The “Dream” has been what has lasted. King’s dream–so eloquently and powerfully uttered 50 years ago, that black kids and white kids would one day join hands as sisters and brothers–that vision is what has lasted. And thankfully, happily, his dream of an integrated American society has indeed come true.
But during this celebrated anniversary of King’s speech, let’s not forget that he and his colleagues in the fight for Civil Rights marched for more than a social dream. Yes, the Movement’s marchers sought social equality and the same human freedoms for all Americans. But in addition, they sought economic advancement, and in particular, greater employment opportunities. In 1963, the unemployment rate was 5% for whites and 10.9% for blacks. Thus, the official name of the march was “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” (Images from 1963 and 2013 are below.)
Yet, here’s the tragedy: Today, a cavernous gap still exists between the unemployment rate for whites and the rate for blacks. Currently, unemployment is 6.6% for whites and 12.6% for blacks. In other words, the offspring of yesteryear’s marchers–for whom the original March was designed to create opportunities for–remain disproportionately on the periphery of the American workforce.
I’m so pleased our President addressed the nation on the anniversary of King’s “Dream” speech. But while President Obama spoke to America’s young and old, its black, its white, its people of every race, gender and creed, I hope that it’s our business leaders who are listening most attentively. It’s the chief executives and chairmen of America’s major corporations, the partners and managing directors of its big banks and law firms, the titans of industry and entrepreneurship who ought to take seriously the President’s message that much work is left to be done. These executive leaders should carefully heed King’s words from 50 years ago:
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy … it would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”
Wouldn’t it be productive, if CEOs were to ask, What can I do? What can my company do to provide more jobs to people of color? Now, I do realize that businesses face their own obstacles to expanding employment. Our education system lags others in the world, our access to broadband isn’t what it should be. Our government tax code stings. Still, with the billions that many corporations make, the question remains: What can they do?
As happy as I was to see the turnout to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington, I wish the front lines of this new-age march were led by CEOs–the chiefs of America’s biggest companies, such as Wal-Mart and Exxon and Google. I know, that’s not realistic. (Remember, I’m dreaming.) But that would be progress. And I bet, actually, that would have made Dr. King smile.
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Welcome to my new video blog on business, leadership and diversity.
To check it out, click the video below.
To read the transcript, click here (more…)
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With reporting & writing by Sherry Clayton
Trayvon Martin’s death and the George Zimmerman trial that followed launched the nation into some pretty heated discussion about race. It has been awkward, difficult, even divisive at times. But constructive talk about race is important. Talk about racial profiling is important. Talk about hurt feelings and anger are important. The verdict in the Zimmeran case, and the subsequent emotion that swept the nation, demonstrate that America is far from being a post-racial society. More of us have to do what President Obama attempted to do in his recent statements: help foster education and reconciliation.
That’s why I am reminded of a recent event in Chicago on the subject of race, diversity and leadership. We often call Chicago “windy,” or refer to its “big shoulders,” but what makes this city that I live in great is its diverse population. It is a place where a variety of people – African Americans, Irish, Polish, Italians, Asians, Indians, Hispanics and Native Americans, women and men, gay and straight – live and work alongside one another. These groups don’t always mix without incident (yes, occasionally there’re violent incidents) but we coexist, learning from each other, having fun with each other, inspiring each other.
The problem is that Chicago’s leadership, much like America’s, doesn’t typically reflect this grand assortment of people. (more…)
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Amazon recently announced that it missed earnings on the bottom line for the period ending in June, and yet the stock has hardly quivered. It dropped in early trading July 25 when earnings were released, but it has since bounced back. The stock is up nearly 30% over the past 12 months, and in March traded at more than 700 times the previous 12 months’ earnings—the highest price-to-earnings ratio of any company in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. All this, despite consistently reporting flat to negative net income.
What gives? Well, investors are showing confidence in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his growth strategy. They recognize that sales remain extremely strong, growing 22% to 15.7 billion in the second quarter. Meanwhile the company is using its cash to invest: In warehouses for distribution that brings the orders of its various products to consumers more quickly, in movie development and distribution, in new hand-held devices and set-top boxes that expand the array of entertainment and information options for users.
Some wonder if Amazon is the omen to a sequel of the dotcom crash. I don’t think so. (more…)
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Leadership in the Field: Interviews with Global Leaders
By Russell Reynolds Associates with Roger O. Crockett
Gerard Kleisterlee, Chairman of mobile phone giant Vodafone, discusses the role of the board in different regions of the world, the relevance of cultural and gender differences, and the board’s impact on innovation.
For a glimpse of Kleisterlee’s views on leadership, watch the video below.
Gerard Kleisterlee is Chairman of London-based Vodafone Group Plc. If you are not from Europe, or if you don’t spend considerable time there, you might not know that Vodafone is the world’s second largest mobile phone operator with more than 400 million subscribers—roughly quadruple the number of subscribers served by Verizon Wireless, a company Vodafone owns 45% of. Kleisterlee became Chairman in July of 2011, serving as a non-executive member of the Board. He retired as President, CEO and Chairman of Philips Electronics N.V. (‘Philips’) in March 2011 after a career with Philips spanning three decades. Indeed, Kleisterlee has become one of the most prolific governance executives in Europe. In addition to his role at Vodafone, he has been a member of the Daimler AG Supervisory Board since 2009, a non-executive director of the Supervisory Board of Royal Dutch Shell since 2010. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Dell Inc.
Often on the road, Kleisterlee met with us in Vodafone’s Amsterdam offices. Our meeting came before Vodafone launched its current takeover bid for Germany’s biggest cable operator, Kabel Deutschland. But one wonders if Kleisterlee, given his expansive mind and Vodafone’s interest in dominating media services across Europe, might not have already been thinking about such deals. As tempting as it was to talk about wireless, instead we focused on another important subject: corporate governance. After all, Kleisterlee’s knowledge on the topic reaches nearly as far as he is tall. For a glimpse, play the video above or read the edited transcript that follows. (more…)
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When professional basketball’s Jason Collins came out recently, acknowledging that he is gay, it was a significant and symbolic statement—another step in social progress. President Obama has boldly declared his support of gay marriage. The military has lifted its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy”. The Boy Scouts of America has voted to end its ban on openly gay youth. Now, as Gay Pride Month concludes, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26th that married same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits and the court also effectively restored the freedom for them to marry in California. Despite all this, there’s one place where progress continues to lag: the workplace. In the cubicles and construction sites across America, many people still feel they can’t be honest about who they are. In fact, recent surveys confirm a disappointing statistic: About half of the college-educated, gay and lesbian workforce is still in the closet.
Why? Many gay people remain paralyzingly fearful of the consequences of coming out. After all, it is still legal to fire employees in 29 states just because they are lesbian or gay. And in 34 states transgender people can be legally fired. So it’s no wonder why lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) workers worry about their professional fate. They worry about being ostracized by their peers, or being denied promotions. They fret about the possibility of losing valuable customers, clients, and suppliers. “Gays only come out at work if they feel safe, and feel that they belong and that they can achieve,” explains Laurence Boschetto, who is gay and the former CEO of Draftfcb, a global advertising and communications agency.
Here’s why this is a dangerous situation: Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a 2012 survey of American workers by Manpower subsidiary Right Management, said they were not happy at work. Stats on the number of LGBT people in the American workforce are hard to track, but the Williams Institute, a think-tank devoted to LGBT research at UCLA, recently estimated that nine million Americans—or nearly 4% of the total population—identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. No doubt, a considerable portion in that group consists of working Americans. Well, if you consider that some 2 million U.S. workers continue to quit their jobs every month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, then a fearful and frustrated contingent of LGBT workers only adds to the number of people compelled to bolt. The fact is, some 73% of gay employees who feel forced to keep their sexuality a secret are likely to change jobs in the next three years, according to a 2011 study by the Center for Work-Life Policy.
Those who don’t look the other way understand it’s a problem that contributes to the continued flatness of the U.S. economy. (more…)
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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…)
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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…)
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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.
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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…)
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