Thoughts on Podcasts & National Flex Day

October 17, 2017

Emma Plumb, director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility

I recently interviewed Emma Plumb (director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, or 1MFWF) for Bauer College’s Working Wisdom podcast “How Does She Do It?,” which shares stories of women who have non-linear trajectories of growth.

These conversations engage women who by all measures are successful.  At the same time, their path to success was anything but smooth.  How did they make the leaps and what inspired them to do so? The podcasts help us understand how success comes from being in the “arena” and daring the odds, greatly.

Life, as we all know, happens. Often, the successful individuals we speak with on the podcast took career breaks — in some cases it was to raise children, in others it was an aging parent whose needs were prioritized. Having the flexibility to determine your working hours makes sense, yet is uncommon in the world of business. Emma decided to focus on the issue of work flexibility, a focus that grew out of her own unpleasant experience.

Today is Oct. 17, and we celebrate the fifth annual National Flex Day, a day to encourage employers and employees to unite behind the need for more flexibility by sharing how pervasive and powerful it already is. National Flex Day is a partnership with Emma’s organization, 1MFWF, and Working Mother.

Workplace flexibility has grown from being the “right” thing to do to being the smart thing to do, if you want your business to succeed. Engaged employees are more productive, and engagement has to do with providing more options in the workplace. Research in this area supports the fact that more flexible work options increased productivity directly by allowing individuals to work at their productive peak times and indirectly by lowering stress levels. Flex work schedules lower absenteeism. They also reduce the costs associated with retraining and recruiting. Flex workplaces expand the talent pool for recruitment, they improve morale, and make employees know they are valued on their own terms. Millennials value flexibility right after compensation and benefits, and are more insistent about this than the generations before them.

More than anything else, flexibility in the workplace is smart business, and is hence a business imperative.

What are you doing to make your workplace embrace the idea of flexibility? Send me a suggestion for an actionable item that enhances flexibility in the workplace.

Thank You, Joe “JJ” Kinahan

April 19, 2017

Joe “JJ” Kinahan, Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services; Latha Ramchand, Dean of the C. T. Bauer College of Business; and John Lopez, Bauer College Clinical Assistant Professor of Finance gather for a photo before the college’s 2017 Financial Symposium. See more photos on

On Saturday, April 8, Bauer College hosted our annual Financial Symposium open to students, faculty, staff and the community. The symposium is meant to provide UH students and the Houston community information on topics that will help them make better financial decisions. Students also listen to experts talk about careers in financial services, including commercial banking, financial analysis and personal financial planning. The goal of the symposium is to take learning to the community in ways that make a difference.

Consider the facts:

Today, only 13% of all private-sector workers have a traditional pension, compared with 38% in 1979, and close to 45% of Americans have nothing saved for retirement. More than 30 million people don’t have access to any retirement plan because the small businesses that they work for don’t provide one.

Clearly, we can and must do better.

At Bauer College, we take the message of financial literacy seriously. We need to share the message and share it often. In many ways, the actionable part of financial literacy has to do as much with discipline as it does with finance. As with any behavior, those that enforce discipline in our expenditure and savings plans are best taught early in life. It is for this reason that Bauer College makes every effort to share this message with students and with the community.

This year the keynote speaker at the Financial Symposium was Joe “JJ” Kinahan (@TDAJJKinahan), Chief Market Strategist and Managing Director at Ameritrade Client Services. He took this message one step further by connecting the message of financial literacy to a strong work ethic and character.

Work hard, for there is no substitute. Every job has parts that are frustrating. A typical job might have 25% that we absolutely enjoy and are engaged in, another 25% that we abhor, leaving the middle 50% in a neutral zone that we are neither excited about nor disgusted with. Success results when we move this middle 50% into the more exciting zone, leading us to love 75% of what we do. Plan the 25% that is frustrating and everything else will seem exciting. In everything you do, character matters.  Not doing the right thing has financial implications.  Your behavior builds reputation, and reputation is your biggest asset.

As you build your reputation, consider building your financial asset base as well — when you start working, make sure you maximize the contribution to your 401(K) or retirement plan.  Starting early, and leveraging your employer’s contribution, can boost your total returns more than starting late and investing more for a shorter length of time. As they often say, when it comes to investment and maximizing returns, it is time, not timing. Time is your biggest ally when it comes to investment and returns. Timing assumes perfect foresight which is a fiction of the imagination.

At the same time, have fun. It is important that you love and enjoy what you do.

JJ Kinahan is a 30-year trading veteran who began his career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) market maker trading in the S&P 100 (OEX) and S&P 500 (SPX) pits. He also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. Later in his career he joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade.

Thank you, JJ — thank you for inspiring us.

Speaking of Trust

April 4, 2016

Last week, I had the opportunity to serve on a panel to discuss the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer survey. In partnership with Texas CEO Magazine, and ably led by publisher Pat Niekamp, Edelman hosted the panel which included Terry Wade (Reuters), Kathy Beiser (Edelman) and myself.

We discussed the results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer. This year’s survey shows that trust levels for business and for CEOs are bouncing back. The informed public — defined as those between ages 25-64, who are college educated and who belong to the top 25 percent of household income per age group in each country and who are avid consumers of media — places more trust in business, government, media and NGOs, compared to the mass population, which represents the remaining 85 percent of the population. Interestingly, for the 16th consecutive year, the technology sector continues to lead the trust index. Over the last five years, the energy sector has witnessed an increase in trust as has financial services (which despite this increase, continues to be the least trusted sector and comes in below pharmaceuticals).

Why is business regaining trust?

Is this a business cycle phenomenon?

When times are good, we tend to believe that businesses are doing the right thing and tend to increase our levels of trust. In addition, anymore, it is not your father’s capitalism. Whether it is Mackey’s ideas on “conscious capitalism” or Benioff’s appeal for “compassionate capitalism,” there is a recognition that customers, employees, and society at large are as important to business as shareholders. Fortune’s “Companies that Change the World” list looks at companies that do well by changing the world for the better. CVS, whose stock price has risen 66 percent since announcing that it will not carry tobacco products on its shelves; Ecolab, which is as much about water and conservation as it is about cleaning and sanitizing; Vodafone, which has helped over 16 million people in Kenya, India and other emerging market countries use financial services without ever having entered a bank; or our own Waste Management in Houston, which has made it easier for us to recycle so we can save the world from ourselves — these are good examples of doing well and doing good.

When Corporate Social Responsibility goes beyond a 30-minute chat on a Friday afternoon, when responsibility gets woven into the business plan, when companies appreciate that long term sustainability and growth are linked to building a trustworthy brand among all stakeholders in society — this is when trust is not merely a word in your values statement; rather, it is your corporate work ethic, which builds your brand and grows market value.

Speaking of market value, the gap between market and book values may have to do with growth options.  At the same time, to believe that a company can grow speaks to the trust that investors have in the firm’s model and mission. Under current accounting rules, U.S. companies do not record intangible items that capture trust on their books.  According to Leonard Nakamura, an economist at the Philadelphia Fed, more than $8 trillion in intangible assets is currently not on the books.  In 2014, companies invested the equivalent of 14 percent of the private sector’s GDP in intangibles and 10 percent in physical assets, the reverse of what it was 40 years ago when 13 percent of private sector GDP went to tangibles and 9 percent to intangibles. Intangibles as a proportion of total investment overtook tangibles in the mid-90s, right before the dot com bubble and have exceeded the proportion in tangibles ever since.

In a survey of global executives, Weber Shandwick finds that 44 percent of a company’s market value is attributable to CEO reputation.

How can CEOs grow, retain and maintain trust, brand and reputation?

  1. Keep the company at the forefront of your message. Repeat the message. As Jeff Immelt says, your message has “got to be repeatable, it’s got to be learnable, and it’s got to be teachable.”
  2. Leaders and CEOs need to cultivate a visible public profile that is about credibility, not so much celebrity. Engage/speak at events, be accessible to news media and be visible on the company website so you can repeat the company message. Am I repeating myself?

Tell me what you think.