If you can’t beat them (robots), should you join them? The quantified self will evolve to the optimized self, meaning humans will be supported by extreme wearable and embedded sensoring enabling real-time, on-demand guidance from a commercial cloud coach (Google?) for every step, move, and decision they make whether it’s at work or on the playing field; i.e., becoming more machine-like. The dark side is that humans’ born-with intelligence and cognitive skills and capacities will atrophy just like a broken leg in a cast. It will be the end of thinking.
What is modern slavery?
Where should transgender children use the bathroom?
Can enhanced interrogation (torture) ever be justified?
in general: lessons of history: The Guardians Pedersen > Geopolitics big ideas| oppression & struggle: Human Acts Kang | United Nations: Universal Declaration of Human Rights | dictatorships: Kim Jong-un | migrant workers: Cesar Chavez | torture: Break the Chain sp | CIA: Senate Report 2014 | ethiopia: Zone 9 | Geneva Conventions | Human Rights Watch: hrw | oral histories: Voice of Witness | UN Global Compact | modern trafficking: Human Trafficking Shelley | documentary: Harvest of Shame Murrow
My choice for a “2016 Person of the Year” is Lin-Manuel Miranda, who came out of the blue to produce, direct, and star in Hamilton which is quickly becoming one of the most successful musicals ever created.
Why Hamilton? And why Miranda? It is not just because it is a massive hit that is entertaining as hell, but it is because the musical and the man are inspiring us and teaching on so many levels:
Hamilton makes us sing.
Hamilton makes us dance.
Hamilton makes us laugh.
Hamilton makes us cry.
Hamilton makes us think!!
Hamilton is a tour de force experience that enlightens us, challenges us, provokes us, and wrings us dry of energy and emotion by the end of a performance. So it is no wonder that Miranda’s Hamilton is shattering records for the number of awards received and tickets sold. It is on a path to be a $billion+ artistic/entertainment enterprise that is touching and positively impacting (and this is very important) millions of people, young to old, around the world.
Hamilton as a creative product that deserves to be studied by those people who study such things. The musical is a who-knew fusion of history and hip-hop and dance and narrative at the right time, in the right way that has, in the parlance of innovation science, become a “breakthrough.”
Joseph Schumpeter wrote about “creative destruction,” which is what we observe when new innovations obsolete the incumbent technology/systems almost overnight, and in so doing create a new paradigm. Hamilton has broken some traditional rules of Broadway and created new rules which will inspire a fresh wave of creative innovators.
Haven’t we all daydreamed about creating our own breakthrough? We, people of earth, are all hard-wired to design, create, and build. We all can unleash that potential within us when we turn off the TV, turn off the “smart” phone, and sit quietly on the couch doodling and massaging ideas in our head. When you immerse yourself in the thinking flow, you can feel it (like browsing through a bookstore), and it feels good. Hamilton is exciting people all over the world to go do their creative thing.
But to chase and follow through on a crazy idea, it sometimes requires taking a flying leap-of-faith risk to make it happen. Unfortunately, most of us can’t quit our day jobs and because of family obligations or our own too big to fail situation, we step away from the risk and the creative moment is lost.
Is that you out there?
How many things can we point to this year that have lifted millions of people up, and up, and up even higher in 2016? In contrast, we have been saturated in a political season that has been a regrettable demonstration of the strategic power of negativity — the dark side of the force. In this dystrumpian, reality TV, pundit-overloaded world we now live in, we need more Hamiltonesque positivity to counterbalance the negativity of all the talking heads.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, you’ve got my vote!
The American Worker is the true and authentic engine of the U.S. economy: hard working, innovative, unafraid of risk, productive, efficient, can-do, get the job done. We go to work every day to build, repair, maintain, clean, deliver, teach, inspire, heal, protect, invent, design, create, entertain, serve, manufacture, and on and on. We are the ones who actually get things done.
And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), the 133 million American Independent Workers (non-union, “employed at will”) make up almost 90% of the U.S. workforce. But unlike our fellow union workers, American Workers are not bound together by an organizational structure with rules and dues; but rather, the resilience and power and spirit of the American Worker is guided and motivated by a set of values that we have shared for as long as there have been workers.
You might call it, A Values Manifesto for the American Worker.
We are loyal to our employers and owners
Every non-government job can be traced back to one person (entrepreneur) who had the guts and confidence to take the personal risk required to start and grow a business that created jobs. Therefore, we believe owners make the rules of their work domain because they take the personal risk and shoulder the responsibility to make our payroll every month. There is nothing stopping us from becoming owners ourselves and building our own organizations, culture, and values as we each see fit. It’s a free country, as we have always believed, so we each have the self-determination to decide and act as we choose.
We have always been willing to sacrifice and go with less for the company we work for if tough times demanded it. We generally do not file grievances or lawsuits. We work out issues with our employers face-to-face. We have always been loyal to our employers, unless of course, that loyalty is not reciprocated. We can always choose to walk out the door to a new and potentially better opportunity.
We are ready to do what needs to be done
Like most people, we do just about any task at home to take care of our families. We are prepared to do the same at work because it is, we think, the natural instinct of people to pitch in with a team, solve problems, and get things done wherever we find a need or whenever we are asked to help.
We believe arbitrary quotas and constraints that limit productivity go against the grain of the basic human impulse to continuously improve, go faster, work harder, produce more, and increase quality. We simply do as much as we can as efficiently as we can each workday while maintaining standards of quality.
We do not accept payment to not work. We generally do not need or collect unemployment. We reemploy ourselves almost immediately if we lose a job because our strong survival instincts drive us to always be prepared for adversity.
We accept the responsibility to survive on our own
We believe that in the working world, it is up to each worker to take full responsibility for their continuity of employment and to take care of their families. We believe that once a worker accepts that responsibility, they will take the actions to survive each and every day instead of waiting for someone else to take care of them. We believe that to enjoy the benefits of a free marketplace, each American Worker must own this responsibility.
Leaders (especially presidents) who politicize so-called workers’ rights and entitlements do a tremendous disservice to society by continuously promising what the nation does not have the cash to pay for without creating more debt. That kind of thinking and rhetoric is fueling a slow-burning bankruptcy in our cities, states, and nation.
We believe that we come into this world with no absolute entitlements except for what our parents can provide for us until we are capable of providing for ourselves the quality of life, safety, and happiness that we all seek and that we each earn with our own hands, minds, and hearts.
American Workers are survivors and take nothing for granted.
We care for those less fortunate than us
We believe that survival of the fittest does not mean that those less fit are left to struggle. We believe that if each community cares for their own family, friends, neighbors and citizens that are less fortunate, then we’ll all be okay.
We believe that we should all pitch in to support those that need some extra help as long as everyone else helps out in proportion to their means. We know that to maintain the continuity of work, a person must stay healthy, but some of us face adverse health issues and emergencies and disasters that come suddenly with no warning over which we have no control. The American Worker will be there to help. We make contributions to help the poor, chronically sick, disabled, and victimized. We do what we can to share and help out others that need our help, knowing they will do the same for us when the time comes.
However, we do believe that good health is enhanced by our attitudes and effort and determination to keep ourselves healthy. We don’t want to be sick, so generally we don’t get sick, and we don’t take sick days. When you hire the American Worker, you get 100% uptime. We live life to be healthy, to work hard and to play hard.
We always spend less than we earn
Wherever we are in our work journey and the pay we receive, we live within our means. How can an American Worker financially sustain themselves and their families any other way?
We pay all our bills. We pay our proportionate fair share of income taxes.
We generally do not file for personal bankruptcy because we do everything in our power to prevent it. We believe in resilience. We accept that the randomness of life and the axe of accountability will eventually strike us all, and when it does, we take our medicine and deal with it. We don’t believe democratic societies can or should bail out every person or organization no matter how too big to fail they are. We are skeptical of too big to fail bailouts when the loudest voices are coming from those that stand to lose the most wealth in their portfolios. The American Worker believes in one set of rules for all, both the haves and the have-nots.
We don’t expect anything free from anybody. We want to earn what we can based on our individual ability to earn; otherwise, it has no value to us.
We know what we are worth and we speak for ourselves
We do not require third-party organizations to establish our fair market value as workers. We rely on the marketplace to be a very efficient (if not brutal) system for establishing fair market value of the American Worker. Our leverage is our experience, skill, value, and the freedom of self-determination (i.e., you can take this job and shove it.)
We do not pay money to another person to sit at the negotiation table with our employers on our behalf. We are individually responsible for that task, and we save the money to invest directly in our professional and personal development.
The American Workers’ market value over the years has been, plus or minus, fair. It has never been propped up or guaranteed by a contract, lockout, walk out, picket line, strike, sickout, blue flu, quota, restriction, injunction, entitlement, you name it. We give our employer the benefit of the doubt that our pay is what our employers can reasonably afford for the business to be financially sustainable for the long term.It’s a free country, as we have always said, so if we cannot work out a mutually-acceptable level of pay, we can always go elsewhere or start a business of our own.
We always land on our feet
We don’t assume that any job can last forever. The world is global, competitive, and volatile, and we deal with that reality by preparing ourselves and always having a backup plan. We almost always remain employed but when we do lose a job, we are prepared to drop back a rung or two on the ladder (if need be) to rebuild ourselves with more experience and education/training, most of it low-cost to free in today’s online lifetime-learning world. When it comes to providing for and protecting our families, we never rest and we never give up.
We believe “chance favors the prepared mind,” and it also favors the prepared American Worker who is relentless about lifetime learning so that she or he is always employable at any age.
We make no excuses for adversity that inevitably will come our way. We go to the library, get online, and for free we learn and train to qualify for all kinds of good jobs on this planet. We don’t wait for an organization to train us and find us another job. We go get it on our own. We make getting a job a full-time job. Our attitude is to wake up at dawn and not come home until we find a job. That’s not to say that getting a job is sometimes hard, but we wake up each day with that attitude, day after day, for as long as it takes to get that next job.
We respect Organized American Labor and are appreciative of their contributions
We respect and appreciate what union workers have done for our country and the good job that they continue to do today. We believe it is critical in this world for independent and union workers to stand side-by-side to get things done.
But the fact is, American Independent Workers comprise 90% of the U.S. workforce. We are the independent, self-sufficient, lean and mean American Workers driven by several key principles:
- Subsidiarity: We believe in the Principle of Subsidiarity which says that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, and least centralized competent authority.
- Trustworthiness: We are skeptical of the trustworthiness of all things BIG: Government, Corporate Business; Nonprofit Organizations, even Religions. Fundamentally, we believe that wherever wealth and power are concentrated, it inevitably becomes the breeding ground for unethical opportunistic behavior, greed, cronyism, corruption, and fraud. History driven by human behavior predictably repeats itself in this regard.
- Self-Determination: While adhering to the Rule of Law, we never hand over our individual self-determination to any person or organization if we don’t have to.
The American Worker is the Economy
The American Worker is the true engine of OUR ECONOMY which is not a politician’s or a government’s or a corporation’s or a party’s economy. It has always been and will always be, OUR ECONOMY, and the politicians are hired by and report to the American Worker. No one person (or President) has all the answers and the power and the money and the time to unilaterally lift our country’s economy up and forward in the face of increasing global competition.
Only each individual American Worker can make an impact starting at 8:00 am tomorrow morning, magnified by the strength and power and resilience of values shared among 133 million American Workers. We need not wait another 4-8 years for the federal government to come to the rescue. We, the American Workers, know what to do and together we can change the world for the better, right now.
Nose to the grindstone, let’s go get it done, just as we always have.
One of the most important responsibilities of the CEO is to communicate the current and projected future performance of the organization. A well accepted technique for this is called a “dashboard of key indicators.” If you sit on a Board of Directors, you want to see regular updates of key indicators in an easily accessible, simple, visual format. I’ve found that Prezi provides a perfect platform to do this.
Corporations have the capital to purchase and deploy fancy enterprise systems (or cloud-based systems) and the financial staff to take care of this kind of thing. But if you’re an entrepreneur or small business person, you’ve got to figure out a way to do this for yourself. I will show you a way to do this using Prezi and other common off-the-shelf tools (software) that you probably already have access to.
But first, let me show you what the end product can look like and talk about the benefits of using Prezi.
The beauty of the Prezi dashboard
Online, anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device: I think this benefit is pretty self-explanatory. Click on the following link and it will take you to a public dashboard which we can use as a demonstration:
The picture below shows you that a Prezi dashboard looks great on any device: PC, laptop, iPad, and smartphone.
The infinite whiteboard: Prezi is famous for what they call the “infinite whiteboard” concept. The navigation functionality made possible by this is what makes it so powerful and appealing as a presentation tool.
The first thing most users will do is click on the home icon along the right-hand border of the window which will pop the entire dashboard inside the window giving you the big picture overview of the dashboard.
From this vantage you can navigate one of several ways:
Click on the full-screen mode icon and a slide will fill the monitor screen (similar to presentation mode in PowerPoint). This is the preferred mode when making a presentation to an audience.
The user can either manually advance through each slide by clicking on the right or left arrows on the bottom of the window; or, the user can set “autoplay” to one of several different timing intervals.
On any given slide, the user can zoom in or out at will thanks to the “infinite whiteboard” of Prezi. Back-and-forth, zoom in and out, pop back to home, this is the kind of easy flexibility a user wants when navigating a dashboard.
Privacy: You can share online your dashboard using Prezi’s three-level privacy functionality:
- Private: only you can view and edit.
- Hidden: you can view and edit. Collaborators can view if they have the link.
- Public: it can be viewed by the world if they have the link.
To get started you need the following:
- Microsoft Excel spreadsheet
- Microsoft PowerPoint
- Adobe PDF maker
Creating the graphs: Microsoft Excel gives you everything you need to set up all of your key indicator data and then convert that data into visually impactful graphs and charts. Each chart can be copied and pasted into a PowerPoint presentation file as an image.
Once all your slides are transferred into PowerPoint, you then need to “save as” the PowerPoint file as a PDF file. It is true that you can directly import a PowerPoint file into Prezi but I have found that sometimes formatting of the slides can be lost. By converting it to a PDF file, the formatting of each slide is “locked” and when you import the PDF file into Prezi, each slide comes out perfect.
Next, you import the PDF file into your new Prezi presentation space which you have created online. When you do this, Prezi magically unbundles each slide within the PDF file and arranges them separately in their correct original order.
And finally, you click “edit path” in the lower left-hand corner of your Prezi window to then click on each slide in the order you want them presented, and then click “done”.
You have now created a world-class dashboard!
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Cash is king, as the old saying goes. It is the one resource a company cannot survive without for any length of time until the doors are closed, voluntarily or involuntarily, which is why the CEO must find or develop a method to reliably understand and predict the company’s current and future ability to generate the cash it needs to pay all of its bills.
Forecasting cash flow is much easier than it used to be, thanks to the convenient number-crunching power of PCs and spreadsheet software which allows one to build an Integrated Spreadsheet which links a projected balance sheet and income statement for the business. The Integrated Spreadsheet is a tool that will give any CEO the positive direct control they must have over the financial rudder of the business.
A wise time investment for CEO’s
A company’s cash flow at any point in time is a juxtaposition of payables, receivables, debt service, capital expenditures, sales/repurchases of stock, and other factors. An Integrated Spreadsheet handles this complex financial interaction with electronic precision. Using this tool, a CEO can more carefully predict where the company is heading. That’s powerful planning and peace of mind for the executive/owner that shoulders the burden of consistently meeting payroll and staying current with suppliers on all bills.
- The Integrated Spreadsheet gives the CEO a rational way to appropriately pace capital expenditures, quarterly (or even monthly) bonus payments, and sweeps of excess cash into less liquid but higher-returning financial instruments at the earliest possible time.
- The Integrated Spreadsheet allows the CEO to look at the effect on cash from big-picture business initiatives such as acquiring a new business, selling off a division, developing and staffing a new department, or launching a new product line.
- Using an Integrated Spreadsheet helps the CEO disclose mistakes that are sometimes made in monthly financial statements from either miscoding or a faulty accounting interpretation of a particular transaction.
- With an Integrated Spreadsheet the company always has a three-year plan that is built on actual operating numbers, but fine-tuned to reflect management’s best judgment of future revenues and expenses.
- The Integrated Spreadsheet can easily generate an unlimited number of graphs to analyze past performance and predict future performance which is often the most effective way to communicate financial data to employees, directors, shareholders, and the bank.
- An Integrated Spreadsheet will demonstrate to the bank, board, and investors that the financial management and budgeting of the company is under control which promotes confidence in the officers and the business by its internal and external constituents.
Assuming the user knows their way around a spreadsheet and double- entry accrual accounting, the structure of an Integrated Spreadsheet can be set up in a few hours. It will take a day or so to input the previous twelve months of operating data; a day to input informed estimates of revenues, expenses, and capital expenditures for the next twelve months and to fine-tune those estimates; and a day to train all users who will have access to the Integrated Spreadsheet.
If the CEO cannot spare the time, this task can be delegated to inside accounting staff or subcontracted to an outside accountant or consultant. If this project is delegated, it is still important that the CEO be trained in the use of the Integrated Spreadsheet so that he or she can perform what-if analyses and generally watch over the constantly revising forecast of the financials of the business, a function that should be owned by the CEO. Financial forecasting involves hundreds of experience-based estimates of highest-probable outcomes of revenues, expenses, capital expenditures, debt service, equity inflows and outflows, extraordinary gains and losses, and other income and expenses, by someone that has the overview of the business. The CEO has this overview as it is part of the responsibility of the position.
Basic structure of the integrated spreadsheet
It is important for the user to have a general understanding of how the spreadsheet is laid out and functions. The integrated spreadsheet has three major components:
- Balance Sheet
- Income Statement
- Cash flow adjustment
These three components are linked or integrated so that they balance or tie out in accrual accounting terms. These integrated accounts are highlighted in various colors as shown on the diagram below:
The major points of integration are identified by the matching colors. For example, the link between “depreciation” on the balance sheet and “depreciation expense” on the income statement is shown in brown, since these two entries must be identical in double-entry accrual accounting. There are in fact numerous links between the income statement and the balance sheet as a result of the double-entry methodology. The beauty of the spreadsheet is it affords the user the flexibility to add/subtract/modify at will and build increasing sophistication into the integrated spreadsheet enabling a more realistic modeling of the financial dynamics of the business.
I’ve posted a power point presentation on prezi that leads you through the basic construction of the integrated spreadsheet. The secret sauce in this process is the synching of a cash flow adjustment (plug) at the bottom of the spreadsheet below the income statement as shown in the diagram below:
By wiring together these key accounts to calculate the actual cash flow for each month, this will cause what’s known as a circular calculation in the spreadsheet which is normally a no-no, but in this case it is a good thing! The user simply needs to go into “settings” and set the automatic calculation to 100 iterations and the spreadsheet will automatically recalculate and balance the statements after each new value entry to a cell.
Using the tool
Once the integrated spreadsheet is set up, using it effectively involves inputting the actuals from each monthly financial statement as they occur and reforecasting the numbers going forward from the most recent actuals. This process repeats itself every month — inputting the most recent actuals and reforecasting ahead — and as each month goes by and the user gains experience in using the spreadsheet and making experience-based judgments of how the numbers will track, the integrated spreadsheet becomes an expert system that does a better job over time of forecasting the financial fortunes (or misfortunes) of the company. The key point is that all of this boils down to one most important account: cash flow.
Once the process of updating actuals and forecasting ahead is complete,
the CEO looks at the impact on cash and then develops a financing plan
that optimizes the uses of working capital in the next six months and beyond.
If the projected cash flow shows surpluses being generated, the CEO can
decide how that excess cash could be used today and in the coming months
- Reduce payables
- Reduce long-term debt
- Make capital expenditures
- Make other long-term investments
If the projected cash flow is negative, the CEO must plan for how the
minimum working capital requirements for the business will be generated to
carry the company through tight cash periods by a combination of:
- Drawing down cash surpluses
- Deferring certain operating and capital expenditures
- Extending the payables cycle for a brief period within acceptable bounds
- Making a draw on an operating line of credit
- Securing additional long-term financing
- Raising equity capital through the sale of common or preferred shares
If the CEO can build the integrated spreadsheet for the business and start using it each month ( if not each day), learning by doing is the most efficient user’s manual. The CEO will quickly discover the many dimensions of value that are derived from the integrated spreadsheet aside from the very tangible value of forecasting cash flow. The integrated spreadsheet causes the user to think about every aspect of the business, across all accounts, across time, across strategies, by looking back to look forward. And at the end of the exercise instead of saying, “I hope we’ll have the money in the bank when we need it,” the CEO can say, “We expect to have the cash we need, and here’s how.”
That’s powerful business confidence!
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No company is too small to create a board of directors, and no company is too large and sophisticated that it cannot improve upon its board because directors have the potential to add significant value to management and the company in countless ways.
- Directors can give good advice insiders might not hear otherwise.
- Directors can be frank in a way employees won’t or can’t.
- Directors ask, “Why would you do that?”
- Directors help management network into important strategic resources such as partners, talent, capital, and markets.
- Directors bring new ideas.
- Directors double-check management’s plans and make them accountable.
- Directors check for compliance to ethics, laws, regulations, and just plain common sense and good judgment.
- Directors bring experience – they’ve been there, done that, and there’s no sense reinventing the wheel because that consumes time and money; and, there’s no sense in making mistakes because that’s painful.
- Directors pitch in and help during periods of rapid growth or crisis.
That said…excuses, excuses
There is no good argument (generally) against using a board of directors, yet owners and CEOs continue to cite the following excuses:
1. I don’t have enough time
There are certain high-leverage activities for CEOs and owners that they must put at the top of their priority list because even though these tasks do take valuable time to plan, prepare, and execute (e.g., financial audits; a strategic planning retreat; a performance review with a key employee; a board of directors meeting), these activities hold the potential to make a substantial positive impact for the business. Executing these high-leverage tasks as a business leader is simply something you have to do, so you make the time.
2. I can’t afford it
The cost and complexity of a board of directors scales to the size of the company. In a large or public company you can expect to attract sophisticated directors and they will expect a compensation package commensurate with company size and the commitment required.
But if you are a start-up company and only a few people are involved, you most likely won’t be attracting public company directors that expect big fees. But you can attract successful local people that were once in your shoes and know what it’s like to start and build a company and they’d be pleased to serve on your board as a way to give back – sometimes only for the price of a dinner and a few beers.
3. I don’t know anyone to ask
Many people say this initially but if they take a few minutes to reflect, they can always think of someone to invite to be a director. Also, they usually know someone who could be an intermediary to a director candidate. Good intermediaries can be a friend; a relative; a business colleague; your accountant, attorney, or banker; a professor; the Chamber of Commerce; a valued and trusted key supplier or client.
There are also organizations that foster better corporate governance and directorship that can match directors looking for board assignments with companies looking for good directors. For larger companies there are search firms that specialize in recruiting directors to large and public boards.
4. I don’t know what value they would bring – I know what to do
An executive with this kind of attitude most likely feels this way about many things, not just a board of directors. This kind of insulated, ivory-tower attitude only limits new opportunities for management and the company.
The objective evidence indicates that boards do provide real value to management and shareholders. However, it is true that boards also hold the potential to screw up royally and there are many examples of that from both for-profit and nonprofit boards, big to small. But that is not because the value proposition of a board is not valid, only that those particular boards were dysfunctional and acted irresponsibly. The overwhelming majority of boards do great work for their constituents.
5. I don’t want anybody to know what we’re doing
It’s a valid concern for many companies, but you cannot operate inside a top-security box forever. You need a few select trusted advisers that you can lean on and use as sounding boards so that your thinking and decision making does not become inbred and myopic. Directors can give you fresh and unbiased insights and they will respect and maintain the confidentiality of your plans and intellectual property.
6. I don’t know how to set up and manage a board
If you can create, manage, and grow a company, you can create and manage a board. Most attorneys are very helpful in making sure you cover the legal basics. Experienced directors themselves will be very helpful and patient as you proceed and learn on the job.
There’s a wealth of good books and training programs at your disposal. In essence, a board meeting is just like any other meeting where you set a prioritized agenda, meet, discuss, and get things done.
7. I don’t want any outsiders involved – this is a family business
It is a truism that there is family, and then there is everyone else. Experienced directors understand this as it relates to the dynamics of a family business board, and still you would be surprised how effective (and refreshing!) an outside director can be inside a tight-knit family business and board.
Family members are constrained in so many ways from being totally honest with each other. The outside director is unconstrained and sometimes the only one to tell it like it is. This can be an invaluable resource for a family business.
Just do it
If you’ve been dragging your feet to develop a board, just get on with it.
At the outset of building a board you will find that you can learn quickly with the help of the directors themselves. In a year’s time you will be the expert. You will find that your directors may refer you to other non-competitor CEOs who are looking for good board members. This is one of the primary ways the community of directors populate their ranks.
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