Yesterday two of us from Growth Nation were honored to participate in Global Arizona 100 to add our voice to the 300 or so other voices assembled at the Sheraton in Phoenix to discuss Arizona’s future. The keynote speakers were Clyde Prestowitz (left), founder and president of the Economic Strategy Intitute and former counselor to Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldridge under President Reagan, and James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and author of nine books. The overall purpose was to discuss, find and recommend specific actions for our business and political leaders to take that will make Arizona and Arizona businesses more competitive in the global marketplace. The next steps are that Don Budinger, chairman and founding director of the Rodel Foundation, Bill Harris, president and CEO of the Science Foundation and the ASU Morrison Institute of Public Policy will begin discussing the prioritized results across Arizona. Cool idea, executed wonderfully so far!
What can business owners learn from yesterday’s half-day event? James Fallows’ presentation contained overarching recommendations on ‘what to do’ to grow for Arizona, and frankly, we think it works well for companies, too.
James Fallows had four recommendations, in bold below. See how it applies to your business!
- Recognize bottom-up renovation is necessary in this new era. The government won’t save us, but hopefully at least they won’t work too hard against us. Business leaders must step forward and provide leadership. So just like any company, Arizona needs to pull itself up from the bootstraps. Companies with employees that ‘do the right thing’ will succeed over time because the bottom up approach is closest to the customer and to market information.
- Be ruthlessly honest. Too much of today’s public debate is one-sided without discussion of the trade-offs. Each side of any issue argues for their position by stating all the positives without sharing the balanced view. Have you been in a company situation where things went off kilter because people did not embrace reality? Nods of heads out there? Yes understand the trade-offs before moving forward, which helps anyone prioritize what to do next.
- Understand local advantages and disadvantages. For Arizona we listed these out and discussed them. Wow – some big pluses and minuses, with the potential for some amazing future success. One of the biggest advantages for business in Arizona is that nearly EVERYONE is from somewhere else, which fosters a great entrepreneurial spirit and openness to new people and ideas. Actually this #3 is part of the branding and planning process that Growth Nation uses with our clients – it’s essential to understand before deciding on next steps. Again it works for at state or a business!
- Have vibrant local organizations where people care. I love the fact that Arizonans care about the future of the business state. We don’t agree on all the details including policies like SB1070, taxes, economic development, et al, but we talk about it and want to move things forward. Mr. Fallows suggested that local organizations are like compound interest – you may not see the results in the short term, but over the long term, good things happen! The same is true of any business. One we know about that has active employee interaction is AxoSoft in Scottsdale, where CEO Hamid Shojaee empowers his team to be disruptive and to create value every day. It works – and will keep AxoSoft and Hamid’s other business TransferBigFiles.com on the road to great growth.
Craig Barrett, former chairman of Intel, happened to be having lunch at our table and asked a pretty important question of Mr. Fallows. Mr. Fallows had earlier expressed optimism about America to ultimately improve our international trade and NOT become a third world country, but he also suggested that our government leaders at every level DON”T UNDERSTAND the magnitude of the problem. Mr. Barrett asked, if they don’t understand, how can you be optimistic that a solution will ultimately be achieved for Arizona and the US?
Pause. Long pause. Mr. Fallows answered it just like any good business owner would. Even if you feel that things are stacked against you, you MUST believe you can overcome those issues. And we must believe that Arizona and the US will stay in the global game as a top leader. It’s dangerous, it’s ominous, and we must work harder to turn the tide. Roll up our sleeves, and ‘just do it’. Pretty good business advice to grow, too, isn’t it?