Every day it seems - whether it’s on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR or printed in the New York Times - there is a new housing market report. Or a new unemployment report. Or a consumer confidence or a business confidence report.
Alan Beaulieu wants everyone to drown out all the noise, work in the moment and be prepared for the future.
“Business confidence in the U.S. is not a big indicator, but it’s much better than consumer confidence,” he says. “What I find among businesses is much different than what I read in the papers. When I talk with businesses, they’re busy. They’re planning ahead and it’s good. When you read the papers you get the feeling it’s terrible and nobody is spending any money or doing anything. The reality is businesses were spending money and some are still spending money.”
Beaulieu hopes business leaders see through the smoke and get a clear view of the current business landscape.
“This is a real recovery, it’s just that most people don’t recognize it,” he states. “We remember the bubble years of 2004-2007 and we’re longing for those. But, that’s like being 18 years old again. It happened, it was nice, but we’re not going back there.”
Beaulieu - a well-respected economist and the principal and president of ITR Economics - will be a featured speaker at NetworkASA 2012 this month in Orlando. Wholesalers in attendance will get updates from Beaulieu on the outlook of the PCHP and PVF industries. Beaulieu wants to impress upon company executives that they must continue to look at the broader picture.
“The way we do that is show in our presentations that the macro trends impact individual companies,” he says. “It gets their attention that these things matter. Some of that is psychological. In effect I’m saying you as a CEO, president or owner of a company don’t have as much impact as you think you do. The economy matters. You have to tread a little lightly there because you don’t want to get in anybody’s face about it.
“The bottom line is nobody is master of the universe. The rest of us have to adjust the sails to the prevailing winds, so it’s best to know what the prevailing winds are.”
Wholesalers ready to listenMokena, Ill.-based plumbing wholesaler M. Cooper Supply will be in attendance for Beaulieu’s presentation. M. Cooper projects a 5% increase in sales for 2013 and Vice President of Finance Dave Poteete is seeing positives on the horizon for his market, particularly in the residential housing market in and around Chicago. Poteete states M. Cooper will factor Beaulieu’s findings into its forecasting after NetworkASA 2012.
“We’re starting to see the beginnings of residential housing coming back,” Poteete says. “I hope there is some indication of where the evolution is going. It’ll be interesting to see where the next projections are.”
Gary Bosley, vice president of sales and marketing for Buffalo, N.Y.-based wholesaler Erb Co., hopes to hear some positive indicators in terms of where growth may come from within the markets.
“I’m hoping he is able to present specific regional data,” he states. “We will certainly take into careful consideration what Alan says and hopefully act proactively in terms of hiring and expenditures based on the news he delivers.”
Bosley says he is confident in the market and industry, but there is some hesitation regarding customer relationships and payments.
“If anything is shaking my confidence in the market and industry it’s the constant pressure on margins and it is definitely taking longer to get paid from our customers,” he says. “Relationships don’t seem to be as important as they once were and price is often the driving factor in a customer’s decision to purchase product.”
Beaulieu says his presentation won’t be a doom-and-gloom scenario, but he wants to make sure wholesalers are prepared for the next U.S. recession, which he adds is coming down the pipe.
“We’ll be talking about the housing industry and some of the nonresidential markets and how long this recovery is going to last,” he says. “We’ll talk about the next recession because there are signs that the next one is already coming. It’s a little ways off, but it’s best to know about it and know how to prepare for it.”
After attending ASA’s Legislative Fly-In in May, it was apparent that many wholesalers are looking for change in the White House and to gain more of a Republican hold in the Senate and the House of Representatives in November. Poteete says if President Obama is re-elected, “I’d have some concerns” regarding business, especially small business.
Beaulieu stresses a change in leadership would have a fairly minimal effect on any projections for the industry. “A surprise election where we see all kinds of conservatives elected to the Senate and where the Senate is in alignment with the House still would not make me change my forecast for 2013 or 2014,” he says.
Beaulieu adds anxiousness over the election and the expected fallout one way or the other is hindering the recovery on a minor scale.
“There’s a lot of fear right now with talk about financial cliffs because of the uncertainty with the election and taxes,” he says. “If Congress could get its act together and put all its ores in the water and decide what the tax laws are going to be, people could respond.”
Beaulieu’s program at NetworkASA will not be a bullet-point presentation on the economic frontier. “Part of what I do is talk about what people can do with the economic information,” he says. “We’re going to spend some time talking about action items as opposed to just the economy. That’s kind of boring, actually.”
Forecasting is the futureBosley says Erb Co. has increased how it does in-house forecasting, which is one of ASA’s core focuses, along with benchmarking, advocacy, education and networking.
“We have been working on forecasting a bit more over the last couple of years,” he explains. “Our buying groups always ask for a quarterly projection of sales and purchases. In the past it was usually an educated guess. The changing marketplace and current economic conditions are requiring businesses to operate more efficiently.
“I am excited to learn more about forecasting. It will be another useful tool in the benchmarking services offered by ASA. I have been impressed that ASA is coming up with new initiatives and the leadership is seeing them through to the end.”
At NetworkASA 2012, Beaulieu will give attendees practical and measured approaches to prepare for the next few business years. As a tease to his program, he says now is perfect time to pump some money into your business.
“We’ll talk about the way you can invest in your company,” he says. “The general heading is ‘Don’t talk yourself into a recession, get ready to invest into your business.’ Banks want to lend. Good borrowers won’t have trouble getting access to capital. These are the most favorable rates they’re going to see in their working lives. Saddle up, borrow it and get back to work.”
As for the rest of NetworkASA, Poteete is excited to get out of Chicago and catch up and talk shop with colleagues in other markets.
“For me, networking is the most beneficial aspect of the event,” he says. “I enjoy getting to talk with my peers and going out and playing golf with the guys.”
Other featured speakers include legendary heavyweight boxing champion and entrepreneur George Foreman, Forbes magazine chairman and editor-in-chief Steve Forbes, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg and Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer.