Monday, August 18, 2014


For the last two years I have been working on writing a book about my experience as a first generation (Dutch) immigrant to the United States. After multiple edits, with the help of some of the best minds I have encountered during my journey through life, I have published my book through CreateSpace, a division of
It can be ordered online in the USA and Europe, using the appropriate link shown below:

The book is titled NEITHER HERE NOR THERE and sub-titled A First Generation Immigrant in Search of American Exceptionalism.

I wrote the book, because I like to write and I had freed up my time by retiring from the corporate world where I had spent all of my professional career. But there is more to this story. For the more than 30 years that I have been working and living in the United States, I have kept wondering if I had made the right decision when, in 1983, I turned from being a Dutch ex-patriate living in the U.S. to an immigrant. I never quit looking for a validation of that decision. And, because of that mind-set, I became a keen observer of American lifestyles and politics.

I knew that America had been exceptional at the time of the creation of the Republic, in the struggle to hold the Republic together through the War Between the States, and in the conquering of fascism first and then communism. I was looking for evidence that America had the capacity and vitality to remain exceptional at times that it was not seriously challenged by contenders.

In my book, I lean upon not only my own observations, but substantially also on the writings of other analysts of the great American experiment. The book is different from other social and political commentary in that it deals not just with specific individual shortcomings but, comprehensively, with all the major flaws in the American system as it operates today and in that it actually offers solutions for the many predicaments the nation is facing. It is also different in that it is written from the perspective of someone, not born in this country, but who made a conscious choice to make America his country and now wants to validate that decision.

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE delivers five key messages:
  1. I made a deliberate decision, in the early eighties, to transplant my family from the Netherlands to the USA, based on my evaluation—at the time—of the future of America versus the future of Western Europe. It seemed an easy choice. But the world has changed dramatically in the intervening 30 years and it seems appropriate to revalidate that choice.

  1. There is a broad consensus that the generation now growing up in America may be the first since the Second World War to be worse off than their parents and grandparents. If that is indeed the case, then we need to get at the cause of that decline. And come up with ways to turn it around.

  1. A huge gap exists in America between the performances of the public sector versus the private sector. The private sector embraces change and accelerates the pace of change by constant innovation, driven by competition and a passion for continuous improvement and breakthrough technology. None of this exists in the public domain.

  1. America has too many people standing at the sidelines rather than playing the field. Nations are successful when they engage the whole population—with hardly anybody left out—behind a clearly articulated vision for the future place of the nation in the global environment.

  1. A vision is merely that—a fata morgana—if it is not accompanied by a solid strategy outlining how to reach the desired outcome. America is lacking a national strategy. American governance has no tradition or statute for the creation of a binding strategic plan that is built on broad consensus and transcends the succession of White House occupants and the shifting balance of power between the Republican and Democratic parties. That may have to change.

My intent with the book is to create a badly needed discourse about what’s ailing America and what cures should be considered to bring it back to optimum health.

Follow me on Twitter @FransJager1 for updates on the publication of NEITHER HERE NOR THERE.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Thirty-thousand feet is the cruising altitude for most long distance commercial flights and, until a band of Russian/Ukrainian thugs decided to shoot flight MH17 out of the air, it was considered a safe environment for civil aviation, which contributes so much to global commerce and inter-cultural contact and understanding between people of different origin.

Thirty-thousand feet is also a good distance to observe when looking at a problem that needs to be resolved or an action that needs to be taken. A solid strategic planning process for a business starts at thirty-thousand feet, looking at the world in which the enterprise is, or will be, operating.

Business operators are constantly reminded to “keep their noses to the grindstone” and that is certainly good advice when it comes to executing the business plan and running the business on a day to day basis. But too often business operators do not come up for air at all, ever. They feel they cannot take their eyes off the ball and they will not lift their noses from the grindstone. That is when many businesses run into the proverbial brick wall!

Businesses need to plan for success. Success does not come automatically with working hard and long hours. If it did, we would not see that many small privately owned businesses fail every year. And planning for success starts at thirty-thousand feet. At the start of any new enterprise, and with some regularity thereafter, the leadership team of a business needs to take a good distance from the day-today and look at the direction of and the prospects for the business with an eagle eye that covers all the ground beneath, the big picture.

Owning and operating a business is an awesome responsibility. Particularly when the business employs people. It represents a calling of the highest order. And—because of that—business needs to be conducted with all due regard for the social impact the business actions have on its stakeholders and the community in which it operates. Owning and operating a business is not an egocentric activity, or it should not be. Small, privately owned, business is a formidable engine of innovation and economic growth. It is also a powerful path to personal wealth creation. America’s economy would not be what it is if it were not for the multitude of privately owned businesses that scatter the landscape. America is the champion of free enterprise and it finds economic strength in the scope and dynamism of entrepreneurial activity. It finds comfort in numbers. There are so many small enterprises that it can afford to lose a good percentage of them every year, clearing the field for new upstarts. In the realm of small business there is constant churning, replacing the ill-conceived or poorly resourced endeavors with better upstarts. This process lends strength to the economy and creates the right conditions for innovation and growth.

From thirty-thousand feet it is easy to see what the key critical success factors are for a small privately owned business to succeed. To make it in the competitive rat race an enterprise just has to follow a few simple, basic, rules. Given enough distance of observation, like thirty-thousand feet, the ingredients for success in business are clearly identifiable (in no particular order):
  • A strong balance sheet
  • A lean, knowledgeable, and motivated organization, top to bottom
  •  A fanatic desire to be in business, combined with a clear sense of direction
  • A fanatic dedication to the success and satisfaction of the customer
  • A capacity to keep business simple and predictable
  • Alignment with the best supply chain partners in the business
  • Forward thinking ownership and executive leadership
  • The ability to trust yourself, your organization, and your key people

None of this comes without proper planning. So, I’m asking the business leaders among my readership: Does your business meet all of these critical success factors? What is missing?

These are the type of questions that need to be asked from time to time. And that is why, with some regularity, business leaders need to lift their noses from the grindstone and put distance between themselves and the business they are responsible for. The right answers for any individual business can only be found when looking at the business from thirty-thousand feet. Trust me, it is safe out there in the rarified air. What is not safe for the business is for the leadership not, with some regularity, to spend time at high altitude, review the landscape with an eagle eye, and ponder the strategic decisions that need to be taken for the continuity and growth of the business.