Currie Article Review – “The Gospel of Wealth”

In keeping with the theme of Philosophy, the Currie team is recommending that all distributor clients read Andrew Carnegie’s piece entitled “The Gospel of Wealth”.  This essay is not new (it was written in 1889), yet it is quite current.  The society which Carnegie portrays is from centuries ago, yet his observations remain depictive of life today.  Created after the Industrial Revolution, the timing of Carnegie’s work is opportune in consideration of the upcoming presidential election in the United States, which carries an immensely powerful hot-button issue – wealth, income and class disparity.  And, as business owners today, Currie’s Dealer Principals are every bit the merchants, business owners, and entrepreneurs of the time, complete with the philanthropic values that have made industrial equipment dealerships the very foundation of the communities in which they exist.

Some important Carnegie beliefs, as indicated by his work in “The Gospel of Wealth” are timeless.  Although historically not the case, today’s gap between classes is widening. Although this is concerning for many people, the theory is that it is natural and inevitable.  As opposed to prolonged debate over whether this state of the society is right or wrong, it must be accepted that it “just is”.  The developments described in Carnegie’s time are in direct correlation with the changes in our more current world, and the evolutions in our marketplace as well.  Mr. Carnegie described the laws of competition, capitalism, and free market.  He mentions successful (financially) people as being essential to the civilization

In “The Gospel of Wealth”, Carnegie discloses some interesting perspectives on the issue of income disparity and how to alleviate it.  This becomes the “meat” of his work after he describes the three modes for distribution of surplus wealth.  Whether or not to agree with his viewpoints remains exclusively the reader’s choice.

The author’s strategy is clear– the wealthy are morally obligated to serve their community, albeit in very precise ways.  How does this study relate to an equipment dealership?  Most of the references that Carnegie makes are, as mentioned in the opening section of this review, to business owners, entrepreneurs and merchants.  These anchors of the community, like the industrial equipment distributors of today, are the game-changers.  Dealer Principals, as business owners, become the mainstays of the surrounding communities, the employers of choice, and the demonstrations of family-based enterprises with solid values.  Equipment dealerships serve as great philanthropic providers.  In other words, you are The Rock. Since we have been deep into the subject of Engagement, let’s draw some additional connections: this culture leads to enhanced internal engagement amongst the enterprise team; this culture leads to increased external, community engagement; and karma comes full circle back in the form of loyal customers, increased business, profitability, and greater self-actualization for the ownership team as well as the extended team.  Sounds like a win-win to me.  This is something that all of our dealer clients are doing, and doing quite naturally.  The observations from the consultant’s perspective are soundly defined by Mr. Carnegie’s work.  And, although the tenets of the dealership as a natural, community benefactor are admirable, there need be no deliberation over whether it’s right or wrong – it “just is”.

Currie Reading List – The Philosophy of Distribution 2016

Last year’s List, Chaos Theory, showed us how, in order to prosper in the evolving marketplace, organizations must demonstrate agility, entrepreneurial thinking, and deeper levels of engagement.  In fact, engagement is a concept that all Currie clients have been hearing about for the past two or three years.  Some very detailed discussions have occurred at Currie meetings throughout North America diving into Currie’s own “From Chaos to the 4-C’s of Employee Culture” (constructing, crafting, creating and cultivating).  Our work has included:

  • Constructing bullet-proof hiring practices
  • Crafting a highly effective onboarding program
  • Creating continuous development plans for each and every employee
  • Cultivating an environment of employee engagement.

In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.  Karl Jung

Now let’s talk about where this chaos has positioned us, as distributors of industrial equipment.  Things continue to change, including our culture, our processes, our strategic direction, and our philosophies as distributors.  Keeping our eyes on the prize, the long-run focus for your enterprise must be towards deep diversification.  This model includes multiple locations and multiple product lines.  To label these changes, and the emerging differences in our business models, as “trends” describes too lightly the complexity of the future of equipment distribution.

Where did we come from?  In the past, an entrepreneurial businessman would choose a product line.   The choice may have been guided by geography, or interests, or family history.  The specific industry chosen may have been a natural progression, or may have been one that a savvy opportunist could identify as a winner.  With that decision made, and as long as the Principal learned the game, and as long as he was in it to win, this guy was poised to make a ton of money.  After all, it was all about the brand.  In our world now, choosing the right brand, or product line is no longer the silver bullet. Rather, success in the 21st century is determined by the manner of execution of the complex strategies and varied practices that are essential to industrial distribution today.

The books on the 2016 Currie Client Reading List are connected to Philosophy, great thinkers, innovative concepts, and the like.  This list is about ancient entrepreneurs, dynamic theorists, and intellectuals who connected notions and concepts in radical ways.  This list is about ideas, inducing a new thought process, and designing a fresh approach to what we’ve been doing for decades. And this list is also about making connections between your business and the universe.  What do these books, and all of this philosophy, have to do with the business of industrial distribution?  Everything.

As Socrates would argue, there is not an answer here, only a question.

2016 Client Reading List – Philosophy

Currie Featured Programs Winter 2015

Winter is definitely upon us, as the Currie team is digging out from Blizzard 2015. In spite of that, we are looking forward to the end of winter and would like to update you with two of our upcoming featured programs. The Overview of a Successful Distributor© Seminar is an extremely rare opportunity to spend two days with Bob Currie, as he takes us through all of his insights and his cutting edge philosophies on running a distribution enterprise. Even if you are in a Currie Best Practices Group, or have worked with us before, you are guaranteed to leave the seminar with an entirely new look at “what it looks like when it’s right” in today’s marketplace.

As always, please do not hesitate to call us at 508-752-9229, or send an email to Robin@CurrieManagement.com if you have any questions or would like any assistance. In addition to these two featured programs, all of our seminars and programs that are currently open for registration can be found by clicking here: Currie Seminars and Programs.


Robert Currie to lead Overview of a Successful Equipment Distributor

Currie Management Consultants, Inc. is pleased to announce a special program offering coming up in March. Robert Currie, President and Founder, will be facilitating the Overview of a Successful Equipment Distributor©. Come and experience the power of Bob’s four decades in the equipment distribution industry. This program is a two-day seminar packed with valuable information, and Mr. Currie will take participants through the process of running a successful distribution company, and how that company should be positioned based upon internal, regional and cultural factors, plus global economic and marketplace factors.

Topics will include:

  • Marketplace Evolution: where the industry is heading as we enter 2015 and beyond
  • Shareholder performance expectations, liquidity measures specific to the equipment industry, and the benefits and challenges to publicly and privately held companies
  • Unique insights into best practices for the distribution of all categories of industrial equipment
  • Performance benchmarking and the Currie Financial Model©
  • Executive leadership and distribution company management, succession planning
  • Manufacturer relationships, diversification strategies
  • Forecasting and strategic planning
  • Many more

Who should attend the Overview Program? Investors, Dealer Principles, C-Level executives, team members selected as succession plan, Regional Managers, branch managers, department managers should register for this seminar. Meeting dates are March 9 and 10, 2015 in Worcester Massachusetts. Currently, this is the only seminar that is featuring Bob Currie so don’t miss out! Register here: Currie Overview Program.



Leadership Development 2015

Registration for Leadership Development 2015 is now open. The program is scheduled to begin February 23 & 24, 2015.

There are over 120 graduates of the Currie Leadership Development Program. It continues to be our most requested program, and is critically important for all distribution companies as they build their talent strategies and identify their succession plans. Please register as soon as possible, as there is some advance work required for all registrants.

Invest in developing your leadership team and secure the future success of your dealership/distributorship! Participants of the Currie Leadership Development Program will:

  • Attend four quarterly workshops during 2015
  • Participate in monthly coaching calls
  • Develop networks with participants from other industries
  • Gain Operational Knowledge around the Financial Model
  • Learn advanced leadership behavioral skills

Easy online registration for The Currie Leadership Development Program is available here! Or download the registration form by clicking: Leadership Development Brochure 2015. Completed registration forms can be sent by email to admin@curriemanagement.com or you may fax it to 508-752-9226.

Currie’s Q4 Article Review

Currie Management Consultants, Inc.’s 4th Quarter recommended reading is an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review entitled Can You Measure Leadership? In the article, Robert Gandossy and Robin Guarnieri address the urgency, as well as the accompanying challenges, to measure the effectiveness of the leadership at your organization.  Not only does this piece add more dimension to an area that is front and center for all businesses, it also supports two of the 12 Currie Success Principles©:

 

Currie Success Principle #5 Continuous Development

Currie Success Principle #9 Results Orientation

 

Please note on the first page of this article – another stern reminder that the world is about to change.  Paragraph #2 contains mission critical information that Bob and the Currie team have been repeating for the past several years:  “the so-called ‘key leader age’ will drop by 15% over the next decade…”  Now is the time for all distributors to plot the strategic placement of your future leaders.  And this article is in keeping with the theme of talent management that has been assembled this year, beginning with The 2012 Global Workforce Study[i].

 

The Sloan article takes us through the process of identifying the circumstances when a company has successfully developed leaders.  In other (Currie) words:  “What does [leadership] look like when it’s right”.  Then we learn how talent is analyzed, and finally the author provides some questions and measurements to help all companies create and implement a leadership measurement process.

 

Pay special attention to the Sample Nine-Block Framework diagram.  This graphic demonstrates “Results Orientation” in action, as it applies to leadership, which has historically been an area that is difficult to assess.  The Framework is a rating tool designed to assist top management in their endeavor to understand exactly how effective their leadership team is.  Notice that accountability is created by the public reporting of the results, and it is likened to McKinsey & Co.’s “team barometer” survey.  Now we understand the vision behind the measurement of leadership effectiveness, just as we understand the evaluation of financial results through the Currie Financial Composite©.

 

In the quest for “Continuous Improvement”, the authors have developed a series of questions that are critical to the growth of the leadership team.  These questions are geared toward different groups within the organization:  People Managers, Key Talent, Business Leaders, and HR Professionals.  By defining the parameters for a great leadership team, the company can develop a world class talent capture (refer to Currie’s website for Q2 2014’s recommended article:  Building a Game Changing-Talent Strategy[ii]).  The Currie Leadership Development Program and Operational Seminars are continuous development offerings that all distribution companies should be taking advantage of.  Other activities (think of the annual Currie Reading List and the quarterly article reviews) are designed to promote and inspire development initiatives.  At most Best Practices group meetings, Currie Management Consultants, Inc. encourages all Human Resources Departments to invent and implement a continuous development plan for each and every employee of the company.  (And remember, in our Model, we encourage a ratio of one HR executive per 100 employees.)  This is how we build solid, engaged leaders.

 

Finally, how do we apply the lessons from this article to our equipment distribution companies?

 

  • Utilize a tool such as the Nine-Block Framework or the team barometer survey, create motivation by sharing the results publicly, or create a leader scorecard. All of these methods build a culture of accountability, as well as motivate and engage the leaders.  In other words, this is how we construct a “Results Oriented” leadership team.

 

  • Encourage, inspire, excite, and motivate your leadership team through ongoing educational programs and advanced training. Invite your team to learn and grow.  In the Currie Leadership Development Program, Leadership Practices Inventory[iii] is utilized to help each participant assess their own inner “toolbox” and their capacity for growing from a good leader into a great leader through the following practices:  Encourage the Heart, Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, and Enable Others to Act.

 

  • “Hire for attitude, train for skill” (Herb Kelleher, former Southwest Airlines CEO). Identify your brightest talent and prepare your replacement! Remember Emperor Napoleon’s Military Maxim LIV:  “Assets should always be placed in the most advantageous position”.  Your company’s talent is not only an asset, but a precious resource that contains the power to propel your company into future successes.  Succession planning is an ongoing process that needs to be approached with vision, focus, and purpose.

 

Favorite quote from Can You Measure Leadership?:  “When a company has a true commitment to leadership, it becomes integrated with business planning and woven into the culture of the organization”.

[i] https://www.curriemanagement.com/2014/03/2012-global-workforce-study/

[ii] https://www.curriemanagement.com/2014/04/2014-q2-currie-article-review-building-game-changing-talent-strategy/

[iii] James M. Kouzes and Barry Z Posner

Currie’s Q3 Article Review

Currie’s Quarterly Article recommendation (click the title to download), Managing Change, One Day at a Time (Harvard Business Review, July/August 2014), is a quick and easy read. It’s also a great way for us to start to think about change management at an equipment distribution company.  This article demonstrates the importance of considering ideas and best practices that are unique to a specific industry or lifestyle, and visualizing how to apply it to your industrial equipment business. Along with the AA analogy, we can find many alternative sources of culture and change management that are useful for our study.  For example, Daoism is an ancient Chinese philosophy which focuses on the individual’s relationship to the universe, especially the immediate physical surroundings.  When one becomes cognizant of that relationship, work can be focused toward balancing those elements.  This concept is highly applicable to the structure of some of today’s distribution companies.  The “individual” is now the distribution enterprise, and the “universe”, or immediate physical surroundings, consist of entities such as manufacturer, marketplace, employee pool, customers and the like.  Now, the task at hand is to create and manage the perfect balance of those components.

Thus, let’s always keep our minds open to the numerous theories, philosophies, lifestyles, etc. that may provide us with outstanding examples of a desired culture, or a valuable change management program.  Some additional examples can be found in one of Currie Management Consultants, Inc.’s continuous development strategies – The annual Currie Reading List.  The purpose of the differing themes of The List, is to enable the manager, or executive, to make certain connections. How does the current state of the industry and the economy connect to the way we go to market today; and to the structure of our organization; and to the 12 Currie Success Principles; and so on?  Reflect back on the themes of some previous versions of The List and see how to connect them to the change management process:

2012 Currie Reading List – Sports.  We discovered ways that winning teams approached their game, and how these methods can be replicated to fit an equipment distribution enterprise. In Currie Best Practices Groups that year, we discussed the manager as coach, and we engaged in lively discussion about distribution teams: who are the position coaches, who are the head coaches, who are the players, which teams seem to be in the game to win, and how do we turn a struggling team into an All Star performer?

2013 Currie Reading List – “This Means War”.  Military strategy is an important study when you consider how it parallels to the running of a distribution company in a rapidly changing marketplace.  What can stories of war teach us?  How have the great generals implemented new and dynamic strategy despite challenging circumstances?

What other sources are available to help us identify some change management philosophies?  Think about some great quotes, and visualize how they can be put into practice by your leadership team.

  • John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School, is considered a management guru.  His book, Leading Change[i], was on the 2012 Currie Reading List, and he has been referenced in numerous articles that the Currie team has shared in our Quarterly Article Reviews.  Kotter’s quote on change, mentioned early on in Managing Change, One Day at a Time, is “people don’t change a minute before they’re ready”.
  • “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” is a powerful quote by Victor Fankl, whose work entitled Man’s Search for Meaning[ii] is on the 2014 Currie Reading List – Chaos Theory.
  • And we have another revered change management expert, Jack Welch, who warns us to “change before you have to”.

Finally, let’s talk about what culture or management changes are needed at your equipment distribution company.  Going back to what the recommended article is telling us, habits and peer support are two of the elements of the AA program that make it a success for many.

  1. The second heading (in red print) tells us that it’s important to learn to give up our old habits, and that’s best done by developing better ones.  The last page of the article contains an interview with Lisa Buckingham, of Lincoln Financial, who offers us some additional insights into habits.   What are some of the old habits that your dealership may need to replace with fresh ones?
  1. Peer support and pressure is a driver of change.  Is the culture within your organization one of collaboration?  As stated in that section of the article, and as we teach here at Currie Management Consultants, Inc., an atmosphere of teamwork and cooperative communication directly impacts employee engagement, a critical factor in the success of a company.  Our Currie Best Practices Groups are designed to create that atmosphere of peer accountability, collaboration and idea share.  What change initiatives could a group brainstorming session at your dealership uncover?

Change management, cultural shifts, and demanding marketplaces are challenges that must be met with creativity and with an open mind.  The world around us is full of opportunities to learn and grow, and often in the most unexpected of places.

 

[i] Kotter, John P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

[ii] Frankl, Victor (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning.

Currie’s Q2 Article Review – Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy

Currie Management Consultants, Inc. is recommending HBR’s Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy, as required reading for 2nd quarter 2014.  This piece takes us through some best practices and guidelines for creating and maintaining a successful team of highly talented employees.  Through the case studies presented in the article, the authors have identified the following three essential attributes of a supremely game-changing organization: Purpose Driven, Performance Oriented and Principles Led.  These elements are distinctly comparable to three of the 12 Currie Success principles:

     Currie Principle #3 Focus and Purpose
     Currie Principle #9 Results Orientation
     Currie Principle #11 Integrity

 

Let’s take the three attributes listed above, combined with the three Currie Principles, and apply them to your industrial equipment distribution company.  To start, some examples of enterprises which epitomize outstanding leverage of talent are pulled from the article and summarized below.

Case Study 1:  BlackRock

This company excels at placing the right people in the right positions.  In addition to successfully creating an employee value proposition, BlackRock is led by four guiding principles, which are strictly adhered to:

  • to be fiduciaries to the clients
  • to be passionate about performance
  • to be innovators
  • to be “one BlackRock”.

 Case Study 2:  Envision

As we learned in last quarter’s article and review, employee engagement is critical to the performance of the company.  Lei Zhang, of Envision, was ahead of the curve on this, and created an employee model which greatly appealed to gifted individuals.  Jerry Luo’s quote sums it up nicely:  “Envision is here to help people achieve their ambitions and to help improve the world.”

Think about your equipment distribution company when you read about Envision’s “open innovation” mindset.  Many of Currie’s clients have become highly innovative game-changers due to consolidations, diversification initiatives, advancing technology, and creative wealth-building strategies.

Case Study 3:  Tata Group

This company embodies the concept of talent capture.  As an acquisition firm, Tata Group has mastered the art of swiftly and accurately identifying the culture of the newly acquired organization.  Pay close attention to the quote in this section:  “why don’t you guys just tell us what to do?”  How often have we seen this in our distribution companies?  In response to this issue, during our Leadership Development Program, the Currie team teaches future executives about the concept of Situational Leadership.  In a nutshell, Situational Leadership is the application of a specific management/leadership style (Telling, Selling, Participating or Delegating) based upon a quick analysis of all the variables of the circumstances, including the “Readiness of the Follower”.  Using this methodology, on a much grander scale, has allowed Tata Group to mitigate a tremendous amount of risk.

One would be hard pressed to find a client of Currie Management Consultants who hasn’t heard the ceaseless iterating of the phrase “employer of choice”.  This article aligns perfectly with the top employer concept, and is an exceptional follow-on to last quarter’s 2012 Global Workforce Study.  Based upon the continuation of the development of talent theme, a list of questions has been established.  Reflect on the six questions below, and consider the following:  what are the talent management practices critical to the support of a game-changing industrial equipment distribution company?

  1. What is your organization’s Talent Strategy?
  2. What is your vision for your equipment distribution company, and how well do your employees know and understand your vision?
  3. What message are you sending your team through your commitment to being an employer of choice?
  4. Is your top executive team focused enough to stick to the plan for leveraging the talent at your company?
  5. Does your equipment dealership still have a lingering silo mentality?
  6. Do you know where to find the best people?  Note the article’s interesting mention of the use of headhunters (page 4).

Please follow the link to read Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy.  Comments, questions and other feedback is always welcome.

[whohit]-Currie’s Q2 Article Review – Building a Game-Changing Talent Strategy-[/whohit]

Robin P. Currie

2014 Client Reading List

2014 has been an extremely busy year so far.  In fact, words like “hectic” and “frenetic” have been used by some clients of Currie Management Consultants, Inc. to describe the speed of change in the distribution industry today.  Another descriptive word has emerged out of the exchanges—“Chaos”.

Chaos is defined as “a state of utter confusion” by Merriam-Webster.  The definition epitomizes an atmosphere of paralyzing uncertainty, and an exaggerated lack of clarity.  But conversation is needed about what happens during a period of chaos at an equipment dealership.  First, one must consider the basis of the disruption.

Economic growth, advancement of technology and a rapidly changing marketplace have contributed to the growth pattern seen across distribution industries of late. Add to that a consolidation pattern across the continent, and also individual diversification plans, and businesses are faced with a heightened level of ambiguity. The key to success becomes the principals’ ability to manage the conflict, tolerate the ambiguity and cope with the level of change. For those clients who have participated in the Leadership Development Program, remember the critical behaviors of High Performing Executives: Change Mastery, Interpersonal Finesse, Mental Agility and Goal Orientation.

Reflect for a moment on the last couple of years in the Currie Best Practices Groups.  Many, if not all of the meetings focused on themes of diversification, growth, consolidation, wealth-building strategies, and the like.  As distribution companies experienced these emerging patterns, they were able to face the challenges head on.  Now that we are seemingly in a state of “chaos”, the reading list reflects the abstruseness as well as the complexity, of the business of industrial equipment distribution today.

The evolution of the list is meant to demonstrate the long-term changes in the industry.  One past theme is sports and the leveraging of bench strength (talent).  Also, the theme of the 2013 list was military strategy as it applies to distribution, and the audacity that is required to participate in a changing, and challenging arena.  Now, in 2014, we present the theme of chaos.  The recommended book titles illustrate the numerous activities, and the “agility”, that is required to compete in the business world today.

Click to download the 2014 Client Reading List
[whohit]-2014 Client Reading List-[/whohit]

2012 Global Workforce Study

Currie Management Consultants, Inc. recommends that all clients read the 2012 Global Workforce Study by Towers Watson to learn more about their Engagement Model.  What’s the big deal about “engagement”?  And why do we, as distributors of industrial equipment, want to know about, and create, engagement?

The bad news:

  1. Studies show that companies with employees who are not engaged, using the traditional definition, are at higher risk for dips in productivity.
  2. Employees with low engagement scores are more frequently absent.
  3. Employee turnover is higher in companies with low employee engagement
  4. When engagement is low, customer service standards are more likely to decline.

What happens when a company has a high level of engagement?

The good news:

  1. Engaged employees believe in the company’s goals and objectives, and will work to achieve them.
  2. Companies with highly engaged employees are more likely to attract high-quality candidates for open positions.
  3. Employees who are engaged are more willing to go the extra mile for the sake of the company.

Read the 2012 Global Workforce study for comprehensive information about Engagement (and the drivers of engagement), Enablement, and Energy.  These items make up the formula for a highly successful workforce, in an age where we cannot afford to be otherwise.  Lean is here to stay, along with the critical practice of talent management, and the need for great leadership.  The attached article takes us through several important concepts to help us create and sustain the engagement model among all of Currie’s dealer and distributor clients.

An added bonus is a little information about Redefining Retirement.  Be sure to take a look at that section.

The article is available on their website at this address:  https://towerswatson.com/assets/pdf/2012-Towers-Watson-Global-Workforce-Study.pdf.  Feedback is always welcome.

Robin P. Currie

This Means War!! 2013 Currie Reading List for Clients

Have you seen the new reading list for 2013?  Click the link below to download the list in PDF format.  There are several books on the list that demonstrate how military strategy can be applied to your dealership operations.  Several people have suggested a group discussion and review of some of the most important material so check back with us for that schedule!

Get off to a powerful start this year with Napoleon, CEO!

2013 Client Reading List