It's almost official. Apparently our very good friends among the economic thought leadership of the United States have declared that the recession is kaput and all is well. Hurray! But what does this mean? Are we soon going to return to the bustling business-as-usual trends of three years ago? Is everything really hunky dory?
Like all things economic, the answer is yes and no. You can't get more definitive than that. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the recession is “technically” over — the key indicator being lead by the U.S. manufacturing economy, which expanded in September for the first time in 18 months. Even U.S. auto sales jumped to their highest monthly level in more than a year (thank-you cash-for-clunkers).
Online blogs, newsletters, and financial websites are all pretty much saying the same thing. But all are warning that it may not feel like the recession is over, at least not yet.
Will business be bustling like it was a few years ago? Probably not. But …
First, let's look at some data from Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. In his October 2nd newsletter, he says construction spending was slightly up in August at a seasonally adjusted annual rate .08%, but was 12% below the August 2008 level. Furthermore, he says architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of future demand for construction, rose for the first time in 15 months, but only by 500 jobs (0.04%).
There are more facts that seem to hint that if we haven't turned the recession around, it's at least bottomed out with no place to go but up.
So from a numbers standpoint, the news isn't screamingly good. But it could be. You see, despite what the pundits say, economic success is as much a state of mind as it is a state of the economy. And last month, an in-person demonstration of that state of mind was seen in the streets of Nashville, in the seats of the Nashville Convention Center, at the parties, and in the hallway discussions between contractors, engineers, distributors, and manufacturers as they gathered for the first ever HVACR Week extravaganza.
From the opening general session, where keynote speaker Robin Crow sent a powerful message through music and multimedia on the power of service, to the four business and technical tracks of HVAC Comfortech, the examination of technologies and methodologies for designing green buildings in the Engineering Green Buildings Conference and Exposition, to the best ways to serve commercial customers in the Commercial HVACR Symposium, the attitude for success pervaded.
Crow, a music producer, public speaker, author, and accomplished guitarist delivered a message on how to succeed in a music recording industry in decline. Though the story had nothing to do with HVACR, it did address creativity, perseverance, and the concept of wowing customers by exceeding their expectations.
His message isn't new, but it's important. In this era of economic malaise and severe budget constraints, he explains that it's not that customers won't spend money — they just need to feel good about it. They have to feel good about you, your company, and the end product/service you deliver.
Crow regaled more than 800 contractors and engineers with stories of how technical expertise isn't the key anymore — it's finding ways to make people happy. He does it by understanding their hot and cold buttons and then creating a working experience beyond what they expect or have experienced before.
Yes, the economy has been a negative factor in our industry's daily life, but that wasn't apparent at HVACR Week. For three days, the economic numbers were shadows in the background of a changing mindset, of a group of people who were getting re-energized for a new year. Whatever 2010 brings, these folks will have the right attitude and approach to succeed.
From that perspective, the economy is absolutely all good. And that is as official as it can get!
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