Archives: May 2006

Event: NACE

Tom's in Anaheim, CA, today talking to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. He made three PowerPoint presentations for the event. You can download the slides here:
NACE Final
NACE Long
NACE Talent

Hooray! (Finally!)

Hats off to: Pres Bush for a great, non-crony choice for Treasury! Hats off to new Chief of Staff Josh Bolton, a Goldman alum, for convincing Mr B of the choice and the need to beef up the job significantly. And, most important, hats off to Hank Paulson for accepting the job in D.C.

(And "no comment" on the two prior office holders.)

No Apologia, But …

The tawdry behavior of Skilling and Lay, and Fannie Mae execs (revealed in gory detail last week), is inexcusable.

But ...

Legal—as well as illegal—forms of such behaviors are likely to persist, and perhaps increase, as we experience the full-bore arrival of an economy whose basis is almost entirely intangibles. Just as the intellectual property lawyers will be driving Maseratis for the foreseeable future, all of us in enterprise will be wrestling with value-valuations in a world where the great economies have banked their coke ovens, scrapped their material goods—and come to depend on biotech scientists, programmers, experience providers (think Nike, Starbucks—yes Nike, which several years ago Fortune declared a service company, not a manufacturer), and the like.

New rules are needed for new games—and the shakedown cruise will be long and at times painful. (Think about Microsoft's continuing tribulations, now centered on the European Union, and the RIM-Blackberry patent dispute.)

Read It!

Paul Arden is former Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, and he's authored a no-bull "must read": WHATEVER YOU THINK THINK THE OPPOSITE. It's very short and very sweet—and graphically compelling.

Consider one pithy piece of his advice: "TRAPPED. It's not because you are making the wrong decisions. It's because you are making the right ones. We try to make sensible decisions based on the facts in front of us. The problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everybody else."

I've packaged a few of my favorite "Ardenisms" in the attached PowerPoint.

Read It (II)!

Mary Pipher, Writing to Change the World. Epigraph, courtesy James Baldwin: "You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. ... The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it."

Call me hopelessly naive, but I believe there is no excuse for any variety of "business writing" that should be crafted any less carefully or aim any less high than a great novel or great inaugural address. After all, we do aim—day in and day out—to change the world via our human collectivities called enterprises. Right?

The Right Stuff!

Women Are Born Leaders bumper sticker

My Subaru on the Farm in VT.

Irony

I haven't seen this reported, but it strikes me as ironic that the Skilling-Lay convictions came one day before the 72nd birthday of the SEC. The agency was born on 26 May 1934, with this declaration by Senate staffer Ferdinand Pecora: "I think that the stock market bill will purge the securities market of the evil practices shown to have existed in the past. The bill spells the end of the manipulator, jiggler and pool operator."—Well, not quite the end.

Pay For Performance?

Home Depot Chairman & CEO Bob Nardelli is a pal. Period. An amazing guy. Perhaps more energy and determination than I've ever seen in one package. (I met him at GE.) And he has indeed mounted a largely successful REVOLUTION at Home Depot. Which is why I am simply dumbfounded by his Annual Meeting behavior last week. (Among many other things ... the Board were no-shows!!) I talked at a dinner on Sunday with a couple of gen-u-ine "captains of industry" ... with dozens of high-visibility annual meetings under their belts. They, too, are incredulous.

I confidently declare, alas, that Bob N will never recover from this one. FYI, for excellent commentary on the meeting, see Joe Nocera's article, "The Board Wore Chicken Suits," in the New York Times (0527); Joe is an old friend and superb reporter.

(If I don't understand, I sure as hell do offer the "shitty timing" prize for this sicko performance occurring the day after Skilling & Lay went down for, in effect, extreme executive arrogance and disdain of shareholders.)

Of course, pay for performance, a key Home Depot issue, is a very hot-contentious topic. A recent study (source??) I saw observed that CEO pay is closely (statistically) related to company size—and essentially unrelated to performance. So consider this from Advertising Age (0521.06) on top-mgt comp. Barebones: Over the last five years, INTERPUBLIC GROUP lost about $2 BILLION—and the top five execs were collectively paid $107 million. During the same five years OMNICOM's top five pocketed $111 million—on a profit of $3.2 BILLION. (Hmmmm?? Wow!! And: Not unusual.)

Yes!!!!

As a Marylander, I played, as birthright, lacrosse starting at about age 5 and effectively ending at Cornell almost two decades later. (FYI, goalie.) I guess the crowds watching me (& my team) maxed out at a thousand or so for a Princeton game at Princeton. Moreover, the reach of the sport at the time was little more than the mid-Atlantic states, and New England.

Not only has the playing of the sport grown like Topsy (my 20-year-old informs me there's a club team in Durango CO), but so have the interested parties. I must admit I was almost driven to tears when I read yesterday that this weekend's NCAA final, in which Virginia beat Massachusetts 15-7, was witnessed by the largest LAX crowd ever—47,062. (In Philadelphia.)

Tom & Trevor

Tom Peters and Trevor Gay

Trevor came to the London event the week before last—finally, a face to go with the name of one of our most frequent contributors to the Blog. (Other London pics at "Tom's Photos"/Flickr.)