This article originally appeared in TMA Midwest Blog

April 12, 2012

By David Johnson, ACM Partners

In a crisis situation there is frequently nothing more earnestly desired than a return to normalcy.  This inclination is natural and can often be productive, but in turnaround situations it can be a strong impediment to lasting change.  There are times when the cause of under-performance, whether company specific or industry-wide, is a fundamental change in the status quo.  When this is the case, human nature, in the guise of a strong desire for a return to normalcy, works at cross-purposes to a successful turnaround that recognizes fundamental changes and adjusts to them.

In the wake of a severe recession in 2008-9, there is a strong case to be made that our relationship to housing has changed fundamentally.  If this is the case, the implications for under-performing companies across several industries and the turnaround professionals who assist them are profound.

Economic commentator Charles Hughes Smith makes a compelling argument on Business Insider that a housing market recovery is not just around the metaphorical corner, but instead may be delayed by decades.  Smith touches on a number of compelling points:

  • Demographic trends
  • Labor’s declining share of GDP
  • Declining income for younger workers
  • Long-term decline in household formation

To me, the most fascinating aspect of Smith’s article is the change that it implies.  If we are entering a phase in which our love affair with housing as some type of magical investment is over, the impact would be substantial.  A new normal in housing would be a wrenching change for many industries and would cause considerable cognitive dissonance in companies forced into distress by the change.  Only time will tell if Smith is correct in his assessment, but it certainly deserves attention.