Letter from Ed: The Wind Is Whipping and the Earth is Quaking But We Live in a Blessed Land
Pallet industry guru, Dr. Ed Brindley shares his thoughts on surviving the recession by making some moves that may seem counterintuitive. It all starts with being positive about the future and making smart moves now to prepare.
By Dr. Edward C. Brindley
Date Posted: 10/1/2011
My hometown of Richmond, Va. recently endured two natural disasters in the span of less than a week. An earthquake rocked much of the central region of Virginia. It registered 5.8 on the Richter scale. Also, Hurricane Irene pounded the East Coast causing billions in damage. In some cases, it led to more damage than Hurricane Isabelle eight years ago. The recent earthquake was the worst ever recorded in Virginia history.
These natural disasters inconvenienced us in many ways. We lost power, lost telephone service, almost had a tree fall on our house, and had a tree fall on my daughter-in-law’s car while she was driving home with three of our grandchildren. Fortunately, nobody in our family was injured. Thinking about this unusual period for our community and family, I can’t help but think about the events and how they remind me of conditions in our society and in the pallet industry as a whole.
These natural occurrences remind me of how unpredictable the conditions of life can be. Unpredictable and uncertain are good words to describe the events in our society and in our industry. There is a lack of confidence that permeates our society today. Nobody seems to know from which direction the wind blows, particularly when it comes to our federal government. Its actions and their consequences can be as difficult to predict as the weather.
With all these elements swirling around us today, I am reminded of a piece that I recently wrote for a book being put together for the 50th anniversary of my high school class. They asked each of my classmates to put together a page about our lives, what we have accomplished, a kind of a biography to share with other classmates. As I started writing this piece, a theme quickly emerged – I started to realize just how blessed I have been in my life. From a great family, good health, the opportunity to grow up at a good time and see so much accomplished in our nation to my personal story working with the pallet industry, I am blessed. Yes, the economic winds today may be whipping, and the earth may be quaking as society experiences many difficulties. But we still live in a blessed land, and blessings are there for those of us who are willing to claim them. It is often a half full or half empty perspective of life. Your attitude will impact your altitude and how high you can fly in terms of reaching your goals.
Many readers are blessed to have leadership roles in their companies, an opportunity that many in our society do not have. And we have the freedom to participate in developing our families to be God fearing people who contribute to our society. While all of the activities of today swirl around, we have to understand the problems we face. If we accept the challenges of the day and treat them as blessings, we can impact those around us positively.
All of us are aware of the woes being experienced by the overall forest products industry, particularly sawmills. Hit hard by a long slump in the housing market combined with overall poor economic conditions lumber demand remains relatively low. Mills have been forced out of business, and those that are left are scratching to stay afloat. One of the latest examples of the casualties in the industry is Coastal Lumber, which recently shut down its many hardwood sawmills in the East. It was forced to close by the bank even though it still had viable customers and operations. While the company is still talking about the possibility of reopening, as far as I am aware it has not been able to get the financial backing needed. In spite of this unfortunate event, pallet manufacturers can still get the lumber they need. But this is just another example of the potential lingering effects of the recent recession. There may be enough lumber now, but what happens when demand increases? Some pallet and other low-grade users may struggle to find enough material to meet demand.
After three years of a bad economy, we have recently heard more and more about some pallet suppliers shutting down, or certainly losing money to the point that they are starting to stiffen their backs and refusing to cave in to the price pressure that has been so common. There is at least some hope that pallet prices may be starting to turn around from the constant softness that had been standard.
While many of us have doubts as to whether things will eventually return to the way they used to be, I have come to the realization that I have to live my life with as much hope and optimism as I can muster up. Hopefully, I can have a positive impact on others.
All of us are concerned about our country and our industry, but the reality is that the lack of a positive attitude will accomplish nothing other than helping to hold back any improvements. Yes, the economic wind may be whipping and the earth quaking, but it is obvious that improvements in our society and business climate rely increasingly on the shoulders of entrepreneurs. People taking calculated risks have been the backbone of American innovation and commercial enterprises for the last 100 years plus.
Large businesses are supposedly sitting on top of large cash holdings. We can’t wait on them for an encouraging word. While we must continue to proceed with caution, at the same time we need to provide hope and confidence that we can make a difference. We have to keep running our businesses as if there will be a tomorrow if we want to ensure that it comes. Sure, there is a risk involved. But most things in life worth having take some risk. It is all about making smart investments now to prepare for the future.
Consider these wise words that Norm Brodsky, a veteran entrepreneur, wrote in Inc. magazine. He commented, “Fear can be a motivator, but it can also lead you into bad decisions, particularly in times like these. I have no doubt that a lot of business owners have spent the past couple of months implementing cost-saving plans and survival strategies that will weaken their companies and damage their long-term prospects. They’ve done it because they’ve been afraid, and fear makes us shortsighted. With the economy falling apart around us, we forget that recessions always end. Yes, some businesses will go under, but some companies will emerge stronger. If you want yours to be among the latter, you need to be careful about which costs you cut and which deals you offer your customers.”
Sounds like good advice to me.
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