W&WP February 2002 

 

The WOOD 100 Since the Day the Earth Stood Still

By Rich Christianson

Since September 11, has your company been hanging in, hanging on or hanging it up?

Have your associates and you taken unexpected steps or an unexpected detour to get things back on track or has it been business as usual?

These are the types of questions we recently posed to executives of companies featured in the 12th Annual WOOD 100 Report, published last September.

Sandwiched between our final editing of last fall's WOOD 100 presentation and dropping the issue into the mail were the gut-wrenching terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attacks created shock waves that rocked an already shaky economy.

By the time the September 2001 issue reached our readers, the business climate had begun to change in unimaginable ways. Thus, we decided to conduct a follow-up survey of these same 100 companies to gauge the immediate impact of the attacks on their businesses and to determine if and how their outlooks for 2002 had changed. In doing so, we also sought to learn how these diversely successful companies, in terms of size, location and product mix, were responding to the crisis.

Before & After
Our follow-up fax survey found that more than one-third of the 55 responding companies experienced the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under their businesses immediately following September 11th. Several indicated their business was closely tied to the temporarily paralyzed hospitality industry; a couple of others said they lost out on development work in Manhattan. Many said they saw projects cancelled or put on hold indefinitely.

Nearly half of the WOOD 100 executives said their business activity stayed about the same. More surprising were the eight respondents (15%) who said their business activity increased after the attacks.

If there is a silver lining to the follow-up study, it is that only four of the 55 respondents to the follow-up survey project 2002 will be a "Poor" or "Terrible" year for their businesses. What's more, 18% of them are expecting 2002 to be their "Best Ever."

What They Are Doing
Slightly more than half of the respondents said they were taking special action to combat the negative impacts of 9-11 and the more pronounced economic recession on their businesses. Four of the respondents said their companies were forced to resort to layoffs while several noted they were under pressure from their customers to lower prices to secure business.

More instructional is variety of aggressive marketing strategies implemented by 12 of the WOOD 100 companies. They said they were not only beating the bushes harder but were also trying to beat more of them to keep their businesses moving forward. Tactics along these lines ranged from doing more aggressive display advertising and direct mail campaigns to stepping up the number of sales calls and hiring additional sales staff.

Among the more interesting elements of Assistant Editor Bernadette Freund's report is a pair of sidebars. The first involves interviews with three WOOD 100 companies who not only saw their business decrease immediately after 9-11, but have downgraded their prospects for business in 2002 from "Good" to "Poor" or "Terrible." Meanwhile, three WOOD 100 company executives interviewed for the second sidebar said not only did their business activity increase in the wake of the attacks, but that they had upgraded their forecast for 2002 from "Good" to "Best Ever."

United We Stand
The vast majority of WOOD 100 companies - 87% - approve of how President Bush and Congress have responded to the attacks. Seven percent were undecided and 6% indicated they were unhappy with the government's handling of the crisis situation created by 9-11.

Asked what specific action the federal government could take to improve business conditions, most indicated some form of tax cuts or investment tax credits. Other responses included the enactment of taxes on raw wood materials exported to foreign countries and adjusting the U.S./Canadian exchange rate.

We appreciate the tremendous help of all those who participated in our WOOD 100 surveys and hope to see a similar spirit of cooperation in our future research.

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