JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 236 : 24 August 2007

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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13 mins.

MTL makes 3 acquisitions in 3 months

MTL Instruments Group has made three acquisitions in three months with total investment of £18M in cash:
  • May 07 - £12m, Australian wireless company Elpro International
  • June 07 - £3m, 90% of UK based RTK Instruments (process alarms)
  • July 07 - £3m, UK based Ocean Technical Systems (SCADA)
Andrew Bond, who publishes the widely respected UK newsletter, Industrial Automation Insider, makes some canny comments,
    "Despite CEO Graeme Philp’s enthusiasm, there may be some who will wonder how the acquisition of a specialist SCADA system vendor fits with the previously declared strategy of becoming the leading supplier of building blocks for process automation systems and whether there is not a danger of transforming a previously tightly focused group into an increasingly diverse conglomerate of loosely related businesses."
My own view is that Graeme Philp has a shrewd eye for strategic value: good people, with key technology and growth potential, in similar business in complementary markets. He recognizes that the barriers to growth can be overcome through good acquisitions combined with the ability to motivate leaders in the acquired companies to generate growth and success as part of a larger corporate team.

Graeme has enough confidence in his own judgment, and his team, to move quickly. Plus, MTL's bankers evidently have enough confidence to provide cash.

Click Read the latest news & updates on MTL website

Click Andrew Bond's "Industrial Automation Insider"

Click MTL Has Crossed $100M With Independent Growth & Success

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Redefining leadership in global business

The concept of strong leadership primarily at a central HQ location is outdated. Depth and breadth of leadership is critical to growth and success.

In the past, leaders used corporate mandated ground rules to get results. Many large global corporations operate this way. But today, that no longer works, especially with knowledge workers in multinational environments.

Today, good leaders find that a sensitive and sharing approach is much more effective. There's clearly a direct connection between employee involvement in all global locations and overall corporate profitability. To achieve this, leadership must be re-defined.

All employees become part of teams and share in setting mutual goals rather than being forced to achieve remotely imposed goals. The team shares in the feeling of success and the rewards. Local groups cannot be penalized for failures in other, remote locations. And yet, a spirit of company-wide teamwork is important.

Today's leaders are called upon to exceed goals by maximizing diverse strengths and resources that tap into the growth and success of local markets in the global arena.

Read my latest article, "Redefining Leadership" in the latest (August 2007) issue of Automation World.

Click Automation World - Redefining Leadership

Click Redefining Leadership for the 21st Century

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Medical tourism is growing fast

In a recent issue of Forbes magazine, Steve Forbes discusses "medical tourism" which, he says, will be a $40 billion industry by 2010. This is showing how America can "solve" the health-care financing crisis.

Soaring US medical costs are causing more and more Americans to go abroad for elective and/or major surgeries. The hospitals and physicians are usually first-rate and, amazingly, can provide operations at 10% to 30% of the cost in the US.

The surge in medical tourism over the past decade is being driven by rising US health-care costs and growing numbers of uninsured or under-insured Americans. Almost 45 million Americans - 15% of the population - are currently uninsured.

Forbes gives some examples:

U.S. Cost $ India Cost $
Bone Marrow transplant 400,000 30,000
Liver Transplant 500,000 40,000
Open Heart Surgery 50,000 4,400
Neurosurgery 29,000 8,000
Knee Surgery 16,000 4,500

150,000 Americans traveled abroad for health care in 2006, and the number is projected to double in 2007. Among the top destinations: Southeast Asia, India and Mexico.

Medical tourism companies, in collaboration with special "health travel agents" have sprung up across the country, and some insurance plans are participating. As soon as the top insurance companies start to accept foreign hospitals (which they will soon, for the overwhelmingly lower costs) medical migration will start to soar.

Medical tourism companies help travelers find the hospital that provides the procedure or care they need. A growing number of overseas hospitals are accredited under the international arm of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization, which accredits US hospitals and facilities.

Click Medical Tourism Takes Flight

Click Hospital care moves offshore

Click Wikipedia: Medical Tourism

Click Medical Tourism website

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Book: After the Empire

After reading some of my recent commentary, Craig Pinto (no relation) recommended a book by Emmanuel Todd, "After the Empire", which I'm still in the process of reading. It is a best-seller in Europe and makes a lot of sense.

Yes, the author is French. However, Michael Lind (Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation) who wrote the Foreword says, "Todd's purpose is not denunciation, but diagnosis". This is NOT an anti- American book; rather, it is a sobering analysis of America's behavior based on a mix of anthropology, economics, and demographics.

Todd contrasts the "Good America" of 1950-1965 with the "Bad America" of the new 21st century. Good America was marked by democracy, free speech, expanding social programs, and the civil rights movement at home, supported by a productive economy based on manufacturing and exports, and represented abroad by a generous foreign policy.

"Bad America" has renounced the principle of equality and replaced it with a selfish oligarchy (government by a privileged few), allowed itself to fall into massive debt (including an unsustainable trade imbalance), and returned to its obsession with race. It is driven by militarism, is suspicious of international cooperation, and has become a force more for disruption than stability. The unilateralism and militarism is a sign of frailty, not strength. The militaristic foreign policy does little more than prop up the industrial/military business complex.

The respected French historian and demographer, takes a look at past empires, tracks their decay and eventual failure, the rise of the upper classes, and loss of democracy. He makes several points worth considering. For example: What if the countries which collectively support our huge debt demanded immediate repayment? China holds the most US debt - $1.3 trillion; what if they revalued their currency and stopped supporting the dollar?

Misguided free trade policies, have hollowed out our industrial base and decimated our middle classes. Dependent on imports, America is injecting demand into the world economy while producing little world value. Our trade deficit is currently $500 billion per year, which means that the rest of the world is financing our consumerism. How long can that continue?

Todd's characterization of the US hold more than a grain of truth. You may bristle when you read it, but you'll sense the echoes of truth.

Click Review & buy "After the Empire" at Amazon.com

Click Book review - After the Empire

Click The rise and fall of empires

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Solutions to America's continuing problems

Some of my friends and email respondents have asked - why do you keep harping on America's problems? Where's your patriotism? Why don't you discuss only solutions? Here is my response:

Unlike many, who are American by accident of birth, I am an American by choice. I was born in India, lived in the UK for about 10 years and moved to the US about 40 years ago. I started Action Instruments in San Diego, California, and ran it for about 30 years, till I retired. I consider myself a patriotic American and an ardent Capitalist. This is the best country in the world, bar none.

Regarding my patriotism in discussing America's flaws. Think on this: Who would you consider more patriotic: The person who points out the cracks in the bridge? Or the one who shrugs it off? The one who is concerned about a vast, burgeoning deficit? Or one who ignores it? The person who is concerned about education and healthcare? Or one who is to busy to bother?

There are, of course, no simple solutions to these continuing problems - which is why they continue. As one tries to review the underlying problems, the discussion very quickly becomes philosophical. So, permit me some philosophizing.

Our current problems CANNOT be solved politically. Most of them can ONLY be solved through solutions that will be very unpopular - raising taxes NOW (rather than putting the burden, and the jeopardy, on the future). So the politicians fiddle, while America burns.

Most people feel powerless to do anything. So, how will this stop? Not by a bridge collapsing, or 10 bridges, or 10 Katrinas. These only cause politicians speeches, and band-aid solutions, while the rest of the country and the world continues, busy with local and personal problems.

REAL change comes in one of two ways: FAST from the outside, through large cataclysmic events. Or, SLOW - through steady pressures that obsoletes old power systems. History has many lessons. The Roman, British , Turkish and Spanish Empires - all considered themselves invincible - till they declined, crumbling from the inside.

A little more than a century ago, America was a new country of immigrants. Few thought it would be a world power. Now we think we are invincible, while our power is eaten away from the inside. Our Democracy becomes an Oligarchy (government by a privileged few). The flaws cause cracks, and change occurs.

But we CAN make a difference. America's strength comes from its eclectic population. Its citizens from many different countries recognize problems and develop solutions that strengthen the country as a whole. In this third American century, our country will thrive through its dynamic diversity.

There are no easy solutions. But it's important to think and discuss these things. That's how we move towards solutions.

I enjoy the open, direct, challenging, insightful feedback and commentary I receive regularly. I respond to each and every feedback, which helps me retain my own balance. You can read some of the feedback right here (below) in eNews.

Click America's Population Growth is Healthy

Click Campaign for America's Future

Click Transition to a very different future

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Caston Dalon [Caston1@aol.com] recently took a year off to go sailing, get married and have a son. With that objective view, he wrote:
    "Your 'Caterpillar Pillar' parable is nice and right on and I wish that the WHOLE Word could understand it.

    "Money doesn't make you happy (though it can help). It is a spiritual connection with the universe that does. People ask, 'How could you drop everything and go sailing for a year?' My response is, 'You can always make money, but you cannot make time. So enjoy it while you can because you can't take 'things' with you when you are gone'.

    "I still like the idea of privatizing education and giving vouchers to legal citizens with children and letting them decide which school to send their kids to. The competition would clean up the crap that has morphed in our socialized school system. Schools and teachers would be under pressure to be at the top of their games and top schools would have standards for admittance. Wow, sounds like our College-system that seems to work very well.

    "Socializing medicine would not be good. We need to put a stop to out of control lawsuits and overhaul the insurance industry. Socializing medicine will further reduce the quality of doctors and the system. I know this from first hand MDs in the family."

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Gary Costello [garycost@rcn.com] agrees that the declining middle-class is a symptom of larger issues:

    "Sadly, the declination of the middle-class is reality and neither the US government nor any private organization can reverse that fact simply by declaring its not true. What is most sinister is the ultra-rich just don't care about the evaporating middle class because they don't have to.

    "The struggle is awful for the middle-classers whose quality of life is constantly eroding and for the lower-classers who have little hope of elevating. And, in reflection of the article on healthcare, Massachusetts passed a law mandating that everyone MUST have health insurance. So now, those that could not afford it in the first place, are required to buy it or be penalized at tax time. Furthermore, and as expected, the health insurers raised their premiums and reduced the benefits to maximize profits...an easy thing to do when you have a captive audience.

    "My 32-year old daughter (a graduate of Boston University and very capable), and most of her college-graduate friends, can't earn enough to be independent; rather, they either live at home or depend on their parents for assistance. This is the New United States."

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James Fox [fox.james@att.net] sees his business declining because of competitive cost & quality:

    "As a mold-maker I am right in the middle of the import 'surge' and I'm feeling the pinch as buyers are forced by their need for cost-savings to purchase from China. This is much cheaper, and better quality, and getting better by the day.

    "Maybe quick global warming or some catastrophic environmental change is necessary to remove 2/3 of the humans. Our Earth is way overpopulated and we cannot design our way out of this. Simply too many people.

    "Even if we change dramatically, the developing world won't. Sorry, but I'm starting to go the Republican way: 'Don't worry, be happy, ignore the bad, worry only about myself and let the kids worry about the mess we left them. GDP growth will make it all better. (I don't have kids). What to do...

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