With the first decade of the new millennium coming to an end, and none to quickly for many, it’s that time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. While this is a normal exercise this time of the year, having completed one of the most turbulent periods in history, with a myriad of anomalous circumstances still confronting us, it is only natural to try and put everything, past, present and future, under a microscope to figure out how to break through the doldrums that have plagued the economy the last three years.
In speaking recently with a long-time industry executive, now retired, about this as we exchanged our annual wishes for a happy and healthy new year, he reminded me that business today is more complex and more intense than any point during his 50-plus years in the industry. As such, while it is OK to look at where we’ve been, “otherwise it’s impossible to know where we are at,” he explained, “in these precarious times, the shrewd businessperson pays the past only a cursory glance knowing there’s nothing that can be done to change it. Rather, they look at what is going on now, and at some of the major events expected in the foreseeable future that they can help control to build their strategies.”
Taking his advice, a quick look at the past 10 years goes something like this: The industry entered the decade with hopes of continuing to ride the wave of success it saw with the boom of the 1990s. Then came the devastating events of 9/11 and business came to a sudden, grinding halt. Americans eventually recovered from the shock of that tragic day and, bolstered by a housing market bubble, the middle of the decade saw the entire industry reach all time sales records. Then came the summer of 2006 and the start of the housing crash which the industry, country and world have been fighting to get out of ever since. Industry sales have plummeted, in some cases, back to their 2000 levels.
Which brings us to the present. Though the economy continues to struggle to maintain any positive traction most will admit 2010 was not as bad as 2009. If anything it was flat and, in many cases, small gains were seen, leading many to believe the worst is finally behind.
As we enter 2011, there are a number of economic indicators pointing in the right direction, giving many hope that next year will be the first since 2006 that across the board gains may be seen, with most saying the second half holds great promise.
Encouraging? Yes. But to the flooring retailer, it means nothing. To be successful, you must control your own destiny, which means you can only control those things around you. Leave the wars to the military experts; Wall Street to the regulators and speculation on the economy to the pundits.
Instead focus on your neighborhood and do what is right for your business. It may go against the grain but you may live in a community that is recovering at a different pace than others. Get your managers and employees involved; let them know they are integral to the business’ ultimate success or failure.
Before hanging up on another year, my friend gave one more caveat: The economy shifts, tastes alter, technology advances, and business techniques are constantly modified to ensure success. But those who are successful do so based on the things they can influence not by what someone is shouting from the TV.