A bunch of stuff has hit my desk recently. It all seems related somehow. See if you can find the thread that connects them:
While cleaning out old magazines I found the October issue of Darwin magazine, which published its “Fittest 50” list. Yup — there was Enron. Still, Darwin is a fine publication. Lots of others fell for Enron’s buzz, too.
Speaking of magazine articles, one in Twin Cities Business Monthly by Burt Cohen caught my eye. It wasn’t the first article I’ve seen excoriating the common business practice of placating Wall Street by focusing solely on this quarter’s results no matter how much you mortgage your future, but Cohen did say it well.
Which leads us back to Enron. How? Among the many guilty parties identified in the ongoing blamefest is Wall Street. Turns out that many of those analysts who insist on great this-quarter results looked at Enron in more friendly terms. Why? Their employers wanted Enron’s investment banking business, that’s why. With luck, Wall Street’s analysts will lose some of their clout and we can all stop being deliberately stupid just to please these geniuses.
USA Today printed something useful, too: A piece by Stephanie Armour about companies that refuse to lay off employees just to make the numbers. In it she cites a study by Watson Wyatt (www.watsonwyatt.com) showing, among other happy conclusions, that excellence in recruiting and retention results in increased shareholder value – nearly 8% more, in fact.
Back to Twin Cities Business Monthly, which profiled Joel and John Schwieters, who own eight local companies in the home construction industry. They frame and finish houses twice as fast as most construction companies; their projects lack the debris that usually litters construction sites, they’re known for exceptional quality, and they’re growing by more than 20% per year.
How do they achieve these results? Unlike nearly every other construction company, they don’t subcontract their workforce — they employ their builders, paying them a regular salary, excellent benefits, and a shared bonus pool. Even more interesting is that they’re expanding into their supply chain. Where the popular core/context theory applauds companies that prefer outsourcing any activity that’s “non-core,” (that is, not a marketplace differentiator) the Schwieters understand that controlling the supply and delivery of doors, trim, pre-built staircases and such will improve their margins.
I suppose I should mention — they’re innovative in their use of information technology, too.