By the time you read this magazine, IFAI Expo 2016 will have passed; but as I write this, it’s still 10 days out. The magazine will go to the printer before I have a chance to say anything about what I learned, or learned to question, in Charlotte. At this time of year, I’m always tempted to make predictions about coming societal changes and economic trends and business developments; by the time 2017 has ended, who’s going to remember what a lone specialty fabrics editor thought, when
all the top economists are busy justifying themselves on the news?
Current economic forecasts are ranging from predictions of 4–5 percent growth to a few dire warnings of imminent financial collapse. Lists of important economic indicators include: real GDP, money supply, the Consumer Price Index, the Producer Price Index, consumer confidence surveys, current employment statistics, retail sales, housing starts, manufacturing and trade inventories and stock market performance. Professionals in 2016 may have been primed to be economic skeptics,
after enduring the boom-and-bust 90s, the dot.com bubble, and the
virtual destruction of the real-estate market through speculative investment, leading to the Great Recession.
But what I expect to hear in Charlotte is tempered economic optimism (even without any hints from Jeff Rasmussen, IFAI’s market research director, who will be publishing his annual “State of the Industry” report in the February and March Review). Those macroeconomic indicators will be digested and translated by attendees into actionable organizational terms: learning and growth (employee training and corporate culture); a balanced approach to finances (including risk assessment and cost-benefit data, but always treating employees as resources,
not expenses); monitoring internal business processes and how they’re working, both internally and externally; and customer focus and satisfaction.
Business trend predictions are still often focusing on the cloud, big data and electronic interactions. But in our industry, technology is generally a tool, not a goal in itself.
This is the time of year to monitor those processes, products, people and profits—the entire scorecard—and to work on their evolution over the next year. I expect to hear discussions on supply chains, sustainability, international trade, technology, customer service and community service … and probably some political discourse, in which I will not join except to wonder if it’s too late to convince England to take us back.
Review readers are well aware of global business trends, but most are focused on the theme headlined in the October interview with Pete Weingartner: “Owning your destiny.”
We’ll be back in December with a full report. On the show, not the election. But if I hear from the British government, I’ll let you know.