June 25, 2009 | Refinancing

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Make Your Place Proud of You

June 25th, 2009

There was an excited buzz in the room. By virtue of their animated conversations, it was apparent that these men and women, mostly in their forties, knew each other well. They were gathered for a graduation event, more than twenty intrepid souls who had completed a career transition program sponsored by Spark, a non-profit business development entity located in Southeast Michigan.

I had been invited to give the group a leadership pep talk. Some were intent on leaving jobs voluntarily; others had left involuntarily through downsizing; and all wanted to remain in Michigan to begin a new career.

As ruthlessly as the recession has gutted the global economy, few places have been as hard hit as Michigan. My state has been in recession since 2000. In other words, the bust that broke the dotcom boom never left. And so making a decision to remain here is either madness or commitment.

Looking at the men and women gathered that evening, I saw no signs of delusion. I saw determination and a commitment to make things better. What I told them can be reduced to a handful of pithy cites that I shared with them.

“Do not let what you cannot do, interfere with what you can do.” The words are those of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach. When attempting to do anything new, voices inside us will whisper “No, don’t do it.” Those who give up listen to such voices; those who persevere pay them no heed. When it comes to making big and bold changes, either in our lives or our careers, there will always be those around us telling us no; it is up to us to heed our own inner yes.

“Talk does not cook rice.” As this Chinese proverb implies, you must do more than talk about what you want to do next; you have to take action to make it happen. As as author and management strategist Ram Charan teaches, large organizations fail not because of lack of good intention, but for lack of effective execution. The same applies to us. We fail to move from thinking and talking to acting.

“He who has no fire within himself cannot warm others.” You need to have passion for what you do, as this Swiss-German proverb advises. Otherwise no one will follow you. This is critical for anyone seeking to build a business or begin a new career. You need to radiate a passion about what you do so that others can feel and share it with you. Entrepreneurs need passion to attract capital; job seekers need passion to convince employers of their worthiness.

As I came to the conclusion of my short speech, I could sense the audience was with me. Eyes were focused, some were even leaning forward, and one or two even took notes. And so in closing, I paused to share a cite that I had discovered in preparation for this presentation.

“I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives,” said Abraham Lincoln. “I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” As I uttered Lincoln’s words, a low sound of affirmation rose up from the group. These men and women sensed that Lincoln was speaking directly to them. Not only did they understand his intentions, they were living them. Each had made a commitment to their state, their locality to make it better; they hoped that their actions would make it a better place for their families, their communities, and themselves. That gave them pride. They were, as Lincoln said, seeking to make “the place be proud of” them.

That is the commitment that businesses in Michigan will need if they are to succeed. Judged by the guts and gumption of the men and women to whom I spoke, our state’s chances for recovery appeared just a bit brighter. Where there is will, there can be hope.

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Finance News

HBR Issue Highlights | July-August 2009

June 25th, 2009

Welcome to HBR’s Issue Highlights. Each month, this interactive table of contents will highlight some of the magazine’s best features, tell you who should read them, why they’re applicable, and what you’ll take away from them, all in under five minutes. Share this with others by clicking on the “Share” button in the bottom right hand corner. Let us know what you think by commenting below, or by emailing us at issuehighlights@harvardbusiness.org.

 

Finance News

Today in The Zombieconomy

June 25th, 2009

Psst — want to know why our capital markets don’t work? Because “investors” are mostly agitpropagandists, seeking a more and more ephemeral informational edge — instead of analyzing companies better.

Just like food companies no longer produce real food — but the experience of having eaten food.

Just like the media industry dumped durable, high-quality content, like analysis and reporting — in favour of disposable, low-cost entertainment.

Just like venture investors are investing in…minigames — instead of launching a wave of 21st century industrial revolutions in energy, finance, education, and healthcare.

Welcome to the Zombieconomy — want fries with that layoff?

Finance News

Thousands of BA staff agree to pay cut

June 25th, 2009

More than 1 in 6 British Airways staff have agreed to work for free, take unpaid leave or work part-time, the airline said Thursday after the announcement of cost-cutting measures last week.

Finance News

Exiting Scott says WTA on strong financial footing

June 25th, 2009

Larry Scott says he’s leaving the WTA in great shape – financial and otherwise – as the CEO heads off to an American university administrator post in California within days.

Finance News

Judge allows GM financing, bankruptcy on track

June 25th, 2009

AFP – NEW YORK (AFP) – A bankruptcy judge Thursday authorized General Motors to tap into the second half of 30 billion dollars in government financing, keeping the rapid restructuring plan on track.

Finance News

Former Siemens Greece head arrested in Germany

June 25th, 2009

AFP – FRANKFURT (AFP) – The former head of Siemens in Greece was arrested Thursday in southern Germany on corruption charges, prosecutors in Munich told AFP.

Finance News

Oil surges toward $71 on Nigeria attack, Wall Street

June 25th, 2009

Reuters – LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose more than $2 to near $70 a barrel on Thursday after Nigerian rebels attacked a Royal Dutch Shell pipeline, raising worries about supply from the OPEC-member nation.

Finance News

TSX up 2 percent as commodities rally

June 25th, 2009

Reuters – TORONTO (Reuters) – Toronto’s main stock index was up more than 2 percent early on Thursday afternoon as higher oil and gold prices gave a boost to the resource-heavy index, which has reclaimed all the losses it suffered early in the week.

Finance News

Oil above US$69 a barrel; data suggests economy hasn’t slowed as much as thought

June 25th, 2009

The Canadian Press –
NEW YORK – Oil prices rose above US$69 a barrel Thursday after the government said that the economy may be faring better than previously thought.

Finance News