The Shoes Tell The Story!

Classes are going well this week, of course it is only the first week. I like all of my students, and I think this will be a good year. WPC has many new students so all of the faculty are extremely busy. I think we are holding up well for three days into the semester.

This morning I asked the students in one of my classes to tell everyone in the class what type of shoes they were wearing and how those shoes gave an indication of who they are as a person. I thought it was a great way to start the class, and they did not disappoint.

Rachel immediately spoke up and stated she was wearing TOMS Shoes. She was very proud of wearing the shoes, not because of the shoe itself, but for what the shoe stood for.

Blake Mycoskie started TOMS Shoes in 2006. According to Daniel Pink TOMS, “offers hip, canvas, flat-soled shoes.” However, the great thing about TOMS is that every time you buy a pair of TOMS, TOMS will give a pair of shoes in a developing country, which is why Rachel was so proud of wearing the shoes.

TOMS is practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). One could almost call this a social business. Pink is confused about this when he states, “Is TOMS a charity that finances its operation with shoe sales? Or is it a business that sacrifices its earnings in order to do good?” Pink seems to be placing his hands on the side of his head and screaming, “I am so confused.”

TOMS tells us like it is on its website. They describe themselves as a “for-profit company with giving at its core.” Sounds pretty good to me. You know for all the Enrons, Exxons, Tyco’s, and Bernie Madoffs, it is nice to see a TOMS that wants to be profitable, but also make a difference in the world. That is doing business in a better way.

And that is my thought for the day!

The Ladies in White

Wow, there is so much to write about today. First day back in the classroom, and I’ve hit the ground running. The students are great and very engaged. I could write about Boeing getting the 787 certified by the FAA. After three years they are finally able to begin delivery of the new plane, congratulations Boeing! Or I could write about crisis management and Hurricane Irene. However, what I have chosen to write about today is something entirely different. It is an event similar to the Tiananmen Square in China, where you had one individual standing up against a tank.

One hundred women are making a difference in Cuba. They are called the “Ladies in White,” and are driving the Castro regime crazy. The Ladies in White first appeared on the scene in 2003, and was the result of a crackdown on pro-democracy advocates in Cuba. The wives of the journalists and librarians who were arrested began a simple act of protest. These humble protestors, “would gather at the Havana Cathedral for Mass and afterward they would march carrying gladiolas in a silent call for the prisoners release.”

The Ladies in White are being recognized all over the world for their courage. The Castro regime is so upset they are using “rocks and iron bars” to assault these women to get them to be quiet. The persecutors thought this would stop the women and make them go away, but the exact opposite has occurred. More people are signing up to become part of the protest.

Who knows what will become of this simple defiance of authority? But one thing we can learn from these women is the power of a shared vision. When people collectively understand a concept, and share the truth of it, there are no obstacles that will stop the people from accomplishing what they have started.

I can think of three examples of this truth other than the “Ladies in White.” The first is represented by the new monument in Washington D.C. Martin Luther King had a dream, and was able to articulate that dream in a way that others took it on as their own. That dream has changed our nation in a positive manner. Ghandi changed India through nonviolence. And Jesus Christ has changed history without lifting a sword.

So ladies keep up the good work! And may God protect you and accomplish what He has intended through your actions.

And that is my thought for the day!

Ode To Steven Jobs

By now all of us have heard about the transition of Apple leadership from Jobs to Tim Cook. When the announcement occurred the stock price dipped somewhere around $3 per share, but as of yesterday has increased by over $9. There seems to be some confidence in the new CEO.  I would say this increase is obviously the result of good succession planning. Also, we have to remember that Jobs has taken leave of absences before and Cook has run the company quite well. But what is the Steven Jobs story?

One article I read today stated the Jobs made the nerd trendy. Although I don’t like the term nerd, because I am white and nerdy, it was an interesting article. It also made me recalled the journey of Jobs.

One person stated that Jobs started “two pivotal companies, and both were Apple.” However, the article made a huge mistake by not mentioning Pixar, which jobs cofounded with George Lucas, and others. The fact is, Jobs was energetic and creative. Although I say was, this is not an obituary.

Jobs is able to combine both creativity with a strong business sense. Although I don’t know the man, I have read that he is a hard taskmaster, as are many individuals who are driven creatively. The WSJ described the relational Jobs as “fraught and idiosyncratic.” However, when he is in front of the crowd initiating a new product he has an incredible ability to sell an idea.

Jobs was forced out of the company he started in 1985. He then started another computer company named NeXT. In 1996 Apple purchased NeXT, which brought Jobs back to Apple. Apple was creatively stagnant when he was asked to become CEO again. The rest is history, and Apple has surpassed Microsoft, and even Exxon (at least for one day) as the most valuable company in the world.

Jobs embodies the drive we need as a nation. I discussed this in an earlier blog entry. How would you feel if the company you started asked you to leave? Would you close the drapes of your house, buy a case of beer, and proceed to check out of life? Or would you do what Jobs did? He continued to create, and not give in to the harshness of life.
As the WSJ stated, Jobs gives an image that we should all strive for. “An image that will become part of Jobs lore.” An image that includes, “his extraordinary determination to cling to life,” and an “unapologetic willingness to show his withered self in order to introduce to the world the latest wonders of Apple product development.” He wanted to be creative and achieve, and I am sure he will continue to do that as the chairman of the board for Apple until the day he dies.

The American dream still lives, Jobs has proven it to me.

And that is my thought for the day!

The U.S. Reservation

Every summer I take a group of students to the PineRidge Indian reservation in South Dakota. This is an opportunity for the students to travel together, see sights, and serve the community in Allen, South Dakota and White Clay, Nebraska. It is quite eye opening. On the reservation the poverty is staggering, as are the horrible social conditions. We go back every year to try and help.

The question in my mind is how did these terrible conditions occur? Are they something new, or have they been around awhile? My conclusion is that many of the current problems have been existent since late 1800s. I also think the United States government is responsible for creating a situation that is detrimental to a large group of its citizens. The government, through extensive entitlements, have created a cultural of poverty on the reservation, and my fear is that our government is attempting to do the same thing to the rest of the country. There is no doubt that we have an employment problem. In fact, it may be several years before we get back to a full employment situation. This morning I heard the year 2016 bantered about on NPR.

But what do we do with the several million people across this nation that are out of work, and may not have a job for another four years? Do we put them on welfare, food stamps, or permanent unemployment?

There was a great comparison of Keynesian and Regular economics today in the WSJ. Keynesian theory is the economic choice of politicians who believe in fiscal policy and the control of the flow of money. Keynesians also believe that an economic stimulus can occur with entitlements, or unemployment checks. They will use the multiplier effect as the argument. For every dollar that is spent it will generate $1.84 in economic activity. Therefore, if a person gets $1 from the government and spends it, it will help the economy.

The multiplier effect actually works in both directions. $1 spent can have a positive effect on the economy, however, for each person that is out of work means less tax revenue for the government which means less people working in government, which in turn means more entitlement money going out, which means more debt. This is not a zero sum situation. The fact that we have to borrow every year to make our budget means we are getting further behind, which negates the positive effect of spending a dollar.

My biggest concern after reading the article this morning was the reservation mentality that we are creating in the US. The government is our parent, the government helps me pay my bills, the government, the government, and on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe when people are down on their luck and need help, we should give it.. They paid into unemployment insurance, social security, etc, and therefore they have earned it. Every once in a while, a person just needs a little help. However, if we think that entitlements can create economic growth we are only fooling ourselves. With that type of thinking we will all be hanging around the fort to get our handouts.

Economic growth comes through hard work. It comes through new technological ideas which are a result of human capital. It is the ideas of innovation that can respond to human need. That is what we need today. Instead of looking for a free handout, lets get the drive back. Lets be creative, lets get off the rez and live.

And that is my thought for today!

Boeing Reprised!

There are many things that I love in life. I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love my wife, children, and all my grand children. I am healthy, love to play golf, and I love my job. When it comes to jobs, I have been very fortunate. I have worked in large companies, small companies, corporations, and privately owned endeavors. I can’t think of one job that I did not like.

The school year is fast approaching, and I will be back at Warner Pacific teaching my students. It is going to be a great year. My classes are a little smaller, and I love every subject I will be facilitating. However, I can’t forget where I came from. I spent thirty years working at a company, and grew up with people who have helped to make me the teacher I am today. That company is back in the news today, and it is very good!

Delta Airlines will be purchasing new aircraft. They have an aging fleet, and it appears they will be spending around $8 billion on about one hundred airplanes. Both Airbus and Boeing have been fighting like cats and dogs for this order, and the preliminary indication is that Boeing has won. The 737s that Delta will be buying are Boeing’s longest range 737, which will carry one hundred and eighty passengers coast to coast. These are not the only airplanes Delta has on order, they also have eighteen 787s on order too.

This wonderful news comes on top of the completion of testing on both the new 747 and the 787. The 747 freighter won certification this month, which means the company will start delivering these airplanes to customers. The FAA has the testing information on the 787, and will hopefully approve the aircraft for delivery soon. This is exciting because the delivery of airplanes means revenue for the company.

There are currently eight hundred and thirty 787s on order. The production schedule is sold out until 2019. The Boeing Company is talking about increasing its delivery schedule from forty-two aircraft per month to sixty. That is incredible! However, before Boeing declares victory too soon, they need to look at the near future. There are two huge contract negotiations coming up with both the Machinist’s union and SPEEA, the Engineer’s union. Boeing has had some recent trouble with its employees resulting in a NLRB complaint about South Carolina.

The fact is Boeing is using an antiquated Human Resource model. Time clocks, treating employees like children, and the reducing of its workforce creativity to simple production steps is the exact opposite of what it needs to do to ensure continued success. Boeing needs to embrace its employees, and give them the ability to be creative and bring innovation back to the production line. Sixty airplanes per month will take everyone working together. Jim Albaugh better take a page out of Alan Mullay’s book. Somehow, the leaders of Boeing will need to lead its workforce into higher levels of productivity. Levels that haven’t been needed since World War II.

Boeing you better work out your relationship with the unions, because if you don’t you will lose more customers to Airbus. Oh, and don’t forget, China, Brazil, and Canada are all waiting in the wings with their products that will give the customers more choices. To win in this modern manufacturing environment will take everyone working together. It is not management abusing labor, it is associates working together to meet the customer’s needs. I hope you get it right.

And that is my thought for the day!

Where The Action Is!

In today’s WSJ there was a great article about where the entrepreneurial action is in the United States. The article talked about Ogden, Utah, and how outdoor sports gear manufacturers are relocating there to gain access to pristine areas for testing their equipment. This article also talked about the new information technology hot spot, and it is not Bangalore. It is Kansas City. With the promise of a new fiber-optic network techies are flowing to this area to be a part of this new innovation.

Other locations mentioned are Albany, New York and its Nanotechnology, Asheville, North Caroline and its Beer Brewing, and Indianapolis, Indiana with its big drug makers. The point of the article was to show how all of these locations are attempting to help small businesses survive in this chaotic time.

It is nice to focus on the positive for once. Entrepreneurs starting new businesses filled with hope for the future. It is also nice to read how larger companies are taking care of their employees. They get what Jeffrey Pfeffer said about people being the company’s competitive advantage. An example of this is found in Daniel Pink’s book Drive. To develop his argument about the importance of autonomy, and its connection to one’s level of job motivation, he discusses the example of Zappos.

“What Zappos is doing is part of a small but growing move to restore some measure of individual freedom in jobs usually known for the lack of it. For instance, while many enterprises are offshoring work to low-cost providers overseas, some companies are reversing the trend by beginning what’s known as homeshoring. Instead of requiring customer service reps to report to a single large call center, they are routing calls to the employee’s homes. This cuts commuting time for staff, removes them from physical monitoring, and provides far greater autonomy over how they do their jobs.”

It appears this new way of working is successful. Zappos was so successful that Amazon.com decided to purchase the company for $1 Billion dollars. Why would Amazon want to do that? I think the title of Tony Hsieh’s, CEO of Zappos, book tells the story: Delivering Happiness A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose. The people that work for Zappos are well cared for, and as a result they give great customer service. This in turn creates a profitable business. The bottom-line, we don’t have to be narcissistic leaders bullying our employees to be successful. Maybe nice guys do finish first?

And that is my thought for the day!

de Tocqueville and the US of A

Alexis de Tocquetville was a French aristocrat who visited the United States in 1831. He visited the former colony to see recent revisions to the prison system, and ended up staying nine months. In his two volume work, Democracy in America, much can be learned about early life in the United States of America.

He stated that he saw a country of the future. He felt the characteristics of government that he saw in America would impact Europe, and he felt the United States would lead the world from “aristocracy to equality as a ruling passion.” But he also saw several dangers that could have a negative impact on the experiment, thus reducing its effectiveness.

He saw America as very individualistic. How could we not? Life in early America was difficult. Christopher Martin came to America on the Mayflower with his wife Mary and son Solomon. However, during that first winter he and his family died. Later during the 1800s, which were known as an era of expansion, people were going into the wilderness to find a better life. This was very difficult, therefore individualism was a characteristic required for survival.

However, de Tocqueville noted a concern about this extreme individualism. He felt that when we see ourselves as self-made we conclude that we don’t need anyone else. The frontiersman mentality becomes pervasive leading people to forget others. How does this play out in our modern age? One way is by concluding that if I can be self-made then so can everyone else. Equality then is forgotten, and we move into an every person for themselves mentality. Regardless of the lack of opportunity no one deserves help, and we that do have advantages can exploit others that don’t.

In this modern Capitalistic society we call the United States I pray that we never forget the reality of the social contract that made this country great. Even the individualism of the 1800s was supported by care and concern for our neighbors.

The second “opportunity” that de Tocquetville discussed was how the desire for equality could lead to despotism. He stated, “Equality places men side by side, unconnected by any common tie; despotism raises barriers to keep them asunder, the former predisposes them not to consider their fellow creatures, the latter makes general indifference a sort of public virtue.”

What I see de Tocqueville saying is twofold. The first is related to individualism. I am working hard and have developed a good career and a nice savings. I want to protect that at the expense of everyone else. Therefore, I will align myself with those groups that are willing to support my way of thinking. Fraternity goes out the door.

The second issue is related to our level of satisfaction with life. If we are satisfied with middle-class equality, and we all have food on the table, a car in our garage, and a job, we will forget the need to pay attention politically. When this happens aristocracy, in its political form, returns in the form of a few ruling the whole.

This is a blog dealing with business and leadership. Although this is a fairly political entry today, it still means we must take care of business. We must pay attention to the political process, and we must care for one another. This is the business of America, and it truly is business and personal.

And that is my thought for the day!