Notes on the State of Business

Walking through a trade show at a meeting where I was speaking, I found a couple of interesting business people.  I visited with the folks from Advanced Safety Wheel and Hub, which is an interesting little start-up.  They told me that every year there are thousands of accidents when trucks make wide right turns and cars try to get inside of them.  They have invented a warning system that works better than regular turn signals.  What impressed me is that they were passionate entrepreneurs.  They had done good research not just on the product, but on setting up a new business.  They apparently have attracted enough outside investment money to keep plugging away on the idea, even though they need government approval before trucks can install their systems.  Moreover, the other conference attendees showed good respect for the people running the company.  Americans respect folks who are working hard to get a business up and running.  Good luck to you.

Then I strolled over to the booth for Les Schwab Tires.  Those of you from back east have not heard of this company, it’s a regional chain founded by Les Schwab, who used hard work and a super customer service ethic to build a great business.  (I’m a loyal customer.)  We got to talking about big tires, as this was a trucking convention.  The extra large tires used by construction and mining companies are in very short supply.  (See my note on that subject here.)  Dealers are on allocation from manufacturers.  I remarked that this presented the opportunity to mark up prices substantially.  Dealers can really make out, I said.  The tire sales manager said, "That’s not how Les wanted us to do business."  Instead, building long-term relationships was more important than pushing prices as high in the short-term as they can be pushed.  Now, Les Schwab is getting on in years and is no longer active in the business.  But the company’s front-line people know his guiding values and run the business based on those values.

American business is in good shape, regardless of what you think of the economy’s short-run prospects.