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Editor's Page: Driving Without a Road Map

Add to the list that includes carbon paper and telephones with dials another relic of business in the old days — the five-year plan.

The sluggish economy and the aftershocks of the Sept. 11 attacks have torn up the special event industry's script for the future. When we polled party rental operators around the world for this issue's cover story, virtually no one we spoke with felt comfortable predicting what 2002 will bring. Indeed, when we asked party rental operators what they expect this year, the reply we heard most often was “who knows?”

In our September 1999 issue, business was so strong that I wrote an editorial called “Making Hay,” outlining important steps to take in boom times. But business moves in cycles, and good times follow bad. The consensus among party rental pros is that business is stabilizing — a welcome development.

Whether this year will bring back the same clients asking for the same events as they did before is unclear. But what is clear is that the business environment is far more competitive. So even if we aren't sure what's coming next, here are some guideposts to help:

Have you hugged your client today? A tough business climate means that your competitors will be going after your customer base. What are you doing to make your clients — whether internal or external — feel valued?

What's exciting about your inventory? As I write this, our staff is back in the office after The Special Event 2002. (Look for a full wrap of all the events and exhibits in our March issue.) Several party rental operators I spoke with told me about the products they were investing in to give new choices to their customers and to stay one step ahead of the competition. Special events are all about making a dramatic impression; how are you helping your clients do that?

Is what you're doing worth doing? When times are tough, you cannot afford to operate inefficiently. Now is the time to take a hard look at your staffing and your systems. Are there processes that could be streamlined? Are there staffers wasting time on tasks that don't contribute to your mission? Take a good hard look at how you do what you do to make sure every effort pays off.

Demanding times demand the best in us. Now is the time to bring out your best.

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