The discussion at the meeting was sobering, but there were reasons to feel optimistic. At least, I came away from the meetings with some optimism and I wanted to share some of what I learned with my readers:
*President Obama’s administration has reached out to the US Chamber and included them in key discussions regarding the stimulus package, the proposed budget and other key issues that affect business. This would indicate a level of compromise/inclusion that has not been made evident in the media.
*The Chamber supported the President’s stimulus package and was influential in impacting various aspects of the bill that would have been harmful to business. While the voting in Congress was basically down partisan lines, the Chamber did work with the Administration and this bodes well for future issues.
*It was confirmed factually that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. It’s not just media hype. The recession has now lasted 15 months and will last at least 5-6 months more. The recession of 1973-1975 lasted 16 months. The amount of household wealth that has been lost is forcing all Americans to save, invest and pay off debt. This will be a good thing for our future.
*There are encouraging signs in the housing market. With the drop in prices and a virtual halt on new housing starts, existing home sales are starting to rebound and inventory is declining. Furthermore, houses have never been more affordable for new buyers.
*The actions of the Fed last fall to restore the credit markets and stabilize the banking system are working—despite what we hear in the media. Lending seems to be loosening up and credit is flowing more normally.
*Every business person I talked to at the meeting was still focused on doing business. There was no hand-wringing or belief that the sky was falling. There was plenty of concern, but also a quiet confidence that we have what it takes to get through this difficult time.
This last observation struck me as particularly important and consistent with what I believe is the role for customer advocates in my past entries. The most successful companies (and people) are the ones who stick to the fundamentals, persevere and grind it out regardless of the circumstances. They stay focused on what they can control. It struck me that this is exactly how we will get out of this mess and restore our economy back to health.
Originally published in Customer Connection on March 5, 2009.