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Posts Tagged ‘recession’

When Optimism Wears Sensible Shoes: Word on the Street — January 7th thru January 11th

January 13th, 2013 COMMENTS
Split Personality: Word on the Street -- Jan. 7th thru Jan. 11th

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Happy New Year!

I know its a little late to say that, but truthfully it felt like the new business year did not start until January 7th. With Christmas and New Years on a Tuesday, many folks took extended vacations or worked shorter days. Be that as it may, we are here. 2013 is off and rolling. And I for one am glad.

Mel posted an article in the blog this week from The New York Times. It was about business optimism and can we afford to be optimistic [Can I Afford to be Optimistic? by Jay Goltz].

Normally, I would look at articles like that and scoff. My nature is to hate articles that temper market/business optimism. But this is different. This article spoke to me as it relates to our business in particular. Those who know me, know that I am more than a glass half full guy. As Mel often says, you need a yellow wet-floor sign around my glass because it is always overflowing.

Recently, I attended an informative economic seminar that spoke to many of the same points in the NYT’s article. The simple fact is we took a HUGE hit going into this recession as an economy. A hit that takes a really, really big recovery to get back to even. And while we are all very happy that the economy is growing, it’s growing at a very small rate. Most economist estimate 3-4% a year at the most. Yes, that is a positive recovery, albeit a very paced (and exceedingly frustrating) one.

I now have much more of a split personality. Ask our Eastern Regional Manager, Reid Sherwood. He often makes the comment, “You really have changed a lot in the past couple of years.” Part of that is just being more “in the business” than I ever was before. What I mean is that I am here everyday for the most part. I travel less than I did because I now have small children. And frankly, I have that luxury as we’ve grown and added dedicated territory reps like Jen and Reid.

When I made the decision to travel less, I also made a commitment to get more involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. In doing so, you never loose the Optimistic Sales Side of your personality, but you have to balance that with the practical reality of the economics of the business. It’s been a great learning experience for me, but one that truly has given me a split personality. 🙂

Optimism Wears Sensible Shoes

I think you should walk away if you ever loose your sense of optimism. But I also know that this recession has taught us that you have to temper your optimism with reality. Most of which is driven by managing expenses. The simple fact is, it’s much wiser to manage your expenses than to project large overly optimistic sales increases to cover expenses.

. . . 2013 will be GREAT! And we WILL see another year of revenue gains. But we will experience that with a discipline for managing costs and channeling money into development and training. We have to — we all do. The simple fact is we are still climbing out of a big hole as a nation. And at 3-4% growth, we have a long way to go. Hopefully as small businesses (the heart of American business), we can all be realistic stewards of our businesses, and maybe even inspire our government a little along the way

OK, that was the optimistic side of my personality sneaking out. Bring me a mop.

Looking forward to another great week. I love January (and February, March, and April) when it tests our abilities to maximize every opportunity, to take design to the next level, and to pull another rabbit out of the hat. This is our Black Monday folks. When we turn every “touch” into a long-term business relationship.

Be well.

Kevin Carty


“Can I Afford to Be Optimistic?” by Jay Goltz

January 11th, 2013 COMMENTS

Jay Goltz, a contributor to “You’re the Boss: The Art of Running a Small Business” in The New York Times asks himself, “Can I Afford to Be Optimistic?” For anyone working in a small business, you might enjoy his thoughts.

“It is time to complete the budget for 2013. I now have the final numbers from 2012 to help in the planning/forecasting/guessing game that I have been playing for 35 years. My comptroller reminds me that every year, for as long as she can remember, she has had to reduce my projections by midyear. Great. Is it a shortcoming to be optimistic if you own a company? The answer is yes, and no. At the moment, more yes.

This year did not turn out as I had planned, or perhaps as I had hoped. There was no big recovery in either the economy or in my industry (home furnishings). We did make some progress, but I had budgeted and spent money as if we were going to be in a recovery or growth mode: more people, more inventory, more advertising.

I have lived and navigated through many recessions, and I can tell you that this has not been a normal one. In the good, old recessions, you would have a down year and then recuperate slowly over the next one or two. We are now in year five, and while things have clearly gotten better, we are hardly back to where we were in 2008. The unemployment rate is still high, and most small-business owners I know are still struggling.”

Continue to The New York Times article

–Mel White


Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or



What Did We Learn from the Recession: Word on the Street — April 11th thru April 15th

April 17th, 2011 COMMENTS
What Have We Learned

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

It’s Been Over Two Years. What Did We Learn?

I’m curious what you/we learned over the past two years about our industry, your business, and our customers? Here are my thoughts. Please share your thoughts as well and “Leave a Reply.”

First, it goes without saying that the last two years have been hard:  on people, our industry, as well as our customers. But it sure feels like we are all much stronger in so many ways. Here is what I’ve learned:

1. Supplier and partner relationships are more important than ever.

For Classic, this has never been truer. Whether it’s sharing costs on large inventory buys or representing one another on distributor visits, partnering with our suppliers is a key component of our (and their) success. We rely on them for advice, for business, and for another set of eyes and ears in the marketplace.

Thank you 2. You would be wise to respect and thank those folks in your own organizations who helped you get through the recession. They, as well as you, worked very hard and are sure to be working even harder now.

Classic Exhibits is fortunate to have a dedicated, long-tenured staff both administratively and in production. Without their dedication, their creativity, and their patience, we would not have survived and succeeded during the recession!

3. At some point, convention centers in the United States will be engaged in hand-to-hand combat just to survive as state and local subsidies decline. Only then will there be pressure on the General Contractors to play fair with Exhibitors.

In our humble opinion, something has to change. We cannot continue down this path. Eventually, exhibitors will simply refuse to attend or participate in trade show marketing.

Head in Sand Approach

4. Those who took the past two years to innovate in design, manufacturing, marketing and sales are reaping the early benefits as sales continue to increase!

A “Talk to the Hand” mentality may have worked in 2008 when dealing with your customers (a philosophy that Classic has never ascribed to). Customers are not going to, nor should they, put up with that attitude! No one wants to wait while you wade through your “waiting period” or put up with your “do it our way” attitude.

We know many other companies that lived on their “brand” and their “presence” leading into 2008. But never did the light shine so brightly, and poorly quite frankly, on those companies than during the recession. We were all struggling and the last thing you wanted was any sort of non-sympathetic, non-customer centric attitude from your supplier only moments after reviewing your weekly cash projections.

6. There is no guarantee the recession is over!

Turning a blind eye to the possibility that we might slide backwards again would not just be foolish, but it would clearly indicate that you lived with your head in the sand, or somewhere else the past two years.

What was your first car?

What was your first car?

7. Cheap pop-ups and banner stands did not destroy the industry! Rather, they brought new customers that are or soon will be moving upstream into larger more dynamic exhibit needs as their sales and marketing budgets increase.

Remember we all had a “first” car. Mine was a 1970 Datsun B1200 (deluxe mind you). And you know what, it was what I could afford at the time. Then as I began to earn more money, I got nicer cars, etc. etc. etc. By the way, that was not my plane in the background.

8. Social Media is a “tool.” And like any tool, you can use it wisely or misuse it and take your chances.

I don’t need to mention the number of Group Discussions on LinkedIn that that have gone a bit sideways, leaving some folks wishing they had not said quite as much as they did. And then there’s the one person who always has to have the last word.

Bad Service 9. Anyone who tells their customer that you MUST follow their procedures and process or we can’t take your order should be shown the door. Flexibility is key! And trying to operate without it will kill your business in the end.

Take a look back at my blog a few weeks ago regarding trying to order a sample that a vendor had on their shelf and being told that it would take five days due to their process and procedures as a “BIG” company. You get the picture.

10. Design, Features, Message and Price. They are all the same components that every customer needs and considers. Its the order in which they need them that sets one customer apart from the other.

Vacation with the Griswolds

Vacation with the Griswolds

11. We are not all crazy! We all just need a vacation. So take one. You deserve it for staying in business over the past couple years. Kudos!

Those are just a few of many of our observations. How about you? Please share your thoughts and or comments. What did you learn?

I hope you had a great weekend and even better week ahead

Be Well!

–Kevin Carty