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Leadership | Innovation & Growth | Congratulations to 2 North Bay Leaders

This week, two North Bay organizations deserve a round of applause!

Amy’s Kitchen opens an on-site health care clinic

First, congratulations to Amy’s kitchen for its innovative approach to employee health care. They recently opened a primary health care clinic at their Santa Rosa production facility.

From time to time, we offer a round of applause to organizations and individuals making significant leadership contributions in their companies and communities.

This is a terrific idea and a clear recognition that a company CAN do more to meet the health care needs of its employees. It’s encouraging to see a prominent North Bay company take this important step.

Brian Ling becomes CEO of the Sonoma County Alliance


Brian Ling has been a long time friend and colleague in Sonoma County, and has been recently hired  as the new CEO of the Sonoma County Alliance.


Business Finance | Pick a card … any card ….

New metrics to Define Financial Performance?

In the tumult surrounding the 3D maelstrom (Debt Ceiling, Downgrading and Deficit) of several weeks ago, you may have missed another chilling corporate finance update on the relentless pursuit of performance metrics that extol the sunshine while you’re in the heart of darkness. Yes, there may be some economic value for certain of these metrics, but they’re dangerous barometers of realizable value and highly misleading as to future achievements of tangible operating profits and free cash flow.

Another Sign of the Apocalypse?

Most of us recall the “eyeball counting” that preceded the Dot-Com-Bomb and those certain “Signs of the Apocalypse”, as when your cab driver is telling you what stocks you should buy. (more…)


Warning: Speed may not be good for our health!

“Speed, for lack of a better term, is good”.

That’s not quite what Gordon Gekko said in the original Wall Street movie, but it’s close enough for our purposes.

So, who’s complaining about the super-fastest fiber-cable ever? Nobody that I know of, but here’s what caught my attention. It isn’t just the extraordinary speed extolled in Forbes’s recent article, Wall Street’s Speed War. Sure, it cost about $300 million to bury a one-inch underground cable over the 825 mile distance between New York and Chicago. Yes, it’s been done in stealth mode so no one would find out and build one even faster, and yes, it’s about to go live.

Big deal? Apparently so … but here’s the thing. The only reason this cable got built was … grab your abacus … to save 3 MILLISECONDS off the previous route for such cable traffic. That’s equal to THREE 1/1000 OF A SECOND!

What for? Here’s a few of the effusive remarks that Forbes quoted: ‘That’s close to an eternity in automated trading” … or “Anybody pinging both markets has to be on this line, or they’re dead.” (more…)


The Shocking Truth about having fun!

Wanna have some fun? How about logistics? Now that’s some fun, ain’t it?

Social media has stimulated countless phenomena … but connecting with our communities is probably one of its most valuable outcomes … which is why this new UPS commercial really caught my eye. Remember the lesson that if the railroads realized they were in the transportation business, they might not have collapsed?

UPS believes they’re really in the “life” business … that logistics is making life better … parts on time, always in sync, compete effectively, track everything, no lost gifts … logistics just “makes the world work better”.

So, isn’t that the shocking truth about having fun … that it’s actually possible to build it into our work if we work at it? If UPS can put fun and some pizzaz into logistics, shouldn’t we be able to add some fun and excitement to our products and services?

Surely they’re more exciting than shipping and delivery? Am I right? Am I? Right?

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Congratulations to Benziger Winery

Benziger Winery has been named Business of the Year by the Sonoma Chamber of Commerce. They won the award for outstanding industry contributions and their commitment to the community, something that many of its fans … like me … know well.

Benziger Winery opened its doors in 1980 and is an industry leader in many areas like organic farming and biodynamics, recently receiving the exclusive Growing Green Award from National Resource Defense Council. I have had the pleasure of working with Tim Wallace, the CEO of Benziger, who is a thoughtful leader committed to family and community, and have served with him on several panels addressing issues in the wine industry.

Congratulations to Benziger Winery for the well-deserved accolade. It’s not often that companies committed to family and community also make great products and create raving fans but Benziger continues to delight its customers with wonderful varietals and warm hospitality.


Strategic Finance? 7 Deadly Sins infect merger boom!

How many times have we heard about a failed marriage, scuttled by pride … greed … jealousy … envy … or other misdeeds flowing from the interminably deep well of human shortcomings? Too many, I’m sure, but those denizens of the 7 Deadly Sins brigade also besiege the world of mergers and acquisitions.

I haven’t written about this enough, I realize, as I read the M&A Losers in $10 Trillion Deal Binge …. providing yet one more example of the failed mergers that incite shareholder rebellions. We know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so that doesn’t count for much. We expect CEOs and their directors to exercise their fiduciary responsibility to US by making sound decisions that are not scuttled by some array of the 7 Deadly Sins. (more…)

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“We’re not an eleemosynary institution!”

That’s the phrase one of my oldest and closest banker friends always used – he became the President of a major division of a major bank before he retired. You may not know that word – and it’s at least a “50-center”, maybe more, but he loved it and used it on me all the time.

… pause … have you looked it up yet or are you waiting for me to tell you? … come on ….

Yeah, that’s what I thought. Okay. It means charitable, as in “we’re not a charitable organization” … meaning we do have a few basic rules:

  • We expect to get paid … so we’d like to confirm that your projections provide sufficient free cash flow so you can actually pay us back.
  • We like to have some collateral in case something goes wrong.
  • We’d like to see some owners’ capital invested in the business so we know we’re in this together.
  • We’ll probably ask for your personal guaranty, too, to be sure you’re dedicated like the “bacon” and not just committed like the “egg”.
  • It would be nice if you had some kind of demonstrable track record and relevant management experience so we can assess whether you know what you’re doing in the business you’re in now.

Those are the basic rules … which is why I’m getting pretty tired of the endless news articles and blog posts about the lack of adequate capital for small business. (more…)


California still sharing space with whale pucky!

Like we need more bad news in or about California … but the Chief Executive organization’s survey of Best and Worst States for Business 2010 finds the Golden State’s golden egg is actually something else that’s been painted over … if you catch my drift. We’re not just last for 2010 – we’ve been #51 for the last 6 years in a row!

You can see here how the CEO’s grade the states in such categories as regulation, workforce quality and living environment and see the real disparity between California and say, the average state grade or #1 Texas.

We’re long overdue to weed out the private industry bashers in Sacramento and renew the powerful business community in this state – and it couldn’t start too soon!


CA seed money drying up

No surprise that California’s continuing budget problems resulted in a significant drop in funds available through the California Small Business Loan Guarantee program.

Why? Because a chunk of its trust fund was used last year to help plug the budget gap … more gamesmanship by our elected reps in Sacramento.

Oh, the horror!


White House Jabbing about Jobs

white-elephantAs I’ve said here before, I don’t think our elected servants in D.C. know much about creating jobs. Let’s remember that the stimulus program was always “too little, too late” and we harped here that the length of time over which those funds would be deployed was way too long … witness today that jobs officials say more than 50% is still in the pipeline over one year later. So, no surprise it hasn’t help as much as they would have you believe. Robb Mandelbaum writing in the NY Times also agrees that there is very little in President Obama’s most recent speeches flowing from the Jobs Summit last week.

What do you think of the ideas being floated about, the key ones of which are summarized here? Will any of them help your business? Are there other ideas that could work? Fire up those fingers and add your comments here.

For one thing, the Administration continues to talk about incentive programs to spur business lending. While that would also be welcome, it doesn’t get at the root cause of unemployment and jobs growth. I’ve reported here before that lending is NOT the biggest problem in the middle market … it’s demand and revenue growth. Companies are not going to borrow except to meet demand and if demonstrable demand is present, borrowing is usually easier anyway.

One idea is to eliminate the capital gains tax for small business investing. (more…)

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