Friday, July 16, 2010

Enhance Assets or Reduce Liabilities?

We once asked a banker and CEO about his decision to lend to a start-up technology company that later became a big success. The banker took out a sheet of paper and wrote two words: assets and liabilities.

This is the opening paragraph in a post contributed by Larry Stybel and Maryanne Peabody to the MITSloan Management Review.

Larry and Maryanne are cofounders of Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire and I have known Larry for many years and so when I come across a chance to either hear him speak or read something he has been a part of, I try not to miss it.

I have never been disappointed.

On the other hand, when I was made aware of this post which was called Enhance Assets or Reduce Liabilities? I almost didn't click the link. Not because I didn't think it would have plenty to say (as indeed it does) but because anyone who knows me will tell you that any term that even feels financial makes me break out in hives.

I mean I get the notion that the idea is to take in more than goes out, but when they start talking EBITDA, etc. let's just say it's not my idea of fun.

Needless to say, I'm glad I went and read beyond the opening paragraph, and if you are interested in gaining some real insight into the keys to managing an enterprise as well as those who manage the enterprise you will want to make the investment of the few minutes it takes to read what Larry and Maryanne have to say.

One of the things I most admire in people who write is the ability some have of being able to convey insights on topics of great complexity in terms that are simple yet very powerful.

It was one of the gifts that someone like Drucker had.

People have written about leadership forever and people have written about the characteristics of outstanding leaders forever too.

For those of us who play or have played roles in the interviewing process as we have searched for leaders for our companies and were looking for "something" but not quite sure how to express it, I think you will find in this piece a really great way to keep what what's important in mind as well as in perspective.


ZEB Tom said...


What about those not going to college?

It's true that K-12 have not been taking the science/engineering path. It's perceived to be too hard for most. Since I was an engineering undergrad a few centuries ago, I can understand the frustration. I mean, who wants to do all that work if they can have it easier and make more money? Okay, moving into an executive role later make help if you are interested in making money or making more of a contribution in your work. Some aren't.

Most parents are just happy to have their kids going to college. And most of the HS programs are geared to do just that. And I do not begrudge them that.

I'm a Manufacturing executive at Do you know about or ?

The HS guidance teachers are so focused on getting kids into college that kids who are not going to college get forgotten about. Meanwhile there are some fairly decent paying jobs in manufacturing these days, especially for operating some of the computerized equipment we use these days.

So back to my original question: What about those not going to college? We need every Guidance counselor to realize whether or not they make their goal of 95% going to college, they need to guide 100% of the students to be the best they can be (no disrespect to most GCs). And if we want to keep Manufacturing in the US (and I think we need to, but that's a much longer discussion), we need to help those kids get properly trained to handle today's manufacturing jobs.

I am also active in Manufacturing networks in New Jersey and I can tell you that my fellow small business owners lament the lack of quality help and vocational education every day. Many state and county governments are not doing it well. Pennsylvania does have a nice program, though.

I would like to see every child go to college. And most into the sciences. But that's not practical. So I'm talking about a path for those who don't. Perhaps we need some breadcrumbs to make that path more clear.

Tom Smith

Dave Opton said...


I could not agree with you more!

I think that like any business, part of the issue is that people do that for which they are rewarded and if, as you say, much of the rewards for guidance counselors come from a "get into college" metric, then quality will likely take a backseat to quantity.

Given where the U.S. stands in the global competition game, we need every human capital resouce we have to help us keep up and/or ahead and for sure that includes those who don't go to college.