“The reality is, shareholder value or stock price is not something you can create anyway. It’s a by-product that only happens if you make a difference in people’s lives.”
Panera [Bread]’s [Ron] Shaich says it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when company leaders start caring too much about quarterly financial results. “The reality is, shareholder value or stock price is not something you can create anyway,” Shaich maintains. “It’s a by-product that only happens if you make a difference in people’s lives.” And you can only do that, he adds, by continually asking mission-related questions--about what truly matters to you as a company and what’s needed in the marketplace or the larger world.
But unfortunately, says Clayton Christensen of the Harvard Business School, many business leaders have been trained to care obsessively about short-term results--specifically, he says, they tend to put too much weight on financial metrics like IRR (internal rate of return) and ROCE (return on capital employed) because they’ve been conditioned to treat capital as precious. In reality, Christensen points out, “Capital today is abundant and cheap” (so much so, he notes, that “investors had to pay Square for the privilege” of having the hot startup take their funding). With so much available capital, it’s an opportune time for companies to invest in expansive, game-changing innovation--and in “people who have the skills to solve not only today’s problems but to ask what tomorrow’s challenges will be,” Christensen says.
Yet many businesses have remained focused on what Christensen calls “efficiency innovations” (aimed at reducing costs) in order to free up more capital, which in turn is used to create more efficiency. How to break this cycle? Christensen thinks tax incentives for long-term investment may help, but he also believes, like Shaich, that business leaders must step back and ask: what do we actually care about, beyond today’s stock price or short-term return on capital? What are we trying to achieve and how will we get there, in the long run?
Read more: Forget The Mission Statement. What’s Your Mission Question?
Two among the many things I learned during my internship in McCann-Erickson still reverberate to me clearly:
One, the "busy working-class person" is one of the lamest profiles to describe today's professionals. Our mentor, strategic planning expert Hans Lopez-Vito, gently but firmly reminded me that lesson, while our group was working on an exercise one summer afternoon years back. As I recall that incident now, I chuckle inside and tell myself how right he was, and still is. After all, in this day and age, who isn't? We're always preoccupied, always going here and there, always barraged by a list of to-do's and to-be's. This is a busy world, and we are a busy people.
Two, the best ideas don't happen when you're busy. Dan Matutina, also one of our advisers back in the day, quickly reminded us youngins that we should set a limit to fretting and fumbling over a plan. You have to step back, relax, and enjoy other things, and let the lightbulb moment happen on its own. The idea has to incubate inside you before it comes out, fully-formed: an amazing concept consolidated from personal experiences and other ideas.
We need our downtimes. We need space outside of work to see the world from a grander perspective. We cannot process the bigger picture if we stay holed up in our cubicles, listlessly checking our inboxes for emails. It's integral to commit to a life outside of work so you can bring in fresh perspectives the moment you return to your office.
Jeff Weiner, Linkedin CEO, echoed my thoughts when he said: "There will always be a need to get things done and knock another To Do item off the list. However, as the company grows larger, as the breadth and depth of your initiatives expand -- and as the competitive and technological landscape continues to shift at an accelerating rate -- you will require more time than ever before to just think...That thinking, if done properly, requires uninterrupted focus; thoroughly developing and questioning assumptions; synthesizing all of the data, information and knowledge that's incessantly coming your way; connecting dots, bouncing ideas off of trusted colleagues; and iterating through multiple scenarios. In other words, it takes time. And that time will only be available if you carve it out for yourself. Conversely, if you don't take the time to think proactively you will increasingly find yourself reacting to your environment rather than influencing it. The resulting situation will inevitably require far more time (and meetings) than thinking strategically would have to begin with."
(To read more about his article, The Importance of Scheduling Nothing, click here.)
Last weekend, while talking to a lawyer friend who was very committed to balancing her work and life (this is another story of course), I realized how important it is to live life fully, now more than ever. It sounds like cheap advice we often read from self-help books, but it pays to remember that our work productivity depends on the quality of our life outside of work. To be frank, I believe the best ideas I've put in in my years of working came from the time I actually spent outside of work.
At the end of the day, take note that work is a means to an end, not the end itself. So enjoy the ride, have fun, and make it worthwhile.
I was tagged at a lengthy discussion on the Freelance Writers' Guild of the Philippines page - apparently, a freelancing website (a competitor, not Freelancer.com) organized a press conference to reveal the "state of the freelancing market"(based solely on their company's data, I must add.)
This post is partly about that, and mostly the conversation that came after.
According to the report published by ABS-CBN News, the competitor's top-earning freelancer made US$36,612
through their platform. (Notably, the report said that the unidentified Filipina made the most money among all freelancers in 2012 - an unfair generalization considering that one, the study didn't include other outsourcing and crowdsourcing platforms present in the Philippines - or at least the large ones; and two, and this I say with the possibility that I might be wrong - the report failed to include freelancers who opted to stay away from online freelancing jobs.)
The forum was abuzz and questions/comments were fired from left to right: Celine Roque, one of the group's more vocal members (a top-earning freelancer herself, which gives her all the right) said, "Pero general complaint ko naman yan sa mga news items covering online freelancing, usually walang context or they treat making money online as if it were something magical, when really wala naman pinagkaiba ito sa making money offline."
Which makes perfect sense to me. To be frank, whether online or offline, talent, effort, and guts can make or break a person's career. Talent, while the most necessary, is not the only thing that propels people to success: how far will you take that with your drive to reach your goal? While we may hate the fact that confidence is key, seeing how many underperforming people earn their success with a lot of confidence should mean a lot for talented people continuously riddled with self-doubt.
At the end of the day, it's not just talent that matters. You should be able to position yourself properly as an expert in what you do. I don't care if your business is towing trucks, but if you position yourself as the fastest tower in town, that sure would mean a lot to people stranded in highways at 3 in the morning.
(I know you're saying, "That's common sense!", but note that we often take for granted the obvious - fair reminder!)
But more importantly, after setting yourself uniquely apart from the maddened throng, the next thing is to deliver your promise. Mitchell Harper, BigCommerce CEO, said it best: "The one thing you have to remember is to always (always) deliver on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). You want to become well known for your USP and if you do anything and everything you can to make sure you and your staff members deliver on it, you'll be amazed at the amount of referral business that will come your way."
Bottomline: we're all special snowflakes - we just need to tell everyone what makes us so special.
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.