Leading and Emerging Through Turbulence

The test of any personal or professional brand is its ability to survive negative media, publicity, scandal, or insult. Let us take McDonald’s, for instance. In 2012, The New York Times Magazine released a story about McDonald’s comeback from the Supersize Me documentary.  “The  most  famous  assault  on  the  company’s  reputation  was  probably Morgan   Spurlock’s Supersize   Me,   the   2004   Oscar-nominated   documentary   that suggested a month of eating only McDonald’s meals might hasten your death.” This incident is one of the best examples of information being used to free an enslaved public by the continuous exposure of the food industry through documentaries such as Food,  Inc.,  Fed  Up,  and  Supersize  Me.  Since  “communication always happens as a multidimensional process and each participant in this process needs to accept the validity of certain quasi-universal demands or claims to achieve understanding” it is not a surprise that fast-food chains such as McDonald’s participated in a repair-mechanism strategy to help them emerge from the onslaught of the negative publicity the company faced.

The day before the Supersize Me documentary aired,  McDonald’s restaurants released a healthy options menu. The company claims that it was a coincidence. Although they did not openly admit the issues associated with their food,  they did significantly diversify their menu. In addition to focusing on the menu, they sat out to change the way that their company thought about food.  “The goal,  according to  Neil  Golden,  the company’s chief marketing officer for its American restaurants, is to win over the holdouts. One  way  to  do  that  is  by  improving  the  food  itself.”  Spending two billion a  year in advertising,  adding beverages such as smoothies,  expressos,  and tea,  remodeling locations, and adding Wi-Fi helped the fast-food giant to recover from what could have its biggest downfall.

The public still benefited from the information learned from the documentary. McDonald’s saw significant trends, such as selling more chicken than beef for the first time since its inception. They also noticed that they were winning over mom bloggers because of their greener menu. Even though McDonald’s did not go out of business after the  Supersize  Me film,  the company was forced to make some different legitimate decisions based on the new information given in the public sphere that many accepted as truth, which is shared knowledge about the content.

Although McDonald’s survived after the documentary, the food industry is struggling. “Consumer awareness of the detrimental health effects of animal products is slowly increasing.  Earlier this month,  the groundbreaking documentary What the  Health was released on Netflix, which explores the serious health concerns relating to the meat and dairy industries,” according to Vegan Health (2017).

Another report,  titled Top  Trends in  Prepared  Foods in  2017,  was prepared by research company GlobalData. They showed the explosion in veganism over the last three years. It cited a growing awareness of the impact of meat consumption amongst consumers who are increasingly looking for more ethically produced and environmentally sustainable foods. It is essential to look at trends shaping your given industry and align your corporate strategy in a way that helps your organization thrive and emerge from negative publicity that can occur in virtually any industry.

Entrepreneurship Challenges

In today’s uncertain economic landscape, more individuals are starting businesses and doing contract labor.  The  “start-up”  and  “side-hustle”  economy is significant across historical, social, and cultural contexts. Due to the lack of resources (including economic capital)  and information of many,  it is essential to have communications plans for entrepreneurs to be able to not only create a purposeful brand but take the necessary steps to achieve profitability as quickly as possible. This plan exists to help accomplish that benchmark because “entrepreneurship has a significant role not only for economic development but also for the general progress of the society [and] the general progress of any country.”

Other experts suggest that economic capital can be defined as financial resources, real property, etc. Researchers note that small businesses thrive in areas of innovation because they lack the support of larger organizations. Many methods of financing a start-up business include credit card debt, business loans, funds from crowdfunding and angel investors, venture capital—investments from friends and family, personal savings, and home equity, each with its own pros and cons. No matter what type is selected, financing for a business is a serious matter.

Banking officer Mark Abell stated, “More than 500,000 businesses are established in America annually, but half of them fail within five years. The No. 1 reason for failure is a bad strategy backed by surplus optimism, but the next biggest cause of failure is a lack of funding.” While obtaining capital continues to be a significant issue for business owners, the second element, which is real estate, is getting somewhat more comfortable to navigate with affordable options such as month-to-month leases and the opportunity to scale up and down as needed. With co-working spaces, start-ups can rent a private office and meeting spaces instead of paying for an entire unit. According to researchers, the money that entrepreneurs save can be spent in growing their businesses in other ways, such as equipment purchases and contractor or employee hires.

Another benefit of co-working spaces leads to another area of the capital theory, which is   social   capital,   defined   as   “relational   connections.”   Experts also describe the connections that are gained,  particularly for women who often lack the networking opportunities of their male counterparts. Social capital is necessary for most business relationships, but even more vital for entrepreneurs. To maximize social capital, business owners must become “superstar networkers,” according to Bill Burg. First, Burg defines these individuals as persons whose businesses are incredibly profitable and whose personal lives are full of meaningful personal and professional relationships. Next, Burg says these superstar networks share two compelling traits: “number one they are givers [and] number two they are connectors.” This issue will be a common theme for anyone striving to create both impact and income.  These networkers generate a  circle of reciprocity,  which is invaluable as it relates to social capital among small business owners. An additional aspect of these “superstar networkers” is that they are continually giving out information that benefits others without necessarily worrying about how sharing the information directly benefits them. Entrepreneurs must not be only aware of the issues that commonly prevent business success, but also obtain information that can help them thrive.

The Keys to Building a Thriving, Non-Toxic Organizational Environment

The  2005  documentary Enron:  The  Smartest  Guys in the  Room (2005)  is a  painful illustration of toxic workplace culture. It is also a powerful reminder that any company, no matter how successful, is subject to fall when it lacks moral integrity, has no system of checks and balances, intentionally avoids transparency, and is too disillusioned to have a crisis management plan in place. The film describes how the C-level staff was able to build the  7th  largest company in the  United  States through unethical dealings that received support and backing from both governmental agencies and the largest financial institutions.  The directors included interviews from former employees who walked the audience through both the rise and fall of the corporate giant.  One of the saddest outcomes from the corporate’s deceit and greed was the job loss of the company’s 20,000 employees. The employees did not only lose their jobs but their pension and retirement funds as well.

As I watched this tragic story, I realized that although the Enron story unfolded across the national media, there are many organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) that function very similarly and experience almost identical consequences.  The most challenging aspect of these layoffs is that they often happened in groups of two or more people. This issue created a  volatile and hostile working environment.  As observed in  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, safety is one of the basic needs of an employee to perform at his or her best. The violation of the safety of the staff created a toxic culture. In Rick Brenner’s article, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Project Organization’s resources are the lowest level need of the Project Hierarchy of Needs. If a project lacks the primary resources it needs to achieve its objective, then resource issues capture the attention of the people on the project. All other concerns become secondary. Issues of safety, quality, efficiency, even requirements receive less attentiveness than they need. People adopt strategies that are designed to resolve resource issues, and these strategies become their primary concern.  If companies are going to sustain quality employees and meet long-term objectives, then safety must be a primary goal. If this goal is met the organization will thrive and develop a positive, non-toxic culture.