August 3, 2022

Like Switzerland

We’re back after a month-long absence!  And it’s not the same as it was. 

That’s a line from Harry Styles’ new hit. Wistful tune.  He said he wrote it about the way the world won’t be the same, after the Pandemic. Seems to me it’s got a variety of messages but I’ll take that one.

I’d never listened to Harry Styles before.  But in Switzerland we turned the TV at times to a music channel to get away from the depressing stories on BBC World News.

Illustration 21248165 © Oxlock | Dreamstime.com

There’s some good German rap. I’m not a rap fan but a language with a lot of consonants lends well to the medium.  And we heard Harry Styles. I don’t mean Switzerland isn’t what it was. Harry sings this:

In this world, it’s just us
You know it’s not the same as it was

And I think it won’t be the same, at least for awhile, for us, having spent the last month in Switzerland (with side trips to France and Italy). We flew back Saturday from Zurich and I found myself humming in my head “it’s not the same as it was.”

I was wistful. I fell for Lucerne. And Zermatt. And places between.  No wonder Audrey Hepburn never left.

As a people, we could learn a thing or two from the Swiss. There’s no trash in the gutters. No homeless camps. No crap roads. No junk. The trains run like Swiss watches.

Switzerland works.

A report out from the Downtown Denver Partnership laments the loss of the energy, vitality and activity that typified pre-Pandemic Denver. Homelessness shot up, workaday traffic that fed the downtown economy is 51% of past levels.

We lost our mojo. A lot of America did. Can we get it back?

We were riding bikes in the Emmental region and we stopped for Swiss cheese from Doris the Cheese Apprentice (it takes three years to become a cheesemaker). She told us her parents own cows that produce milk for cheese.

We were eating Emmental – the cheese with holes, classic Swiss – with bread. We said, “Who makes the bread?”

“The baker two houses down,” Doris said.

Almost everything in Switzerland is Swiss.  The country doesn’t undercut its own jobs and industries by importing cheap goods.  You can buy imported stuff but it costs more.

Switzerland works because everybody pulls the same direction. The Swiss aren’t splintered into identity politics cliques bent out of shape over how wronged they are. 

True, Switzerland, which Monday marked the 731st year of its constitutional confederation dating to 1291, is just 8.6 million people.

It’s not a giant empire. Most of humankind’s devastating conflicts trace to empires. For small states like Switzerland that make great infrastructure and culture top priorities, who needs a war?

And it’s worth noting that James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and others studied the confederacies of Europe including the Cantons in Switzerland and wrote about them in the Federalist Papers.

And we’re not doing that – studying what’s working and what’s not. We just keep telling ourselves here in the USA that we’re the greatest country in the world as we destroy what made us so.

It wouldn’t hurt us to understand what makes Swiss culture harmonious. It wouldn’t hurt us to be honest about what’s working and what’s not, sort out why the conditions exist, and figure out how to achieve as much harmony as possible.

Even if that means making major changes.

Those are my observations from a great country in the center of Europe.  We could apply them to the stock market and public companies.

To pull in the same direction, we have to understand and value the same things. Using our decision-support platform, EDGE, I will only trade about 800 of the companies in the market. The rest aren’t liquid enough.

Those 800 are over 90% of market cap. The remaining roughly 2,800 are left out.  The stock market should work for 100% of public companies. And it would. If 100% of them had more than $5 billion of market cap.  Maybe companies shouldn’t go public if they don’t have market cap of $5 billion?

And what are our priorities? What actually works?  We go through a lot of motions, do public companies, without understanding if these motions and actions enhance shareholder value.

I think the most essential action for investor-relations professionals is making certain the Board and the c-suite understand how the market works, what helps or harms shareholder value, and what the money is doing.  That’s governance. We’ve got that data.

Everything else may be superfluous. Superfluity won’t fly in Switzerland.

My challenge for public companies is that we ask what are we doing that’s the same as it was 15, 20 years ago? And should we still be doing it? Because the fact is, nothing is the same as it was. 

Now, if you want some fun, here are a bunch of photos from our trip!  Catch you next week.

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