Interview with Mark Collar – Accomplished Business Leader and Entrepreneur
Mark Collar is currently a partner at Triathlon Medical Ventures and Chairman of the Ohio Third Frontier Advisory Board. But, for most of our relationship, Mark was President of Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals and Personal Health and my line manager. I love Mark’s personal goal – "Make a difference helping good people do important things." It is a goal he takes to heart, and I have benefited from his counsel on more than one occasion. Mark’s is an opinion I value and one I always listen carefully to.
In one of our monthly breakfast meetings at the local Big Boy restaurant, Mark and I were discussing the state of Brand America. His perspective made an impact on my thinking (as it often does). Below are Mark’s thoughts.
- Question: How important is public opinion of its citizens to the United States, and what are the economic benefits typically derived from it?
Just like a well-run company with a pervasive culture that promotes a strong work ethic, so is the importance of attitudes of U.S. citizens to our national health and economic prosperity. Most everyone wants to be part of something bigger than self – to believe they make a difference in some way to something that matters. People will respond to broadly held expectations that are intrinsic to something they aspire to belong to. If we start believing this is an ordinary country without a great foundation and destiny, that we are just like the others, we will develop a citizenry that lives without expectations, without passion and without national pride. If others are striving and see the fruits of their innovations and labor, if hard work is rewarded, this stimulates motivation to live up to these expectations. If the national tendency is to blame others and have your hand out, this becomes the norm.
- Question: What is your sense for how strong Brand America is versus other countries in delivering on its core promise?
When founded we were unique. We attracted people looking for freedom to practice their religion, build a business, and give their families better than they had. You still hear/heard a bit of this on national holidays, following 9/11, and in political speeches when the goal is to temporarily drive an emotional crescendo for the benefit of the politician. I think though, we have allowed the wealth and security we enjoy to allow us to take for granted what we have, and not cherish it to the point of defending it. There have been times in our history when we have shrunk for our global responsibilities to be the bastion of freedom and opportunity, or allowed our government to grow so dominant to encroach on our individual liberties and take too much of the fruit of our labor away from us. But over time we have always awakened and returned to our core values around freedom, independence, and self-determination that made us great.
- Question: Do you think Brand America needs to work on improving its image or identity?
I think we can do a much better job recapturing and then communicating what we stand for, the essence of our beliefs – to our own citizens and to the international community. Globally we need to stand strong for human rights but do so with humility and compassion. Somehow, here at home, American patriotism has become passe, almost politically incorrect. In fact patriotism is the backbone of a country’s sustained existence. If you don’t believe something matters, you won’t have the passion to defend it and make sure it endures. This doesn’t mean we are without fault, nor does it mean we can’t grow, but we have a Declaration of Independence and Constitution that form the foundation of something that is timeless and worthy of striving for. Just because fallible men and women come up short of the ideals, doesn’t mean we should stop striving if those ideals matter, and they do. Do we even teach American history anymore? My gut tells me there is a terrific opportunity for a rekindling of healthy national pride among the grand majority of people in this country, from all socio-economic backgrounds, who still believe in the values of freedom, family, community, and the merits of hard work. And these same people will carry themselves in the global community in a way that reinforces the merits of our system.
- Question: Some opinion leaders have argued for a national Brand Manager to help the President better manage Brand America? What do you see as the pros and cons of that approach?
Bring him or her on. What brand is more important? Having a brand manager does not make a brand and its promise disingenuous, but rather a brand manager holds a brand accountable to the promises it makes. He or she can start getting at what I wrote about in the previous paragraph.
- Question: What impact do you think this latest economic crisis has had on the world’s perception of Brand America?
Many jealous, defensive people like to see successful people fail. It gives them pleasure and satisfaction to think their own, less distinctive performance is justifiable. Our American dream has always been too big for some. Our global generosity has never been recognized. Our greed overplayed. So when it appears greed has done us in, the celebrations begin. American capitalism is vilified, and the cries for wealth redistribution among people, and among nations ring out. This of course is an emotional reaction inconsistent with the facts which clearly support the strength of our system. It’s not perfect. Some of the issues we have seen are the result of lax regulation in areas where we needed to be more vigilant. Capitalism has overheated in the past and will again in the future when greed and complexity allow some to prey on unsuspecting targets. We need to prevent and correct these abuses and stay vigilant, but at the same time promote the opportunity for enterprising people to be handsomely rewarded for true innovations and hard work.
- Question: What role do you think the states can play to help strengthen Brand America?
They need to create socio-economic opportunities to encourage the American dream to flourish. In some cases, for example economic development, the smaller state operating units, by being closer to the ground, can more effectively design and deploy programs to fit the opportunities and attract the capital in their region.