Entering the Age in Which Business and The People Are On The Same Side

Volume 2, Issue 5

I first met Bob Herbold (see www.bobherbold.com) when he was at P&G, before he went on to be COO of Microsoft where he’s credited with a fourfold increase in revenue and a sevenfold increase in EBITDA. Last week I got to reconnect with Bob by phone and as in all my conversations with him I learned a lot.

Nowadays Bob is spending half his time in the fast-developing areas of Asia such as Singapore, Indonesia, Penang and Chongqing. He’s feeling the vibrant energy of these places, where companies from the U.S. and other developed nations can ride the ebullient ballooning of commerce. He notes the intelligence of the talent pool, the effectiveness of the education systems, and the willingness to work hard that he attributes to the population not having the excess self-esteem of American workers. I’m thinking Americans don’t have to give up their self-esteem (nor their hard-won rights as workers) if they are reinspired by a crystallizing and uniting vision — this might be a way to make us show the same focused yet humble drive of these new economic engines. Bob would like to see the USA fulfill Ben Franklin’s dream of a land of people taking personal responsibility to the degree that the need for unemployment insurance and welfare payments is naturally reduced. Undoubtedly the recipients of those payments today would protest that conditions outstripped their ability to take responsibility, and what is needed are better systemic solutions empowering personal responsibility — educational/training-oriented, incentives to create jobs, methods of helping small business, and so on.

A similar idea appeared in my 1976 report A Plan For America, which recommended strategies for empowering people to become plugged in where their talents and training could contribute the most success for themselves and for the rest of society.

Bob’s ardent wish is that the US government and the press could become what he perceives as less anti-business. He points out as one example the fact that US corporations are disincentivized by high (35%) tax rates on money that has already been taxed to bring cash back from overseas into the US. He goes on to say there are only the US and seven other Western nations with similar policies — out of all of the nations — whereas countries he considers smarter in adapting to changes, such as Switzerland, allow the money back into the home country without re-taxing it above the taxes already paid in foreign countries. He cites Switzerland’s 2.5% unemployment rate as indicative of what the US could achieve by learning from policies of other countries that are adapting better to the massive shifts in the world economic order. Clearly there is a question here of whether we can help our leaders find ways to better dial tax structure decisions to maximize US job creation.

My cousin Bernie like others in my immediate family growing up, was a union man. To show for it he had a steel plate in his head, where company-hired goons hit him with truncheons. This is an early impression I had of the seemingly natural strain between business and people. Today I no longer feel there is anything natural about such an adversarial tension between business and people. We all need the US to be more economically successful. We all need there to be jobs for everyone who needs and wants and is able to work. Business and people are the same folks looked at two different ways. What can be done to eliminate ancient distrust and get the whole team humming?

We need a new way to work at solutions together, collaborating between people and business. Business saw the need for an association called ALEC* to work out solutions good for business and to pitch these solutions to legislators. Social media has shortened the time it takes for seismic events to occur in our 21st century society. A blogger discovered ALEC and didn’t like it. One corporation found itself being misquoted as daring the people to boycott its products if they didn’t like ALEC. Digital conversation reaction sentiment was negative and voluminous, and now corporations are rapidly departing ALEC.

Why not replace ALEC with a digital platform that opens up such conversations about legislative solutions, to take place between business and people on all sides of the issues, together? We need innovative solutions because mostly what we get are old ideas recycled endlessly. With all of the media exposure taking place about our problems, why shouldn’t a non-negligible percentage of it be about constructive new solution ideas, good for business owners and workers alike?

The Human Effectiveness Institute has designed a digital platform for this purpose and is seeking the right partners to make it work. We call it The Democracy Channel. Bill Rouhana, CEO of Chicken Soup for the Soul and a good friend has already joined us. Take a look at The Democracy Channel platform  and get in touch if you’d like to play a role in making this happen. It’s a good thing that business wants to help find new solutions, let’s just channel that energy into a venue where one’s customers want to help — where both sides win.

Best to all,

Bill

* For those who want to see what all the hubbub is about from a different point of view, here’s an interesting site: 
http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

One thought on “Entering the Age in Which Business and The People Are On The Same Side

  1. Yana Lambert

    With all due respect to Bob Herbold, my ardent wish is that business could become less anti-American worker. I became unemployed when hundreds of jobs (including whole departments) from our company were outsourced to India and the Philippines, and our local office was closed. Clearly the motive was cost-cutting, including health care costs – a century-old problem that Obama is trying to fix and which American business is fighting vociferously.
    American workers through their unions fought hard for rights that every American worker enjoys, from fair wages, safe working conditions, child labor laws, to vacation and health benefits, to name a few. As a country, we have fought to protect our environment, and now big business rails against any government regulation and lobbies Congress to abolish the EPA, which has helped to clean our air and water since it was created in 1970 by President Nixon.
    Bringing jobs back to America and investing in American workers and American infrastructure would go a long way to eliminating ancient distrust, which goes back to medieval lords and serfs – a playing field that was leveled by the hard work of unions over decades.
    Why have corporations been sitting on billions of dollars of profit over the last 2 years? Why aren’t they creating jobs in the US? Wall Street and the right-wing like to call it the result of uncertainty and echoing the old “too much government regulation” argument. Is it cynical to think that Big Business is engineering the results of the 2012 election?
    Regarding ALEC, its mission was to work out solutions good for business – but not for the American worker. Common Cause, a nonpartisan and nonprofit government watchdog organization, brought ALEC’s activities to light , describing ALEC’s task force meetings as “meetings where state elected officials vote as equals with unelected corporate lobbyists and special interest reps on templates to change our rights without the press or public present.” The fact that word of this activity spread quickly through today’s ubiquitous social media gives me hope for Democracy – of, by, and for the people. It can still work.
    On your comment re the 35% corporate tax rate, how many corporations ever pay this tax? The following was reported in March 2011 in NYT: General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
    Wouldn’t it be nice if GE avoided paying taxes by reinvesting in American jobs and R&D? Or maybe got its tax credits by partnering with government to rebuild our crumbling and outdated infrastructure? That would work for me, and would be an inspiring example of good corporate citizenship and good tax policy.

    Reply

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