Welcome to my video blog on business, leadership and diversity.
To check it out, click the video below.
To read the transcript, click here. (more…)
To check it out, click the video below.
To read the transcript, click here. (more…)
To check it out, click the video below.
To read the transcript, click here. (more…)
A wise business associate once reminded me, while I was wrestling with a rather large and onerous work-related issue of my own, that nothing truly worth doing comes easily. And so it is with healthcare reform. As President Obama wrestles with the bungled launch of Healthcare.gov, the web-based exchange for the Affordable Care Act, we should remind ourselves that it was bound to come with difficulty. For it is something truly worth doing.
Of course, the President should be embarrassed over the sloppy rollout. In fact, he should be furious. And insiders confirm that, in private, he is absolutely fuming. The dysfunctional website serves as a gateway to the new Obamacare insurance marketplace for consumers in 36 states. Health policy experts say that if the website isn’t fixed by mid-November, it could mean relatively few people will enroll, leaving the new private insurance marketplace with pronounced limp.
So, with his plan on the line, the President gave a strident defense of his signature health care law Wednesday, October 30, in Boston, returning to the intellectual birthplace of the legislation. “Yes, this is hard,” he explained. “The health care system’s a big system, and it’s complicated,” Obama said at Faneuil Hall. “If it was hard doing it just in one state (Massachusetts, where Mitt Romney instituted a similar law), it’s hard doing it in 50 states—especially when the governors of a bunch of states, and half of Congress, don’t want to help.”
Then came this simple but inalienable truth: “But it’s important!” the President added, as he pounded on the podium. (more…)
DeMaurice (“De”) Smith is the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the union for professional players in the National Football League (NFL). Under Smith’s leadership, the NFL players negotiated a historic 10-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with NFL owners in August 2011. The new CBA achieves unprecedented benefits for players, including new health and safety protocols in effect throughout the season and into retirement, the first compliance and accountability structure for NFL medical personnel, and the players’ highest share of TV contract revenues in history. Prior to his work with the NFLPA, Smith was a trial lawyer and litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. offices of influential law firms Latham & Watkins and Patton Boggs. In the courtroom, he prosecuted scores of cases for several Fortune 500 companies. Before his tenure in the private sector, Smith served as Counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder (now United States Attorney General) in the U.S. Department of Justice.
On Wednesday, October 2, 2013, Smith made time for a special visit to the Metropolitan Club of Chicago to join Roger Crockett for an early morning fireside chat in the Club’s Oak Room on the 66th floor of the Willis Tower. The conversation was the latest in the Met Club’s “Executive Speaker Series” sponsored by Heidrick & Struggles. The Series features discussions with prominent executives to give attendees an insider’s look at a particular business. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs, fresh fruit, and hot coffee, an estimated 75 executive guests enjoyed the discussion about doing business with the world’s richest sports league, issues of player health and safety, and stereotypes of the modern NFL player. Here is an edited transcript of Smith’s responses to five major topics of inquiry:
1.) Crockett: Why do you spend so much time traversing the country to visit teams and meet with players?
Smith: I really believe that we at the NFLPA are simply an extension of the organized labor movement, the civil rights movement and the battle for human rights. We find ourselves in that never-ending line of organizations of people who get together, bind together and support each other to further and protect themselves. I love every minute of the NFL experience, but the fact is that only 2,000 people are lucky enough to play this game every year, and the injury rate is 100%. Last year, we had 4,500 injuries. This year also marks the shortest average career length in NFL history at 3.1 years. So, we fight tooth and nail over the benefits that players will need after their football career is over. That’s why our union exists, and that’s why we make the stands that we make.
Sometimes our actions are unpopular. For instance, every coach resents that we took away the two-a-days (two padded practices in a single day). For those of us who played football in high school or college, when we hear “two-a-day” it sends that shiver up our spine and we would rather crush up glass and swallow it than go through two-a-days. But two-a-days no longer exist in the National Football League because it is unnecessary, and statistically it exposed our players to an increased risk of injury. So, when we can figure out ways for our players to work smarter, suffer fewer injuries, enjoy a longer career and require less joint replacements, that’s being smart about the workplace of football. (more…)
To check it out, click the video below
To read the transcript, click here (more…)
Martin “Marty” H. Singer is Chairman and CEO of PCTEL, which develops antenna, scanning and other solutions for wireless networks. Before PCTEL, Singer served as President and CEO of SAFCO Technologies, another wireless communications company. He was also a Vice President and General Manager at Motorola and held senior management and technical positions at Tellabs, AT&T and Bell Labs. With a Vanderbilt Ph.D in experimental psychology, Singer is a trained thinker. He will share this space with other distinguished executive thinkers, who will offer occasional musings from “the corner office.”
By Marty Singer
During the late 1990s, PCTEL’s founders thought they could reduce the cost of Internet access by reducing the cost of an analog modem. In 1997, a standalone 56 Kbps analog modem cost about $250. The PCTEL embedded software modem debuted at just $27. By 2000, a year after going public, the stock price soared to nearly $100 per share. Then, just as quickly, things changed. In 2001 the PCTEL rocket ship fell back to earth. Competition was fierce, prices fell dramatically, and there was widespread patent infringement. By late 2001, PCTEL’s soft modem sold for $3.40 and the company’s revenue fell from $100 million in 2000 to $40 million, with losses of over $55 million (GAAP accounting).
Major competitors, such as Broadcom, Intel, Agere, Conexant, and Silicon Labs all had modem products. The terrible experience of tumbling prices was tragically punctuated by the 9-11 disaster. Then, in late October, I took on the job of CEO and faced the reality of a $4 million revenue quarter and staggering losses. The executive team was costing the company nearly $3 million in compensation, the company had engaged in poor business practices (e.g., option grants to key customers), and the headcount levels were unsustainable. Prices continued to fall and we were in patent disputes with everyone in the industry.
It was time to change the game. (more…)
Quintin Primo is Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of Capri Capital Partners, a real estate investment management firm headquartered in Chicago. The firm has approximately $3.7 billion in total real estate assets under management, and is an active investor in a variety of major property sectors and markets throughout the United States. Significantly, Primo is also a “global guy,” as I call him, who was among the first to explore real estate investment opportunities in the Middle East and Africa—regions he has come to thoroughly understand economically, culturally, and socially. Overall, he has nearly 30 years of real estate investment experience. Prior to the formation of Capri Capital, Primo was Managing Director of Q. Primo & Company, Inc., a real estate investment banking firm specializing in foreign and domestic private placements. And before launching his own firm, he worked as a vice president for Citicorp Real Estate, Inc. Outside of real estate, Primo, along with other Chicago black entrepreneurs, helped catapult President Barack Obama’s political rise. And he is passionate about serving the world’s under-served women and children.
As we sat down for lunch at the Metropolitan Club on the 67th floor of Chicago’s Willis Tower, we both admired the expansive view of the city. I caught Primo smiling as he surveyed the landscape from up-high, recalling the various real estate deals he has been involved in with several of the towering buildings in the distance. Finally, he pointed to one skyscraper on the northern edge of the city’s center: “In a few weeks we’ll be announcing a $140 million investment deal in that building!” he beamed proudly. Business is good for Primo right now. But it’s been a long ride back from the economic downturn that earlier plagued his firm and virtually every other financial services company. So, to get perspective on the current state of the economy, I asked Primo five questions about the markets, the U.S. and global economies, and about President Obama’s role in the recovery. Here is an edited transcript:
1. Many say that the real estate markets have recovered. How would you assess the state of the commercial and residential real estate markets?
Primo: In general the real estate markets are recovered. There still is an amazing amount of liquidity sloshing around in the system seeking yield. Interest rates continue to be at record lows causing investors to seek risk-based assets. Real estate as an alternative investment asset is offering higher yields and higher returns than traditional bond investments. The U.S. real estate market is considered one of, if not the best market to invest in in the world right now. It is large. It has great depth. But this has caused valuations to get ahead of fundamentals. It is the hope of the Federal Reserve Bank that with a growing economy over the next two to three-plus years fundamentals will catch up with valuations. If that doesn’t happen the reverse is not a pretty picture. So therein lies the risk in investing in real estate markets. (more…)
I arrived in Vegas around dusk, when the sun was giving way to the neon lights of the Strip. The next morning, May 21, would be the first day of CTIA 2013, the wireless industry’s annual convention. This year, about 35,000 people descended on Vegas for business meetings, networking, and to roam the exhibit floor of the Sands Convention Center that abuts the luxurious Venetian and Palazzo hotels. Wireless leaders from every corner of business were there—from Wal-Mart, General Motors, Microsoft, U.S. Cellular and many more–to join CTIA CEO and former footballer Steve Largent. Even entertainment stars Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Lopez were there to deliver keynote speeches about the impact of mobile technology (check out J. Lo’s Viva Movil, a partnership with Verizon to serve the burgeoning Latino market).
Currently, the world boasts about 6 billion mobile connections—including smart phones and tablets, such as the iPad. That number could explode to more than 10 billion in a few years, according to some of the data presented at the show, as mobile devices transform into multidimensional business and entertainment tools. “I often chuckle when we use the word telephone,” the acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (which oversees the wireless industry) told thousands listening to her keynote. Afterward, Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, shared a quiet moment with me outside the Venetian hotel. There’s a lot of work to do, she said, but there’s no more exciting or important industry.
Next year, according to Largent, will be even bigger and better as the show unveils “Super Mobility Week” in September 2014. That’s when the hope is tech giants Google and Apple will convene on the Vegas Strip. FCC reps like Clyburn will likely be back with updates on the industry, and just maybe, J. Lo will return too.
Kevin Kelly is Chief Executive Officer of Heidrick & Struggles, a global executive search firm, which partners with organizations all over the world to acquire, develop, and sustain leadership talent. He is also a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Prior to being named CEO in 2006, Kelly held several key regional leadership positions for Heidrick in Asia and Europe. As CEO, he has emphasized innovation, pushing to transform Heidrick into a full-service leadership advisory firm, and using strategic acquisitions to expand its platform.
It hasn’t been easy. A brutal economic climate combined with federal budget debates have made corporate boards hesitant to hire senior management. Recruitment has been stalled for more than a year. In February, Heidrick reported fourth quarter earnings and sales that missed consensus analyst estimates. And Kelly has received his share of criticism. But in recent weeks, business seems to be rebounding, as renewed corporate confidence has led to more C-suite hiring. Even so, it’s possible that Heidrick might be sold soon. The company confirmed June 3 that it has been approached by private equity firms regarding a sale.
Before those reports surfaced, on May 16th Kelly sat down with me at the Metropolitan Club of Chicago as part of the Club’s “Executive Speaker Series”. Over breakfast in the Club’s Michigan Room on the 66th floor of the Willis Tower, we talked about trends in corporate leadership. Refreshingly candid and engaging, Kelly shared some of his experiences as CEO. Here is an edited transcript of five questions we discussed:
1. CEOs at the top of an organization must set the tone for the business. Is that something that you connect with—being at the top and having to set the tone because you are the leader?
Kelly: Absolutely! It’s up to the leader in the organization to set the tone, set the vision, set the strategy. The CEO of Boots, a pharmacy based in the UK, told me he was like the “weather vane” in his company. If things are going great, people say, “It must be the leader that’s doing this.” When things are going bad, they say, “It must be the leader’s fault.” No matter what happens you’re the weather vane in the organization, and people within the organization base their feeling about how things are going on your demeanor.
2. Who among us hasn’t learned from a mistake that we’ve made? What mistakes have you made as a leader that you have learned the most from? (more…)
For a lot of reasons, the remarks pro golfer Sergio Garcia uttered recently about Tiger Woods were nearly nauseating in their disgracefulness. It was stupid, if not racist, for a well-traveled athlete, who reportedly hangs out with other “coloureds,” (as European Tour chief George O’Grady described some of Sergio’s friends) to make a “fried chicken” joke—especially in a public forum about a black guy with whom he already has a tense relationship.
When Sergio was asked in jest, during a May 21st dinner before the European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship in England, if he planned to have Tiger over for dinner, he said yes … and … he would be serving up fried chicken! Ouch! Despite his apology afterward, there’s no question that in the moment Sergio meant for the barb to sting Tiger. The two had been feuding since the third round of the Players Championship on May 11th. And Sergio has admitted to a long-held distaste for Tiger. That he chose to invoke a slave-era stereotype of African Americans as a lazy, uncouth, fried-chicken chompin’ people reveals the depth of his jealousy and dislike for Tiger. Worse, it shows his lack of sophistication—a deplorable absence of knowledge, appreciation and sensitivity toward the many cultures of this world beyond the borders of his native Europe.
Ok, so we now know Sergio has more issues than a yippy putter. The big issue is how his comments reflect on the business of golf. Consider this: In 2000 there were 30 million golfers; now there are 25.7 million, according to Barney Adams, Founder of Adams Golf. In the June issue of Golf Digest, he also noted that the number of junior players is down nearly 40% from 2005. So, the industry has been struggling to find new golfers, including more women and young golfers of color. As for increasing participation among women and other minorities, Mike Hughes, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association told Golf Digest: “We just have to make sure we’re not sending a subliminal message that you don’t belong here.” (more…)