All about the bottom line - Third Quarter 2009
Measuring success is about perspective
TFQ Editorial Staff
For those unfamiliar, Kay Yow was the beloved women’s basketball coach at NC State, where she spent 34 years of her Hall-of-Fame career. A North Carolina native, she had a folksy charm about her and a way of cutting to the point. Off the court, she was famous for her work to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer. She first overcame the disease in 1987, but it recurred in 2004 and she battled it valiantly until her death in January 2009.
I had the pleasure of knowing her briefly, and a few years back I was sitting in her office talking about a player’s injury that had the potential to torpedo the team’s entire season, and she just shrugged it off nonchalantly and said, “It’s all about perspective.”
She used that phrase a lot, and if you understood all that she’d been through, those four words made all the sense in the world. And so today, with the world seemingly crumbling around us—global economy, pandemic and nuclear testing, just to name a few—I can’t help but think back to Coach Yow’s words.
The big news in the U.S. tobacco industry, of course, is the enactment of the new bill that gives the Food and Drug Administration regulatory power over tobacco. (Other countries, likewise, are taking similar blitzkrieg-type tactics to publicly battle this “evil” plant.) And while the FDA will be spinning its wheels conniving new hoops to make Big Tobacco jump through (which always seems to somehow result in revenue coming in for the government) and taking “hard-line steps” in the fight against smoking (which always seems to somehow create photo ops for politicians) the bottom line is that everyone knows the U.S. government is not going to ban smoking. The revenue it brings in is irreplaceable. And so the government plays this game, seeing how high it can jack up the prices before that revenue starts to go down. Better to have fewer people paying more, they reason, then to have more people smoking. Just as long as that bottom line doesn’t change. It makes it look like they are actually doing something to combat this “smoking epidemic.” Hey, anybody got a camera?!
Well, while they’re doing their thing in Washington, the rest of us will continue to hold down the real world. And as far as the tobacco industry goes, recently a farm equipment salesperson told me, “If it wasn’t for the news constantly talking about how bad the economy is, I wouldn’t know we were in a recession. Our sales are as high as they’ve ever been.”
Just the other day I was talking to Dr. W. David Smith, head of NC State’s crop science department, about FDA regulation, and he chose to look at the positive. He said whatever changes the FDA is going to implement will require research and input from the educational institutions, which in turn will allow them to work more closely with the growers.
And speaking of growers, a month ago I talked to one who said they’d been focusing on streamlining the operation for years, and that this season would be the culmination of all those efforts and would allow them to make it through just about anything.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but get the feeling that things aren’t quite as bad as people want us to believe. Everyone in my family is healthy, I am employed and still putting food on the table and I believe that at some point in the not-too-distant future this economic smokescreen will clear and things will begin to return to where they once were. Sorry to diverge from all the doom-and-gloomers who want us scared, but I guess that’s just my crazy perspective for ya.