In these down economic times, I’ve seen numerous articles, survey results, politicians, and government officials all declaring with great confidence that businesses are not growing, borrowing money, or hiring due to “uncertainty” in the economy, their industry, or the markets.
I say that is a load of crap.
I don’t know one business leader that really thinks uncertainty is the big problem. Oh, if asked casually they may repeat the mantra they’ve heard over and over in the news “about the problems created by uncertainty.” But if you really talk with them, you’ll find they are not really uncertain.
What do they really think? I know we don’t all think just alike but as a businessman I firmly believe that the business people I know would agree to a majority of these certainties:
I am certain that the economy will, at best, bumble along with only modest changes for at least the next three to five years.
I am certain that even with super low interest rates, a majority of businesses are not interested in borrowing money because they don’t know that their sales will support repayment.
I am certain many businesses don’t want or need to borrow money to build inventory because customers are only buying cautiously (if they are even buying). Inventory is expensive if it is not moving.
I am certain that more businesses than not still suffer from slow and erratic sales.
I am certain that while there is some overreaction by banks, if you have a healthy business right now, you can borrow money. While they may have overreacted, banks need to loan money to make money themselves. However, there are just not many businesses that healthy right now (see certainty of slow sales above).
I am certain that unemployment is not going to change much in the near future and that it is going to take several years to absorb all the unemployed back into jobs. And those jobs will likely have lower average wages.
I am certain that most people believe the headlines “are” the news, even though many news articles tell a different story than the associated headline. Control the headlines and you can control public opinion and behavior.
I am certain that real estate prices will not improve much for years. And when they do improve, it may not be from increased value but simply from eventual inflation. There is just too much overvaluation and inventory to be absorbed any time soon.
I am certain that businesses planning their growth are considering how to use technology in place of hiring large numbers of employees.
I am certain that this is not an economic slump but a reset. We won’t go back to “how it was” but instead we are slowing becoming something new.
I am certain that if a business or government plan for success includes a “things returning to normal,” then that plan will fail. And they are apparently still clueless that “normal” is not the highs of an economy but cycles that swing up and down.
I am certain as a business owner, more government laws, regulations and taxes are likely and each one will cost my business money, even if it just the expense to figure out if it applies to us. And I am certain that problem will be a “triple whammy” of local, state and federal government each hitting us without much regard for the others.
I am certain that I wouldn’t mind paying more taxes if I had confidence in how that money was managed and spent. But the more time I spend around government entities, the more certain I am the money will not be used efficiently.
I am certain that entitlement programs have their place but are so out of control that we’ve built two or three generations of people for which there is a total and actually genuine disconnect between work and reward.
I am certain that I can create jobs cheaper than the state or federal government and will be glad to do so if I have the money to profitably support more staff (see slow sales, cost of new laws, regulations and taxes from above).
I am certain that both political parties are spending too much time, money and energy working to make each other look bad.
I am certain that while the slower economy is a real problem, many business people that exclusively blame the economy for their current failures are not very professional. After all, I bet they never gave the booming economy the exclusive credit for their success.
I am certain that spinning problems as “uncertainties” makes the situation easier to manipulate. Certainties are easier to understand, confront, address, and measure. That leads to greater accountability and that can be dangerous.
So why is there so much “uncertainty” reported as the problem for business? It is just a guess, but I believe it is because most surveys on business and the economy commonly include “economic uncertainty” or “business uncertainty” as a choice, while not including the correct “certainties” as a choice. In other words, the default answer most business people give is not their real answer, it is just the best way to say “none of the above” for a given set of survey answers.
You can also throw in that many people, including smart business people, tend to repeat the headlines, whether flawed or accurate. Thus, headlines perpetuate themselves and become the opinion.
Whether or no I’m right about why uncertainty is blamed, I am certain that “market uncertainty” and “economic uncertainty” are not the problems business owners and management are most worried about. No, most business leaders are reasonably bright people and have a pretty good idea what is coming. And that is what really has them worried.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website, www.nerdtoenglish.com, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111