Jodie Barwick‑Bell, partner & David Smith, managing partner of Evelyn Partners LLP, speaks on life after selling a business.
You have an idea, you start a business, and you grow it, dealing with the challenges and maximising the opportunities throughout. Your business absorbs you and it becomes one of the most important things in your life. One day though it’s time for a change, time to pass the business on to your children to run, or the management team to buy you out or to sell it to a third party. Sometimes you plan for this, other times an offer comes along that is just too good to turn down. But what about life after that deal, after you have sold or passed the business into new ownership?
The transition is often life changing, you have gone from having your wealth in a business that you control and know inside out to having cash and liquid assets. You also suddenly find yourself with time on your hands.
What have we seen happen?
Some business owners absolutely love their new post-deal lives, enjoying the freedom from daily stress and having time to travel, spend time with their family and pursue other hobbies and interests.
Others become serial entrepreneurs, immediately going on to start new successful businesses.
Too many times though we have seen business owners wish they had done things differently in those early post-sale years. Perhaps they rushed into starting a new business in a new industry they didn't know so well. Or they agreed to invest in a start-up business as an angel investor without proper due diligence on the investment.
Other times they have made significant gifts to their family and then worried about how their hard earned money is being spent or that there might be a divorce in the family.
We also see people get bored, entrepreneurs are very driven people who typically need a purpose and something to get them fired up and excited about.
Tax can be a concern too, suddenly they have gone from having their wealth in a business fully protected from IHT to having an estate fully exposed to IHT and they don't want 40% of their wealth to be paid to HMRC when they die.
Another thing we see is that people overestimate how much money £x million sale proceeds is. They make generous gifts, without realising just how much they might need for the rest of their lives if they aren't going to work again.
Remember too once you have made outright gifts, you can't control what the recipients do with the money.
Finally, we have seen how a liquidity event changes personal relationships. There can be expectations that you will help others financially or fund lifestyles for your children. which can create tensions in the family.
So what do we recommend for a business owner considering a sale?
Evelyn Partners LLP is regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. Evelyn Partners LLP is an independent network member of CLA Global Limited. See https://www.claglobal.com/disclaimer/ . The title ‘Partner’ does not mean that the individual is necessarily a partner of Evelyn Partners LLP. For a full list of LLP partners, please refer to Companies House or request directly from us
The value of an investment may go down as well as up and you may get back less than you originally invested. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. This article is solely for information purposes and is not intended to be, and should not be construed as investment advice. It is based on our opinions which may change. If you are in doubt as to any course of action you should seek professional advice.
Evelyn Partners Investment Management Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
CEO and Founder of LARVOL—VR-first, fully-remote team of 170+ providing SaaS solutions to healthcare & pharma. Cofounder of Web3.0 RXXO.io.
The metaverse has arrived, and I think it’s here to stay. Virtual reality gaming, shopping and social applications have introduced this next intersection of physical and digital worlds to the general public. But what about the business world?
More than a water cooler subject or another entertainment device, I believe the metaverse will have a profound impact on the future of business. And I’m not alone. A latest study found some 82% of business executives expect the metaverse to be part of their business activities within the next three years.
But why wait? I believe leaders across industries should invest now in understanding and exploring applications of the metaverse for their employees and their business.
Perhaps the most convincing early application of VR in business is for the ongoing engagement of an increasingly remote workforce. About 90% of executives are now using or planning to establish a permanent hybrid work model.
This is great news for workers and employers. But it can have a downside for productivity and company culture.
I’ve found that the greater the percentage of remote workers, the greater the challenge to focused collaboration. While video calls can effectively connect a group distributed across the globe, they cannot certain that the group is focused on the conversation at hand. When hosting collaboration in the metaverse, however, VR headsets serve as literal blinders, eliminating the presence of open tabs and other tasks or communications. I've found VR meetings are naturally more focused, more productive and more engaging for participants.
In addition to increased focus and efficient collaboration, VR meetings can create a more genuine sense of connection, placing attendees “in the room” with one another as no video call can. You can read each other’s body language and gestures, give each other high-fives and even have an authentic sidebar conversation. VR is mimicking in-person connection more and more with every update. There’s a synergy to this togetherness that’s impossible to match via video calls, and I believe it helps develop real empathy among teammates.
Empathy, connection and shared experience are cornerstones of a strong company culture. Hosting team meetings, celebrations or events in the metaverse gives remote and hybrid teams the opportunity to develop these shared experiences as they interact in an inclusive, immersive environment.
I’d be negligent if I didn’t also mention the financial case for virtual gatherings. The cost of VR headsets and metaverse meeting spaces pales in comparison to the flights, hotels, meals and additional costs associated with getting teammates together on a regular basis.
For a busy business leader, dipping your toes into the metaverse can seem intimidating or even distracting. After a year of leading a fully-remote team in the metaverse, I have a few practical tips I hope can help. All you need to get started is a VR headset and a place to gather. The rest is up to you.
It is okay to start small with a single application or experiment. Is there a new initiative or committee that could benefit from an innovative setting? An upcoming milestone you’d like to mark with a memorable event? A client you want to push to think big?
Invest in a small budget and an internal team to investigate the possibilities. Quality headsets can cost around $400 each, and many virtual meeting spaces are free, with gated options starting at around $25 per month.
Change is hard. Even the most innovative companies can struggle with inertia and adoption. If you want to experience the true benefits of VR, you need to go all in as an advocate. Be honest about your own trepidations and concerns, but also be excited. Interest follows positive reviews, so be the voice that sparks enthusiasm from others.
VR interactions bring out the kid in all of us. Seeing the animated avatar version of your colleagues—and yourself—is still a funny, somewhat awkward feeling. But if you can acknowledge your fear of looking foolish, you can share in the joy of figuring it out. Your teammates and guests will never forget their first visit to the metaverse, and the connections that follow can shift the trajectory of your conversations and business culture.
There is a definite learning curve to be had here, so give yourself patience and time to ride it. Begin with low-commitment and low-impact ways to engage in the metaverse, such as inviting teammates to attend their first VR call from a computer or mobile device. Allow time for buffering and acclimation. Then let the metaverse speak for itself. Once they see the fun being had “in the room,” they’ll be more likely to put on the headset for the next call.
There are as many options for metaverse meeting spaces as there are physical or video ones, with new ones popping up every day. And they all have different attributes to consider. I’ve found Meta’s Workrooms offers easy onboarding for first-timers and is most convenient for collaborative work sessions. Spatial offers impressive and immersive environments for events or celebrations that engage teammates and clients alike.
Consider who is joining you in your space and what you plan to accomplish. For a simple introductory visit to the metaverse, consider showing the new user a world of possibilities. If you’re pulling together a team that needs to hammer out logistics, tone down the imagination and give them space to work that inspires without detracting.
I'll assert that the metaverse will soon be a common setting for meaningful business interactions. My encouragement to forward-thinking leaders is to act now. Experiment while the technology is new, and you’ll be better positioned to use it to your advantage as it becomes more mainstream. Once you do, I believe you will find the benefits of connection, collaboration and creativity too tempting to resist.
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As an entrepreneur in stage 2 of business growth—the messy middle—you likely need more time to grow your business. Yet sustained, scalable growth can be elusive. There are many moving parts to a successful business, and it can be difficult to see how they all fit together. Plus, wasteful tasks bog you down and don’t add any value to your bottom line.
That’s where systems thinking comes in. Systems allow you to grow and scale your business. Without systems, your business will quickly reach a ceiling and be unable to expand.
And, as more and more enterprises seek ways to create sustained, scalable business growth, this type of thinking is gaining momentum. Why? Because systems thinking is the key to unlocking sustained, scalable business growth.
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash
Systems thinking is a way of looking at your business that sees interconnectedness and interdependence rather than independent and isolated parts.
In a traditional linear system, each part is separate and independent from the others. It’s a siloed approach that creates inefficiencies and stagnation. Additionally, linear thinking and its subsequent siloed approach lead to departments or divisions competing with each other rather than collaborating.
On the other hand, systems thinking is a way of looking at problems that consider the relationships between different parts of a system. It’s a holistic approach that considers how each element of a system affects the other elements. And when you employ systems thinking to solve problems, you can see the big picture and more easily identify potential areas of improvement.
When done correctly, this leads to increased efficiency, opens capacity, and spurs growth.
In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, it’s more important than ever to adapt quickly to new challenges. Systems thinking provides a framework for doing just that. By understanding how different parts of your business are interconnected, you can make changes that have a ripple effect throughout the organization. This allows you to be nimble and responsive to the ever-changing needs of the marketplace.
There are many benefits to using systems thinking in your business. When this type of thinking is operating, you’ll be able to:
In its simplest form, there are four steps to using systems thinking in your business. First, define the problem you’re trying to solve. Second, identify the different parts of the system involved in the issue. Third, analyze how each part of the system affects the other parts. Finally, develop solutions that address the root cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.
Using these steps, you’ll be able to see problems from multiple angles and develop creative solutions that will help your business grow sustainably.
Systems thinking is about creating and using processes and procedures to automate your business operations. It eliminates the need for manual tasks, which are often time-consuming and inefficient. It also helps streamline your business processes, ensuring everyone is on the same page, services are delivered quickly and efficiently, and unnecessary duplication of work is eliminated.
If you want your business to grow, start thinking like a systems thinker. Use data to understand cause and effect, look for feedback loops, anticipate what will happen next, create experiments, and be prepared to correct course when necessary. Encourage a culture of learning, keep an eye on the big picture, build resilience into your system, and be open to new ideas to embrace change as an opportunity for growth.
Systems thinking is a powerful tool that can unlock sustained, scalable business growth. It creates a ripple effect throughout the entire company and makes your business nimble and responsive in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.
The post How Systems Thinking Boosts Your Business Growth appeared first on Synnovatia.
Even the smallest businesses can benefit from applying a simple but effective approach
Approximately 3 million. That’s how many Thai business owners there are. Many have suffered sleepless nights over the last few years. Many now face the challenge of knowing where to take their business next.
Whether you call it strategic thinking or planning, many new and smaller business owners don’t have the resources that big companies have, and their ability to think about and create a clear strategy suffers accordingly. I have tried many different approaches, and it is never easy.
I know some business owners don’t bother but I believe even the smallest of business owners need to dedicate time to structured strategic thinking. They need a simple but effective approach to identifying a destination to reach and finding a direction to get there.
I understand there may seem to be many reasons for not taking up this challenge, and being busy is the least of them. Business owners may think it is not the best use of time, or that putting an idea on paper will reduce flexibility. Some may think there is no point given all the current uncertainty, or it’s too expensive and time-consuming to do and get our people behind.
The opposite is true if you stick to the time-honoured principle of keeping things simple, and 2023 offers new possibilities. This means now is the time to bring the big picture back into focus.
Let us look at what is involved.
The goal of creating a strategy is not about producing a beautiful PowerPoint deck or documents that reveal your company’s secrets or details no one will ever read. It is about creating something that will help you overcome the challenges of the current market slowdown without wasting precious resources. It is about using your greatest strength and focusing on what you can control to create opportunity. Here is what to look at:
Your intent: Intent Clarity means you can better focus or make optimum use of your resources. It helps you resist distraction which is especially important given the nature of entrepreneurs.
Your place in the “system”: Even a one-person startup does not exist independently. If you are in business, you are part of a system or you do not have customers. You have to be able to see your place in all the systems you are a part of. Understanding your system means you are not blind to threats or leaving money on the table. You have to take a systemic look at where you are.
Your future: This is difficult if you are in survival or growth mode, but you can’t create your business’s future from thin air. It takes time to put the pieces in place, and deal with the changes you foresee. You must look at tomorrow and a future state and identify what it will take to get there. This is true for businesses of every size.
Your potential opportunities: This must be evidence-based and not just what you want to do. The world is constantly changing, and so are your options. You can’t stick with a static view you first held years ago.
Sounds good, what is next?
I like this simple approach and model to create and put your strategy into action, by Dr Al Vicere, executive education professor of strategic leadership at Pennsylvania State University. He suggests:
First, look out. What trends do you see in your company, industry, customers and society? What do you need to understand, and what are the potential implications for your business?
Then, look around. What are your traditional and emerging competitors doing differently? What are other companies that solve the same user problems as you do, doing differently, and what can you learn from them?
Next, take a good look in the mirror. What do you need to do to understand the opportunities ahead? What do you need to unlearn, or relearn? How are your legacy approaches making you part of the problem?
Next, look at your team (if you have one). What do you need to communicate, consult with them on, and get their buy-in on?
Finally, look for results. Strategic planning isn’t really a one-time or seasonal event. It requires continually going back to the four steps to move your strategy forward.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of informal strategic conversations to generate discussion and encourage a strategic perspective with your team and stakeholders. This is a way to keep everybody’s eyes on the future of your business.
As change is getting faster in most industries, and digital and changing business models are increasing competition, strategic thinking is no longer just nice to have.
Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa
A black swan event could take you by surprise and completely change how you work and live. Your conventional way of thinking could never help you tackle the 'wicked problems' these occasions pose. You need to think fresh and think fast to create new solutions. This is where Design Thinking comes in and according to Design Thinking facilitator, Niket Karajagi – this is all set to be the foremost tool for companies in the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world we are staring at. Karajagi shares his insights with Business Today in an exclusive interview. Edited Excerpts:
BT: Almost every other tech university these days has put Design Thinking on the curriculum. Is this the latest tool in the kitty for managing enterprises worldwide?
Niket Karajagi: The pandemic was a black swan event. Nobody was ready for it. We all learned to work around it. New solutions become popular during black swan events – take the dishwasher for instance. Dishwasher sales spiked during the pandemic because of the specific needs that cropped up during that time. Nobody knew how to deal with a situation like that, but within weeks, a new normal was created. When we face uncertainties, we have to implement Design Thinking, create new solutions and build new prototypes.
BT: What are the 10 short steps to implementing Design Thinking during organisational transformation?
Niket Karajagi: The first step towards implementing design thinking of course is about identifying needs. The second step is about gathering information when you need to do research about what people do and how they do what they do in their environment. Don’t just focus on the ‘users’ of your product or service, also check the stakeholders and analyse how you can use the stakeholder network to advantage. Conduct operational research to check your limitations – like money, time, and resources. There’s a need for hazard analysis to mitigate consequences. The third step is about specification creation which is neither too detailed, nor too vague and should be implemented. Creative design – when you need to spend time in the problem space to find creative solutions. Next, you have to come up with a conceptual design that would help you winnow down the concepts you developed and zero down on solutions. Further, you need to conduct prototype design or create a model of your idea that’s testable. Finally, you need to implement verification so you can learn from your work and reduce uncertainty.
BT: What is the best way to introduce change smoothly and avoid shock?
Niket Karajagi: The biggest challenge for companies these days is to be able to introduce empathy. I have been consulting with scores of companies that have now realised the need for installing empathy in the heart of systems. It is always about people, and you cannot transform or disrupt any system without keeping empathy at the center. This is where Design Thinking starts.
BT: Can only companies implement Design Thinking, or can individuals implement it to solve problems?
Niket Karajagi: You can implement Design Thinking to solve any problem. It is the easiest and quickest way to resolve wicked problems thrown at you. Starting with your house to your workplace, implement it with any issue and create winning solutions along the way.
BT: How does Design Thinking win over other analytical methods of problem-solving?
Niket Karajagi: Simply because it offers the quickest and fastest way to create a protocol in just 3 to 21 days. You don’t waste time when you start with empathy. You 'fail early and fail cheap' and solve every wicked problem when you try to understand it and the needs of the stakeholders. Design Thinking is the number one tool for the coming century when we are expected to face black swan events more frequently than ever.
You don’t have to run a massive corporation to embrace the benefits of corporate life. Set yourself up for success with these simple attitude adjustments.
There’s a reason many a top designer has chosen a teensy three-letter word (that’s CEO) to list as their de facto job title: When you start thinking of yourself as the type of dynamo who helms international corporations—à la Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet, themselves as much household names as the brands they helm—your stock instantly rises.
“The business side of my brain works just as hard as my creative design side, so absolutely, I identify with that title and use it in my website bio,” says Georgia Zikas of her West Hartford, Connecticut–based firm. “We are an S Corp, and we run incredibly efficiently. What I do each and every day is 100 percent executive-level functioning.”
For just a second, forget the prerequisites you think you need. Even in a smaller firm, transitioning to a CEO’s mindset can help your business grow exponentially. “I definitely think of my firm as a corporation, but that wasn’t how it started,” says designer Greg Natale, whose Sydney, Australia–based company has grown to include residential and hospitality design, architecture and product design. “Within five years of opening, I realized that I didn’t know a thing about running a business. I didn’t let that deter me—I hired a business coach, and for two years he taught me the ‘winning formula.’”
That formula, it turns out, is less about advanced mathematics and MBAs and more about state of mind. “The basic concept is to find a system that works for you, refine it, scale it and learn from it,” says Natale. “That is how you run a successful business.”
Paloma Contreras used brass accents and a lush, olive-hued velvet sofa to create a sumptuous living roomAimee Mazzenga
Geometric details abound in a showstopping dining room by designer Greg NataleAnson Smart
Left: Paloma Contreras used brass accents and a lush, olive-hued velvet sofa to create a sumptuous living room Aimee Mazzenga | Right: Geometric details abound in a showstopping dining room by designer Greg Natale Anson Smart
For Natale, the answer was not only the right systems but the right people to oversee them. Today, he encourages fellow designers to hire skilled managers to run a firm’s administrative, financial, operational and marketing branches—and as soon as possible. “Understanding the business side of running a firm is critical,” he says. “You’ll need to be structured, which is hard for a creative.” Putting the right team in place, and then getting out of the way and letting each person do their job, is what allowed him to position his firm for success without getting bogged down in the nuts and bolts of the business. That business coach he invested in was a boon, too, and getting one can help you balance your artistic impulses with the very real requirements of running a successful business. “Accept and embrace structure and order, because there is little possibility of growth, stability and success without a tight, well-oiled machine. It’s the hardest thing I have had to balance, but it has worked—I am able to anticipate what happens at each stage.”
But staffing up comes with its own changes and challenges. For Maggie Griffin, CEO of Maggie Griffin Design in Gainesville, Georgia, one of the essential parts of her role is managing all the decisions that need to be made to implement the clients’ interiors. “It’s impossible to do it all by yourself,” she says. “A team of people who are all on the same page about delivering the stellar product our firm is known for is a necessity.”
Whether you have a team of three employees or 30, clearly defining and communicating individual roles will boost the team’s productivity and efficiency. Christine Gachot, co-founder and principal of New York design studio Gachot, leads 42 people—and “each person is important,” she says. Because of her background working within a much larger staff in hospitality development, she wasn’t scared off by the idea of a big team—and more than that, she’s a huge proponent of investing early in internal HR and finance professionals. “Having somebody consistent who is a part of your team watching financial resources and watching human resources, I think that’s just critical,” she says. “A lot of people place the emphasis on just the design, or just the architecture, and they’re not weighing the other arms of the company as being as important.”
A shift in thinking illustrates the value those team members can provide, if empowered to do so: “The person who runs all of our finances is not just issuing checks,” she explains. “He is forecasting for the company a year out, two years out—looking at what work we need and thinking strategically about why we take on each project and how it benefits the company.” Who doesn’t want that kind of advice on the regular?
Hillaire Martin employs time blocking as director of operations for North Carolina–based Design Lines Signature, which fashioned an inviting living space in a palette of warm neutralsBrie Williams
Even with a smaller staff of five, Zikas has embraced many corporate structures, from maintaining an employee handbook complete with dress code (no midriffs!) to holding regular performance reviews. “It’s very team- and employee-focused on what’s best for my side of the table and their side of the table,” she says. And it’s working: Since adjusting how she approached her role and shoring up the firm’s processes and procedures in 2020, Zikas reports that her business has grown 200 percent.
Sometimes it’s the smaller “corporate” things that add up to the greatest growth and employee satisfaction. In addition to benefits like a 401K and maternity leave, Zikas’s company offers perks like mileage reimbursement and even things plenty of powerhouse corporations haven’t thought of for their staff, like a ride safe program. “If we’re out as a company and someone has had too much to drink, we pay for your Uber ride home and back to your car in the morning,” she says.
If you don’t have the budget (yet) for your own internal army of pencil pushers, there are still an immense array of tools at your disposal. “Quickbooks has been instrumental in helping us keep track of spending, especially when tax season rolls around,” says Griffin. A free version of project-planning platform Asana helps keep Hillaire Martin, director of operations for Raleigh, North Carolina–based Design Lines Signature, on track with her goals. But an even bigger assist comes in the form of time blocking, a sanity-saving strategy reportedly used by Bill Gates. “For me it’s a mindset: There’s a team of four of us, and I think of myself as little mini departments,” says Martin. “There are certain days or parts of the day where I’m doing accounts payable, others where I’m doing invoicing and others where it’s more communications-heavy work and I’m scheduling out social media posts. I operationally compartmentalize by breaking out my time that way.”
Houston designer Paloma Contreras, who has six full-time staffers on her design team as well as seven on the retail side, has found that establishing well-defined processes for managing projects (and sticking to them, she adds) has been a godsend. But one of the most CEO-like things you can do, she says, is free: “Always have your firm’s core mission and values at the forefront of everything you do,” she says. “That’s what will define a strong culture and identity for your team. The challenges we face in the day-to-day are greater now than they’ve ever been, so it’s especially important to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing and why it matters.”
Gachot’s number one tip for thinking like a CEO? “Hire up,” she says. “I always look for people who are smarter, more creative and more talented than I am.” Spoken like a true head honcho.
Homepage image: A polished brass island makes a statement in this moody kitchen by Christine Gachot | Courtesy of Gachot
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Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Wednesday said an “uncertain” economy pushed the e-commerce giant to move forward with rare and wide-ranging layoffs after having gone on a significant hiring spree for much of the pandemic.
“We had the lens of a very uncertain economic environment, as well as our having hired very aggressively over the last several years,” Jassy said in an interview at the New York Times DealBook summit on Wednesday. “We just felt like we needed to streamline our costs.”
The remarks came as part of Jassy’s first interview since Amazon (AMZN) confirmed earlier this month it had begun laying off corporate workers, with plans for layoffs to continue into early next year. The company is reportedly planning to cut up to 10,000 employees, though it has not confirmed a figure.
Amazon, more than most tech companies, experienced a staggering pandemic boom as more customers shifted their spending online during the health crisis. Like other tech companies, it has since changed course and begun cutting employees as it confronts a shift in demand as well as rising inflation and recession fears.
“A lot has happened in the last few years that I’m not sure people anticipated,” Jassy said. “You just look in 2020, our retail business grew 39% year-over-year, at a $245 billion annual run rate, which is unprecedented, and it forced us to make decisions in that time to spend a lot more money and to go much faster in building infrastructure than we ever imagined we would.”
“We built a physical fulfillment center footprint over 25 years that we doubled in 24 months,” Jassy said.
Even so, Jassy said he thinks the team “made the right decision” regarding its infrastructure build out. Regarding the hiring spree, Jassy said he now looks at is as a “lesson for everyone.”
“I don’t necessarily think it was the wrong thing to have been doubling down, because we were growing so well and we had so many ideas that we thought were good for customers and good for the business, but I think it’s a good lesson, I think, for everybody,” Jassy said. “When you’re hiring, even when things are going really well, that it’s good to think about if there’s some kind of sudden change, even one that you just have a little bit of a hard time imagining. Would you like the incremental headcount that you’re adding at that time, or do you want to be a little bit more conservative?”
As Jassy spoke, Amazon warehouse workers who helped organize the company’s first-ever US labor union at a Staten Island facility gathered in the rain outside of the venue to protest their chief executive’s appearance in New York.
Despite the landmark union victory in April, Amazon has so far refused to formally recognize the grassroots worker group known as the Amazon Labor Union, or come to the bargaining table. The company has aggressively pushed back against the workers’ victory through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
While the NLRB battle indicates the labor union is on the cusp of being certified, Jassy suggested Amazon’s legal battle with the worker group isn’t done yet. He said there “were a lot of irregularities in that vote,” which is why the company filed objections with the NLRB. (Amazon’s objections were previously rejected by an NLRB hearing officer.)
Jassy also emphasized that the last two Amazon union elections held resulted in workers voting not to unionize, and that Amazon prefers to have a direct relationship with fulfillment center workers rather than going through unions.
“In my own opinion on where we are with that legal process is that we’re far from over with it,” Jassy said. “I think that it’s going to work its way through the NLRB, it’s probably unlikely the NLRB is going to rule against itself, and that has a real chance to end up in federal courts.”
In an interview with CNN Business ahead of Jassy’s remarks, Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls slammed that Jassy “even had the audacity to feel comfortable to come to New York City knowing that we haven’t negotiated anything yet.”
“We definitely want to take this opportunity to let him know that the workers are waiting and we are ready to negotiate our first contract,” he added of the demonstration, which he called a “welcoming party” for Jassy.
Smalls said he’s been contacted by a few laid-off Amazon employees in corporate roles, who have since grown interested in the protections of unions. “I tell them — you may have good salary, you may have good perks, you may got good stocks and benefits, obviously better than warehouse workers, but at the end of the day, you’re still an at-will employee,” Smalls said.
“I explained to them, the one building that can’t be touched right now by mass layoffs is JFK8 Staten Island,” he said. “I encourage them to do what they have to do, if that means form a union, so be it, we support it.”
Michael Sawaya has been president and general manager of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center since early 2018, after he was recruited by the state-controlled exhibition hall's overseers to manage the biggest upgrade in the vast building's 37-year history.
At the same time, he was asked to kickstart a long-stalled project that could see billions of dollars invested by private developers to build a new entertainment-focused neighborhood on about 50 adjacent acres owned by the center.
After overcoming initial political hurdles, pandemic delays and other obstacles, the $557 million upgrade is now about one-fifth completed, and a "master developer" contract was signed to start work on the new neighborhood, now dubbed The River District, sometime next year.
Mississippi born and Arkansas raised, Sawaya, 62, signed a new five-year contract earlier this year. He hopes to be able to see the project through, as he did with a $60 million renovation of the Alamodome and $325 million upgrade to the Henry B. González Convention Center while director of San Antonio’s Convention & Sports Facilities Department.
In a wide-ranging interview, Sawaya offered updates on the progress of the renovation and hinted at a new, future attraction inside the Convention Center.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
It took 20 years since the convention center bought those upriver acres to get to the point where there is a plan and approval to build a new riverfront neighborhood. Do you think you'll be around to see it completed, or at least partly built?
A: It's what we call in our industry 'cathedral thinking,' because you have to really plan for things that you may not see the end of. I hope to certainly be around when all of it is finished, like I was able to do in San Antonio. But that was a project that took me 10 years to develop. Projects of this magnitude don't just happen that quickly and especially when there's a lot of scrutiny on public investment.
Was there a lot of politics involved in that job, too?
A: Absolutely. I mean, in the course of my job there, I had five different mayors, probably 40 different city council people that I have to interact with on a regular basis. So, every week I was at the city council meeting at the podium, presenting my contracts, making presentations on major projects. The convention center expansion that we did was the largest capital project that the city had ever done in its history.
One piece that is yet to fall into place is a so-called headquarters hotel, which stalled in 2020 when the pandemic changed the outlook for the hospitality industry, and there was some objections to it from the public finance watchdog. You're again pushing for this part of the project. Why is building a large hotel next to the center so important?
A: Actually my first project [in San Antonio] was getting the headquarter hotel built there. Before we even envisioned a convention center expansion, we built that thousand-room Grand Hyatt Hotel. [The 34-story, 1,003-room Grand Hyatt San Antonio River Walk, directly adjacent to the González convention, was completed in 2008].
I don't have a headquarters hotel right at the door of the convention center and every one of our competitors has one. Nashville, when they built a new convention center, what they were lacking was any hotels around the convention center. Within a year or so, they had a brand new 800-room Omni Hotel right at the front door of their convention center.
It's key for any meeting planner because they don't want to have to use 12 different hotels. The fewer hotels they have to put in a lot, the better, because then they have transportation and all kinds of other logistical issues. All our competitor (cities) have that competitive advantage of having one big hotel block next door.
What is the most important thing on the agenda now that conferences have returned, at least this year, to pre-pandemic levels?
A: Our investments in this building have to be the priority now. About $110 million out of the $557 million [capital improvement project] has been completed.
The bigger parts of it are yet to be done and those are the things that are transformational to the building itself, that really change the look and feel of the place...One of those is what we're calling 'the Ballroom of the Future'. In between the two bridges on the third floor overlooking the Mississippi River.
It will be steel and glass so you can see the architecture of the bridges. We don't have cost estimates on that yet but they're going to be high. Everything's higher right now.
Hurricane Ida was another setback for business. What was the extent of damage and where does that stand now?
A: We had major damage, about $13 million worth of damage to the roof. It's costing us about $2 million [after the insurance recovery].
The new roof — replacing a 40 acre roof that's nearly 40 years old — is a $48 million project on its own. It ain't sexy, but you got to have it and that's the first project because you can't do improvements in the building with a roof that can't protect what you're going to be investing in.
What is the timeline to have the major renovations to the building done?
A: The good news is that we did get a lot of the capital work done during the pandemic. So, I think early 2026 to be done with most everything.
For the longer-term riverfront vision, what will that look like and is there a firm idea of converting part of it to a sports stadium, maybe for soccer?
A: I don't know about the sports piece yet. I don't have anything like that on the table today. But we've got to get the main components first.
It'll be like its own little city on the river next to the convention center and next to what's probably going to be a very exciting entertainment complex at the power plant. [The Market Street Power Plant's owners, which include several of the partners in the separate River District project, have laid out a plan to build a complex that will include a boutique hotel, apartments, retail, office and an entertainment venue].
These are great aspirations that are in the plan. If we deliver on the base programs that are in the master plan — the housing, retail, office space — then others will want to be part of that.