For me, March signifies the start of the Spring season. I realize that for those of you who live in the deep South, Southwest, and Southern California Spring has already started. I also realize that there are parts of the Northeast, Northwest, and Midwest who wish it would start in March but from a mental perspective for me it officially starts this month.
So as Spring 2012 kicks off, the million dollar question for all of us is what will 2012 hold for the selling season?
There is clearly evidence that the economy is picking up. In a recent Money magazine article they looked at several areas of the economy.
Home sales, housing permits, and construction, were all up for the final months of 2011 and have continued strong in early 2012. KB Homes reported a 38 percent increase in fourth-quarter orders. Experts are reporting that while home prices remain weak nationally there does seem to be some stabilization in pricing. The forecast for new and replacement homes in 2012 is about 1.4 million. Last year construction starts were at an all-time low of 600,000 homes. This translates into a modest improvement for sellers.
Emerging markets also are starting to show some improvement. While the European markets have been slower, markets in China and Brazil are showing signs that growth will heat up again by mid-year 2012.
Auto sales are getting back on the road showing a 14 percent increase in 2011 over 2010, hitting $19.6 billion in total sales.
Manufacturing in the United States has added more than 12 percent new jobs in the past 12 months. Job postings were up 10 percent in November and December and the trend has continued in the early months of 2012.
Maybe one of the best indicators of all is that customers are coming back to the gaming tables in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The economists suggest that is a sure sign that jobs, earnings, and consumer confidence are coming back and coming back strong.
The indicator that I think we all like to see is that consumer spending is up more than 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. In addition the private business sectors have added over 200,000 jobs per month for the last four months.
Spring Weather Forecast
Another area we always gravitate to is the weather. While we certainly can’t predict the weather I enjoy studying it as I think many of you do as well. So here’s a quick two-month look at April and May for your region from a trusted source the Farmer’s Almanac:
Northwest – Cooler and drier than normal
California – Cooler and rainier than normal
Midwest – Much cooler than normal with near normal precipitation
South – Slightly warmer and wetter than normal
East Coast – Cooler than normal with rain fall above normal in the North and below normal in the South
When I think about the word optimism — I really like the definitions: “a disposition or tendency to look on the most favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome,” or another to consider, “tendency to expect the best, the tendency to believe, expect or hope that things will turn out well.”
Those definitions certainly describe a lot of us as we look at Spring 2012. We really have no choice but to be positive and think positively. The planning is done, crops are growing, customers are ready to buy, delivery trucks are fueled up and the merchandisers are ready to go.
Is there anything else we can do to ensure a great spring?
One of the simplest, yet most effective, things you can do is set realistic expectations or goals for the various departments or areas of the company. We are always looking for improvements. “How can I do it better this year?” is a common question I am regularly asked. It’s a bit like making New Year resolutions — they sound good when we think about them but rarely to do we see them through.
For a goal to be effective it must be clear, definable, specific to a task or individual, and it must be measurable. We can create overall sales goals, shipping goals, sell-through goals, and even improvement goals, but either way, simply defining a target number will prove to be one of the best first steps.
Goals are a lot like magnets. If we define them and measure our results towards achieving them, they can produce some dramatic pull for our company in achieving a successful year.
Experience tells me that very few actually set hard, tangible, meaningful targets. Once we have defined your targets, goals, or expectations, we must track the indicators to tell if we are on track. Those indicators can be simple or complex.
If you are not currently tracking any real information I would start simply at first and see how you and your team do. Remember to share the information with your key staff . We all want to know how we are doing toward achieving the goals or exceeding the expectations you have set.
Optimism is important but setting goals and measuring results may actually be more productive for you in 2012.
Leading with your heart
Recently I ran across a blog that really spoke to me. Unfortunately the blog had no name on it by the time it was given to me.
The blogger said, “Some would have you believe that the heart is seen as weak and squishy and emotions like love have no place in the cold hard world of commerce. But here is what I think. It takes incredible courage and strength to lead with your heart, but it’s actually the most natural and freeing way to do so. The heart isn’t all sappy and bending at all, it’s a ridiculously appropriate and intuitive decision making tool.
“Heeding the mind over body connection that comes from following your heart is how you fill your business with passion and purpose. It’s how you make the decisions in every instant that are right for you and most likely right for others who are involved. When it comes to building your business, tapping your passion, bring a sense of higher purpose to your work, making decisions that determine the outcome of a situation that impacts your life and the lives of others — is leading with your heart.
“Leading with the heart is good for business because it prefers
• Giving over receiving
• Lifting up over tearing down
• Teaching over dictating
• Abundance over scarcity
• Understanding over telling
“The opportunity to lead with your heart is the absolute best part about doing what you love.”
I hope you will take a few seconds to think about those comments from this author.
We hope you are full of optimism as you look at Spring 2012. We certainly are!
Dave Edenfield is part of Visions Group LLC, a solutions group providing marketing, management and production assistance to the green industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With home and auto sales, job growth, and consumer spending all headed in a positive direction, there’s good reason to be positive this spring.