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Taking Time to Think

Bless the Buffett Buffet of Business Common Sense

December 2006 By Denny Hatch
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In the News

2 lunch clubs to close doors
They will merge into Mid-America Club

With demand dwindling for private lunch clubs, where the business elite hobnob in plush dining rooms, two of Chicago’s power-lunch nooks will be disappearing next month. The Wrigley Building’s 410 Club and the Prudential Building’s Plaza Club will merge into The Mid-America Club in the Aon Building at 200 E. Randolph St. Dallas-based ClubCorp, which runs the 410 and the Plaza clubs, will take over ownership and operation of The Mid-America Club, which has operated independently. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The consolidation has the potential to more than double Mid-America’s membership, which is now just under 900.
—Kathy Bergen, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 22, 2006
What single word powered IBM to become a great high-tech global conglomerate that changed how business was done and wars were fought?

THINK.

From the IBM Web site:
THINK was a one-word slogan developed by IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, Sr. It appeared in IBM offices, plants and company publications in the 1920s and in the early 1930s began to take precedence over other slogans in IBM. It eventually appeared in wood, stone and bronze, and was published in company newspapers, magazines, calendars, photographs, medallions—even New Yorker cartoons—and it remained for years the name of IBM’s employee publication. You can still find echoes of Watson’s motto in the brand name of IBM’s popular notebook computers: the ThinkPad.

When I read that two of Chicago’s premier lunch clubs were going out of business, I winced.

This came on the heels of the announcement last April that the New York Stock Exchange Luncheon Club—founded in 1898—was folding. With its paneled walls, marble floors and chandeliers, it was, in the words of retired Bear Stearns Managing Director Peter Dully, “the grandest of places for people in business.”

For decades, the private lunch club provided a very pleasant break in the day—a chance for movers and shakers to get out of the pressure cooker and leisurely chew over ideas with colleagues while chewing on a chop, or perhaps dine alone and have some private time to think.

I get the sense that in recent years the world of business has gotten so frantic that decisions are made before all of the consequences are carefully thought through. Think GM, Ford, Airbus, AOL, Merck and Enron.

What triggered this story—beyond the closing of a couple of lunch clubs—is a current study about a growing coterie of high-earning corporate men and women. Their middle name is BlackBerry. They’re so consumed with their jobs that they put in 80 to 120 hours a week or more, take no vacations, are constantly sleep deprived and frequently lurch around, gaga with jetlag.

Can they think straight?

How does perpetual exhaustion and this whirling, dervish existence affect their decision-making process?

Are not these over-the-top workaholics—in truth—a danger to their fellow employees and to the organization to which they’re so devoted and dependent?

The Guy That Delivers my Newspapers
At 5:00 a.m., I’m usually on the streets of Philadelphia taking the dog for his first walk of the day. Over the past 10 years, at this ungodly hour, I’ve frequently run into Jack, who delivers two of my morning newspapers as early as 4:00 a.m. Jack is as tall and skinny as an egret. He races up and down the block wearing a baseball cap and shorts, stuffing papers into the mail slot of front doors. He greets me with a big smile and shouts, “Hey, you should be in bed sleepin’!” After a quick verbal exchange about the weather, the Eagles or the upcoming newspaper strike, he leaps into his van and is off to the next block.

Takeaway Points to Consider:

* THINK.

* “No one ever lies on their death bed wishing that they had spent more time at the office.”
—Old adage

* “Wake up and smell the coffee, Mrs. Bueller.”
—Jeffrey Jones as Ed Rooney from the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

* If you suddenly find yourself working for—or with—a 100-hour a week zealot, it’s probably time to polish your résumé and talk to a headhunter. Otherwise, you’ll be on a perpetual guilt trip for not working harder.

* If you permit someone that reports to you to regularly clock in 100 hours a week, something is seriously wrong with your management style.

* All major decisions made by people who regularly work 90 hours a week or more should be carefully reviewed.

Web Sites Related to Today's Edition:

IBM
www.ibm.com/

“EXTREME JOBS: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce in the December 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review ($6)
http://tinyurl.com/y84u2b/

“Warren Buffett’s 5 Secrets of Success” by David Garfinkel
http://tinyurl.com/y3vrqx/

Berkshire Hathaway Web Site
http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/
 
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COMMENTS

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Most Recent Comments:
bmac - Posted on January 18, 2007
Great article! As the Good Book says... "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" -Mark 8:36
Eric Holmen - Posted on December 23, 2006
Great article, Denny. Buffett is a mentor for anyone aiming to become a CEO. On a monthly basis I re-read his 'letter to shareholders' which also clearly reflects his deep, personal values and tells the reader how to run a business. A must read as often as you can.
Becky Rice - Posted on December 18, 2006
Thanks for another great article. I printed it out for my staff and let them know it was the best professional development advice they would get all year!
Lou Schuyler - Posted on December 13, 2006
Maybe we're just getting old, Denny. Just as some people need music, TV, or other noiseall of the time...I think these workaholics NEED to stay busy so that they won't have to be alone with their thoughts.
David Garfinkel - Posted on December 13, 2006
Denny, sad but true. I was struck also by the same thing you're talking about when I was putting the Buffett article together. The man thinks, and reads, and talks on the phone, and every now an then, buys something. That's sort of it. This reluctance to think is humankind's curse, perhaps, and not just in the 21st Century. A while back, referring to the theatre reviews he published in newspapers, George Bernard Shaw opined: "Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
bmac - Posted on January 18, 2007
Great article! As the Good Book says... "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" -Mark 8:36
Eric Holmen - Posted on December 23, 2006
Great article, Denny. Buffett is a mentor for anyone aiming to become a CEO. On a monthly basis I re-read his 'letter to shareholders' which also clearly reflects his deep, personal values and tells the reader how to run a business. A must read as often as you can.
Becky Rice - Posted on December 18, 2006
Thanks for another great article. I printed it out for my staff and let them know it was the best professional development advice they would get all year!
Lou Schuyler - Posted on December 13, 2006
Maybe we're just getting old, Denny. Just as some people need music, TV, or other noiseall of the time...I think these workaholics NEED to stay busy so that they won't have to be alone with their thoughts.
David Garfinkel - Posted on December 13, 2006
Denny, sad but true. I was struck also by the same thing you're talking about when I was putting the Buffett article together. The man thinks, and reads, and talks on the phone, and every now an then, buys something. That's sort of it. This reluctance to think is humankind's curse, perhaps, and not just in the 21st Century. A while back, referring to the theatre reviews he published in newspapers, George Bernard Shaw opined: "Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.