Posts Tagged leadership
“History repeats itself” is a saying I hear on occasion and often wonder about. Today, for example, some businessmen say they cannot work because of uncertain conditions, yet Adam Smith designed capitalism as the “epitome of risk taking” (Bernstein, 1996, p. 19). According to Bernstein, up to the time of the reformation, the stable Protestant tradition stressed abstinence to avoid risk. Protestants considered the danger inherent in risk-taking as akin to gambling. Adam Smith (1904) introduced capitalism believing the danger attached to risk also came with opportunity. Instead of looking at risk as a zero-sum game where someone wins and someone loses, Smith believed trade resulted in a mutually worthwhile pursuit. Smith believed both parties to trade and risk taking could become wealthier contrary to practice before the reformation that relied on exploitation to gain wealth (Bernstein, 1996).
Recent conversations have talked about how unacceptable the transfer of wealth is from the elite to its underlings. Some business people espouse the pre-reformation idea that wealth transfer should only come from exploitation of underlings, while others see wealth transfer more like Adam Smith did. Smith believed business is risky, but full of opportunity and new wealth came to those adventuresome people willing to innovate (Bernstein, 1996). Today with the coming of supply-side economics, some want to return to the days of exploitation and stymie adventuresome entrepreneurs willing to innovate and create new trade. Does history repeat itself? Has the pendulum swung too far in the wrong direction?
I believe an efficient economic system has to balance opportunities with risk taking. If business people do not take risk, I do not see where innovation comes from under such conditions. Stable well-established businesses do not like to remove themselves from their comfort zone and their products and services eventually become stale and do not satisfy consumer needs. Meanwhile, society needs to provide more incentives to entrepreneurs to innovate and create new trade.
What do you think? Is our economic system returning to the stable pre-reformation days bereft of any risk taking relying solely on exploitation? Are you willing to take a risk in today’s economic setting? What incentives do you believe would help entrepreneurs to resume their efforts to innovate new trade? Please leave your thoughts here. Do you want to know more about incentives to small business entrepreneurship to its rightful role? Click here.
Bernstein, P. L. (1996). Against the gods: The remarkable story of risk. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Smith, A. (1904). The wealth of nations (5th ed.). London: UK: Methuen & Co., Ltd.
I have heard the words “employees are our most valuable asset” many times, but have rarely seen accountants embrace the idea of capitalizing human capital as an asset on the balance sheet. The theory goes that companies expense wages as employees earn them. If employees are an asset I believe the part of workers’ employment cost that adds value to the organization should appear on the balance sheet.
Although accounting rules forbid capitalizing human capital, they only recognize human capital on the income statement. Despite this oversight, many call accounting the language of business. At least one article admitted the problem and recommended alternatives for capitalizing human capital. Chen and Ku (2004) concluded, “The succession of the human intellect over machines and equipment in the contribution to industrial value makes a financial statement that relegates human capital expenditure to expenses inadequate if not obsolete” (p. 129). If accounting is the language of business why is the value of its most valuable asset excluded from the balance sheet?
This disparity leads one to believe companies’ accounting standards look at employees not as an asset, but as a liabilities. For example, in finance the main goal of the firm is to maximize shareholder wealth and accounting rules treat human capital as a period cost (expense) instead of an asset. In recent years many companies have reconsidered the view shareholders are the only stakeholders in a firm, and have expanded stakeholders to include customers, suppliers, and employees. Even with the coming of triple bottom-line reporting I have not seen accounting rule-making bodies espouse the capitalizing human capital (Elkington, 1994; Slaper & Hall, 2011).
Similarly, Reimers-Hild, Fritz, and King (2007) described human capital as a continuous investment leading to increased earning power. Reimers-Hild et al. further described human capital as responsible for innovation, creativity, and keeping pace with change. Chen and Ku (2004) developed a theoretical classification framework that would capitalize certain formation and acquisition costs in early stages of development, learning costs in middle stages of development, and replacement costs in final stages. Chen and Ku argued for disclosing these costs as investments if the costs are unique and add value.
Do you believe employees are your greatest asset? I would like to hear your thoughts. Should your greatest asset show on the balance sheet? Please let leave your comments? Click here if you want to understand more about accounting for human capital.
Chen, H. M., & Ku, J. M. (2004). The role of human capital cost in accounting. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 5(1), 116-130. doi: 10.1108/14691930410512950
Elkington, J. (1994). Towards the sustainable corporation: Win-win-win business strategies for sustainable development. California Management Review, 36(2), 90-100. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=9410213932&site=ehost-live
Reimers-Hild, C. I., Fritz, S. M., & King, J. W. (2007). Entrepreneurial Career Development: Using Human Capital, Social Capital, and Distance Education to Achieve Success. Advancing Women in Leadership, 24, 1-N_A.
Slaper, T. F., & Hall, T. J. (2011). The triple bottom line: What is it and how does it work? Indiana Business Review, 86(1), 4-8. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=66506015&site=ehost-live
Leaders must start the course of delivering excellence by communicating a vision. Friedman (2006) noted that leaders must align their core values with their vision and convert them into action by owning three skills – authenticity, integrity, and creativity. The total leadership approach is a method that promotes reading background materials and discussing principles that matter. This method is important in assessing and coaching people including giving and receiving feedback, refining ideas and gaining support for them, and reviewing progress and explaining any lessons learned. Newstrom and Davis (2002) described leadership as the “catalyst that transforms potential into reality” (p. 163). People provide the missing ingredient here to transform the vision into reality.
Galpin (1998) suggested the key ingredient for a leader is to put together a strategy that motivates and educates people to act on the strategy. Leaders must motivate employees through their influence. Galpin listed twelve critical influences important to motivating people. The twelve influences include goals and measures, rewards and recognition, communication, training and development, and senior leadership. Critical influences also include rules and policies; physical setting; staffing, selection, and succession; information systems and knowledge sharing; operating procedure changes; organizational structure; and ceremonies and events.
Malveaux (1999) put the issue another way by saying one needs to lead by example. For example, if one sees children as the future, the leader must rise and play a role in their lives. If leadership represents listening, the leader should stop talking and start listening. Malveaux promoted self-reflection in deciding how to lead.
The leader embodies all of these characteristics and then some. A leader must assume responsibility and take credit for his or her actions. A leader must have a core ethical boundary that will not cave under pressure or give in to the influence of greed.
Do you believe leadership drives excellence in an organization? I want to know your thoughts. Do you want to learn more?
Friedman, S. D. (2006). Learning to lead in all domains of life. The American Behavioral Scientist, 49(9), 1270-1297. doi: 10.1177/0002764206286389
Galpin, T. J. (1998). When leaders really walk the talk: Making strategy work through people. Human Resource Planning, 21(3), 38-45. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=1452186&site=eds-live
Malveaux, J. (1999). Too many chiefs; not enough leaders. Black Issues in Higher Education, 16(8), 30. Retrieved from https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=1926388&site=eds-live
Newstrom, J. W., & Davis, K. (2002). Organizational behavior (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
I read an article in Bloomberg Business Week about Andrew Mason. Mason is the headwaiter at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park. However, the job is Mason’s part-time evening job as by day he is the chief executive officer and founder of Groupon. What struck me reading the article is that Mason has matured from his playful childlike demeanor, which allowed him to develop the Groupon concept. Mason has become a more seasoned entrepreneur trying to hold on to what he started and run it in a more businesslike manner (Etter & MacMillan, 2012).
Although investors and analysts have challenged Mason’s running of Groupon, he has kept a lock on what he created. Mason wants to improve Groupon without giving it away to suitors offering him large amounts of money to buy the company. Mason turned down an offer by Google to buy the company, which would have allowed Mason to cash out. Mason turned down the offer despite problems it has had with profitability and holding up share value. Mason admitted the company has had problems with its operating system and commented, “we have to get good at this” (Etter & MacMillan, 2012, p. 50)
Meanwhile, executives at Groupon have noted the level of seriousness has notched up and the company now employs more lawyers and accountants. Groupon has even purchased other companies and has set up a location in the Silicon Valley in California. Despite his critics lashing out at him, Mason wants to preserve control over the company he started and claims he is in the business for more than just the money. Mason said his company wants to solve a business problem, which is his main motivation (Etter & MacMillan, 2012).
Although Mason may have much to learn, he has the entrepreneurial spirit to perfect and hold on to what he started. Mason still has a vision and he wants to cement it instead of giving it away to someone else. Mason still studies the disconnect in the operating system as maitre d’ of his part-time job at the Japanese restaurant and has learned from the experience. Even though Mason has learned from his experience, he realizes still has much to learn.
Only time will tell if Groupon can get to the next level, but I admire Mason for his stick-to-itiveness. I believe Mason has the characteristics of a genuine entrepreneur as he loves what he does and wants to perfect it. Money is not his only motivation and his quest for perfection overshadows any thirst to get rich quick. Mason continues to learn from his experience and enjoys every minute of it. Mason does not fear failure, but looks it straight in the eye. I believe more entrepreneurs need to reclaim the entrepreneurial spirit.
What is your take on reclaiming the entrepreneurial spirit? I want to hear from you. If you want to develop the entrepreneurial spirit I suggest learning more about how you can starting now. Learn more.
Etter, L. and MacMillan, D. (2012, July 16-22). Groupon tries to ‘Get Good’ at growing up. Bloomberg Businessweek.
One of the traits of a good entrepreneur is to stop people trying to take advantage of them by foretelling the future. So often I see people trying to sell their products and services telling the small business founder if he or she does not buy the product the sky will fall on them. Savvy entrepreneurs filter the predator soothsayers claims to conserve capital.
My advice to a new business founder is to buy goods and services as you need them only if they are absolutely necessary to the business’s plans. Predators will try to sell the small business founder everything under the sun. If the predator is so hungry, the small business founder should ask for a free trial with no strings attached to see if the product or service performs as intended. Before signing on, business founders should ask themselves if the product or service is absolutely necessary or if they can get by without it.
Capital preservation is critical when a business is in an embryonic stage. The small business founder should take great care to preserve capital. I have seen too many small businesses spend foolishly and eat the capital the company needs to survive. A savvy entrepreneur learns to make do with less. Learning to say no is a tough assignment, but pays dividends in the long-run. When in doubt, return to the business plan and only say yes to those items included in the business plan.
Are predator soothsayers knocking on your door? How do you deal with them? If you need help learning to say no I encourage you to get help now. Contact us for help.
Often I hear the advice the way to improve products and services is to keep all the costs involved to a minimum. Although keeping costs low is a good way to achieve enough of a margin to make a product or service viable, cost cutting can create other problems. For example, the product or service can have less value to the customer or consumer and cause them to select other more desirable products and services. In short, cutting all costs indiscriminately often is counterproductive.
Just yesterday I listened to a video interview of Steve Jobs and he embraced the idea the main goal is to produce products that customers want and need. Jobs commented that when he came back to Apple when it had experienced financial difficulty many of the corporate managers had a hard time understanding the idea of creating value customers want and need. The approach of Apple corporate managers focused more on cost cutting and less on creating value.
Jobs highlighted the idea that one-size-fits-all approaches do not work as well as more reasoned approaches that consider what customers want and need. Jobs said his philosophy to the turnaround of Apple came from thinking like a small company. Jobs found many good people still existed in the company even after he left. What made these people stay is their belief in the product despite the push by management to cut costs at every chance.
Creative people need space to create value and can substitute parts instead of cutting costs at every opportunity. Jobs explained Apple created the I-pod using substitution instead of cost cutting at every turn. Substitution allows creative people to consider consumers needs and wants instead of putting out a product that has less value to them. Job’s philosophy to work like a small company relies on the communications between company employees and consumers unlike big companies focusing strictly on product margins.
My advice is not to let anyone tell you to leave your brains at the door. Cost cutting is desirable when used correctly, but can also have adverse effects. Think of customers and consumers first before demanding cost cuts. Cost cutting is not an end-all solution. Have you had a frontal lobotomy yet? What does your company tell you?
I want to hear your comments. If you want some other ideas I encourage you to get help now. Learn more.
Imagine a world without electricity, refrigerators, cars, highways, water distribution facilities, agricultural equipment, health technologies, and telephones. Add to the list electricity, airplanes, radios, televisions, Internet, computers, air conditioning, and many more innovations invented in the last century. Combine these with the innovations achieved in the current century and the list goes on. Entrepreneurs play an integral role in society and add value by creating economic growth and jobs.
People sometimes question if entrepreneurs matter and I believe the resounding answer is yes. Entrepreneurs are a different breed and enjoy the freedom to think about what is possible instead of what is. Entrepreneurs seek to make the world better by envisaging innovations that will serve unfulfilled needs and working ardently to bring them into fruition. The consummate entrepreneur is not satisfied until he or she achieves a vision and even then works to improve the products and services brought into existence.
Sometimes business people look at entrepreneurs as free spirits and unmanageable, but entrepreneurs transcend this view because they want to lead instead of follow. Entrepreneurs lead us to creations and services often thought unimaginable by others. Creativity breeds followers wanting to take part in creating these innovations and perfecting them.
Entrepreneurs are close to consumers because they understand their needs instead of catering to existing products and services. Consumers have evolving needs and entrepreneurs recognize them where others fear to tread. Consumers appreciate the services entrepreneurs offer when others are unbending or intolerable.
Next time someone puts doubt in your mind about entrepreneurship think about some of the reasons entrepreneurs matter. Entrepreneurs do matter and if you want to become one I suggest visiting us now. Learn more.
Imagine how entrepreneurs differ in their thinking from people running larger businesses. Linear thinking means a person thinks sequentially. Nonlinear thinking is different because no order exists in how a person thinks. I remember a situation I had highlighting the difference in these ways of thinking. Entrepreneurs embrace a more balanced approach employing both linear and nonlinear thinking skills.
To explain, I remember when I went to residency training for my doctoral work when an professor placed us in teams for a project. I had one member of my team with a military background. Although I found my previous experience with military people positive, I had a different experience with this particular person.
In my experience as an educator I taught several classes at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California and always found the people in my classes ready and willing to learn. I believe the military training these people received made them disciplined and develop good study habits. I found military students usually completed and turned their work in on time.
The gentleman in my residency class, who I shall call Mr. Roboto, gave me a different experience. Although Mr. Roboto eagerly wanted to take on the project, he quickly assumed the leadership, and dictated terms of the project. The suggestions from other people on the team he quickly dismissed in favor of his own ideas. Reflecting on this experience, I found this person’s approach highlighted linear thinking. Everything Mr. Roboto did expressed the “my way or the highway” approach and gave me a new appreciation of military thinking.
As a seasoned entrepreneur, I had a hard time dealing with Mr. Roboto because he dictated and never listened to anyone else on the team unless they agreed with him. Entrepreneurs often have more nonlinear thinking skills and thrive in a team setting, but Mr. Roboto put himself at the top of the chain of command and did not accept ideas from other team members. I found the approach Mr. Roboto took stifled creativity and more in line with the approach taken by a larger business.
In my studies, I found a better balance between linear and nonlinear skills is more desirable in my area of focus on entrepreneurship. Groves, Vance, and Choi (2011) found entrepreneurs have a greater balance between linear and nonlinear critical thinking skills and more education contributes to improving the balance.
My experience highlights some of the differences in how entrepreneurs think, organize a culture conducive to creativity, and lead. Entrepreneurs normally reject command and control settings and value more flexible organic settings. Mintzberg (1980) described entrepreneurs favoring adhocracy. Adhocracy relies on mutual adjustment in a decentralized, lively setting seeking harmonization. Masood, Dani, Burns, and Backhouse (2006) explained leadership in an adhocracy as visionary, innovative, and risk-oriented. Entrepreneurs collaborate and guide workers using continuous feedback loops.
A hierarchy culture stresses more formal setting and policies guiding what workers do. The hierarchy culture focuses on stability, predictability, and efficiency. Formal rules and policies are the glue holding the organization together (Masood et al., 2006). Mr. Roboto embodied the hierarchy culture, which clashed with the adhocracy culture I worked in as an entrepreneur. Mr. Roboto relied on command and control and avoidance of risk. No wonder I had such a difficult time in this group.
Entrepreneurs balance linear and nonlinear thinking and a good education helps the entrepreneur employ the right thinking to the proper problem. Entrepreneurs avoid all or nothing thinking and value collaborating with a team. Are you a linear thinker or do you have what it takes to balance linear thinking with nonlinear thinking? Please leave a comment. Learn more.
Groves, K., Vance, C., & Choi, D. (2011). Examining entrepreneurial cognition: An occupational analysis of balanced linear and nonlinear thinking and entrepreneurship success. Journal of Small Business Management, 49(3), 438-466. doi: 10.2307/259034.1999-08070-001 10.2307/259034 10.1287/orsc.9.5.543.
Masood, S., Dani, S., Burns, N., & Backhouse, C. (2006). Transformational leadership and organizational culture: The situational strength perspective. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers — Part B — Engineering Manufacture, 220(6), 941-949. doi: 10.1243/09544054JEM499
Mintzberg, H. (1980). Structure in 5’s: A synthesis of the research organization design Management Science, 26(3), 322-341. doi: 0825-1909/80/2603/0323^1.25