Commentary

Stan Sewitch

Stan Sewitch has over 35 years in business as an entrepreneur, consultant and executive. His adventures include founding HRG Inc., Emlyn Systems, Chromagen and KI Investment Holdings. Stan serves as a director on several boards as well. Stan holds an M.S. in Organizational Psychology from California State University at Long Beach, and a B.A. in Physiological Psychology from San Diego State University. He serves as the Vice President of Global Organization Development for WD-40 Company. Stan can be reached at sewitch1@cox.net

Notes From The Corporate Underground

“I get sick riding in a Buick. That’s why I bought the BMW sedan,” Frank said.

Here in Monterrey, Mexico, we held our periodic conference of Latin American distributors. It is a time of sharing ideas, lessons learned and ways to work together across national boundaries. It’s about making fun of ourselves and having fun in general.

Wealthy, sometimes sketchy characters bring their money to the United States, funneled through companies whose ownership is opaque, in order to protect that wealth from prying prosecutors or tenuous conditions in the homeland. They buy real estate, which has always been the safest long-term bet in America.

We live in an economy whose sources of value generation are mostly services, more than 70 percent of GDP. Many of those services are not optional, such as wastewater treatment, fire prevention and law enforcement. Many others are offered in the free market.

I met my good friend Oliver at a pizza joint, after several years’ absence of communication. When last we met it was 2008, his business was shrinking after a decade of unimpeded growth and the balance sheet was an iceberg.

With all the calculations, figures, formulas and academically impressive language, it is easy to forget that money is not a physical element or force of energy.

I had just left the stage after giving a workshop to our China distributors at our first annual conference where we introduced new products and discussed expansion plans for WD-40 Company. A young man approached me with a request to meet immediately and discuss something about his business, with our country manager acting as translator.

It’s a singular opportunity to personally experience the demise of an entire commercial ecosystem, but we are on the verge of just such a transition. We should all pause to take notice.

The first of the year is a time when we all look ahead. Well, perhaps not all of us, given our collective amnesia about the lessons of history and our inability to envision more than two minutes into our own future.

I’m on the plane back to San Diego after a short but fulfilling trip to Portland, spending precious time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. Last night we joined the strolling throng on Peacock Street, aptly named for the traditional lights on every house during the Christmas season. The neighborhood even has you sign an agreement to do so when you buy a home there.

My good friend Loop and I visited Cuba in June of 2010. We weren’t supposed to, but we wanted to see the country before what we felt was to be the inevitable opening of that nation to normalized relations with the United States. It was like time travel to 1960.

A well-planned departure, it was, until I got out of the cab at Paddington Station and realized I’d left my passport in the hotel room safe. I don’t usually put anything in the safe, but this time for some reason it seemed like the thing to do. I had even surveyed the room slowly before I turned and closed the door behind me, asking that useless question, “What have I forgotten?”

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