From my viewpoint in this industry, the “new normal” needs to be trashed and redefined into the “new reality.” I’ve been to several wholesale distribution industry meetings the past month, and I have never been more struck by the gap between what you hear and see on TV news and out of Washington and the reality of what is happening in our economy today.
Turn off CNN, CNBC, Fox and all the rest. It has little to nothing to do with the reality of what’s taking place today in local markets served by wholesale distribution. I’m not saying that all is rosy. The U.S. and global economies have significant political and economic challenges. We are likely to continue to struggle with low unemployment and presumably higher interest rates at some point. Economists are talking more about the potential for the U.S. to follow in the path of Japan’s 20 years of economic stagnation.
Recovery and re-stabilization are what I’m encountering as I visit with wholesale distribution executives. Within the turbulence, I’m hearing stories of innovation, entrepreneurship, business remodeling and clear strategy to find growth in markets that have fundamentally shifted in just a few years. Customer and supplier relationships, behavior and expectations are different, and this is what is defining the new reality.
The real gap is in leadership. Where our national economic and political leadership is in a state of vacuum, wholesale distribution and supplier market leaders are finding ways to rebuild, restore trust and create growth. In violation of my advice to disregard the national media, I read an argument the other day about how our financial sector was a leader for growth and recovery. This comment illustrates a distortion of both short- and long-term history and what has fueled global growth for 150 years or more.
I am not being U.S.-centric when I observe that the U.S. economic structure – in spite of the most significant structural shock in 70 years and serious political gridlock – remains the most fluid and flexible environment in which to start and grow a business. And the structure of the wholesale distribution industry is precisely the reason why it is so fluid and flexible. This is not news to readers of MDM, who have been putting every available resource into rebuilding businesses, adding jobs and creating demand one customer at a time. But it’s important to articulate. I predict that it won’t be too long (hopefully) that we will start to see in the national press stories of how manufacturing and wholesale distribution are once again the leaders of rebuilding the economic foundations for the next generation of growth and innovation.