This is definitely the longest CEO’s Perspective I’ve ever written. It’s not a soundbite! These are unique times and I hope you’ll spend five minutes with me for an overview of how we’re performing as a business, and to read some predictions of what I believe we can expect at AMP in the months ahead.
These are, first, tough times. We’re running a lean business right now. For everyone looking forward to getting back to work and to everyone working exceptionally hard right now alongside me, let me say that I wish things were easier. I wish things were normal. One thing I do not wish is that I were a CEO at any other media company, because we are frankly going to come through this period in far better shape than every other media company I can think of.
I feel very confident that we will run in the entire second half of the year stronger, better, and eventually larger than we’ve ever been. I don’t expect the world to be exactly the same, and I know also that AMP won’t be exactly the same. We will though return to a more recognizable business environment over the next several weeks or months, and in that new normal, I am certain we will thrive. Three important truths stand out to me:
- In the months leading up to the pandemic, we were performing exceptionally.
- Right now, in the middle of the lock down period, we are executing the fundamental functions of the business very well. We’re lean, and we have to be lean in the current climate, and we’re performing well.
- We will come through the Coronavirus crisis in good shape. We are preparing even now to bounce back fast when the world opens back up for business.
We came into this period strong. We’re performing well now. Intrinsic factors unique to AMP favor us in significant ways as a more normal business environment returns. Let me say a few words on each of these three truths:
- We came into this period strong. Coming into March, we achieved year over year total sales increases seven out of the prior eight months. In January, our total sales were up 15% and they were up 13% in February. While we fell short of last year’s sales in March, we didn’t miss by much.
Coming into March, we had achieved total year over year OPTIMA™ sales increases eight out of the eight prior months, and in March, we extended that streak and notched our ninth consecutive month of year over year OPTIMA™ sales growth.
We also came into the Coronavirus period stronger per person, with sales per rep up five out of the six months before March. Then, in March, we actually managed to achieve that mark to make it six out of the past seven months.
Service to our clients has never been stronger, reflected in the highest renewal rates we’ve ever achieved. These are exactly the ways you want to be performing as a business before an unanticipated crisis begins to burn through the country.
- We’re performing well right now, in the middle of the quarantine period. Late March and the first half of April have been tough. Many very good people are on the sidelines waiting for the office and the sales field to open back up. Those of us who are working are working very hard.
It is easy in a crisis to lose your way, to throw up your hands, to collapse to mediocre results or to fail to recognize all the things that DO remain in your control. I’ve been saying for five weeks that we’d control every factor that we could control, and take every step that we can take to steer through this, bring people back to work, and emerge stronger at a certain point. We are doing it.
- We’re poised to come back strong, and quickly, as the world begins to reopen. We have a history of thriving in recessionary economic times. We grew 42% in 2002 in the months following the post September 11, 2001 economic meltdown. In 2008 and 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, we launched 60 separate new markets.
No doubt that times are tough! But as a company, AMP is built for times like this. Our business model fits a recessionary period better than any business model in the media industry. Why is that?
We sell directive “Moment of Truth” marketing. We sell the last items seen after a consumer decides they’re going to buy something, but before a consumer selects a particular business to buy from.
We’re economically diversified. We sell to new car dealers, but also used car dealers. We sell to new home builders and also to home repair companies. People aren’t going to stop having their hair cut, their cars repaired, their landscaping done. People will need attorneys to settle wills and file divorces; accountants to file taxes, dentists to fill cavities. Some sectors of the economy will continue as though nothing has changed, some will be hard hit, and others will thrive.
We sell our advertising solutions at the lowest rates in the entire industry. We’re a low dollar, high volume advertising sales organization built for selling Main Street America – the butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.
To recap: We came into this period strong. We are performing well as a business right now. We are taking every step to control those circumstances that we can, while we wait for the world to open up. When it does, the unique characteristics of our business model will position AMP for a great second half of the year. I recognize that none of this is inevitable and that ALL of it derives from and depends upon the good character of everyone working today and everyone waiting to get back to work.
I’m looking forward to a gradual return to normalcy! I’m looking forward to not be cooped up all day long above my garage, to seeing the people I work with in person. I can’t wait to get all of our pent up talent off the sidelines and I feel a huge sense of urgency around that.