Yesterday a group of Vistage members, chairs and guests got together for dinner at the Dorchester in London, to hear a thought-provoking session delivered by Mike Milken – Unprecedented Times, Unprecedented Opportunities.
Mike has three main professional passions: medical research, education and finance. In each, he has been uniquely successful in creating value, whether measured in lives saved (Fortune magazine called him "The Man Who Changed Medicine"), students inspired or jobs created. Between 1969 and 1989, he financed more than 3,200 companies that collectively created millions of jobs. He is chairman of the widely respected and influential Milken Institute, an economic think tank whose annual Global Conference brings more than 3,000 leaders from 60 nations to Los Angeles each spring.
Mike is also a shareholder at Vistage International, and was in London visiting with Vistage UK on his way to Russia.
Mike is an inspiring speaker, and presents data and insights in a way that just stops you in your tracks. His session last night included some key messages for small-medium businesses. Here’s just a small selection of some of his key messages:
- The recession and financial crisis we’re in are not unique – we have seen similar patterns before, more than once, but perhaps this one has triggered some permanent changes in our business environment. Things will not go back to the way they were. The game has changed. We’re now in the new norm, the new economy.
- Real employment growth comes from small-medium businesses, not from large enterprises. 57% of worldwide employment comes from the SME sector, and 50% of the world’s GDP. If our governments want to stimulate new employment, they need to stimulate SMEs, not burden them with new regulations and an increasingly complex tax system. Create the environment for innovation and entrepreneurism in the SME sector – that’s what will create jobs.
- Innovation is about your people and how you lead them, not about the amount of investment. Some of the greatest innovations of this past century have come from those who bucked the trend, went up against the big guys. It was all about the vision of a leader and their ability to inspire their people to achieve the vision – it wasn’t about the R&D budget. Be bold, dare to dream, and be confident to lead your people to achieve the dream.
- It’s possible for the smallest/weakest player to change the rules of the game (Apple vs. Sony, Netflix vs. Blockbuster), and technology generally enables the change of play. In 1976 and IBM 370 with 1 Megabyte of storage cost $1m and filled a room. Today the Apple ipod comes with 16GB of memory in the palm of your hand. The cost per megabyte is 641 million times less than it was. Data storage is now almost free, and data transmission is becoming almost zero-cost. The game will continue to change and technology will enable whole new playing fields. Are you playing, or are you a spectator?
- The world’s future leading economies will involve India, China, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and South Korea. Asian families in general spend far more on educating their children than we do. In South Korea families spend 22% of their income on education, and only 13% on their housing. Think about it. How many of us in the UK spend an amount each month on educating our families that comes anywhere near what we spend on our mortgage, or our rent? Exactly. And here’s another fact that should make us stop and think. The real ROI from education in Asia is in infant/elementary education, not in higher education. Most of us focus any spend on education at senior school or university fees – but in Asia, the big spend is on infant education – that’s where they get the greatest benefit and they generate millions of students keen to learn and able to learn.
I could go on, and on. Sometimes it’s good to stop and reflect. It’s good to hear from a visionary like Mike Milken. His observations are very clear. Take time out to look at your business, your family, your goals, to think. What will your role be in the world to come?