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Leadership? What leadership?

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Clearly the Craig Thomson credit card scandal is potentially politically important but are there many Australians wondering what our leaders have in store for us with the competitive world we compete in changing at a rate of knots?

I spent the past week in Palm Beach Florida, just north of Miami, where I have attended a leadership conference hosted by John Maxwell. This guy has sold over 20 million books and many of them are on leadership.

He has counselled US presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and has been a consultant on the subject of leadership to companies such as Microsoft and GE, to name a few.

By misadventure, I underestimated the distance between Hollywood, Florida, where I had to broadcast my 2GB Super Show, and the Palm Beach conference.

As a consequence on the hour or so journey with my driver, Scott, I got some competitive insights into the US economy. His answers show the competitive threats that lie ahead for the Australian economy and businesses.

Scott had been a hotel senior manager at an international hotel chain before opting to go into business the year the GFC hit. However, he was “doin’ OK”.

One of the great challenges for most Aussie tourists is tipping in the USA. And so I asked him what the staff in the hotel breakfast restaurant would be paid?

“The servers? They get around $2.50 an hour — they work for tips,” he explained. And what about employees in department stores? “Oh, around $9 an hour,” he said.

Now you can understand why hospitality staff in New York can be inhospitable when Aussies refuse or go cheap on our tips.

In the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, they take the pressure off the tip worriers by simply putting the 20 per cent service charge on the bill. I asked my waiter if this was an Aussie-defence strategy but he assured me it was the custom.

So in America you can’t trust prices in many businesses. It is plus state taxes on many retail products and it’s plus tips in others.

What’s the point of this story? Well, I think it shows what we are competing against — labour cost-wise. And these US workers are a whole lot cheaper with a stronger Aussie dollar, which we are set to live with until China falls over or a global recession results.

And on the subject of China, do you think the hotel, retail and product-making staff are cheaper than their Aussie equivalents?

No answer needed. So how are we going to respond, given we have the extra threat of these cheaper workers’ wages coming to us in low-priced goods on the internet? And we are buying those goods and effectively rejecting products and services from relatively more expensive Aussie workers?

In his best-selling book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell’s first chapter is about the Law of the Lid.

He says leadership is the limiting factor for you, for your staff and your business. I would add for your government and your country.

I would love to know what the plan is for the competitive challenge we face. Wouldn’t everyone?

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Monday, August 29, 2011

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