Editors Note: February 19, 2001

Despite all of the attention given to the economic slowdown, the overall U.S. economy remains fundamentally sound.

Despite all of the attention given to the economic slowdown, the overall U.S. economy remains fundamentally sound. Its just running a bit slower than it has been in recent years, which should give us all time to take a breather and get our businesses in order.

The big question thats floating around these days is when the market is going to rebound. I get asked that at least several times a day, and by people who should know the answer far better than me, which means no one has any definitive answers. But from all of the information Ive gleaned from interviews and from watching financial data from this country and around the globe, the general consensus is that sales should begin picking up again in the second half of this year. That, of course, is barring any major disasters, and includes another interest rate cut by the fed and President Bushs proposed tax cut.

One of the basic weaknesses in this economy hasnt had anything to do with this economy at all. For the past two decades, the U.S. government has been pushing globalization so that markets extend well beyond this countrys borders. And while thats a good thing in the long run, it doesnt always work out as planned.

Asia remains in tatters, despite occasional blips, and Latin America isnt far behind. Even Europe has been slow to rebound, but it has grown in the past year. That should help spur sales for U.S. companies that do business internationally. In the e-commerce world, that includes just about everyone with a Web site.

Another weakness is the vacuum left by the dot-com meltdown, even though it came as no surprise to most people. Given the fact that its almost impossible to market effectively in an overcrowded field, its no wonder weve witnessed carnage on the Nasdaq. Still, put it in perspective—meaning an average of 20 percent sustainable growth over the past five years—and things dont look quite so ugly after all.

So how do you gauge when things will rebound? First, watch the manufacturing sector, because its an early indicator of consumer confidence. Companies dont want to get stuck with inventory on their shelves, which in turn affects manufacturing output. When factories begin humming again, you can bet the overall market will do well.

Second, and related to that, people have to start thinking positively again. That is where you can have an impact. Its up to you to bring your customers up to speed on what you know, while at the same time pushing efficiency measures and growth opportunities that will carry them through any economic downturn.

Just as politics essentially are local, so are economics. It takes lots of bricks to build an empire.