As we approach the end of the calendar year most companies that have December 31, as a year-end are busy tidying up their books in anticipation of a timely and smooth audit. For the listed companies they have a deadline to meet for consolidation and completion within 90 days. For most, they would have completed their 2018 budget processes by October, but due to a few significant recent external events these may require a re-think of their original strategy.
I will mention a few of these:
- The revaluation of the Jamaican Dollar: This is a new experience for most current business leaders who may be too young to remember the Butch Stewart initiative some years ago. We have had recent years of either slow devaluation, or rapid devaluations, and many have taken devaluation gains as the only possible direction and have adopted this as part of the profit results and a reason for earning larger incentives (although beyond their managerial control). Now those have become losses and many are shaken out of their 20 year sleep like Rip Van Winkle. Wake up; currency moves both ways.
- Brexit costs: The popular opinions of 2016-17 were that Brexit would/could not happen. Well it happened and now the costs of exit are estimated at around €45 billion. This presents an economic and possible political crisis for the British Government who has been unable to find a compatible majority government. Perhaps, another Referendum now could have opposite results. London is still threatened as the financial capital of Europe so follow the exit of capital and financing. Many large companies are relocating their headquarters to other parts of Europe that we are less familiar with.
- Donald Trump: “couldn’t win” said the optimistic/sympathetic Jamaican Democrats, but here we are one year into the roller coaster ride of our lives. It is like a song: “immigration, discrimination, procreation, subjugation; religious rights, satellites, people banned from taking flights; that’s what the world is today: hey hey”! However his policies (although controversial) are happening behind the façade of Mexican Walls and the ever-confusing proliferation of tweets. Corporate America seems to be regaining confidence even in the face of protests, resignations, and firings in the Administration. North Korea and Russia do not seem quite as confident in their confrontational actions as long as President Trump remains a belligerent man with the keys to “weapons of mass destruction”.
- Natural disasters: three major hurricanes; wildfires; snow storms, have happened in rapid succession or even simultaneously in 2017. This must have an impact on insurance costs and even the ability to accept risks and we can deduce some intersections here. Bermuda has agreed to much greater transparency with off-shore tax companies who do business with the USA. This could be bad or good. Bad as it may dry up re-insurance funds or may make their risk premiums much higher. Good; as there may be a reluctance to re-insure US domestic risks (for tax avoidance), there may be a lot more money seeking to retain business margins and a beneficial tax status. This could help to reduce premiums. I am not that optimistic and expect rate increases of over 30% (my guess).
The four points are not collectively exhaustive and are generally not within the control of the corporate management. For that reason it is imperative that plans and strategies must take a new look at non-traditional budgeting and so must the Government. The traditional approach to 2-3% growth cannot be viable within the four parameters mentioned above. This requires a kind of Critical Care Response (CCR).
Capital, Consistency, and Re-allocation, have to become the hallmarks of 2018 and beyond.
- Capital investment is essential for sustainable growth. For companies this means investment in the methods to provide competitive goods and services within a global environment. Machinery, methods and system improvements are essentials that have been neglected, and often because the payback is not immediate. The same holds true for the Government and investment decisions rarely go beyond the expected time of the next electoral period. Both private sector and government reticence needs to be overcome, and decisions must be made that will lead to rapid future growth.
- Consistency in effort in anticipating and managing the vagaries of the Jamaican environment will be the foundation for growth in all areas of business. For example: the small cook shop cannot run out of the main menu items at 1pm and still believe that they will meet their sales targets. The ATM machines cannot run out of cash at known peak periods and yet expect to have satisfied customers.
- The re-allocation of our best human talent cannot be focused on the expansion of business in Cross Roads if our strategy is to become self-sufficient in foreign exchange. In a country that is deeply in debt and relies on borrowing to survive, the firms must now seek to earn their own foreign exchange. This simply means exporting to or investing in overseas markets. This however means brand investment and the development of some unique attributes that will make their marketing efforts successful.
Totally new plans should make our Millennials very happy, as they constantly tell me that their generation will have to develop new strategies and implement them, and that the old strategies are not even worth researching. Well here is the chance to prove it. Oh oh! The bad news is that January is almost here, so if you didn’t factor these in the 2018 budgets then you may have to do the old-fashioned thing of working through the holidays. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Merry Christmas to all, and drive responsibly and not at all if you drink.