Recently I met with my friend and board member, Dennis Blyly. While he is quick to point out he is not a macro-economic expert,  Dennis is a very smart guy with his fingers on the pulse of a lot of businesses.  Dennis brings a really useful 50,000 foot view of the economy.

We were discussing the current spate of bad economic news and told me he thinks we are at or near the bottom of the sharp downward trajectory. This isn’t to say that things are about to turn up soon, but at least in the manufacturing sector, it won’t get much worse.

When I asked if he could point to data, he said: “Its mostly anecdotal. I’ve been talking with CFOs in mid to large-sized manufacturing companies. They’re telling me that their shipments have been lagging retail demand for several months. Anxiety about banking relationships has made everyone in the supply chain very focused on managing for cash, and that  means reducing inventory to a bare minimum.  That would suggest that production (at least for consumer goods) could improve without much help from consumer demand in several industries as this process winds down.”

I was both surprised and not surprised by his comments. One the one hand, it seems like bad economic news is drowning out good news at a ratio of 1000:1. Today’s unemployment numbers say my county has the highest rate in the state at 18.3%. My town is actually at 18.9%. Darn near one in five.

On the other, I’m talking to customers and prospects who see this as a time to invest to improve efficiencies, quality and productivity. They are watching cash, but making prudent investments where they can. Some business will not survive this recession. Those who do will be better, more productive companies. They’ll have to be to pick up the slack left by the ones who didn’t make it.

What about your company? Hunkering down? Investing? Panicking? Please comment, tweet me, schedule a conversation, or call us at 800-958-2709.

One Comment

  1. John Hunter March 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Economic data is largely backward looking. Predictions are possible and really are able to be fairly accurate without using much data. Economic predictions of GDP… are pretty close to what was it last year, what is the current momentum. That isn’t exactly but it gets you pretty close (within a few percent of the answer quite often).

    Then there are occasionally times that are quite challenging to predict like now. Even so a guess of GDP for 2009 will be about $13.9 trillion is probably pretty close. It was $14.3 trillion for 2008 (and that was an increase of 1.1%, in real terms, which most people don’t realize). Predicting quarterly numbers is harder as they are much more volatile (fourth quarter 2008 was down 6.2% and still for the year it was up).

    And predicting employment numbers are even harder. Though I would say jobs will be lost for the 2nd and 3rd quarter. If we are lucky we will gain jobs in the 4th quarter. It is even possible we gain jobs in the 3rd quarter (though I very much doubt it). My main data here is just that the momentum for job losses is difficult to quickly change. We have lost many jobs in the first quarter of 2009. But history shows we have rarely had sustained periods of job losses for over four quarters. The challenging aspect is to what extent the current circumstances are outside of past history and therefore relying on past experience less wise. My guess is things are bad, but not so bad as to result in runaway momentum toward an economic collapse.

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