lhowell

Global Business Corruption: Biggest Impediment to Sustainable Living

In Uncategorized on July 1, 2008 at 4:31 am

Corruption is not only the biggest obstacle to development and economic growth, but also a major risk to companies as recent stories have demonstrated. Many corporate leaders today have assumed responsibility and implemented effective programmes to address the issue within their own context and in collaboration with others. The joint publication of the four major global anti-corruption initiatives working with the private sector to effectively address the issue provides a “first-of its” kind summary on why companies must take a stance, and how they can do so.

This is an important and timely piece, because the implications are far reaching.  For example, in the United States, despite our laws, corruption tends to preclude young upstarts from winning government contracts because qualified firms often do not know the “right” people.  This is problematic because often times the firms winning are in fact unqualified and/or do not have the capacity to delivery.  This Global Business Corruption report, which is the first of it’s kind provides a helpful and relevant blue print for U.S. companies and government officials to review. 

Here is what honest, hard working business people are up against:

  • Estimates show that the cost of corruption equals more than 5% of global GDP (US $2.6 trillion), with
    over US $1 trillion paid in bribes each year.
  • Corruption adds up to 10% to the total cost of doing business globally, and up to 25% to the cost of
    procurement contracts in developing countries.
  • Moving business from a country with a low level of corruption to a country with medium or high levels of corruption is found to be equivalent to a 20% tax on foreign business.

This is often what happens to small business owners in the United States because so-called community leaders want a cut of your deal or in the case of national figures like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, it is called the “shake down“.  So, while the global business corruption report is out, it would be interesting to calculate the impact and ultimate damage to business owners who have to pay for “access”.  This is why it is important to keep special interest money. 

Achieving Peace, Ending Hunger, Eliminate War

In Africa, mindset 3.0 on June 13, 2008 at 8:25 pm

How could we achieve piece in Iraq? Or end extreme hunger in African countries and here in the United States or eliminate war in Darfur? I was reminded of this during a phone call with my buddy Ralph. We both play golf together and enjoy each other’s company especially when he wins. I realized that if these global, geo-political problems are to be addressed there must be a truly common objective that both parties want badly.

Ralph could not make the early tee-time for this Saturday because something came up; however, he and I wanted desperately to play each other especially since he won last time and I was eager to redeem myself, especially since I give him 8 strokes. So, when he told me he could not make it, I adjusted the time to meet his schedule and realized that while it is the hottest time of day, we both compromised and the change was made. We were both ecstatic to know we would be having a rematch on tomorrow.

After the change was made, I said to Ralph, “why is it so hard to end the war in Iraq”. Of course, my buddy had a few choice words, but the real reason is that if we wanted to end the so-called war badly enough we could. This is the attitude and optimism Senator Obama brings and what people should focus on rather than recalcitrant thinking of staying the course. Just imagine if I said to Ralph: “I don’t want to play at 1:00, it’s too hot and I would prefer to keep our time at 10:00″. The whole dialogue would have been about ME, and it was about achieving an outcome that was beneficial to both and something we could feel good about, since I plan on beating him soundly tomorrow.

Would Senator McCain’s stance be any different in dealing with the Sunnis or Iran or North Korea? As basic as this might sound it is achievable if we open our minds to new thinking. Some might say this is naive, but when you really understand what are the motives and desires and you get the truth on the table we could achieve peace, end hunger and stop unnecessary violence.

Have a terrific weekend to my faithful readers!

Small is the New Big in Politics…

In economy, mindset 3.0, politicians on June 7, 2008 at 4:55 am

Clinton Donor Base Need Not Apply.

The country witnessed history Tuesday evening, with Senator Barack Obama winning the nomination to represent the Democrat’s in the fall.  It is obvious why this is such an historic moment.  But I want to take a short detour to highlight three articles written in the New York Times June 4, 2008 that are seemingly unrelated on the surface but how they support the small-donor approach of Obama to fundraising as opposed to the large donor route that Senator Clinton seems to favor.

The first article Start-Up Releases Smaller Version of Camcorder describes their new product called Mino that will sell for $179.  The Mino is a pocket size camcorder that is the first cousin of the Flip and Flip Ultra developed by Pure Digital.  I have the Ultra and use it all the time.   What is striking is the strategy behind the company’s products.  Small, simple to use with minimal features.  The result is an experience for a consumer that is easy to use, fun and the ability to share videos quickly across the Internet.

The second piece, G.M. Shifts Focus to Small Cars in Sign of Sport Utility Demise is about GM’s shuttering plants to shift to building smaller cars.  At first, my response was duh?  That’s a no-brainer with gas at $4 dollars a gallon.  Then I thought to myself, smaller cars, fuel-efficiency, less expensive.  GM’s CEO, Robert Waggoner “ said $4-a-gallon gas prices had forced a “structural shift” by American consumers away from large vehicles into more fuel-efficient cars”.  You think?

And finally, the article entitled, Clinton Donor Base Is Obama’s Next Prize describes how Obama may involve the big money fund-raising machine for which the Clinton campaign is famous.  Most notable for me is, if the existing base of donors gives an average of $200 the Obama campaign will have over $300 million dollars for the general election sans the Clinton donor base.  The small donors are the defacto reason why Senator Obama’s ascendency as the Presidential nominee is so extraordinary, and well, so special for all Americans.  While Clinton donors boast their deep, and well endowed wallets, it is virtually impossible to build the kind of support and “active donor base” established by the Obama campaign— 1.5 million strong and growing.  If these hard-working women and men, were supplemented with a bevy of 300-400 heavy hitters as the article suggests, this could well take an incorrigible turn against Obama’s bid for President in the fall.

See the theme here?  Small.  Yes, small is having a huge impact on how we live, drive, capture memories, listen to music, earn a living, and of course raise money in Presidential campaigns.  What’s important to keep in mind is how successful companies that keep it simple and small are thriving.  Apple’s iPod for example.  The Flip Ultra camcorder and of course we can’t’ forget the Toyota Prius and its legendary 40 plus MPGs of fuel economy compared to 13 MPGs for your average SUV.

So, the strategic question for Obama, and his campaign strategist David Axelrod is this: Should we continue the small donor strategy through the general election and forego the Hillary Clinton donor network?

If you believe in the success of Small, which sure seems to be working, not to mention GM’s shift in strategy to building smaller, more fuel efficient cars, then sticking with small just might be the way to go.  If you apply this thinking to the large donor approach, how much does it take to “feed” the large donors in terms of expectation?   It’s all about “their” collective egos and what “they” want?  As Eckhart Tolle writes in his book, A New Earth, “Recognize the ego for what it is: a collective dysfunction, the insanity of the human mind.”

What would they want in return to feed this massive collective ego?  By contrast, small donors simply want a government that works, and does what politicians say they will do.  Small donors have no need to feed their ego, they are more concerned with feeding their families.  This is the conundrum for the Obama campaign?  The leadership of Pure Digital adamantly stays away from “feature creep” to give consumers what they want—a camcorder that fits in their vest pocket and works with the push of one button.  Again, small is good!

So, here’s what we have: big SUVs, hefty $800 camcorders, and large donors with the ability to write six-figure checks.  All are hard to work with, require lots of resources, have high expectations and simply consume more energy and thought that could be used for more prudent pursuits.

Senator Obama has shown that if you have a good story to tell and you stick to your principles, people will vote for you.  I would be willing to bet that Republicans and the big money Clinton fund raising network prefer fuel-efficient, smaller cars, easy to use camcorders that don’t cost much and they would love to have the machine that is Obama’s small donor network all giving in unison on average $200 dollars a pop for the general election.  So, here’s the deal.  The Obama campaign generates $300 million dollars for this fall and Mr. Obama “lives” the message that Senator McCain continues to promote by doing away with special interest money.  Therefore, Small equals winning products to stimulate the economy built by U.S. companies.  And, just as important as this moment in history, small donor amounts equal big things for the American people in November.   Now, that is a fund raising strategy we can all believe in.

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