A European travel blog: Views on the current economic picture, the future, and FedEx
I was fortunate to be able to represent FedEx at several business forums in Central Europe this month, and found that stepping away from life here in the U.S. added to my perspective. Some key takeaways:
1. Europe Is Different
Unlike here in the U.S., there is a definite economic vibrancy in Germany and the Netherlands. That’s not to say they’re unscathed by the economic downturn—or that there isn’t an undercurrent of frustration with the U.S. for having created the unpleasant economic picture.
2. But Some Priorities Matter Equally Globally
At the Global 50 Roundtable in Amsterdam, “Navigating in a Tough Economy” was the focus. Most attendees voiced optimism that the economy will begin a turnaround near the end of 2009 or early in 2010. I was also pleased to hear in other discussions that companies are remaining firm in their resolve to keep “green” initiatives at the forefront of their organizations’ priorities. And FedEx is right on target with our strong focus on sustainability. You can read more about these efforts here on the FedEx Citizenship blog.
3. “Sweet Spot in the Middle”
My next stop was for a panel discussion with several German business leaders at my undergraduate alma mater Reutlingen University in Reutlingen, Germany. The topic, “Germany in 2020: A country without a middle class?” made for an intense conversation. The general agreement was that in order for the middle class to survive, there must be a sweet spot between the U.S.’s extreme capitalism and culture of excess and the German approach of engineering mediocrity by “oversupporting” the masses. The best middle ground would be a balanced foundation of strong education, healthcare and infrastructure.
4. Emerging Focus—Getting It Right for Our Future Leaders
The next day I spoke to a group of Reutlingen students about leadership, and we closed it out with a great question and answer session. They wanted to know if companies really do value ethics and their people, and I could emphatically attest that they do, because those values are at the core of how we live and operate every day at FedEx. And we must continue doing so for the next generation.
5. The FedEx Brand Rules – Even on a Continent Where We’re Not #1
My final takeaway of the trip came via an article in a Reutlingen newspaper following the university events. Sudwest Presse reporter Jurgen Herdin cleverly wove the American movies “Runaway Bride” and “Castaway” into his piece. These two big U.S. cinematic successes both highlight the very essence of the Purple Promise: “I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.” And if a reporter half a world away from our hometown in Memphis, Tennessee, knows that much about us, that tells me that we are getting it right!