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Professor Klinemere was excited! He had just had a wonderful idea. He was smart, and his university professor friends were smart. And he knew a lot of business people and he knew of lot of people who worked in factories and labor jobs. They were all smart!
His idea: get the most enthusiastic ones together in one place and brainstorm about what to do to get their country out of the depressed, some would say stagnant, economy they lived in. With such a wide range of experience they could surely come up with something. They could have a first meeting, each take on assignments of things to explore, and then report back. Even if it took months, they would eventually come up with something that could take their economy out of the 3rd world lows they seemed to be stuck in.
He called them together. It was a hot night so all the windows were open. Everyone seemed to have an idea. But the 24 people in his living room could not all speak at once! Someone suggested they be allowed 2 minutes to present their idea, then the most popular ideas could be discussed—limiting discussion to 10 minutes each—for the 5 most popular ideas. They all felt the need for their meeting to succeed. It is not fun to live in a country where most of the population live below the poverty line. Having no rich minerals to exploit like their neighbor to the West of them, and no beautiful natural scenic features to draw tourists, they needed a miracle—or drudge on in their anemic economy.
Herbert thought raising rabbits would be good and Francine wanted them to write a really good play and take it around the world selling tickets as they went. But there were some compelling ideas too. Bill wanted to become a “country of financial wizards” and give America’s Wall Street a run for its money! When they came back for the 10 minute discussion of his idea it became clear that it was a possibility— they could sell existing, and even invent new ones, financial products—by phone and internet. They could train their people to become very financially savvy.
But the professor realized they we getting the cart before the horse.
“Wait a minute! We ought to do this thing right. Shouldn’t we do a study first—at least a survey?” Murmurs of approval came from the group.
“I mean, I know we are smart—but we ought to find out more clearly what the actual situation is in our country before we try to fix it! We all have ideas, but let’s get some facts to back us up.” This drew more agreement from the group.
Lester, a foreman on a labor crew, had been making notes. He stood up.
“Ok, the way I figure it,” he said, glancing at his notes, “we ought to have experienced people do a survey and look at our country in terms of its 1) demographics, 2) resources, and 3) needs.” He sat down. Everyone was staring at him. No one spoke. Then someone broke the silence:
“Lester, that’s great!” The group broke into an applause.
“Now, why don’t you be in charge of finding the right experienced people to do the survey— everyone here agree?” Big nods and smiles all around. Lester would be their survey man.
Three months passed. Lester had gotten people to conduct the survey, and the group had gotten the results and had a chance to study them. They had met a few times, sometimes as the whole group and sometimes in sub groups. As things developed, it became clear that they were focusing on two areas for economic improvement. They were going to, just as Bill had suggested months earlier, give Wall Street a run of its money—they were going to become the next giant in offering financial services and products. And they were also focusing on offering services in all things computer—from call centers to tech support to training coders.
After discussion, they decided to form themselves into an Advisory Board. It would have 12 members. Three would specialize in financial services and products, three would be more focused on tech and computer topics and three would have strengths in schools and political processes in their country and the other three would be generalists. Together they hoped to usher in a new economic era for their country.
Bill started researching and found who he considered to be the top 8 wall street wizards in the world. Three of them he could not get in touch with—they would not take his calls or answer his emails. Two laughed at his suggestion that they help his country turn into a little Wall Street. But the other three said they would help, in fact, they were willing to pay their own expenses and fly there to help out! Wonderful!
Soon they had ideas about a lot of products and services. These guys knew what they were doing! Even Professor Klinemere did not feel smart around them! They had a lot of ideas, but decided to start with a small “menu”, so to speak, of services and products to offer the world. They could add more after they developed a good reputation. On the services side they went with basic accounts for checking and savings—only, all their accounts paid interest 1/8th % higher than others were paying, and they made their paper and digital reports real easy to read/understand and did not clutter them up with lots of advertising. They offered estate planning and beginner and advanced investing. Straight forward help, but with the very highest in customer service.
On the products side, they put together a bundle aimed at the beginner, the intermediate and the advanced user. Again, not really different from other services out there, but the price was lower and the customer service would be excellent. Real people would answer the phones—no tedious recorded menu for the customer to have to wade though.
The three wizards who came in from Wall Street each took on 5 bright interns to work with them and they continued to coach the interns when not in country. They would be the ones to eventually be the gurus of “Little Wall Street”—right here in their own country. They lead the way in forming a few companies to operate all the services and the product offerings.
As the companies got clients, they hired and trained people. They leased more office space. Plans were underway for a new financial park on 50 hectares of land. Not that it would be built out right now—but they would be growing! The park would build out gradually. Not only were there new jobs, there was a new optimism among the people. People were smiling more, and spending money from their paychecks. There was hope in the air—something this country had not experienced before.
The computer arm of the build our economy plan had similar experience. It felt like the optimism was catching on. The whole country suddenly felt willing to try new things. Basic computer classes were given free to the entire country—anyone wanting to learn. Computer companies around the world competed to see who could give the deepest discount to residents of the country—the country that was headed full steam into the digital age! Thanks to the deep discounts, everyone was getting a home computer. People who last year did not even know how to type were now using word files to send and receive information. Adobe had become something you use for a pdf, not just a building block in the wall of your house! A hard drive no longer meant an exhausting car trip on rough and bumpy roads.
One small 24 hour a day operation call center was established. The plan was to double its size every month until they had enough accounts to keep 600 customer service and account specialists busy. Then another call center would be started about 30 kilometers away, providing a new employment source for that area. Again, just like in banking, the professionals brought in from Europe and America were training their replacements. They took on interns—who eagerly soaked in all the learning they could. It felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity for them. There was training, and just 60 days behind the training new companies were being formed, in everything. Coding, tech support, hacker prevention just to name a few. Thailand, India, and the Philippines would not be the only ones offering affordable digital service anymore.
As the country moved into banking and digital they found themselves in a new position— they were the leaders in something! True, not the only leaders in the world in banking and digital, but leaders none the less. As an offshoot of the banking and digital work, new opportunities emerged. They began hosting seminars, which required a nice hotel and conference center. There was an opening for on-line courses and training for others.
They sent agents-in-training abroad to learn firsthand how other leaders in their fields were presenting themselves and their services.
Professor Klinemere and his friends could hardly believe the changes that had come about in the past three and a half years. Professor Hugport mused, “It’s like our country symbol for centuries could have been the water buffalo—but now it would be a water buffalo being driven by a banker carrying a laptop!” They all laughed. It was true. Both the old and the new were present. Not every person in the country had gone into banking and things digital. In reality it was probably only 10 or 12 percent who had, but it had been enough to turn the tide—money was now flowing within the country and also into the country. In another generation or two a field being worked by a real water buffalo might be hard to find. The scales had tipped—prosperity was on its way.
Bill and Lester met for coffee. Just like professors Klinemere and Hugport, they were witnesses to the change. Not everyone, but more people than either of them could now count, had a decent job and could afford textbooks and school uniforms for their children—in another 10 years, kids going to school would be a regular feature of life—the old days of 8 and 10 year olds working in the field would be gone.
“Are you as blown away as I am … by all this?” Lester asked.
“I sure am,” Bill answered. “I was half kidding that first night at Professor Klinemere’s place when I suggested we should give competition to Wall Street. But, here we are—you building new fancy four story, glass, office buildings in the office park and I am a bank Director with a 17 million dollar budget to watch over.”
“So, what really happened?” Lester asked. “I mean, how come now, and not 15 years ago or 15 years into the future—what got the ball rolling?” He was sincerely asking.
“I have thought about this a lot,” Bill said. I think it is really three things. First, you gotta’ have a visionary leader, or leaders. Someone who can see the possibilities and present them in a believable way to the people. So, I am saying you need a leader, who has a vision of how things could be.”
“Ok, I get it” Lester said. “What is your number two?”
“There has to be an opportunity—the situation in the country and in the world has to be such that there is room for something new to happen. In our case, if there were no computers yet, and no internet, this would never have happened.” He paused. “I am saying, there has to be a ripe situation, a ripe opportunity, out there for the visionary leader to see and then lead the people in taking advantage of it.”
Lester responded, “I guess you are right—makes sense.” Then he asked, “And who is our visionary leader—who do you think?”
Bill spoke. “It is not so obvious, because he did not do it all on his own—but I would have to say Professor Klinemere. He is the one who called us all together in the first place. Maybe he didn’t have the specifics—but he thought that things could change—he sensed that the winds of change were out there and could blow in our country. I’d have to say it was professor Klinemere. And then after him, a lot of people got good ideas—it just sort of snowballed after he planted the idea of change being possible.”
“Well, are you gonna’ tell me the third thing that you think gets the ball rolling?” asked Lester.
“It’s the people,” Bill said. “When they get the idea that they CAN have a better life. When they see others in the world having the good life, they start thinking, ‘why can’t I have that?’ and that opens up the door in their minds. When people think they can have it better—that it is actually possible for them—I think that is when it starts.”
“Wow! And we were here. We were at the right place at the right time! I am so glad professor Klinemere invited us to that first meeting!”