Volume 9, Issue 4
2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC
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majority of Executive
Times readers didn’t find their names on the Forbes’ Billionaire List (http://www.forbes.com/2007/03/07/billionaires-worlds-richest_07billionaires_cz_lk_af_0308billie_land.html) this year, somewhere or other there’s
a ranking or list or rating that cheers those who are at or better than
expected, and can distress those who are ranked low. The information could come from the reams
of proxy statements released this season, or from internal performance
ratings or from any of the countless wins or losses that an executive scores
each day. The smiles or frowns that follow rankings can spread throughout the
workplace, since the attitude of leaders can be contagious. Frowns come
easily this time of year when personal tax returns are filed. Maybe your
picks reached the final four, maybe they didn’t. Wise executives understand
how moods, attitudes and outlook can have a huge impact on results. As you
read the stories selected for this issue, think about the ways in which you
can improve the results in your organization by improving your own attitude,
and the ways in which you influence others for the better. If you’re gloomy
about your current situation and are thinking about a change, consider
sending your resume to Warren Buffett, who announced in his annual shareholder
that he’s looking for someone to manage a huge portfolio and who would
succeed him as
Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. One book is highly recommended with a four-star rating, twelve books are recommended with three-star ratings, and two books are mildly recommended with a two-star rating. Visit our 2007 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2007books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 312 books read or those being considered this year, including 45 that were added to the list in March. If there’s something missing from the bookshelf that you think we should be considering or if there’s a book lingering on the Shelf of Possibility that you think we should read and review sooner rather than later, let us know by sending a message to email@example.com. You can also check out all the books we’ve ever listed at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.
find fun while at work, while others seem to have one personality in the
office and another outside. We read in a Page One story in The Wall Street Journal on March 7 (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117323155011829034.html)
that executives at Wal-Mart lead
the way for all employees in promoting and having fun with what they call
Value Producing Items or VPIs. For decades, the
company has rewarded employees for finding creative ways to promote selected
products, without following the approaches taken by other retailers, or by
relying on the promotions of manufacturers. Sam Walton mentioned his first VPI, Moon Pies, in his
autobiography. According to the Journal,
designation, especially for products selected by executives, ensures that a
product will get special treatment at the world's largest retailer. Store
employees, who sometimes adopt their bosses' VPIs
as their own, give their pet products the spotlight and dream up offbeat
marketing gimmicks to promote them. Store workers who push their chosen VPI
to top-seller status can reap cash prizes of up to $500 and trips to
Wal-Mart's annual meeting in
Are you so serious at work that others think you lack the fun gene? What’s the equivalent of a VPI for your organization? What can you do to have fun in producing better business results? Does your temperament create a barrier to finding creative ways of achieving growth?
Are you usually aware of your moods? How are emotions expressed in your workplace? Is it ok to express negative emotions? How aware are you of the ways in which your moods as a leader influence or are caught by others? Does the mood caught from you help or hinder getting the right work done?
How is your outlook influenced by the role you play within your organization? Do you understand and value the differences in outlook within your organization? Do you consider anyone with an outlook different from yours to be a “moron”? Are you the moron in your organization?
Lisa Belkin, who writes the Life’s Work column in The New York Times, wrote a pleasant column in the March 11 issue, about how dogs at work can humanize the office and what started as a trend among some dotcoms has spread to many companies that now allow dogs at work. She reported on March 25 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/business/yourmoney/25wcol.html?ref=business) some of responses to this column. ‘“On a recent Monday,’ one reader wrote, ‘I began my workweek with the discovery that a dog had defecated under my desk.’ … ‘My boss thinks his Shepherd is the sweetest thing in the world,’ another wrote. ‘But I have always been nervous around dogs, and I have to take a deep breath every time I walk past the copy room, where Killer (not his real name) spends most of his day, because I have visions of the creature jumping out at me.’” Next time you hear about an office going to the dogs, you’ll understand.
Can you imagine that something that makes one employee feel great can make another feel miserable? In your role as leader, how do you referee these differences? Do you need to be the master of both human and canine behavior?
Here’s an update on stories covered in prior issues of Executive Times:
the April issues of Executive Times
we usually provide a selection from Warren Buffett’s
annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. While we mentioned his search
for a successor on page one of this issue, here’s one of our favorite
passages in the current letter: “In 2007, our results from the
bread-and-butter lines of insurance will deteriorate, though I think they
will remain satisfactory. The big unknown is super-cat insurance. Were the
terrible hurricane seasons of 2004-05 aberrations? Or were they our planet’s
first warning that the climate of the 21st Century will differ materially
from what we’ve seen in the past? If the answer to the second question is
yes, 2006 will soon be perceived as a misleading period of calm preceding a
series of devastating storms. These could rock the insurance industry. It’s
naïve to think of Katrina as anything close to a worst-case event. Neither Ajit Jain, who manages our super-cat operation, nor I
know what lies ahead. We do know that it would be a huge mistake to bet that
evolving atmospheric changes are benign in their implications for insurers.
read a familiar name in the Wal-Mart article referenced on pages one and two
of this issue. In the April 2005
issue of Executive Times we noted Thomas M. Coughlin’s resignation in the wake of a scandal. In the
VPI article, we read, “Former Vice Chairman Tom Coughlin, currently serving a
27-month home-confinement sentence for wire fraud and tax evasion, was the
king of VPIs before he fell from grace. He once
packaged together duct tape and WD-40 lubricant as his VPI. Employees deemed
it ‘the perfect redneck gift,’ says Mr. Coughlin, reached at home.”
Some executives have been known to appreciate the mood altering effects of grapes. Ernest Gallo was the business leader behind the family enterprise he started seventy years with his brother, Julio, and that now has a 25% share of the American wine market. When he died a few days short of 98th birthday in March, he still controlled the company, which is being managed by the third generation of family members. His aggressive approach to marketing cheap wine made few friends for him among vintners. In recent years, Gallo expanded to premium wines, which have won significant awards. We read in Decanter magazine, (http://www.decanter.com/news/112180.html?aff=rss), “He was the first to advertise wine on television, and the point-of-sale materials he created to draw shoppers to his wines were eventually adopted by his competitors. He was a pioneer in exporting – albeit wines of underwhelming quality – and he funded the first endowed chair in enology and viticulture at UC Davis. Gallo sent a legion of trained winemakers and viticulturists into the industry, and his policy of paying growers for their grapes within 30 days of harvest kept many farmers afloat in the early 1990s.” Some years ago, Ernest said of his success, “We could do anything anyone else could do, not because I was brilliant or well-educated, but because I was willing to devote as much time and energy as was necessary, regardless of the sacrifice.” That’s a lesson every executive can appreciate.
Latest Books Read and Reviewed:
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