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Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy’s Visionary Book, ‘A Better India: A Better World’

A Better India- A Better World is a stimulating book by an important business leader. When an Indian assistant first lent it to me, I wasn’t excited to read it but felt necessitated. I was very much completely astounded. N.R. Narayana Murthy, the founder and chairperson of Infosys organizes a rather comprehensible and positive vision to the world according to himself. If only many more business leaders thought like him, one might even feel tempted by this thing called “compassionate capitalism.” Narayana Murthy has thought much about India, his homeland, and its contradictions.

'Better India: A Better World' by N.R. Narayana Murthy (ISBN 0143068571)

If the eyes of all men were naturally jaundiced, all white objects would appear uniformly yellow. In the introduction to A Better India- A Better World, Narayana Murthy outlines,

The enigma of India is that our progress in higher education and in science and technology has not been sufficient to take 350 million Indians out of illiteracy. It is difficult to imagine that 318 million people in the country do not have access to safe drinking water and 250 million people do not have access to basic medical care. Why should 630 million people not have access to acceptable sanitation facilities even in 2009? When you see world-class supermarkets and food chains in our towns, and when our urban youngsters gloat over the choice of toppings on their pizzas, why should 51 per cent of the children in the country be undernourished? When India is among the largest producers of engineers and scientists in the world, why should 52 per cent of the primary schools have only one teacher for every two classes? When our politicians and bureaucrats live in huge houses in Lutyens’ Delhi and the state capitals, our corporate leaders splurge money on mansions, yachts and planes, and our urban youth revel in their latest sport shoes, why should 300 million Indians live on hardly Rs 545 per month (US$10 at current exchange rate), barely sufficient to manage two meals a day, with little or no money left for schooling, clothes, shelter and medicine?

His starting point is Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “four freedoms”—freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He later elaborates on what a “civilized society” entails: “a society where everybody has equal opportunity to better his or her life; where every child has food, shelter, healthcare, and education; a society where duties come before rights; where each generation makes sacrifices to make life better for the next generation.” Obviously, many of these tenets are increasingly not present in today’s USA and, worse; many Americans on the right would dispute these principles as smacking of socialism. In this case, an effect has been given for a cause.

Could we be certain that the admeasurements of these two different meridians were made without error, this would, undoubtedly, be a demonstrative proof of the irregularity of the earth’s figure. Narayana Murthy is a well read and well-travelled, learned man who clearly thinks a lot about societal issues. In the introduction, his acknowledged three books that have influenced him deeply: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber; My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi; and Peau Noire, Masques Blancs by Franz Fanon. This rather eclectic selection shows the breadth of his reading and attests to an open mind. He builds his own philosophy on these disparate strains of thought, emphasizing the importance of values and leadership. He sets out early in the book that, “I do not know of any community—a company, an institution or a nation—that has achieved success without a long journey of aspiration, hard work, commitment, focus, hope, confidence, humility and sacrifice”. This question cannot be resolved exactly, without the author’s help. The first time he was restored, he thought he actually touched whatever he saw; but by degrees his experience corrected his numberless mistakes.

His student years in France in the 1970s were very important in forming his thinking. In the first chapter, a lecture to students, he compares France to India for its civil-mindedness: “In France, everybody acted as if it was their job to discuss, debate and quickly act on improving public facilities. In India, we discuss debate and behave as if the improvement of any public facility is not our task, and consequently, do not act at all.” His deduction: being a developing country is a mindset. Here he breaks clear of the Left, placing the onus on the individual, as well as the society as a whole, to take responsibility for its own destiny. He tells a story of how he lost any compassion for the Left after having been imprisoned by Bulgarian authorities when traveling back from Paris to India in 1974.

The next event that left an indelible mark on me occurred in 1974. The location: Nis, a border town between former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, and Bulgaria. I was hitchhiking from Paris back to Mysore, India, my home town.

By the time a kind driver dropped me at Nis railway station at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, the restaurant was closed. So was the bank the next morning, and I could not eat because I had no local money. I slept on the railway platform until 8.30 pm in the night when the Sofia Express pulled in.

The only passengers in my compartment were a girl and a boy. I struck a conversation in French with the young girl. She talked about the travails of living in an iron curtain country, until we were roughly interrupted by some policemen who, I later gathered, were summoned by the young man who thought we were criticising the communist government of Bulgaria.

The girl was led away; my backpack and sleeping bag were confiscated. I was dragged along the platform into a small 8×8 foot room with a cold stone floor and a hole in one corner by way of toilet facilities. I was held in that bitterly cold room without food or water for over 72 hours.

I had lost all hope of ever seeing the outside world again, when the door opened. I was again dragged out unceremoniously, locked up in the guard’s compartment on a departing freight train and told that I would be released 20 hours later upon reaching Istanbul. The guard’s final words still ring in my ears — “You are from a friendly country called India and that is why we are letting you go!”

The journey to Istanbul was lonely, and I was starving. This long, lonely, cold journey forced me to deeply rethink my convictions about Communism. Early on a dark Thursday morning, after being hungry for 108 hours, I was purged of any last vestiges of affinity for the Left.

I concluded that entrepreneurship, resulting in large-scale job creation, was the only viable mechanism for eradicating poverty in societies.

Deep in my heart, I always thank the Bulgarian guards for transforming me from a confused Leftist into a determined, compassionate capitalist! Inevitably, this sequence of events led to the eventual founding of Infosys in 1981.

Cofounder and executive chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy came out of retirement in 2013 to help right the Infosys ship. His return resulted in improved financial performance, although it has been marked by numerous high-profile executive resignations. Murthy again stepped down and re-entered retirement to make way for CEO Vishal Sikka in August 2014. Microsoft Founder Bill Gates said, “Narayana Murthy overcame many obstacles and demonstrated that is possible to create a world-class, values-driven company in India. Through his vision and leadership Murthy sparked a wave of innovation and entrepreneurship that changed the way we view ourselves and how the world views India.”

Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy's Visionary Book, 'A Better India- A Better World' This is a collection of 38 essays and speeches given at a variety of fora during the 2000s and selected for the book by the author himself. They are divided into sections:

  • Address to students;
  • Values;
  • Important national issues;
  • Education;
  • Leadership challenges;
  • Corporate and public governance;
  • Corporate social responsibility and philanthropy;
  • Entrepreneurship;
  • Globalization;
  • three short chapters on Infosys.

In such a collection, it is inevitable that there are overlaps between the chapters and many recurrent themes. I’ll pick a few themes that I found interesting here below.

He addresses students in a variety of schools, ranging from prestigious institutions like INSEAD, Indian Institute of Technology, IESE Business School in Barcelona and NYU, to various other universities in India. He exhorts his values: “You must believe in and act according to the principle that putting public interest ahead of private interest in the short term will be better for your private concerns in the long run.” … “Ego, vanity, and contempt for other people have clouded our minds for thousands of years and impeded our progress. Humility is scarce in this country.” … “No county that has shunned merit has succeeded in solving its problems.” … “The reason for the lack of progress in many developing nations is not the paucity of resources but the lack of management talent and professionalism.” The winds of the temperate zone are composed of the eddies of these two united.

Narayana Murthy is a fan of globalization and refers to the “global bazaar” and Thomas Friedman’s “flat world” in several places. In this context, he calls for “an environment of tolerance and respect for multi-culturalism.” He sees global warming and environmental degradation as major threats and sees that the answers must lie in global cooperation: “The solution is not to force developing nations to forgo what the developed world has enjoyed for over a century. It is to come together as one planet and use innovation in technology to produce alternate energy solutions and reduction of carbon emissions.” His thinking reflects the intergenerational equity perspective embedded in the original definition of sustainable development: “After all, this is the only planet we have. Conduct yourself as if you have borrowed it from the next generation. Remember that you will have to give it back to them in good shape.” The time of feeling the pulse is in a morning, some time after getting up, and before reduction of carbon emissions.

A Better India- A Better World is also very critical of laissez-faire capitalism, a theme that resonates throughout the book: “Unfortunately, the greed of several corporate leaders, the meltdown of Wall Street, the increasing differences between the salaries of CEOs and ordinary workers, and the unbelievable severance compensation paid to failed CEOs have called into question whether capitalism is indeed a solution for the benefit of all, or if it is an instrument for a few cunning people to hoodwink a large mass of gullible middle-class and poor people. Never before in the history of capitalism have so few people brought so much misery to so many.” His views of how to manage a company are in line with his broader beliefs: “The only way you can save capitalism and bring it back to its shining glory is by conducting yourselves as decent, honest, fair, diligent, and socially conscious business leaders. In every action of yours, you have to ask how it will make the lowest level worker in your corporation and the poorest person in your society better. You have to learn to put the interest of the community—your corporation, your society, your nation and this planet—before your own interest.” In light of these issues, Infosys has launched a number of initiatives to improve its performance. The company has some way to go before rectifying its position, but a number of signs are promising, with revenue growth, margins, client mining, and employee attrition improving. Again emphasizing the need for sacrifice, he states that, “(T) to succeed in these days of globalization, global warming and laissez-faire capitalism, every worker in your corporation will have to accept tremendous sacrifices in the short term and hope that goodness will, indeed, succeed in the long term and make life better for every one of them.” Certainly not the thinking en vogue on this continent!

Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy's Visionary Book, 'A Better India- A Better World' Narayana Murthy is also rather harsh on India. In a chapter entitled “What Can We Learn from the West,” he chastises his own nation for faulty values: “Indian society has, for over a thousand years, put loyalty to family ahead of loyalty to society.” … “Unfortunately, our attitude towards family life is not reflected in our attitude towards the community. From littering the streets to corruption to violating contractual obligations, we are apathetic to the community good.” … “Apathy in addressing community matters has held us back from making progress which is otherwise within our reach. We see serious problems around us but do not try to solve them. We behave as if the problems do not exist or as if they belong to someone else.” He continues, “Our intellectual arrogance has also not helped our society. I have travelled extensively and, in my experience, have not come across another society where people are as contemptuous of better societies as we are, with as little progress as we have achieved.” He identifies things that India should learn from the West, including accountability, dignity of labor (“everybody in India wants to be a thinker and not a doer”), and professionalism (punctuality, respect for other people’s time, respecting contractual obligations), concluding that “the most important attribute of a progressive society is respect for others who have accomplished more than they themselves have, and the willingness to learn from them.” The conduct of the appetite regulates the health; and this is not enough regarded.

Elaborating on individual responsibilities, he adds one more: discipline. “There are several ingredients for national development—natural resources, human resources, leadership, and finally, discipline.” … “The utter lack of discipline exhibited by our people is rendering these other three powerful factors ineffective for fast-paced economic growth. We see umpteen examples of undisciplined behavior around us every day. What is even sadder is that this behavior has become the norm even among the powerful and the elite.” … “Discipline is about complying with the agreed protocols, norms, desirable practices, regulations and the laws of the land designed to improve the performance of individuals and societies. Discipline is the bedrock of individual development, community development, and national development.” In this category, Narayana Murthy includes aspects, such as lack of discipline in thought, or intellectual dishonesty (objectivity to focus on outcomes and results, rather than politics or focus on caste and religion; corruption). To achieve discipline, India needs role models (honest, accountable, disciplined leaders committed to change), swift and harsh punishment of offenders, transparency, political reform, and an improved bureaucracy. Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister of India, wrote, “Narayana Murthy is a role model for millions of Indians. An iconic figure in the country, he is widely respected and looked up not only for his business leadership but also for his ethics and personal conduct. He represents the face of the new, resurgent India to the world.”

Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy's Visionary Book, 'A Better India- A Better World' The part focusing on important national issues considers a wide range, including the role of population in economic development in India. Talking about population growth as a strain to development risks being attacked from both the Left and the Right these days, but Narayana Murthy barges right into the issues. He highlights the need for “good human capital” but also warns “a failure to stabilize India’s population will have significant implications for the future of India’s economy” and that “high population densities have also led to overloaded systems and infrastructure in urban areas.” He links the population debate to environment and resources, in particular energy demand, noting how the combined demands from India and China will put pressure on world resources: “The rapid growth in emerging economies cannot be sustained in the face of mounting environmental deterioration and resource depletion.” He sees a clear role for the government, which must “focus on conservation-friendly policies. For example, subsidies on conventional fuel make it difficult for renewable energy sources to compete and should be removed at least for rich and middle-class people.” … “The government can play a key role as a regulator in making Indian industry environmentally responsible.” Would someone please tell that to the politicians in Washington, DC?

The fourth theme is a cornerstone of the Indian spiritual tradition: self-knowledge. Indeed, the highest form of knowledge, it is said, is self-knowledge. I believe this greater awareness and knowledge of oneself is what ultimately helps develop a more grounded belief in oneself, courage, determination, and, above all, humility, all qualities which enable one to wear one’s success with dignity and grace.

So, how to deal with the issue of excessive population growth? Well, there is the need to meet unmet need of contraception and the issue of how Indian states have failed to implement family planning programs. Narayana Murthy recognizes that there’s been a significant decrease in population growth in certain southern states, such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, where “state governments here focused on human development, opened up local economies, and improved social services … Rising female literacy in these states contributed to the success of family planning … A focus on women’s and children’s health also contribute to population control.” He concludes, in line with what is also known from empirical literature: “human development goes hand in hand with lower population growth.” What he doesn”t mention is that states like Kerala have for decades been run by parties from the Left.

A Better India- A Better World chapter “Framework for Urban Planning in Modern India” also recognizes the importance of planning but calls for “radical, immediate reform in the planning and management of our cities” that “must adequately address the shortage of low-cost housing.”

Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy's Visionary Book, 'A Better India- A Better World' Moving to corporate governance, he extols the virtues of good corporate governance to enhance corporate performance while ensuring that corporations conform to the interests of investors and society by “creating fairness, transparency, and accountability in business activities among employees, management and the board.” Infosys has many long-standing client relationships, a well-managed global delivery model, and a comprehensive services portfolio. “The abuse of corporate power results from incentives within firms that encourage a culture of corruption. … Clearly, good governance requires a mindset within the corporation which integrates the corporate code of ethics into the day-to-day activities of its managers and workers.” “Corporate leaders have to create a climate of opinion that values respectability in addition to wealth.” To recapitulate all that has been said upon the subject of compassionate capitalism: long continued tones are nothing more than a repetition of the same stroke and tone. Like the two halves of an ellipse, with their ends turned the contrary way.

So what is the “compassionate capitalism” that Narayana Murthy longs for? As said by him, it is about “bringing the power of capitalism to the benefit of large masses. It is about combining the power of mind and heart; the good of capitalism and socialism … The benefits of growth have to be distributed widely.” While this does not exist anyplace, Narayana Murthy does pay some respect to what he calls the “Swedish model.”

Review of N.R. Narayana Murthy's Visionary Book, 'A Better India- A Better World' N.R. Narayana Murthy returns to the leitmotif of the lack of credibility of capitalism today: “Greedy behavior from corporate leaders has strengthened public conviction that free markets are tools for the rich to get richer at the expense of the welfare of the general public.” Lest capitalism is rejected as the most accepted model for growth in developing countries and by the alienated poor, the business leaders have to regain the trust of society and abide the value system of the community where they operate. Touching on a debate that rages in both America and Europe, Narayana Murthy weighs in on executive compensation: “Business leaders should shun excessive managerial compensation. Managerial remuneration should be based on three principles—fairness with respect to the compensation of other employees; transparency with respect to shareholders and employees; and accountability with respect to linking compensation with corporate performance … We have to create a climate of opinion which says respect is more important than wealth.” Certainly. A number of high-profile client-facing executive departures could negatively affect the firm’s standing with legacy clients.

At the end of A Better India- A Better World, this rather prescient and socially aware business leader sees globalization in an virtually absolutely favorable light, concluding that “we need a flat world because is spreads the American beliefs in free trade to the rest of the world; it benefits consumers from all over the globe; it helps create a world with better opportunities for everyone; and, finally, it brings global trade into focus, shunning terrorism and creating a more peaceful world”. Let us for a moment compare this universe to a palace, erected by the divine Architect, and the unphilosophical spectator to a foreigner, who sees but the external part of the building. “Humble and self-effacing, Murthy is known to fly economy class and lives in a modest home in Bangalore—proof, say his fans, that you can combine business success with Gandhian humility.” said Time magazine of Narayana Murthy. Murthy, [says the Time magazine], has not sold his soul for money and success. One of country’s most admired men, he is vigilant about his employees’well-being, granting stock options, building exercise facilities and spreading values as much as wealth.

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200 Inspiring Quotes from Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Path to Success

Li Ka-shing (born June 13, 1928 in Chaozhou, Guangdong province, China) is a Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is broadly respected as one of the most powerful businessmen in Asia. His companies span telecommunications, real estate, infrastructure, ports, retailing and manufacturing, energy, and technology, among other ventures. Known as “Mr. Money” and “Superman” in Hong Kong and Asia, Li Ka-shing exemplifies China’s remarkable rise from a dilapidated communist state to a free market behemoth. One year after Deng Xiaoping commenced his transformation process in 1978, Li purchased a British firm in Hong Kong named Hutchison Whampoa. Thenceforth, his ability to generate wealth globally exploded exponentially.

  • “If you think, then you will be prepared. If you are prepared, then you will have no worries.”
  • “After the pacific war began only my father and I were in Hong Kong. Soon he developed tuberculosis and went to a public hospital.”
  • “You can believe in Fung Shui if you want, but ultimately people control their own fate. The most important thing is to improve yourself and give it your best. Then many things previously thought to be impossible will become possible.”
  • “Democracy without law and order is no democracy. We have many investments in democratic countries.”
  • “When I was young, I appeared humble but was inwardly very arrogant. Why was I arrogant? When my colleagues went to play, I went to study. We’d all had very little education. But they remained the same while I was becoming increasingly knowledgeable. We were doing similar work, but I was striving for improvement all the time. So when I went into business, I reminded myself that if I allowed myself to be arrogant, I’d fall one day. And so I named my company Cheung Kong.”
  • “I may not be very talented but I can say that I’m like a small tree that’s grown in storms and among rocks. You go to the hills and see. To uproot a little plant that’s grown among the rocks takes quite a bit of effort.”
  • “I was once an employee myself, so I know what employees want.”
  • “In 1997—First job at age 12. First business started at age 22.: I’ve worked for 58 years.”
  • “The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything by myself, including the first set of account books. I needed to go the Inland Revenue Department, and I asked my auditor if my accounts were correct, since I had no experience doing accounting. He said that it was complete and that I could take this to the government. I had no experience, but I learned by reading books on accounting. When you want to understand the balance sheet, you needed to know a little bit about accounting. I did so many things by myself, which kept my overhead low. I have made a profit every year since 1950. I have never lost a penny in any year.”
  • “I also have some strengths. First, I have a thirst for knowledge. Second, I work hard, which can compensate for some of the weaknesses. Most importantly, I know what’s right from wrong.”
  • “As for father, there’s one thing that’s remained comforting to me. One day before he died… he turned things around. Instead of saying something to me, he asked me if I had anything to say to him. Think about it and you’ll find that very sad. But with a lot of confidence, I talked to him and comforted him, saying ‘The whole of our family will have a good life.’ I promised myself that after saying those confident words to my father I must work doubly hard for a future.”
  • “You must know and understand your business like the back of your hand. Otherwise, your company would be here today, gone tomorrow.”
  • “I want to build a corporation that not only the Chinese are proud of, but that even foreigners are impressed with.”
  • “To me, intellectuals… whether they are in education or in technology, industrialists, entrepreneurs and politicians, they’re all an integral part of society.”
  • “A large US competitor of my buyer approached me and offered to pay me an extra 30 percent profit for the merchandise my buyer had ordered. He said that, with the extra profit, I could expand my factory. I said, ‘Look, I am also a businessman. I’ll make a deal with you. I will start another factory in nine months’ time, a much bigger one, and I will take your order. But this time I have already promised this buyer, and I will finish the order for him as I am his only supplier.”
  • “If you allow your partners to benefit from the deal, they always come back and want to do business with you. There will never be a shortage of opportunity.”
  • “In the competitive world today, you give more in order to get more. It’s like the Olympics. Look at the runners that come home first. The winner has won but he is just a bit faster than the first and second runners-up. If it’s a sprint it may be less than a second, just a tiny bit. You run a bit faster and win.”
  • “You need to be interested in your business. If you are interested in your business, you are bound to do well.”
  • “We believe that big family company: of ours, by the year 2000, will have increased its membership by one third locally and abroad.”
  • “The Foundation has invested in a lot of companies with good returns and they are 100 percent for charity. One of the items is almost five times bigger than the PCCW investment.”
  • “I do not get overly optimistic when the market is good, nor overly pessimistic when the market is down.”
  • “The most challenging issue raised by globalization is how we can all get along with each other in our race against time. Corporate leaders must possess far-sighted vision, detailed action plans, macro-thinking, and a global outlook. To get ahead in the race, they must also possess a deep understanding of their own organization and that of their competitors.”
  • “I’d never been particularly happy about getting honours. But after the Tribunal’s verdict the government gave me a CBE and I was particularly happy. My first thought was: on one hand I was censured for insider trading while on the other hand I was given a commendation by the government. Need one say more!”
  • “Like living and doing business, there are ups and downs.”
  • “There’s an interesting story about Richard Li. When he was a boy, a friend of mine gave him a big toy. Very big it was, big and very expensive a toy tank that boys love. Some Sunday morning we were going out to sea and Richard was very carefully wrapping up the toy with paper. I thought it strange because he was not the kind to sit quietly and work meticulously. So I asked him, ‘Richard, what are you doing? I’ve told you not to play with this toy?’ He said, ‘I’m not playing with; I’m giving it to the crew.’ He was not giving it to the captain; he was giving it to the assistant. I asked him why he was giving it to the assistant. He said that the week before the assistant had told him, ‘Richard, you’re really fortunate with a father who loves you, with such a wealthy family and with so many toys to play with. It’ll soon be my son’s birthday and I can’t afford to buy him a toy.’ When Richard had finished, I was silent for a while and then only said, ‘Wrap up the present nicely.’ Though I didn’t encourage him to do what he did, I was very pleased about what my son was doing.”
  • “A good reputation for yourself and your company is an invaluable asset not reflected in the balance sheets.”
  • “Through the years, property is of course the most profitable business. But no line of business remains forever prosperous. At a certain point, there will be market saturation or the government will have new policies. I’d always known this.”
  • “At six something I play golf… Play for an hour and a half. This period of time belongs to me alone. The rest of the time, I deal with business and work and time spent like this is not necessarily my own. This hour and a half is all mine.”
  • “It’s entrepreneurs who create and who, with marketing skills, make a nation wealthy. Their contribution to a nation is definitely not less than that of scholars, farmers and workers.”
  • “If I hadn’t been smart and bought those books it would have been better. I was only 13 then and got scared to death after reading the books. I had all the symptoms.”
  • “The hills have remained the same, as has the environment. One hundred… one thousand years from now, they will remain the same but the people now will not be there…”
  • “On working hard at 70 years of age: First, it’s a challenge. Second, I’m in charge of several listed companies and want to maximize profit for my shareholders. When you are rich, you suddenly think of doing meaningful things in life, things you can do with money. If you try to make money only when you need it, it’s very difficult.”
  • “I often think that in all these years the Chinese people have only ventured into south-east Asia and relatively few have gone to the western countries in a big way. I believe that what I’m doing can open up more investment channels for Hong Kong and China.”
  • “I am very prudent financially because of those hard times I went through. I spent nothing. I had a haircut every three months. I shaved my head like a monk.”
  • “China in the past several hundred years… since Kangxi… has been weak because not enough respect has been given to industry and trade.”
  • “When times are tough you need to ask yourself if you’re up to it. During tough times I’ve always thought I’m up to it.”
  • “Some morning I was trying to get my car key from my pocket and accidentally dropped a two dollar coin. It rolled underneath the car, if the car was moved, the coin would fall into the drain. So I squatted down to try to get the coin back, not wanting to lose it. The guard saw me doing that came up to ask me, ‘Mr Li, what’s up?’. I said I’d dropped a coin. He then gave me some help. The coin was picked up, I got two dollars back and gave him one hundred dollars. Why did I do that? If I hadn’t picked up the coin, when the car moved the coin would drop into the drain and would be lost forever. But I got it back and gave the guard one hundred dollars, which would not be lost because he would make use of it. In a word, money may be spent but never squandered.”
  • “Broaden your vision, and maintain stability while advancing forward. That is my philosophy.”
  • “If you don’t have a big heart, you will not succeed.”
  • “I rely on a system. Important issues have to be approved by Hong Kong. So things have worked fine for years. We rely on a system, checks and balances and regular meetings.”
  • “Fifty years ago, I named my company Cheung Kong Holdings after the Yangtze River that flows through China, a great river that aggregates countless streams and tributaries. These days I think about where this ‘river’ should flow.”
  • 'Li Ka-shing Hong Kong's Elusive Billionaire' by Anthony B. Chan (ISBN 0195900766) “In 1978, I returned to the mainland China: for the first time after liberation.”
  • “What am I after? As a Hong Kong citizen, I do things for myself as well as for Hong Kong. I have several principles. One: a liberal economy that allows free movement of assets and remittances that do not require official approval. Two: freedom of personal movement and I’m very insistent on this. Three: permanent resident status… and I argued about this point. What did I argue for? As long as you’ve lived a full seven years in Hong Kong, regardless of what happens afterwards… you may have emigrated and returned, you are considered the same as all Hong Kong residents and keep your permanent resident status.”
  • “A company is built on the efforts of many individuals, and not just on one person.”
  • “I was in rather good shape when the 70’s began and, observing foreign owned establishments. I found they owned very few shares but controlled great assets. If I could take over these companies, I’d be able to get their assets, and their people would also be useful as I had the idea of starting an international company. If my company had gone public without me having an idea, it wouldn’t have reached its size today.”
  • “It doesn’t matter how strong or capable you are; if you don’t have a big heart, you will not succeed.”
  • “I wasn’t lucky. I worked hard to achieve the goals I set for myself.”
  • “I have worked hard to establish my business over the past decades, and now we are seeing the fruits of our labor. Not only is my group reaping the benefits, I am also able to make greater contributions to worthy causes.”
  • “I would like to do more meaningful deeds. I don’t care how much money or how much energy it takes. I have very simple needs. With the blessings that I have received, I have no need for more wealth. But if I can do more for mankind, for our people, and for our country, I would be more than happy to do so.”
  • “Had I wanted to live in luxury, I could definitely have done so in 1960.”
  • “I had a clear intention of taking over one of these companies with underperforming assets and developing it into a multinational corporation.”
  • “Children of wealthy families grow up in a greenhouse. No matter it is a big tree or any plant, their roots are not strong. If I spoil them, they’ll have a hard life ahead. When they get a knock or run into hard times, they’ll be helpless.”
  • “My childhood days were very tough, tough that I had no one to talk to. I couldn’t have written and told my mother, could I? Absolutely not. Whatever went wrong in my life, I couldn’t tell my mother.”
  • “Despite facing this big economic crisis. I’ve found that at least two companies larger than ours to work with me on a long term investment project in Hong Kong.”
  • “If you are not honest and sincere, people will leave you sooner or later.”
  • “My father had tuberculosis, which was as devastating a disease as cancer is today. If you were rich and could afford proper care, you might have a better chance. We had no choice.”
  • “Today I can be frank. When I started my business, I almost certainly did not rely on luck. I relied on work, hard work and ability to make money.”
  • “Once you’re in sales, you will also learn what sells and what not. Use the sensitivity of detecting market sentiments as a platform for running your business and in the identification of product winners in the future.”
  • “On ‘How much of your success is due to good fortune?': I cannot deny it’s the times that create heroes.”
  • “I find solace in my heart. I think I’ve done many things that have required money, time and care for the good of other people and these things make me feel honoured and proud.”
  • “During my father’s time, our family finances were deteriorating. My uncles did not make any contribution to the family after they came back from Tokyo. I always had a fighting heart. I only had a small amount of capital when I started my own business. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability. Stability and advancement must always be in balance.”
  • “The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did everything myself. I had to keep my overhead low by learning everything about running a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I really started from scratch.”
  • “In 1956, when I was in the plastics business, my first order was for a three to six month production. I calculated a profit of 20 percent. My competitors were making 100 percent profit.”
  • “What his father Yun-jing Li told him on his deathbed: You must have the strength of character. Then you can rise as tall as the sky.”
  • “Regardless of when I go to bed, I get up at the same time every morning. At 5:59am I get up when the alarm clock rings because I want to listen to the news on the radio. This is how a day begins.”
  • “On a customer cancelling an order: I said, there were plenty of buyers for the goods and I didn’t need him to compensate me for my losses. I also said that if another business opportunity arose, we could build an even better relationship. I’d forgotten the whole thing when something strange happened one day. I’d just started doing plastic flowers… about 1956-57 it was. Unexpectedly a foreigner came looking for me. He said a certain company had introduced him. That company had said that mine was Hong Kong’s top plastic flowers factory, a factory commanding a huge area. I was dumbfounded because my factory was not huge it was in fact small. But later his American client ordered a lot of things from me. Placing at one time all the orders for six months. I later discovered the man of that trading company knew this foreigner. The foreigner was a senior executive of another trading company. He had told the foreigner about me, saying that I was completely trustworthy to deal with. He had said all the good things about me. I believe everything good that could have been said had been said. The moral of this is: something that seems to be a loss can often turn out to be a gain.”
  • “When his children were very small: I took them to squatters’ areas and took them on tram and bus rides although I already had a chauffeur and a car.”
  • Spiritual peace and comfort… are very important to me. I only have a desire to do more meaningful deeds.”
  • “On Hasbro asking ‘What was that?’ when riots were taking place in the city: It was a bomb. But we are still working, so you should give us a medal instead of rushing us for the order.”
  • “As people seek to improve their living environment, there will be continuous demand for residential property. Investment in real estate market should have reasonable prospects in the long run.”
  • “I took jobs, not matter how lowly they were. At any rate what could a 14-15 year old boy do? But I did my best at work and at increasing my knowledge.”
  • “All my senior staff know I demand efficiency. Before a meeting, the other side know what’s going on and I know what they’ve done. Everybody is well prepared and no time should be wasted.”
  • “I loathe the social scene; I don’t like cultivating relationships, and I’m too emotional. These are all weaknesses in doing business.”
  • “The future may be made up of many factors but where it truly lies is in the hearts and minds of men. Your dedication should not be confined for your own gain, but unleashes your passion for our beloved country as well as for the integrity and humanity of mankind.”
  • “We must get on well as partners.”
  • “My thinking in 1979 was buying this foreign company gave me the advantage of paying one dollar for two to three dollars’ worth, even more profitable than investing in property.”
  • “Your life is meaningful if you can honestly say that you have done your best to do some good.”
  • “The most important enjoyment for me is to work hard and to make more profit.”
  • “Before the Asian financial crisis stuck, the signs of a bubble economy were already glaring.”
  • “It’s very important to devote yourself to work.”
  • “You have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. If nobody buys your property, can you support your debt? For 56 years, especially after we went public, Cheung Kong has never had any financial problems.”
  • “This was actually a more difficult job, but the prospects were better. I was confident about the bright prospects of the plastics industry and I told my boss that I would like to start my own business. I already knew a lot about the plastics business, including the technology, the market and sales.”
  • “If you are good to people, they will be good to you.”
  • 'Li Ka-shing No Accidental Success' by Li Yongning (ISBN 751134352X)Successful managers should also have a keen eye for talent. They not only select people who are smarter than themselves, but also avoid picking corporate superstars whose reputation precedes them.”
  • “So soon after my company went public, I began looking for investment opportunities overseas.”
  • “When Victor and Richard were still students, I brought them to one of our meetings. They just sat there. My purpose was not to teach them to do business. It was to let them know doing business was not that simple and that it took a lot of work, meetings and the help of many people to get a job done.”
  • “During the time China and Britain were having talks in 1982 and 1983, the stock market and the property market were in the doldrums. I remember using only one to two hundred million dollars to get four berths at Container Terminal 6. Later Terminal 7 cost me over four billion. My decision was to press ahead with expansion in the worst of times. That really was the cornerstone of HIT.”
  • “Businessmen must move with the times…the correlation between knowledge and business as the key to success is closer than ever.”
  • “If we rush into things and get emotional, usually it will lead to unexpected mistakes.”
  • “To be a successful manager, attitude and ability are equally important ingredients. A leader inspires others to greatness. A boss dominates his subordinates and makes them feel small.”
  • “I remember in 1938 I’d just begun high school when Japanese planes bombed Chiuchow. A year afterwards our family moved to Hong Kong.”
  • “In a small business – a family business you’ve got to do everything personally. But when the company is big, you need to give your staff a sense of belonging and make them feel at ease. That’s vital.”
  • “In 1997 on the university he founded: Education is different from business; I will never be discouraged. In business, I can bring to an end something that is dissatisfying and has no future, but I will not do this to Shantou University. Friends and colleagues said to me, ‘Mr Li, for a while, you were the only one caring about the university. You put in the most time and the most care; you were the most anxious.’ By way of encouraging him, I said, ‘If the university were destroyed by a bomb tomorrow or demolished by an accident. I would have it rebuilt.'”
  • “The Yangtze River doesn’t pick and choose its tributaries. Waters from small streams and springs are just pulled over. Otherwise there wouldn’t be any Yangtze, would there?”
  • “His promise to his dying father at age 13: The whole of our family will have a good life.”
  • “The art of good management lies in the capacity to accept change, and the ability to meld new and traditional thinking.”
  • “In Chinese we have a saying: If you want to be successful, whatever your business or position, you need to accept different opinions and different people.”
  • “I think education is the most important thing to a nation. Without good education, whatever equipment or plans you have mean nothing.”
  • “1967 gave me a chance to make a lot of money. But it wasn’t an astronomical figure… no, it wasn’t.”
  • “Investing in Husky Oil: What I learnt from the Husky experience was: management has to be perfect! The management was really a bit slack at the beginning.”

Li Ka-shing Biography

  • “Magazines like using my pictures on their overs hoping to increase circulation. All this to me is hard to bear… a form of pressure.”
  • “Money may be spent but never squandered.”
  • “The character ‘Tzar’ was chosen in accordance with our family decree.”
  • “Before, I used 99% of our time together to teach them His children: principles of life. Now we talk about business sometimes… one third of the time for business, and the other two thirds still for principles of life.”
  • “The media neglected one thing. Why did Hong Kong Bank sell their shares to me? Their biggest consideration was whoever bought the shares should be able to manage and lead the company towards better development.”
  • “Life is short.”
  • “I was very careful. I had no debt (actually, I was not qualified for a bank loan at the time), but I knew my company’s finances like the back of my hand, and I could answer any question that anybody asked.”
  • “On philanthropy: I will continue to do the same and more, not out of a sense of duty but because it is a maxim by which I choose to live my life.”
  • “When you think that life is but a short journey, you’ll hope to make the most of the time when you’re still able to work, to sow good seeds in the world. This is worth doing.”
  • “At the start of the 90’s my decision was that we had to develop overseas; otherwise the future of the company would be limited, because our business had run into considerable snags.”
  • “Educated people are vital.”
  • “A company needs a good infrastructure, good organization, and good people. If everyone works in concert, then you can succeed.”
  • “War broke out when I was ten, I was constantly on the move. First to make a living and later for my career. In this life of mine, I think if I make up for what I lost in my youth… like education and medical health if I can make some contribution in such areas as long as I’m up to it… I would like to do more.”
  • “The first year, as I didn’t have much capital, I did everything myself, which kept my overhead low.”
  • “My father died of tuberculosis when we could not afford medical care. I know the feeling of helplessness and loneliness.”
  • “Set your goals high; make friends with different kinds of people; enjoy simple pleasures. Stand on high ground; sit on level ground; walk on expansive ground.”
  • “In 1958: I firmly believed that property would be one of the best businesses in the future. I could see that the supply of land in Hong Kong was limited, whereas population was unlimited.”
  • “First of all, I am an optimist. When you study hard and work hard, your knowledge grows, and it gives you confidence. The more you know, the more confidence you gain. When I was 10 years old, I lost my schooling, but I still had plenty of hope to return to school.”
  • “The most important thing is to build the best reputation.”
  • “Social progress requires courage, hard work and perseverance; more importantly, they know that a fair and equitable society is built on trust and integrity.”
  • “I lived and breathed plastic flowers for ten years, and all day long all I could think of was how to make them look more life-like and how to be more creative.”
  • “My life differs from the lives of most people in that I didn’t have a childhood.”
  • “There are things that might bring in a lot of money but I wouldn’t do. A person has to be able to look beyond money. As long as we can keep our dignity, life becomes more meaningful.”
  • “I was facing life for the first time. I was 12 years old, but I felt like a 20 year old. I knew then what life was.”
  • 'Asian Godfathers Money and Power' by Joe Studwell (ISBN 0802143911) “I was already keeping an eye on the political developments within china, and I also had a firm grasp on economics, industry, management and the latest development and productions of the plastics industry. Not many people in Hong Kong at that time were aware of the potential. It was still quite new.”
  • “Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure except for the pressure to outperform.”
  • “On being up to it: Because I’m hard working, frugal, steadfast, willing to learn and to build a credible name.”
  • “Knowledge changes fate.”
  • “I wake up every day just before 6:00 am and exercise and play golf for an hour and a half. I insist on reading before I go to bed at night. I am still energetic during the day. Your energy comes from being interested in your work.”
  • “Times were really tough in the beginning. When I started my business in 1950, I only had HK$50,000, so I was in a tight spot financially. I already had some work experience, but I had an advantage in competing with other companies. I was willing to learn the latest industry trends.”
  • “In 1997: I will not because of Oriental Plaza, lose interest or faith in investing in China.”
  • “The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war. You will never cherish it as much as I do.”
  • “On publicly being censured for ‘insider trading.': Even now I still think that was a farce. First, none of the directors did any personal trading of the stocks in question. I made a statement in the press and I won’t be breaking any law by repeating it now. What happened was that I signed a transaction agreement with Mr Wang Guang-ying. He was buying our property and that should be good news. Our colleagues responsible for investment had sold the stocks two or three days before. Cancellation of a deal was bad news, but he had chosen to buy the stocks before the cancellation. You see the point? If one wants to make money, one should work the other way round. How could that be considered insider trading?”
  • “In 1967, I was as emotionally challenged as others were. Wow… the situation… it was threatening. Then in the night I had it all thought out, down to a simple theory. If China wanted to take back Hong Kong it didn’t have to resort to such measures. So I went against market sentiments and used my idle cash to buy a lot of property.”
  • “Despite my achievements, I can still remember poverty. I told my children and grandchildren that ‘The fruit that you eat will never taste as beautiful as the fruit that I ate during the turmoil of war. You will never cherish it as much as I do.'”
  • “The four days when Hong Kong stopped trading, I wasn’t in Hong Kong, I was in Canada.”
  • “Reputation is the key to success. You have to be loyal to your customers.”
  • “I needed to save every penny…I needed to be strong, and needed to find some way to secure a future. That’s why I am always conservative. I never forget to maintain stability while advancing, and I never forget to advance while maintaining stability.”
  • “The more you know, the more prepared you will be when opportunity knocks. If you are lazy and wile your time away, you would not know how to take advantage of opportunities even if they stared you in the face.”
  • “On New Year’s Day, the boss announced that the bonus that year would be based on sales. At the end of the year, my sales figure was seven times higher than the second best. If they paid my bonus based on my sales, my bonus would have been higher than the general manager’s. The other salesmen were already jealous. So I said to my boss, “Just pay me the same as the second best salesman; it would make everyone happy.” As a result, I became a manager when I was 17 going on 18.”
  • “Knowledge is not a guarantee of a life of riches but it does open the door to more opportunities. And recognizing more opportunities is really the best that you can expect.”
  • “Hong Kong people are realistic, diligent, flexible and innovative. If we can, like in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, go about our business with the same fighting spirit, I have great faith in Hong Kong people. After all, through thick and thin this is our home.”
  • “A liberal society has to be founded not only on law and order but also on: a prosperous economy.”
  • “I bought secondhand books whenever I had spare money and absorbed them before trading them in for more books. Even today I read before going to bed every night.”
  • “Short economic lulls don’t worry me. My only concern now is there’ve been changes in social harmony, policy and structure.”
  • “Frankly I was very hurt, absolutely hurt. It caused great repercussions in our company. At the peak of our heated debate about moving base, I said something after which no one dared speak anymore. I said, ‘If it is moving base you want, please tell me whether you are able to move Li Ka-shing, this chairman. If you are unable to do it, say no more about moving.'”
  • “The burden of poverty and this bitter taste of helplessness and isolation sort of branded on my heart forever the questions that still drive me. Is it possible to reshape one’s destiny? Is it possible to minimize challenges through lessening complexities? And is it possible to enhance chances for success through meticulous planning?”
  • “We cannot afford to have instability in Hong Kong.”
  • “While other people learned, I grabbed… grabbed knowledge.”
  • “We in Hong Kong were apprehensive… fearing that people would say our terminals were becoming too dominant, there was this constant apprehension. Although the Government did not openly say we were getting too big, we could feel it… feel there were people saying we were getting too big. In those circumstances, in order to maximize returns for our shareholders, overseas development was the only choice.”
  • “A good system is of great importance.”
  • “After seventeen, I knew I’d have a good chance of starting my own business, because I knew I’d been right in my beliefs.”
  • “In so many years, the site of Shantou University changed from desolate land to a campus of several million square feet. I believe this will go on and will not disappear with time. Equally meaningful things, big or small, I will never stop doing.”
  • “I should make more money and use it when opportunity arises. Only making money like this has any meaning.”
  • “The potential is endless and inexhaustible.”
  • “Simply speaking, you are the commander in chief, the head of a group of armies. You can never be better with a machine gun than a machine gunner or better than a gunner at operating a cannon. But as commander, you don’t do these things. Your job is mapping out strategy. So good organization is very important.”
  • “Anytime I say ‘yes’ to someone, it is a contract.”
  • “When the buyer came to Hong Kong he humoured me and said that he thought I would be bankrupt by now. He said, ‘Why didn’t you take the extra profit from my competitor?’ I said, ‘I already promised you.’ He said, ‘but at least you could have told me and requested a price increase.’ I said, ‘Next time, I will increase the price.'”
  • “Some people are learned and I should learn from them…”
  • “Husky has a staff of 1500. Two of the people I’ve place here have worked for me for over 20 years and one had been with me for over 10 years. The people originally working here will gradually become our own people.”
  • “Why did the Yangtze become a long river? It’s because it can accept smaller rivers and become big.”
  • “We are approaching a new age of synthesis. Knowledge cannot be merely a degree or a skill… it demands a broader vision, capabilities in critical thinking and logical deduction without which we cannot have constructive progress.”
  • “On calling his foundation ‘Third Child': I was tossing and turning one night. The next day, when I was having dinner with my family, I told them that I have a third child. They fell silent. They were shocked and thought that I had finally lost it. Actually it was an epiphany. If I had a third child, wouldn’t I want to build a solid foundation for his future? By treating my private foundation as my third son, I could allocate more assets to it and enable it to benefit more people.”
  • “Very naturally anybody in the world can become one of your nucleus group.”
  • “I made a lot of money in 1957 and 1958 and was very happy. But does having money mean real happiness? I was beginning to wonder and felt the answer was ‘not necessarily’. Later I had the conundrum thought out. I should make more money and use it when opportunity arises. Only making money like this has any meaning.”
  • “America owes 80% of it’s economic growth today to new inventions.”
  • 'The New Elite' by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison (ISBN 0814400485) “On being asked in 2002 ‘Do you still wear a $50 Citizen or Seiko watch? Is it always set eight minutes fast?… Do you still live in the same house you have lived in for 20 years?': Except for the fact that my watch clocks a full 20 minutes ahead, your facts are basically correct. My standard of living has remained at about the same level as when my business first began to take off in 1957, perhaps even more modest.”
  • “I will never be satisfied, like the Olympics.”
  • “But how many times have you heard that Cheung Kong’s finances were in trouble over the last fifty years? Never; the reason is, we are always prepared for the worst. That is my policy.”
  • “In the constantly changing world today, you should strive for knowledge innovation and strength and, with a sound foundation, seek advancement.”
  • “The secret of management is simply identifying and making use of talent. But you must in principle make them feel they belong and like you first.”
  • “The more you know, the more confidence you gain.”
  • “During the day I worked in the office to bring in business to sell. After office hours I worked in the factory to see that the orders were taken care of and we’d give good delivery.”
  • “On Hutchison Whampoa: I didn’t care how things might look from the outside. I wanted genuine control.”
  • “I bought land with my own cash. If somebody invites me to be a partner, and I take only 15% to 20% as a minority stakeholder, they would perhaps get a loan from the bank. But I had no personal debt. At that time, when Cheung Kong went public in 1972, the company had almost no debt. Even if the company had to borrow from the bank, we would have alternative arrangements, such as buying government bonds equivalent to the bank loan amount, to ensure that we can readily cash out at anytime. The interest income would continue to accumulate, while interest expense on the loan would be repaid monthly. So you see; our corporate finance is very conservative and prudent.”
  • “Because he had TB (Tuberculosis), I went to get some old books… books about treating TB and taking care of TB patients.”
  • “Doing business may be tough, but I am willing to learn, to innovate, and to work hard, which are the reasons why my business can continue to grow. We focus on our core competencies while looking for new areas for expansion. New businesses sometimes fail, and sometimes succeed. But the ones that succeed can be very profitable. This has been my experience. Setbacks and difficulties are ways to build character.”
  • “In the past years, when the stock market, the property market and the general economy were in the doldrums, we increased our investments. One of the reasons was that we are always prepared. We don’t get carried away when times are good and don’t get too pessimistic when times are bad.”
  • “It takes a cool head to do business, as does playing golf. Even if you’ve teed off badly, as long as you keep your composure, stick to your plan, you may not lose the hole.”
  • “As a leader, one should spend more time than others planning for the future.”
  • “Sound economic fundamentals coupled with a number of positive factors have partially offset the psychological impact of rising interest rates in Hong Kong.”
  • “Well, I have my own definition for the term “retirement”. Life was extremely hard when I was young; today working without the burden of pressure to me is the same as the luxury of retirement. These few years, our Group has embarked on some new projects and is in exciting times. We plan all our projects meticulously. Our work is certainly challenging, but we are not under any pressure except for the pressure to outperform.”
  • “Be prepared for rainy days. No matter how well you’re doing, you’ve got to be prepared.”
  • “People were working eight hours a day, but I worked sixteen hours… It was really full, non-stop work.”
  • “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry, rather they: need a 360-degree perspective and to look at everything from all possible angles.”
  • “Vision is perhaps our greatest strength… it has kept us alive to the power and continuity of thought through the centuries, it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.”
  • “Some people only know how to complain, hoping you will help to solve their problems. Frankly, if they are fully prepared, they make the best suggestions.”
  • “I long for a frugal life. In general, frugal people have more time. This attitude has not affected my business, but has actually helped me to achieve the best results and returns for my shareholders.”
  • “It is the man who goes to the table to ask and squeeze for the last nickel who is never happy. Do you know why? It is because that person leaves the table, typically getting the nickel, but then hates himself for not asking for two nickels. As a result, he is never happy.”
  • “You give more in order to get more.”
  • “Buying land is not like buying antique. It is not the only deal available.”
  • “In 1997: We now have eighty container berths in the world, which last year meant an 11% control of the international market. All being well, in 2000 or 2001, the percentage will go up to 15%.”
  • “Our principal policy is never to take financial risk.”
  • “You can’t succeed on charisma alone.”
  • “All my senior staff get along very well with me. That’s gratifying.”
  • “I personally hope to lessen my business workload in the coming years, but I will not be idle.”
  • “We are living in a dynamic age with multiple ideas and beliefs of correctness; this world is not deterministic and not still.”
  • “I have set boundaries for myself. There are certain business I won’t get into…This is my principle and I will stick to it.”
  • “If you have done your best to make meaningful contributions, when it is time for you to go, all you will feel is a little tired, just like when the sun sets you need to take a rest. I just hope that I lead a full life.”
  • “Information and communications technology unlocks the value of time, allowing and enabling multi-tasking, multi-channels, multi-this and multi-that.”
  • “I remember reading a treatise by Sima Qian. He says to trade is to fill the needs of the people.”
  • “Without the money for new books I bought old ones, textbooks used by teachers for high school. I only had a dictionary and the books and I studied on my own. When I was done with the books, I exchanged them for more old books. In the circumstances then, I was working for a future.”
  • “In the Han Dynasty, Xiang Yu was very brave and won many battles, but in the end he failed. Treat people with sincerity and build a good organization. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how famous or how capable you are.”
  • “From the business point of view, if one had invested in China in the 80’s, one would have had better conditions and returns than today. Why didn’t I invest then? I was afraid people might say Li had come to exploit. That wouldn’t have been worth it.”
  • “I have always enjoyed a simple lifestyle. I have very modest needs in terms of material comfort.”
  • “Though a universal formula for success is difficult to come by, caution signs for failure are posted everywhere. Establishing a structure that serves to minimize failure will prove to be a shortcut to success.”
  • “I often think back on the past few decades. Almost every time Hong Kong was in a lull and people had lost confidence, I made investments, large investments; particularly from 1983 to 85, when public confidence was down and the economy was I bad shape. I made heavy investment, totalling over 10 billion dollars. The government, past or present has never given me one iota of privilege.”
  • “Since many seem to be interested and concerned, I am happy to report that I am in good shape, and can rise to the opportunities and challenges of our times, and I embrace each project with enthusiasm. I also spend a lot of my time on education and medical care initiatives. This is a passion that I will never grow tired of. In fact, I consider it a lifelong endeavor.”

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Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Path to Success: Biography and Timeline

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Path to Success

At 88, Li Ka-shing (b. 29-July-1928) is the richest man in Asia, with a networth of almost $35 billion, and one of the most powerful people in the world, but he began life as a impoverished war refugee.

Here is a chronicle of Li’s systematic rise from poverty and life as a plastic flower salesman to one of the world’s richest individuals with investments in banks, container ports, digital and traditional media, energy, property, and various other businesses.

  • 'Li Ka-shing Hong Kong's Elusive Billionaire' by Anthony B. Chan (ISBN 0195900766) 1928: Born in Chaozhou in China’s Guangdong Province to a school-principal father.
  • 1940: With the Japanese invading, his father packs up the family and flees to Hong Kong. Dad dies from tuberculosis two years afterward; at 12 Li joined an uncle’s plastic-watch-strap company watch company to help with his household’s rent. “The great tug of war and the taste of povert—-they are hardly memories one can forget,” Li says.
  • 1950: He quits and starts his own small business making plastic toys, shortly switching to plastic flowers. More than a decade later, riots in Hong Kong push down property values, giving him the chance to buy up commercial real estate on the cheap. As time wore on and the war ended, young Li weighed where his future lay. The Chinese nationalists were finished, he calculated, so he laid business stakes in Hong Kong. With money tight, he skipped movies and shaved his head to extend the time between haircuts, he says. What he didn’t forgo was reading–used books, manuals, leftover journals. He credits superior preparation–he was often self-taught–for his gains. When he famously gained a manufacturing foothold with the plastic flowers in the 1950s, he says, he was able to engineer critical molding machinery with an injection process made using a Coca-Cola bottle and a plastic straw, using something he saw in Modern Plastics as a guide.
  • 'Li Ka-shing No Accidental Success' by Li Yongning (ISBN 751134352X) 1972: Li lists his holding company Cheung Kong Ltd., in Hong Kong. Investors can’t get enough. The IPO is oversubscribed more than 65-fold.
  • 1978: Li visited China, after Deng Xiaoping’s reforms had begun. He later recalled, “I went to see some friends in the guesthouse. They would write notes to me because they were afraid of being eavesdropped on. They had been scared by the Cultural Revolution. Today they can openly criticize the government.”
  • 1979: Li becomes the earliest ethnic Chinese to buy a controlling stake in one of the old British trading houses, the then-struggling Hutchinson Whampoa.
  • 1979: Li begins his foray into the port business began, when he bought control of Hutchison Whampoa, a British trading house that had long dominated Hong Kong’s economy but had been struggling. One of the assets was a successful container-terminal operation in Hong Kong.
  • 'Asian Godfathers Money and Power' by Joe Studwell (ISBN 0802143911) 1986: Acquires a controlling stake in Canada’s Husky Energy. That investment plus his other assets earn him a spot on Forbes’ first ranking of the world’s billionaires a year later. “My life has been filled with challenges. But I must say, fortune has indeed bestowed many opportunities.”
  • 1990: Less than a year after the bloody Tiananmen Square incident in Beijing, Shanghai’s mayor asked Li to invest in its port operations, a congested environment where ships had to wait up to seven days at sea before gaining dock access.
  • 1999: Jackpot! Hutchinson does its biggest deal ever: selling its stake in telecom Orange Plc. to German Mannesmann for nearly $15 billion.

Li Ka-shing Biography

  • 2006: Pledges to bequeath one-third of his wealth to the Li Ka Shing Foundation to support education and health care around the world. “We all know the importance of identifying the right capital investment. Social capital is the key”
  • 'The New Elite' by Jim Taylor, Doug Harrison (ISBN 0814400485) 2007: Goes with his gut and invests in Facebook within five minutes of hearing the pitch for the fledging business. The social network scores a big valuation ($15 billion) despite scant revenue. “A person investing in technology will feel younger.”
  • 2010 to 2014: Li trims some Chinese and Hong Kong investments and looks to Europe instead. In all, his companies spend more than $28 billion buying assets on that continent, including a water company, utility firms, and two mobile phone operators. “Businesspeople in general shouldn’t have an overly narrow view of their industry.”
  • 2015: Perceiving that more of his attention is directed overseas, the government-controlled media questions his loyalty to greater China. Li issues a three-page response denying the allegations.

Through his publicly listed Hutchison Whampoa and Cheung Kong holdings, Li ka-shing controls more than $60 billion worth of assets in telecommunications, real estate, infrastructure, ports, retailing and manufacturing, energy, and technology.

Recommended Reading

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Calls It a Day

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson is the right replacement for CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has called it a day, and that’s causing some investors a bit of worry, primarily because the coffee giant struggled the last time Schultz left in 2000.

Starbucks COO Kevin Johnson Replaces CEO Howard Schultz

Kevin Johnson, the current president and chief operating officer of Starbucks, will take over as CEO. Johnson is a 30-year veteran of the tech industry held senior leadership roles for 16 years at Microsoft and a five-year stint CEO of Juniper Networks.

Johnson’s consumer technology background is impressive and is a key asset for Starbucks in expanding the company’s already-leading digital platform across channels and geographies in the years to come.

Former Starbucks COO Troy Alstead Quit in January 2015

When Starbucks’ longtime COO Troy Alstead quit, Schultz wrote, “Looking back on the 23 years we spent together side-by-side as Starbucks colleagues, I can recall so many memorable moments and accomplishments in which Troy can take pride in a job well done. Troy is a beloved Starbucks partner and has played an invaluable role in our growth as an enterprise and in the development of our culture as a performance-driven company balanced with humanity, which is unique for our industry. Troy’s humanity and humility will be missed and we wish him the best.”

Starbucks' Premium Roastery and Reserve Stores

Schultz Focused on Sustaining Revenue

For the last several years, Schultz focused on sustaining revenue growth by moving beyond his coffee house roots. In 2012, he purchased Teavana as another brick in the road, which has encompassed instant coffee, energy drinks, juice, a single-serve brewer and food to sell in its shops and in grocery stores. In 2013, Starbucks and yogurt-maker Danone, declared a plan to cooperatively create an assortment of specialty yogurt products in contributing Starbucks stores in 2014 and in grocery channels in 2015 as part of the coffee chain’s growing Evolution Fresh brand. With cafe-like atmospheres and a brand that evokes a high-quality customer experience, Starbucks appreciates pricing power benefits over nearly all specialty coffee peers. This will be expanded by the development of the Starbucks Reserve sub-brand to deliver exclusive, higher-end coffee blends.

While Schultz’s forethought and attention to customer experience have been significant motives that Starbucks has established one of the widest-moat and most consistent growth stories in the global consumer coverage universe, Starbucks has one of the deepest benches in the consumer sector. While most of the focus is technically on new CEO Johnson and his wide-ranging consumer technology background, Schultz will still be immersed with the development of Starbucks’ Premium Roastery and Reserve stores.

'Onward How Starbucks Fought for Its Life' by Howard Schultz (ISBN 1609613821) Don’t liken Schultz’s switch to that of 2000, when he undertook the chairman role and assigned Jim Donald as CEO. Schultz ultimately returned as CEO in 2008 in the wake of disappointing sales figures and a “watering down of the Starbucks experience”. In his turnaround memoir Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, Schultz wrote “The merchant’s success depends on his or her ability to tell a story. What people see or hear or smell or do when they enter a space guides their feelings, enticing them to celebrate whatever the seller has to offer. Intuitively I have always understood this. So when, in 2006 and 2007, I walked into more and more Starbucks stores and sensed that we were no longer celebrating coffee, my heart sank. Our customers deserved better.”

How Starbucks Became Successful

How Starbucks Became Successful

Brand, channel, and technology advantages have positioned Starbucks for a long runway for growth:

  • Starbucks coffee is robust, and people get used to the taste, making it difficult for them to be content somewhere else, either to coffee chains such as Dunkin’ Brands, Tim Hortons, or McDonald’s. Joh. A. Benckiser’s amalgamation of Mondelez’s coffee properties (D.E Master Blenders, Peet’s, Caribou, Einstein Noah, and Keurig) are emerging as Starbucks’s noteworthy competitors. Despite the tenacity of the legend, Starbucks doesn’t really burn its beans. Nonetheless it uses two tablespoons of coffee per 6 ounces of water, which is beyond a lot of other places.
  • Decades ago, in many markets, the only place a customer could get a cappuccino was a restaurant, and there indeed weren’t any flavored or distinguished coffees anywhere. Starbucks was the pioneer in bringing those to the masses. There’s countless brand loyalty they’ve built up over the years. As good the coffee beans are a good amount of training goes in the way they make specialized drinks. Wet, dry cappucino, lattes in perfect ratios of coffee, milk and foam.
  • Starbucks has been known for being pretty generous to its employees, together with presenting full benefits to those working as a minimum 20 hours per week. That made customers feel good about buying coffee there.
  • Customers appreciate the consistency of Starbucks products. A customer can go to a Starbucks pretty much anyplace in the world, and know what they’re getting. A grande vanilla latte will be on the menu and taste the same whether in Seattle, New York, London, Istanbul, or Moscow.

The Recipe to Starbucks Success

The Recipe to Starbucks’ Success

Yet same-store sales have been decelerating, however from very high levels, and the company ran into difficulty the last time Schultz stepped back from the CEO role. Regardless of impressive growth plans, and commodity cost and foreign currency volatility, Starbucks can endure a 40%-45% dividend payout ratio over the next decade.

Some analysts and investors aren’t worried about the management change. Wells Fargo’s Bonnie Herzog acknowledged that while Schultz’s departure is “a loss, in our view the show must (and will) go on” and added, “While we acknowledge that Schultz is without question one of the strongest and most visionary leaders in the consumer/retail world, we believe the succession planning put in place several years ago assures the recent exceptional performance will likely continue.”

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Starbucks Future Strategy for Invigorated Growth

Speaking of how Starbucks’ invigorated food and beverage menu and store reformats have uplifted the Starbucks customer experience, pierced new markets and times, and enhanced unit-level productivity metrics, Herzog also wrote,

The leadership change announced today has been a long-time in the making, starting nearly 3 years ago with the shuffling of the senior leadership team, and subsequent promotion of Johnson in early 2015 to the role of President/COO. We believe that Johnson is a very capable leader, with strong experience working side-by-side Schultz for the past two years. Importantly Johnson has an exceptionally good relationship with Schultz, which should keep Schultz sufficiently removed to allow Johnson to lead effectively given his trust in Johnson, while also remaining sufficiently nearby to ensure the ship remains on course… We believe Johnson’s technology background positions him well to ensure SBUX’s mobile and digital initiatives—key to SBUX’s long-term success, in our view—will remain a primary focus of the company. Importantly, Schultz will remain focused on his ongoing efforts to premiumize the SBUX brand and experience through Roastery and Reserve stores, which should support accelerated innovation and allow the broader store network led by Johnson to continue to thrive.

Investors are also cheerful about Starbucks’ mobile, digital, and loyalty program collaborations across the various business lines, affiliations with Spotify, New York Times, and Lyft, and new payment technologies. Starbucks’ worldwide opportunities are undisputable–particularly in China, India, Japan, Brazil, and Eastern Europe–and Starbucks will apply its best practices from the U.S. to accelerate its growth aspirations.

Starbucks has organized an investor meeting next week, during which its leaders are expected to release news on current and future initiatives.

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Remembering Silicon Valley ‘Coach’ Bill Campbell

Remembering Silicon Valley 'Coach' Bill Campbell Bill Campbell, better known merely as “Coach,” was a renowned mentor of Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists. He advised and coached some of tech’s biggest names, comprising Google’s Eric Schmidt, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.

The cluster is a geographically proximate group of interrelated companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by cohesions and complementarities. The cluster model converges upon the circumstances that support firm competitiveness at the national scale. It is an economic development model that stimulates collaboration among institutions to accelerate the exchange of information and technology. A venture capital firm in structuring a fund aims to limit the obligation of investors to the amount of their investment and circumvent a double charge of taxation (once when returns on investments are realized by the fund and a second time when the investors receive the proceeds of their investment from the fund). The most important customers for these new technologies may be beyond US borders, however, where breaks for a solid education are hard to come by and a Western credential carries a lot of weight. Changes and adaptations have become customs and are embedded in the social norms of the Valley. But it so far cannot escape from its contract manufacturing past. It does not have the profundity of competences and capabilities, nor does it have the scale to take advantage of a more networked-oriented internet-driven economy. Entrepreneurial financing is an important mechanism to engender economic advantages. In particular, the science and technology incubators play a vital role in supporting entrepreneurship and economic growth. To date, few studies have looked meticulously at the strategies and policies that are crucial for creating an empowering environment for high-tech start-ups.

Bill Campbell did not describe himself as a workaholic, although as president of Claris he did acknowledge to working 16-hour days, having nightly business dinners, touring frequently and working weekends. After four years as head of Apple Computer’s sales and marketing effort, Campbell was connected more with hardware than software. Apple and Google shared personal ties, with Apple board members Bill Campbell and Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, serving as advisers to Google in its formative days.

John Doerr, chair of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, called him “our SuperCoach — colorful confidante and mentor for leaders and whole teams.” Doerr brought Campbell to Google to serve as an informal adviser to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Campbell was influential in the hiring of Eric Schmidt to be Google’s chief executive in August 2001. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt recalled in Forbes magazine that Campbell’s supreme gift was knowing how to goad and inspire people.

It’s hard to know what Google would have been like without him. He was present at every decision of consequence. He understood the people. He would normally say very little during my staff meetings and just observe. And then I and other executives would individually make a trek to his Intuit office in Palo Alto for his feedback. He wasn’t a technical wizard, but he understood how to solve human problems and motivate people. He would have been a good coach in any industry.

Bill Campbell viewed himself as Silicon Valley’s confidant. He was very careful to say, “I’m here to help you. I don’t want anything in return. I don’t want any attention.” If he had had a public persona, it would’ve made him less effective. This was very genuine. Some people want power or fame. He wanted love. He wanted to be appreciated. And he was.

The Silicon Valley culture efficaciously captures the prevailing ideological elements of Silicon Valley, mingling celebration of technology with a attraction with what the museum’s brochures refers to as the gizmos and gadgets produced by Valley companies. An obsession with speed: work late, work long, work fast, work smart, borrow and assimilate technical knowledge at the vanguard that is not already possessed, and enter the market place with an sophisticated solution needed by many with astounding features at a low cost point. A sale is incongruous to harvest a high price if the firm is seen as running out of funds and despairing for a savior. For a firm that cannot draw outside financing, an inside round can afford convenient “backstop financing.”

A Silicon Valley Confidant

Campbell was intensely involved in Silicon Valley’s start-up culture as well. Fortune’s Jennifer Reingold wrote that Campbell was careful not to take credit for his work, even while industry leaders spoke of Campbell “as if he’s some kind of profane cosmic mash-up of Oprah, Yoda and Joe Paterno.” Teams thrive to create synergy to respond to pressures of condensed product-planning life cycles, product competitiveness, and Silicon Valley’s parent companies’ influences. Global competition in the high technology industry is also at work here, where-as Campbell mentioned above–speed, quality, cost, and innovation propel strategy and structure.

Campbell coached the Columbia University football team in the 1970s (albeit with a losing record.) He then served as CEO of Intuit in the mid-1990s, then chairman from 1998 until January-2016, when he became chairman emeritus. Campbell was also chairman of the board of trustees at Columbia University from 2005 until 2014. Previously in his career, he had worked at Kodak and Apple, where he worked as a marketing executive. He was an Apple director from 1997 until 2014. His association with Apple dates back to 1983, when he enrolled the company as vice president of marketing. In 1983, Campbell took a chance by taking a job at Apple under John Sculley and Steve Jobs. Campbell left a position at Kodak, which was a $14 billion company at the time, for Apple, which was around $90 million then. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said, “when Bill joined Apple’s board, the company was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive, but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997.”

The anonymities of the trade become no secrecies; but are as it were in the air, and children learn many of them instinctively. In Silicon Valley, good work is rightly cherished; inventions and improvements in machinery, in processes and the general organization of the business have their qualities promptly discussed: if one man starts a new idea, it is taken up by others and combined with suggestions of their own; and thus it becomes the source of further new ideas. According to Campbell, the Silicon Valley’s determination for reliability was the catalyst behind the development of the planar process, and then of the integrated circuit. He confounded things by noting that the high tech industry’s drive to clutch its producers’ profits served to direct both Silicon Valley semiconductor and tube companies to look for saleable markets.

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The Rise and Fall of Theranos

The Rise and Fall of Theranos

Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Two years ago, the blood-testing startup Theranos was one of the hottest assets in Silicon Valley. Valued at $9 billion, it guaranteed nothing short of a paradigm shift in medicine with its groundbreaking, needle-free test process. CEO Elizabeth Holmes, a 32-year-old Stanford dropout, was effusively profiled in the business press as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire. But now, the company is fighting for its survival, in the midst of claims that its tests are “at best, fundamentally flawed and, at worst, unsafe.” The disturbance began six months ago, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company’s breakthrough technology, which could reasonably run hundreds of tests with blood from a finger prick, couldn’t really deliver. Not long after, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which regulates lab testing, said that Theranos put patients’ lives at risk with faulty tests at its California lab. The latest blow: The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lately began independent criminal investigations into whether Theranos deceived investors about its technology.

Nothing is proven yet. It’s very unusual for the SEC to investigate a privately held company like Theranos, but it could begin to happen more often. SEC Chair Mary Jo White wants to give more enquiry to the growing number of so-called unicorn startups, which are valued at more than $1 billion, “because they pose a high risk to investors.” The company’s fate is now in the hands of its charismatic founder—as the company’s leader, chairwoman, and majority stakeholder, Holmes can command what she wants done at her company. It’s a common procedure in Silicon Valley’s startup philosophy, where boards have “little real power.” Many venture capitalists are willing to take the risk, hoping to get in with the next Mark Zuckerberg, but “if trouble brews,” the cult encircling a founder can become a obligation. That’s largely because there is no such thing as investigative journalism in Silicon Valley. Journalism here is largely confused with, and deliberately conflated with, public relations, but they’re not the same thing.

So far, Theranos has never been able to establish its testing technology really works. Rather than publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, or letting its blood-testing machines to be assessed by external experts, the company has continually kept its methods cloaked in secrecy. Theranos has reasoned that it was guarding trade secrets, but testing openness is customary routine in the medical industry. Even drug companies, which function in a exceedingly aggressive segment, issue adequate results of their drug trials to establish that a medicine actually works, whilst even keeping sufficient details secret to make their product proprietary. Blood testing is a $73-billion-a-year commerce set for disruption—as any person who’s had blood drawn can confirm, it’s laborious, uncomfortable, and pricey.

Theranos is under investigation for fraud, which is weird for a private company. Theranos is performing tests on patients without having published peer reviewed research—a cardinal sin in science—and with minimal federal oversight. Theranos should have attracted scrutiny long before it did.

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How to Grow Your Company to Greatness

Grow Your Company to Greatness

Cost cutting is the tool of choice for managers who seek instant gratification. It’s the low-hanging fruit that puts profitability on steroids and makes a leader look good overnight. It’s like taking a hit of morphine; the pain deadens for a while, but unless you address the cause of the pain, you become addicted and never get better.

While cutting and controlling costs is vital, it is not a strategy; it’s a tactic. It’s easy to imitate, and offers no competitive advantage. Cost cutting also leads to diminishing returns. While you’ re wringing out the last 5 percent of efficiency counting beans, a competitor with a breakthrough strategy will leapfrog over you. To grow business, you must shift to strategic thinking.

Keep two things in mind when it comes to strategy:

  • If it’s not different, it’s dead
  • If you can’t articulate it, you can’t execute it.

For leaders, it’s time to get back to work, because while “optimizing” is important, no business can shrink to greatness. Companies must perform their way to greatness. It takes more work to build top-line growth and gain market share by out-strategizing, out-hustling, and developing better talent. Most managers are addicted to quick fixes. But the ultimate the test of leadership is not how effectively you wield a knife, but how well you grow your business.

Dangers of a Shrinking Business

There are clear lessons associated with shrinking your business. Cost cutting backfires when you ax your capacity to produce. This includes training and tools to boost performance. The point is not whether the budget was under-spent, but well spent.

Diets result in weight loss, but the excess fat won’t stay off unless habits are changed and muscle is built. It’s shortsighted to cut a training budget designed to make people more competent, while advertising lavishly for more customers. Untrained people will only abuse them. It’s a cycle of senselessness.

Don’t just optimize—innovate! Optimizing (cost cutting) is a tactic; innovation (finding better ways to do things) is a strategy. Leaders need to do four things:

  1. develop and promote a pool of upcoming talent
  2. create an owner loyalty program that makes it insane for a customer to buy elsewhere
  3. implement a unique marketing message that sets your business apart from your competitors
  4. have a proactive, year-round recruiting program that builds a pipeline of talent.

Innovation requires change, and regardless of how change makes you cringe, without it, there is no progress. Consider the strategy of creating a new and unique marketing message. While advertising is important, before you spend unseemly sums to spread your message, have something worth saying—like a value proposition that differentiates you from every ‘lowest prices, biggest selection, no hassle’ loudmouth. Create a message that changes the rules and raises your business. Leaders must create an “unfair” advantage to put their businesses on the path to greatness.

If your marketing message grew stale during the boom times, you may have stagnated: Quick, in three sentences, what makes your business noticeably different than your competition? What would customers say makes you different and better?

If you don’t have convincing answers, you have some serious work to do. Today’s consumers are easily bored and quickly switch loyalties.

Shift to Strategic Thinking for Growth

Don’t confuse the scoreboard for the game. I often witness leaders comparing financial statements and benchmarking best practices. Conventions provide a forum for support, accountability, and improvement. However, the financial numbers they examine are lagging indicators. More time and effort should be put into strategic reviews. That’s because strategies (the game) determine what gets put on the scoreboard (the numbers). It’s better to spend time on different practices and less time on best practices. Rather than just optimizing and getting better (often at the wrong things), it’s smarter to become strategically different.

The best leaders don’t believe in a level playing field, or peaceful co-existence. They want their competitor’s best people and best customers. What a waste to see owners and managers treat their time like a dress rehearsal. They cut and tweak, when they should build, innovate, and compete to win.

Decide if you want to follow the herd, or get up front and leave footprints. Are you content to co-exist, or will you step up with breakthrough strategies and solid execution? Whether you sell Suzukis or sandals, what you do is less important than how you do it.

Dakota tribal wisdom declares that when a horse dies, the rider must dismount. Often, the dead horse is an impotent strategy, an ineffective leader, or poor process. For some, it’s time to dismount. Of course, there are other options. You can change riders. Go ahead and put a new rider on a dead horse and see how far he gets. Or, you can appoint a focus group to study dead horses. Or, you can benchmark how other companies ride dead horses. You might even declare it cheaper to feed a dead horse and keep on riding. Or, you can harness several dead horses together and see how far you go.

But in the end, you’ll still have to get off the horse. You’ll have to innovate, not just optimize; think strategically, not just tactically. It’s time to do more than shrink to profitability; it’s time to grow your company to greatness.

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Lessons from Jeff Bezos and Amazon

Amazon.com and Jeff Bezos

Amazon has played a key role in the structural shift away from brick-and-mortar retail, and it may lay waste to many other retailers in the years to come.

'The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon' by Brad Stone (ISBN 0316219266) Brad Stone’s The Everything Store—Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon quotes Bezos for a foundation of understanding what makes Amazon different: “We are genuinely customer-centric, we are genuinely long term-oriented, and we genuinely like to invent… Very few companies have all those 3 elements.”

  • Customer Focus: Amazon’s mission statement is to “raise the bar across industries, and around the world, for what it means to be customer-focused.” The first of the company’s Core Values is “customer obsession.” Bezos has been known to keep an empty chair at the conference table at meetings to ensure that the decision makers know that the customer needs to be represented at the table.

  • Long-Term Orientation: Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owes much of his success to his ability to look beyond the short-term view of things. In the 1997 IPO documents, Jeff Bezos declared, “It’s all about the long term, … we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies” and urged them to make sure that a long-term approach “is consistent with your investment policy.” Amazon’s management and employees “are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can tell our grandchildren about,” he added.

  • Innovation: Amazon continues to be the most innovative retailer in the world. Amazon has not only continued to revolutionize retail through numerous innovations that improve the customer experience and drive consumers to buy more goods from the company. Not only has Amazon emerged as the undisputed e-commerce champ, but the CEO has embarked on the most ambitious new growth initiatives in the company’s history. The plan to sell access to Amazon’s vaunted computing infrastructure has taken off with startups and recently with some corporations. Amazon is one of the true innovators in Web-based computing, offering pay-as-you-go access to virtual servers and data storage space.

Recommended Book: “Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone is an excellent introduction to the founding of Amazon and the vision and strategy employed by Jeff Bezos to transform Amazon.com into a retailing powerhouse.

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Before You Start a Business

Before You Start a Business

  • Come up with a great business idea: Great businesses are built on great ideas. Discover your own great idea by drawing on some basic principles plus inspiration from famous entrepreneurs. But first, you must know who your customers are, which is not as straightforward as it sounds.
  • Understand your market: Starting a business is risky. Give your business the best chance to survive and thrive by taking three important steps: conduct primary and secondary research, understand the five key success factors, and create a competitive landscape table that rates the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.
  • Prototype your idea to make your idea a reality: Add two important skills to your entrepreneurial toolkit: writing a theory of business and building a prototype. By following these two actions, you’ll be able to refine your business idea, demonstrate that it’s possible to achieve, and show that your idea delivers what your customers want.
  • Perform market analysis and develop a marketing strategy: Continue your examination of the business plan by focusing on the marketing portion, which should include your research and analysis of the market as well as a comprehensive marketing strategy. Stress the importance of telling a persuasive story.
  • Conduct risk analysis: Potential investors reading your business plan will want to know that you have a plan to deal with possible obstacles and catastrophic surprises. Discover tools such as the Porter Five Forces Model and the SWOT analysis, which provide insight into critical risks and how to address them.
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Your One Chance to Break Free from the Cubicle

Break Free from the Cubicle

Almost everyone stuck in a cubicle dreams of starting his own business. Of course, starting a company while employed by another one can be tricky. Amongst thousands of books on pursuing your dreams and entrepreneurism, Ben Arment’s ‘Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love’ stands out above the crowd. Here’s some of Ben’s unique blend of insight, practical advice and inspiration.

  1. 'Dream Year: Make the Leap from a Job You Hate to a Life You Love' by Ben Arment (ISBN 159184729X) It will be scary, but you should leave your office career to launch your own company, “We are motivated by two conflicting fears in life: the fear of failure and the fear of insignificance.”
  2. Lack of time isn’t a valid excuse. “The truth is, you don’t have extra time to pursue your dream. No one does. We have to remove time from some other endeavor … sacrifice is painful but necessary.”
  3. You’ll need monetary help. “Don’t let rainmaking deter you …. Once you taste the sweet victory of a positive response, you’ll not only become more comfortable [with it], you might even enjoy it.”
  4. Be ready to lose sleep. “Work in the margins of your life—the late nights and early mornings—to make it a full-time reality …this is your one chance to break free from the cubicle.”
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