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It is better
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the web than
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not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


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The Market

(July 17, 2003) - Japan's economy stayed dormant for nearly a decade with interest rates as low or lower than the United States has currently. It's entirely possible that we are facing a long term period of very modest growth. Although we hope it isn't true, it's worth pondering the consequences of a relatively flat cycle that lasts five to ten years.

One thing doesn't change in the economy...the relentless aging of the population. Whether or not the economy grows, human capital acquisition will move to the forefront of the industrial agenda. While death and taxes are completely certain, retirement is nearly as predictable.

Another thing that doesn't change is the rate at which vendors mature. In a flat growth environment, individual companies begin to change their focus as they try to dredge sales growth out of the competitive environment. Products and ideas get repositioned as companies try to enlarge their sphere.

The last time we faced a long period of flat growth was the 1970s. The economists called it stagflation (another view). Prices rose but the economy did not grow. Many attempts to intervene failed as economic theory did not match the actual behavior of the market. While a return of stagflation is unlikely, there may be lessons to be learned from the 1970s experience.

First of all, it was not a glum time for everyone. The 70s were IBM's golden years. Markets for computers in companies opened. The companies that flourished re-envisioned their markets and redefined the boundaries.

There were waves of consolidation. The stock market wants to see growth and buying it is a satisfactory approach. Consolidation, though, is just a water treading exercise. The real rewards go to the innovators who can figure out how to redefine themselves and create actual growth inside the constrained environment. This requires breaking the known categories apart.

We think that's happening at both Monster and HotJobs. Both companies are making interesting moves that redefine categories and open a range of competitive windows. We're seeing glimmers of innovation where we thought there were only cold embers. We look at this later in the week.

In a cold economy, companies have to rethink how and whether they are going to reach their targets. We know of several firms who are still struggling to meet their expenses after two years of downturn. They are going to have to reconsider the likelihood that they are viable. If we're in for a long cold era, running a company on the "it's gotta get better soon" program is a huge navigation error.

Whether or not the future is this gloomy, we think that it means that there's one more wave of layoffs (and a corresponding rise in unemployment) to go before the light.

John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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         © 2013 interbiznet.
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         Materials written
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         © TwoColorHat.
         All Rights Reserved.