Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Happy 90th Birthday, Dorothy Zehnder!

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 by AdvisorCatalyst

How would you feel if you knew today that you would still be working at 90?  If Dorothy Zehnder is your model, it should excite you.

In 1950, Dorothy and her husband (along with her husband’s family) bought a small hotel in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Sixty-one years later, their Bavarian Inn is the cornerstone of Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” one of Michigan’s most popular family attractions.

Dorothy turns 90 today.  She still runs the kitchen, still uses many of her original recipes, and still works six days per week.  Her motto is: “if you don’t feel well, go to work and pretty soon you’ll feel better.”

Speaking with Paul W. Smith on Detroit’s WJR-AM this morning, Dorothy described her ten-hour days as “fun.”  She had a similar theme when we interviewed her for upcoming edition of The CEO Advantage Journal.  “I like to cook,” she told us.  “It’s satisfying to make a good product and get it on the market.  I like the fact that people enjoy my recipes.  Retirement never crossed my mind.  I love what I’m doing.  I would rather [stay] right here visiting with people and making recipes that thousands ask for.”

She’s right.  Productive work is fun!  Take a moment today to step back from the daily grind of your operations.  Look away from your financial numbers.  Lay aside your worries about future customer orders.  Just think about the purpose of your business.  Who do you serve?  How do you improve the life of your customers?  What is your role in that?  What do you enjoy most about it?

Isn’t business fun?  Why would you not want to work at 90?!

Thanks for your example, Dorothy.  Happy 90th birthday and best wishes for continued success.


Talent by the Slice

Monday, October 31st, 2011 by AdvisorCatalyst

In our current business environment, businesses face mounting pressure to master a broad range of specialized knowledge in order to succeed.  Such knowledge is not limited to the specific technical areas in which they deliver their services; it also covers the administrative and management functions – financial, strategic, talent management, back office technology, legal, etc. 

Most small and midsize organizations cannot afford to master all of these areas of specialized knowledge with internal staff – at least not full-time.  Not only is the initial cost of training high, but the ongoing investment required to keep all those different resources up to speed in their particular area of specialized knowledge is cost-prohibitive for most organizations.  Therefore, it’s not surprising to see a proliferation in outsourced services, including payroll, benefits administration, staffing, IT, etc.  Many companies have grown quite large by providing these specialized services to other businesses. 

No less surprising is the increase in organizations buying talent by the slice – hiring consultants or advisors.  Some areas of specialized expertise do not require high volumes of repetitive activities or transactions (such as payroll or benefits processing).  Into these areas step veteran knowledge workers who prefer to work independently, spread their expertise over more than one organization, and networks with other individuals who possess similar or complementary expertise.  By hiring such an advisor on an as-needed basis, a small to midsize organization can afford a level of expertise that they could not afford full-time. 

This “talent by the slice” trend is likely to continue for three reasons:

  1. The competitive pressure on organizations continues to increase.
  2. The fragmentation and specialization of knowledge continues to increase, and the rapid advancement of this knowledge requires a great deal of continuous learning. 
  3. The number of qualified individuals who want to work independently is increasing.  This is largely fueled by the Baby Boomer demographic.  They want to remain engaged in business with greater time flexibility, they have years of expertise that can benefit others, and in many cases, their personal financial situations require them to continue generating income.  Serving clients as advisors is a way for them to fill each of these needs. 

The Need for Wisdom in a Time of Crisis

Thursday, January 28th, 2010 by AdvisorCatalyst

The current economic recession has been made more difficult by the fact that the preceding period of prosperity was so long. Most of today’s workers and many of today’s leaders have never known economic hardship, so they’re not sure how to handle today’s economic struggles. Think about it. Today’s 40-year-olds have spent most of their careers watching their investment values go up. When the market crashes, credit freezes, and demand plummets, they don’t know what to do.

Unfortunately, those who have the experience to lead in these times have disappeared into retirement. We need them back! Many of today’s business leaders are desperate for the experience of the very people they replaced.

With every economic disruption, some markets decline (because they’re no longer needed), and some markets rise. At this time, the market for experienced leaders is rising fast.


It’s Time to Rethink Retirement

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 by AdvisorCatalyst

Over the last century, the retirement rate has risen, the average age of retirement has declined, and life expectancies have increased dramatically. If the current trends continue, today’s 20-year-old can expect to spend one-third of his life in retirement. Economically-speaking, that’s one-third of life as a non-producing consumer (and that’s not even considering the childhood years which would only add to the consumer period).

Now consider that the baby boomer generation is beginning to retire. In his book, Age Power, Dr. Ken Dychtwald likens the baby boomers to a tsunami. The only warning people get of a coming tidal wave is when the coastal waters begin to suck away from shoreline. Suddenly, the massive wall of water slams the shore, destroying everything in its path. We’re about to be hit by the economic tidal wave of retiring baby boomers, and both our free market and social systems will be crushed by this onslaught of consumers on a small producing population.

Perhaps nothing demonstrates the economic toll of long retirements better than the Social Security system. At its founding in 1935, 40 workers supported every recipient over 65. Today, we will soon be below two workers for every retiree. Soon, the system won’t be able to make its payments without large tax increases on the working public, but the working public already pays 5000% more taxes to support this program than at its inception.

Put simply, society cannot afford the long retirements to which we’ve grown accustomed, nor should society have to. Today’s average 65-year-old is more than capable of working, and in many cases is more valuable than ever.

It’s time to rethink retirement. Productivity is healthy, fulfilling, and economically viable. Why would anyone want to give that up late in life? Besides, the older we get, the easier it is to be productive thanks to the market value of our wisdom base. Experience is valuable. Insight is precious. Thus, individuals and businesses will pay for them!


The Wisdom-Knowledge Ratio

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by AdvisorCatalyst

A college graduate is armed with book knowledge and skills, ready to take on the world. For most, it doesn’t take long to realize the limits of that book knowledge. Experience is key in any endeavor, and experience takes time to build. There are no shortcuts.

That’s not to say that book knowledge doesn’t have value. Of course it does. It’s just that book knowledge is pretty much all you bring to the table early in your career. As the years go by, however, your experience contributes a greater and greater portion of your total productive value. Knowledge and skills will always be important, and workers must continually learn, but there will always be more college graduates to hire for book knowledge. As a veteran worker, your value is increasingly found in the wisdom base that you’ve spent years building. You’ve made good decisions and bad decisions, you’ve seen projects succeed and fail, you’ve seen good employees and bad employees… and you’ve developed the instincts to recognize which is which long before they come to fruition.

In other words, your “wisdom-knowledge ratio” increases as you age.

Knowledge is usually interchangeable. Experience usually is not. It’s a unique quality, and thus carries tremendous value. Are you putting your wisdom base to productive use?