Ross Kelly

Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.

China’s Big Infrastructure Project Trumps U.S. Ambitions

The China-led Belt and Road project will present opportunities for many types of business around the world. Here's some tips for getting involved.

Hedge Fund Supremo Curbs Enthusiasm for Trump

Ray Dalio is concerned about the president's gravitation toward conflict.

CEO Confidence Hits Three-Year High as Tax Cut Hopes Prevail

An openness to more capital investment was also expressed, though hiring plans have eased back.

China Dreaming: CEOs still Target Expansion Plans Despite Frosty Receptions

Its economy may be slowing and hostility towards foreign entrants may be on the rise. But that isn't necessarily ending American CEOs' Chinese dreams.

European CEOs See Opportunity in Trump’s Climate Stance, but not Everyone’s...

The heads of Shell and Virgin say U.S. companies could now be at a competitive disadvantage, though the recent actions of European steelmakers show enthusiasm for emissions reductions has its limits.

10 Steps CEOs can Take to Stop Activists Forcing them into...

The number of activist investor deals pushed by the likes of Carl Icahn are rising, putting boards on the defensive.

How Walmart is Turning its Workers’ Daily Commute into a Business...

Advances in digital technology are bringing companies closer to customers, forcing traditional business under fire from disruptive rivals to imagine innovative ways of doing things. In a novel idea that doesn't involve the adoption of whizz-bang technology, Walmart has identified a new way that customer-facing businesses can compete with the likes of e-commerce giants such as Amazon: get workers to deliver products on their way home from work. The idea may seem crazy at first. Wouldn't customers coincidentally need to be on staff members' way home? And how could staff possibly meet the needs of scores of customers during their commute? But a closer look at Walmart's situation indicates the idea could have legs, offering other CEOs in the B2C realm some food for thought. Walmart, of course, has strength in numbers. It has 47,000 stores across the U.S. and more than 1 million staff, though it also has much bigger customer base to serve.
"Not only can this cut shipping costs and get packages to their final destinations faster and more efficiently, it creates a special win-win-win for customers, associates and the business."
In a blog post yesterday, the CEO of its e-commerce operations, Marc Lore, said he was testing the idea at three stores—two in New Jersey and one in northwest Arkansas. More broadly, however, Walmart's vast store network physically puts the company within 10 miles of 90% of the U.S. population. "Now imagine all the routes our associates drive to and from work and the houses they pass along the way," Lore said. "It’s easy to see why this test could be a game-changer." Staff, he said, would be incentivized with extra earnings, though Walmart hasn't said how much they'd get paid for making deliveries. They wouldn't be forced to participate and could choose how many packages they wanted to deliver, their size and which days they'd like to make deliveries after work. Walmart also would allocate packages based on minimizing the distance staff would need to divert from their usual route home. "Not only can this cut shipping costs and get packages to their final destinations faster and more efficiently, it creates a special win-win-win for customers, associates and the business," Lore said. Walmart's move comes as American retailers come under attack on another front. German discount retailers Aldi and Lidl are planning fresh assaults on the market that is forcing CEOs of local companies to think of new ways to differentiate their offering. According to a Bain report released this week, the consultancy predicted that the deep discount segment in the U.S. will growth by 8-10% annual over the next several years, or five-times the rate of traditional grocers. "Incumbents need to be on the forefront of this this change, or they risk losing $30-45 billion of incremental sales growth to hard discounters by 2025," Bain concluded. Other companies thinking of adopting elements of Walmart's test should consider these four factors: 1. Are staff willing to make deliveries at a cheaper rate than the cost of postage? 2. How much added value will same-day delivery offer customers? 3. Does the company have an appropriate staff-to-customer ratio to make it work? If not, is there a way to limit the service to certain customers or products? 4. Is the company covered for potential workplace liabilities that could arise in the event of staff injury? Lore, himself, will be bearing some of these things in mind during the test. And the whole idea, of course, could be rendered obsolete, should drone delivery methods overcome legal and technical challenges. But that's for another day.

And then there were 16: Iger, Musk Quit Trump Advisory Council

[caption id="attachment_60692" align="alignleft" width="302"] Tesla CEO Elon Musk has left President Trump's economic advisory council.[/caption] So much for reaching out to the tech industry. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk were both late additions to Donald Trump's economic advisory council amid criticism it was light on Silicon Valley representation. Now, both men have quit, leaving IBM CEO Ginni Rometty as the last tech representative in the group, which now has 16 CEOs instead of its original 19. Disney CEO Bob Iger has left, too, having already missed the council's first meeting, though he said at the time he had other important work to do. Musk and Iger's departures symbolize the immense disappointment felt by many business leaders over the president's decision to take the U.S out of Paris Accord on climate change. They also show that despite having met with dozens of CEOs at a string of summits, Trump isn't beholden to their advice.
"Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world." Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein
Both men's U-turns are all the more significant in light of their previous explanations for staying in the tent. When Kalanick quit back in February, Musk resisted calls to follow him out the door, stating: "I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good." By yesterday he had changed his tune: "Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk wrote on Twitter. In March, Iger even referenced a song from the musical "Hamilton" called "The Room where it Happens" to justify his continued inclusion in the group. But by yesterday, he said on Twitter: “As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal." GE CEO Jeffery Immelt, who sits on the president's separate manufacturing council, also expressed disappointment, but didn't suggest ending his participation role in Washington. Of course, Musk is heavily invested in renewable energy. GE, too, despite supplying coal-fired power stations, is also one of the world's biggest suppliers of wind turbines. Iger is a registered Democrat rumored as a possible presidential candidate in 2020. Many other CEOs, however, including the heads of major fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, Shell and BP, had also urged the president to stay in the 2015 pact, which had been signed by almost 200 countries. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein criticism of the withdrawal came in the form of his first ever tweet. "Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world. #ParisAgreement," Blankfein wrote. The heads of Apple and Salesforce were among others to release statements yesterday criticizing the president's decision. And another remaining member of his main advisory council, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, had signed a CEO letter to Trump urging him not to quit the pact. Dimon, however, continued to stick to Musk's now-abandoned approach. "I absolutely disagree with the administration on this issue. But we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people's lives and protect our environment," he said in a statement. As reported by Chief Executive, there were growing signs that Trump was increasingly starting to listen to the advice he'd received from CEOs with regards to trade policy. Thursday's decision shows that when it comes to the crunch, it's the president's America-first voter base who will come out on top.

In 11th-Hour Plea, CEOs Urge Trump to Keep U.S. in Climate...

[caption id="attachment_60690" align="alignleft" width="392"] President Trump talks with business leaders earlier this year as part of an ongoing series of meetings with CEOs.[/caption] A rift between Washington and many corporate boardrooms on the issue of climate change has just widened dramatically, giving CEOs the best indication yet they they'll come under more pressure to act on the issue from investors rather than lawmakers. Just as widespread media reports were suggesting that Donald Trump was likely to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, 62% of Exxon Mobil shareholders passed a separate and historic resolution calling on the world's biggest listed oil company to better explain how it was confronting global warming. Exxon had officially advised shareholders, including heavy hitters such as BlackRock and Vanguard, to reject this proposed resolution. CEO Darren Woods indicated it would consider their advice in what was a non-binding vote. "We take the vote seriously and will respond to that feedback," he said.
"No matter what Trump decides, it is clear that investors are acting upon the imperative to address climate risks"
Woods also continued to back the Paris Accord, joining a band of business leaders making an 11th-hour plea to the president to reconsider his position on the 2015 agreement designed to curb carbon emissions. Media reports, citing administration officials, said the president was likely to withdraw America's involvement, though they stressed he still hasn't completely made up his mind. Trump said in a Twitter post yesterday that he would likely make a decision later today. A television commercial urging Trump to keep America in the accord, which can be seen here, featured the names of CEOs including JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon, GE's Jeff Immelt, Morgan Stanley's James Gorman, Citigroup's Michael Corbat, Johnson & Johnson's Alex Gorsky, Disney's Bob Iger, Proctor & Gamble's David Taylor, Tesla's Elon Musk and Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris. Musk even threatened to become the second leader, following Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, to quit the president's economic advisory councils, should he pull America out of the Accord. "Don't know which way Paris will go, but I've done all I can to advise directly to POTUS through others in WH & via councils, that we remain," Musk said in a Twitter post. When asked what he'd do if Trump withdraws America, Musk said he would "have no choice but to depart councils in that case." The wider business community remains divided on climate change, with many CEOs likely to be quietly content if America backs out.. According to a survey of 1,379 CEOs released in January by PwC, climate change was still cited as a problem of moderate importance, with 35% saying there were “somewhat concerned” about the issue and 15% “extremely concerned”. Regardless of their views, the shifting attitude of big investors could force them to take the issue more seriously, at least for public companies. "No matter what Trump decides, it is clear that investors are acting upon the imperative to address climate risks, that the business case for climate action is real, and that the transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable," said Sue Reid, vice president climate and energy at Ceres, a nonprofit group that works with big investors on sustainability issues.

The Key Interview Questions CEOs Ask Job Candidates

[caption id="attachment_60688" align="alignleft" width="391"] Asking prospects about their weaknesses during an interview can shed light on who they are.[/caption] Probing potential staffers’ strengths and weaknesses is a fairly common feature of most job interviews. The weaknesses part is indeed something that Duolingo CEO Luis Von Ahn likes to investigate, though with an enlightening twist. "What would someone who doesn't like you tell us about you?" the language-learning app's founder always asks candidates, according to Business Insider. Not only does the question prompt them to perhaps reveal their weaknesses, but it also shows how open they are to taking others peoples' criticism. The ability to accept your mistakes is an important characteristic of any employee, not least the CEO. Hiding weaknesses makes it difficult for staff to identify genuine business problems and can engender a culture of fear and mistrust, where nobody is quite sure what people are really thinking.
"If people can’t name a single thing about how to make a product better that they use a lot, then that’s probably not a good indication that they’ll be a good product manager.”
Respondents to Von Ahn's question claiming there's no criticisms to convey because "everybody likes me" are obviously providing a bad answer. But there's an even worse response. Candidates, he said, will really be sticking their foot it in if they try to blame the person who doesn't like them. "I think the responses that are concerning are like, 'People who don't like me just don't understand me, and they're usually just wrong,'" he said. "They're not taking responsibility for anything." Here's a few other leaders' favorite interview questions: — Youtube's Susan Wojcicki likes to ask how candidates would improve a particular product, be it one of YouTube’s or another commonly-used offering. "If people can’t name a single thing about how to make a product better that they use a lot, then that’s probably not a good indication that they’ll be a good product manager,” she told a recent conference. She also likes to ask how people they manage their email. — Virgin's Richard Branson once wrote that there's little point talking about a candidate's achievements if they're already visible on a CV. That's why the billionaire CEO likes to ask: "What didn't you get a chance to include on your résumé?" — Facebook's Miranda Kalinowski, the company's global head of recruiting, likes to discover a candidate's passion and how it fits with the company by asking: "On your very best day at work — the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world — what did you do that day?" — HootSuite's Ryan Holmes' favorite takes the cake for originality: "What's your superpower ... or spirit animal," he once asked an executive assistant candidate, according to a LinkedIn post by Jeff Haden. "She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface," Holmes said. "I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA."
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