What is a “Real” Asset?
David Tice, a friend and a professor of Business from the University of California, Berkley, in a seminar that we jointly taught in Moscow, made a point on strategic planning which was illuminating. I want to share it with you.
What is a real asset of a company? (He used the phrase “real core competence.”)
For instance, he asked, what is the real asset of an oil company? Most people will say their oil reserves.
David Tice said that the real asset is the one you cannot sell.
Listen to this. This is very important: “The asset you can not sell…!!!”
Reserves can be sold. Machinery can be sold. People can be fired and new staff or workers hired. So what is it that “cannot be sold?”
It is your connections. Your corporate DNA. Your culture. Your reputation. Your values.
It complemented my lecture on what makes a good leader: it is not what he or she HAS, but what he or she IS.
And what a person IS, his or her character, integrity, values, style and behavior, cannot be sold.
All of this relates significantly to building a culture of Mutual Trust and Respect. This is an enormous task. Time consuming. And even painful because you need, as a leader, to “swim against the current.” The “current”, the normal way people behave, leads to disintegration, not integration.
To love, respect and try to solve problems constructively, with maturity, is much more difficult than to hate and complain and spread rumors.
How many people watch a high rise being built? Now compare how many watch it being demolished.
Making war is so much easier than making peace.
Staying in a marriage is much more difficult that getting divorced.
Unfortunately, these very real assets-culture and values-are difficult to measure. Difficult to evaluate. Usually they appear under the heading “goodwill” in accounting. They appear as a high multiple of earnings per share.
But for many economists, culture and values are too “soft” to be weighed or considered as reliable measures. The economists (like bankers) want hard assets that can be sold. The rest is “air” for them.
Many CEOs often hire a consultant to improve the way the production line operates; or to find new clients and to cut costs. Only, the very enlightened understand that the real asset is the culture of the company and investing in it is the most important corporate move to undertake.
What makes a good marriage? How many cars we have? How many homes we have ? Or is it the nature of our relationship? As a family?
The most valuable asset is the one we do not see. But feel.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes