In the United States we have a peculiar method by which it is determined whether or not we are to be faced with six more weeks of winter. On February 2nd, with great fanfare and anticipation, a furry creature known as a groundhog that bears the name of the town he lives, is rather rudely awakened from his slumber and exposed to the elements. Whether or not Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow determines if we are in for more gloomy weather or an early spring. This year Phil saw his shadow and thus winter will retain its grip for another six weeks in North America. (Humor us and put aside the fact that the official arrival of spring in the Western Hemisphere per the calendar more or less coincides with that time table.)
Well, I awoke on the morning of the 2nd and did not see my shadow. The fact that it was cloudy in Houston did not influence my thoughts, but I took that as a good omen overall. In any case I told myself it was nice to have reinforcement that perhaps what I felt through the fourth quarter of last year and the month of January could mean the business aviation industry has turned a corner. Regardless the means by which I arrived at this conclusion lacked any sort of scientific support. Hey if Phil can be 100% right about the weather I can go with a gut feeling. Now I haven’t been in a deep slumber, I’m not coming early (or late as the pundits will put it) to a party and nor am I expecting my thoughts to be received with great fanfare. What I have been doing is replaying in my mind what my financial advisor said to me in 2009 and that is from October/2008 forward we were looking at a seven year recovery plan. Couple that with the fact that most of my peers and I are experiencing a steady stream of qualified inquiries, even if they are not resulting in sales, and the business starts to feel more promising.
I note a definite change in the approach that a prospect for one of our airplanes takes. Gone is the immediate cut to the chase of “what is your price” and a then a total lack of interest in what drives the price. Prospects are back to asking the right questions, are open to hearing you tell them about the product and willingly conducting a dialog as part of their fact finding mission. If the airplane proves to be out of their price range, they tell you so and both sides come away from the conversation without feeling one or the other is lacking. I appreciate that a buyer has a budget, but also just because the buyer has one does not mean they are going to set the new cap for the make/model of airplane in question. With the exception of a few Latin American inquiries and some aircraft brokers who still think that ridicule is a useful skill set, most do not take the tactic of immediately criticizing the asking price as a means by which to negotiate. That’s huge.
So while Punxsutawney Phil is going to sleep on, the rest of us should pay attention to other indicators of a change in climate. A robin came a calling at the bird feeder outside my window today and I had no less than three serious conversations this past week regarding aircraft acquisitions. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, both are sure signs of an early spring.