Like last year, it’s a Friday afternoon and the day after our company Christmas party. I’ve decided this day will now always be the one in which to share some year end thoughts- after all, who doesn’t like tradition and I don’t have enough in the tank for anything more challenging.
What a year; I’m not really sure where to start. I think it best to simply share my top 10 year end observations and finish with a few words about our business.
- My 11-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her classmates were asked in their 6th grade social studies class to develop a newspaper headline to describe the election. Hers was “There wasn’t any perfection in that election”. You can’t say it better than that…It was so bizarre it needs much more space than this for meaningful commentary. I just hope hitting rock bottom in most every aspect of the presidential election process proves to be a pivot point as disgust can be an excellent motivator. I didn’t vote for either of them- just the referendum questions. I’ll leave it at that.
- Pollsters are the new weathermen. They get it wrong 50% of the time and are therefore completely overrated. Actually, they got both big events wrong this year- Brexit and the Election. I’m glad I don’t bet.
- I wrote last year that the incoming year 2016 was bright and shiny and that if the world doesn’t get any more insane than it already has, it will be a great year. I now painfully realize that the insanity will never stop and the best we can hope for is to slow it down. That said, we’ve all become really good at living despite the insanity. I suppose that’s because there are no options.
- All lives matter- equally.
- Someone must stop the carnage in Syria. If all lives equally matter, we can’t let those poor people suffer any longer. Whatever it takes!
- Unless you’re a Native American, we are all immigrants- which I think is very cool. I get that some are here illegally, but let’s provide a reasonable path for legitimacy and citizenship and I’ll bet most will take it. For the bad guys and the ones who choose not to follow the path offered, bye bye.
- This phobia that immigrants are taking our jobs misses the point. They typically do the work that most Americans don’t want to. We already can’t find enough people (there are 5 million unfilled jobs due to a skills gap), so why don’t we invest in training Americans to fill that gap and let these hard-working immigrants happily work the jobs Americans don’t want anyway. In the end, it will help our economy and improve everyone’s lives. What am I missing?
- I never in my wildest dreams ever thought we’d have a world in which most of the developed countries have negative interest rates, i.e. charge you rather than pay you to hold your money. The Fed finally raised our rates last week and let’s hope we can lead the rest of the world by our example. So much of economic growth is based on expectations. Don’t they realize what message negative interest rates sends? And yet they wonder why their economies aren’t improving.
- Neither team lost the World Series; they both played lights out and hooray for the Cubs. I think the series was one of the few events this year that made us all feel really good.
- I hope that empathy, tolerance and civility come back in style- soon. BTW, it starts with each of us.
On to Abel Womack and our business. In truth, it was a somewhat disappointing year. Coming off $95M in 2015 thanks to another year of double-digit growth and with our largest ever single order booked in February 2016 ($8.5M), we were sure we would finally hit the $100M mark. Our budget was over $105M and we had our fingers clinging to the champagne corks… that is, until we revised downward in June and again in September and one more time two weeks ago – back to good ol’ $95M. Now, there were circumstances that caused us to not grow, and temporary ones at that. It just so happened that four of our biggest accounts just seemed to mostly take the year off. We are still their go to supplier and friend, they just didn’t buy much this year.
Combining that with another year of big reinvestment in people and tools to sustain our long-term growth and, well, we also didn’t make as much as we had expected. But hey, we did good enough and as the Cleveland Indians must be thinking- wait until next year…
I do believe we’ll finally hit that elusive $100M goal of ours in 2017 and that we may blow through it. Disappointment and unfortunate circumstances have a way of galvanizing effort and I’m a believer in regression to the mean, which would imply that those four big customers will now have big years with us in 2017.
And that’s not even counting on a Trump bump for the economy. I’ll admit that lowering business and personal taxes and increasing spending in infrastructure and defense is very provocative and will probably boost the economy. We certainly could use some fiscal excitement to get out of this economic malaise we’ve been stewing in. My problem is that worry about the long term, as I just don’t believe we can increase growth fast enough to make up for lost revenue and increased spending. No one seems to talk about the national debt anymore and, I guess for right now, that’s OK. But interest rates are finally normalizing and the combo of reduced tax income, higher spending and higher interest rates is a recipe for deficit disaster. Just because you repeat the same lines over and over doesn’t make them true. I read a book this year named ‘Hope is Not a Strategy’ – I think I’ll send it to the White House.
Of course, just to prove I’m not above it all, I really hope we hit a $100M next year and that each of you have a wonderful year.