2009 will be remembered as one of the most tumultuous years in American business. The American Auto industry finally collapsed upon itself. The American finance and insurance sector crumbled under the weight of its own rampant speculation. All this, while the American people shouldered the burden of years and years of business built on ego, greed and business decisions that had little to do with business.

When you consider the math of the Auto industry alone, the facts are staggering. The world has about 800 million cars and light trucks in service, of those over 250 million or 31% have American owners. That’s right, America not only makes the most cars and trucks, we own the most cars and trucks. While the tide is turning, Europe and Asia surpassed the US in new car/truck purchases in 2007, the US still places third on the list of new car buying regions. So imagine the brute force economics of owning, maintaining, repairing and replacing that fleet of 250 million units. Let’s say the average cost is $1,000 annually, per unit (probably a very safe estimate). That’s $250 BILLION of economy churning every year. Now let’s constrict that market by 10%. That’s a $25 billion delta. In human terms, $25 billion of lost sales, lost jobs, unpaid bills, etc.

And if we calculate the societal effects of the constriction of the banking and finance industries, the math is even more frightening. So let’s save that for an even brighter day.

Because the panic has passed; the news that the worst is over has already allowed many institutions to lurch back into business as usual. Those “urgent” cost savings measures that were years too late; they’ve already been back-burnered or shelved altogether in favor of key operational initiatives, such as installing new time clocks, or software upgrades. Pardon my sarcasm.

Here’s why. People do what matters to them. The companies that suddenly decided cost savings were an issue because of financial panic immediately abandoned that cause as soon as their line of credit re-opened. The companies for who cost savings, control and containment were long an issue, still look hard at costs. Emergencies don’t change us, they just change our behavior (temporarily).

So consultant beware, the client that suddenly woke up and decided that cost savings were a priority is not your true customer. They were all hot and bothered in Q1 and Q2, and now they’re not returning your calls. Probably because they were just waiting to exhale.
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