Fit & Finish: Coffee talk
Uncertainty is the worst.
July 5, 2022 By Chris Meiorin
I’ve always appreciated predictability. On the road, a predictable driver lets others around them know their intent. They are easy to navigate because they don’t do anything erratic. But even the most aware driver can struggle to safely navigate an unpredictable driver. Meteorologists, too, are struggling with predictability. They are now raising the uncomfortable possibility that climate change will not only make weather more severe but also harder to predict, potentially giving us less time to prepare for extreme floods, storms and heat waves in the years to come. Economists don’t have it any easier. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been continued uncertainty and a massive divergence in economic projections. Why so much uncertainty? In short, there is so much uncertainty and lack of predictability in the markets because no one knows for sure what is going to happen anymore.
Over the past 30 months, I think it’s fair to say that nothing has been terribly predictable in the window and door business either. For those that have been around for a while, we have all gotten pretty comfortable with the typical ebb and flow of the market. There are times when we are supposed to be slow and times when we are supposed to be busy. There are times when we are supposed to pull back on our inventories and other times when we are supposed to increase our ratios. The same can be said for labour and resource planning. Even our vacation time was predictable. We knew when it was a good time to be away and when we needed to batten down the hatches. The last 30-plus years have been reasonably predictable in that way; however, I can’t say that’s how things have been of late.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a great network of fenestrators, as noted in a previous column. Although in many instances we would technically be competitors, I have always valued the open communication we are able to share. A recent conversation led to the inevitable question, “What do you think lies ahead?” To that I made it clear “I have no idea!”, and I will question (or perhaps hire) anyone that suggests they know better. The last 30 months have been anything but predictable and I can’t suggest the next 30 months will be any easier. When asked in regards to the supply chain and labour if things are getting any better, I honestly don’t know. Are things getting any better or, like sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome, are we just getting better at operating in an era of uncertainty?
This can all be summed up with a recent conversation I had with the owner of my favorite coffee shop. He has just celebrated his third year in business, which would suggest he has been operating longer in the era of COVID-19 than pre-pandemic. His frustration lies in his inability to predict anything to do with his business, not from the perspective of long- or even medium-term planning, but trying to figure out any reasonable trend from day to day or even hour to hour. “Nothing makes sense in the coffee business. One Monday can be my busiest day and the next, dead. Lunch hours I can be slammed and the next day it’s a ghost town. Rainy days, too, are either feast or famine. I can’t make any sense of this, Chris…any suggestions?” Unfortunately, I had nothing for him. I laughed and told him that as business owners we are all in the same boat. My only advice for him was to roll with the punches and know that his best guess is as probably as good as the next guy’s.
Chris Meiorin is president of Euro Vinyl Windows in Woodbridge, Ont.
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