Field of Vision July/August 2023

Don’t Listen to Them

In times of uncertainty, auto glass pros have no use for economists

By Jesse Burkhart

Ulysses S. Grant once said he didn’t concern himself with opinions, only armed rebellion. While none of us have ever faced a challenge like the one that confronted Grant, auto glass managers can still learn something from the single-mindedness of the former U.S. president and victorious Civil War general.

Over the past several years, famous businesspeople, decorated economists and venerated financial institutions have been prophesying a downturn for the U.S. economy. This is being called the most-predicted recession in history for good reason.

Some of these forecasts are overtly sensational. In The New York Post, Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute—citing a prediction from hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio— warns us to “brace for 1930s-style economic disorder” if interest rates keep climbing. Maybe we should, but also remember that Dalio is the same man who in February of 2018 slapped a 70% probability on an economic recession happening before the 2020 election. Until a once-in-a-century pandemic bailed him out, his prognostication was going poorly.

Others are having their financial cake and eating it too. In November of 2022, Goldman Sachs told clients it saw a 35% chance of a recession happening within the next 12 months. In June of this year, the investment bank cut that chance to 25% for the next 12 months. By mid-July, the likelihood was 20% for the next 12 months. It seems the economists’
trick here is to keep extending the horizon of their forecast while offering low odds for the forecast itself. No matter what happens, they’ll never be wrong.

Even less helpful than the moving goalposts of Goldman Sachs, the chief economist of Apollo Global Management wrote a blog post suggesting the prospect of a “non-recession recession.” It sounds like a contradiction, but once you’ve accumulated enough post-graduate degrees, it becomes a paradox.

What can we learn from all of the noise? If we’re smart enough, nothing. Quarter after quarter, this economy has postponed history’s most-predicted recession. No one has been able to pin down if and when this thing will ever happen. Don’t expect people to stop trying, though.

To offer something more useful than another prediction, AGRR asked eight auto glass professionals how they’re guiding their shops through a time of uncertainty. You can soak up their ideas on page 14. I think you’ll find a few cost-cutting measures you can adapt for your own business. More importantly, I hope their perspectives will inspire you to focus strictly on doing what you do best, and like General Grant, not concern yourself with anyone else’s opinion.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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