Friday Five November 24

At one time or another, every leader will need to apologize. Whether it is a sin of commission or omission, every leader will need to apologize. HBR has four ways not to apologize in their article The 4 Types of Ineffective Apologies. In essence, what people are looking for is genuine remorse and a sincere “I’m sorry”. Take a read and keep this in mind the next time you need to apologize.

From the Department of Labor, we find that college tuition and fees have increased 63% since January of 2006 compared with an increase of 21% for all items. During this same period, prices for textbooks increased 88% and housing at school increased 51%. In their book, Why Does College Cost So Much?, David Feldman and Robert Archibald argue that the increase over inflation is mainly due to economic growth factors – which would be somewhat plausible if, during this period of 2006 – 2016, we had experienced significant economic growth. But we haven’t. For the most part, our growth has been insipid at best. Other articles point to increased regulations from the Department of Education, causing colleges to hire an increased number of administrators. My theory boils down to a principle I hold to be true: If you want to increase the use of something, just have the government subsidize it. If you want to discourage the use of something, have the government tax it. Since the government is subsidizing higher education more and more, we’re seeing its costs go through the roof. Perhaps not a cause-effect analysis, but I’m happy with the corollary.

Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer

Finally, someone is admitting what I’ve been suspecting for some time: We don’t have the tools necessary to combat the next recession. Not that the Fed’s efforts didn’t help the last recession – they did – but they also painted themselves into a corner that I’m not sure they can get out of. This was touched on by Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer who is a member of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System. In his speech on November 21st, he said this: “Such low interest rates, together with only tepid growth, suggest that the equilibrium interest rate–that is, the rate that neither boosts nor slows the economy–has fallen. Why does this matter? Importantly, low interest rates make the economy more vulnerable to adverse shocks by constraining the ability of monetary policy to combat recessions using conventional interest rate policy–because the effective lower bound on the interest rate means that monetary policy has less room to reduce the interest rate when that becomes necessary.” So there you have it. What this means, from where I sit, is that we’ll have to let the next recession hit our economy because we’re out of money and out of interest rate wiggle room.

Fidel Castro is dead today at age 90. As he looks back on his life, I wonder what he’s thinking now? Was it all worth it, Castro?

There are those who workout regularly. I’m not one of them, but I admire their persistence. Thing is, when they stop exercising, the chances are good that they will have increased physical problems. I know I need to do more to take care of myself, but this article doesn’t inspire me at all – it discourages me. Why get going on exercising if, someday, I can’t do it anymore and it causes me additional problems?

Bill English

Gratefulness in Business

As a Christian Business Owner, do you see gratefulness as a characteristic that needs to be baked into the culture of your business? I would suspect that most business owners have not thought about how gratefulness (or thankfulness) relates to their running of their business. At best, I would suspect most find it to be a personal thing.

There are some magazine articles on gratefulness in business – most of them concluding that it is good for business because it increases customer engagement, employee engagement, its’ better than moping around or being critical and it’s generally thought to be some type of positive energy thing that will lift the moral of your company.

While those things might all be true, I find there are two core issues concerning gratefulness in business. The first core issue is that gratefulness is part of an integrated, well-functioning Christian personality. You can’t be grateful and also be discontent – at least not in extremes. Elsewhere on this site, I have written about a core assumption I have about business ownership, namely – that an owner’s personal dysfunction will be imprinted onto the business but the results of his or her dysfunction will be seen as business problems to solve, not personal problems that the owner needs to address personally. Having an owner who is grateful will alleviate several other core problems that the owner’s personal dysfunction may create in the business. In short, a grateful owner is a healthy owner and the business will be able to function at a higher level as a result.

The second core issue is that gratefulness means that you’re keeping at the forefront of your mind God’s provision – His sovereignty over all things – and you’re taking rest in what He gives you. In short, you’re stewarding your entrustments from the Lord well. Do you recall the parable of the talents in Luke 19? To two of the servants, God gave five and two talents respectively. Both doubled God’s investment and both received the same reward. The size of the entrustment didn’t matter as much as their faithfulness to steward His entrustment well. It’s impossible to be a good steward of that which God has entrusted to us and be ungrateful for what He has given us.

In this respect, we are like pastors or ministers of the Gospel. God doesn’t call everyone to preach to millions – he calls some of us to preach to 20 or 30 for a very long time. The size of the groups to whom we preach doesn’t matter. Our faithfulness to deliver His word accurately and in love does matter. We’re representing Him – we are stewards – so we need to be grateful that He has called us and has given us platforms from which to preach.

Christian Business owners are ministers in the marketplace. We have a unique calling from the Lord and a unique entrustment as well. The size of our business – $3M, $30M, $300M – whatever the size – doesn’t really matter in God’s economy. What does matter is that we steward those businesses well and that we fulfill His purposes for business as much as possible: Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy.

If you’re a Christian Business Owner, take a moment to check yourself. Are you operating from an attitude of gratefulness? If not, why not? Go to the Lord, get on your knees and seek His forgiveness. Let Him transform you in ways you couldn’t imagine so that you’re not only a grateful business owner, but an effective steward of the business which He has given you.

Bill English
CEO, Service Ideas
Executive Consultant, The Platinum Group

New Undeniable Truth

I now have 68 Undeniable Truths for Business Ownership.  I just added #68 today:

The path of least resistance for you or one of your employees doesn’t mean it’s the best path for others in the company or  your company as a whole.

So often I see individual employees choose the path of least resistance for them only to find that their choice creates unnecessary work for others.  This happens most often with employees who are seldom or lightly managed in an environment where there is precious little established process.

A good balance of process and training for employees plus baking into the culture that what we do always affects others is an excellent way to ensure that one employee’s path of least resistance doesn’t become someone else’s extra work.

Bill English
Executive Consultant
The Platinum Group.