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Reality Check: Your Most Potent Competitive Advantage


By Seena Sharp

The United States is the world�s largest manufacturer.  And, by a significant amount.  If you believe that this is a press release from some PR shill with rose-colored glasses, read on for a reality check.  International data compiled by the United Nations on global output indicates that manufacturing output from the U.S. is 45% higher than it is for China.  Higher than China?  How is that possible?
Part of the reason is that American workers are increasingly productive.  Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama are actually cheaper for manufacturing for select industries than in China.  In fact, net labor costs in China are rising (up 17%), and that is resulting in China moving some of their manufacturing to cheaper sources in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. So before you spend money setting up a factory in China, check out the specifics for your industry.  Invest in due diligence or market intelligence.
Far too many executives know only some information� but, when you�re making important decisions, �only some� is just not good enough. The less input you have, the more likely it is misleading, insufficient or even outdated.  For example, while U.S. manufacturing jobs are declining, jobs in technology and health-related fields are increasing.  While manufacturing is moving to low-cost Asian countries, many of those countries lack the supply chain, infrastructure or labor skills needed.
If this is surprising, confusing, counter-intuitive because you think it does not make sense - or if you are convinced we are wrong�.  Excellent!  
Information that is the most contrary to your beliefs often proves to be the most valuable. What you do not know about current reality can lead to missed opportunities and bad decisions.  

Seena Sharp is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and a pioneer in competitive intelligence, founding one of the first companies in the United States, Sharp Market Intelligence.  They provide cutting-edge strategic intelligence to companies entering a new industry, expanding their line, targeting new customers or uncovering unknown customers, launching a new product, purchasing equipment, and finding alternative uses.  Their clients range from Fortune 500 firms to those who are not as familiar � in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.  She spent her corporate years in New York City with four major companies, including BBDO Advertising and Equitable Life Assurance, while earning a masters degree in mathematics from New York University. She received the Fellows Award from her professional association.  John Wiley & Sons asked her to write the book on this topic, Competitive Intelligence Advantage: How to Minimize Risk, Avoid Surprises, and Grow Your Business in a Changing World. Seena speaks to corporation and business groups globally, and has written numerous business articles.

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