Those Old Rip Van Winkel Blues

Phew! I feel like I just woke up and it’s 20 years later.

In net time, that’s probably fairly accurate. Any meandering visitors I may have had dropping by a couple (a few?) months ago are most likely long gone. The ODP has probably fired me by now. The Queue would have grown to insane levels. The helmsman is drunk and rolling around in a disgusting mess below decks. But I’m not going to look in. At least not tonight.

It’s 8:00 pm and I just dropped off my last group of boxes at UPS. The driver picked up at 2:00, but we got another 12 packed and dropped off. The Holiday Season is officially over. I guess there is still stuff to ship, but the bulk of it is out. The rest don’t really care when they get it. We’ve had a little two month goldrush here.

So. Unless I want to get into politics (no, God, please!), I’d say it’s time for my annual end of the year economic projections, and probably another beer.

Hrumph! Snort! So, (glasses on) let’s see how it’s all stacking up. Slurp….Hmmmmm, were revenues the same, better than or worse than last year? From this vantage, I’d have to say I’m not too sure. Off season trade shows were mediocre to piss poor, like last year. Fall shows were marginal to bearable, kind of like last year. Web sales? Compared to last year? out the roof, unbelievable! Web sales as a percentage of total sales? Uh, still not very high, but extremely high percentage-wise when compared to any other year. This years revenues compared to say, 1998 or earlier? Oh god! We should be living in our cars! Booiinnggg! (no, that’s my eyes popping out looking at the ’98 graph) How could we have done that much business in one year?!?! I don’t even have the capability of *remembering* that much business in one year. Damn, is *that* how good the nineties were? And I didn’t even appreciate it? Dang.

I have two words to say: Down and Size. If it wasn’t for those two words and the fact that my old employees are probably complaining to new bosses about the size of their paychecks by now, I probably *would* be living in a car, and not a very new one at that. Heh heh, downsizing can be a capitalist’s best friend, especially when the going gets tough. Somehow, I don’t think I’m the first business owner to figure that out. On the other hand, it took me long enough. I used to provide “make work” during slow times to keep the employees busy so they could get paid. Wanting a pre-trained group of workers on site for when things got busy was one factor. But I’d have to say, as a once-former employee (long ago) I felt bad letting them go. That was probably the biggest factor. But by either 1999 or 2000, I was forced to downsize. It seemed like the bottom fell out of everything. To make it easier for me, a bunch of the employees staged a “slow-down” and a “late-in” demanding higher wages.

During an obvious economic downturn.

They slowed and lated themselves right out of a job. I’m sure they’re much happier now. I know I am.

The web. Most of our business comes from stores, resellers of our merchandise. Back in 1996, I put up a fledgeling wholesale site where my stores could place their orders and (hopefully) so could new stores. Wellllll, as Elaine used to say, “I hope you weren’t planning on getting rich quick here”. Let’s just say they didn’t exactly cause any servers to crash rushing to my sites. At this point, it’s the end of 2003, and I’d have to say that they finally got here. Not in droves, but poking around, and buying. I’m getting regular large wholesale orders for our stuff. And reorders. Talking to some of them I’m hearing that they’re buying online because they don’t want the expense of going to so many trade shows in a bad economy. Hmmmmm. So at about the time the trade shows started dropping into the toilet, my web biz finally picks up. Well, I guess it’s a tradeoff. Maybe I should not do so many trade shows and sit home and collect web orders instead?…..

But wait, there’s more. Can you spell e-B-a-y? Dangity-Dang. What was originally regarded as an experimental place to get rid of outdated merchandise has turned into a regular revenue-producer. And eBay gets a percentage; I don’t have to pay in advance for trade shows and airline tickets and hotel rooms for the chance to maybe break even. I can stick it on eBay. It goes on and on….Lizardonline and CustomBelt, Google ad-words, all kinds of new stuff to try. It’s still a drop in the bucket of our annual sales, but there’s some actual slow, sustained growth going on. And I haven’t seen that in any venue for a very long time.

Which brings me to that third beer. And my 2004 Economic Projections. Well, we must have made a profit in ’03, because we invested several thousand $ for an additional trade show in Las Vegas in February. Of course, I’ll be staying home taking care of Grandma so I won’t personally end up as a drunken disaster wrapped around a slot machine. Extrapolate, extrapolate, carry the four…..okay, here it is:

I expect Grandma to do very well in 2004. I also expect the stock market to do well, but not great in 2004. Actually, since cashing in my winnings before the Great Crash, I’ve discovered that a federally insured savings account is a great place to put money. Also, a mattress is a great place to put money that isn’t really, uh, well, *money* yet, if you catch my drift.
But seriously, I think in general, economic activity will continue to grow. It will be different. The companies who are lean & mean & who innovate will do best. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be a stock holder or employee in a giant behemoth quasi-monopoly right now, even with Cheney/Bush in the White House. Big is not better in my ’04 Projection. Lean & Mean & Downsized & Greedy & Job-Exportin’ are the new catch words for the New Economy. I also predict that people are real mad now, and they will be even madder in 2004. But if I was a Democratic Presidential candidate, I wouldn’t be mortgaging my home to stick another $625,000 in my campaign just yet. Not right about now. No, I wouldn’t be doin’ that.

One thought on “Those Old Rip Van Winkel Blues

  1. I’m glad to hear you’ve had a two month gold rush. A nice way to close out the year. I’ve had a bit of a mini “gold rush” of web work the past month or so, but it hardly makes up for the fact 2003 was the worst year I’ve had for photography income (I’ll end this year with accounts receivables larger than some people’s tax bills, and expect to never see a dime of it due to deadbeat clients equally trashed by this year’s economy).

    In addition to your keywords of Down and Size, I’ve been saved by Multi and Task. You just can’t make it freelance on one skill set anymore.

    Predictions for 2004? I’ve actually been writing something on that. I agree with your “slow and steady gains” prognosis, for the most part. But I also think 2004 will bring some stark surprises. By November, I think we’ll look back at December and how we thought things were going to play out, and wonder how we could have been so naive.

    In December of 1991, there was little if any doubt that Bush was going to be re-elected. By November of 1992, that view looked pretty foolish. The world can turn upside down very quickly.
    Sat.December.03 @ 10:33:01

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