Michael Milken, the well known financial expert, philanthropist and man who was once referred to by Esquire as one of “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century,” spoke to attendees of the Think Big Vistage 2013 International Conference about his opinions on global business. His presentation was titled “A New Global Perspective: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”
Milken first delved into the effects of the increase in the Asian population, both in Asia and the United States, by saying that the upswing of middle class in Asia is setting prices for the world. Specifically, the increasing middle class means a significant increase in the amount of travel to many destinations, including to the U.S. Milken pointed out that the average tourist from China spends more than 100 percent what a European might spend while traveling.
Additionally, the life expectancy in Asia has grown from 46.5 years in 1960 to 75.4 years in 2011. He asked the audience to imagine the impact of all these individuals planning for old age, growing wealth, etc. Business owners need to keep these demographic changes in mind for customers, but also for how global prices are affected.
Milken segued into details of the great passions of his life, which are education and medical research. Lamenting the fact that America is no longer a leader in education, he showed an interesting graphic which placed the top three household expenses in the U.S. to be housing, transportation and food. An important category, supplemental education, was dead last on the list. On the list from Asia, the results were different. The top expenses were Food, Supplemental Education, and Housing, in that order. Milken said it seems out of whack that we are more interested in spending money on our houses than our children’s education.
One other area that concerns Milken is the lack of skilled workers in the U.S. While noting that is a fallacy that there are not enough jobs available, he said we simply cannot fill all the skilled-job openings with the 50 million skilled workers available in our country. Milken strongly supports a focus on early childhood education, which he said can determine the future success of individuals.
Milken said one of the most exciting recent developments for business is crowd sourcing, a process that requires a group to be called on to discover a solution to a problem. He referenced a recent contest held by a health care company which offered a $3 million prize. Organizers expected a good response, but were surprised to receive entries from 1,385 teams from 39 different countries.
In front of a packed room, Milken laid out his take on where America stands in the world today. The picture was neither pretty, nor entirely pessimistic. Potential exists in several areas, including many ways to embrace human capital. The leaders in attendance at the Vistage Think Big Conference were up to many of these challenges, he said.