Executive Times

Volume 8, Issue 7

July 2006


 2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC

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The two richest people in the world commit their resources to the poorest people of the world, and the rest of us may have the opportunity to learn a lesson or two. In recent weeks, both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have renewed and specified how their significant wealth will be given to others. As we call attention to some aspects of these recent actions, consider your own approach to the purpose, mission, or utilization of the resources you’ve accumulated. Think about your process of determining where the rewards of your labors will rest. Some references to philanthropic activities call it “giving back,” as if most of those who have accumulated wealth did it by “taking it” and that is rarely the case. “Recycling” or “return to society” might be a more positive way of describing these positive actions. Each executive makes a difference in the world, some greater and some lesser than others. This month is a fine time to think about the difference you are making, and to determine for yourself the scope, depth and breadth of the impact you can make. What does it take to get your attention about something important?


Fifteen new books are rated in this issue, beginning on page 5. Eleven books are recommended with three-star ratings and four books received two-star ratings. Three of the titles this month contain the word “dead,” no doubt some theme that developed on its own. Visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html and see the rating table explained as well as explore links to all 360 books read or those being considered this year, including 41 that were added to the list in June. 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 books@hopkinsandcompany.com. As an added benefit to Executive Times readers, we’ve put all the books we’ve ever listed on one web page at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/All Books.html.


A tightly held secret was disclosed in the middle of June when Microsoft announced “that effective July 2008 Bill Gates, chairman, will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jun06/06-15CorpNewsPR.mspx). Some reports noted that Gates hadn’t told CEO Steve Ballmer until two days before the announcement. What does the foundation do? “Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families.” (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/AboutUs/Announcements/Announce-060615.htm). What’s likely to happen when Gates allocates more time to the foundation? We read in The Wall Street Journal (6/26/06) (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115128003977890342.html) that “Some predict that Mr. Gates will bring his fabled micromanagement style with him. ‘He's definitely not a laissez-faire kind of guy,’ says Esther Dyson, editor of the tech review Release 1.0. Mr. Gates is a voracious reader of science and history who questions subordinates relentlessly about their projects, she says. ‘If he respects you, he'll argue with you. If not, he ignores you,’ she says. ‘If he says, “That's stupid,” it means he cares’ about a project, she adds. ‘He's not a do-gooder. He's a learner.’ … David Heymann, polio chief of the World Health Organization, says, ‘They don't nickel and dime. They decide on a priority, decide what's needed, fund it and pull in other funders with them. They decide on priorities and go after them. That's something public health never had before.’” We can anticipate a wholehearted effort over many years to diligent, evidence-based philanthropy on the part of both Bill and Melinda Gates as they guide the allocation of wealth to solving specific societal problems.


Do your head, heart, and body work together in the same place at the same time? Where are you asking relentless questions? How “wholehearted” is your focus? What priorities are you going after? How determined are you to do what it takes to accomplish what you’ve decided needs to be done?



He said his decision was in no way related to the one made days earlier by Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett deserves to be taken at his word. In a stunning announcement on June 25, (http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/25/magazines/fortune/charity1.fortune/index.htm) (through long-time friend, Fortune writer, and Susan Thompson Foundation trustee Carol Loomis) Buffett revealed a change in his estate plans, and released five pledge letters (http://berkshirehathaway.com/donate/webdonat.html) outlining the terms of his donations, amounting to 10 million shares to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 1 million to the Susan Thompson Foundation, and 350,000 shares to each of three foundations set up for and directed by his children. All are worth reading, but we want to pass along selected comments from Buffett’s interview with Carol Loomis in July 10 issue of Fortune. Buffett said that he and his late wife, Susie, “… agreed with Andrew Carnegie, who said that huge fortunes that flow in large part from society should in large part be returned to society.” (http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/25/magazines/fortune/charity2.fortune/index.htm). Buffett had long planned to donate his fortune to charity after his death. When asked why he’s giving huge resources to the Gates Foundation, he answered, “… over the years I had gotten to know Bill and Melinda Gates well, spent a lot of time with them having fun and, way beyond that, had grown to admire what they were doing with their foundation. I've seen them give presentations about its programs, and I'm always amazed at the enthusiasm and passion and energy they're pouring into their work. They've gone at it, you might say, with both head and heart. Bill reads many thousands of pages annually keeping up with medical advances and means of delivering help. Melinda, often with Bill along, travels the world looking at how well good intentions are being converted into good results. Life has dealt a terrible hand to literally billions of people around the world, and Bill and Melinda are bent on reducing that inequity to the extent they possibly can. If you think about it - if your goal is to return the money to society by attacking truly major problems that don't have a commensurate funding base - what could you find that's better than turning to a couple of people who are young, who are ungodly bright, whose ideas have been proven, who already have shown an ability to scale it up and do it right? You don't get an opportunity like that ordinarily. I'm getting two people enormously successful at something, where I've had a chance to see what they've done, where I know they will keep doing it - where they've done it with their own money, so they're not living in some fantasy world - and where in general I agree with their reasoning. If I've found the right vehicle for my goal, there's no reason to wait. … I have some small hopes that what I'm doing might encourage other very rich people thinking about philanthropy to decide they didn't necessarily have to set up their own foundations but could look around for the best of those that were up and running and available to handle their money. People do that all the time with their investments. They put their money with people they think are going to do a better job than they could. There's some real merit to extending that thought to your wealth, rather than setting up something to be run after your death by a bunch of old business cronies or a staff that eventually comes to dictate the agenda.” Buffett had expected his wife, Susie, to outlive him, and lead the foundation to distribute their wealth. She died two years ago, and it seems that Buffett will place his wealth under the direction of other close friends, on whom he will place great trust.


Are you more inclined to do things on your own, or to combine your resources with others to accomplish more than could be done separately? Whom do you trust? Who has proven to you that they are determined to accomplish great things? How can you best align with them? How important is it for your name to appear on your legacy? Could you be as egoless as Buffett given his circumstances?



There’s an old piece of wisdom that it takes one generation to create wealth, another to enjoy it, and a third to lose it. Most executives with children love them dearly, and struggle to find the balance between what is given to those children, and what the children are left to accomplish on their own. As far back as 1986, when commenting on inheritance to children, (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1986/09/29/68098/index.htm), Warren Buffett offered this advice, “‘Love is the greatest advantage a parent can give.’ To him the perfect amount to leave children is ‘enough money so that they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.’” Here are excerpts from the pledge letters Buffett sent to each of his three children: “I am enormously proud of the way in which you have managed the resources of the foundation that Mom and I established for you. Your thinking has been good, and your actions have been effective in helping those less fortunate than our family has been. … A couple of thoughts (but not directives): Focus the new funds and your energy on a relatively few activities in which HGB can make an important difference. Concentrate your resources on needs that would not be met without your efforts. Conversely, avoid making small contributions to the multitude of worthwhile activities that have many possible funders and that would likely proceed without your help. Consider working with your siblings on important projects. Pay attention to your home community but favor a broader view. Judge programs by how they fit with your goals and their chances for success, not by who makes the request. Expect to make some mistakes; nothing important will be accomplished if you make only “safe” decisions. … I consider myself lucky to have three children who want to spend much of their time and energy in working on projects that will benefit others. I am proud of what you are doing, and your mother would be proud as well.” Any child receiving such a letter has received a valuable inheritance.


What inheritance will your children receive from you? What benefit will society gain from your efforts? Have you determined “how much is enough” when it comes to wealth to your children? Beyond a financial inheritance, what will your children have received from you that represents lasting value? How will they remember you? 



Here’s an update on a story covered in a prior issue of Executive Times:

Ø      We began the September 2005 issue of Executive Times with a comment about the scripted customer interactions used by employees at Ritz-Carlton hotels. Guests who found the cheery, but predictable exchanges to be more than a little creepy will be glad to know that according to The Wall Street Journal (6/23/06) (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115102126185688205.html), the chain has lightened up on the script requirement, and employees are almost free to think for themselves. “Though folksy language by employees is still forbidden, the oft-heard catchphrase ‘Certainly, my pleasure’ will be discouraged -- replaced instead by more natural responses depending on the particular situation.”  Guests can now walk unaccompanied to rest rooms. A small step ahead.





From 1955, when he joined Toyota Motor Corporation, until he retired as Chairman on June 23, Hiroshi Okuda both fit in and stood out. He pushed Toyota out of its lethargy, and made it model of innovation, growth and corporate citizenship. According to The New York Times, (6/24) (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/24/automobiles/24auto.html), “With a zeal for auto racing and a global perspective, Mr. Okuda pushed Toyota, previously known for its conservative approach, into new types of vehicles and new markets. Under the tactic, which some called the Americanization of Toyota, the company expanded its operations in the United States, which passed Japan a few years ago to become Toyota's biggest world market. … ‘I do not view efforts to address issues in the energy and environmental fields as a burden to industry or society,’ Mr. Okuda said in a 2004 speech. ‘To the contrary, I believe they should be recognized as opportunities for growth.’” Back in 2002, he affirmed the company’s values, and set out this vision and these challenges for achievement by 2010 (http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/vision/message/):

“Innovation into the Future - A Passion to Create a Better Society

Through ‘Monozukuri - manufacturing of value - added products’ and ‘technological innovation,’ Toyota is aiming to help create a more prosperous society. To realize this, we are challenging the below themes.

(1)  Be a driving force in global regeneration by implementing the most advanced environmental technologies.

(2)  Creating automobiles and a motorized society in which people can live safely, securely and comfortably.

(3)  Promote the appeal of cars throughout the world and realize a large increase in the number of Toyota fans.

(4)  Be a truly global company that is trusted and respected by all peoples around the world.”

Okuda remains as a senior advisor and member of the Toyota board. The challenges he’s offered to his successors and to competitors provide a meaningful and memorable legacy.


Latest Books Read and Reviewed:

 (Note: readers of the web version of Executive Times can click on the book covers to order copies directly from amazon.com.  When you order through these links, Hopkins & Company receives a small payment from amazon.com.  Click on the title to read the review or visit our 2006 bookshelf at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/2006books.html).


Title (Link to Review)



Review Summary


The Brief History of the Dead

Brockmeier, Kevin


Kingly. Imaginative novel of the end of the world thanks to a virus unleashed by Coca-Cola, and the link between the last people on earth and those they remember who remain in an unusual afterlife.


Carey, Peter


Deceit. Two misfit brothers, one a talented artist, narrate this novel of the influence of art in relationships, and the overwhelming power of desire and deceit.

Sweet and Low

Cohen, Rich


Family. Insightful and humorous exploration of the family business, producer of Sweet and Low, from its inception to market dominance, stagnation, and the disinheritance of the author’s mother.

The Dead Fish Museum

D’Ambrosio, Charles


Schadenfreude. Eight well-crafted short stories that present an eclectic mix of characters whose lives most readers won’t envy, and whose problems are often self-created.

The Dead Beat

Johnson, Marilyn


Keen. Author explores the world of the creative journalists who write obituary columns and their editors, and reveals how they find the perfect words and phrases to capture the life of their subjects.

Who Moved My BlackBerry?

Kellaway, Lucy


Officious. Author provides book length version of her funny Financial Times column, and takes readers on a year-long fad hopping trip with Martin Lukes, a version of whom can be found in any office.

Through a Glass Darkly

Leon, Donna


Inferno. 15th mystery novel featuring Venetian detective Commissario Guido Brunetti. A crime at one of the glass blowing furnaces on Murano leads Brunetti into tangled family and business relationships.

How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

Medwed, Mameve


Belonging. Witty and charming novel of a protagonist who’s shaken from lethargy by her mother’s death, and searches for and finds the objects of her desire, and her place in the world.

Fortunate Son

Mosley, Walter


Luck. Mosley departs from his Easy Rawlins series and presents the lives of two boys, Eric and Tommy, and shows how fate leads them toward or away from happiness.

The Tao of Willie

Nelson, Willie and Turk Pippin


Conduct. Thanks to longtime friend Turk Pippin, Willie Nelson’s wisdom comes across clearly on the pages of this book, full of jokes and the lessons of life and work.


Roth, Philip


Loss. A gloomy reflection on the life of an average man which, thanks to the author’s talent, becomes a clear mirror on modern American life, and especially on our losses.


Shteyngart, Gary


Wordplay. Laugh out loud satire full of creative wordplay, well-paced plot, and humorous characters, even corporate ones.

Revolutionary Wealth

Toffler, Alvin and Heidi


Snippets. Repetitive from earlier works, replete with jargon and made up words, but still useful for thinking in new and different ways about the future.

Ordinary Heroes

Turow, Scott


Courage. Intelligent novel features World War II army lawyer facing frustrating decisions during war, and how his son decades later learns about what his father did during the war.

Digging to America

Tyler, Anne


Family. Two Korean orphans are adopted by different Baltimore families, and the families interact for better and for worse over many years following the arrival of these children.


ã 2006 Hopkins and Company, LLC.  Executive Times is published monthly by Hopkins and Company, LLC at the company’s office at 723 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302. Subscription rate for first class mail delivery of the print version is $60.00 per year (12 issues). Web version subscriptions are $30.00 per year. Single issues: $10.00 print; $5.00 web. To subscribe, sign up at www.hopkinsandcompany.com/subscribe.html, send an e-mail to executivetimes@hopkinsandcompany.com, call (708) 466-4650, or fax to (708) 386-8687. For permission to photocopy or e-mail Executive Times, call (708) 466-4650 or e-mail to reprints@hopkinsandcompany.com. We will send sample copies if requested. The company’s website at http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/archives.html contains the archives of back issues beginning in the month after the issue date. 

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