If you can avoid it, never get into a position where Sergio Marchionne can force you to play poker. That applies literally, as Fiat executives who fly on its (rented) corporate jet know, and metaphorically, as other companies have discovered in the past decade.
Mustang Mulally: the Ford CEO, in a 2015 Ford Mustang (Getty Images)
Alan Mulally has a reputation for being decisive, so his declaration that he has “no plans to do anything other than serve Ford” – crushing speculation that he could leave to run Microsoft – should probably be taken at face value.
But Ford’s chief executive has wavered over big jobs before – notably when the carmaker was trying to lure him to Dearborn from Boeing in 2006.
You come back from holiday to find your chief executive has given up power to a central constitution. Your team has been disbanded and your title scrapped. You are now all partners, each with an agreed role and a duty to support others whose work overlaps yours. Instead of allowing tension to fester internally, you will raise problems openly at regular meetings that promote positive action.
Ed Crooks’ column about the low returns to most investors in US shale gas is a reminder not only that things can go wrong in high-growth but capital-hungry industries, but also of the strengths of US capital markets.
As he notes, companies such as Chesapeake Energy and Encana have been victims of their own success – shale gas exploration has been so successful in the US that prices for natural gas have tumbled, lowering their returns.
Thursday’s doomy Financial Times editorial pointing out that 1914 began with a remarkable lack of foresight about what was later dubbed the Great War sent me back to the FT of January 1, 1914. The lead editorial on that day was about fertiliser: “As regards the prospects of the Chilean nitrate industry … these appear fairly promising” (this was actually, if inadvertently, rather prescient, given the eventual wartime demand for nitrates as an ingredient of high explosives).
Germany, however, was mentioned only in passing, in a Reuters report about heavy snowfalls interrupting communication, and the paper welcomed in the new year with a little light verse. In mitigation, the FT of the time was essentially a thin newsletter for City of London investors, but given what later unfolded, this piece of doggerel – by a writer using the pseudonym “Optimist” – could go down as one of the worst bits of blithely business-centric forecasting ever perpetrated
In the middle of the western world’s annual holiday shopping spree – which runs from the day after Thanksgiving to the end of the January sales – even hardened shoppers may occasionally feel exploited.
Many economists – including the FT’s Chris Giles – feel the anti-consumption mood is “profoundly wrong”. Business academic Linda Scott, whom I interviewed for the FT’s “Thinking Big” series of videos on radical ideas, goes a step further: she believes the consumer free market has the potential to unleash vast benefits, particularly for women in developing countries – as consumers, investors, donors and workers.