The U.S. economy has yet to pull out of its slump and with the announcement on Sept. 8, 2008, that the U.S. government was taking control of the country's two largest mortgage finance companies—Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—it is unclear how much bleaker the economic forecast will be before a rebound can start to occur. To take the “pulse” of its readership and hear how members of the lighting community are responding to the present situation, ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING's Sept/Oct exchange question asks: With the slowdown in the current U.S. economy, what effect is it having on your firm/company's workflow and projected workflow for the next 12–18 months?
On the current events front, the next several months will be filled with news and change. ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING invites readers to respond to the upcoming exchange questions:
Nov/Dec 2008: How do you think the 2008 U.S. presidential election will impact the lighting industry? DEADLINE: OCT. 26, 2008
Jan/Feb 2009: What are your thoughts on/concerns for the economic outlook of the lighting industry in 2009? What steps will you take at your firms and companies to adjust and respond to the current marketplace? DEADLINE: DEC. 19, 2008
Responses are always welcome to Exchange topics. Replies and proposed exchange question topics can be submitted to email@example.com.
Principal Derek Porter Studio
Yes, the economy seems to be having an effect on our work. Recently we've had multiple large civic projects put on hold because of uncertainties with the economy. Being a small company (seven total staff), losing one or two large projects has a dramatic impact on workload and cash flow. As a result, we currently are jockeying to secure smaller and less compelling jobs that we might otherwise be less willing to take on as well as introducing ourselves to new clients with the hope of landing work. This is a significant shift in focus (I imagine for many other lighting design firms as well), where only weeks ago our company was turning down job prospects and working beyond normal capacity to simply meet the project needs to which we were committed. Now, though far from being low on work, we are forecasting weeks/months ahead recognizing that we don't have that backlog that's been present for the past couple of years.
Aside from the impact this national economic trend has on me, locally with my company, I'm increasingly aware of the delicate balance such a society of ours has—its dependency on consumerism and consumption in general. I hope the current energy and climate changes we are experiencing in conjunction with the projected changes in political leadership foster an ethical wake up for our nation. I'm sure most of us individually will endure the brunt of the strains ahead. It seems the bigger question is how we as a unified nation react toward positive change, adjust our working methods in support of improved standards, balance our actions (personally and professionally) for the better good of our society, and teach others the benefits of global responsibility.
Quarter by quarter, we've all watched the U.S. economy bully an increasing number of friends and colleagues, inside and outside the lighting world. Those of us who have escaped the bully's wrath so far admit (with more trepidation than satisfaction) that the economic slowdown has not slowed our growth. To what do we attribute this good fortune? Our research and development folks credit the power of good product, our salespeople the power of strong relationships, and our accounting folks the power of prayer. What we have seen is the disproportionate pain felt by those residentially focused, by those competing solely on price or decorative novelty, by those measuring their sales in the billions (and therefore trending like the market or actually causing the market to trend), and by those lacking diversified offerings. The market is progressing in its understanding of the payback of good lighting relative to the overall energy spent and placing higher value on lighting solutions that are energy-efficient, ergonomic and well designed. Yet, even those of us with growing top lines are battling to maintain our bottom lines, especially those of us whose products hail from such exotic lands as Europe, where today's U.S. dollar is worth less than yesterday's lira. We do not know if the worst is behind us, or if millions of energized voters will deliver new leadership and gas prices below $4 per gallon for the trucks that transport our fixtures cross-country, we do know that we have no choice but to distinguish ourselves through innovation and service.