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Mirror, signal, manoeuvre

It’s been a week of contrasting indicators, again. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research  (NIESRC) says it could be five years before the economy gets back to where it was before things went so spectacularly wrong. Yet at the same time Land Securities, one of the UK’s leading developers, are completing the first debt-raising exercise securitised by a long term future revenue stream (based on the tenant being a major public sector organisation) since the beginning of this recession – and if that’s not a green shoot, I’m a gerbil.

So what are we to make of these two pieces of news, poles apart as they are in the optimism they might engender? Is the recession over, or do we have another five years hard labour?

Of course the answer is that both may be true. The problem with indicators is that they may be wrong. Just as you can’t assume that the Allegro heading towards you flashing left is actually going to turn off, you can’t assume that the conditions which allow Land Securities and their lenders to feel positive about the world can apply to you.

The flipside of this is that it might not be as bad as the doom-mongers at the NIESRC would have us believe. Well, not for all of us anyway. So that’s handy.

Let’s get back to that Allegro – the indicator flashing says it’s turning off, so you can pull out, right? But before you do, you look at the speed – is it slowing down? And you even check out the driver – do they look like they’re turning off, or just driving absent-mindedly with the indicators left on from a previous manoeuvre?  When your life is on the line, you don’t trust the one thing to tell you what’s safe, and what isn’t.

It’s the same in business – one indicator doesn’t make a summer, they might say. You need to take a look around at a selection of things that all build up in your head a picture of what might happen. Find yourself half a dozen bellwethers to use to set your sights on how the economy might work for your unique organisation. Remember the combination of oracles you consult will likely be different to those trusted by any other business – they’ll be as unique as you. Just because LandSec are doing well, doesn’t mean you will be.

Ross Sturley is Principal of Chart Lane (, a strategic marketing and communications consultancy, and generally doesn’t believe cars that are indicating, especially not Allegros, and definitely not those driven by men wearing trilbies. He is a committee member for the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG –, whose next event – Marketing to Architects – could be quite fun for any product manufacturers looking to gain an edge in the specification zone.

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