Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Discovering when is a company shutting down or moving

Sounds like some of you did not really believe my last post.

Once upon a time, I was carefully studying the prospects of a competitor shutting down their key manufacturing facility in a major city. I had been by it many times to get the "lay of the land". There were many clues: the facility was old, land-locked, surrounded by a residential neighborhood, had a track record of environmental problems (published reports, gov't environmental reports, colleagues who lived nearby). It was also helpful that mutual suppliers, agencies, and clients and people who know people who know people seemed to think so too and had bits and pieces of information. Some local newspaper reporters had interest and dug around at it (with some provocation I helped with) and engaged their senior managers in some discussions (denials of course). We had analyzed their financials across multiple product lines in multiple countries and it seemed quite clear that it would be favorable for them to move given lower labor rates, proximity to suppliers, non-union work rules and newer/excess capacity, lower distribution expense, etc. Our field sales force and theirs swapped stories sometimes when they ran into each other and this helped confirm it as well. I concluded it was real and published a report to my organization on this "fact" and its implications. Not too long after I received a call from the President of my firm who had received a call from the President of the firm I was analyzing asking "what's going on". The competitor President had in front of him a copy of my report which one of our Sales reps had somehow gotten and shared. It was one of those conversations where my President essentially said he really wanted to keep this lower profile but was sure glad I'd done it. The competitor did shut down and move its operations.

I think all of the same skills could have been applied by Ohio, Dayton, Montgomery country officials on some coordinated basis. NCR competitors (some in Ohio!). knew I'm pretty sure. Customers of ATM equipment knew. Suppliers of components knew. Advisors and their firms knew. Realtors knew. Many people suspected. Third parties involved in doing analysis for NCR knew and their methodologies at least are known. The world is increasingly small in the social media world (six degrees of separation, etc.). It's unfathomable to me that one could not have known this likely outcome. Lot's of officials and people close to them in Duluth and Columbus, GA knew. Travel schedules of key officials from NCR are trackable. Some Wall Street analysts and their networks were likely expecting this. And so on....

I'm not sure outcome would have been different, but I doubt this should have been a surprise.


Stan Dyck

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