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The challenges of tomorrow

As I See It

What challenges will the business world face in 2005? A recent survey by Deloitte & Touche CPAs attempted to answer that question by polling 409 senior executives of big U.S. companies. The survey is entitled The National Millennium Survey: Looking Ahead to Business in 2005. It contains some surprises and affirms some suspicions.

The dramatic pace of change in telecommunications technology experienced over the last few years is expected to continue, maybe even accelerate. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents said their company uses the Internet for business purposes – 98% provide information about the business, 81% communicate with other companies and 69% sell products or services via the Internet.

The consensus among the executives polled is that almost all companies will be competing in a global marketplace by 2005. In prior columns, I have consistently argued that we are in a global market already. I am amazed to occasionally here someone criticized as being a “promoter of a one-world economy.” This attitude seems ludicrous to me.

Years ago, WE chose to end U.S. economic isolationism when we started choosing Toyotas over Chevrolets, Panasonic over Westinghouse, etc. At that time WE said that we didn`t care about protecting American jobs; we wanted the best value at the lowest price. The best value at the lowest price means offshore manufacturing in a lower wage environment in order to compete internationally. That choice has been so firmly made that discussing its merits is a waste of time and energy.

We are currently unavoidably participating in the global economy and to suggest that doing otherwise is possible is asinine. Better to direct our efforts toward promoting America`s position as a global competitor and forget what used to be. We have doomed many American jobs, particularly lower paying jobs, to be relocated to other countries. We can celebrate this opportunity by re-training affected American workers for new jobs or sit back and lament the result of the decision we ourselves made when we bought the Toyota.

A surprising statistic to emerge from the survey is that 48% of the respondents believe that Western Europe will be unified by 2005. Most believed that European unity will provide opportunity for their companies; only 10% saw unification as a threat.

The traditional five-day workweek will not change in the coming years, but the respondents believe they will work at home an average of 1.3 days a week in 2005.

The executives were split on whether employees will retire earlier or later in the future – 51% say later, 38% say earlier. One of the options being considered to repair Social Security is extending the retirement age. I think this is almost a certainty and expect to see it increased to 70 over the next few years. I personally have no intention of retiring as long as I can make a meaningful contribution in the workplace. I enjoy what I do and have no desire to not do what I do.

Following are the top five future challenges to American business according to the polled executives.

1. Protecting information systems from external intrusion

2. Keeping up with technological advances

3. International competition

4. Adapting to rapid changes in markets

5. Hiring and retaining qualified workers

In conclusion, the executives provided us with some crystal ball predictions. They predict that a Republican will win the 2004 presidential election, the prime interest rate will be 7.5% in 2005, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be at 13,478. Eighteen percent have made plans for New Year`s Eve 1999.

I usually go to sleep at my normal bedtime on New Year`s Eve and get up early the next morning, usually to go deer hunting. If you prefer to celebrate the end of the year (and begin the new year with a headache), I suggest you get your plans in order; the good party spots are booking-up fast.

Thought for the Moment

In ancient times, there was a prayer for the “stranger within our gates.” Because this hotel is a human institution to serve people, and not solely a money-making organization, we hope that God will grant you peace and rest while under our roof.

We are all travelers. From “birth till death” we travel between the eternities. May these days be pleasant for you, profitable for society, helpful for those you meet, and a joy to those who know and love you best.

– Courtesy of the Comfort Inn,

Corinth, Miss., operated by Little Properties Inc.

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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