Awakening to the sunshine of an early autumn day, America had no idea
of the tragic scenario about to unfold before a shocked nation. Four
commercial airliners filled with everyday travelers, business
executives to families with children were about to be highjacked and
purposely flown into landmark buildings to kill or maim both those
onboard and tens-of-thousands on the ground. Welcome to the world of
global terrorism, a world from which North America has been shielded,
a bastion of safety and security from the ravages of ideological
terror that have long menaced many of the developing nations and to a
lesser extent, Europe.

As the leadership of the United States Government regroups to assess
what was happened, how, by whom and why, in order to appropriately
respond, U.S. corporate leaders as well, also need to respond in a
very public and determined manner to this horrifying, undeclared act
of war upon our nation and its economic system. When facing any
enemy and particularly an unseen one, two forms of response are most
critically needed. Both require a clear demonstration of corporate
solidarity with our elected officials.

Initially, it is essential to assure our people, both within the
corporate environment as well as the general public, that the
leadership of corporate America will do everything necessary to
cooperate with the government to minimize economic disruption. So
far, 2001 has been a harbinger of ever worsening economic news. With
layoffs and terminations now exceeding the one million mark, nearly
everyone has either been directly affected themselves or knows
someone who has. Although the outlook has been favorable for an
economic turnaround beginning next year, supported by a return to
steady if not meteoric growth, high energy costs and the continuing
strong dollar have loomed as potential spoilers to recovery.

In addition to this, the nation will now be faced with a decline in
tourism, travel, meetings, conventions, massive insurance claims and
the costs of economic disruption that will naturally flow from the
losses as well as the corresponding military and civilian counter-
measures that will necessarily ensue from the terrorists' actions.
All of which could offset the positive benefits expected to be
derived from the series of interest rate cuts initiated by the
Federal Reserve and the Administration's tax cut program. Whatever
terrorist group orchestrated this particular round of attacks, it is
clear their goal is to intimidate and demoralize the people of the
United States, realizing that if they can break the will of the
people through the exercise of terror, our elected officials will
become unwilling to aggressively pursue foreign policies the
terrorists decry. Such tactics are the Achilles Heel of democratic
governments world-wide and why the response coming from every
quarter, especially our corporate leaders, must be one of unity and
the unflinching determination demonstrated by England's Winston
Churchill, who steadfastly refused to ever give-in to tyrants.

Moreover, corporate leaders should determine to willingly play a
pivotal role in working cooperatively with the administration to
assure the nation that although we have been stung several times by
the terrorist wasp, the American free enterprise system will never
bow to terrorism. Thus, business, investment and the American way of
life will not only continue, but prosper while our government seeks
out and destroys those responsible for these acts, as well as their
supporters and accomplices, much as we helped France and England
destroy the Barbery Pirates in the 1800's. Meanwhile our people must
be assured that the American way of life, as we have always known it,
will continue.

The positive role of American corporate leadership in this regard
should not be understated. Today we cannot be sure if what we have
witnessed is the full extent of the enemy's blows or merely the first
wave with more to follow tomorrow, next week or next month. At the
outset of World War II, many expected that the attack on Pearl Harbor
would be quickly followed by a full scale invasion of the Hawaiian
Islands. Fear of the unknown is a debilitating enemy. We cannot
know if more attacks are planned and thus, fruitless speculation will
do nothing more than to further unsettle the public. What is needed
is for our corporate leaders, in a very public manner and with
resolute commitment, to reassure our nation that the doors of
American commerce will not be shuttered by threats or acts of wanton
terrorism. Apart from our government punishing the perpetrators, the
next best way to thumb our noses at them and all who think alike, is
to revitalize the economy and thereby once more demonstrate that the
power of a free people operating within a free market system is
greater than the power of fear.

Within twenty-four hours of the attacks, the nation had already seen
evidence of profiteering by a small number of businesses,
particularly in the petroleum industry. We are a nation at war. A
war unlike any we have fought before, but nonetheless a war. Any who
take advantage of this to gouge the nation are unworthy of our great
country. It is incumbent upon our corporate leaders to guard against
even the appearance of such practices.

A second necessary counterblow is for corporate leaders to
demonstrate their resolve by boldly moving forward and not retreating
in a struggling economy. We have seen massive layoffs throughout the
year. Sometimes cost cutting is necessary, however, we cannot cut
our way to growth. We must innovate, reconfigure our resources and
if necessary, by the sheer grit of willpower, thrust our companies
forward with the ultimatum to grow. It seems today that whenever we
face the slightest economic adversity, our response as leaders is to
pull back, retrench and "rightsize" in an attempt to protect what we
have. It is time to remember that when the "going gets tough, the
tough get going." We are now engaged in a war against tyranny and
terror, a war that must be fought upon two fronts, the
military/political front by our government and the marketplace/free
enterprise front by our businesses. It is time to quit whining about
the economy and begin to take concerted action as business leaders to
turn it around. In war, one cannot accept retreat and failure. Why?
Because one's very existence is at stake. Now, our economic
livelihood is at stake and with it a way of life that we cherish and
well we should, as it has made us the most prosperous nation in

To protect this way of life in the face of those who will stop at no
atrocity, no matter how heinous, to destroy it and us as the world's
super power both economically and militarily, we must bootstrap
ourselves out of the current economic slump. This can be done and
quickly, if as leaders we will commit to not accepting the status quo
and all the comfortable excuses that come with it. If we, in our
businesses will adopt a fighting mentality, understanding that we
must succeed in order to protect our nation and our way of life, then
we cannot and will not fail. This commitment requires that we
abandon our preoccupation with short term results and adopt a mindset
of investing into America's future. We have been short changing
ourselves by focusing on today's bottom line. Our decision making
must be guided by where we need to be in six months, a year and five
years, rather than at the end of the present fiscal quarter.
Furthermore, we must be willing to send that same message to our
stockholders and debt markets. We are going for future rewards, not
the present day payoff.

Given this renewed mindset, we can as a nation pull ourselves out of
the present economic slowdown and get back on the high road to long
term growth and prosperity. Some sectors that were over-invested
will undoubtedly experience shakeout, but this is merely another
beneficial facet of our free enterprise system. In so doing, capital
will be freed up and reinvested into other sectors that offer more
realistic opportunities for potential growth.

Today, we are at a national crises. Once again, we are threaten by
an external enemy. Although what has happened is terrible and
nothing will ever compensate for the enormous loss of life, suffering
and grief, there is one redeeming aspect. It is the opportunity for
men and women of vision who have been placed into positions of
leadership to remind us once again that properly led, Americans will
overcome any enemy, no matter how depraved. It is time for our
corporate leaders to join forces, putting aside petty and selfish
self interests, and publicly help our President in bringing America
out of this dark hour. Our great nation deserves no less!

About the Author

John Di Frances is the Managing Partner of DI FRANCES & ASSOCIATES,
LLC founded in 1983.
208 E Oak Crest Drive
Wales, WI 53183