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Barri Carian, past president, NAWBO-OC

Click Here for Barri Carian's Bio
Perspective is everything
A couple of weeks ago I was settling into my Sunday morning routine – coffee, the L.A. Times crossword puzzle and the Sunday morning news shows. Chris Wallace was interviewing three CEOs on their views of the economy and I thought, “Good! Now I’ll get to hear from people in the real world, not just the economists and government pundits.” Here are 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?



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?


Perspective is everything
A couple of weeks ago, I was settling into my Sunday morning routin – 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?



The new normal – what is it?
Have you heard this phrase recently? Seems to be all the rage and it has caused me to ponder, which current realities will be short lived and which ones will cause fundamental and permanent changes in society, business, government, and thus, our lives? In other words, what is the new normal?

Apparently, the answer depends on whom you ask.

I’ve heard it described as “an end to the excesses and showy consumerism of the past.” A colleague used the phrase when I mentioned I had traded in my Lexus for a Volkswagen earlier this year.  According to him, what I had done clearly represented the new normal, defined as less conspicuous consumption, less living beyond our means and more conservation of our natural resources.

On the other side of that coin, I know people who have the means and are now afraid to show it. The new normal for them appears to be playing down their wealth so as not to be vilified or appear politically incorrect by those whose new normal is “less is more.”

And then there are those who believe that the new normal will be bigger government and more reliance on it for basic goods and services. That is good or bad depending on which side of the political/philosophical spectrum you are.  Will this mean higher taxes and more regulation? Will it mean everyone has health insurance regardless of personal circumstances?

Some industries are shrinking so fast, caused not just by the economic downturn, but also by other forces such as how we use technology. Will certain industries disappear altogether?  What new industries will pop up in their stead?
Will we really spend less and save more in the future, not just because we’re fearful today, but also because it’s the new normal? How will that change our buying habits and therefore the business environment? What will retirement look like in the new normal? What will life be like for our children?

Several things became clear to me as I’ve asked, listened and reflected on this topic. First, while we may each see the same things happening around us, our life experiences and our beliefs influence our interpretations of what they mean. Second, our personal interpretations of these events will then impact our actions.  (Do I put my money back in the stock market? Should I lay off more employees?  Do I tough it out or cash in? Should I buy now or wait?) Third, the only thing that seems certain is uncertainty. I know there are new opportunities for all of us out there in the landscape of the new normal…I just wish I knew what they were!

I’d love to hear from you…what is your new normal?

Spirit of the entrepreneur: part 2
In my previous blog, I talked about the spirit of the entrepreneur and my fervent belief that these unspoken heroes are going to lead us out of the recession. Last week, I attended the Ernst &Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards dinner, and I’m even more convinced that this will be the case.

The men and women recognized that evening shared an unwavering determination to succeed. Some overcame severe financial setbacks, while others just refused to take “no” for an answer. Some revitalized existing companies in “old” industries; others created entirely new markets. They represented a wide range of industries, including technology, construction, retail and consumer products, services, and healthcare.

These entrepreneurs shared several common traits, which I believe landed them as finalists for Entrepreneur of the Year. Those similarities are:

•    Clarity and strength of vision – they could see what success looked like and they knew it was possible, even when people told them it wasn’t.
•    A steadfast resolve to stay the course and follow their dreams.
•    A firm belief in the opportunities created by our free enterprise system and the ability to spot trends and capitalize on them.
•    An understanding that taking care of relationships with customers, employees and the community is integral to success.

I left the event inspired and revitalized by these incredible men and women.

One final note: Two NAWBO-OC members were among those honored that evening. Congratulations to Susan Johnson, CEO of Susan’s Healthy Gourmet, who was a finalist in the Retail/Consumer Products category, and to Henry Walker and the entire Walker family at Farmers & Merchants Bank for the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was a reminder that I don’t need to wait for annual awards to be inspired by and learn from great entrepreneurs. They are all around me at NAWBO-OC!

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