Trying to get a handle on the current state of affairs in the fastener marketplace is no easy task these days. There are a few constants in the market that are easy to point to. Oil & Gas, Big Truck and Agriculture are down. Coal is way down. Aerospace and the Auto Industry have been pretty good but then someone from the IFI told me that Aerospace has come down a bit. An industry friend who attended a recent IFI meeting shared with me that their guest speaker, an economist, told them that the fundamentals of our economy are solid and we can expect growth later in the year (at least I think that is pretty much what he told me). Some people are down significantly, some are just flat, others are up just a bit. But nothing seems to be easy these days. Unless you are winning over some new business that maybe you’ve been working on for a while, then you might be doing pretty good. There is some amount of that being reported. But I do not have very many people telling me, “yeah, my customers are cranking and business is up from last year”. Just not hearing it.
On some Fridays I like to use Twitter to send out a message to people from getting some feedback from across the country. On Friday, people checked in from California,Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and some other areas. It is not exactly a scientific poll but you do get some feedback. And the word is pretty much the same across the country. Sales are pretty flat.
The presidential elections are not worth writing about other than to say be still have, potentially, the most diverse group of candidates one could imagine all still battling to tell their versions of reality. And, we are just a few months away from finding out who the final candidates will be. Regardless of who wins the election, it is clear that a huge number of people will be unhappy, angry and think the world is going to hell. The schism between the far left and the far right is just incredible and there are a bunch of people in both camps or else we would still not be looking at this group of candidates. Cooperation and team spirit are no part of this year’s election. There does not seem to be much of a “middle” where Americans would be able to come meet and work together. Not sure what all this does to our economy but, eventually, we nut and bolt sales people will be affected somehow.
Acquisitions are the one thing that seems noteworthy and causes people in the fastener industry to talk. Wurth buying House of Threads is probably the largest acquisition of note so far. It’s interesting to note that lately I have heard the names Holokrome and Cardinal being referred to by fastener distributors. These two companies were acquired by Fastenal and yet Fastenal seems have them running separate from the multi branch Fastenal we have thought of for years. I guess what I am saying is that I thought fastener distributors might be more reluctant to buy from these two companies as they are owned by one of their largest competitors, but someone is doing a pretty good job of marketing them under their original names. I hear distributors tell me they are quoting Cardinal or Holokrome and they do not seem to be bothered by the connection to the mother ship. Please understand, this is just an observation and not a judgement. Everyone should do whatever is best for their own company and an awful lot of product is bought and sold between competitors. I just think Fastenal is doing a pretty good job marketing separately under these names and it makes me wonder if they would not be looking to acquire more companies from the supply side rather than the distribution side. I wonder who had the vision to think they could pull that off.
Just started a book called “Anticipate – The Art of Leading By Looking Ahead”.Have not got too far but there are a few lines on the inside book cover that I’ll share:
“It boils down to one word – vision. Leaders who lacked it have often guided their companies to obsolescence and failure. The rare leaders who cultivated a strong vision have disrupted industries, created new ones, and remade the world.”
So, who’s got vision in the fastener world?