Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Perspective is everything
|A couple of weeks ago I was settling into my Sunday morning routine – coffee, the LA Times crossword puzzle and the Sunday morning news shows. Chris Wallace was interviewing three CEOs on their views of the economy. I thought, “Good! Now I’ll get to hear from people in the real world, not just the economists and government pundits.” Here are brief excerpts from these interviews.
Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express: “Well, I think the recession has bottomed out. We have a very unique view of the economy. We have our express company that operates all around the world, our ground company that’s tied in with retail, and our freight company that’s tied in with the industrial sector. We’re beginning to see some pickup in all three of those areas. Asia is very strong, led by China. There’s no question that the economy at least has stabilized, albeit at a lower base.”
John Chambers, CEO of CISCO: “We get to see what’s going on in medium-size businesses and larger companies. … The second quarter we began to see pretty good upturns of sequential growth, good balance in the U.S., Asia very solid, as is Latin America. The economy is clearly recovering. The question is, do we put Americans back to work and have we made the changes during this downturn to position our country on the global basis from a competitiveness point of view?”
Steve Odland, chairman of Office Depot: “Office Depot’s customers are small businesses, and so we’ve been a barometer of the health of the small business sector. What we’ve seen in this sector, the small business customers have been hurt disproportionately in this downturn, because housing is a traditional source of liquidity for these people. They start their businesses with a second mortgage and fund them with home equity lines of credit. As that credit has dried up, these businesses have not been able to recover … and I’m worried that we’re not going to until the liquidity returns to the small businesses.”
Wow. It struck me then – perspective is everything. These CEOs were not stating universal “truths”; each was giving his opinion of the economy based on the world as he sees it through his unique lens. Each was responding to what is happening in the environment within which his company conducts business. What one was experiencing was not necessarily the same for the other two. And based on their experiences, each formed an opinion about the state of the economy and presented it as the answer.
So what’s the take-away?
Regardless of whether I am presenting or receiving information, and depending on what particular information I’m looking at, it’s important to remember that more than one thing may be true. It will benefit me to look at things from multiple perspectives and not mistake my unique view as the one and only.
What is your perspective?