Expectations effect region’s performance

Providence Business News’ Summer 2012 Business Survey reveals an environment of achievement and uncertainty. More

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PBN Editorial

Expectations effect region’s performance

Posted 9/24/12

Providence Business News’ Summer 2012 Business Survey reveals an environment of achievement and uncertainty.

Sixty-two percent of the 175 respondents to PBN’s twice-yearly survey of private companies in Rhode Island and Bristol Co., Mass., said that they expected their business to be in better shape one year from now; another 30 percent said it would stay the same, leaving only 8 percent believing their business would be worse.

At the same time, 49 percent said that their business’ net income this year was better than last year, with 36 percent saying that it was the same as last year and 16 percent saying it was worse.

So far, so good, right?

Not so fast.

When asked if their companies planned to buy big-ticket items, expand facilities or hire anyone in the next quarter, 18, 11 and 37 percent of the business leaders said yes, respectively.

Clearly, despite individual cases of positive results, the vast majority of business leaders don’t trust that the region’s economy has turned a corner. Sure, they have figured out how to keep churning out profits, but they just aren’t so sure anyone else can.

Prudent management practices demand such an approach – one should not be wasting investors’ capital on wishful thinking. But the problem with prudent management is that it oftentimes creates self-fulfilling prophecies that lead to contraction. What to do?

The Make It Happen RI summit run by The Rhode Island Foundation is a start, if for no other reason than it demands the private sector to take positive action now. But more importantly, the state’s business leaders need to create a different self-fulfilling prophecy, one that forecasts growth. Who will take that first step? •

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