During Bill Clinton’s first term as President, the 104th U.S. Congress undertook a long-needed effort to overhaul telecommunications laws that had been on the books for over 60 years. Although the bill had a significant impact on phone, television, and radio services, the biggest outcome of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was nothing less than the blossoming of the Internet.
Now, as the country begins reopening the economy following the largest public health panic in a century, the U.S. government has a chance to take similar actions on another emerging technology: blockchain. Like the Internet, blockchain technology will change the game again.
The COVID-19 pandemic paused the development and implementation of many products built using blockchain technology, but the great restarting is the perfect opportunity for companies to embrace the power of the technology. Far from being just a niche interest for developers, real-world applications built with blockchain already provide secure transactions that benefit people everywhere, from agriculture to land management to mobile voting.
However, as the momentum around these projects picks back up, many companies will find themselves once again in gray areas where government reach is ill-defined and sometimes clarified only through after-the-fact enforcement. Collaboration between all stakeholders—including government agencies—is essential to the future adoption of blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology can be a vital driver of the new normal as industries and economies recover from the pandemic, but the government’s role in regulating blockchain technology must be understood. Creating clear policies that protect consumers and building a framework for cooperation are some of the government’s most vital tasks in the coming months as more companies and other organizations explore the unique benefits that applications using blockchain technology will bring.
It’s important for the government to take a hands-off and clarifying role in the development of products built using blockchain technology. As legislators create policies to help guide developing blockchain technology, their primary concern should be ensuring that all businesses in the industry behave responsibly and have fair access to customers and resources.
At Medici Ventures, we invest in organizations that are using blockchain technology to solve real-world problems exacerbated by the pandemic. GrainChain, for example, secures trust across the entire agricultural supply chain, ensuring that the most vulnerable people—the farmers—are paid. Evernym helps everyone from individuals to companies control their identities. Voatz helps people exercise their right to vote in a safe and secure way.
These companies—and all others developing blockchain technology—should be able to operate on a fair and equal playing field, without giving any group or organization an upper hand thanks to unbalanced regulations. Perhaps most important of all, the government should remember that consumers are generally in a better position than regulators to determine what businesses they want to support—a point that was made perfectly clear in the early development of the Internet.
Cooperation will be key to success in the future. Companies need the freedom to develop blockchain technology without onerous oversight, especially as they seek to escape the economic shadow brought on by the pandemic.
As it did in the early days of the Internet, this freedom will lead to creative products and solutions. Blockchain entrepreneurs have barely scratched the surface of the power of blockchain technology. The government needs to let the innovation continue.
It is also crucial that the U.S. government moves quickly. China is urging its financial institutions to support blockchain, which could prove very problematic for the U.S. if we do not match or exceed China’s efforts. The overwhelming benefits of blockchain technology—being able to transfer digitized assets without friction, for example—are already coming to fruition. Without taking a position of leadership, the U.S. risks both slipping further into a potential economic recession and losing its position as the global hub for technological innovation.
The world is moving forward with developing blockchain-based applications, and the post-pandemic economy is a perfect environment in which to embrace new technology. If the U.S. is not careful, we will lose the opportunity to be a blockchain leader.
Blockchain technology has incredible potential. It will grow best in a free environment, unfettered from needless and unclear regulations. By understanding and limiting the government’s role, we can give companies the power to establish a new normal while offering consumers the confidence to invest in and use new blockchain-based products.
Jonathan Johnson is CEO of Overstock.com and president of Medici Ventures.
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Much of the country got its first impression of Mark Zuckerberg through Jesse Eisenberg’s unlikable portrayal of the Facebook founder in the 2010 biographical film The Social Network. With that kind of pop-cultural image, Zuckerberg was never going to have the generally warm reception of, say, Warren Buffet.
But since then, his public image has worsened. Zuckerberg’s net favorability is underwater at -14, finds a Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll of 1,276 U.S. adults between June 25 and 26.
Zuckerberg is the only Big Tech CEO with an underwater net favorability. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a +29 net favorability despite his routinely facing media scrutiny as well. And the highest big tech favorability scores went to Apple CEO Tim Cook (+41) and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (+41).
This image problem follows years of controversy surrounding Zuckerberg’s inability to keep foreign-bought political ads from Facebook’s platform during the last U.S. election or moderate hate speech and misleading posts on the site. And because of the latter, he’s currently staring down a growing Facebook advertising boycott.
And the U.S. public is split on his company, with 49% viewing it favorably and 49% viewing it unfavorably. That’s subpar for Facebook, especially considering the average U.S. adult spends 37 minutes of their day on the platform. Meanwhile, more than 7 in 10 U.S. adults have a favorable view of Amazon (85%), Alphabet (76%), Microsoft (75%), and Apple (72%).
The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook have agreed to appear in a House antitrust hearing later this month as even some Republicans are joining Senator Elizabeth Warren in calls for the federal government to break tech giants up. And this summer the Justice Department is expected to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Google for its digital and search dominance.
But the greatest weapon that Amazon, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft and Apple might have in fighting off a government crackdown is the public’s adoration and enthusiasm for their products. That’s something Facebook won’t be able to lean on as much, in the scenario that Congress or the Justice Department comes after the Menlo Park social media giant.
*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 1,276 adults in the U.S. between June 25-26. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.
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Grocery giant Albertsons had big plans to go public in 2015, in what would have marked one of the year’s biggest IPOs. But the grocery giant backed out of its plans, put off by a turbulent retail sector.
Today, as Albertsons and its competitors navigate a global pandemic, the 2015 retail landscape looks tame by comparison. “We are operating in industry that is transforming so rapidly,” says CEO Vivek Sankaran, who joined the company in April 2019 from PepsiCo.
But this time around, the uncertainty and tumult didn’t stop Albertsons from debuting on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ACI. The IPO ended up being relatively disappointing for the retailer: The company priced its shares at $16, below the $18 to $20 range it had previously been seeking. (The company’s shares closed at $15.45, down nearly 3.5%.) The second-largest grocery chain in the U.S. behind Kroger is backed by private equity firm Cerberus, which invested in 2006 and has been looking to exit.
In the last few months, Sankaran has overseen an explosion of the company’s online business as consumers radically change the way they shop. In April, for example, the company reported that its e-commerce sales that month were up 374% over the previous year.
Fortune spoke with Sankaran about Albertson’s IPO and how COVID-19 has impacted the company, which runs more than 2,000 stores under its eponymous brand as well as the likes of Vons, Jewel-Osco, Acme, and Safeway. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity:
Fortune: The company initially announced its intention to go public in 2015. Why the delay, and why move forward now?
Sankaran: It didn’t work out in 2015. At that time, we brought Albertsons and Safeway together, so the company has spent the last several years getting that integration right, and modernizing the company—putting technology in every aspect of it. There’s been a lot of work to strengthen the company and to get everything right from the governance aspects so we’re ready to be a public company. We felt we were ready from a business and performance standpoint. And surprisingly after a few turbulent weeks, the markets seem to be ready.
You ended up pricing below your target range. What happened?
It’s so difficult to predict what’s happening in the stock market. There’s so much volatility. Some of our investors have been with us for 15 years, so we’ve got to monetize some of that. And we are long-term oriented. We want investors to stay with us for that kind of duration to create value.
How has COVID-19 changed your strategy?
COVID has accelerated our strategy. We pride ourselves on our fresh assortment—our meat and seafood, all of the prepared foods we have behind the counter, the depth and variety of what we provide in our stores. That was always the case. When you’re cooking at home that becomes even more important. You open your refrigerator five days after you went to the grocery store, you want that cucumber to be firm and that’s the advantage we have. Our e-commerce business is growing rapidly. We have so much more headroom there.
What is the role of the physical store going forward?
Your question may come from this notion that everyone is going to buy online, and you may not need a store. I don’t think that’s a reality. It’s not a reality in countries where online has been around for a long time that have even higher density than America.
Also, recognize that a store, at the end of the day, is just another point of inventory. There’s service, there’s ambiance. But it’s also good inventory close to your home for us to bring it to you, or for you to pick it up. So we’re using our stores as a nice foundation for the omnichannel business.
What have been the hurdles with e-commerce?
It’s in the early stages of its evolution—not only for us, but for the industry as a whole. We’re all trying to learn how to meet customer expectations, frankly how to change customers’ expectations. It’s such a dynamic environment, and I think that’s what you have to accept if you want to be in the e-commerce business. You’re always piloting, always trying new things and investing behind it. It’s a big part of our growth agenda. The piece that’s been the most gratifying and somewhat surprising is the amount of new business when you open up e-commerce.
How have customers been shopping differently? What do you view as permanent and what’s just a blip?
Nothing is ever permanent. That’s a dangerous mindset to get into. They’re all coming to the stores less often but buying more when they come to the store. There are two things driving that one. One is safety, or the perception of safety. And the second, is they’re cooking more at home. They’re buying a lot more fresh, baking more at home. More cookies at home, they’re drinking more at home.
People, I think, are enjoying the time they have at home with families. I think some of that will stick. People are rediscovering that, by the way, we can get a lot of work done without having to commute two ways and spend those hours. As these things stick, at-home consumption sticks. It’s hard for me to imagine that all of this just goes away and people jump back to restaurants and their old way of life in an instant.
Are people stocking up to the same extent? Do you view that as an indicator of where we are in terms of a recovery?
People stocking up was more in the months of March and April. We’re starting to see a lot more steadiness. People are engaging more in produce and fresh products, and the supply chains have come along nicely to support that.
What’s been the biggest challenge in making sure your employees are safe?
It’s my No. 1 priority. I spend time on that every day, on keeping our associates and customers safe, and being there for our communities. We are always learning and innovating on how to keep people most safe.
In the early days, we couldn’t get sanitizer. One of our colleagues ended up getting sanitizer in bulk drums and we converted one of our beverage plants to get it into bottles to get it to our stores. Now those things are stabilized. It’s not so much a supply problem. At this point, my message to people is: You start thinking you can relax, but you simply cannot relax when it comes to COVID.
Where are we in terms of recovery?
It’s really unfortunate to see cases spiking up again in this country. I don’t think we’re anywhere at a place where we can declare victory or let alone seeing a path to victory over the virus. That’s how I see it.
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If you have ever wondered how a startup becomes a global phenom and gets acquired by one of the world’s biggest brands, you won’t want to miss this one. This leadership series is hosted by Comparably co-founder/CEO Jason Nazar as he sits down virtually for a fireside chat with Noam Bardin, CEO of Waze — the world’s largest crowdsourced navigation app (acquired by Google for nearly $1B in 2013). This “If You Knew Then…” conversation will delve into practical leadership advice, personal life philosophies and guiding principles, and the challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs in today’s landscape.
Other topics that will be covered include:
Jason Nazar is co-founder/CEO of Comparably, a leading workplace culture and compensation site that provides the most comprehensive and accurate representation of what it’s like to work at companies. Under his leadership, the online platform has accumulated more than 10 million employee ratings on 60,000 U.S. companies to become one of the most trusted third party resources for workplace and salary data since launching in 2016.
Noam Bardin has served as CEO of Waze, since March 2009, building the company to become one of the world’s most talked-about startups through its acquisition by Google in June 2013. Noam continues to lead the global Waze team within Google to help Wazers around the world enjoy faster, safer drives, and launched Waze Carpool to enable drivers and riders to work together to end traffic.
Dave Cote just delivered the War and Peace of books on corporate leadership. The former Honeywell CEO’s Winning Now, Winning Later is such a rich, unusual entry in the genre because instead of running through his favorite management maxims, Cote provides a gripping, on-the-scene account of how he deployed a series of bedrock principles to transform a flailing conglomerate. The lessons come to life because the reader witnesses Cote, over 16 years ending in 2018, relentlessly putting them into practice to meet the biggest challenge in corporate America: balancing the short-term success demanded by investors with sowing the seeds for rewards that will only be harvested years hence, but are essential to achieving greatness.
Current and aspiring CEOs should pay close attention, because for Cote, many of America’s big companies are wrestling with how to invest for the future while still generating the quarterly results investors expect. “Businesses are little more than a collection of processes,” he says in the book. “And in most companies, the processes can go a long way towards becoming more efficient and effective.” For Cote, remaking those processes to get maximum results from people and assets requires achieving two seemingly conflicting things at the same time. It’s that 3D thinking that brought the big breakthroughs at Honeywell.
It’s fulfilling these “we can do both” imperatives that lifts enterprises to their full potential. And the most important is simultaneously achieving what many managers find vexing if not impossible, “making the numbers” while at the same time making the daring bets to ensure those numbers will be far higher five years from now. As his book’s title suggests, Cote swears the idea that CEOs must choose between winning now and winning later is wrong: They must find a way to do both. Thinking short- and long-term works since you need today’s profits to fund tomorrow’s hits. He shows how Honeywell succeeded in constantly improving its most lucrative existing products, from airline components to gas detection devices, to increase quarterly earnings, while simultaneously plowing billions into next-generation projects that took five or six years to harvest, then paid off big.
The book is packed with other examples of taking two actions that seem to butt heads and getting them to march arm in arm. While many companies think they need big inventories to ensure fast delivery to customers, Cote shows how it’s possible to both reduce stocks and lower shipment times by expertly managing the supply chain.
Cote also believes that companies should advance not in giant leaps but small agile steps. “It’s survival of the most flexible,” he writes. “Revolutionary change is not the key to short- or long-term performance. It’s a huge risk. Revolutions move in unintended directions. The best change is gradual change.” His goal is to stay just ahead of the market as opposed to betting heavily on future trends that may not play out, or falling behind so that only demoralizing, disruptive restructurings can save the company.
For Cote, it’s best to spread plant closures and layoffs over a number of years. Another tenet: Making lots of small targeted acquisitions is more profitable, and a lot less dangerous, than chasing the transformational whales. His contrarian thinking extends to personnel matters. Forget the “praise in public, criticize in private” maxim, says Cote. When a business head makes an inadequate plan for building his or her business, the CEO should uncork the likes of “This is unacceptable, go back and fix it”––and explain why––in front of the assembled peers to demonstrate that he’s setting a high standard.
The official publication date for Winning Now, Winning Later is June 30. But Cote gave Fortune an exclusive first look. I also interviewed him extensively to glean further insights. The overriding theme from both the book and these conversations is that this son of a rural New Hampshire gas station owner regards leadership as both highly intellectual, and highly hands-on. How many CEOs take full days, sans appointments, to think big and hatch bold new initiatives?
Yet Cote insists that “the idea you focus on strategy and outsource implementation to great people is wrong.” At Honeywell, he personally interviewed all candidates for the top 300 jobs, and for the first 90 days after making every one of its 100 acquisitions held monthly meetings to review their progress and quarterly reviews for the next year. At the same time, as one lieutenant put it, he showed the tenacity of “a big annoying bear threatening the livestock” in constantly monitoring the numbers to ensure that each business was adding sales faster than people, investing sufficiently while reaching the right balance in product enhancements and long-horizon projects, and generating strong and growing cash flow.
Winning Now, Winning Later opens by describing the deep-seated problems at Honeywell. According to Cote, the “short-termism” that plagued Honeywell is an issue many companies grapple with. The best argument that Cote’s formula can achieve the dual objectives in the book’s title is its spectacular success at Honeywell. From 2002 to 2018, Cote lifted Honeywell’s sales from $22 billion to $40 billion, took operating margins from 8% to 16%, and hiked the stock price fourfold, swelling the market cap from $20 billion to $120 billion, while spending $10 billion resolving environmental issues, including resolving asbestos claims, and fully funding the underwater pension plan. Here are five original concepts and strategies that formed the Cote blueprint.
In 1999, Cote left GE after a 25-year career, then served for two years as chief of TRW before going to Honeywell in February of 2002. Cote coveted the ultimate prize of running GE upon Jack Welch’s retirement, but departed when the legendary CEO said that Cote––then heading the appliance division––wasn’t a finalist. Had Cote gotten the nod instead of Jeff Immelt, it’s likely that GE would be a far more successful company than what it became, by constantly restructuring and shedding businesses it vastly overpaid for. The irony is that at Honeywell, Cote found some of the poor practices that he yearned to fix at GE. And it was by overhauling those crippling methods that Cote got Honeywell roaring while his alma mater sputtered.
Cote recalls that at GE, success was all about “making the quarterly numbers” at all costs. Any given year, the outfit where Cote was working would hire 1,000 people to grow sales. Then in October or November, the managers would discover that they couldn’t hit the targets for the following year without laying off 800 of the folks they just added. “Why, I wondered, hadn’t they thought ahead and only hired 200 people instead of 1,000? We didn’t think we had a choice,” he writes. The layoffs were highly disruptive and required big restructuring costs. For Cote, the better practice was what he did at Honeywell: getting his business heads and staff people to plan for the following year’s personnel and other financial commitments early in the current year, avoiding the need for this wrenching cycle of layoffs and rehiring.
At Honeywell, Cote found a mindset of what he brands “short-termism run horribly amuck.” Managers at the specialty chemicals, aerospace, automotive, and controls conglomerate would offer distributors special discounts at the end of a quarter to boost sales, a practice known as “distribution loading,” that enabled them to hit their targets. The businesses had to quickly inflate inventories to make the deliveries, but the shipping department often couldn’t keep up, creating bottlenecks and delays that antagonized customers. And businesses, wrongly guessing in advance what distributors would want, often filled warehouses with product their customers didn’t want.
Often, 25% of the revenues from aerospace, controls, and specialty chemicals businesses would come in the last week of the quarter. Instead of buying at regular prices in the early weeks, customers waited Honeywell out until the last few days, and in managers’ desperation to ramp up sales, the deals would get better as the quarter drew to a close.
To keep hitting the mark, the business heads would resort to more gimmicks such as selling good businesses to book quick profits, or securing one-time cash payments from suppliers in exchange for guaranteed future business. That locked Honeywell into deals with single vendors that forced them to overpay for components or services over long periods. To his horror, Cote learned as much as 20% of Honeywell’s reported earnings were coming from those one-time items known as “specials”: One plant manager in Louisiana even cut down trees in the forest adjoining the factory and sold the lumber to make the numbers––and received a performance reward for getting it done.
In aerospace, managers would compete for new contracts for wheels and brakes by providing the first hundred “ship sets” of those components for free. That’s standard practice in the industry. The difference was that Honeywell was capitalizing the cost of the ship sets and amortizing it over 20 years. “They did it,” says Cote, “because investors are much less alarmed by things that don’t go in the income statement.”
That wasn’t the only case of super-aggressive bookkeeping. Honeywell would capitalize R&D so that it spent the research dollars now, but spread the reported costs into the future. As a result, Honeywell’s reported profits kept rising faster than its cash flow, signaling that its facade of profitability was about to crumble. For the decade prior to Cote’s arrival, Honeywell was generating just 69¢ for every dollar in earnings, a sure sign of trouble.
It didn’t take long for trouble to strike. After Cote had served just a few months, the finance department revealed that earnings for the second half of 2002 would fall 20% below Honeywell’s forecast to Wall Street. “‘What the hell was going on?’ I asked,” writes Cote. “Their response, ‘Well, the financial goals we were trying to meet were never realistic to begin with.’” The finance chiefs brushed off managers’ complaints, telling them to “Just get it done.” Honeywell’s stock price dropped 25%, and an enraged Cote told everyone to drop the tricks––no more aggressive accounting, no more capitalizing R&D and ship sets, no more distribution loading, and no more “make the numbers” meetings hosted by the finance staff that drove all of those dysfunctional decisions.
Although the “make the numbers or bust” mindset was hammering Honeywell, Cote still believed that achieving regular quarterly gains in earnings––reaping a healthy crop today, no gimmicks allowed––was essential to success. At the same time, Honeywell would need to start investing now in new products, services, and processes, as well as international expansion, to secure its future, by planting seeds for tomorrow.
“We would have to win today and set ourselves up for tomorrow,” he says. “I realized we could do both at the same time. Short- and long-term goals are more tightly intertwined than they appeared. Short-term results would validate that we were on the right long-term path.” What’s more, he added to me in an interview, each goal reinforces rather than contradicts the other.
To get there, Cote vowed to follow three principles. The first was “Scrub accounting and business practices down to what’s real.” Second came “Invest in the future but not excessively” followed by “Grow sales while keeping fixed costs constant.” The theme was to plow current earnings into the long-horizon projects such as next-gen aircraft cockpits and new molecules for refrigeration that Honeywell was shortchanging, but not invest too much.
Honeywell would maintain sufficient quarterly earnings to demonstrate consistent progress. By expanding sales while holding the fixed costs, consisting primarily of labor, constant, Honeywell could generate the savings to keep raising its spending on both big, multiyear systems and enhancements to existing products and services and still generate the short-term returns investors expected. Those practices would get the flywheel spinning, and a “virtuous cycle” would take hold, which would allow Honeywell to generate even more cash to invest, which would lead to further performance gains.
Cote’s plan for restraining costs came in two parts. First, he immediately demanded that the four big overhead functions, finance, human resources, legal, and IT, representing about one-fifth of fixed expenses, hold their annual dollar outlays at 2003 levels, forever. “The goal was to double sales, so that overhead would fall by 50% as a share of revenues,” he told me in an interview. As it turned out, the costs of the four functions actually fell by 30% or $1 billion over 15 years, so that spending rose more like 30¢ for each dollar gain in revenues. “We used part of the savings to improve IT for all four functions, so that we needed fewer managers,” says Cote. “For every 10 managers who retired or left, we only had to replace about seven.”
In line with his conviction to achieve two seemingly conflicting things at the same time, he also demanded that the four functions demonstrate better service to their internal Honeywell customers, as determined by anonymous surveys. Cote also taught the Honeywell brass to take on broader roles, so that he could run the company with far fewer leaders. The leadership ranks over 16 years shrank from 740 to 650 even as sales almost doubled. “I did it for two reasons,” says Cote, “to save costs, but most important, because leaders create work for other leaders, and instead of focusing on markets and customers, focus on satisfying each other.”
The second initiative was an epic campaign to boost productivity in manufacturing. “If you can grow output much faster than you add costs, including for payroll and floor space,” says Cote, “you’re bound to generate the savings that both fuel new investment, and increase quarterly earnings.” In 2005, Cote dispatched a team to study Toyota’s celebrated Toyota Production System, at the automaker’s plant in Georgetown, Ky. Over the next decade, Honeywell gradually rolled out its Honeywell Operating System or HOS, largely based on the TPS practices of engaging workers to recommend and implement improvements in their factory-floor tasks that save costs and improve quality.
The initiative was so successful that Honeywell over that period increased its sales per employee by two-thirds. HOS also enabled Honeywell to keep shrinking factory space as it made more and more product. By 2018, Honeywell was producing far bigger volumes in only 70% of the plant footprint it was using in 2002.
Early in Cote’s tenure, Honeywell was manufacturing sensors in 37 small plants. Cote asked the managers to do a “white paper” exercise imagining the ideal footprint if manufacturing could be redesigned from scratch. The answer was more like 12 factories that each produced much bigger volumes. In a classic Cote “go slow to go fast” maneuver, the sensors unit spent 10 years making that blueprint a reality by packing all production into a dozen plants. “We did it laying off just a few workers a year so that we didn’t disrupt customer service,” writes Cote. “It was part of our philosophy of constant restructuring.”
Cote notes he reached his expense targets while still increasing the number of workers in manufacturing. “We started with around 60,000 in 2002,” he said in an interview. “And we hired about 20,000 or 30%-plus over 15 years. The key was that we doubled the size of the company, so the revenues grew much faster than payroll.”
Those cost-savings plans freed the cash for both short- and long-cycle investments. For Cote, the bigger challenge by far was finding the right mega-bets that would swell earnings anywhere from two to six years hence. “We were already getting lots of enhancements on existing products because people wanted to make their numbers for the quarter,” he says. “HOS enabled us to make those improvements a lot faster, but the big one was the seed planting.” He writes that prior to his arrival, Honeywell was spreading investment dollars across a broad spectrum of projects without carefully assessing their potential profitability, hoping that the more bets you made, the more would win. Cote moved to advancing fewer huge platforms that played to Honeywell’s greatest strengths, especially in aerospace, and that promised the biggest payoff.
One major hit was HFO, a new form of fluorine for industrial refrigeration. HFO was a breakthrough molecule that Honeywell developed in a quest to reduce the global warming caused by previous fluorine molecules. “That was really touch and go,” Cote told me. “It took five years, and there were two or three times when we thought it wouldn’t work.” HFO raises global warming 20% less than carbon dioxide and 1,500 times less than the previous molecule, and it has mushroomed into a highly profitable $1 billion business.
Another haymaker: Experion Orion Console, a monitoring system for oil refineries. “It’s like a jetliner cockpit for refineries,” says Cote. “It collects and processes huge amounts of data from the facility, and controls all the flows to ensure the highest possible productivity and safety.” It was Darius Adamczyk, whom Cote mentored and succeeded him as CEO, who shepherded the Experion Orion. Overall, says Cote, Honeywell now captures three-quarters of the big aerospace projects it competes for, up from half in 2002. And by the way, today’s hits are much bigger than yesterday’s.
Overall, says Cote, Honeywell’s strongest growth engine was the payoff from long-horizon projects. Of the extra $18 billion in sales generated from 2002 to 2018, $6.5 billion came from acquisitions, and the remaining $11.5 from its own products. And three-quarters of that organic growth flowed from Cote’s seed planting.
In Winning Now, Winning Later, Cote relates that in large meetings, he’d listen to the presentations and encourage everyone to talk. And when the open discussion ended, he’d request opinions on how to proceed from everyone in the room. He always asked the lowest level managers to speak first, and as they talked, he’d show no hint of agreeing or disagreeing. “If their bosses spoke first, the lower level folks would be tempted to just parrot what their bosses said,” Cote told me. “I’d never interrupt and wouldn’t express my opinion until the very end.”
For Cote, teamwork consisted not of the usual groupthink but ensuring that everyone in the room cited facts and expressed opinions. Then Cote, as leader, would make a decision and explain his reasoning. Cote wasn’t looking for widespread buy-in. “Consensus was not the goal. A good decision was the goal,” he says. However, Cote always explained his rationale, to guide the organization on how the leader wanted them to think about problems and let the people who disagree understand that he weighed their arguments and respected their viewpoint. Cote says his goal was to be right at the end of the meeting, which might be different from what he thought at the beginning. And the only way to get as close as possible to “right” was to keep participants from knowing what he thought and getting facts and opinions from everybody.
Once again, Cote thinks it’s constructive to call out a leader who presents a weak business plan so that all present understands what the boss accepts. “Organizations need to learn what is acceptable and what is not,” he told me. “If a business head presents a plan that’s not well thought through, or gives me a great story instead of results, I’ll call them to task. Everyone around the table needs to hear that the work product is not acceptable.”
His technique isn’t to personalize the problem. “I won’t call them an idiot,” says Cote. Instead, he’ll ask the executive to start over and come back with a much better proposal. “The leader will walk out thinking, ‘That wasn’t a good meeting,’” says Cote. “But it creates a good dynamic. It builds respect for you when you tell them what’s wrong. They may panic, but they’ll come back with something a hell of a lot better.” Cote adds that he would always suggest ways the executive could improve his or her plan. “I’d always say, ‘Here are four or five things you need to think about,’” he recalls. “I worked for bosses who’d give you no idea what was wrong and just say, ‘Do better.’ When your people respond to positive suggestions, their business gets better.”
During the financial crisis, Cote focused just as much on ensuring that Honeywell could roar back in the recovery as on lowering costs to preserve investment and profits. “An economist said that you’ll most likely come out of a downturn the inverse of the way you went in,” he relates in the book. “That made a tremendous amount of sense to me. If your sales fall 20% in the first six months of the recession, they’ll probably jump by 20%-plus to the same level when the economy bounces back.” Cote orchestrated his response to ensure that Honeywell could handle a huge surge in orders to capitalize during the inevitable recovery.
Cote laid off 3,000 workers, moving up reductions already planned. But for the rest of the 125,000-person workforce, he deployed furloughs to keep everyone employed at the same time his rivals were axing a big chunk of their workforces. Employees were furloughed without pay for four weeks a year. That move saved $200 million, but it wasn’t enough. Cote also reduced the 401(k) match by 50%, used HOS to keep trimming operating costs, and forced management to take some of the pain by scrapping bonuses for 2009. “We performed in line with our peers, with two big differences,” he writes. “We didn’t cut our long-term investment plans, and for the most part, we didn’t cut people. Recessions don’t have to destroy your foundation. It’s best to keep calm while everyone else is panicking.”
Cote pushed ahead with two key acquisitions: One of them, the purchase of bar code scanning specialist Metrologic, landed its leader Adamczyk. He also made special deals with suppliers to ensure that Honeywell got first priority on supplies in the recovery. “If airline hours decline 6%, you go down three levels in the supply chain for parts, and the suppliers cut their capacity by 50%,” he said in an interview. “Then when flights pick up, this avalanche of orders pours in, and you can’t get supplies.” Cote’s solution: Make advance payments to vendors in exchange for a commitment to serve Honeywell first when good times return, and guarantee big future volumes providing the suppliers give Honeywell first dibs.
The strategy proved a winner when sales took off in 2011 and 2012. His workers were ready to go, while rivals struggled to quickly rebuild their workforces and keep pace with orders, and stood in line behind Honeywell for supplies. Over those two years, its sales of aerospace parts soared 30% above pre-crisis levels, largely because the ever-agile Honeywell stole orders from its flat-footed competitors.
Believe it or not, this review only scratches the surface of this book, brimming with original strategies that actually worked. Cote swears that part of being a successful CEO is being a good teacher. Now, readers from around the globe can absorb his lessons.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt believes that legislative efforts to bar Chinese students from studying in the U.S. could be “against our own self-interest.”
The Trump administration declared in May that Chinese students studying in America who have ties to certain Chinese institutions might steal intellectual property. The institutions are not named in the proclamation.
Chinese authorities “use some Chinese students, mostly post‑graduate students and post-doctorate researchers, to operate as non-traditional collectors of intellectual property,” the proclamation reads. “Thus, students or researchers from the PRC studying or researching beyond the undergraduate level who are or have been associated with the PLA are at high risk of being exploited or co-opted by the PRC authorities and provide particular cause for concern.”
Schmidt, who chairs the Defense Innovation Board and the National Security Council for Artificial Intelligence, said, “This current trend to restrict Chinese student access to universities is against our own self-interest.”
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The former tech mogul made his remarks during an exclusive taped interview to air on Wednesday as part of the Defense One Tech Summit.
“Remember that, in America, the military does not build very much. Not only do you have to have military capability but the contractors also have to get this talent and most of them don’t have it, to be honest,” he said, according to Defense One.
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“One of the things that we looked at was the role of Chinese students in American research. And for those of you who are shocked by this, I’m sorry but I’ll tell you the truth, that many of the top graduate students are foreign-born and typically Chinese. That’s partly because the really, really smart Chinese researchers would prefer to be here. They love America! And they love the freedoms. … They want academic freedom,” Schmidt explained.
In a June statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to play down the chance that large numbers of Chinese graduate students would be kicked out of the country.
“Our concern is with the malign actions of the Chinese Communist Party and specific individuals, not with the Chinese people,” Pompeo said. “The graduate students and researchers who are targeted, co-opted, and exploited by the PRC government for its military gain represent a small subset of Chinese student and researcher visa applicants coming to the United States.”
This week, when the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers were protected from job discrimination under federal job discrimination laws, it was a moment of celebration for, in some cases, a lifetime of hard work. The LGBTQ ruling was achieved on the broad shoulders of the willing and the courageous. For me, it was a moment of reflection and connection.
I am fortunate to now be in a position of CEO-level leadership. Like the rights achieved by the LGBTQ community, my career trajectory has been supported by a community—friends and colleagues who have given me the courage to push forward.
As we celebrate this landmark ruling, I asked them for their reactions, comments, and stories in an email chain. Their careers represent lifetimes of experience in business and nonprofit settings, in big companies and small, in locations across the nation. Their collective work is representative of the work so many in our community had to do to get us here. Rather than summarize their comments, I share their words to inform our future and recognize our past.
“I remember, as if it were yesterday, a meeting held 30 years ago, when as a young gay junior employee, I along with a few gay colleagues, met with American Express’s CEO Harvey Golub to plead for the right to purchase benefits for our same-sex partners. I was fearful and unsure whether we would prevail. We did and I believe employee requests like mine happened across corporate America and were the early steps that began this incredible march to the recent Supreme Court decision.” —Sally Susman, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer, Pfizer
“In 1998, I asked my former CEO at Bell Atlantic to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee, (chaired by Senator Kennedy) in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and he did! I remember sitting in the Senate hearing room thinking just how historic the moment was. I never thought that it would take another 28 years for it to become a reality. It reminds me of MLK’s famous quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’” —Lisa Sherman, president and CEO, Ad Council
“This decision is the culmination of years of organizing inside of companies by LGBTQ people and allies willing to put their careers on the line for change. Elizabeth Birch pioneered this corporate advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign Fund when she arrived there from Apple and it’s come so far. Victory is a wonderful testament to this year’s long strategy as so many companies joined with activists and asked the Supreme Court to affirm these rights. It wasn’t easy for us to be out then and doing this work, so thank God we were young and fearless. I am so proud that activists today have taken up the next frontier of intersectional rights and alliances. It’s all connected.” —Hilary Rosen, vice chair, SKDKnickerbocker
“When I attended business school in the ’90s, I was one of only seven openly gay or lesbian students in the entire class. Some of my peers had never met or even heard from a gay person—and these were going to be the country’s future business leaders. I saw firsthand how different life experiences shaped conversations in new ways and sparked ideas that never would have happened otherwise. I firmly believe diverse teams are stronger teams, and I strongly hope that this ruling means more people across the country can show up as their full selves at work.” —Jana Rich, founder, Rich Talent Group
“Representative” is a powerful word. The LGBTQ community is represented by powerful, thoughtful people who contribute to the success of organizations every day, and a robust community of individuals and allies who have done the hard work to give them shoulders to stand on as they reach for their dreams. Today, those shoulders are a little broader, the stretch is a little easier, and the success is a little sweeter.
Beth Ford is president and CEO of Land O’Lakes.