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GE prepared to invest $300 million in new CEO

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GE has made a $300 million bet on its new CEO and the performance that the board hopes he will deliver. The new CEO is Larry Culp — and success for Culp could bring considerable share benefits.

General Electric Co. will remunerate its new chief executive with up to $21 million a year for four years. To add to this there are options for issuing the new chief with hundreds of millions of dollars, with these payments tied to GE’s stock performance, according to The Wall Street Journal. The big payoff will come if GE’s shares rise at least 50 percent and stay there on average over 30 trading days between now and 2022.

Culp and culpability

Culp’s appointment follows on from outgoing CEO John Flannery. Flannery was GE’s eleventh CEO and the company’s tenth Chairman, although he only spent around one year in the role. GE ditched Flannery, according to The Financial Times, based on progress being too slow and due to a lower-than-expected profits outlook. Flannery’s tenure was the shortest of any previous leader in the company’s 126-year history. During Flannery’s year, GE’s share price fell by more than 50 percent.

Promotion from without

H. Lawrence “Larry” Culp Jr. becomes the first outsider to run GE in the company’s history. Prior to his appointment, Culp worked at Danaher Corporation in Washington, D.C. Danaher’s products are concentrated in the fields of design, manufacturing, and marketing of industrial, healthcare and consumer products.

As to why Culp has been offered such a lucrative package, the Boston Globe has the basis of an answer: “Larry Culp is a nuts-and-bolts executive with little name recognition outside of the business world, noted for turning a little-known industrial conglomerate into a hugely profitable growth machine.”

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Leadership

Ethics and data management key to business strategy in 2019

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As well as the other challenges facing businesses in 2019 and beyond, a particular focus needs to be placed onto digital ethics and data privacy, according to industry analysts Gartner. The firm outlines the top ten coming industry and technology trends in a new report.

The new Gartner document is titled “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019” and it takes a look into what might be in store for corporations for the next year. Three of the key trends are discussed below: ethics, privacy and connected and automated technologies.

Business ethics are needed to ensure brand loyalty

The report focuses on the new elements for businesses strategies for the coming year, with the overall message that businesses need to place individuals and society at the forefront. These types of business behaviors are seen as necessary to ensure that businesses retain a competitive edge, especially with Millennials and Generation Z. These demographics are as a whole more in tune with what businesses do in terms of corporate governance, and they will shy away from companies that do not appear to proport certain values or ethics.

For example, the most recent Deloitte Millennial Survey found that those of the Millennials and Generation Z generation place a strong emphasis upon ethical businesses and business leaders showing they care about society.

Data privacy

Many consumers have lost faith in corporations in terms of data privacy. Businesses that can show they place data privacy at the heart of their digital businesses ethics are more likely to keep customers. The signal is that customer attitudes to data privacy and protection are changing fast in both the business and consumer markets.

Consequently, and supported by a recent IBM poll, trust in a company handling data correctly is now a key consumer issue. To achieve a business culture that values data privacy requires appropriate leadership, in order to steer an ethical and transparent approach to data collection, management and use.

Connected and automated technologies

The report also has strong focus on emerging and connected technologies, such as blockchain, which provides a digital ledger that it clear and transparent; and connected services like cloud computing, which are predicated to push more responsibility for driving data back to the end users.

In addition, artificial intelligence remains of interest. AI offers a range of potential uses from assisting with product development to data extraction and analysis. However, the full capabilities of AI in terms of assisting with software development are unlikely to happen in 2019, according to the report.

What is more likely to continue, according to Gartner, is automation, especially in relation to the use of robots to replace the more mundane forms of human activity. This is, however, most likely to continue on a machine-for-person basis. The robotic concept of swarming — where desired collective behavior emerges from the interactions between the robots and interactions of robots with the environment — remains some way off.

While these technologies are useful, the report notes they have yet to achieve their full potential and organizations need to be careful when adopting them. This is because such “technologies and concepts are immature, poorly understood and unproven in mission-critical, at-scale business operations”. The adoption needs to have a firm goal placed central to any digital transformation process.

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Events

Packed house for Elevate ScaleUp reveals insight gems

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Today’s ScaleUp track at the Elevate Tech Festival involved incredible speakers sharing their thoughts on what it takes to go from a great startup to a phenomenal scaleup. Sponsored by CIBC and Osler, the event ran the gauntlet of tough subjects that scaleups must come to grips with.

Hopper CEO Frederic Lalonde brought the issue of product/ market fit into clear focus. It can make or break a company. And it can land you on Good Morning America!

Jonna Griffiths of Knixwear chatted with Janet Bannister of Real Ventures about what it takes to bring innovation to your organization. From day one, it’s all about how you communicate throughout your organization.

Dan Debow of Helpful got blunt about how to best be a constructive member of the scaleup community.

To top it all off, Cloudflare founder Michelle Zatlyn boiled scaleup culture down to a very simple principle.

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Culture

#ScaleStrategy Q&A: Borrowell’s Co-Founder on Why Scaleups Need Values More than Culture

Eva Wong discusses how the credit and fintech company keeps applying their values to support growth.

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Eva Wong, COO, Borrowell
Eva Wong, COO, Borrowell. - Photo by Tom and Keidi Photography
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#ScaleStrategy is produced by DX Journal and OneEleven. This editorial series delivers insights, advice, and practical recommendations to innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. 

Humility and half an hour saved Eva Wong, co-founder and COO of credit and fintech company Borrowell, nine months of tough learning.

“I remember having a half hour conversation about building a sales team with our OneEleven office neighbour. He took me into a board room and wrote out everything that he learned and the mistakes he made in the nine months it took to build out his team. That’s just one example of our first value: humility. Admitting there’s someone 15 years younger who’s been in business way less than I have been, but who knows way more about this than I do,” she recalls.  

Wong says values and the culture that emerges from them can help companies scale by bypassing cumbersome process and bureaucracy that can slow growing organizations. As Borrowell has grown from 4 to 45 employees, Wong says she has learned that values are more fixed — and crucial — than culture.

In the early days, we talked about culture fit. Now we talk much more about culture contribution. [New team members] don’t have to fit into the existing culture. As we grow and change, the culture will too. The values are more important to hold true to,” she says.

Recently, John Ruffolo, the chief executive officer of OMERS Ventures, caught up with Wong to discuss why scaleups need to pay close attention to culture, how it impacts hiring and how to scale it as the company grows.

John Ruffolo: Why is culture so key for scaleups?

Eva Wong: There’s a really popular quote that says “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is what keeps larger companies agile. If people don’t intuitively do the right things on their own, you have to add process and that slows companies down. For us, as we grow, a really strong culture involves ensuring people understand how they help us continue to scale in a way that avoids bureaucracy.

Ruffolo: How would you describe the culture at Borrowell?

Wong: Culture isn’t about perks. It’s not about things we do for fun. Or how the company has shared interests. For us, it’s clearly tied to our values. Our values are:

  1. We’re high-performing and humble.
  2. We’re trustworthy and team-oriented.
  3. We love learning.
  4. Act like owners.
  5. Diversity makes us better.

Ruffolo: When the initial team came together, did all of you share those values?

Wong: I don’t think it was as explicit. When you come together as co-founding team, you just click. It was more implicit. We did read the Netflix culture deck and said “that’s what we want our culture to be!” We knew we’d have to articulate it one day because people were asking what our culture is and we wanted to be consistent in how we described it.

Ruffolo: How did the culture shift as you grew from 4 to 45 employees?

Wong: We didn’t have our values established or written down when we were four people. That came when we were maybe 16 to 20. It was a collaborative, organic, bottom-up approach where we asked employees, ”What’s different about working here than other places you’ve worked?” People shared different things and we came up with the values that way.

But as we continue to grow, culture is naturally going to change and we’re okay with that. It has to change. What we don’t want to change are the values. We want to add people to the company who add to the culture, not necessarily stick in the lanes. We recognize that as we grow and become more diverse those values can manifest differently. We still want people to act like owners, but it just might look different compared to where we were when we started.

One thing our VP Talent, Larissa Holmes, launched within the company is a competency matrix, which explains what behaviours we expect from team members at each level of the organization. For example, if you’re a senior director what does it mean to be ‘high-performing and humble’? It’s also a way for employees to know what competencies are needed to move from a manager to a senior manager to a director and how those things are tied to our values. Employees have to get better at exemplifying the values to move up in the organization.

Ruffolo: Do you think culture is playing a role for talent wanting to work with you?

Wong: One hundred percent it is. A lot of people will check out Glassdoor before they come in, so they already have a sense of our culture and values. We take the interview process seriously as well, since it will be their first real taste of our culture. On Glassdoor, people can actually post reviews of the interview process, even if they’re not hired. There are posts from people who we turned down but who wrote positive reviews of their experience. We try to make sure that people we are interviewing see and meet various team members from different levels within the organization. That’s important to us.

Part of the interview process is doing an assignment, which exemplifies our values as well. It’s not just about who can talk a good game. You have to produce good work, too.

Ruffolo: In interviews, how do you describe your culture to a candidate?

Wong: Like any company, you can put values on a wall. But you need to give specific examples of how you actually live them. Our value ‘act like owners’ is a pretty good way of encompassing us. We really do encourage everyone to think about what they would do to make the whole company successful — to put on their CEO hat and think about what’s best for the business. It encourages people to avoid thinking in a very narrow sense about their role.

Our ‘high-performing and humble’ value is a big part of who we are too. Humility helps us recognize that although we’re all really smart and capable, you can’t just operate as an island. You’re dependant on your teammates, and we need to listen to our customers. Humility allows people to be able to take a step back and have their ideas challenged by others.

Ruffolo: Is there one of your five values that needs to be taken to the next level?

Wong: The value — ‘diversity makes us better’ — is something that we’re working to improve on. Our goal is to have a gender-balanced company, and we’re not there yet. We’re currently at 40%, which is not bad, but it’s not evenly distributed within our company. We’re continuing to track as we grow as a team at different levels and different departments.

Obviously, diversity isn’t only about gender. There are a number of different metrics we measure, including the percentage of employees that are born outside Canada. Since we have this focus on diversity and inclusion, I think we’re more likely to attract and retain diverse talent and to promote people with different backgrounds and experiences.

Ruffolo: Which entrepreneur inspires you the most and why?

Wong: There’s an entrepreneur named Kim Scott who has written a great book called “Radical Candor”. I admire her because she’s been very effective as a business person and operator without losing her humanity. She still cares very much about her team, and I think she would say those two things reinforce each other, whereas some people think you can either be a strong operator or a good person. She said in order to be an effective operator, you have to care about your team and have authentic relationships.

Ruffolo: Are there are books that helped you in your scaleup journey?

Wong: I read a book by Adam Grant called “Give and Take”. He talks about people falling into one of three categories: givers, takers, and matchers. Within givers, there are smart givers and there are pushovers — those who give but not in a smart way. They tend to burnout and get taken advantage of. Of all those groups, those who do the best are the smart givers. At Borrowell, we ask ourselves: “how do I give smart without burning out or being taken advantage of?”

Ruffolo: What is your number one piece of advice for a founder in the scaleup stage?

Wong: Constantly reevaluate what you’re doing and make sure you’re still working on the highest value things. When you’re scaling, things are constantly changing and you have to keep reevaluating your role. Are you spending your time doing the most high value activities?

#ScaleStrategy is produced by DX Journal and OneEleven. This editorial series delivers insights, advice, and practical recommendations to innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

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