A Nation of Business People - Dear Mr. President

An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama and his Team

Mr. President-Elect and Team,

I am looking for your endorsement and encouragement for a private sector initiative in which you and your team do nothing more than support the people of this country to rise to the challenges we face. The focus is on two core citizenship skills for a thriving United States in the 21st century, facilitating large-scale collaboration and generating practical transparency.

I am choosing to communicate to you through spreading this letter through every network and publishing vehicle I can, knowing that you are listening avidly for the genius of the American People to coalesce into an unstoppable force for good. I am proposing an innovative private sector approach to a public education campaign of business owners, civic leaders, young people and employees throughout this great nation.

‘A Nation of Businesspeople Campaign’

A businessperson is: 

an individual whose crucial skill is the ability to generate sustained alignment among disparate stake-holders for the purpose of delivering consistent value to people and organizations with a need or desire. 

This ability is not limited only to commercial enterprise. We find this passionate pursuit of service to the greater good throughout all aspects of our great society and polity; and have for our entire history as a nation. This capacity to bring people together in shared endeavour is the rock-solid foundation of these United States of America. Rapidly spreading these twin capacities are the difference that will make the difference.

Businesspeople have the knack for creating what I call a private ‘commons’, where a wide variety of disciplines, age and experience levels come together to take responsibility for something greater than themselves. Today, even with this natural genius, the struggle to lead in the face of increasing time and resource challenges can often be overwhelming, even to the most masterful of entrepreneurs, let alone in the public ‘commons’ on which we all depend.

Perhaps one of best examples in the United States of the practices proposed are exemplified by the companies in the Scanlon Leadership Network. American enterprise has been thriving for over 50 years in the businesses that use Joe Scanlon’s principles of Equity, Participation, Identity and Competence. Scanlon companies enjoy many benefits due their commitment to helping all their associates to participate actively in their business success.

An Invisible Barrier to Thriving Business and Economy

There is a reason that 9 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first 5 years, even though most of them have paying customers. There is a reason that the largest and oldest financial services companies and institutions are failing. There is a reason that the looming iceberg of under-funded pension liabilities is lying in wait for so many of our most critical public and private corporations. 

As events following the recent bank bailouts have evolved, the role of poor to terrible transparency has emerged front and center as a key driver of risk management failure. Within organizations, the almost universally absent transparency of how behavior and decisions create economic results, has been equally destructive across the board, from the small to the large cap, undermining most everything people are trying to accomplish at every level. Prior to his passing, Chuck Kremer, CPA, lead author of Managing by the Numbers, estimated that businesses with multiple reporting layers are likely to be throwing away 25 – 33% of their operating cash flow every day, due the lack of transparent and meaningful feedback on the impact of their daily decisions and actions.

The pivotal fact is that standard financial data is fragmented, static, and a lagging indicator. It provides numbers that show an incomplete picture the past, that it is already too late to influence. This means that the objective facts of property and contract cannot be included in the thinking by all concerned parties. In business conversations, and in the creative process, problem solving, or decision-making, there is no common sense and accessible shared language.  Optimal outcomes are consistently difficult to reach. It’s like attempting to play championship football on a round field with no 50-yard line or yard markers, and goal posts that tend to move for no particular reason - a nearly impossible situation in which to thrive and perform at the highest potential.

The Key Resource to Solve the Practical Transparency Issue 

Exists in the GAAP Now

50 Years of resource development has taken place behind the scenes since Louis R. Mobley, Tom Watson Jr’s right-hand man at IBM, figured out how to solve this problem at IBM in the 1950s and 60s. Just prior to his passing in 1988, he saw one core of his discoveries enshrined as a resource for every businessperson; in Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) regulation 95; showing full linkage of the bank account reality to the accrual financial statements. If only the marketplace would decide to use them to reveal bank account facts.

The invention of the concepts of Operating Cashflow, and the Direct and Indirect Cashflow statements is a vastly underutilized tool for practical transparency of business reality that anyone can understand. We have all the tools and educational material to solve this problem, and support a national and global renaissance in business mastery and social contribution. Why continue wasting all this money and energy when it is unnecessary?

Roberts’ Rules & Parliamentary Procedure Will No Longer Suffice

With a little of the right kind of planning, time spent in meetings can be vastly more productive. The know-how exists for dozens or hundreds of people to get weeks, months, and even years of work done in a few days. As businesspeople and citizens, we must learn how to create time enough for quality thinking, or all the ingenuity and spirit in the world will be to no avail. Technologies for highly effective, collaborative discernment and deliberation are available to be put to use. Let’s get everyone learning them and using them. Without a Massive Up-leveling of the twin Citizen Capacities of Practical Transparency and Collaborative Leadership, the Challenges We Face May Be Insurmountable

Never in the history of this country has there been more need for private sector initiative, creativity and civic involvement.  With the cooperation of you and your people, this campaign could be conducted in an extremely impactful and cost effective manner. What could be a better approach to building our nation’s capacity to maintain and build our quality of life, and improve our economy, while significantly enhancing our competitiveness globally?

Are you willing to consider using your bully pulpit to help light a fire of necessary skill building in our great county? What would it take to decide?

Respectfully submitted by Jahn Ballard


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