I have found myself questioning why I post some things to this blog. This is one of those posts I question. I question this post because I do wonder whether there is any value to it to my readers.
I think my sense that there is no value to the post comes from the often caustic personal interaction that is the hallmark of the Internet. When a local university and I held the “Future Leaders” symposium yesterday, had a graduate student stood up and said some of the things I hear on the Internet (and I am just as guilty folks) they would have been requested to leave.
The Future Leaders symposium is targeted to a group of graduate students selected by faculty at several metro-Atlanta colleges and universities with the requirement that these individuals have voiced intent to pursue careers in business. Students are selected from a broad range of disciplines from engineering to law. Soft-science majors are chosen in the discipline of psychology or industrial psychology. There are no political science or sociology majors. The symposium is an invitation only event. Invitations to attend are private and participants are expected to keep the contents of the symposium private.
In the recent years, a strong current of politics has been included in the structure and presentation of the symposium. In the initial screening process of those approached by faculty to attend, participants are first asked to identify themselves as liberal or conservative. Faculty then select students based on their performance in grad school and attempt to balance political perspective along a 50/50 split of conservative versus liberal political attitude.
When a student is selected, they answer further survey questions for their given political orientation and rank themselves on a scale as to where they “fit” in their respective political “cloud,” e.g. very conservative or weakly conservative. One of the critical questions is “what must you achieve in life to consider yourself as successful at your chosen career?” Students are prompted by faculty prior to the symposium that the answer to this question may be broad ranging. As an example, for some it may be to create a product with the success of the iPad, while for others it may be solely the accumulation of material wealth.
What I stress early in my conduct of the symposium — and continue to stress by real world example — is that both political and economic (business) actions are not null. These actions are taken by individuals or small groups of individuals, e.g. a board of directors, and will elicit a response from parties involved. A first fundamentals example is the “parking” of earnings by U.S. companies offshore in response to U.S. tax policy.
Participants must sign a non-disclosure agreement to participate in the opening presentation. Yesterday I presented real-time balance sheet of five business entities currently in operation. All five entities are privately held concerns. This is done because both financial and potential marketing data is exposed that can be insider information. In addition, the operating legal names of the entities are not exposed.
Three of the five business entities are onshore U.S. Two are offshore business entities. The balance sheet, income statement, and treasury update on a cash flow basis. As any accountant will tell you, the final number comes at the end of an accounting period. All five business entities present cash flow in different ways. For instance, one company is a software company where sales and support generate income in a long run, e.g., an initial large payment from the client and subsequent quarterly payments during implementation and support.
The five types of business entities are as follows:
Entity A — A software company.
Entity B — A manufacturing company.
Entity C — A private equity.
Entity D — A manufacturing company.
Entity E — A holding company.
Entities A, B, and C are U.S. based. Entities D and E are based outside the U.S. but are global in scope.
After making presentation of financials, the participants were divided into three person teams faculty had previously formed. An attempt was made to compose alternating groups of two liberals/one conservative or two conservatives/one liberal.
Participants were then asked to define for their collective group — in the context of what they had just seen — what success was to them. both in terms of personal goals and where they saw themselves fitting into a “business” context. They were then asked to define what political actions they felt were necessary to attain their goal, if any, and anticipate what reaction, if any, would be elicited from the five business entities presented.
From my side of the symposium, I have responses to what actions I would initiate in the five businesses and performed drill-down in the financials to demonstrate or highlight effect and actions pursued.
A similar process was completed for actions taken by private parties, external governments, competitors, and individuals if applicable. (For individuals, this could include for instance a lone suicide bomber at a public event.)
As you would expect, the greatest surprise came from those who were shocked at the business response to external political action. For instance, the real actual, in the present day to Obamacare by the three U.S. entities. The second surprise came from most in the symposium in regards to the “size” of the five balance sheets, especially the holding company.
It was fun!!! I look forward to this again in perhaps 2014.