy has widened.

Whether it's a cup of Starbucks iced coffee or a Chick-fil-A sandwich for every single American, we can definitely be entertained by this video and get an everyday perspective on what $1 billion can buy.


I'd spend that money getting whatever I needed to earn money from that money:
  • Acquire the information, resources and talent needed to run and sustain successful (i.e., profitable) businesses
  • Engage the right advisers, experts and managers to invest in the right funds or vehicles (i.e., with healthy returns)
  • Implement my concepts and strategies for philanthropy, which is driven by a want to do good and by a need to under gird it with a business model 
How would you spend $1 billion?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Campbell CEO Denise Morrison on Career and Power

Denise Morrison said early on in life that she wanted to become a CEO: That, she did, in August 2011, for Campbell Soup. She encourages women to declare their aspiration, and be strategic about themselves and their career. They need mentors, sponsors and relationships to realize their aspiration.

Denise Morrison
Interestingly, Denise Morrison calls it work-life "integration," instead of work-life balance, when asked about her toughest sacrifice in managing her career. She defined it as being able to set priorities in the moment, as life happens. So, rather than having rules set-in-stone, she prefers to handle some situations as they come.

Denise Morrison
Denise Morrison is among Fortune's and Forbes' most powerful women. She defines leadership as service, and finds power in giving. There's power involved in getting people excited about what they're doing and unleashing their potential. That's the biggest contribution a CEO can make.