Chair’s Column: Up is the New Up

During recent tough times, a saying was coined that ‘flat was the new up’ or, if you were holding even with prior year you were doing very well.  I now hear many more businesses saying they have reached or exceeded their previous high water mark (i.e. from 2008 or thereabouts).  Up is the new up, and this may suggest more opportunities.

That’s not a macroeconomic, United States – wide statement.  Yes, we are all linked, but doesn’t the recent data suggest we in Vermont are getting stronger?  Governor Shumlin spoke last week at the Best Places to Work event, giving a clear sense that Vermont is the best place to work.  Companies I got to speak with reported they were doing well, and making their workplaces attractive for employees.   Arguably not a coincidence.

Vermont’s unemployment rate has fallen steadily to less than 5% from over 7%.   VBR’s most recent CEO survey shows less than 10% of companies expect their employment, sales or capex to decrease in the next 6 months.  90% or more see growth, or at least stability.  So, without abandoning the way we all got very good at risk management over the last few years isn’t it opportunity and growth focus time?

Growth gets me thinking about who in my company can lead those efforts, and who the customers of the future are going to be.  As we heard from our member Green Mountain Coffee Roasters at our winter meeting, and right after they had announced significant expansion plans, training people is a commitment employers need to make.  And it takes time.  If I want to roll out a product in six to twelve months I need the employees here today working to make that happen.

Now whether we’ve chosen the right product to launch requires us to understand how customers of the future behave differently from those we know so well.  To gain some insight into that one, be sure to attend our Summer meeting, and 25th Anniversary Celebration, which includes generational marketing experts from Bridgeworks.  Hope to see you there.