Most business people who read about the recent U.S. governmental policies, new legislation and Presidential “findings” are likely to become either depressed or discouraged. Reports of the global financial crisis and massive de-leveraging yet to happen can also be daunting.
Walt Kelly’s old comic strip “Pogo” put it very succinctly in its now famous line, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Pogo’s comment is profound. We tend to get what we expect a lot of the time. Negative expectations lead to negative outcomes—and vice versa. Adding to this challenge is the fact that American business has not operated in such an anti-business political climate in decades.
Adapt, Evolve, Innovate & Succeed
The one characteristic of American business that consistently wins is its ability to adapt, evolve, innovate and compete in the face of all kinds of adversity. It is what Americans seem to do best. To put it in a simpler way, “When someone invents a better regulatory mousetrap, the mice simply get smarter and find a way around it.”
There are many ways to think about this, but the best one is that businesses, especially American businesses, have limitless ability to find “new and better solutions.” That is why the USA enjoys the highest level of Foreign Direct Investment in the world. Financial managers realize that even an impaired (or mismanaged) U.S. economy is still good at finding the best uses for capital—both monetary and human capital.
Positive Energy to Ask the Right Questions
What is at the heart of this remarkable ability? It is a relentless determination to succeed combined with a positive energy and enthusiasm for the “game” of business. You see, business is “a game where the score is kept in money and market position.” When you win, you get to play again. Win often enough and you gain a lucrative “competitive advantage.”
The secret to such success can be described by the ability to learn how to ask the right questions at the right times, en route to finding the best solution or outcome. Winners don’t ask: “Why can’t we…?” They ask: “How can we…?” The answer will be based on how the question is posed—positively or negatively. Winners don’t stop asking at the first “No” answer. They persist, asking: “How else could we…” Or, “What else could we do…? Such simple questions—asked the right way—can pay off in big ideas and big growth.
A Big World, but U.S. is Still the Biggest
The world is a huge market; China is a growing force; but the USA is still the largest economic power—and China’s largest customer. Developed markets like the USA, the European Union, and Japan struggle with slow growth rates and aging populations. But they are also repositories of decades of success, strong market positions and enormous stores of knowledge. It would be naïve not to expect countries like Brazil, India and China to grow and take larger places on the world economic stage. It is already happening. It would be even more naïve to think that a financial crisis would cause the incumbent leaders—the USA and the EU—to fall by the wayside. Nor will these long-term leaders allow competition to roll over them, or capitulate to misguided government policies that inhibit their progress.
Uncertainty Hinders the Recovery, but the Money is Waiting
The issue holding back robust recovery is uncertainty fueled by the U. S. Government’s anti-business policies, and worsened by an unstable geopolitical situation. Even those fears will wear thin as the U. S. mid-term elections start shifting the balance of political power and bring Washington, D.C. into a familiar stability of “gridlock.”
Bad things will stop happening so often. Good things will start to show up, small at first, but growing. The clincher for future business growth is that American companies are sitting on $2 Trillion in cash or near-cash assets—just waiting for the right time to invest and move ahead.
The Recovery Will Still Come… Be Ready!
Consumers will begin to spend, slowly at first, and then as jobs stop disappearing, and start reappearing, spending will climb too—all in due time. Markets will have been de-leveraged enough to become robust again—it will just take longer than it has in the past. Companies will quit asking, “Why can’t we…?” and resume asking, “How can we…?”
Competition will continue to be won by the strongest, the smartest and the most determined companies and people. And business will grow again—perhaps more sharply than expected once the growth starts. Only those who expect to fail will be doomed to do so; don’t be part of that sorry group!
* * * * *
John L. Mariotti is President and CEO of The Enterprise Group. He was President of Huffy Bicycles, Group President of Rubbermaid Office Products Group, and now serves as a Director on several corporate boards. He has written eight business books. His electronic newsletter THE ENTERPRISE is published weekly. His website is Mariotti.net.