Business Strategy: Is Yours the Right One?

July 02, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about strategic planning lately. I guess when all hell is breaking loose, as it has been for many businesses of late, it becomes real easy to question the strategic direction of the company. When sales are falling or profits are eroding, when new ventures are struggling to gain traction or long-term successes are beginning to wane, one begins to question the strategic direction of the business. It’s probably second nature.

Reviewing your company’s strategic direction is never a bad thing. It never hurts to reconsider past assumptions or decisions to make sure that they’ve had the desired effect on the business. But a few words of caution if you’re considering reevaluating your business’ strategic plan: read more…

Top CEOs Show Some Reason for Optimism

June 26, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

On June 23, the Business Roundtable released its Second Quarter 2009 CEO Economic Outlook Survey and there is reason for some optimism. While it’s not all blue skies and sunshine, it does appear that the storm clouds may be clearing. Good news is rare these days so I thought the survey was worthy of some attention.

First a little about the Business Roundtable and the survey. The Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of leading corporations, representing a combined workforce of nearly 10 million employees and more than $5 trillion in annual revenues. The CEO Economic Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002, provides a glimpse into the economic outlook of the member companies.

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Short-Term Gain for Long-Term Pain?

June 19, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

There has always been a lot of focus on quarterly earning reports, but given the current economic environment, this corporate ritual has come under even greater scrutiny. Everyone is trying to read the crystal ball and figure out what every little detail means. Sales are down 30% when compared to the same quarter but are 5% higher than analysts expected. Profits have plummeted 40%, but when compared to others in the industry, the company is holding up relatively well. What does it all mean?

This focus on quarter-by-quarter results seems wrong to me. Everyone is focused on the organization’s short-term performance instead of the long-term value. I understand that companies must do what is necessary to survive the current recession. But those companies that aren’t in jeopardy of extinction, yet sacrifice long-term goals in exchange for this quarter’s earnings, are making a huge mistake.

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Protecting Your Greatest Assets During Tough Times

June 05, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Yesterday I received an e-mail from an employee in our company that really got me thinking. Her e-mail was about one of the less talked about effects of tough economic times. Her note contemplated how layoffs, or even the hint of layoffs, can cause a company to lose the employees it most desperately wants to retain. Here’s an excerpt from her e-mail:

“My husband’s company is facing layoffs as well. As we talked about it last night, he went down a small list of people he would choose to cut if the opportunity presented itself. The problem is, he has workers who are invaluable. Some of them work very closely with competitors. He’s concerned that if cuts are made, his strong workers — the ones that pull the load of two men — will be recruited away or become nervous and jump ship, leaving him with not enough workers.”

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A New Era in Business?

May 22, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Those who know me best would not consider me a sentimental person. In fact, my wife would probably laugh out loud if someone suggested that I was indeed sentimental. But with my oldest graduating from high school in a couple of days, it has caused me to think about what work life might be like for him four or five (hopefully four!!!!) years down the road.

It seems to me that we’ve experienced another sea change in the way business is being conducted. During my career I’ve seen the concept of life-long employment with gold watches and generous pensions at retirement come to an end. I’ve lived through the “greed is good” days of the ’90s. I’ve watched as younger employees approach work as a strict trading of talent and time for dollars. I’ve seen the impact the Internet has had on companies and the way they conduct business, and the changes are startling. Then we had the Enron, WorldComm, and Tyco debacles.

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Careful What You Wish For: GM Management’s Payback to Obama and the UAW?

April 30, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

I read Tuesday that General Motors Corporation outlined a new plan that would give the U.S. government a controlling stake in the company. In addition, GM said it would use stock to pay off half of the amount it owes the United Auto Workers (UAW) to cover retiree benefits.

I checked my calendar. It wasn’t April Fools Day. So I’ve reached the conclusion that this is either a sick joke or an incredibly clever plan dreamed up by GM’s management in order to poke back at the Obama administration, which forced out GM’s CEO earlier this year while also getting in a shot at the UAW.

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Dazed and Confused in an ‘Uncertain Economy’

April 17, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 1 COMMENTS

I’m in the process of writing my Q1 report for our board of directors and I’m trying to come up with the appropriate adjective to describe the current economic environment and explain its impact on our business.

As I searched for the right adjective to describe the business climate we’re facing I first considered “challenging.” How often have we read or hear a sentence begin with “In these challenging economic times…”? And while I would agree that they are indeed challenging, I’m pretty sure it’s not the best word.

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Do Shareholder Rights Matter to Obama?

April 07, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 11 COMMENTS

I was amazed when I first learned that the Obama administration had requested the resignation of GM CEO Rick Wagoner. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I became dismayed.

Did Rick Wagoner deserve to lose his job? I don’t know. But I do know that it is not the role of government to call for the job of the chief executive of a public company. Public companies are typically run by an executive. That executive is hired by and answers to a board of directors. The board of directors is elected by the shareholders, and the board is responsible for ensuring that the company is run in the best interests of the shareholder owners. Nowhere in this chain of command do I see the federal government!

I can hear people screaming now, “But GM was asking for a bailout from the Federal government. That gives them the right to pick the CEO.” I disagree. The shareholders are still the owners of GM, and they should get to pick who runs their company. The government can choose whether or not the company is deserving of the bailout based on a number of factors including who is running the company. But when they force the resignation of the chief executive, they’re taking away the power and authority of the current owners, and that’s not right.

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An Executive’s Thoughts on Executive Pay

April 02, 2009 - by: Dan Oswald 0 COMMENTS

Imagine for a moment that you own a company. Unfortunately, your company, like many companies recently, has experienced some problems that have put its mere survival in question. You’ve taken action, removed the employees who were responsible for creating most of the problems, and even brought in a new senior executive — a seasoned industry veteran with a successful track record — who you think can help clean up the mess and put your company back on the path to success.

Your new CEO has even agreed to work without salary for the first year or more, until you get the company back on its feet. If he succeeds, you promise to give him a small ownership stake in the enterprise. He’s made some progress, but the company is not out of the woods yet as he continues to unwind the issues created by his predecessors and attempts to overcome some of the obligations he has been saddled with.

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