Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I like this discussion...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Corporate Responsibility

Things have shifted dramatically in my lifetime. The responsibilities that corporations take for their associates/employees quite possibly peaked when I was a kid (up considerably from the industrial revolution), and have been regressing ever since. If you walk into a corporate job today, directly out of college, you will be expected to partially fund your health insurance, fund the majority of your retirement account, and carry the entire load of dental, disability, and vision. Less than 10% of corporations offer pensions to new employees.

Much can said about why this has occured? Constant pressure to maximize corporate returns, an inability for current profits to cover recurring non-revenue generating expenses...GM publishes that every dime of their profit is offset by the health care of their retired pension holders...that is mind blowing for the 24th largest economy in the world.

I bring this topic up because a friend of mine recently sold his business. I was also very close with several long term employees (20+ year men). One of these 20 year men pulled me aside and asked..."what about me?" - refering to the business sale and potentially sharing the wealth. The funny thing was his first look was at the new owner...he told me he approached the new owner and said..."Um, excuse me boss, but you just paid $$$ for this business to my old boss. I helped build this business, is there a little something due me too?" After I recovered from the naivity of his question, and realized he was relaying this to me because he was serious, I asked him to explain he did...

"I am a major reason the business was able to garner the sale price it was, I think I am due some of the proceeds from the sale."

I explained to him that his beef, if he had one, is really with the seller. Theoretically, he drove up the value of the business through his efforts, and if he is due some "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" it is due from the seller, not the buyer.

I went on to explain that technically he was compensated for his efforts every step of the way during the life cycle of the business, and that he was really due nothing. I used as stock purchase as an example...if I buy 100 shares of GE stock for $10 per share (that's $1000 for my non-math pastor friends), and sell it 5 years later for $3000, I'm not expected to divy up a portion of my $2000 earnings among the 100,000 GE employees. Am I?

So, here's the dealio. Corporate responsibility to individuals peaked about 30 years ago. It is clearly on a down swing. Where does it bottom out? As a business owner, how far do I let it go? Do I follow big business, like I've been doing so far...which has been pretty easy because that direction means more profits? If it swings back up, do I follow quite as easily? Will the labor market ultimately decide what i do? (probably)

So this is what I'm thinking today.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The curse of a critical eye

My kids deal with it.

The associates at work deal with it.

Our sales associates deal with it most.

Things are going pretty well...really well.

We have great kids. Good hearts, sweet spirits, high performers, good choice in friends, not snooty. Yet I still will seek out those faults wanting even more.

Business is going well. People are working hard, getting it done, and most have some tremendously positive traits, that I recognize and praise (praise gets equal billing from the boss). Yet we continuously work on "blind spots" or "improvement areas", point out things that are unacceptable relative to our brand and the presentation of timeliness, clean and neat appearance, presentation style, etc. Like the coach that grades his all pro lineman and forces him to watch game film to view the 2 plays out of 38 that he blew his fact, that's the analogy I use to justify it.

I talk about pursuing excellence, not being acceptable.

One sales associate cried recently...saying it is just so hard.

It started in the Navy...with the inspection cycle. Things had to be just so...if it wasn't points were taken away. It's continued.

Now the critical eye consumes how I watch ball games, track meets, work performance, dinner prep, and probably most critical of it's equal opportunity.

I know American society plays a role in this. Our insatiable desire for more (productivity, money, stuff, status...the American Dream).

What I don't know is how does this critical eye flush out Biblically. Is there room for this in the Kingdom? If the answer is no, how do I perform my role at work effectively without it?

Just thinking.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I think the hostilities may be ramping up...

One of the perks of traveling on business is the ability to get a little closer to the world than I'm comfortable exposing my family to. I mean, I never want to be a stumbling block in their spiritual growth and I know what I can handle and not I'll end up at places or watching movies that I wouldn't want my family watching (don't let your mind wander to the gutter...none of which I'd be uncomfortable discussing with Jesus).

Anyway...this trip had two documentaries catching my attention. One on in-room pay per view on "evangelical kids' camp" and the other an HBO documentary on "the evangelical movement". I only watched the preview of the camp thing...couldn't see investing $11.99 to get fired up at some liberal arts project. But I saw enough to see how we are viewed.

I did watch the last 35 minutes of the HBO documentary and the lady filming and interviewing did her best to be balanced and not come off a good documentary, she tried to let the information tell the story. Every person she interviewed from Jerry Fallwell to this home school family of 12 in the mid-west was cordial, inviting, and I could see myself enjoying their company.

What's crazy is...I'm not sure that was the intention, nor was I the target market for the documentary. The narator is from New York City...female, artsy, horn rimmed glasses, short, straight hair, inteligent...very NPR-like. I got the distinct impression that she thought every one of these people were nuts...the old guy spending $22K per cross to erect 35' tall crosses in every state...the Liberty University student going door to door educating people about the importance of the upcoming election on family values...the beauty queen, would be lawyer, but mother of 12 who is content post conversion (which occured somewhere between law school and marriage to her pastor husband), the old man driving the red pick-up with "Jesus died for you and me" accross the tail get the point.

And if she thinks we're nuts, and HBO bought this film, there is probably a distinct chance that a large part of the population thinks we're nuts. And if that's the case, here in America, things are going to be drastically different for my children than say they were for my mother when she was a child. I'm not sure what that looks like, but I am sure I better be making sure that their faith is not luke warm.