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Posted: December 01, 2011

On Management: A view of the U.S.

...from the other side of the pond

Pat Wiesner

The airport in Madrid is a lot bigger than I expected and a lot older, too, providing miles of rough going for the wheels guiding your baggage along with stairways that should have been escalators.

It was a long trek to the baggage claim and the exit while horsing four difficult bags along, all the time looking for what we used to call a "sky cap" and never finding one. (Imagine a country where the national unemployment rate is close to 20 percent and nobody will touch a bag. Sounds like the U.S.)
But that is about all I can say bad about the look and feel of the city.

Madrid and the other parts of Spain we visited were beautiful. My wife, Janet, and I are there to attend a conference, and to that end we also visited Toledo and Villadolid. The people in those places love to be out and about, and the streets were jammed in all three cities every night.

They told us, for example, that 300,000 people live in Valladolid, and I'm sure they were all out walking the streets in groups and couples with kids in strollers, enjoying the weather, an ice cream, music, a beer, each other or whatever until 11 p.m. or later. The streets everywhere we went in any of these cities were super safe and secure.

These people seem to know something about life that most Americans haven't quite worked out.

In the first few days we discovered that the trains are the only way to get around the country. The slow "fast" trains go about 120 kilometers per hour and the fast "fast" trains go more than 200 kph. And they are beautiful, sleek and spotlessly clean. They're also relatively inexpensive.

When we were taking a cab to the Madrid train station we got caught up a little bit in a Spanish version of Occupy Wall Street. There was a big crowd building in the street in front of us. Instead of the rag-tag look of our protesters in the U.S., these guys wore very similar outfits and seemed to carry similar signs and flags.

Like you see in all the TV reports, the police had formed a line with their trucks and shields. When the cops wanted to move the line a little they inched forward, and the protesters moved the desired direction without losing any of their fervor. It seemed to work out for everybody.

I was told by a number of people that social values are just as important to the Spanish as the numerical sums used to prove that government must pay its bills or fail. Their sensitive side has caused Spain to way overspend. Spain is right behind Italy in the amount of indebtedness piled up.

Spain's government is right-leaning at this time, and therefore there will be a lot of gnashing of teeth as social oxen are gored. It is going to be very hard indeed for Spain.

Its GDP growth for the last six months is equal to zero, and there is a lot of pressure on the politicians to act.

It was interesting one day last week to see our own president, Mr. Obama, explaining in pointed detail just what the European countries need to do to fix their economies!

It is pretty clear that here in Spain and Europe in general that government is ready to stop spending money it doesn't have. I for one hope that we in the U.S. are ready to do the same.
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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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