Achieving Business Longevity – Going Beyond the ABC’s.

March 3, 2015

In his letter to shareholders that accompanied the 2014 annual report for Omaha, Nebraska’s sprawling Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Warren Buffet, the longtime chairman and chief executive officer, stated that he had chosen a successor, predicted potentially tougher times ahead in the quest for growth at the company, and identified 3 (“three”) historically recurrent business challenges that could fell even the oldest and largest of businesses:

 

“My successor will need one other particular strength: the ability to fight off the ABCs of business decay, which are arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency. When these corporate cancers metastasize, even the strongest of companies can falter. The examples available to prove the point are legion (…)” (Emphasis added).[1]

 

As shown in my May, 2014 post on corporate crisis management,[2] there are a whole host of “issues” that can befall a company, and severely damage or destroy if not properly addressed or prevented in the first instance. I would therefore not only echo Mr. Buffett on these three that he has identified, but add 6 (“six”) more seen in my experience and research, to total 9 (“nine”) avoidable agents of business decay.

 

These other six, are:

  1. Debt;
  2. e-Issues (eCommerce, the environment, employment practices);
  3. Fiscal Malfeasance (tax evasion, fraud and financial statement/disclosure issues, market abuses);
  4. GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) Failings;[3]
  5. Hue & Cry” (public reaction – including social media campaigns, boycott calls, and general “sanction or reaction traction” with regulators or prosecutors regarding an adverse event involving the company;
  6. i-Issues (incomplete or inappropriate preparation, insufficient capitalization, inattention to ongoing management obligations).

 

A review of recent and historic business news will yield more than enough examples for each and every point, and so I will not go out of my way to name names. Suffice it to say, that if you want real business longevity for your venture – regardless of its current stage or state, then as with everything else, you need to look far beyond, and cover much more, than the mere basics or the abc’s, and consistently so.

 

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Author:

Ekundayo George is a lawyer and sociologist. He has also taken courses in organizational and micro-organizational behavior, and gained significant experiences in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory compliance practice. He is licensed to practice law in Ontario and Alberta, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America. See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com. A writer, blogger, and avid reader, Mr. George has sector experience in Technology (Telecommunications, eCommerce, Outsourcing, Cloud), Financial Services, Healthcare, Entertainment, Real Estate and Zoning, International/cross-border trade, other services, and Environmental Law and Policy. He is a published author on the National Security aspects of Environmental Law, has represented clients in courts and before regulatory bodies in both Canada and the United States, and he enjoys complex systems analysis in legal, technological, and societal milieux.

Trained in Legal Project Management (and having organized and managed several complex projects before practicing law), Mr. George is also an experienced negotiator, facilitator, team leader, and strategic consultant – sourcing, managing, and delivering on complex engagements with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary teams. Team consulting competencies include program investigation, sub-contracted procurement of personnel and materials, and such diverse project deliverables as business process re-engineering, devising and delivering tailored training, and other targeted engagements through tapping a highly-credentialed resource pool of contract professionals with several hundred years of combined expertise, in: Healthcare; Education & Training; Law & Regulation; Policy & Plans; Statistics, Economics, & Evaluations including feasibility studies; Infrastructure; and Information Technology/Information Systems (IT/IS) – also sometimes termed Information Communications Technologies (ICT). See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”) including employees, agents, directors, officers, successors & assigns, in whole or in part for their content, accuracy, or availability.

This article creates no lawyer-client relationship, and is not intended or deemed legal advice, business advice, the rendering of any professional service, or attorney advertising where restricted or barred. The author and affiliated entities specifically disclaim and reject any and all loss claimed, no matter howsoever resulting as alleged, due to any action or inaction done in reliance on the contents herein. Past results are no guarantee of future success, and specific legal advice should be sought for particular matters through counsel of your choosing, based on such factors as you deem appropriate.

[1] Warren Buffet. Letter to Shareholders for Fiscal Year 2014, at page 37.  Posted on berkshirehathaway.com, February 2015. Online: <http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2014ltr.pdf>

See also Luciana Lopez and Jonathan Stempel.  Warren Buffett says Berkshire has ‘right person’ as heir.

Posted on reuters.com, February 28, 2015.  Online: <http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/28/us-berkshire-buffett-letter-idUSKBN0LW0MG20150228>

[2] Ekundayo George. Corporate Crisis Management 101 – The A, B, Cs of Lessons Learned.  Posted on ogalaws.wordpress.com, May 7, 2014. Online: <https://ogalaws.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/corporate-crisis-management-101-the-a-b-cs-of-lessons-learned/>

[3] Ekundayo George. Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC): a 4-part policy framework. Posted on ogalaws.wordpress.com, October 21, 2012. Online:<https://ogalaws.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/grc-an-overview-part-1/>

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