Monday, July 27, 2015

July: Sabbatical Officially Over, But It's Still Summer!

OK, so I said the last entry would be my final sabbatical post. However, I find myself still in sabbatical mode: working from home (updating my data base, twitter feed, and blog) and trying to get a long walk in each day. So far I've received two rejections for my book. Still waiting to hear from Michigan State, but expect that to be a rejection also since they didn't really have an editor for business books to send it to. Trying to decide whether to send out another round.

The Peniche campus of Leiria University, where the GBATA conference was held
This month I also presented a paper at the Global Business and Technology Association's 17th annual conference - this year in Portugal.  The conference was held in a beautiful, but rather out-of-the way place (Peniche) on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. We spent a good portion of each of the four days of the conference traveling in a bus to and from the university where the actual presentations were made and to some great venues for dinner at night. Before and after the conference, John and I spent some time in Lisbon and also visited a few of the old hill towns, Sintra and Obidos. We loved Portugal and would recommend it to anyone! The conference itself was a mixed bag: I heard a few very interesting presentations (one on the new "blue economy" was particularly interesting) and made some good contacts (it seems like a quarter of the conference attendees were from South Africa; also had an interesting dinner conversation with a Greek couple).
View of the Atlantic coastline from the Peniche University campus.
The closing dinner for the conference was held at the amazing Batalha Monastery

Received some great news over the weekend that my research is having an effect in the "real" world. A few months ago I had been discussing my research with a Hope grad who seemed quite interested in it. I saw her again over the weekend and she reported that the firm she works for is over 50 years old and going through the transition to the next generation of leaders. She mentioned my research to her boss (the CFO and second generation), particularly the point about long-lived firms being active members of their local community. Since their firm was not involved with their community in any way, she suggested that if they want to succeed for another 50 years this might be something for them to consider. At the next executive team meeting the CFO brought this up and it was enthusiastically reinforced by the HR manager as a great way to involve employees. They have started a Friday afternoon food bank activity that many employees immediately volunteered to take part in -- she said the excitement about this initiative among employees is evident. Can't wait to hear more updates! This has always been my hope for the research - that young companies wanting to "live" a long life will employ the management practices of the old companies. Whether one calls them survival practices, shared value, stakeholder theory, or the "next" evolution of capitalism, it seems clear to me that all constituents benefit when a firm manages along the lines of these old companies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June: Last Month of Sabbatical

I need to thank Hope College for the great opportunity of a year-long sabbatical. It has been fantastic: Papers presented at four international business conferences; four papers published in peer-reviewed journals; book on corporate longevity written and ready to submit to publishers; regular updates to my blog and twitter feed on corporate longevity; data base on century-old U.S. firms validated (up to 1875 - still have quite a bit to go); eight countries visited; time to do a driving trip to Florida to visit my 86 and 88-year-old parents (with a stop in Savannah along the way); and a brand-new granddaughter! What a year!!!

Now it's time to start thinking about getting back into teaching (I need to redo my Management Seminar since the book I used in the past is out of print, plus I've been asked to move to a MWF schedule which means more, shorter class sessions each week - not quite sure how to do a seminar course with that format but I'll figure it out). I have already started meeting with the Baker Scholars officers to start planning for the coming year's activities. Since my office is still occupied by my replacement and I am technically still on sabbatical until July, I will continue to work from home - and spend as much time as I can with my sweet granddaughter!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May: Book progress and Granddaughter!

May is a beautiful time in Holland, Michigan - tulips and flowering trees make my daily walks a joy. Nick was home for a week between semesters, hoping his new niece would be born while in Holland, but no such luck. Little girl Sale will arrive when she wants to, not when the doctor says she is due.

I've been doing daily work on my data base of 100-year-old companies (verifying they are still independent operating companies), making daily "tweets" about old companies, and adding bits to the book draft. I have also started posting excerpts of chapters from the book on my blog and sent a draft of the whole book to Hope's PR firm to get their opinion on whether it is worth pursuing any further. In a conversation with the firm's president he told me the book is definitely "sellable" and he thinks there will be publishers interested in it. He gave me the names of some people to contact (their PR firm doesn't work with book publishers) and wished me luck. Now I just have to decide how serious I am about pursuing this.

I have committed to making a presentation on my research to HASP (Holland Area Senior Professionals) in the fall on my old company research and have made some additional plans for the trip to Portugal this summer for the GBATA conference. Just trying to keep busy while we wait!
We had a fun Mother's Day even without a new baby

And finally on May 20 (2 weeks late) the arrival into this world of Audrey Victoria Sale! 8 lbs, 3 oz & 20" long. We are all in love!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April: Spring has arrived (sort of)

Spring is coming, but slowly. At least I can walk on snow-free sidewalks even if I do still need to bundle up.

Paper revisions for the July GBATA conference have been made and the paper is sent. Conference registration complete; flight to Portugal and hotel reservations made. Now it's back to working on the book.

This month also draws me back into Hope with registration taking place for fall courses and managing wait list requests. My seminar will require a complete overhaul, not only because the book I used to use is now out of print, but because I've been asked to change from a T-R 80-minute class schedule to M-W-F 50-minutes. Not sure how a seminar class will work with 50 minute discussion periods, but I'll give it a try.

Nick came home for the Easter weekend and Alison & Scott came over for dinner on Sunday. 

It was great to have everyone all together, though Alison is not feeling great (she has a torn abdominal muscle that causes her pain). As far as she's concerned the baby can come any time and the sooner the better.

I have finished a first draft of my book! It's tentatively titled "Survival is the Ultimate Performance Measure: Management Practices of the Corporate Century Club."  I don't think I have enough information for a book - half of it is the list of U.S. companies over 100 years old - but if I do get a publisher interested, I will need to verify the nearly 1200 companies on the list. I feel good about getting it to this point regardless, plus I have something to report for how I spent the second semester of my sabbatical. Now I do daily Twitter posts on companies that are over 100 and look for information about them that might be interesting to add to the book. As a result, the book is looking more and more like information on individual old companies that help illustrate the longevity factors we identified in the research. It's possible that reading about real companies will interest people more than the research results.  We'll see.

Friday, March 13, 2015

March: Work on that book!

With a little push from Hope's PR firm I have finally started serious work on my book about old companies. I'd like to get a little more flesh on the skeleton before running it past them to see if it's worth continuing to work on. My dilemma is this: I know people will be most interested in stories about real companies, but when books profile specific companies it not only invites criticism (no one is perfect, and that applies to companies too) but risks questioning the principles themselves (not all companies profiled in the book Good to Great are still great, or even operating). The fact that there are statistically significant differences in the practices of old companies compared with young ones doesn't mean all old companies practice these principles, nor does practicing all the principles guarantee that a company will survive. Our research has identified certain practices that correlate with longevity, but that doesn't make them causal. So the approach I'm thinking about using is to give company examples for each factor in the theoretical model, but not to profile specific companies as a whole. I may also include my data base of companies over 100 years old (or those founded before 1900, or before World War I) in the appendix since people always ask what companies are on the list. We'll see. Built to Last, Enduring Success, Managing for the Long Run, are all titles of previous books profiling very large, public corporations. I'm struggling to come up with an appropriate title for my book. Perhaps Survival is the Ultimate Performance Measure? (this is a quote from Ian Davis, former managing partner of McKinsey). Or Secrets of the Corporate Century Club? 

I attended the TEDxMacatawa event in Holland. I had attended two of the original TED events in California when I was still at Herman Miller and was interested to see how well these local events do in comparison. It was interesting to hear local people present interesting ideas. The 18-20 minute time limit keeps things moving. Most enjoyable were the conversations during breaks with former Herman Miller colleagues, former Hope students, former and current neighbors and friends.

The month also included a couple of short trips: Detroit to help Nick celebrate his 26th birthday and to Ann Arbor to reminisce with Randy and Babette about our recent trips to Australia and New Zealand. And a baby shower for Alison!

The month ended with intense work on my paper for the summer GBATA conference. The good news is that it was accepted for presentation and inclusion in their readings book; the bad news is that the reviewers requested significant revisions. I was able to address all their concerns, except the request to include the names of companies we surveyed, since we had promised anonymity to participants. By the time I added or revised things, the paper was three pages over the limit for the readings book so I had to do some major editing. I think I finally have it ready to go. My opinion: the revisions suggested by the reviewers did make it a stronger paper, but the longer version is better than the edited one.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

February: Database & Blog Work; New Paper Finished; Florida

To escape the bitter cold and snow in Michigan, we planned a driving trip to Florida in February. It was delayed a bit because of some bug John caught, but we still made it later in the month. In the meantime, I was able to do quite a bit of work updating my database of 100-year-old companies, finding additional information on some companies celebrating 125th, 130th, and 150th anniversaries in 2015, identifying 4th generation family-owned companies for a PR firm working on an article profiling a company turning 100 this year, and searching out firms established in 1915 to add to the database. Much of this work will end up on my blog and daily tweets.

The real work this month has been writing, editing, and formatting a paper for the summer GBATA conference to be held in Portugal. After several rewrites and edits, it feels good to have it finished and sent it off to the reviewers. I've also been working on editing the paper proposal Makoto Kanda and I presented at the Strategic Management Society Conference in Sydney. I'm awaiting the tables Mako is preparing before submitting it to the SMS Global Strategy Journal. Feeling good about having two papers in the works.
Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn

On our way to Florida we stopped in beautiful Savannah for a few days and stayed at a delightful B&B in the historic district, which made for convenient walks around the city to see each of the 22 squares plus a cemetery and a few parks. Had our best meal of the trip in the shrimp and grits breakfast at the Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn - not something I would ever have ordered from a menu, so I'm glad we didn't have a choice!

 The Inn's front door (just across from Chatham Square) and back courtyard.
It was great to see sunshine, green leaves, and blooming plants.

Then it was on to Leesburg, Florida to visit my parents. It was great to see them doing so well - and John even played cards! (Up and Down the River and Pinocle)
Looking good at 86 and 88 - and they still beat me at cards.
We had great driving all the way to Florida and back - until we reached northern Indiana on our way home when we suddenly ran into blowing snow and icy roads, including complete white-out conditions at times. The lake effect storm delayed our arrival home by about an hour but we made it without incident. We had an interesting stop in Bowling Green, Kentucky for our overnight on the trip back: they had more snow than they were used to, plus extreme cold. As a result all schools were closed for the whole week, even the university. Apparently the side roads were still icy when we passed through, but the highway was clear. Some interesting ice formations made for a very pretty drive.

Upon returning to Michigan, we had more record cold and snow to endure before the month ended. Not able to do my walking routine because of the weather, I finally started work on my book! (No more excuses.)  Whenever I present my research on old companies, people would encourage me to write a book about it because they thought the information would appeal to the general business population, not just academics. I'm still not sure I have enough to say for a whole book, but I'll give it a try. If I don't do this while on sabbatical, it likely won't ever get done so we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January: Writing, Walking, and Detroit

Once things settled down from the holidays I was able to get into a regular routine of daily "tweets" and blog entries on my research. Though Twitter seems to attract more attention than the blog, it's rather hard to tell for sure: Twitter sends weekly reports on how many people have read my tweets, and I get notices on people who have re-tweeted or 'favorited' them. It's a little harder to accurately evaluate page views on the blog. However, I do know people read it since I receive emails from people regarding it. One such contact last fall has resulted in my research being extensively quoted in a recently published book on corporate culture, titled "Corporate Cure: How To Build A High-Engagement, High-Performance Company That Will Last" by John Owens. I'm not quite sure what the author's chapter on Building Endurance would have looked like without my research since each page has about five quotes from my most recent paper. I'm a little peeved that he didn't cite the paper in his bibliography, just noted the source at the beginning of the chapter (and then proceeded to use multiple quotes from the paper without re-referencing the source). Guess this is just another prod to get me started on my own book.

Early in the month I had a meeting with my research partner, Makoto Kanda, and we scoped out our work for the coming year. I will write and submit for publication our paper comparing strategies of 100-year-old companies in Japan and the U.S.; he will analyze the data he has obtained on the innovation approach used by old companies and get that to me for writing another paper. We will aim for the July GBATA conference in Portugal for presenting the findings. In April Mako will host a BBC reporter (she had interviewed the two of us for an article in 2013) who wants to conduct case studies on old Japanese companies (shinise) and write a book. Though he'd like me to be there to help out, I will likely pass since I don't want to chance being gone when Alison goes into labor (she is due early May).

Trying to stay healthy by walking in January in Michigan is not easy. Fortunately in Holland we have snowmelt downtown so I am able to avoid the icy sidewalks and still get in 3-4 miles each day. A much more interesting walk than doing the treadmill route.

January ended with a trip to Detroit to visit Nick. We spent the day at the Detroit Institute of Arts, enjoyed a fun evening at the Whitney's "Ghost Bar," and stayed at the historic Inn on Ferry Street - an interesting group of large old houses that have been transformed into a hotel/bed & breakfast spot in Midtown. All our activities were within walking distance of each other (and close to New Center, where Nick lives).
Nick in front of the DIA (or a thinker in front of The Thinker)
Detroit may still have a ways to go to become a tourist destination, but one can put together a very nice visit. We left earlier than planned for the trip home because of a winter storm that descended over all of Michigan. January definitely went out in a fury - the drive home was not a nice way to end the weekend or the month.

Some of the houses forming the Inn on Ferry Street

A fun evening at The Whitney - another old house re-purposed.