What does stewardship mean today for businesses? Since the Great Recession, executives are more aware of their trust roles. These days, there is greater protection for shareholders. But we have a long way to go before effective stewardship is widespread in businesses.
What Does Stewardship Mean Today for Businesses
What is stewardship? Stewardship is acting as a steward. Who is a steward? A steward is someonewhogets responsibility and authority from an owner to look after the owner’s property in the owner’s best interest.
What does stewardship mean today for businesses? This will vary from firm to firm. These days, many boards of directors and executives see the need to be more accountable. They see this partly because of new government rules. However, executives know the cost of poor stewardship is huge. It hurts their brands. Greed filled executives in good years leading up to the Great Recession. During this time, many managers made decisions that caused major damage to their firms. (more…)
Is your business customer-centric? The late management guru, scholar, and author, Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of a business is to create a customer.” No customers, no business. No students, no school. No sports fans, no stadium! It’s that simple. If we believe this, why is poor customer service rife?
Oligopolies are not Customer-centric Businesses
In Canada, two key industries, banking and telecommunications, are oligopolies. Consumers accept the lack of effective competition, and are complacent. Often, businesses in these industries provide mediocre services while hiking fees continually. Ironically, when the government wanted more competition in telecommunications recently, companies played the patriotism card successfully. (more…)
Target saw an opportunity for its first venture outside the USA in the struggling Canadian discount retailer, Zellers, and bought Zellers’ store leases–not its business–for $1.8 billion. Unfortunately, Target made basic missteps that led to its demise; most notably, these three:
Protracted entry, rapid ramp up
Brand promise neglected
Competitive advantage over looked
Target off the mark with its protracted entry, rapid ramp up
Target gave its competition almost two years to respond to its entry in Canada. It announced its purchase of Zellers’ leases in 2011, and opened over 100 stores during 2013 in former Zellers’ locations. During this rapid ramp up, many stores had empty shelves, Target was not connecting with its customers, and it was accumulating massive losses. Still, it continued the sprint in 2013, even with supply chain challenges. (more…)
I have been mentoring a few small business owners for the past few years; some from startup. What a joyful journey! Coupling this with 32 years business experience mainly in executive positions gives me great insights. It is unimportant that I worked mainly in a large multinational business in many countries. Small and large business issues are similar. Still, I think there are three areas a small business owner should address regularly. And a new year is a perfect time to do it.
As a small business owner you have the joy of being your own boss; however, this brings responsibility for the entire business. Unless you pause regularly to examine how you are doing, you can burn out emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. This happens gradually.
Book publishers today will tell you business is tough. My American publisher recently emailed me to say their business was bankrupt. They couldn’t pay outstanding royalties from 2013, but would ship my inventory – at my expense – to any destination I chose. My first Canadian publisher trod a similar path five years earlier. Today I’m working with another publisher who could be headed in the same direction.
The eventual demise of these Christian-led businesses was obvious for several years in partial and delayed bill payments. However, many of us don’t heed such warnings and thus miss the opportunity to deal with structural challenges. Instead, we chase money-driven, unsustainable quick fixes.
But business executives who focus on relevant success factors will spot threats and opportunities early, and respond appropriately. I suggest these four keys to success in a mission-focussed business or organization:
Clear vision and mission
Careful attention to success factors
Attitude that puts people first
Simple strategy understood by the workforce.
Mission-focussed Business has Explicit Vision and Mission
For a Christian-led business, the vision and mission should satisfy needs or wants that honour God. (In business, “vision” defines an organization’s purpose in broad strokes, while “mission” expands and clarifies it.)
Highly visible and understood affirmations of the organizational vision and mission are essential to help a workforce remain engaged and motivated.
Unfortunately most organizations drift away from their mission. During boom times, new money-making ventures can seem too enticing to pass up. Leaders may hire and use loans to grab short-term benefits. But as the new business fades, debt grows, employees are laid off and a toxic environment develops.
Executives must never forget that the mission is the guiding light. Leaders must pursue it passionately, methodically and consistently. Doing so enables them to resist the temptation to follow every business opportunity that crops up.
Mission-focussed Business Explain and Track Success
Employees should know how their organization measures success, not only in their department, but overall. They should know the ingredients of success and understand it’s more than one bottom-line number.
I learned early at business school that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The challenge is to identify “it” – five to seven critical factors to track continually. Executives must monitor inputs that determine employee and customer satisfaction, and profitability.
Sadly, most people try to manage the wrong items. They may focus wrongly on outputs, when in fact only inputs (amount and quality of material, labour, and so on) are truly manageable.
Christian-led businesses must follow biblical principles while achieving reasonable returns. Executives must be unequivocal that the business will never compromise its values. When I served as vice-president at Alcan Inc. (now Rio Tinto Alcan), we had to submit a yearly letter to the president affirming we were unaware of violations of Alcan’s principles, objectives and policies. This formal process cascaded to front-line managers – each level submitting letters to the one immediately above.
Mission-focussed Business put People First
People are the greatest asset of any business. Motivated, passionate workers go beyond what’s needed. They lift productivity and provide superior services to customers – who in turn willingly share their positive experiences with others, thus benefiting the business.
Executives must invest time selecting, training and developing employees. They must value employees highly and treat them according to the Golden Rule.
Mission-focussed Business has a Clear Strategy
Vision, mission and strategy statements need to be simple and easily understood. A strategy should depict how the business intends to do its mission – essentially, how it will provide superior value to its customers. Executives should explain the strategy to the workforce – especially managers who must build and work with congruent departmental strategies and budgets.
The Bible teaches that the Lord will guide us when we believe in Him, trust, obey and lean on Him. Fundamentally, for Jesus’ followers, success is developing and treading paths that glorify God while doing His mission. It is aligning our lives with His – and these four keys to success in a mission-focussed business can help serve as signposts on our journeys.
What are the best criteria to hire new employees? Character trumps everything when hiring people. We can upgrade skills, but it’s almost impossible to train values and ethics.
In my 32-years business career, mainly in executive positions, I hired many people. In hindsight, some were exceptional. Others fitted well. But a few did not pan out. Hiring the right person challenged me. It was an area I studied, discussed with experts, yet each senior-level-hire created anxiety.
We did a job specification showing the needs of the job. We prepared a job description with the profile of the person needed. Then, we provided equal chance for all job seekers so we might get the best person for the job.
Best Criteria To Hire New Employees: Character First
What was my problem? How would I get to know each candidate? How would I go beyond résumés and application forms to learn about each person? I was sure each person would have a super résumé. Besides, I felt sure each would be well coached. Interviewees knew they were selling their skills. They knew they needed to perform well. And usually they acted brilliantly. (more…)
“Acquisition strengthens Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart in competitive marketplace. Will deliver more choice, value and convenience to help Canadians Live Life Well…We will drive growth and profitability through our unmatched mix of store formats, products and offerings. This is truly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”
Loblaw believe one plus one will equal three; sadly, research shows most acquisitions lead to one plus one equals one. Here are three questions for Loblaw’s leadership:
Do they know most acquisitions don’t produce expected results because the acquirer overpays?
Loblaw paid around 30% premium for Shoppers, which delighted me, as a former Shoppers’ shareholder. But, how will the combined company generate an acceptable return from this high base? How do individual customers get more choice? There are no empirical data suggesting the takeover will cause Loblaw’s customers to gravitate to Shoppers or conversely. Then again, how do you create significant sustainable synergies when you keep Shoppers separate?
I believe Shoppers’ Stock Market value before the offer was realistic; a 30% premium on a high market price is a bad omen for Loblaw’s shareholders.
Sears, Roebuck & Company’s purchase of Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker & Company real estate services business in the 1980s chronicled in Corporate Governance by Robert A. G. Monks and Nell Minow, gives me an eerie déjà vu feeling about this transaction!
2. Did Loblaw study my former employer, Montreal headquartered Alcan Inc.’s takeover by Rio Tinto?
I was delighted at the substantial premium Rio Tinto paid at the top of the market for my former employer of 32 years, Alcan, Inc. Though ecstatic as a shareholder, it was obvious in foresight that Rio Tinto overpaid. The aluminum industry is cyclical and prices were high by any standard. Rio Tinto shareholders’ only solace come from the CEO who did the deal losing his job, and so can do no further damage. As well, his successor acknowledged the mistake. Meanwhile, my former colleague, then Alcan Inc.’s CEO, Dick Evans, pulled off one of the best deals in recent memory for Alcan’s shareholders.
What went wrong for Rio Tinto? Clearly, they were not focussed on sustainable value and were distracted by industry events. Their due diligence obviously was inadequate, and they did not appreciate the industry’s cyclicality. Realistically, like most CEO’s in these over priced transactions, Rio Tinto CEO’s exuberance during the bull market trapped him.
3. Where does Loblaw expect higher earrings and lower costs to come from?
Here is another comment from Loblaw:
”Consumers are more focused on health and wellness and they are demanding more convenient retail locations,” said Vicente Trius, President, Loblaw Companies Limited. “Working together, we will capitalize on these consumer trends and create a compelling new blueprint for future growth and profitability.”
As part of their approval of the deal, the competition folks required Loblaw to divest some Shoppers’ stores. So, the new entity has fewer locations than the separate companies. As a Shoppers’ customer, how will this transaction alone change my buying habits and drive me to Loblaw? It won’t!
There are no significant synergies to cause the whole to be greater than the parts. What’s the “compelling blueprint”? To be sure, Loblaw’s offering “online pick up” at Shoppers won’t be a value creating juggernaut. Will existing Walmart customers choose to move to the new Loblaw because of the combination? I don’t think so. Will Loblaw go head to head with Walmart on price? This is a daunting prospect for Loblaw’s shareholders.
Loblaw and Shoppers have different cultures. A perceived simple matter as combining purchases will need significant study, patience, and exemplary leadership, to be effective. The good news is business literature are filled with many failures from which leadership intent on learning, can benefit.
If they haven’t, Loblaw’s leadership would benefit from Paul B. Carroll and Chunka Mui research-based book, Billion-Dollar Lessons, What you can learn from the most inexcusable business failures of the last 25 years. They would see clearly similar examples of failed acquisitions.
Many shareholders, including me, chose the full cash option causing Loblaw to restrict cash payment to 80%, issuing Loblaw’s shares for the rest. Accepting cash based on the high premium above market is one sign of Shoppers’ shareholders view of the combined company.
Loblaw’s leadership need to understand it is highly unlikely they will realize most synergies; the probability of unrealized synergies increases if they maintain two separate entities. That’s why Loblaw are likely to break commitments for no lay offs, no reorganizations when one plus one heads towards less than one! Leadership must understand that keeping two separate entities means less than the status quo–Loblaw, plus Shoppers encumbered by Loblaw’s bureaucracy!
I learned several lessons when I was part of Alcan’s mergers and acquisitions activities for several years. First, your investment banker is unlikely to tell you the proposed acquisition is headed for a train wreck. Second, you tend to over estimate potential synergies; not consciously, but you can’t anticipate implementation challenges. As well, often you will compromise and defer or neglect tough people decisions. Third, in the heat of the deal, you are likely to forget where you are in the business cycle. Don’t believe me? Review the Alcan and Rio Tinto deal!
Michel A. Bell follows Jesus, is author of five books, speaker, founder and president of Managing God’s Money, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. Michel was a senior executive at Alcan Inc., now Rio Tinto Alcan. For information on living a debt free lifestyle, visit http://www.managinggodsmoney.com/essentialtools/capitalfund.php.
Doing God’s vision, mission, goals, under His guidance is important if you are a Christian business owner.
Small businesses employ almost 50% of Canada’s private sector workforce. It’s an important growth area. Are you in or planning to join this sector? Probably thinking about starting a home-based business? Ensure you have a clear vision and mission, solid values, a coherent strategy, and a firm value creation platform.
Most Bible translations tell us in Proverbs 29:18 that where there is no vision the people perish. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that a better translation is ‘without God’s word, people abandon themselves to their own sinful ways. On the other hand, obeying God’s Law brings happiness.’
If you follow Jesus and intend to start a business, listen for God’s word. He will show the business He prepared for you. Even if you have a dream to do such and such, turn it over to the Lord and if that’s His plan He will place the desire in your heart (Psalm 37:4).
Racing ahead of Him will be disastrous. You don’t know the future. He does. You don’t know what’s best for you. He does. You wouldn’t allow your two-year old daughter to do what she likes that is harmful to her. You know what’s best for her. That’s how you and I should view God. He will show you His best, as He did with Moses, Joseph, Apostle Paul, and others in the Bible.
The vision is a broad roadmap of the business’ activities. It answers the question, “What will I do?” When it comes from God, it is more than a dream. The vision should convey an overall sense of your business’ purpose. Once you get God’s vision, you have the basis for an amazing business if you choose to let God guide all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6). Those whom you will employ must understand and buy-in to it so they can focus on it and work to it diligently.
In practice, the vision is the owner’s view of the future he or she believes comes from God. The owner must try to convince everyone in the business to believe the vision. Everybody must think it is realistic and accept it. It should be challenging, but realistic. If the owner does not convey it passionately, clearly, unambiguously, and confidently, others might not commit to it and might not be dedicated to achieving it.
Avon’s vision is to be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women—globally.
To clarify the vision, the business needs a mission. The mission shows broadly, how the owner intends to carry out the vision. Essentially, the mission shows how God is leading the owner to do the vision at a specific time.
A mission statement captures the vision clearly, concisely, and completely, and must align with the business’ vision. It should highlight the business’ commitment to focus on its core values as it works to achieving its goals.
Avon’s mission is focused on six core aspirations the company continually strives to achieve: (1) Leader in global beauty (2) Women’s choice for buying (3) Premier direct-selling company (4) Most admired company (5) Best place to work (6) To have the largest foundation dedicated to women’s causes.
Values are ethical guidelines the business will follow always. They will show that the business should do what’s right in every situation.
The owner will stress in the values’ statement that it is irrelevant how difficult a task might be. Everybody must do what’s right no matter the consequences. And the basis of right and truth is the Bible. Values should include respect for individuals and families, trust, integrity, transparency, caring, rigour, good stewardship, appropriate accountability.
To carry out the business’ vision and mission, it needs a strategy. Many businesses confuse its strategy with its goals, to its detriment. Goals are the specific targets the business plan to achieve in a defined period. However, specific strategies show how the business plans to carry out particular goals as it works to do the overall mission. It is the path to achieving the goals. The strategy must be compatible with the business’ values and other operating principles. The strategy should flow from analyses of the business’ environment—economy, markets, opportunities, challenges.
Value Creating Platform
A business’ value creating platform is the organization and principles it applies consistently to carry out its mission. How it buys, manufactures, sells, relates to customers and suppliers, and operates its business to earn its income. It shows the business’ uniqueness. It is the basic operational structure in place to do specific goals to achieve the mission.
Individuals in the business should apply the organization’s practices and principles in the designed structure systematically, methodically, and consistently. Most of all, the business must establish clear guidelines to prevent changes to the value creation platform without rigorous, high level discussion and debate.
The business must be alert to changes in the business environment, anticipate market shifts, and generally be alert to overhauling the value creation platform as needed. Complacency, arrogance, and myopia can be fatal. Blackberry is an example of huge success, sitting on its laurels, and then struggling to be relevant.
Avon’s value creation platform or business model is multi-level marketing using direct selling through door-to-door representatives and through brochures.
McDonald’s value creation platform includes quality food, speed, consistency, and franchising.
Doing God’s Mission, Vision, Goals – Summary
A Christian business owner should do God’s vision, mission, goals under His guidance. Some organizations do not have explicit vision statements. Instead, their vision is mixed in their mission statement. That’s not a problem as these mission statements show clearly, and broadly, the organizations’ purposes and core values.
Operating a business can be fun, exciting, and rewarding. Sadly, the reverse can be true, particularly when folks take control and let money lead their decisions. Let Jesus provide His vision and mission. Apply His values consistently using a coherent strategy, and trust Him to guide you through the valleys. Stay in your circumstances always, confident Jesus will never leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:18-20). He will guide you through.
Article first published as Apple’s Tim Cook Should Teach Effective Resources Management To Senators on Technorati.
Isn’t the United States the bastion of capitalism? The country where folks aspire to the American dream? It’s sprouted corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Whole Foods, Walmart; but today it seems to be sputtering. Many home grown corporations are finding greener pastures abroad because, among other reasons, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Not only is the corporate tax rate highest, but the tax code is cumbersome, and the tax system operated by unionized bureaucrats determined to bully selected groups.
What did the Senate sub committee hope to achieve by hauling in Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook? The tax code allows corporations tax-free retention of profits earned abroad, taxing only funds brought into the United States. Therefore, what’s the issue? Clearly, the inquisition was just another public corporate bashing that will mislead the ignorant masses to believe big businesses are the bad guys. More important, it was one more sad showing of how anti capitalist the United States is becoming? Has become?
Informed folks should commend Cook and other leaders for looking after stakeholders’ interests by keeping profits abroad. Why should Apple or any United States company opt for reduced growth at home when legally they can expand overseas with untaxed profits? Apple and several companies take advantage of the oppressive, cumbersome tax system for the benefit of their stakeholders. To do otherwise, would be to act incompetently like those senators who bully big businesses. Thankfully, at least Senator Rand Paul gets it; he said, “if anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress.”
Apple and other corporations’ tax strategy of deferring profit repatriation will provide economic benefit.
First, more funds will be available to reinvest and create jobs, and, or distribute to shareholders to help stimulate economies. This is a point ineffective politicians miss. Over time, retained profits will flow into different regions; that’s why countries must compete for these funds through taxation and other policies. No doubt, the United States government prefers the bullying approach instead of healthy competition.
For the skeptics, this would be a valid question: What happens if a company just sits on retained profits? Market forces and shareholders’ pressure will get that business to buy back its shares, pay dividends, or invest. Each of these actions puts funds into the economy; though not necessarily all in the United States or other economy.
Second, and a great challenge; hopefully, senators might realize their stupidity and understand that if the system is broken, they should fix it. That’s not rocket science, but for inept and ineffectual senators and government bureaucrats this could be a stretch. Unionized keepers of the status quo tax system will want to grow employment, and the more complex the code, the better.
Third, governments must leave more funds with businesses. Governments are wasteful; they must do more with less…they must shrink. What if the private sectors’ good stewardship practices applied to governments? Imagine how many programs and departments would be cut to curtail blatant waste and abuse! There is no evidence government uses funds wisely: it collects taxes, increases debt, and runs budget deficits, meanwhile, problems it’s meant to fix keep growing!
Rather than wasting Apple and other corporate executives’ time to find out they followed tax rules, the Senate committee ought to be looking at ways to encourage businesses to expand at home. If they want funds returned home, they must provide incentives, not penalties! Will the senator who paid more taxes than due, please step forward?
Certainly, many businesses abuse tax and other systems. Several executives overpay themselves; still, business is the only viable productive jobs’ creator in the economy. Governments ought to encourage corporations to invest profits at home; this will create jobs. They must provide the appropriate environment: ideally, zero tax on corporations so they have more to reinvest and pay dividends; less government and union harassment; and less involvement in the economy.
Here we go again. Unions demanding more from Air Canada, and Canada’s myopic federal government dashing to stop a strike. When I listen to Minister of Labor Lisa Raitt talk about this matter, she reminds me of a first-year business student who does not grasp the subject. The minister justifies this meddling act by claiming the government must guard the economy and shield the public. Has the minister forgotten that Air Canada is a publicly traded corporation? Government must allow it to act within the law, and in its best interest. Air Canada must be free to lock out its employees. Similarly, government must let workers strike, if they have that legal right. Air Canada’s workers do.
Why is government interfering with Air Canada, preempting it from acting to solve this challenge? It is highly likely that this government decision will destroy long-term shareholder value. It hampers the corporation’s latitude, and curbs unions’ flexibility. Notably, it could be the tipping point hastening Air Canada’s trip to bankruptcy protection.
If the government believes an Air Canada strike harms the economy, it has other options. It can change foreign ownership limits to allow more competitors. WestJet, with Southwest Airlines’ successful business model, does well without unions. Why not allow room for others to compete head-to-head with Air Canada, and give the public more choices? This might lead to a smaller Air Canada, fewer workers, and fewer unions. Besides, it might entice unions to focus on Air Canada’s long-term viability.
Why do Air Canada and its unions keep battling? Air Canada has outdated human-resource management practices. Surely, it takes two parties to bargain. Even so, Air Canada must realize that the hostile labor relations environment has failed. To survive long term, union-management relationships must change drastically. What will it take for Air Canada and its unions to realize that they must work as long-term partners? They have fought many battles using the current failed model.
Maybe a protracted strike that leads to bankruptcy might be the catalyst for Air Canada’s break up. Other players could pick up pieces of Air Canada and define new engagement rules. This would have negative, manageable short-term effects on the economy. WestJet could ramp up its services, and government could allow foreign carriers to transport passengers between Canadian airports. In the long-term, Air Canada would not have unions snapping at its heels, constantly holding the public at ransom. Read more of this article first published as Canadian Public Needs a Protracted Air Canada Strike on Technorati.com.