(Not) born in the USA – but observing with interest

I have a great jetlag cure - on your first night home, you go to the CIPS SM Awards, drink champagne, execute an embarrassing bit of Dad-dancing, and stay up till 3am blogging! Worked a treat for me last week anyway.

Our recent US trip was a mix of business and pleasure, and I'll be featuring a couple of supplier specific posts shortly. Jason features our visit here, so I'll avoid duplicating him on the strength of US beer, and I won't comment about what he claims he saw me packing in my bag (lies, all lies..)

But here are a few observations - serious and not so serious!

- The Philadelphia CheeseSteak is fine but overrated.

- The Art Institute of Chicago is under-rated - great pictures from old masters to impressionists to US classics like "Nighthawks".

- The contrasts in the US seem to get greater (it's 8 years since I last visited). The obvious wealth, with amazing Chicago skyscrapers, both classic Art Deco and brand new, and a vibrant restaurant scene in Philadelphia - yet beggars on literally every street corner. They were pretty much all older, black folk in Chicago, much more mixed (veterans, couples, even white teenagers) in Philadelphia.

- The other contrast was between the joggers along the lakeshore in Chicago - more than I've ever seen in one place before - and the large number of huge, obese people we saw, particularly when we went out to Amish country. At a rather touristy Amish shopping mall, with lots of coach parties visiting, around 20% of the visitors were huge. I mean REALLY huge. You can't help wondering what this is doing to the future health system and costs to the nation, and it can't be good socially or economically. Or for the individuals of course. Something has to change surely? But meat in particular is so cheap - chicken legs or decent roasting meat for $3 a pound! (That's about 4.5 Euros per kilo).

- But there is a vitality about US business - we commented previously on the great service in our hotel, restaurants were aggressively marketing (Michelin starred restaurant offering set lunch for $22), and the vendors we met are all bullish about prospects for expansion outside the US.

I'd be pessimistic about the US economic prospects in the short term given dollar and deficit issues, and the political impasse. But in the longer term, the natural resources of the country, and the attitude of the people, make me more confident about the US than I am for Western Europe. As long as (some of them) stop eating quite as much.

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  1. Dom:

    I do agree with the vibrancy and can do attitude you do get in the states..I have spent may months in San Diego where the weather is great and the people slightly more relaxed than their northern california counterparts..they to have beggars but even they seem better fed and more relaxed..something to do with the great weather!

    One thing I would say that still irks me about the US though is the unecessary pressure made by end of quarter (EOQ) business. Having been on both sides of the business I’ve never seen the long term value of the end of quarter practice as it often is based on artificial reasons to buy at that time.
    Sure it helps focus sales and proceurmeent people in doing a deal..but its usually not at the right time or at the right price etc. Yet US companies continue to focus on it and as soon as day 1 of the next quarter starts its back to square one.
    A friend of mine in the financial arena ( Yes I have friends in finance!) working in the US believes a lot of the current economic problems can be put down to the pressures on Wall St of the EOQ deals and the commitments made by organsiations to unrealistic targets leading to bad decision making.
    I guess one good thing from a procurement perspective is the ability to drive a good discount..but it may not be good for the supplier to continually discount too much..so in the end service and delivery suffer…

  2. Dan:

    Here’s a story from the ‘bad old days’ of industrial relations:

    An American worker and British worker are just arriving at a factory to start their shift. The boss pulls into the car park in his nice, shiny Mercedes.

    The American thinks to himself “One day, I’ll own a car like that”.

    The British worker keys it.

    Things are changing, but I think the relative mindsets are still prevalent, which is why the American economy is more vibrant and more tolerant of new entrants

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