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Managing Uncertainty

Companies should continue to invest, despite concerns about Brexit, the upcoming U.S. presidential election, problems in the Middle East and other issues.
By Mark Roberti
Jul 01, 2016

It seems to me that the world changed irrevocably on Sept. 15, 2008. That was the day on which financial-services firm Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, triggering the global financial meltdown. The world has not been the same since, but many companies have not adapted to the new normal.

Let me explain. What changed was the view among CEOs of the world's largest corporations, and many midsize firms as well, that things could never get that bad. They could never reach the point at which the U.S. economy would shrink by 8 percent, or banks would stop lending to successful businesses, or major investment houses would fold like cheap lawn chairs.

CEOs now know that things can get that bad—and they seem to run their companies with their foot on the brake at all times as a result. Every time there is a bump, like Great Britain's decision to leave the European Union, they jam their foot down, bringing investment in new technologies, hiring and other projects to a screeching halt.

I've heard U.S. executives talk about their concern that Donald Trump could tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement. Really? Even if Trump were elected President, it's unlikely that he would pull out of NAFTA. He'd be more likely to make a lot of blustery statements, demand a few concessions and then tell the American people that he's bringing jobs back to the United States. Is that really worth panicking over?

Jack Welch, the legendary CEO of General Electric, used to say that economic downturns and times of uncertainty were the best times to invest in new technologies, because competitors probably would be battening down the hatches. When the economic picture turned sunny again, those who invested would be better positioned to take advantage of the growth.

RFID Journal invested in our IT infrastructure during the Great Recession. In fact, we relaunched our website with a new design and a new content-management system in January 2009, when the financial crisis was at its worst. I don't run a billion-dollar corporation, so maybe it's different. But it seems to me that uncertainty is the new normal, and if you are not going to invest in RFID and other new technologies when the economic picture isn't clear, you probably aren't going to invest at all—which means you will be at a huge competitive disadvantage down the road.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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