Make the best of the worst of it

Those businesses that make the most of the next six months to build up capacity will be looking for agents of change and choice rather than leaving their expansion to chance. COLIN BENJAMIN

Colin Benjamin

By Colin Benjamin

Last week The Futurist suggested that by the time Obama signs on as the next US president we are likely to see the good times roll again for lower and middle income Americans, the oil bubble should have burst, and the financial markets may finally have come clean on their disastrous credit crises.

A few of my friends, or rather associates, have complained that petrol prices promptly headed for the $US4 a gallon level, gold prices went up again and speculators made a killing on forcing food prices beyond the reach of millions around the world. All I can say is, don’t shoot the messenger.

Now is the time to make the most of the worst start to a financial year that is likely to face us in writing our long-term business and marketing plans.

Speculators do not believe that the central bankers are going to be brave enough to tackle the loss of Bush and Brown in the same year and are sure that Dick Cheney will continue to press for greed over all else with a low dollar, now that he has shifted HQ to Dubai.

Until the little folk with the green eyeshades in the Fed reach the conclusion that the oil billionaires have had a better-than-even go, they are not going to raise rates, restore the dollar and crash the speculative plays on commodities.

Both Obama and McCain are going to have to make their appeals to the middle classes and recognise that there is little support for Cheney’s Iran bombing mission (designed to send oil prices over the $US250 a barrel mark to bail out the financial institutions).

This means that financial stocks will act as the first swallow that tells us that the US is going to have an early summer of discontent that fuels Democrat control of both houses and the presidency, leading to higher taxes and a domestic expansion that will herald a stronger dollar policy at the Fed.

In this new world, the next six months will see many huge mergers and bailouts as investors look for real economic activity rather than trying to pick the next commodity escalator, and a rush to quality staff around the globe.

Australian firms have a great opportunity to manage three assets. The first is the million or so Aussies that are already working offshore, because their talents are recognised, their taxes are reduced and their families enjoy world-class education and lifestyles.

The second is the vast networks of people with families and relatives in the BRIC economies who are looking to gain a visa to come to Australia to build global business networks in service industries and trade relationships.

The third is the incredible number of people in this country who would be prepared to learn a foreign language if there was a financial incentive for staff who have both a service culture and a willingness to be bilingual suppliers to the tourism and global business networks.

Longer term, Kevin and Julia may be able to convince the education industry that producing multi-lingual graduates is our best long-term investment.

Small and medium enterprises that want to cash in on a revitalised, energy efficient, technologically proficient and multi-cultural world will spend the next six months building the quality and diversity of their staff to make sure that they break out of the monoculture world of Oz.

Nothing is more important in going to war than making sure that you have the best troops trained for tomorrow’s battles rather than continuing to fight lost wars.

The small firms that make it over the $100 million trading mark in the coming business environment will emphasise a meritocratic, fully-inclusive, glass ceiling free environment that rewards creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship over stability and risk aversion.

As Merrill Lynch is now saying; you need a culture in which every individual has an equal opportunity for contribution and personal development.

Those that make the most of the next six months to build up capacity and start reaching beyond the big city mentality for their offshore efforts will be looking for agents of change and choice rather than leaving their expansion to chance.

Don’t be afraid to pick up people around the world that have been given their marching orders from the giants, which are going to be tumbling back to earth after a decade of living well beyond their longer term means.

These knowledge workers have a wealth of experience, already know how tough global marketing is going to be for those without cross national networks, and now are willing to demand less than stratospheric benefits to join genuinely growing companies.

At the same time, the hedge funds and superannuation investors are going to follow Buffett in the hunt for solid companies that have tailored their offer to the basic needs of households and communities of interest.


Dr Colin Benjamin is Entrepreneurship and Strategic Thinking Consultant at Marshall Place Associates, which offers a range of strategic thinking tools that open up possibilities for individuals and organisations committed to applying the processes of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. Contact: CEO Dr Jane Shelton.

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