Keeping an Eye on Macroeconomics

In 2008, many academic institutions and non-profits were reeling after the global economy was shaken by the mortgage crisis and other macroeconomic problems. Investment funds and endowments suddenly lost huge swaths of value, customer accounts became uncertain, and future planning stopped in its tracks briefly.

Now, eight years later, storm clouds are gathering again, with the first rumbles of thunder coming from China. An exaggerated view of the risks of falling oil prices have driven stocks down prematurely, adding to a prevailing skittishness. There are other strains. For instance, a strong US dollar means problems for other global economies as accessing the world's most lucrative market becomes costlier. Productivity gains are also predicted to be lower in the near-term. And if we needed any reminder that we're in a global system, the sad and surprising outbreak of Zika virus serves notice, as it has rapidly consumed attention and shaken economies in the Americas.

The Internet has made the publishing economy much more immediately global -- and both terms matter, as being "delayed global" offered the buffer of time. Authors, customers, and markets aren't everywhere yet, but more business crosses more borders than before, and ramifications are more quickly felt, even anticipated. Asia, North America, and Europe remain the primary markets for academic publishers, but South America, the Middle East, and India are more important than before. For authors, the world is even more diverse, especially as various collaborative groups form and splinter and reform.

It's important to not lose touch with macroeconomic opinion. Crises are as much material as mental, and anxieties travel in packs. Markets are going to become more anxious as more evidence of trouble emerges or is highlighted. Political leaders are beset in many markets, adding to worries. And the US is not fielding a set of candidates that is reassuring to world markets, with most candidates voicing protectionist agendas, with some appearing deeply unhinged.

What is a business leader to do in times like this? It depends on market and internal organizational dynamics. It may be a good time to refocus on the US market, pulling back from other markets until the storm passes. Perhaps it's time to reinvest in infrastructure, as providers may be more willing to cut deals to get your business. It may be time to think about personnel, as the job market may soon have slightly more eligible recruits to consider. It may be time to develop new products for the inevitable upswing, as resources, time, and vendors will be more available now than later. Or it may be time to simply hunker down and wait it out.

No matter your choice, keep an eye on the economic climate. It's changeable, opinions can become self-fulfilling prophecies, and every business is more connected to the global economy. Plan for it.