Optimism prevails. Our future remains bright. Understanding of the past and gaining historical perspective is the beacon that lights the path for our future. Our great system as a democratic republic coupled with the spirit of our American drive for prosperity will continue if we remain faithful to our desire to grow. That growth is measured in economic terms, but is realized in a better life for the majority and not just the few.
Nineteenth century America was a century of expansion. Our land and natural resources gave us seemingly limitless opportunity to muscle through any obstacles. Save for the Civil War and human injustices of prejudice that marred parts of that century, we could overcome all economic challenges. Anyone struggling could seek a better life by moving westward and realizing a dream. Land was open and free - new businesses and lives were created by those that sought ways to improve their future for themselves and their children.
Government played an important role in that expansion. From the Louisiana Purchase (Jefferson) to the Annexation of the Texas territory (Jackson and Polk) to rising statehood; the partnership of federal and local government, private enterprise, and the drive of individuals to create greater opportunity drove expansion.
Manifest Destiny continued into the 20th century, but in new forms. Certainly, land continued to be a large part of that growth. America had yet to develop itself and our natural resources which created great new opportunities. In addition, arguably, we see that seven (7) other macro trends and events created unquestionable high tides of opportunity in the past century:
1. The Industrial revolution that began in the late 19th Century took hold and drove the first half of the most recent greatest century, the 20th Century. The great industries of transportation, steel, textiles and others created jobs and things we wanted. Our infrastructure and cities developed. Our businesses and our people were provided more options to grow and improve. The automobile is the easiest example of our 1st half industrial revolution creation that built industries and made lives better while employing masses and building profits. Along the way, we protected the ability for everyone to contribute by preventing the large from preying on the small (TR and trust busting)
2. Just as the Civil War disrupted the previous century’s growth, the Great Depression provided a challenge that could have crippled our destiny. We didn’t let that happen. Financial markets, then as now, leaped in importance ahead of the builders of our dreams and became the driver of business. We overcame their unchecked greed and again put the interest of building and growing and furthering the interests of the many led by the “Looking Forward” spirit of the New Deal (FDR). The revitalized spirit of the New Deal’s intervention to build America drove a renewed prosperity.
3. Two great wars impacted America’s 20th Century success. WW I established the United States as a world power for the first time and demonstrated our responsibility to protect the globe (Wilson). Overcoming fanaticism that threatened the world and our freedoms was forced on our leaders and our people, leading us into WW II. The response of our country was remarkable and led to creation of the next great economic trend of the 20th Century – Defense. The industry of defense (Eisenhower and Reagan), that also spawned the Space industry (Kennedy) and technical innovation and investment, served to boost our growth in GDP and jobs. While perhaps unintended and driven by external factors, it is indisputable that the Great Wars fueled America’s 20th Century drive to protect ours and the world’s freedoms.
4. When our soldiers came home from WW II, their desires to build family and renew the American dream unwittingly created the next great macro trend of the last Century – owning your own home in a nice neighborhood. All sorts of business emerged and jobs created from this simple, but dramatic shift in our culture. Building materials, consumer goods, mortgage industries all were created in response to this great demand. The ancillary opportunities, innovations and new businesses created to support this are countless if one only stops to reflect on the things that are in your home today that your grandparents never dreamed about from a window screen to a lawn mower to a fold out couch to the television to countless kitchen gadgets.
5. Technology and Telecommunications drove the last ½ of our 20th century growth. The single biggest macro impact on economic growth is improvement of productivity. The computer, no, the personal computer and related software enhancements, have had immeasurable impact on productivity gains. Lest we forget, the 1st phone was invented in the 1860’s and the computer in the 1930’s, but our management of pro competition, incentives for innovation and balance of regulation fostered enormous improvements. The internet is only in its infancy with immeasurable applications and values yet to come. Global communication is ubiquitous, information instantaneous and the declining cost curves only enhancing further deployment.
6. While not traditionally factored as an economic trend, Social Reform played an important role in our development in the 20th Century. The improvement of work environments and the balance of ownership and employee responsibility to work have had significant impact on the growth of profits and individual pride of work. Union bashing is in vogue today, but the great organizers in our largest industries protected the individual and made way for advances for the many. Child labor laws, fair wages, safe working conditions, restrictions of work day hours all helped create enormous improvement to our forefather’s desire for a “pursuit of happiness.” Of course, social reform that grew from the revolution of the 60’s in civil rights demanded that equality of every race and creed and color was more than words on our Constitution, but a living practice of our every day life (Kennedy and Johnson and King).
7. There’s nothing wrong with a little entertainment! Perhaps, our greatest export today is American entertainment. Not in absolute dollars, but in sheer momentum of creating new trends, our fields of entertainment personify the American passions. Development of the arts achieved never before seen advances as was realized in the last century. From musical theatre to movies to architectural leadership to revolutionary fine art to all the various stages and genres of music, our culture is better off for the devotion that we have to entertainment and the arts. Sports achieved incredible popularity and served to boost our economy. Every American should take pride in our advances of the arts and never diminish the importance we assign to the arts for the heart and soul of our culture.
Even more amazing opportunities lie ahead of us. The next great generation will lead us there. We all witness that the youth of our country have capability like no other before it. They are bright and ambitious and innovative and caring. We can build on the past for even greater opportunity if we remain faithful to our ideals and values of justice and the principles of our forefathers while leveraging their talent and creativity for the future.
It’s been previously chronicled from our past comments that we believe in the need to regain our balance of values in society and to again cherish the drive to innovate and build. Finance mechanisms are tools for development. Over-rewarding financial engineering creates inappropriate behavior. Banks and our great financial institutions are built to serve growth and business and individuals. We certainly need them to thrive to drive development. But, our best and brightest people need to innovate and build. We need to drive job creation – jobs that bring satisfaction in work and improved conditions for living. We must reward the right behavior and encourage the right personal development if we are to continue earning America’s place of leadership.
In our business, we meet wonderful people and see exciting opportunities ahead. We have the benefit of working with these amazing people and helping them achieve their goals. Our commitment to growth execution is biased toward creating jobs and sustained profitable growth with our clients. The nature of our business is to participate in and help create elements of the next great trends that will make up the next greatest century ahead
We have the good fortune of witnessing first hand new trends. While none of these are unknown to any one who reads this, understanding them and determining how to participate has value. I personally benefited by participating in the telecommunications and technology revolution of the past. While unintentional, having had the opportunity to be a part of that great growth and innovation was thrilling. We seek client partners who want to make a difference in the trends of the next century, helping them achieve significant impacts and profitable growth. Understanding these trends is helping us shape the services and capabilities we need to achieve our goal to be a world class business execution firm.
The areas we think about that will drive our country’s next great century currently are:
Energy and Earth: The “tipping point” is here. Our decisions to serve “green” requirements and protect our planet are necessary from a social and environmental perspective. We must protect all of our natural resources from conservation of limited capacity of fossil fuels to the beauty of our land and animals. As a result, new businesses and innovation and trends will evolve. We have already established relationships in helping improve clean air and large commercial environments with terrific clients. Their innovation and commitment are testimony to the future opportunities ahead.
Education: Information and gaining access to education is economically smart. We must remain dedicated to promote further education for all; privileged and middle class and poor, all races and color, for immigrants, for everyone. Our development requires workers who are the best educated and who seek continuous improvement. Education never rests either, long after we enter the work world. Certain of our clients are dedicated to bringing new information, content and learning to businesses and individuals. It’s exciting to be part of companies whose dedication is to educate and to build their businesses profitably by helping others achieve personal and professional work satisfaction.
Technology and Software: Anyone who believes we’ve invented everything worth inventing is sadly mistaken. We see amazing advances in technology and use of software to improve productivity, innovate and revolutionize. In particular, companies need improved execution techniques to deploy more rapidly and broadly these advances through better distribution, cost management, pricing, manufacturing, etc. Services businesses are essential to the deployment and optimization of these technologies to maximize value. Our exposure to some of the innovation that is taking place in these fields makes us conscious of the exciting opportunities ahead. The practical applications that improve all facets of life are thrilling. This ranges from necessities such as improvements of first responders communication in protecting us against terrorism to ability to wirelessly book a restaurant reservation or purchase a concert ticket.
Communication: The fields of the telecommunications and practical advances on the Internet are boundless with opportunity. Specific applications that leverage the internet and that defines application specific social and business networks to access information, manage our lives and improve productivity is untapped. We have clients with emerging capabilities leveraging content and expertise to build these capabilities and profitable growth. Creating blueprints to bring these to market, facilitating deployment and gaining customers all will accelerate positive macro trends for business growth that has global touch and global consequences.
Infratructure: There are significant opportunities to rebuild our infrastructure. Certainly, traditional requirements to improve decaying roads, bridges and buildings are basic requirements that will serve to build a robust economy and create meaningful jobs. In addition, innovation will create new opportunities. The confluence of need for “green”, preservation of natural resources and city congestion must have enormous consequences on basic industries such as transportation. Trains and other new forms of public transportation need to be revolutionized. Understanding market trends and distribution are elements of our clients’ needs that we can impact in these areas.
Other areas of significance will fuel our next great century’s growth:
• Space and Defense: In an unstable world with countries and organizations serving their self interests that may be incompatible with our preservation of our freedoms, defense remains important. Space exploration and yet to be defined opportunities will drive new pursuits in these areas.
• Health Care: While our firm is involved with clients in delivery, distribution and execution in health care related technology and services, true innovation will continue to evolve in areas of research and medicine with wonderful consequences for our ability to live longer and healthier.
• Arts and Entertainment: Our business boundaries are stretched through our passion and creativity and dedication and support of the arts.
• Unknown: We’ll keep our eyes wide open. The next great trend isn’t even known to us today. As President William McKinley met with his cabinet at the turn of the century in 1900, there was unlikely discussion about terrorism prevention on the Internet. What great unknown to us now opportunity lies ahead for us and our grandchildren – that’s exciting.
Certainly, macro trends discussed from the 20th century will also continue. Entertainment and social reform will continue to dictate changes in our future.
As stated here often, we must remain vigilant to support those who build and innovate and operate and execute and work. We need to ensure balance of rewards for all those in the chain of impacting growth and not overweigh the values of various self interest groups as we have in our recent past.
Great opportunity lies ahead as we boldly continue the journey of building the next greatest century. Thanks for joining us.