Industry Specific

Industry-specific means pertaining or relating to a specific industry.

Indicted Birdsall Services Group – Lessons to be Learned

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The media headlines read INDICTED NJ ENGINNERING FIRM, BIRDSALL SERVICES GROUP, SOLD FOR $5.6 MILLION TO CALIFORNIA FIRM. The winning bidder at the auction, PARTNER ASSESSMENT, immediately pledged that it won’t make political contributions in New Jersey. PARTNER ASSESSMENT took over BIRDSALL’s existing contracts and future revenue, which include several major government funded projects. About 135 of Birdsall’s 325 employees have remained with the company. PARTNER ASSESSMENT has about 250 employees in 24 offices. 7 former Birdsall executives pleaded not guilty on “pay to play” charges.

Ugly huh?

As a resident of New Jersey, an advocate for economic development, a growth strategist focused on privately held midsized companies, and a long time board member for the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce…the story generates mixed feelings for me.  Plus FELLOW level training from the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and my experience as a board member leaves me asking questions.

  • Who was serving on the BIRDSALL GROUP board of directors? 
  • What was the board’s role?
  • If the leaders of the company were actually trying to circumvent government regulations related to political contributions, were their board members aware?  Informed? In agreement? involved?
  • Had anyone asked the tough questions?

I can just hear many peoples’ response reading my questions.  “How naïve is she?  Of course they knew!  Come on, the company is based in New Jersey.”  Folks, I have seen many changes and a great deal of progress in New Jersey despite this state’s challenges. You cannot automatically assume that the board was fully informed or involved.

Plus, this blog is about growing companies, not NJ politics.  Many privately held companies have no independent board members. Ask yourself if your board (if it exists) would have asked tough questions about how your firm is winning big government contracts?  Would you have welcomed the candid discussion about the pros and cons of testing the limits of what has been “normal for years” versus fully legal and ethical? Who sits on your board? People who have agreed with whatever you want to do?

A review of a company’s ethics is in my own due diligence when I am vetted as a possible board member. When it comes to engineering firms in any state, I would know to ask how the firm approaches the role of township engineer and interacts with politicians. Those are early questions in that process.

  • So am I a more prepared and appropriate board member for your privately held company if I had never been invited to serve on BIRDSALL’s board?  Accepted the invitation, spoke up, and had to resign?

OR

  •   Would I be a qualified board member for your midsized company if I had served on the Birdsall board as it grew and was still active as the government charges started to come in?

Growth. Wealth. Success.  It’s all pretty intoxicating. If the growth and success of your business led you to consider unethical or illegal approaches, would your board be able to prevent what happened to the Birdsall Group?

Some Perspective About China

Many Americans resent the shift of so many manufacturing and light industry jobs from the USA to China (and India). However until one travels to China and speaks with people, citizens of the USA don’t seem to know that a large contingent of Chinese people also feel some resentment about those same jobs.  After all, the primary reason that jobs are shifting around the globe is that corporations can pay much lower wages for the same work.  Is there an insult or disrespect conveyed when a corporation will only pay a few dollars per hour for a Chinese worker to perform the same tasks that the corporation would pay USA based employees 8-10 times as much?  Any lack of training or career advancement opportunities extends the message of American disrespect for Chinese employees, and Chinese employees are further frustrated by the way export/import practices and tariffs work.  Most products made in China are immediately exported.  By the time the products make their way back to China, workers can’t afford to buy the very products they produced.

Most people know that China’s population is measured in billions rather than millions.  Most people seem to be aware that China holds much of the US debt. And most people have read or heard that China is experiencing dramatic growth. The scope and significance of those facts doesn’t seem to sink in until a citizen of the USA travels to China. The image of thousands of construction cranes is a dramatic contrast to the foreclosure signs across the USA.  When you travel from Beijing to Suzhou to Hangzhou to Shanghai, you see the dramatic images of the very old (2000 years old) and the very new (1-15 years old)…and little in between.  A visitor can almost feel the world tipping… or at least the movement of money.

The Chinese government can utilize communism when it serves them and capitalism when that is more convenient.  They clearly benefit from both systems.

I am an avid reader.  I listen to credible news commentary. As a growth strategist, I study trends.  I’ve participated in complex research projects with/for hundreds of clients. AND I am very glad that I recently spent some time in China.  What about you?  Is it time for deepened perspective?  To what destination will you travel next? Perhaps Dubai?

A Rainy Vacation

I’m at a timeshare resort this week on the Gulf Coast of Florida for a vacation with a long time dear friend. Florida has had a long term drought so the true Floridians are thrilled with the 15 straight days of rain.

But be honest, how would you react? How long would you pout or whine? Would you stand on the balcony staring at the dark clouds longing for blue skies to return…especially if vacation time and sunshine are precious commodities for you? Would you become a wet blanket dampening the experience for others around you?

Florida’s heavy rain is like the slowed economy. Yes, we have had less time swimming in the Gulf, lounging on the sand or staring at boats. But we’ve toured the fabulous Ybor City area of Tampa, dined (as opposed to just eating) at the fabulous 104 year old COLUMBIA restaurant, shopped, walked, talked, slept late….

If you still pout, complain, or whine about the recession… it’s time to move on to a fabulous week/month/quarter/year. The slowed economy is just RAIN.

Growth Strategy Tip

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