31 December 2010

Business Person of the Year

Our vote for "Business Person of the Year" goes to Lola Gonzalez of Ocala, Florida.  Ms. Gonzalez owns and operates Accurate Background Check, an employee screening firm.  I first learned about her story while reading the business section of USA Today several weeks ago.

Facing tough times, and not wanting to lay off any of eight employees, Gonzalez laid off herself.  She took a job as a community facilitator and mitigation specialist.  Gonzalez researches the background of clients facing the death penalty to find circumstances that might cause a judge to be lenient.  This according to Florida Trend magazine who named her a Florida Newsmaker of the Year. 

USA Today reported in November 2010 that Ms. Gonzalez stopped taking a six-figure salary and got a job as a social worker at less than half the pay. 

While business is picking up at Accurate Background Check, Gonzalez has no plans to return to work there until the economy is on more solid footing, perhaps in a year, she says.

Her generosity also showed up at Christmas time with employees receiving bonuses.

Undoubtedly there are other owners or principals who have reduced their income or stopped paying themselves altogether during this great recession.    They are to be commended for doing whatever it takes to save jobs.  

Lola Gonzalez took sacrifice to another level and should be recognized as "Business Person of 2010."


(C) 2010  All rights reserved.

23 December 2010

Thank You

Years ago we were watching the Tonight Show with the late Johnny Carson. His sidekick, Ed McMahon, who passed away in 2009, made a comment that was likely offhanded but stuck with me throughout the years. "Take care of the people who take care of you."

McMahon, who fell on tough times in his later years, was saying to Carson that it's important to remember people throughout the year but especially at Christmas. These are the individuals who make life possible. From those who deliver our newspaper in the early hours of the day (we still get the paper each morning) to the mechanics who keep the car running well. To doctors and nurses. To those who repair the A/C and fix the roof. Some you know well. They are part of the family. Others are anonymous. All prove invaluable.

Make a list and see just how many individuals make life possible in a 12 month period. If you are a frequent traveler this might include housekeepers, front desk and bell staff.

In better times McMahon was able to do more than in later years. But his point made long ago on a late-night television program is well-taken. It's hard to make it through a single year, let alone a lifetime, without help from countless others who move in and out of our lives--at just the right time.

I heard this while in college and it took some time for the idea to settle in my own heart and mind.

Finally, I decided an intentional expression of gratitude should be part of the holiday celebrations. To this end I changed my Christmas card list from a perfunctory tradition to a communication of "thanksgiving."

I want to convey appreciation during the year, but especially now.

Thanks for reading our posts.

Merry Christmas!

(C) 2010 Bredholt & Co. Inc.

30 April 2010

Succession--A Strategic Decision

The selection of an organization’s chief executive officer, or CEO, is the most important decision a board makes. Boards carry the ultimate responsibility when it comes to deciding who will serve in this vital role. They need to make sure the CEO and leader will be one in the same.

Beyond the CEO

What is leadership succession?

Succession planning or management is an on-going process that boards, with the help of their chief executives, can use to create an environment for leaders to succeed from the very beginning of their terms until the cycle is repeated with their successors. (BoardSource)

While the board cannot run the process, it can make sure it’s in motion.

The need is for a wider focus than succession at the top. It’s getting the right person in the right place at the right time throughout the organization. Succession is a continuous process—a journey, not a destination.

Planning for the future requires an on-going effort to nurture those who show potential for increased responsibility. The board can ask periodically if this is being done and what are the results.

Succession is strategy. The two are inextricably linked with the organization’s long-term goals and objectives.

Avoiding a Bad Start

According to our studies the four biggest mistakes or misjudgments made by boards in the CEO search process are:

1. Not being ready with a good plan so the search gets a timely start.

2. Not clarifying what kind of leader the organization needs for the next 8 to 10 years.

3. Not understanding the strengths, abilities, personality, leadership style, etc., of the top two or three candidates. This is essential in order for the board to project how this person would fit the culture of the organization and its various constituencies.

4. Not letting go of any operational duties picked up during the transition once the new CEO is in place.

Board Options

Boards have at least two options in the search process:

Option No. 1

Conduct the search from within the board using the policies and procedures in place for this purpose. A “search committee” is the most frequently used term to oversee this work.

The board is responsible for:

1. Communicating to the search committee all input positive or adverse.
2. Considering cultural nuances which influence the selection process of the CEO.

Option No. 2

Retain the services of an executive recruiter or consultant who specializes in this type of search. Even if this option is chosen, the board must retain final say over the process.

For those who wish to engage an executive recruiter, there are several things to keep in mind:

• There is a need for an effective working relationship with the consultant.

• Search is a consulting engagement and not just a recruiting activity.

• Executive search may or may not result in the hiring of a CEO. It’s misleading for anyone to guarantee that a position will be filled as the inevitable conclusion of a search assignment.

• The search is to help the candidates and organization discover whether there is a potential fit between their capability and the need at this time.

Nature of the Leader

What is the key to a successful search?

Finding the one individual who stands out from the rest—whose unique skills make this person central to the organization’s success.

While lists are never long, there may be several qualified persons for the position. However, the goal is to match qualifications with cultural fit. Even in turnaround situations. A record of accomplishment, style and adaptability are all very important. But the real question is what can a candidate immediately contribute?

Things to keep in mind…

• Identification of duties

• Responsibilities

• Qualifications

• Cultural nuances including fit

What’s so important about a person’s fit? A close match with the organization is essential for legitimizing the selection process and internal working relationships.

• Do the candidates have the right kind of experiences?

• Will they live the purpose and mission?

• If a turnaround is needed will the candidates have the emotional strength and discernment for this strenuous task?

• Is there likely to be good chemistry with co-workers? The board? Customers?

Lacking criteria by which to make a decision could lead to almost anyone who strikes the board’s interest being chosen. From a distance nearly any individual can look good. Someone who makes a strong impression can be a terrible choice. Appearance, talent and performance are not the same things.

As studies show, human behavior is highly repetitive.

It’s worth noting that frequent past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

The way someone has acted, their past results, emotional responses—all these behaviors will repeat themselves in the new assignment. Leopards don’t change their spots and neither do individuals once they are in a place of authority and responsibility.

In some cases a delay in deciding on a new leader is better than a decision made in haste —even if imposing temporary hardships on the organization. This is why interims are an option for a board.

Final Thought

You don’t just hire a CEO; the organization gets a philosophy of life and world view. These don’t always show up on paper. This personal dimension may not come up in the interviews either unless you are intentional with the questions.

It’s worth taking time to know who the candidates are, not just what they have done in their previous assignments.

Are the individuals the board is considering capable of learning, growing and changing? How they continue developing as individuals, not just executives, weighs heavily on their likelihood for future success. Better to think about this before the final decision rather than after the fact.


(C) 2010 All rights reserved.

10 April 2010

Creating the Future--Even in Difficult Times Part 4

Execution More than Vision

“Everything depends on execution, having just a vision is no solution.” (Stephen Sondheim) Not that vision is unimportant. A sense of direction and a direction that makes sense is foundational, but incomplete.

Too much attention on vision is like spending most of your time on the driving range while neglecting to practice chipping and putting, which is how you lower your golf score. (Harvey Penick)

Execution is people, strategy and operations.

“Execution is the missing link between aspirations and result.” (Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan)

Summary

1. Creating the future is about pursuing the right opportunities which often emerge in times of great change. (“Buy or lease a new car and, if in the next 12 months you lose your job, we will take the car back.”—Hyundai Motors)

2. The importance of managing oneself—having a sense of urgency and a non-anxious presence at the same time. (Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, US Airways Flight 1549 landing on the Hudson River offshore in New York.)

3. Focus on how to solve problems—not how intractable the problems are. (Apollo 13 moon mission.)

4. If you don’t learn to make decisions, time will make them for you. (JPMorgan Chase going into the recession having slashed costs, investing heavily in technology and core businesses—buying Bear Stearns for the bargain price of $10 per share.)


(C) 2010 All rights reserved.

29 March 2010

Creating the Future--Even in Difficult Times Part 3

Where is “Normal?”

History is a reminder that periodically cultures, economies and governments, for different reasons, cross a threshold. Once there they don’t go back. Is this one of those times?

Current examples of restructuring:

• Financial services
• Real estate and construction
• Retail
• Legal profession
• Transportation
• Media and Publishing
• Healthcare
• Jobs (Is 5% unemployment an old idea?)
• The role of government in our lives


Learning to Ask the Right Questions

Here are 6 questions to get you started:

• What is your business?

• What is it you can’t afford to lose? (The core)

• What are you doing that needs to continue?

• What are you doing that needs abandoning?

• What are you not doing that needs initiating?

• How do you make a profit?


(C) 2010 All rights reserved.

13 March 2010

Creating the Future--Even in Difficult Times Part 2

"Assessing—Not Predicting"

Creating the future is no longer based on probability.

Old: What is most likely to happen?

New: What has already happened to create the future? What are the facts as we know them to be? What do they mean to our business? What opportunities are created that match up well with us? (Peter Drucker)

Predicting is a difficult undertaking. We still don’t have flying cars, orbiting space cities or endless time. People and social phenomena make it hard to predict. Status quo is slower to change than most realize.

“If you predict for a living, you have to predict often.” (Neils Bohr, the late Danish physicist)

How to assess? By asking good questions.

• Looking externally at current and prospective customers

• Looking at the edges where change often occurs, first

• Looking internally to operations

Some examples of a changing landscape:

• Jobs (how people work and earn a living)

• Frugality linked with value—even among higher income households (consumer is 70% of the economy)

• Smaller—not larger businesses

(C) 2010 All rights reserved.

01 March 2010

Creating the Future--Even in Difficult Times Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on the global economic situation from a workshop presented in 2009.

How would you describe the past 24 months? A 100-year phenomenon? A “black swan?” “A Great Recession?”

“It was a year when the unpredictable turned into the unimaginable.” (Larry Fink, CEO of Black Rock Investments)

How could so many have misread this financial crisis? What else did we know back then?

What are we missing now?

The way we see things determines our attitude and behavior. We are at all times creating the future whether we realize it or not.

Sometimes success blinds us to new realities—this can be a dangerous thing. Regardless of the circumstances facing us, we can and do have a say in shaping and influencing our future. We need to know the things over which we have some control—work there. What are those things?

“No new idea springs full blown from a void. New ideas emerge from a set of conditions in which the old ideas no longer seem to work.” (Machine that Changed the World)

“Ideas are not created, they escape.” (Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM)

In a practical way, how do we go about creating our future?

-Assessing—not predicting
-Finding the new “normal” for your organizattion
-Asking the right questions
-Executing more than envisioning

More in the next post.

(C) 2010 All rights reserved.