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James Meadows
Works at Assemblies of God
Attended University of Phoenix
Lives in Kansas City, Missouri
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James Meadows

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WHEN THE BOAT MUST FLOAT

I have been monitoring the Panama Canal expansion project completion with great interest. Finally complete after a decade, costing $5.4 billion, and involving 40,000 workers, the project was not without its difficult days. In fact, this one might turn out to be a classic case destined for the business school textbooks on how not to do project planning. A number of red flags catch our attention:

In 2009, the four-nation consortium led by a Spanish company, was awarded the bid at $3.1 billion. This was a billion dollars cheaper than the closest competitive bid. Was it realistic? Obviously not, since the total cost at completion was $5.4 billion.

From the beginning, leadership almost seemed in a state of disarray. As the New York Times describes, “Some executives appeared not to fully grasp how little money they had to complete a complex project with a tight deadline and a multicultural team whose members did not always see things the same way.” (Walt Bogdanich, Jacqueline Williams, and Ana Graciela Mendez. “Panama Canal Begins New Era under a Cloud” in The Kansas City Star. June 23, 2016, pp. 7A, 10A).

Lock design may have fallen short. Tugboat captains report that they will have difficulties escorting big container ships due to the tight fit. The new lock dimensions are 1,400 by 180 feet. Tugboats are about 100 feet long and the container ships are 1,200 by 160 feet. Do the math. Some experts assert that the new lock dimensions should have been 1,528 by 200 feet. We will have to see how the traffic flows, especially under all weather conditions.

Quality concerns about the concrete emerged. Unexpected leaks in the locks required repairs and reinforcements. That does not bode well for a facility that is supposed to control water.

You can only build as well as you can design, and you can only design as well as you can plan, and you can only plan as well as you can research. It always comes back to the research. I have never seen a project team that regretted it did too much research. I have seen many that regretted they did too little research.

In the Panama Canal expansion project, it seems the research was not as thorough as it should have been. Hopefully, business students will learn from it, project teams will learn from it, and every observer will learn from it. Many future “Panama Canals” await us. How well we do the research will make all the difference in the world.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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WHEN LESS LIMELIGHT IS GOOD

What do these companies have in common?

Uber.

Vanguard.

Fidelity.

Kaiser Permanente.

NFL.

State Farm.

Dell.

SpaceX.

According to Fortune, they are among the 25 most important private companies. Publicly traded companies are great. They will always have their place. Nevertheless, a trend is afoot of increasing numbers of companies choosing to remain private or switching to private ownership from being publicly traded as Geoff Colvin describes (“Private Desires”, June 1, 2016, pp. 52–57):

“American business is increasingly shunning the traditional marker of making it—being publicly traded—in favor of private ownership. While the total number of U.S. companies continues to grow, the number that are traded on stock exchanges has plunged 45% since peaking 20 years ago.” (p. 53)

Certain advantages arise when a company chooses to remain private or when a publicly traded company chooses to go private. Colvin goes on to emphasize the attractive and strategic benefits of corporate privacy:

“You know something big is happening when such high-profile public companies as Dell and Safeway go private. They rave about their newfound ability to invest for the long term and focus on the business rather than on Wall Street, but the truth is that both were motivated in large part by that modern scourge of public companies, the activist investor.”

Being able to concentrate resources on the business itself is a great efficiency and effectiveness enhancer. Simultaneously, much energy can be preserved by not having to be constantly addressing the whims and woos of the public or other investors.

Obviously, private companies should still be extremely attentive to the public’s feedback. A private company should have just as much of a commitment as a public company to producing a stellar customer experience, maintaining good public relations, and doing business ethically. I think that the private company can be the leaner, meaner machine to reach those objectives. And there’s a whole lot of private companies that feel the same way.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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A CLASSIC CONTRAST

One of the market fixtures of the nation’s economy has been Sears. Sadly, the company has been in a long, slow decline for the past two decades. Last month the company announced that it was considering selling off three of its classic assets: Craftsman brand tools, DieHard batteries, and Kenmore appliances.

That announcement puts in stark contrast the position from which Sears once ruled the marketplace. It reminds us of these essential business lessons:

Anything can and will change.

Most factors that affect business are unpredictable.

Just because you are king of the hill one day never precludes sitting in the valley the next day.

If the Sears announcement does nothing more than prompt us to reflect upon the above truths, then we will all be further ahead for it. Business is tough enough already. Therefore, we must never forget these business lessons so that we can be better prepared for whatever the future brings.

Finally, I could not help but notice the thoughtful, almost poetic manner in which Lauren Coleman-Lochner summarizes the classic contrast between where Sears is today versus where Sears once was (“Searsly?” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/6/16–6/12/16, pp. 14–15):

“Once upon a time, Sears was the Amazon.com and Walmart of U.S. merchandising. Customers could order just about anything for delivery—even a kit to build a 10-room colonial-style house—from the Sears catalog, a compendium of the American dream with a reach into the rural parts of the country that helped make Sears, Roebuck America’s largest merchant.” (p. 14)

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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THE KEY TO TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF SOMEONE

David Linde is the CEO of Participant Media. He articulates a life lesson that summarizes the significance of diversity (“How Did I Get Here?: David Linde” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/23/16–5/29/16, p. 72):

“You can only understand somebody if you understand their culture and where they’re from.”

Most of us tend to underestimate culture. That is a big mistake. Most of us tend to discount a person’s origins. That is another big mistake. Diversity teaches us that we must always consider a person’s culture and origins. That is of course, if we genuinely want to understand that person.

On the other hand, if we don’t genuinely want to understand that person, then we can dismiss culture and origins. Why would we care?

Every time that I have learned something more about another person’s culture and origins, I gained a deeper understanding of how that person thinks and behaves. Gaining that knowledge has always served me well.

The next time you meet someone new, take time to learn about that person’s culture and origins. You will be glad you did . . . and so will that person.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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ANSWERS IN TIME

Sometimes you face a problem or a frustrating situation and you don’t have the solution. We all face those scenarios and we all feel their pain. Although we might want the answer right now, sometimes the solution is elusive. In those situations, we must discipline ourselves to do some waiting. David Linde (CEO of Participant Media) articulates a life lesson that neatly summarizes this concept (“How Did I Get Here?: David Linde” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/23/16–5/29/16, p. 72):

“Give yourself time, and you’ll find the answer.”

In our always-on, constantly connected, Google-empowered, instant results world, that can be a tough pill to swallow. Nevertheless, some answers simply take time. Maybe we need to think deeper and longer. Maybe another person has the solution. Maybe the solution will be different and better tomorrow. Maybe we need to do more research. Maybe we cannot recognize the solution today, but we will tomorrow.

Instant answers are overrated. Embrace the waiting. In my experience, some of the best answers take time to ferment before bearing their fruit. That means that the wait was worth it.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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THE SPEED OF CHANGE

Sometimes having a key life and business strategy is immensely more important than having formal education. Tom Colicchio has certainly demonstrated that truth. Colicchio’s academic record begins and ends with Elizabeth High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, Colicchio understood a life and business strategy that some people with much more formal education have still not learned (“How Did I Get Here?: Tom Colicchio” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/16/16–5/22/16, p. 88):

“Change quickly. You typically don’t get a second chance.”

Being able to change on the fly is something that some folks seem to do naturally and others miss completely. Colicchio’s articulation of this truth reminds us that because our world is constantly changing, we must constantly be prepared to change too.

Once you realize that you need to make a change, do it quickly. The road of procrastination leads to a town called nowhere. Colicchio made changes quickly throughout his life and business. It served him well. Today he is the head judge on Top Chef. That strategy will work for you and me too.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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James Meadows

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THE SOFTWARE OF WHAT

Well, the Internet of Things (IOT) is upon us. It incrementally crawls our way, counting our computers to calculate the most cunning way to collect everything into one convenient command center. Whether the IOT is a modern hi-tech marvel for which we should all be grateful seems to be a matter of varied opinion. That opinion is somewhat based on your history, predilections, and experiences for good or for bad.

Sometimes the IOT goes well and sometimes . . . it’s just, “well!” It kind of reminds me of another era (late 1980s to early 1990s) when this wonderful thing called software was flooding the market of novice PC users. I call that time the Software Of What (SOW). The reason I say that is because so many PC crashes (and there were so many in those days!) were directly linked to that latest piece of software you installed. Technical support offices eventually would fess up, “yeah, we have a software conflict with [you fill in the blank], but we are working on a fix.” In the modern day we have advanced from the SOW to the IOT. I like the way that David Pogue (anchor columnist for Yahoo Tech and host of several NOVA miniseries) explains the joyful uncertainty surrounding the IOT (“At Your Command” Scientific American, July 2016, p. 25):

“The first moments of ownership usually involve downloading an app, creating an account and connecting the thing to your Wi-Fi network. Sometimes that all goes well. Sometimes there goes your Saturday afternoon.

Then you’ve got the Tower of Things Babel to contend with: The apps don’t talk to one another.”

Hey, let’s take it all in stride. We all know that our physical bodies encounter growing pains. What makes us think that we are exempt from them in our cyber-world bodies?

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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REMEMBERING COMMERCIALS

Does anyone remember what commercials are? Oh sure, we are still confronted by them occasionally when we are trapped by time and circumstance. However, as most of us realize, zapping through those commercials on a recorded TV program has become routine. Additionally, increasing numbers of viewers are cutting the cable cord to run with various streaming services.

Companies such as Viacom, CBS, Time Warner, and others are losing billions in market value as investors digest these trends. The world of TV entertainment is looking very different today than a generation ago. Exactly if and how the stakeholders choose to adapt is an interesting trend to watch. Perhaps in some cases, they will succumb to entropy and disappear from the entertainment landscape. Erin Griffith summarizes the current state of affairs (“Fear and Loathing in TV Land” Fortune, July 1, 2016, p. 48):

“The digital world has become a hostile place for advertising. . . .

By the time the TV companies catch up to the future, their business may be long gone.”

Advertising makes a lot of things possible in the entertainment world even when we do not appreciate its interruptive nature. The key players have to figure out a way to keep consumers happy and still generate a profit. Regardless of what strategy is created, I predict that our love/hate relationship with advertising will need some tough-love therapy.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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WHEN MATTRESSES ARE BETTER BANKS

Interest rates are always a concern, especially when it comes to your money. As long as the financial institution is paying you a reasonable interest rate for the use of your money, then everyone is happy. However, if that interest rate ever becomes extremely low, then you must reevaluate matters. That is what consumers in Japan are doing right now.

This past January, the Bank of Japan announced interest rates in the negative. Should that carry through to the rates on consumer accounts, then your mattress starts to look better than the bank. That is exactly what some Japanese consumers are now doing (Kevin Buckland, Shigeki Nozawa, and Kazumi Miura. “Japanese Choose the Mattress Over Banks” Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/6/16–6/12/16, pp. 12–13):

“When the Bank of Japan unexpectedly announced negative interest rate policies in January, the first thing Tomomi Sato did was withdraw a 10th of the money in her bank account to keep it safe at home.” (p. 12)

Hey, inflation is something that we must always watch. Nevertheless, it’s better than deflation most days. Here’s hoping we don’t have to make our mattresses do double duty.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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UPSWING FOR ENTREPRENEURS

Entrepreneurs are extremely important to growth in technology, business, jobs, and the economy. Unfortunately, the Great Recession had a negative effect on entrepreneurial activities as indicated by the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship data. Shortly after 2008 is when that index began to decline. The good news is that it bottomed out in 2013 and since then it has been on a strong upswing.

No one can argue that the Great Recession had a negative impact on our national economy on multiple levels. This is why I am so glad to see that the entrepreneurs are getting back into the game with increasing intensity. It is the entrepreneurs that assume the risk, forge ahead with new visions and ideas, and ultimately create opportunities that enrich many other segments of the marketplace and our society. Simultaneously, financial institutions and angel investors see the opportunities and feel empowered to loosen their purse strings.

As they have done so many times in the past, we are trusting that our entrepreneurs will continue to take the lead in shaping a better future for us all.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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THE GUARANTEED PATH TO PERSPECTIVE

David Linde is the CEO of Participant Media. He articulates a life lesson about why experiences are vital to our personal and professional growth (“How Did I Get Here?: David Linde” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/23/16–5/29/16, p. 72):

“Build perspective through experiences.”

Although I agree with Linde’s statement, I see two implicit presuppositions:

We embrace situations that create new experiences.

We embrace the learning opportunities from those experiences.

I think that some people are better at this than others are. Our goal should be to force ourselves into new experiences that push us beyond our comfort zones. After having those new experiences, we should reflect deeply so that we extract the fullest possible learning value.

This means that we must be open-minded. If we do all that successfully, then we will gain perspective. That refined perspective is something that no one can ever take away from us.

Pursue perspective. Pursue experiences.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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ALWAYS PLANTING SEED

Farmers understand that they need to be planting seed constantly one way or another. Everything that they do is geared to the harvest. This principle works in the business world too. Tom Colicchio (head judge on Top Chef) affirms it (“How Did I Get Here?: Tom Colicchio” Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/16/16–5/22/16, p. 88):

“Be your own farm team. If you don’t provide opportunities to grow, people leave.”

When it comes to talent management, either you manage your talent up or you manage them out. Smart companies have learned the value of good old-fashioned farm work. They constantly invest in their staff so that their staff continually finds growth opportunity right where they are planted.

Some companies try to minimize or even eliminate investing in their people. That is a losing strategy. For a season, it might appear that they are doing a great job lowering expenses. However, that brings its own harvest—people leave.

Be a smart company; be a farmer. That will create the kind of crops you look forward to harvesting.

[Today’s post— Blog.reliableinsights.com.]
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People
In his circles
62 people
Work
Occupation
Training Team Manager, Business Consultant, Freelance Corporate Writer, Ordained Minister, and Associate Faculty Member
Employment
  • Assemblies of God
    Ordained Minister, 1985 - present
  • Jimfreelance.com
    Freelance Corporate Writer, 1988 - present
  • Reliableinsights.com
    Business Consultant, 1999 - present
  • University of Phoenix
    Associate Faculty, 2010 - present
  • Tyco Integrated Security
    Training Team Manager, 2005 - present
  • Central Bible College
    Adjunct Faculty, 1997 - 2002
  • AT&T
    Quality Manager, 1996 - 2005
  • New Paradigm Business Enterprises
    Owner, 1995 - 1996
  • Assemblies of God
    Data Control Clerk, 1986 - 1988
  • Eastman Kodak
    Chemical Technician, 1978 - 1985
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
Kansas City, Missouri
Story
Introduction
  • Assemblies of God Ordained Minister.
  • Tyco Integrated Security Training Team Manager.
  • Freelance Corporate Writer.
  • Business Consultant.
  • University of Phoenix Associate Faculty.
  • Passionate about all I do, and always carry an indelible sense of humor.
  • Although I am involved in many different disciplines, I continuously find they synergistically cross-pollinate to make me even more effective in each one.
  • Business blog www.blog.reliableinsights.com.
  • Business humor blog www.recallredeemerman.blogspot.com.

 

Bragging rights
Survived Y2K and three teenagers. Married 32 years to the same wonderful woman. Two-time winner of the AT&T Winning Spirit Award.
Education
  • University of Phoenix
    M.B.A., 2007 - 2009
  • Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    D.Min. (all but project), 1993 - 1996
  • Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
    M.Div. Pastoral Counseling, 1986 - 1988
  • Central Bible College
    Theology and Philosophy, 1985 - 1985
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
    B.S. Chemistry, 1978 - 1983
  • Broome Community College
    A.A.S. Chemical Technology, 1975 - 1978
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Relationship
Married
Other names
James T. Meadows; Jim Meadows