What has been top of mind for corporate boards and CEO’s worldwide since 2004? It is not competitive threats, rising costs, innovation challenges, risk management, technology, debt, or even the regulatory environment. Corporate directors and CEO’s identify the need to create and sustain a leadership and talent culture that drives superior operating results as their #1 current and future challenge….and, this has been the case since 2004!Read More›
How do some companies evolve to “it company” status while others languish in relative obscurity? Whether you think of more mature companies like Google, Whole Foods, or Unilever, or early stage marvels like Warby Parker, Vendini, or RevZilla, the hottest companies on the planet understand it’s not what they do or how they do it, but why they do what they do that defines who they are as an organization. Put simply, company culture is the real competitive advantage great organizations trade on.
Banned for life.
Forced to sell his franchise.
That’s all you need to know about Donald Sterling’s future with the National Basketball Association.
Commissioner Adam Silver did not mince words. He has exiled Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, after being caught on tape making racist comments to his girlfriend. In doing so Silver wielded a sledgehammer that shattered Sterling’s supposed privileged world and enabled the NBA to move positively away from the repugnant behavior of one of its aberrant owners.
* This post was originally published on LinkedIn
I’ve always been amazed at the number of tremendously gifted leaders who underutilize the one asset most responsible for their success – their brain. It’s not that leaders don’t think; it’s that they don’t think enough. And when they do find time to think, many leaders often think about the wrong things, in the wrong ways, at the wrong times. My message is simple, but not necessarily easy; to do more – think more.
As rapidly as times change and business evolves, one topic clearly hasn’t kept pace – board diversity. With all the news about the economy, the impact of the affordable health care act, and other media favorites, few things are as telling with regard to the state of Corporate America than the lack of diversity in the boardroom.
Google and Apple are both highly esteemed brands. Both companies share many common traits which have contributed to their success, but there is one very big difference between the two – Google plays offense while Apple has recently settled for playing defense. Apple is struggling to maintain its position in the market, while Google is expanding its position.
Disclosure: My company, N2growth has worked with many of the organizations represented on this list.
Lots of executives aspire to become a CEO, but few actually possess the leadership chops to pull it off. As someone who earns their living as a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs, I always keep a sharp eye peeled for up and coming leaders. The 10 leaders profiled below represent different industries, different disciplines, and even a few different countries, but they all share one thing in common – they’re all CEO ready. Meet my predictions (in no particular order) for the next crop of chief executives…
The media certainly loves to bash Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart’s decision to not sell the newly released and profanity-laced album from the band Green Day is no exception. Green Day’s new CD is currently the number one celling CD in the country and the band is incensed that the nation’s largest retailer won’t sell the album. Wal-Mart actually offered to sell the CD, they just wanted Green Day to remove the profanity prior to doing so. Rather than Wal-Mart being applauded for its common sense approach to decency, it has been excoriated for accusations of censorship. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts about why Wal-Mart’s decision has nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with sound business logic, brand stewardship, and doing the right thing…
Let me begin by stating what should be three very obvious points:
- Wal-Mart is a retail outlet that has the absolute right to determine which products they accept for sale in their stores, which products they choose to decline, and which products the choose to conditionally accept with modifications. It is their retail shelf-space and online shopping cart space to do with as they will. If Green Day wants to sell their CD in Wal-Mart stores, then they need to comply with Wal-Mart’s conditions…it’s just that simple.
- Wal-Mart’s core demographic is selling into the family market. It would make no sense whatsoever for Wal-Mart to sell a product that the overwhelming majority of families would consider to be distasteful and objectionable. They must jealously defend their brand reputation, do everything within their power to adhere to their brand promise, and protect their brand equity…anything less would not be acceptable to Wal-Mart stakeholders.
- Wal-Mart is not a library, government agency, or educational institution…it is a business enterprise, and as such, the allegations of censorship with respect to product selection and distribution are patently ridiculous.
Let’s move from the objective legal and brand arguments to a discussion of a more subjective nature…doing the right thing. Wal-Mart is simply being a good corporate citizen for not catering to the degradation of our nation’s character. Green Day, Gangster Rappers, and other so-called “artists” do not have the right to offend others under a perverted definition of what constitutes art, or an incorrect interpretation of the constitutional right to free speech. Being ill-mannered, hateful, vulgar, disrespectful, and arrogant are not qualities that retailers should be desirous of in their suppliers.
Now I’m going to get personal…I don’t know about you, but I grow very weary of having to approach people in public and asking them to tone down their language in front of my wife. Why should I have to subject myself, my family, or my friends to poor behavior, a bad manners, indecent behavior, or profane language? While I served in the military to protect the freedoms’ and rights’ of our nation’s citizens, I didn’t serve to protect overindulged idiots masquerading as artists who are bent on tearing down the moral fabric that made this country so great to begin with.
If more corporations would take a stand and do the right thing by holding the products they distribute to a higher standard of quality this country would be a far better place as a result. Kudos to Wal-Mart. Thus ends today’s rant…
It’s all about the customer…Sync the timing of the message with the needs of the market if you want to achieve advertising success. The above ad is simply brilliant…Hyundai gets an A+ for innovative marketing during tough times, and at the same time gains entry into my “Companies That Get It” category. While I enjoy creative advertising, what I truly love is a simple, relevant, authentic message that resonates with its intended market. When the going gets tough, smart companies listen to the needs of their customers. What Hyundai recognizes that other companies fail to grasp, is that putting the needs of their customers ahead of their own, is in fact in their best long-term interest. The sad news is that the big three US automakers have been caught asleep at the wheel again…
I think it’s fair to say that Blogging for M&A has arrived when two banks merging spawns a blog. I saw a tweet (code for twitter post) from Dan Schawbel about the new Wells Fargo – Wachovia Blog which is dedicated to topics directly related to the Wells Fargo / Wachovia merger, and I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to applaud the efforts of Wells Fargo on this initiative. This is the first blog that I’ve seen focused on a merger, and I think it sets a brilliant example of a creative way to transactionally leverage the use of the blogosphere. In today’s post I’ll share my thoughts about blogging for M&A…
While many mergers and acquisitions don’t live up to the hype generated pre-closing, it is the post closing issues dealing with the integration of culture, business process, systems etc. that actually causes many M&A transactions to fail. Put simply, unless you’re considering an acquisition based upon nothing more than intellectual property value or to exploit break-up value, strong consideration must be given to the recognition that there must be an excellent cultural and organizational “fit” in order for any acquisition to succeed. By “fit” I mean a similar set of values and practices regarding the actual running of an ongoing business: business ethics, work styles, work ethic, a vision for the future, perpetuation objectives, leadership styles, and so on.
I’ve often mused that any idiot can put together a deal, but it takes real leadership to keep the deal together over the long haul. The preceeding paragraph constitutes the soft-side of the M&A business that takes place once the investment bankers have left the table. When the transaction team passes the baton to the operating team is when the real work starts. So what does a blog have to do with this? Think about it…what I’m really talking about here is communication and expectation alignment. What better medium could there possibly be to facilitate this type of interaction than a well conceived blogging platform?
Bottom line…as a CEO Coach my hat’s off to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf for not only creating a tool to align expectations and disseminate important information to all stakeholders, but also for authoring the initial post on the blog. Job well done John…
If you wonder what smart companies do to gain market share in down economies just look at McDonald’s…McDonald’s plays brand offense. McDonald’s understands that playing brand offense is exactly what it takes for businesses to thrive in a down economy. In fact, over the last year they have flawlessly executed an aggressive brand assault on Starbucks that has been nothing short of pure genius. In today’s post I’ll contrast the marketing brilliance of McDonald’s vs. the tentative approach of Starbucks…
Before we dive into today’s case study in brand management, I would recommend reading “Recession Proof Your Business” as a backdrop for today’s piece. This prior post provides further support to my position that smart companies play brand offense by increasing their marketing and advertising initiatives, while their more conservative competitors are busy managing risk. Let me be very clear that I am a strong believer in defending brand equity, it’s just that I believe the best way to protect brand equity is to increase it. From my perspective, if you’re not taking market share from your competition, then they are likely taking it from you…it’s just that simple.
If we were to roll back the clock a few years it would be difficult for most brand aficionados to see how the Golden Arches would pose any real threat to the king of retail coffee. After all, Starbucks is an upscale, premium priced, gourmet coffee outlet that caters to an affluent market based upon attitude and environment. Contrast this to McDonald’s who sells fast food at inexpensive price points. The only thing the two brands would have appeared to have in common was that they sold food through retail stores, and that would be about it. Well, somebody forgot to tell McDonald’s…
You see if you look past the Happy Meals and Dollar Menus you’ll find that the hallmarks the McDonald’s brand are built upon are value, speed, and efficiency. This is something Starbucks had obviously overlooked. While Starbucks was resting on their laurels, McDonald’s simply saw a the ability to create a line extension into the gourmet coffee business by bringing value, speed, and efficiency to Starbucks door-step.
Where did Starbucks go wrong…The economy was slowing, consumers were growing weary of $4 dollar coffees that you have to wait in long lines for, Starbucks service wasn’t what it once was, and at the corporate level, Starbucks was tightening their belt, closing stores, and pulling back on the innovative marketing initiatives that created their category dominant position to begin with. Their business model had become static, and they were out of touch with the market. However Starbucks biggest mistake was not fighting back against the McDonald’s attack. As an old soldier I can assure you that you cannot win a battle you do not fight. While you might delude yourself into thinking you have won the fight by “picking your battles” and fighting on different fronts, full out assaults must be repelled or you’ll be overrun. This is exactly what happened to Starbucks.
Where did McDonald’s go right…they didn’t manage risk, they exploited an opportunity. They didn’t play defense, they played offense. They went on an all out full-frontal marketing and advertising blitz that included among other things placing billboards in close proximity to Starbucks clearly stating their value propositions. They told the consumer that they understood their needs better than Starbucks, and Starbucks didn’t fight back…McDonald’s applied their brand strengths to fill an unmet need in the market…gourmet coffee served faster, cheaper, and according to independent taste tests…better.
The lesson here are simple:
- As markets mature service providers must become efficient to prosper;
- Business models must remain fluid and adapt to the needs of the consumer.;
- Category dominant brands only remain so if they stay on offense;
- A true focus on customer centricity trumps trendy ambiance 11 times out of 10, and;
- In the food business, taste matters.
McDonald’s…job well done.
Surely I jest…A law firm that gets it? I have been waiting to be able to make this statement for most of my professional life, and to be candid, I actually thought I would be dead and buried long before I found a firm that would wake up and smell the roses. No single industry has been guilty of lagging behind the times more than the legal profession. In fact, I think it is fair to say that no industry is more adverse to change than our venerable friends in the practice of law. In today’s post I’ll refer you to a law firm in Chicago that is going to revolutionize the way attorneys conduct business in the future…
First a little background…I grew up in a legal family, have served as a managing director of a law firm, recruited and managed legal staffs as a C-suite executive, and have dealt with many an outside counsel as an entrepreneur and advisor. I have both sued and been sued, and suffice it to say I know the good, the bad and the ugly about the legal profession. The simple truth of the matter is that if law firms had to go to trial and defend their business practices, they would lose eleven times out of ten…that is until now.
Let me introduce you to Valorem Law Firm (their website is definitely worth a visit). Not only has this firm done away with the hourly rate, but they give their clients the unilateral ability to adjust their bill based upon perceived value or lack thereof. Their invoice actually comes with a line item entitled value adjustment in which you the client determines what is fair and just. What I particularly like is the way in which the firm pokes fun at their peers (I use that term lightly). Frankly, they would be crazy not to exploit such a strong value proposition.
I would strongly suggest that it would be in the best interests of survival for other law firms to come out of the dark ages and align their business practices with the clients in which they desire to serve. My hat is off to the lawyers at Valorem Law Firm…Job well done!