Thursday, October 27, 2011


I noticed a good response to my last post about the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, so I thought I'd add a bit more fuel to the fire and tell you about my feelings towards Wall Street and how the Street overlooks the needs of middle market companies, such as Shamrock.

A few days ago I was listening to Talk of the Nation on National Public Radio (NPR), hosted by Neal Conan. I've got to tell you, I was shaking my head and shouting, "Yes!" to practically every sentence. Neal was discussing a recent study conducted by the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University. If you're interested, you can listen to or read the  whole thing here: OSU mid-size business study

Neal's guests included Marilyn Geewax, senior business editor, NPR and Christine Poon, dean, Fisher College of Business. Essentially, the study concluded that middle-market companies added 2 million workers in recent years. Yet, despite their growth, they tend to lack the lobbyists, government supporters and associations that small and big businesses enjoy -- and that's my major beef.

Neal stated that mid-market businesses get overlooked by Wall Street and by Washington, when he said:  "Small businesses are the politicians' darling. Lawmakers proclaim that small-scale entrepreneurs will be the engine of economic recovery. Others (in Washington) argue that it's big businesses that really drive the economy... they employ thousands of people all across the country or the globe.  Yet, a recent study concludes that they're both wrong, it's the middle market that's doing the hiring. As small businesses treaded water and big employers shed millions of job, mid-sized companies added some two million workers in the last couple of years. And they do all that without the help of the Small Business Administration or the Chamber of Commerce."

Ms. Geewax went on to say that middle-market businesses make up only 200,000 companies -- a mere 3 percent of all companies in the US, and yet they end up contributing about 34 percent of all private employment -- which comes out to about 41 million jobs in this country!

She went on to paint a picture that seems to reflect Shamrock. Ms. Geewax called middle-market companies "...pillars of their community... who support the Little League team, and they go to the Rotary meetings, and they're very much a part of American life... and they have these very face-to-face relationships with their customers. So when hard times hit, they don't panic so much... they don't grow so quickly, but they're just steady (and) that's really where the job growth has been. They're more stable than small businesses, but they are of course much smaller than the large multinationals and so have less ability to shape or have a voice when it has to do with regulations or public policy or legislation." Amen to that!

Hey, Wall Street and Washington, wake up! It's the hard-working, mid-size businesses that will rebuild our economy. Perhaps you should start paying more attention to our needs.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Until the Next Big Thing, the media is swamped with stories about "Occupy Wall Street". Even the big guns, such as the Wall Street Journal's reporter, Douglas Schoen, who states that OWT "... comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda..." (See Wall Street Journal for complete text.), to those who would refute these findings as false and misleading (See Doug Schoen misrepresents poll result to smear OWS).
As the owner of a mid-size business, far from Wall Street, I've got a problem with both sides of this argument. This perception that corruption exists between big business, banking and the government disappoints me because I don't think the majority of businesses fall into this category. Most businesses in this country fall into the mid-size range. They provide the vast majority of jobs. But, our hands have been tied by special interest groups, and so, much of the hiring in this country has been stalled by the politics practiced today.
Our country was founded, and flourished under the flag of free enterprise, largely known as Capitalism. If you're not sure what Capitalism stands for, ask your grandfather. If he's not around, look it up, or "Google It!"  Capitalism is floundering now, because many people don't take the time to fact check the opinions of others.
How many people today realize that mid-size businesses are driven by entrepreneurs who don't have the advantages and tax breaks of big business?  But, nevertheless, it is the mid-size business that drives our economy, hires people within our community and on our streets, and who, in reality, can, with government help, make our country strong again.
My biggest complaint with government, and the media ,today, is that you ignore our country's biggest opportunity for growth, which is the middle market. Entrepreneurs create 60 percent of the jobs in this country, yet our government gives most of its funding to the small majority of big businesses. So, hey, all you reporters out there, Occupy My Street... a mid-size business in mid-America that supplies the majority of jobs to the neighborhoods where it does business!

Final, final thought... Like me, you have every right to agree/disagree and voice your opinion. I'd like to hear from you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal,  credited with the death of Iraq's Al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was recently interviewed by Inc. Magazine. He discussed what business leaders can learn from the military. McChrystal is  known for speaking his mind (which may have cost him his job). I admire the man  for his honesty, despite the consequences.  Here are 3 comments from the interview and my take on them:
1. Let your guard down strategically.
When asked why he was photographed not wearing body armor, McChrystal said he generally didn't wear armor on the streets in Afghanistan, because Afghans wouldn't think he's a brave man. McChrystal said, It was not only a subtle tactic to bridge a culture gap, it was also a way to send his troops a message. "I was asking people to go out and risk their lives," he said. "You can't say one thing and then keep yourself in a hermetically sealed armored bubble."
My take: When you run a business, be prepared to get out of your office and do any job you would ask your staff to do -- from sweeping floors to making cold calls. If not, you run the risk of being perceived as a pretender who's not really on the team at all.

2. Communication should be your top priority.
McChrystal spent his commander's discretionary fund, not on guns, but on purchasing bandwidth so that all in his network could communicate with each other. McChrystal said he did this because he believes information must run both ways to create a free-flow of honest communication. He agrees it's not easy, as noted by his comment:  "You'll find that things like a cubicle wall or a walk across the street can be as wide as an ocean was 100 years ago."
My take: It's important to share information, to chat with the troops, to arrange an impromptu meeting and talk honestly about how business is going. You may leave yourself open to criticism from the team, but, on the other hand, you create honest dialog.

3. Use Commander's Intent—especially in times of crisis.
The idea of clearly expressing your vision of an end result is known as Commander's Intent. And in a time of strain or uncertainty, McChrystal says it's crucial. "This sounds simple, but if you really go into most organizations and ask what winning is going to look like, [managers each] have different ideas," McChrystal says.

My take: World-wide, business is in an economic crisis. To survive, management has  to create and communicate a unified plan of how we plan to overcome it. The plan may not be popular with the troops; it may even backfire. But it takes away the uncertainty employees have of who's running the ship and how we plan to prevent it from going under.  

Today the most successful businesses work on the basis of two often used military terms: Strategy and Tactic. Without a sound strategy and wise tactics the strongest businesses will fail.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


From the Ancient Egyptians who buried their Pharaohs with possessions they might need in the afterlife, to the Ancient Greeks who believed that there was one last  journey in the afterlife that  included being ferried across the river Styx by an eternal boatman, different cultures celebrate and mourn the passing of a friend or family member in almost as many unique ways as there are different cultures.

Just about a year ago, Shamrock remembered the passing of one of our own in a way that's unique to the Shamrock culture. It definitely was among the grandest wakes I've ever attended, and included the celebration of the spirit of a man whose passion for life exceeded that of any person I've ever met. Knowing Chris Hunter was like knowing how to live a life of joy.

I first met Chris several years ago, when he was a supplier to our company. I was so impressed with his larger-than-life personality and his ability to spread joy to everyone he met, that I asked him to join Shamrock.

Unfortunately, lovable Chris became fatally ill a few years after he joined Shamrock. When we found out about Chris's illness, we wanted to make a grand contribution to his life and the legacy of joy he would be remembered for.

The Shamrock family came together to help. Instead of our usually large Christmas Party to thank employees, family, friends, vendors and suppliers, we would have a Chris Hunter Party and establish a Chris Hunter Tribute for his wife and two children. Each of us had a different role. Some would contact vendors, invite them to join us, and ask that they make some donation for a Silent Auction. Some would, likewise, contact local businesses. Others contacted Chris's family and friends from around the country, and asked them to join us in this celebration.

Several hundred people who were touched by Chris's life joined us. We laughed, we cried, we told Chris Hunter stories.  Our Silent Auction raised $80,000, which we offered as a life-affirming gift to the Hunter family. Chris was with us in full spirit. He passed away a week before the party.

Winston Churchill said, "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter." Sounds just like something Chris would've said. We all miss you, Chris.