How to fight back against inflation’s damaging grip on business

March 25, 2022, 11:01 AM UTC

Good morning, and happy Friday.

The most important story we published on Fortune this week was a very useful piece by Geoff Colvin and Ram Charan detailing “Six Crucial Steps for Managing Through Periods of High Inflation.” I’m old enough to remember the last time inflation was this high (1982). As a cub reporter, I covered Fed Chairman Paul Volcker—which was no easy task, given his tendencies toward obfuscation. (“We did what we did, we didn’t do what we didn’t do, and the result was what happened,” he once said in response to my insistent questioning.)

But today, living with inflation is largely forgotten. “Unless you’re a child prodigy,” Colvin and Charan write, “you probably weren’t a manager the last time inflation was this high.”

What to do? Well, start by recognizing that it’s not going away anytime soon. Even Fed Chairman Powell has belatedly acknowledged that. And the longer it lasts, the more ingrained it becomes in people’s expectations, therefore the harder to reverse. That means the time has come to move from denial to adaptation. And Colvin and Charan—both of whom also were around the last time—offer some time-tested management advice on how to get by.

Since it is Friday, some feedback. 

GC took me to task for my language describing Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s fight with the Governor of Florida:

Not sure of the reason for using the wording ‘pissing match’ in the Chapek piece? I’m sure there could have been lots of other choices for conveying that.”

But CP took the image and ran with it:

“One of the mottos I hold close in my own life and career…is ‘Don’t start a pissing contest unless you have to, because even if you win, you’ll end up with pee on your shoes.’”

Having said that, I promise both GC and my late mother to limit my references to bodily fluids in the future, and not use the word again unless it is truly le mot juste.

More news below. And don’t miss David’s piece on whether Blackrock CEO Larry Fink is right when he says globalization is over.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Reining in Big Tech

The European Union on Thursday introduced one of the most sweeping laws yet to rein in the power of Big—mainly American—Tech. It's called the Digital Markets Act, and it's been rumbling around Brussels for years. The aim is to limit the market dominance of tech giants like Google, Apple and Meta's Facebook. In practice, the law could give, for example, mobile phone users more flexibility to delete pre-installed apps on Apple IOS or Google Android devices. New York Times

Collateral Damage

Yes, energy inflation is a huge global concern. Brent alone is up more than 20% since the start of the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine one month ago. But the biggest damage could easily be in soaring food prices. Both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of wheat and corn, and their biggest customers are in emerging markets—places like Yemen and Lebanon. "Many of these populations…are a step away from famine," says Arif Husain, chief economist for the World Food Program. Fortune

250 bucks a barrel?

How high could oil go? Brent, up more than 50% in 2022, could easily double in price to $250 per barrel. So says hedge fund chief Pierre Andurand of Andurand Capital Management. Incidentally, what would that mean at the pump? Multiply by two what you paid yesterday to fill up your 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. At 4 a.m. ET, Brent traded around $117 per barrel. Fortune

Friends with benefits

Russia's energy policy is getting messy. Earlier this week, president Vladimir Putin declared that "unfriendly" nations—if you have to ask, your country is probably on the un- list—pay for Russian fossil fuels in rubles. All manner of European leaders balked at that idea, saying it would ultimately weaken sanctions. Now, a high-ranking energy chief in Russia's state Duma, says, okay, you can pay in cryptocurrency or in a local currency. But only if you're "friendly." BBC

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

Brain drain

It may be too early to call it a trend, but college enrollment data for 18-24-year-olds in the United States is in decline since the pandemic hit. Community college is particularly struggling. A number of educators discuss with Fortune's Kat McKim why that may be, and what the larger fallout could be for this generation. Yes, the spiraling cost of secondary education is seen as a factor, as are Great Resignation-style wage hikes. Bonus read: America's small businesses need a kind of domestic Fulbright program. Fortune

Plastic, plastic everywhere

The United Nations Environment Programme has been warning for years, "our planet is choking on plastic." That's no metaphor, a new medical study in the scientific journal Environment International shows. The Dutch researchers found tiny plastics particles in the organs and blood of 80% of the people it tested. The health risk is not fully known, but "it is certainly reasonable to be concerned," one of the researches said. Bonus read: Samsung just launched a new line of smartphones, tablets and PCs made in part from discarded nylon ocean fishing nets. Fortune

COVID and kids

Two years into the COVID pandemic, and we're still none the wiser as to why children have been largely spared the kind of severe illness and death that the virus inflicts on adults. The global data shows fatality and hospitalization rates are elevated for those 60 and over. But medical professionals only have theories to possibly explain why young children are so good at warding off severe disease. CNBC

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Bernhard Warner.

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