The Fortune 500 of 1955

Of the original Fortune 500 list of companies published in 1955, only 11 are still on the list. Most of the companies from the original list no longer exist or are part of other companies. Where will your organization be in 50 years? Where do you want it to be?

This shows how businesses and marketplaces reset every so often. What is hot now will not be hot in 50 years. Technology and innovation will take you in completely different directions, most of which we cannot even anticipate. What we can anticipate is where the markets will be in the next few years. What we can anticipate is what customers need in the near future. What we can anticipate is how our organizations are going to move forward to take advantage of opportunities.

The world was a very different place 50 years ago. Do you think anyone then could have conceived of a 10 inch device that can play movies, music, videos, television shows and give us any piece of information we want instantaneously? And all of this without a cord. At this point, we were supposed to all be wearing spacesuits and driving in cars with no wheels. So much for that idea.

My point being, nothing lasts forever and you cannot rely on past success to ensure future prosperity. Control what you can and try to anticipate the next market move so you can stay ahead of the curve. Maybe then you can be one of the 11 companies left on the Fortune 500 list in 2060!

Can a $1 app change the cell phone industry?

Check out this article in the New York Times about a new application for the iPhone. For $1 you can add a second line, avoid cell phone provider charges, receive better reception and higher quality sound and turn your iTouch into a phone. Watch the video, as David Pogue explains how it works and all the benefits.

It is amazing how by opening up its app store to any developer, Apple will help change the world of technology without lifting a finger.

Toyota revisited

As a follow-up to my post from a few weeks ago, it appears that Ford and Honda have most benefited from Toyota's troubles. In a recent pool, Fords and Honda were ranked first and second (Ford being first) amongst consumers in terms of which companies they have a favourable impression of.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone considering how Chrysler is floundering and GM is just figuring out to be successful again. Keep your eyes and ears open because Ford is on a hot streak riding some new car designs and the goodwill that they did not take any bailout money.

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The Power of a Good Conversation

Do you ever think about how invigorating a good conversation can be? We all take it for granted because we move from one conversation to another throughout the day and throughout our lives. I appreciate a good conversation more than ever. As a solo consultant who runs his own firm, I do not have the luxury of having an office full of colleagues with whom to discuss current events, sports or the latest business news.

I search for conversations…..with clients, with friends, with colleagues. But it makes me appreciate a good conversation even more. So what makes up a good conversation? Simply put, you feel challenged, invigorated, engaged, energetic and passionate all at the same time. But what is it about a conversation that makes it good? I have come up with three things:

  1. Mutual respect – the people involved in the conversation must have respect for each other and the process of the good conversation. This eliminates petty name-calling or being angered by a differing viewpoint. Respect leads to a discussion, not an argument.
  2. Interesting topic – the topic must be of mutual interest to all parties. This could be ways to improve a client's business or the latest upset in the NCAA basketball tournament. In all cases, it must be something of interest to the parties involved.
  3. All parties should learn something new – I walk away from all good conversations learning something that I did not know before or at least having a new perspective on a topic, so they are growth experiences as well.

There is an art to good conversation and they can take place with old friends or total strangers. They can happen in person or over the phone. In all cases, you know when you have just had a good conversation because you feel engaged and alive. It is a great feeling and one that we should be trying to find more often. You know what they say:  "a good conversation a day keeps the doctor away."

Leadership accountability at WestJet

As you have likely heard, WestJet will be changing CEOs in April. This comes as a bit of a surprise to business people since Sean Durfy has done a great job of growing the market share of the airline and creating a business model different from the competition, where customer service is the main focus. So why the sudden change? Well, the obvious answers are that profits are down as compared to the industry and WestJet's competitor(s) and there was a major issue with the rollout of their new reservation system. These issues caused people to take off the starry-eyed glasses and realize that WestJet is just another company that is not perfect.

I see a more underlying story in this leadership change–the story of leadership accountability. There is no doubt that Clive Beddoe still has his fingers all over the airline that he created 14 years ago, and he and his board of directors have brought in a level of accountability rarely seen in today's corporations. Beddoe successfully ran WestJet for 11 years and then moved out of the way and passed the torch to Durfy to take WestJet to the next level. Durfy was successful in growing the company over the past three years, and was given an opportunity to continue its growth. However, the recent issues have put into question his ability to take the company forward. It is a breath of fresh air to see a company make its leader accountable for the results that it must achieve. Whether by choice or by being asked to leave, by changing the CEO position, WestJet is showing that it holds its leaders accountable. If Durfy decided to leave on his own, it shows a corporate culture where accountability is king. If you do not perform, then move over for someone who can. If Durfy was asked to leave, we draw the same conclusion, if you do not perform, then move over.

Leadership is an interesting concept these days because we see so many leaders getting paid exorbitant amounts of money to run under-performing companies, the argument being that the company would be in worse shape without those leaders. This is a rare case where a leader did not live up to the expectations of the shareholders and the public, thus is being replaced. The airline industry is a very competitive one and WestJet was poised to really challenge Air Canada for canadian airspace supremacy. The last few months have been a setback, but with a corporate culture focused around customer service and employee accountability, WestJet is destined for even greater success.

Let's just hope that unlike other companies we are currently reading about, WestJet does not sacrifice the quality of its service for the speed of its growth.

The new Imax bubble

You may have heard that in order to take advantage of the new love for 3-D movies, Imax is considering the idea of creating portable bubbles in which 3-d movies can be shown. These bubbles can be built virtually anywhere, from main squares to rural towns, and can be used for promotional events or just to show movies. I think this is a brilliant idea by Imax. These bubble theatres cost only $1 million to construct, which is still a lot of money, but not compared to building an entire movie theatre. The bubbles can hold almost 500 people at a time, so they are big enough to re-create the feeling of a real movie theatre. Best of all, they can be set up anywhere to show 3-D movies. The projectors are digital and therefore the quality will be great. The bubbles can also be used as a giant billboard, so companies will be able to advertise and sponsor the bubbles as they are constructed. This helps generate revenue to cover the costs of construction.

I think this is a great example of a company using innovation to create a need. With the help of movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, we may never want to watch non-3D movies ever again. The experience of watching these movies is so different from anything we have ever seen before. Imax will now be able to bring that experience to anyone in the world. They have leveraged their ability to innovate while taking advantage of a new market of 3-D movie-goers. At a time where entertainment options are aplenty and have been fairly successful, Imax is looking for ways to grow to new markets and create need for a whole new base of customers.

This is a great lesson for all companies: always look for the next great idea. In this case, there were a few factors that were working in Imax's favour:

- Imax saw that people still wanted to see movies

- they saw the popularity of the new 3-D movies and

- they knew that they had opportunities to break into new markets.

They then used those factors to develop a strategy to help meet their objectives of growing the company while leveraging a new technology where they had a competitive advantage.

We shall see how successful these 3-D movie bubbles become, but if they take off, I hope James Cameron and Tim Burton have negotiated a piece of the pie for themselves.