Monday’s business session began with a presentation by Peter Ricchiuti, an economist who teaches at Tulane University. Ricchiuti predicted that energy prices will remain high; demand is strong in China and India, but supply is weak. New gasoline refineries will lower prices, he said, but construction of these in the United States faces a strong challenge by the NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – folks.
Attacking what he calls a financial myth surrounding unemployment and the stock market, Ricchiuti cited as fact that an unemployment rate above 6.6 percent is accompanied by stock returns at or above 20 percent, and that unemployment below that number yields an annual stock return of about 7.5 percent. Interest rates will rise, he said, probably in the second quarter. “This is good and it means that the economy is in good shape,” he added.
Jason Jennings, an author and a researcher, presented to attendees some of the findings he has gleaned from his study of tens of thousands of companies, explaining the attributes that separate the most successful from the crowd. The first trait, he said, is cause: “Leadership in companies that grow consistently do what they do and turn it into a cause. A cause is big and bold, inclusive, the non-financial reason for doing what you do.” Causes fix things that are wrong, give meaning to people’s lives, drive momentum, fuel passion, and build cultures. “Hire people who want to be at your company,” he said, “who want to make it a better place. You can train people to do a job, but hire an attitude before aptitude.”
The second trait Jennings illustrated is the ability of leaders to let go. “An inability to let go of yesterday’s ways is what will be the demise of a company. Let go and you will be better able to deal with change.
Trait No. 3 is that everyone in a successful company knows the strategy. “If people are not emotionally attached to the company’s strategy,” he said, “they are not connected to their work.” The fourth trait is to get everyone to act like owners: “Everyone neeeds to understand how what they do creates economic value.”
And the fifth trait of companies that grow consistently is that the leaders are stewards. “A steward,” Jennings says, “values service over short term interest, abandons power over others, and knows that the only thing that counts is people and taking care of them.
“By their nature stewards share knowledge with workers, are accessible daily to workers and customers, and keep their hands dirty: They stay a part of the day-to-day business; the more you step away, the worse your company will perform. Stewards are called to serve, to give people the opportunity to grow personally, professionally and economically,” he said.