News + Views

After the Storm


by Frank J. Rich

When in the battle with nature, fences, trees, power lines, buildings, and other things fall, people join to right and rebuild them. It is, perhaps, more in the DNA of the human condition than any other that we do so. It would appear that civilizations, enterprises, institutions, and indeed, individuals ” … pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again,” to borrow from a popular song of the ’30s by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.


But what if such initiative were not enough; what would a body do? A question the soi-disant “dismal science” has searched and debated since a penny was first earned, we seem to return to the starting line with each new economic crisis as though history and its lessons were lost to absent mindedness; or alternatively, to a simple math yet unsolved. (more…)

September 12, 2013 |




Sometimes a question that lingers in the mind is more useful than the answer given to ease it. After ten years of ROI columns today’s milestone is the conceit in their making, unimagined at the start. That kernel, true of many beginnings, remains the essential urging in each issue—the principles and practices that inform growth. Admittedly, the dynamic in the seasons of commerce were impetus to creative reaction and commentary enabled of the seminal ethic in the columns. Askance this essential grove at times, it too bore the sharp teeth behind the friendly smile common to the gentle urging to embrace risk, love work, and shun the desultory gaze of the uncommitted—those who come to market each day with little more than their lunch.

Five hundred columns, of a certain focus, carry the strength of forbearance and humility that gratefully accepts the license to share one’s view; ever amazed that any might join it in consummation should the value in such harmony excite performance while aspirating the recondite to reveal the plain and simple. The hope: chase the phobophobia and engage the market. (more…)

September 11, 2013 |

Notes from the Corner Office


In my efforts to inform best principles and practices over the years I have relied on the wisdom of thoughtful people across all fields. Their words and the powerful phrases of action they inform have been sustenance for me and for the clients I serve. My interest in these words of wisdom–indeed, the interest of clients as well–stems form a burning question that better equips managers everywhere: “How do I turn wisdom into a practical reality”? It’s the right question; as Einstein liked to say: “Nothing happens until something moves.”

Today’s ROI is an attempt to distinguish between the “thinking” in “organizational development” and the practical ways to implement it. While I am also given to the use of models to facilitate this transfer, today I will borrow from the very practical words of those who do it everyday in places where the chips have multiple “0’s”–America’s corporations. Since I’d prefer that the wisdom in the recommendations below stand on their own, I will not include attributes, except to those who write to me requesting them. In the days when gold was discovered in California and Alaska there was a popular phrase that excited such “movement” as Einstein has suggested. It was: “There’s gold in them thar hills.” As you read below, move to the edge of your seat and drink of the precious “mettle” in some of the very best in corporate America. (more…)

September 4, 2013 |

What, How


The simple measure of success may be the “achievement of a planned goal.” Though variously applied, success often means something different to different people. As children, we were encouraged, indeed congratulated, for having achieved simple things that most take for granted: lifting our head while still on our stomach, holding one’s own formula bottle, walking, using the toilet. Why does something so common and taken for granted become obvious and so special?

A tree is a beautiful thing, tall, strong, graceful in character, and flexible. When viewed through this lens, trees become part of the landscape; they a part of the environment, and it a part of the world, and it a part of the universe. But what if, when looking at a tree, we see a house, a boat, a bat, stairs, a door, wagon, or a barrel–all things that can be made from the wood of a tree.

Indeed, when stranded somewhere without the things necessary to survive, we do something quite natural to the human condition. We create them!

The resources we so easily take for granted become critical when absent. Joni Mitchell was right in her lyrical lament: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” But, what have we got and how might we use it? The question opens us up to an alternate reality that delivers a magical process. Solutions are those painfully hidden problem dissolvers that drive us to distraction, if not ruin. (more…)

August 15, 2013 |

Success Starts With Analysis


Potential is one of those oft-quoted terms used to express the opportunity in someone or the future of some thing, such as a business venture. It is usually followed by a concern that reaching that potential requires something yet to form. Potential, it appears, has a dark side. Perhaps, it is because so few of us know how to measure it.

In simple terms, potential is the “likelihood of doing or becoming something in the future.” As it applies to business, we see new products, services, capital improvements, businesses, and personnel decisions, for their potential to be profitable. NPV, IRR, and other calculations are used to help measure the “potential” success of these things. But like most things, we have less than perfect knowledge about them, and proceed with certain “reasonable” assumptions in place.

Good business sense, a knack for judging people, education, and experience all combine to reduce the risk of poor decision-making. But, as you might imagine, the opportunity in “potential” begs for serious efforts at measuring it. One such measurement device is called Five Forces Analysis (M. Porter), and means to focus attention on a common experience to achieve very practical results-the kind that seems to have a greater “potential” for success. (more…)

August 9, 2013 |

Dead Last


Everything bought is sold. It’s axiomatic that one follows the other. The gratification in the one may be more obvious than the other; buying things-not just spending money, such as on rent and utility bills-is near instant gratification for most. Even the depressed find their elixir in it. But what about selling those same things? Does it too deliver such elation and inner joy?

At some point those of us who buy must meet up with those of us who sell. Do we find strange the conclusion that we are all in both roles at times? Imagining the buyer in us is easy. He is impulsive, aware of oneself and his self image, loosely, how he thinks others think he thinks about himself, and driven by emotion to satisfy some urge-the taste in unusual food, the feel of new shoes, the specialness in attending a Broadway production, on Broadway.

He is also receptive to being sold, though he shuns this innermost desire. We all want to feel helped by others; it elevates our specialness. And when others reach out to inform and educate our choices-for our unique benefit-it raises our sense of belonging to another, an uppermost need in humans. (more…)

July 30, 2013 |

5 P’s


Most everything we do issues from a thought, the idea being that “thought becomes behavior.” It’s a commonly understood psychological motivation. But however well-endowed our thinking, “t” (time) is the arbiter of achievement and the efficiency that naturally obtains from it. Whatever we hope to accomplish is too often directly related to the time we spend on it. We may have little time for most things until we decide to take the time necessary to do them. No doubt, you can relate.

In the world of small business, “planning” is that elusive something that seldom gets the time it deserves. Very few Main Street businesses have plans to work from, a blueprint of sorts that charts the path to the stated goal-something virtually all business owners have, at least in mind. There are seldom in evidence a Business Plan, a Revenue Model, a Marketing Plan, or even a description of the Use Model for the targeted customer. Interestingly, there are often loosely knit thoughts about such things, but very little ever gets to paper. “What’s not on paper turns to vapor,” as the saying goes. That which ensures we return from the grocery store with the product we sought is the same as that which ensures we don’t overspend our resource-a list!  (more…)

July 23, 2013 |
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