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Sheryl Sandberg’s Better Idea

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheryl_Sandberg

Everywhere you turn today you hear a reference to a person as a brand, with dozens of pundits telling you how to use social media to “build your personal brand.”

Four years ago, in another post, I said “In an oracular vision of the Twenty-first century Henry Ford said, “A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it.” These days it’s more accurate to say, “A bore is a person who opens their social media and puts their feats in it.””

The result is still a bore, but on a wider stage.

Branding yourself supposedly makes you more valuable, which is laughable, as is the current idea that being busy increases your value.

Sheryl Sandberg has a different take; she believes brands are for things and voices are for people.

The idea of developing your personal brand is a bad one, according to Sandberg. “People aren’t brands,” she says. “That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely. People aren’t like that.”

“Who am I?” asks Sandberg. “I am the COO of Facebook, a company I deeply believe in. I’m an author. I’m a mom. I’m a widow. At some level, I’m still deeply heartbroken. I am a friend and I am a sister. I am a lot of very messy, complicated things. I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.”

Focus on developing your voice, she says. Figuring out what’s important to you and being willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable. “If you are doing it to develop your personal brand, it’s empty and self-serving and not about what you’re talking about,” she says. “If you’re doing it because there is something you want to see changed in the world, that’s where it will have value and depth and integrity.”

Sandberg’s comments on building a voice are just part of her thoughts on how to have a career that is successful and meaningful.

Additional thoughts from Emily Esfahani Smith, an editor at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of “The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness” contribute to that goal.

Most young adults won’t achieve the idealistic goals they’ve set for themselves. They won’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg. They won’t have obituaries that run in newspapers like this one. But that doesn’t mean their lives will lack significance and worth. We all have a circle of people whose lives we can touch and improve — and we can find our meaning in that.

It’s worth your time to read both articles no matter your age or situation.

Hopefully you’ll agree and send them on to colleagues, friends and the young people in your life.

Find your voice; live the wisdom that’s been shared, and help change the world for the better.

Image credit: Wikipedia

The Story Of Labor Day

Monday, September 4th, 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike#/media/File:940721-remington-givingthemthebutt-harpersweekly.jpgHave you ever taken time to wonder why there is a holiday dedicated to people who work?

No?

Then before you get too caught up in shopping, beer and BBQ, take a minute to learn exactly where the holiday comes from.

It’s the result of an 1894 labor strike against the Pullman Company (think aspirational, luxury private railroad cars).

Engineer and industrialist George Pullman’s workers all lived in company-owned buildings. The town was highly stratified. Pullman himself lived in a mansion, managers resided in houses, skilled workers lived in small apartments, and laborers stayed in barracks-style dormitories. The housing conditions were cramped by modern standards, but the town was sanitary and safe, and even included paved streets and stores.

Then the disastrous economic depression of the 1890s struck. Pullman made a decision to cut costs — by lowering wages.

In a sense, workers throughout Chicago, and the country at large, were in the same boat as the Pullman employees. Wages dropped across the board, and prices fell. However, after cutting pay by nearly 30%, Pullman refused to lower the rent on the company-owned buildings and the prices in the company-owned stores accordingly.

Federal troops used extreme force to break the strike resulting in 30 deaths, while rioting and sabotage left 80 million dollars worth of damage in its wake.

Indiana state professor and labor historian Richard Schneirov said President Grover Cleveland’s decision to declare Labor Day as a holiday for workers was likely a move meant to please his constituents after the controversial handling of the strike. The president was a Democrat, and most urban laborers at the time were Catholic Democrats.

Congress approved (knowing their constituents would also be pleased).

Makes you wonder what the current president and congress would do.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Role Model: Craig Zoberis and Fusion OEM

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

http://www.fusionoem.com/

In 1914 Henry Ford doubled his workers’ daily wage, much to the consternation of other magnates, who believed, as do most of them today, that success comes from paying as little as possible.

Ford, however, believed that he would benefit if his workers had disposable income and he was correct; they used the extra money to buy Fords.

The same holds true today; modern research has proved that higher wages increase profits.

Businesses, from very large to very small, still don’t believe it and scream at the thought of a so-called living wage.

But not all of them.

Fusion OEM at just $12 million is considered very small, but it’s profitable and founder Craig Zoberis is very happy, because he is meeting his twin goals.

While lots of other manufacturers have moved operations to China or Mexico, Zoberis has kept his plant in the United States – and considers it a point of pride to pay his 55 workers above-market rates. Workers with no experience start at $14-an-hour, he says, and by completing training and gaining skills can reach $18-to-20-an-hour, plus overtime and bonuses, for total pay near $50,000 a year, within a few years.

Zoberis doesn’t expect his people to buy his products, but he did want to have a  place to work that matched his MAP and not his father’s.

My father and his partner never did a good job of hiring the right people with the right attitude. I wanted to be excited to go to work every day, and working for my father’s company, I was not.

Fusion OEM has never had a layoff, but finding great workers in its industry is just as difficult as finding great programmers, hence the need for a creative, long-term solution.

My colleagues were always complaining that there aren’t enough skilled workers who have the right attitude. When I talk about skilled workers I’m talking about machinists (…) What we discovered halfway through our life at Fusion is that we couldn’t always look outside for skilled people. We decided to hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

Fusion OEM is enjoying double digit growth, but Zoberis isn’t interested in taking outside investment. He loves going to work, saying, “This is my hobby, my income, my life,” and knows that hyper growth can kill you.

You can’t grow your company any faster than you can get the right people. If it goes too far, you might go beyond your capabilities and you’ll fail.

The interview is well worth reading, especially their approach to hiring and compensation.

I rarely make predictions, but in this case I feel pretty safe making two.

  1. Zoberis will continue building his company, growing his own people and being a management outlier.
  2. Most companies of whatever size will continue to treat people as disposable, pay them as little as possible and bitch about them to whomever will listen.

Image credit: Fusion OEM

Ducks in a Row: Walmart — King of Spin

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/64738468@N00/2212721973/

More proof that what What Walmart really excels at is PR and spin.

After years of angry customer complaints about dirty stores, unstocked shelves, uncaring employees and an exodus of customers to the competition Walmart had an epiphany.

Maybe, just maybe, they had cut worker pay too far.

What if paying workers more, training them better and offering better opportunities for advancement can actually make a company more profitable, rather than less? “Efficiency wages” is the term that economists — who excel at giving complex names to obvious ideas — use for the notion that employers who pay workers more than the going rate will get more loyal, harder-working, more productive employees in return.

Of course, Henry Ford figured that out in 1914 and companies such as Costco have followed suit.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($110 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. (…) The move proved extremely profitable; instead of constant turnover of employees, the best mechanics in Detroit flocked to Ford, bringing their human capital and expertise, raising productivity, and lowering training costs.

However, these days, money isn’t everything. People want more challenges, more ways to grow and better career opportunities.

“We realized quickly that wages are only one part of it, that what also matters are the schedules we give people, the hours that they work, the training we give them, the opportunities you provide them,” said Judith McKenna, who became chief operating officer in late 2014, in a recent interview. “What you’ve got to do is not just fix one part, but get all of these things moving together.”

“Quickly?” Considering the years of complaints, falling sales and stock price I’m not sure “quickly” is particularly accurate.

Just think. People who earn more money have more discretionary money to spend.

Rocket science? No, just logic.

But making your company look like a hero for paying people $18K a year definitely is rocket science.

Flickr image credit: mario

Ducks in a Row: Good Wages are Profitable

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/warriorwoman531/9975179525/Henry Ford figured it out in 1914 when he doubled his workers’ daily wage. He did so on the assumption that they would spend the additional money on stuff beyond subsistence needs and he was right — they bought Fords.

Companies today still haven’t learned that lesson and continue to treat workers as disposable, fighting the idea of a living wage and crying that the cost will destroy them.

A column in the Ney York Times led me to this video describing research that proves their thesis wrong.

Flickr credit: Heather Paul
Video credit: Aspen Ideas Festival

Kip Tindell and The Container Store

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomergabel/4963539052

The hourly base wage for fast-food workers in Denmark is $20USD, yet McDonald’s, Burger King, etc., are still profitable.

Try to sell a minimum wage increase to just $15 and you’ll be told that it would destroy jobs and close businesses.

But, as the song goes, it ain’t necessarily so.

Despite starting out with just a $35,000 investment in 1978, The Container Store founder and CEO Kip Tindell has grown his business to one that has 67 US locations and rings up annual sales of nearly $800 million.

Equally impressive is the fact that he’s done all that while paying his retail employees nearly twice the industry average.

So what does Tindell know that other bosses of retail businesses don’t? You get what you pay for…

  • “The 1=3 rule,” i.e., one great employee is as productive as three OK employees, so he gets three times the productivity of an average worker at only two times the cost.
  • Turnover is lower substantially reducing hiring and training costs.
  • Annual raises up to 8% of their salaries, based on performance, but
  • encourages managers to evaluate employees based on their value to the company.

The result is the average Container Store retail salesperson makes nearly $50,000; about double the national average for retail.

When it comes to wages, Kip Tindell is the Twenty-first Century’s Henry Ford.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($110 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. (…) The move proved extremely profitable…

The minimum wage war should become a lot more interesting when Tindell takes over as chair of the National Retail Federation.

It’s a lot harder to argue with success.

Flickr image credit: Tomer Gabel

Pay Them Less; Demand More

Monday, October 6th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rychlepozicky/4845362055

WalMart is moving to improve your shopping experience.

No, not lower prices or expanded inventory.

Certainly not more women and minorities in management roles.

But soon, all ‘associates’ will greet you wearing collared shirts and khaki bottoms.

That’s right. Walmart wants to implement a dress code—but not pay for it.

The annual cost is probably around $50, which is a lot considering the pay.

Richard Reynoso, a Wal-Mart employee in Duarte, Calif., representing a campaign called Organization United for Respect at Walmart said in a letter to the company’s management: “I’m getting paid only about $800-$900 a month. The sad truth is that I do not have $50 lying around the house to spend on new uniform clothes just because Wal-Mart suddenly decided to change its policy.”

If pushed the action is likely to generate additional class action lawsuits, not to mention fan public outrage and generate a significant backlash.

But that isn’t what troubles me.

In the 21st Century our largest employers are the likes of Walmart and McDonald’s.

They pay $8 to $12 an hour and would pay less if they could get away with it.

Businesses on and off-line are working to improve your shopping experience, but most are unwilling to do what Henry Ford did 100 years ago.

Pay people enough that they can afford to consume.

(For more information see previous posts No Help Wanted and Workforce USA)

Flickr image credit: rychlepozicky.com

Disposable People have No Disposable Income

Monday, December 9th, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/labor2008/7940217866/

A few years ago I asked why companies thought they could cut pay, benefits and hours and still expect their workforce to stay engaged and give a damn about the company’s success.

The answer, of course, is they can’t and the employees don’t.

Even as they cut pay and hours, retailers that sell “value pricing” still expect people to buy.

A good example is Wal-Mart, long known as the poster child of low compensation and king of the part-time workforce.

But in earnings calls the blame is on the costs that are going up with no mention of wages going down.

“Their income is going down while food costs are not,” William S. Simon, chief executive of Wal-Mart, said of the company’s customer base. “Gas and energy prices, while they’re abating, I think they’re still eating up a big piece of the customer’s budget.”

And down it has gone.

Adjusted for inflation, the national minimum wage reached a peak in 1968 and has lost about 6 percent of buying power since it was last raised in 2009.

I sometimes think Henry Ford was the last executive who understood that you can’t run a consumer economy if the consumers aren’t paid enough to buy stuff.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($110 today), which more than doubled the rate of most of his workers. (…) The move proved extremely profitable…

Obviously, Wal-Mart has never had an executive who understood that simple principle.

Congress doesn’t either.

Simon says income is going down, but apparently he can’t make the connection between that and his company’s actions.

Simon and his ilk know that people need disposable income to buy stuff, but for that to happen they need to stop treating their people as disposable.

Flickr image credit: Bernard Pollack

 Entrepreneurs: You and Henry Ford

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Henry_ford_1919When you think about great entrepreneurs who comes to mind?

Not Steve Jobs if you limit entrepreneurs to those who invent something brand new; he didn’t invent technology; he took what was there, infused it with brilliant design and then convinced us we couldn’t live without it.

Bill Gates? Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Larry Ellison? Mark Zukerberg?

But could you build a powerful company culture off just their quotes 100 years from now?

Actually, will entrepreneurs even remember them in the Twenty-second Century?

But a century later you can do it off of Henry Ford quotes and it would be not only sustainable, but socially responsible.

Consider this small sample

  • There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. Ford practiced what he preached, too.
  • Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right. This may be true for all of us, but it is especially true for entrepreneurs.
  • Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Overseeing each of these stages is a perfect description of a founder’s primary responsibility.
  • Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. This isn’t to say that you should be blind to them, but keeping your focus on the goal allows you to overcome them by not losing track of what’s really important.
  • A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large. Tony Hsieh has proved this in spades, as has Jeff Bezos. The difference is that Hsieh also practices the first principle above; while Bezos has ignored it.
  • Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. The first half of the sentence has been proven over and over, but it is the second half that determines whether the effort is successful.

Parts of Ford make a great role model, while other parts should be treated as poison, which, in the long-run, merely proves Ford mortal.

(Find more Ford quotes here.)

Image credit: Wikipedia

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