Last night, I had the opportunity to watch the Charlie Rose Show on PBS.  Charlie’s guest for the entire hour was Jeff Immelt CEO of General Electric, and I have to state that Mr. Immelt restored my confidence in American business.  What a refreshing change! 

The interview touched upon many of the difficult challenges facing global business today, including post-recession recovery, global outsourcing, and the reality of what it will take to keep America competitive in the rapidly changing world economy.

Mr Immelt did not choose “CEO speak” but rather made understandable as well as candid comments on what a company like GE, and others, need to do to remain competitive.  He spoke to a permanently changed consumer landscape, a reality that consumer spending can not alone drive future business growth.   He clearly stated that the U.S. needs to refocus its economy on manufacturing and exports, and that manufacturing should represent 20 percent of employment, a far cry from what it is today. Having 60% of your economy anchored in financial services won’t suffice in this new world business environment. There is a reality that countries such as Brazil, China, India, and others will have faster GDP growth than the U.S. but that is not a cause to abandon a U.S. investment strategy.

 Immelt also urged U.S. legislators to support broader research and development investments in the future technologies of alternative energy, efficient infrastructure and sustainability  He also challenged other U.S. firms to build more industry and government partnerships and to invest in the U.S., as well as other emerging economies. He admitted that GE and other U.S. companies may have outsourced too much, and turned over too many technological processes to foreign operations.

Finally, it was clear to me that Mr. Immelt understood the critical importance of having dedicated people, as well as a network of quality suppliers, regardless of geographic region. Heck, he even mentioned the words “supply chain”.

Immelt was energizing, and he made sense.  We need more CEO’s of this mold.

You can view this interview through the following link to The Charlie Rose Show.

Perhaps Mr. Immelt’s example might influence the financial news networks of CNBC and Fox Business to stop booking “talking CEO heads” in favor of those who can inspire, and energize, as well as lead.

So what was your reaction to this interview?

 Bob Ferrari