Monday, February 23, 2009

Phenomenal Women

KSU's Siegel Institute is holding its 2009 Phenomenal Women's conference on April 23. I was there last year, served on a panel, and had a very enjoyable day. Especially if you live in Cobb or Cherokee County, or North Fulton, you should go! Call 678-797-2000 for registration information.

DIY or Oursourcing - does gender set the path?

It has been my observation in the business world that men are far quicker to outsource than women, when it comes to business tasks (not, I will admit, when it comes to the home front, where every man fancies himself, it seems, a carpenter, a painter, a plumber and an electrician).

Women seem to think they can do it all themselves - business development, management, finances, taxes, advertising, marketing, sales, customer service, you name it! Men on the other hand, focus on what they do best (often, that is sales), and outsource the rest.

Do you agree or disagree with this observation?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Clueless in D.C.

The reason why Barack Obama was elected President of the United States is that Americans have been desperate for change. Even the Republicans distanced themselves from President Bush in the lead-up to the 2008 elections, and rejected John McCain’s bid to succeed him.

So, what happened?

“Change” has brought us nothing so far. O.K. – it’s only two weeks into the new administration and we ought to practice patience. We know that change does not come overnight and we are confident the new President is not taking his eye off the ball. Or is he? It was refreshing to hear him say the other day that he had “screwed up”, but how did it happen that he had nominated THREE cabinet/administration officials with tax troubles in their past?

Timothy Geithner, for Treasury, sailed by. It was believable that some Social Security and Medicare taxes he was supposed to have paid while he worked at the International Monetary Fund had been overlooked. He paid up (some $40 thousand dollars, it has been reported), got confirmed, assumed his position and that was that.

Then came Nancy Killefer, proposed as the White House Chief Performance Officer, who had some years ago apparently not paid about $900 in unemployment taxes for household help. She probably would have sailed through as well, if it had not been for number three in this sad saga: Tom Daschle, former Majority Leader in the United States Senate and recently nominated by President Obama to be the Health and Human Services Secretary. He, it turned out, had owed more than $120 thousand in taxes on consulting income and “goodies” he had received after losing his 2004 re-election campaign and becoming a consultant/lobbyist, on such perks as a car and chauffeur from a client, and then paid them after the President had tapped him for the HHS job.

Americans have a pretty good level of tolerance and are very forgiving when people “mess up and fess up”, but this was “one tax cheat too far”. The Geithner oversight was believable, the Killefer glitch was understandable, but the Daschle situation stretched people’s credulity. A man so smart that he was expected to overhaul and shape up the U.S. health care system did not know that there are taxes to be paid on gifts?

What this points to is that Washington is “different” from the rest of America. We work hard, we raise our families we pay our taxes and we hold out hope that the next generation will be better off than we have been. In D.C.? The tax saga indicates that a cluelessness exists there that Americans find rather disgusting. “Change” – it remains much needed!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

“Buy American” . . . .?

Judging from the comments heard on radio and TV call-in shows in recent days, one would think Americans have never bought a laptop made in China, a cell phone made in Korea or a tomato grown in Mexico. Now they do not want any money in the stimulus bill to be spent outside the United States. Not only is that a dangerous (protectionist, isolationist, nationalist) attitude, it is also totally impractical!

We have been international traders since Europeans first landed on these shores. “Here,” we said to the native tribes, “are some beads and mirrors; now we will take your land.”

Yesterday, on one of my rare shopping trips (I hate shopping!), I bought a skirt made in Vietnam, a T-shirt made in Cambodia, undies from Thailand and Honduras, a stir-fry pan made in Taiwan, and a Calvin Klein shirt made in China; even my new “Bass ‘American’ Jeans” were made in the Dominican Republic!

Had equivalent American-made products been available, my shopping trip would probably have been two or three times as expensive. That is the story of international trade! We should not ban buying from abroad (although, we do already have too much stuff in our homes and offices – but that’s another story); what we should do is sell more to other countries.

In November 2008 (the most recent month for which figures have been released by the U.S. government), we imported $183.2 billion worth of stuff, and exported $142.8 billion worth; in other words, a $40.4 billion deficit. In just one month! That’s not good, but we do like our “stuff”, don’t we?

As a business woman, I meet peers every day of the week who have products or services to sell that are perfect for international markets, but they don’t have the interest or confidence to pursue this.

So, this is your challenge for today: if you make soap, find a distributor in Dubai this year; if you are a business consultant, explore a partnership will a colleague in Australia; if you are an artist, reach out to seek exhibit opportunities in Geneva, Moscow or Brussels. It can be done, and for the sake of the American economy, it should be done. And quit talking about “Buy American” – it’s counterproductive.