Debt is good, not bad!

There is currently a lot of heat on the market and in the news, and this article might be controversial.

Most people think negatively and wrongly about debt, and reading the press would let you believe that in the best of all possible worlds, people, companies and governments should be debt free. Wrong!

Debt is, up to a point, good, not bad.

At the private level, most people who buy property in their lifetime will have to borrow money (debt!) because they don’t want to wait another 10-15 years until they have the capital to buy their dream property in cash. So good news! You can now live, say, in a nice and comfortable house with your beloved ones, and your new home will provide quality time to you, your family and your friends for many years to come.

Seeing things with the right perspective: the truth about the Greek crisis

It belongs to the quality of any good manager to be able to see things with the right perspective.  To see the big picture and avoid getting confused by irrelevant details.  And to take the right decision – however painful that decision might be in the short-term.

Take Greece.  There is a lot of rubbish written by journalists about Greece these days.  There is no denying that the Greek population is currently under great distress – and the medium-term future of Greece does not look particularly rosy.

But for the future of the Euro, for the overall European economy, for the European and world stock markets: the truth is that whatever happens in Greece, the impact on the world will be negligible. Whatever the outcome of the crisis is – a bankrupt Greece in default and potentially without the Euro, or a Greece assisted by its neighbours in a less painful transition phase – the impact on the rest of Europe will be small.  So don’t worry, things will be all right in the end.

Bluntly speaking, Greece does not matter because Greece is a small country population wise, and its economy only represents about 1.5% of the total European GDP of €14 trillion per annum.  So does 1.5% more or less GDP in Europe matter much? At the level of Greece, it does. But not at the level of Europe.

Call it a great job, not work

Reproduced from an article by Jack and Suzy Welch published in Gulf News on November 9th, 2009. From The New York Times News Services.

“It’s said that you can only live life forward and understand it backward. The exact same thing is true about careers.

While it’s virtually impossible to know where any given job will take you, most jobs send out signals about how right they are for you – or not. No matter what the job, you should look for those signals: You might be right out of school, a middle manager trying to move up or a senior executive looking for a top job – whatever your situation, it’s important to take a close look at job fit.


Everything else about a job can be perfect, but if you do not enjoy working with you colleagues on a day-to-day basis, work can be torture. Look for a job where you share the organisation’s overall sensitivities. By that, I mean a range of values and personality traits and behaviours, from how candid they are about performance to how much they laugh at meetings. If you join a company where your sensibilities don’t match those of your co-workers, you’ll find yourself putting on a persona just to get along. What a career killer – to fake who you are every day.

The American spirit

There is a common trait among human beings: the belief that our problems have never been worse than today, and that they are insurmountable.

But let us face it: every decade has had its own challenges.  Ask your parents, and they will tell you that the 60s were scary, the 70s even more scary, the 80s also very scary.  As for yourself, you will certainly remember how scary the 90s were, as well as the 2000s?

The problem is compounded by the press and media.  Newspapers live from events and sensational announcements, and the end of the world is certainly a good one.  So we should all be terrified. And mortified.

Take our debt: how awful!

Take unemployment and job off-shoring to India and China: scary!

Take our lack of growth: very scary!

Take the American, UK and Spanish property market crashes!  Scary!

Take Greece, Ireland, Island: not less scary!

About the value of getting involved

Here our advice for the week:

“It is easy to underestimate what you will learn once you get involved in something.”

“Things have a habit of looking simple until you really try them.”

Both quotes are from Richard Farleigh, the investor and entrepreneur

Dubai’s secret(s)

Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make the United Arab Emirates, located on the North Eastern shore of the Arabian peninsula, is a most amazing place. It is also an incredible example of how adversity can be turned into good fortune.

Dubai has one of the toughest climates on earth.  Well, it is essentially a flat desert.  For most of its history, its small population of Bedouin inhabitants were left alone by the neighbours – for lack of natural resources and strategic interest.  Until the 1960s, people were mostly poor.  They had no running water.  There was no electricity and the city and its inhabitants were plunged in darkness at night.  How could such a city become what it is today?  How could this happen in the course of only two generations?

When you stand in awe at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the word with a height of 826m, an amazingly beautiful building that dwarfs any other building that you have seen on earth so far, a building surrounded by magnificent fountains that come to life and light in a ballet of fireworks at dawn, you can only be very, very impressed.

So how could this happen in such a short period of time?

About success, failure and happiness

This week, we are a little bit too busy, so we will have to keep it short.  Here our advice for the week:

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successfull.” – Herman Cain

“Unfortunate events, though potentially a source of anger and despair, have equal potential to be a source of spiritual growth.” – Dalai Lama

“Only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be at the highest mountain.” – Richard Nixon

Europe’s rebound: will it ever happen?

Old Europe.  Young Asia.

Can Paris – Turin – Munich compete with Hanoi – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore?

These are some of the cities that I have visited in Europe and Asia in the last 2 months.   The contrast is sharp.  Asia will lead the world tomorrow.  No doubt about that.  Not only 60% of the world’s population lives there, but people are young, motivated and keen to make a better life for themselves.

Actually this has been my first return to Asia after 10 years of absence for me.  10 years ago, Asia was booming.  Today, it still is.

OK, growing when you come from a lower level is easier.   Whereas in a saturated market, creating growth is a different kind of challenge.  Maybe you can call this the “99th floor syndrome”.  When your office is already on the 99th floor and used to be on the 100th, it is hard to rebound.  Whereas anybody on the 1st floor will do what it takes to move up.

In our open and interconnected world, you would have thought that European companies can create a lot more value-added than is currently reported in our GDP statistics.  I have not checked on GNP, but knowing our politicians, if GNP were growing significantly faster than GDP, they would use GNP instead of GDP as the prime measure of economic performance – which is not the case.

So who benefits from European firms manufacturing goods in low cost countries and expanding fast by serving the needs of the middle class in emerging markets?