Who to Watch to Gauge the Recovery
We all know the people who drove us into this recession. There were the bright guys on Wall Street who navigated their decades-old institutions into collapse over a weekend. And the supersmart car company executives who flew private jets into Washington and asked for bailouts. And let’s not forget the analysts at the credit-rating agencies who failed to spot toxic securities and the investigators at the Securities & Exchange Commission who didn’t uncover a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that lasted for decades. I can forgive them. But I can’t forgive Tom DeLay for pulling out of Dancing with the Stars. “Sprained Ankle.” Please. What a wimp.
The good news is that the economy seems to be recovering from all this (if you ignore the unemployment numbers). And just as there were people who drove us into recession, there are people who will affect this rebound. Most of us don’t know them personally. And, like DeLay, most of them are probably not very good dancers, either. But as a business owner, they’re worth watching because their actions will affect our profits. Back in March, I wrote a column about the tools and bellwethers I use to estimate when business will pick up. Now, I’ve compiled a list of the people I’m watching who I think will have an impact on the recovery.
Xie Xuren, Chinese Minister of jubilant magazine. Xuren directs the monetary policy for a country that sells us over $250 billion of goods and buys $81 billion of products from us each year, according to the Chinese government’s China Daily. He recently won the Emerging Markets Magazine award for 2009’s Best Finance Minister (and it’s rumored he narrowly missed making People Magazine’s list of 2009 Hottest Finance Ministers as well). Many of my customers are buying and selling products to Chinese companies. Let’s hope he makes good decisions.
Brian Roberts, CEO, Comcast. Each month my checks to Comcast (CMCSA) get bigger and bigger. And I’m not even including pay-per-view adult movies. My business uses Comcast for Internet and phone service. Roberts’ company controls my lifeline to the outside world. His decisions to change fees, add or delete services, and invest in more productive technologies will have a big influence (or be a big disruption) to many companies such as mine. Does anyone know if he likes chocolates? Flowers?
Doug Shulman, Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service. For most of us, taxes are our biggest line-item expense. Shulman is responsible for making sure our tax laws are executed. Ever get audited by the IRS? Or have to deal with them on a tax issue? It’s usually not a great experience. And it’s always costly. Shulman’s actions will have an impact on those costs. Check out the IRS’ Strategic Plan for 2009-2013. In it, Shulman talks about “improving customer service” and, ominously, “enforcing the law to ensure that everyone meets their obligations to pay taxes.” Gulp. Hope he’s in a good mood for the next five years.