Wondering what business will look like beyond November 3rd? As the U.S. presidential election draws near, anticipation is building along with a palpable sense of uncertainty and anxiety. While no one can predict the future, firms are trying to understand current and anticipated trends in their industry – especially as they relate to global markets, supply chains and staffing needs – so they can better plan forward.
Here, three distinguished, global thought leaders and corporate advisors offer valuable insights into what decision makers can expect in the next three to six months and what they should be thinking about and preparing for, regardless of who ends up in the White House.
How Global Trade Will Affect U.S. Businesses
“China is adopting what it calls a ‘dual circulation’ strategy, meaning that it is planning for increased self-reliance with regard to the number of goods and services it used to import. At the same time, it will continue engaging in the global economy.
The U.S. will do the same under either a Biden or a second Trump administration, ensuring that goods and services related to health care, energy, food and strategic minerals are produced either at home or by reliable allies. The U.S. will also adopt an industrial policy: a Biden administration will subsidize green industries; a Trump administration will continue to subsidize farmers and domestic energy producers. More broadly, a Biden administration will base its foreign policy on ‘Three Ds’: domestic renewal, deterrence, and democracy.”
Rebuild the Economy by Addressing Inequality
“It is imperative that business leaders recognize two central elements of this political moment.
First, we are living through a political crisis that has resulted in large part from a rejection of the legitimacy of the economic order. Increasingly, that order is regarded by both the Left and the Right as unfair because the distribution of dignity is uneven. More than a story about material inequality, ours is a narrative about social status and justice. To resolve the crisis of legitimacy, business leaders will need to creatively rethink how they create employment and motivate their employees – to thereby build an economic system that embraces dignity and fairness as core principles in the future.
Second, this political crisis has emerged from a failure of our existing ideologies to organize political conversation effectively. The problem is not primarily that Americans disagree about what should be done and why. Rather, Americans disagree about what is true and not true. This is a more foundational challenge; the resolution will require concerted partnership among firms, citizens and government.”
Every Leader Must Focus on Three Key Areas
“Put people first. Decision-makers should continue to be attuned to the well-being of employees, suppliers and customers. Nothing new about that. This has always been true – know how the people you depend on are feeling and faring, make personal relationships and appoint ambassadors. But during a continuing pandemic taking a mental health toll, a time of racial equity concerns and economic shakiness, it is even more important to have a dashboard. Use polls and town hall meetings and data analytics to help you know where people and stakeholders are (physically and emotionally) and be able to respond to them quickly. Make empathy and caring core values, if they aren’t already. People care about their work when they know that leaders care about them.
Support infrastructure that offers flexibility. For America, it’s time to finally focus on long-needed infrastructure investments. These will help businesses operate more smoothly, address climate change and create new jobs. There will be tremendous opportunities in improved logistics using digital platforms. The nation needs support for universal highspeed broadband, reaching the most remote areas, helping people gain skills wherever they are. Hybrid learning and remote work are here to stay. We also need support for new, clean energy technology, such as charging stations for electric vehicles. Whether in cars, schools or offices, ‘hybrid’ will be the goal in the near future. Business leaders should consider flexible everything, to be able to switch modes as situations demand and get the best from all of them. Improved transportation systems will also be critical for businesses, as goods need to move, and so do people, with technology-supported safety and efficiency twin priorities.
Don’t give up on global. International trade is still essential, especially as interdependencies deepen – which climate threats and a global pandemic show us – but also to position us for market growth far from home and the probability that innovation will come from many places where the U.S. is not the unquestioned number one. The leaders I’ve addressed in the past seven months of virtual international speeches have taught me this. (Those global speeches are one benefit of Zooming from home ‘into’ many countries in a day, sometimes using excellent non-Zoom platforms created in places like Slovenia.) Despite recent tense times, much international goodwill remains, as leaders still have faith in the American people and institutions and are ready to try again. International alliances that mitigate conflicts or address climate issues can be restored and improved. Keep passports up to date and keep cultivating relationships. Insist on diplomatic behavior from top leaders too.”
A Deeper Dive into Your Organization
In every industry, operations have shifted from business as usual to business unusual. Tapping into the expertise of sector-specific thought leaders is critical in an unpredictable, ever-changing marketplace.
If your firm needs help repositioning for growth or innovating in the new economy, let us help you arrange a virtual engagement with Anne-Marie Slaughter, Rawi Abdelal or Rosabeth Moss Kanter.