July, 2009 | Refinancing


Archive for July, 2009

Inspire Employees at the Grass-Roots Level

July 31st, 2009

Leaders who still believe that inspiring employees should take a backseat to cost-cutting need to look to Apple.

At the end of June, the company’s co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs made headlines when he returned to work after medical leave. Wall Street was on the edge of its seat because Jobs’ value to Apple is in his ability to inspire employees so they will perform with the same innovative intensity and attention to detail that Jobs brings to his own work. Indeed, Apple is a great company not simply because of Jobs’ creative vision — the one that brought us iPods and iPhones — but because of his ability to share and instill that vision throughout the company so that his ideas evolve into products consumers love.

Without Jobs’ infectious genius at the helm, investors fear for Apple’s future.

But no one succeeds alone, which is why all leaders must find a way to pollinate the workforce with their values, ideas and enthusiasm. This is what keeps businesses humming, especially during a downturn.

Some leaders inspire the masses via the grand motivational speech. Others via one-on-one conversations. At Time Warner, CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes held a series of skip-level lunches with ten to twelve high performers that typically had little or no access to him. He spent two unscripted hours talking about his vision and answering their questions. Employees who attended Bewkes’ lunches reported feeling more “conīŦdent in the company” and developed a new affinity for their chief.

Whatever vehicle leaders choose to use to reach out and inspire employees at local levels, their talk must have teeth. Don’t spout hyperbole — “Great job” or “we can do it!” Instead, serve up concrete, achievable goals. Listen to people’s problems and offer real solutions. Mentor by sharing your own lessons learned, celebrate teams’ efforts and reward tangible accomplishments. Even a simple “thanks” goes a long way when delivered from on high.

Each week at furniture designer Knoll, president and COO Lynn Utter emails four senior managers and asks them for the name of one person on their team who has been exemplary. Utter then calls each person to thank and congratulate him or her for a specific accomplishment. Utter is as time-constrained as the rest of us but says that if she cannot make four phone calls a week to acknowledge people’s good work, then she is not doing her job.

“[Innovation] is not about money,” Apple’s Jobs was cited as saying in Fortune in 1998. “It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

And that’s essentially the point. A leader’s job is not only to rein in expenses, meet with customers, brief investors and close deals. A leaders’ job is to make sure people get it.

If you want to make sure your message is getting through the entire organization, click here to download more information about how Time Warner CEO Jeffrey L. Bewkes keeps the lines of communication open.


Finance News

Being an Effective Global Leader

July 31st, 2009

This week’s question for Ask the Coach:

My company is stretching into areas of the world I’ve barely heard of — we are definitely broaching the unknown. As a leader, what do I need to be successful as globalization changes the rules of the game?

MG: To help me answer this question, I contacted Maya Hu-Chan of the Global Leadership Development Center at Alliant University’s Marshall Goldsmith School of Management. Maya is an international management consultant and certified executive coach who specializes in global leadership, executive coaching, and cross-cultural business skills. Maya and I co-authored Global Leadership: The Next Generation, from which we learned much about facing the challenges of globalization.

First, we learned that globalization is here to stay. It has proliferated into our daily lives. It is not only organizations that are going global; it is individuals, families, and friends. For instance, you may call computer support from your home in San Diego and reach a technical assistant in India; or your son may reach out to a video game creator in Germany and become Facebook friends with a whole slew of Europeans over night. Disney was right; it is a small world after all!

Second, we learned that today’s global leaders build partnerships. As the organization standardizes and integrates its operations worldwide, leaders are required to align themselves with supply chains which may appear seamless in a strategic plan but which, in reality, involve real people with diverse cultural backgrounds and communication styles. The new organizational prototype demands new individual skills to meet this complexity; it presents planning and communication challenges requiring new tools in response.

I asked maya, what to elaborate on her experience in coaching leaders to build global partnerships. Here is her response:

MH: A foundational element for any global leader is the need to look at the big picture while at the same time consulting with key stakeholders at every level. A recent client of mine, a Thai vice president with a high-tech multinational, faced exactly this dynamic. As his coach, I helped him to approach this duality with cultural sensitivity and awareness, using the appropriate communication approach to get the message across.

Since his outreach spanned not only hierarchy but continents, his strategy would have to meet the complexity of the landscape. He began his first management initiative by interviewing his supervisor, and then his boss’s supervisor, clarifying short and long-term goals by asking questions like “what’s our mission?” and “what’s our strategy?” From there he consulted with his team, planned a two-day retreat, and followed up with regular virtual staff meetings spanning Asia, the United States, and Latin America. The result was to clarify the group’s direction by being specific about what they want to accomplish.

In some ways, the work of equipping global leaders is that of creating more “un-CEOs.” New leaders are those who are adept at building partnerships, both one-to-one and one-to-many, as a matter of habit. They emphasize horizontal leadership such as peer coaching, for example, to help project stakeholders help each other.

In my work with multinational corporations, my global clients have often pointed out that building partnerships is one of the most important competencies for global leaders of the future. Leaders have to successfully build trusting and long-term strategic relationships, internally and externally, and leverage those relationships, in order to get the job done.

Finally, remember to be curious about other cultures and enjoy the challenges of communicating in a competitive, fast-paced global business environment.

MG: Thank you Maya! It has been a pleasure answering this question with you. Readers, Maya can be reached at mhu-chan@alliant.edu. Please leave your comments about globalization and how to be an effective global leader.

Finance News

The Value Every Business Needs to Create Now

July 31st, 2009

In the vast majority of boardrooms I’ve been in this year, decision-makers are asking essential questions about profitability. And they’re not the only ones. Here’s an exchange between Stephen L Carter, an eminent law professor, and James Kwak, one of his students — debating the merits of megaprofits. Their exchange mirrors the very first question I’m often asked: when should we strive to profit — and when shouldn’t we? Is profit a “good” thing — or isn’t it?

My answer is: not all profit is created equal.

Consider David Pogue’s recent campaign to ask mobile operators to do away with hidden and unfair charges:

I’ve been ranting about one especially blatant money-grab by American cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions.

…These little 15-second waits add up-big time. If Verizon’s 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about 0 million a year.

Pogue then adroitly points out that these messages are strategic — they’re there for the benefit of operators, not customers:

In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular convention in Italy. The big buzzword was ARPU—Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like, “Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age.” And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.

Ethically questionable — but that’s just hard-as-nails business-as-usual, right? Wrong. Welcome to the 21st Century:

Profit through economic harm to others results in what I’ve termed “thin value.” Thin value is an economic illusion: profit that is economically meaningless, because it leaves others worse off, or, at best, no one better off. When you have to spend an extra 30 seconds for no reason, mobile operators win — but you lose time, money, and productivity. Mobile networks’ marginal profits are simply counterbalanced by your marginal losses. That marginal profit doesn’t reflect, often, the creation of authentic, meaningful value.

Thin value is what the zombieconomy creates. The healthcare industry profits, but Americans get bad healthcare. Automakers fought tooth and nail against making sustainably powered cars. Manufacturers of all stripes stay mum about environmental costs. Clothing companies can’t break up with sweatshop labour. The clearest example of thin value, is, of course, banks: they invested our national wealth in assets that turned out to be literally worthless.

The essential challenge for 21st Century businesses — and economies — is learning to create thick value. We’re seeing the endgame of a global economy built to create thin value: collapse. Why? Simple: thin value is a mirage — and like all mirages, it ultimately evaporates. In the 21st Century, we’ve got to reconceive value creation.

Constructive Capitalists are disrupting their rivals by creating thicker value. Thick value is sustainable, meaningful value — and a new generation of radical innovators is wielding it like a strategic superweapon. Wal-Mart is learning to create thick value: it is turning into one of the 21st Century’s great Constructive Capitalists. Apple’s challenge, as I’ve recently demonstrated, is learning to create a thicker kind of value: creating a better iPod that’s worth the ~ premium producing it ethically might cost.

Here’s a deeper discussion of the economics of thin and thick value, for those who are interested.

For now, ask yourself: how thick is the value you’re creating? Are your profits, like mobile operators, built on hidden costs, surcharges, and monopoly power — or on awesome stuff that makes people meaningfully better off?

For those whose answer is the former — there’s a Constructive Capitalist out there somewhere, and your business is directly in their cross hairs.

Fire away in with questions, criticism, or comments.

Finance News

Ambrilia to file for bankruptcy as cash dries up

July 31st, 2009

Reuters – OTTAWA (Reuters) – Cash-strapped Canadian biotech company Ambrilia Biopharma Inc said it will file for bankruptcy in a Quebec court on Friday because it has insufficient funds to meet current obligations.

Finance News

Economy on the mend after tumble in May: experts

July 31st, 2009

The Canadian Press –
OTTAWA – Experts say the Canadian economy is likely on the mend after a bad tumble in May.

Finance News

Metro warehouse workers in Quebec City end strike after ratifying new contract

July 31st, 2009

The Canadian Press –
MONTREAL – Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU.A) has signed an eight-year deal with striking Quebec City grocery warehouse employees.

Finance News

TSX gains one percent at midday in broad rally

July 31st, 2009

Reuters – TORONTO (Reuters) – Toronto’s main stock index extended its rally on Friday on broad strength across most sectors, underpinned by economic recovery hopes.

Finance News

Toronto pushes upwards

July 31st, 2009

Baystreet.ca –
Toronto stocks erased early weakness and moved mildly higher by noon Friday. Strength in the mining…

Finance News

Kruger to cut production by idling Quebec paper mills for several weeks

July 31st, 2009

The Canadian Press –
MONTREAL – Privately owned paper company Kruger Inc. announced Friday it will temporarily cut production at its Quebec paper mills by idling several operations for up to three weeks this summer.

Finance News

Toronto stock market strengthens as gold, energy prices move ahead

July 31st, 2009

The Canadian Press –
TORONTO – The Toronto stock market moved ahead Friday near midday as higher gold and crude oil prices outshone and a drop in Canada’s GDP.

Finance News