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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

Economics for Rummies

Filed under: Editorial, Personal

Hi Everyone!

First, I’d like to thank ASI managing editor Joan Chaykin for contributing to my blog with her coverage from the AdvantagesRoadshow through Southern California two weeks ago. It was a smart move for the Powers That Be here at ASI to send Joan instead of me — Tijuana is dangerously close to San Diego (one of the show’s stops) and the potential for mayhem involved with me crossing the border into the Tequila hot zone causes the phrase “International Incident” to leap to mind.  

Second, I’m sure you — like me — have been riveted by the daily “breaking news” stories about the economic crisis. The difference is, you probably understand it better than I do, as the depth of what I know about finance could fit into a shot glass. Math (and, by default, economics and finance) was never my strong suit. When I took the college SATs, my verbal scores were off the charts; by contrast, my math scores were so bad that my high school guidance counselor called my mother, Judge Judye (she doesn’t wear a robe or have a gavel, but she is judgemental… ; ) ), expressing concern that I was mentally deficient.

Consequently, when circumstances like the housing debacle, the stock market’s recent nausea-inducing wild ride (“Wall Street’s worst week ever,” financial analysts wailed) and the credit crunch happen in unison, I get that it’s the biggest financial nightmare scenario of our time. What I don’t often get is the whys, the hows, and what it means for consumers and businesses. But thank God, like FDR, I have my own brain trust of industry finance wonks who patiently guide me through the mire. Michael Bernstein, Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America’s CEO, is the Annie Sullivan to my Helen Keller when it comes to economics; Jonathan Isaacson, owner of Counselor Top 40 supplier Gemline, has been taking my daily calls, helping me understand the continuously shifting financial landscape in a way that I get (“If Congress doesn’t sign the bailout plan, Michele, head to the nearest bunker and stock up on your Grey Goose because it’s going to get ugly…”); and Craig Nadel, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Jack Nadel Int’l., who reads Warren Buffet’s shareholder report just for fun and used to schedule his vacations so he could attend Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meetings in Omaha. Craig definitely has a man-crush on Warren Buffet… (“But did you read the shareholder report I sent you?,” he’ll ask me. “He’s so funny and gosh, just smart as a whip!”). Between the three of them, it’s like having my own elite advisory board to the Fed.

Michael, Jonathan and Craig all share the same outlook for the economy and the ad specialty industry: If your company’s sales are flat right now, then you’re doing pretty damn good. The fourth quarter is going to be tough, and next year is going to be a rough ride for both the economy and the industry. The National Small Business Association reports that 67% of small-business owners surveyed in August said they’ve been impacted by the credit crunch, and 63% said they’ve been hit by worsening credit card terms. In the upcoming November issue of Counselor, my colleague Andy Cohen (he’s our in-house go-to guy for all financial issues and knows his stuff), the magazine’s editor, tackles these topics in a feature article that offers options, strategies and some surprisingly optimistic views from a few of the industry’s best and brightest on how to shore up your business. Andy also points to some positive economic indicators that show there are areas where things may be looking up.   

Jonathan Isaacson, during one of his tutorials with me last week, made a great observation: “Relief isn’t going to come quickly,” he said. “It took a while for us to get here, and it will take a while for us to get out. However, I’m assuming this economic crisis will end at some point. So while I do think it’s likely we will be in a recession, companies may decide to market their way out of it to get new business and increase sales. This industry would benefit from that and be up again. Once companies feel comfortable that there is an end in sight, the situation will ease and spending will increase.”

For me, I agree with Jonathan’s assessment — it’ll be rough, but we’ll get through it — and will continue to have a glass-half-full outlook. Possibly because the glass is always half-full of vodka.

More later this week!


— Michele

PS: Thanks to all of you who offered names for my two kittens — your suggestions were funny, fabulous and just cracked me up. The kittens are no longer nameless: The male is “Monkey” and the female is “Mouse” (she’s really tiny and she squeaks instead of meowing!). I did notice and appreciate, however, the preponderance of suggestions that I name them after brands of liquor and shoes… ; )   


  1. Joey B. Good Says:

    Were you drinking vodka while you wrote this? It makes me feel so confident in ASI to know they have a complete moron like Michele (i’m so dumb I forgot the other “l” in Michele) Bell working for them. All your blog basically is you saying how stupid you are. And is that picture 10 years old?

    Monday October 13, 2008
  2. Michele Bell Says:

    That’s why Andy Cohen handles the financial articles… And yes, the photo is closer to 12 years old — clearly I need a new one.
    — M

    Monday October 13, 2008
  3. Tom Craig Says:

    Hey Joey B. Lighten up will ya!

    Tuesday October 14, 2008
  4. Vinnie Says:


    You better watch your mouth Joey or I’m gonna flatten it permanently.

    Be nice to Michele.

    Tuesday October 21, 2008
  5. Ms. Manners Says:

    In todays “dog eat dog” world, it never seems acceptable when someone (God forbid a woman) actually admits they are not up to speed on global affairs. What are we back in the 50’s when women should just stay barefoot and pregnant? In fact, it shows intelligence when you are so confident about your expertise that it doesn’t bother you to kindly admit that! My hat is off to ya sister! I’ll read your blog anyday!

    Friday October 24, 2008

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