Let common sense be our guide for planning and growth

Many of us are at the midpoint in our fiscal year.

As is customary, we are revising our year end forecasts. As an optimist, I am a believer in continually looking forward. However, we also need to take a good look around. America’s entrepreneurial optimism will thrive if we make realistic business plans laced with a hard dose of reality.

The precarious state of the economy is well documented. Suffice it to say that after an unexpectedly strong first calendar quarter, the second quarter is much softer, with retail sales in May reporting the worst decline in eight months. On what basis can anyone plan the future?

I find myself asking fundamental questions about not just “what” goals to set, but “how” to achieve them. For me, the “how” has become as important as the “what.” Initially, I thought I could peer into the past to see if history holds any lessons. It would seem that I am not alone in this reflection.

I hadn’t thought about the “Tea Party” since my 1967 elementary school history test, yet now I hear the words every day. What do these words really mean or stand for? Can we be certain there is a shared understanding? Could it be we are trying to recapture the vibrant spirit the colonists had, rather than the stuck-in-the-mud feeling the economy is giving us? Our country had unbridled youth 250 years ago. Today we are middle age.

Can the Cup give us a kick?

I wonder if we can learn anything from a month of World Cup soccer play. What is it about the national teams that cause their respective countries’ populations to unite with emotion and passion? How is it that people who may want to kill each other during the week unite during the games and fervently cheer for the same outcome? Should anyone worry about being politically correct? With the proliferation of camera phones and video cameras, anyone’s actions (in public, or as we are learning, in private) potentially can be seen by everyone. Is it realistic to expect that every action or statement by a public figure, a private businessperson, a sports star, a local police officer, or a firefighter needs to be “fair and unbiased” when viewed under a microscope by 350 million Americans? It will never happen.

It is easy to answer these questions. We have to start using common sense. It is independent of political affiliation, religion, age, and nationality.

Should we spend more than we make? No. To do so is a short-term decision that eventually will cause us to go broke. The only question is when, but it is inevitable that the money will run out. This is true in government, true in business, and true in the family checkbook.

Should we treat suppliers and customers differently? No. Both are partners and should be treated as such. Sure, it is possible to be abusive to suppliers and nice to customers, but there can be no pride in this. Let’s use manners.

What does “confidential” or “private” really mean? We know the answer. Don’t let technology change the moral compass or ruin the value of trusting relationships, whether in government, in business, or on a personal level.

How many things should we do at once? One. In the office, in the plant, and in a business meeting, one thing at a time is the limit. People can tweet, e-mail, talk on the phone, and listen using earplugs in any other place of their choosing.

Let’s base our future on common sense. Let’s create our company cultures and revise our business plans using common sense. Take time to think “how” we approach the future. Be a leader. Do what is right. Let’s make our mothers proud!

Contract Packaging Association President John Riley can be contacted at jriley@contractpackaging.org.

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