Editor's Page -- Your Business Matters Most

Dec. 21, 2004
Don't let chaotic market conditions distract you from what's really important.

There's almost nothing quite like an economic recession, much less the threat of a double-dip recession, to focus an executive's attention -- on the wrong things. When the economy tanks, all those economic statistics, survey results and indices suddenly loom large, haunting us with gloomy expectations, taunting us with temporary rises and finally daunting us with the inevitable bad news. We spend inordinate amounts of time anticipating, gathering, reviewing, evaluating and debating these information bits because, after all, they contain the secrets of the future. But it's too easy to let them distract you from what's really important -- YOUR business. Certainly you need to be aware of the economic indicators. They provide valuable clues to new markets and product or service trends that will help you grow your company. I'm not advocating ignoring them, just suggesting that focusing too much on them can result in a myopia that blurs the steps you need to take to move your company forward. One of the best recent examples of clear focus in a chaotic market fueled by negative numbers has to be the stunning success story of AK Steel Holding Corp. of Middleton, Ohio. The leaders of the integrated steel company had the same information as their competition as they watched imported steel skyrocket and prices plummet. Doubtless other factors came into play in AK Steel's success, but I have to believe that the company's unwavering focus on its OWN business and how it could counter the negative situation played a huge role. Likewise, loss of focus was most likely only one of many factors that bedeviled AK Steel competitors, but they probably spent more time and money lobbying for tariff relief than on remaking their businesses to succeed in adverse conditions. Of course there is at least one other situation that proves as distracting to executives as a recession. As we've learned from our experience with the technology boom, the process works in good times as well as bad. Countless companies now struggle for their lives as they work off the technology hangover from their '90s binge. Lured by the promise of huge profits rung up by "new economy" businesses, many companies abandoned solid businesses along with common sense, and set out for greener pastures -- often where they had little expertise. One sad example is the venerable Corning Inc., which jettisoned profitable divisions to chase the fiber optic bubble. The company now fights for its survival. With this in mind I invite you to read our cover feature, Blueprint For Renewal. You can be certain you won't find outlandish get-rich-quick schemes, just solid, practical, proven ways to prepare your company so that it's ready to capitalize on the economic recovery. We hope it helps you to stay focused on what's really important. Patricia Panchak is IW's editor-in-chief. She is based in Cleveland.

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