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Can we afford Christmas cheer in austerity-ridden Europe? Peter Savage gives us reasons to be cheerful this Christmas and provides sage advice to keep business buoyant during 2012 A t this time of year everyone tends to look back and ahead at the same time. So, what can we glean from 2011 and what can we look forward to in 2012? This is the fourth time that I have been asked to contribute a Christmas message so I am beginning to feel quite regal in my regularity. It is helpful, though, to look back over several years, rather than at the fleeting moment as one year becomes the next, to see how the industry has moved. Regally retrospective In 2007 we had only one thing on our minds and that was surviving the credit crunch. Lehmans had gone but the fall-out of the banking crisis had yet to bite. In 2008 I was predicting doom and gloom – that the recession was biting and that the only movement since Christmas of 2007 was downward. Indeed the economy did dip into recession in 2009, accompanied by some notable insolvencies in both hire and post. My prediction was neutral: more of the same, survival of the fittest, keep your belts tightened. Finally, 2010 was bright and breezy as we had just seen orders filtering through for the true start of the tapeless revolution. With the Royal Wedding on the horizon, there was almost a skip in my step. Skipping through 2011 And, yes, whatever people might think … in general 2011 was a good year. Despite three long hard years, the industry did pick up. Dealers recorded record months, confidence rose, the Royal Wedding provided a welcome fillip and, in July, I had almost cast off the recessive shackles that still lingered. Sales of tapeless equipment had proved strong, very strong – stronger, almost, than I had known since probably 1994/5 with the advent of digital technology. There were some shortages, especially in prime lenses. But the market was 42 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE embracing new technology and had overcome any potential damage from the Tsunami because as, it turned out, it simply accentuated the speed at which people converted to the new workflow. Only three plagues? Then our industry – and industry in general – almost simultaneously fell off the August cliff because of the cumulative effects of the Tsunami (kit shortages kicked in), the Thai floods (component and tape shortages hit) and Euro austerity (the Euro seems to have brought us back not to square 2007 but even further back than that). All economic indicators are pointing to no European growth and not just for one year but perhaps for the next five years. As economic plagues come, we had three in one year and I am looking nervously round to see whether we will suffer all 10 (mythical plagues come in tens, according to most religious commentators; well that’s what Wikipedia says) by the end of next year. Once in a lifetime But for once, and I think this is a once in a lifetime chance, we (as in the UK) have an opportunity born out of differences. First, we are not in the Euro and, second, we are hosting the Olympics and that has to mean, in monetary terms at least, we are in control of our own destiny. Even though it is only a four-week event, the Olympics must have a major effect on broadcast and on tourism. It might not make the UK economy make anything more than it currently does. It might not change the fact that the UK is over-reliant on financial services. Yes we still have to change the way public sector pensions are paid for and, yes, we will see more strikes. But, and it’s another yes, the UK broadcast industry should have a good year next year. So, just this once, don’t look at macro indicators – look at micro broadcast and hope that, by this time next year, seven more plagues haven’t struck so we can look back at what I think could be a good, maybe even a great, year. And on that note I will deliver my annual Christmas message to encourage the well-being of your business through these busy times. Twelve tips for the New Year: • Have a decent plan for your business to take it through 2012. • Make sure you communicate to your business support structures (the bank, etc) that if you are borrowing money (for example) it is because you are doing well, not badly. • Have adequate facilities (overdrafts, loans) available exactly because of points one and two. • Take on freelancers, not full-time staff, in case this year’s successes are due to a blip before dropping into recession next year. • Look at the credit worthiness of your foreign customers, as they may be more likely to struggle with payment. • Work just as hard at getting your money in as you would in bad times. • Keep your systems robust – mistakes when busy can take the gloss off a successful year. • When considering expansion look at markets or areas that you understand and can be classed as core to your current business. • If inundated with demand coming up to the Olympics be prepared that it may drop off after the games and there could be an excess of equipment causing prices to fall. • Turnover is for show, profit is for dough. • Cash is always king. • Don’t believe all the bad news that you read in the press. If you do all of the above, I hope you will feel able to share with me a feeling that, despite what else is going on in the world, we in broadcast have the opportunity to perform better than the rest. We can be cheerful this Christmas. Happy New Year! For advice in busy times and through the recession, do email me on peter. savage@azule.co.uk and/or write to the TV Bay editor. For more information about us, or to read other articles in this series, look at our website www.azule.co.uk.