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Rule 6 in Making It In America – Invest

Making It In America - Investing

Since last week I've been sick so I've had to pull back on all activities (blogging, reading and drawing, for example). I'm still under the weather so I will be taking it easy to make sure I get enough sleep. Today's post was one planned last week but I got sick, so now I'm catching up.

This post may be the last or next to the last post on the book Making It In America by John Bassett. The author brought a lot of his wisdom on how to run a business in this globalized world. He does things that very few businesses do today. It's unfortunate because America needs his brand of wisdom, not the shareholder mantra that has held sway the last thirty (?) years.

Today's post will touch upon investing in your infrastructure and people. On a national level, there appears to be a lot of agreement on the need to invest in infrastructure, just no agreement on how and on what. From my view, it looks like the Republicans have an allergy to any kind of spending and investing is a form of spending. So during these last eight years we haven't had much spending. It was a struggle to get Congress to do infrastructure spending during the days right after the near collapse of our financial system in 2008. Then there were Republicans' multiple threats to default, just in the guise of not getting into greater debt. So on a national level, we just have problems committing to any kind of investments.

Businesses, on the other hand, will make some investments, although during the Great Recession such investment spending was severely curtailed. But on the whole, there are more business investment going on in businesses than on the national political scale. The one area businesses have not been investing is in people. I've seen it too many times in the shareholder world. Every time management needed to meet the shareholder expectations, certain expenses would routinely be cut: travel and training. Sometimes it would be many, many years before any training would be done. By the time the Great Recession came around, there had already been many years of no training (at least a decade?) and companies had the audacity to cry they couldn't find qualified people. Between not paying their share of taxes (which could go toward community education) and curtailing training expenditures, businesses were finding it hard to find qualified people. On top of all of that, there were new technologies coming online that suddenly, everybody needed to get up to speed on.

"You can dream up a killer concept. You can build the most useful product imaginable. You can create fantastic consumer demand. But if you can't get your product to the customer because the road is impassable or the power went off or the levee broke, you don't have anything of value at all. That's the infrastructure crisis America faces today." Making It In America, p. 176, hardcover.

The author talks a lot about infrastructure spending and the need for it. He speaks from experience: if his company hadn't made infrastructure investments to modernize the company before the Chinese started coming into the industry, he doubts his company would still be around. It was only by making such huge investments before the onslaught of the Chinese that he was able to compete against them on productivity and efficiency.

The author also stresses the importance of people investment. One of the things the author realized is that if you don't offer jobs, then the talent will go away. To nurture talent, you have to have jobs; otherwise, the talent will not stick around. So those companies, especially in manufacturing, that are complaining about lack of skilled employees, you have to ask yourself: "have you been hiring people or laying them off?" "Have you been providing training or just searching for new faces and getting rid of experienced talent?" Those complaints about lack of skills may signal lack of investment on those companies' part.

[Here is where the discussion gets a little off track and sort of non sequitur. This is definitely more stream of consciousness thought.]
There is also the need for each individual's investment in his own education. The author does not talk about this aspect of investment but it needs to be addressed. Here the trick is finding your way through the thicket. Colleges are expensive but maybe the MOOCs can be an alternative. Do you shell out big money for a degree or another degree if you already have one? Or do you try one of the freer alternatives? And what do you study? If you already have an undergraduate degree and an MBA, what else do you need? Sometimes I think that those who already have multiple degrees don't necessarily need more degrees but something more indefinable, something vague. How about learning to code? That is a popular suggestion but if AI is already going to learn coding, why bother? And do you see those who are making big moula actually doing the coding? STEM degrees take many years to learn and thus may not be a viable alternative for those doing a career change (especially if out of necessity). So you may want to upgrade your skills but you just don't know what to study and how you are going to do it.

So, America desperately needs to make investments in infrastructure and people. It's a matter of making a decision in what and how.

And now I will end this post because I'm tired and can't think anymore. But I do need to make a decision on what I want to learn next.

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