So, as a business owner/manager whose numbers should you believe?
First, let me tell you an “old” joke. It’s about the business owner who decides to change CPA’s. After narrowing it down to three firms, he personally interviews each principal. The first candidate talks about his pedigree and the experience he’s had working with the big national and regional firms, as well as his magna cum laude degree earned from a prestigious B-school. The second candidate talks about her experience with small businesses, especially businesses similar to the owner’s. She also talks about the many times she’s been able to deal with the IRS and save owners tax dollars. The final candidate doesn’t talk too much about his schools or past experience, but just leans over on the desk and says, “What would you like the numbers to be?”
And maybe that’s my punch line. Each of our industry’s economists is looking in rear-view mirrors with different economic models. Each one believing it’s the best predictor. Given the makeup of our industry, it’s regionalization, and its fragmentation, trying to measure economic results, or to predict them is similar to forecasting weather in Kansas and Oklahoma during the spring. You can predict overall trends, but you are not going to be able to predict how many tornados are going to hit in Harper County Kansas. Unless you are Quebecor, Cenveo or RR Donnelley, the industry economic numbers are not very relavent.
And this is why we are now conducting regional surveys with our MidAmerica members and why participation is so important. Yes, it’s is still looking in the rear view mirror, but at least these numbers will help gauge the local temperature.
And what’s going to happen in the economic future? Well, here’s where I’ll quote Dr. Doom (Joe Webb), “Many economists are raising their GDP forecasts for the third and fourth quarter (’09) and for 2010. Let me understand this: We’re asking the economists who did not see the bubble, the bursting of the bubble, and the length and depth of the recession for their forecasts for 90, 180, and 450 days from now. Okay, I’ll play along… but only if I can bring my own dartboard and blindfold, too. All businesspeople need to know is that it will be slow, and any upturn will be mild, and that there is real risk of inflation. Treat your customers well, look for ways to lower their costs, open new opportunities, and select suppliers who help you do the same. Worrying about a half point change in GDP takes your eye off your customer’s needs.”