Speaking to the Women Presidents Organization last Thursday near San Diego, eBay‘s former CEO discussed her past, present, and future to a crowd of about 600. As interesting as her past is, Meg Whitman’s future is bound to be a wild roller coaster ride. She hopes to be California’s next Governor, a state whose economy, at about $2 trillion, is roughly the size of China or Italy‘s and whose diverse population is about 37 million people.
Long before his iconic trajectory from star to statesman, I had the pleasure of interviewing California’s current governor Arnold Schwarzenegger . Having met him in person, I was not the least bit surprised by his success. He was, without a doubt, one of the sharpest, most personable leaders I ever met.
Based on what I heard from Ms. Whitman last week, it’s entirely possible she, too, has what it takes to make it to the statehouse. Remember, she became famous as one of the few female CEO’s who successfully guided a once fledgling start up called eBay to exponential heights for more than 10 years, becoming a billionaire in the process. EBay’s ’08 revenue was about $8.5 billion. Approximately 1.3 million people today make a living from eBay.
Commenting on today’s economy, Ms Whitman said today’s economy is in a paradigm shift. “Things are fundamentally different. We’re in the eye of the storm.” Since consumer spending is 72% of the economy, she feels things are going to get much worse for many people before they improve. It’s the “gigantic shifts in consumer spending” that she has her eye on.
Even though a Republican, she believes Government has to spend money to keep the economy moving.
“In Business, there’s always a major metric you must watch,” she says. That all-important metric for Government, “is unemployment.” Unemployment in California can be as high as 18% in Silicon Valley to 35% in some of the farming communities. For her, the solution to the immediate problems are the “targeted, timely, and temporary creation of jobs, jobs, jobs.”
In a crises, she said, more than at any other time, you have to make sure the cost structure is in line. She drew a big laugh from the audience of female business executives when she added the obvious in common sense so rarely modeled in the public sector, “Revenues need to always be greater than costs.”