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Editor's Desk - June 2012

Half-Empty? Or Half-Full?

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

—Winston Churchill  

So, which are you? Would you call yourself an optimist—with eyes on a glass that is always half full? Or are you a pessimist? Is your glass half-empty?

Are you sure about that?

I ask this question because in this sixth year of putting together the State of the Industry Report, I noticed a perennial trend that I find fascinating. In the earliest couple of years of research and analysis, most of the respondents were generally quite positive. That positivity came through in results that showed readers expecting everything to go up, up and up.

Then the recession hit, and much of that positivity sunk under the weight of budgets stretched to their utmost limits—both for publically funded and privately funded facilities.

But over time, I've noticed an interesting disconnect between what I will call quantitative optimism and qualitative pessimism. What does that mean? In the quantitative portions of the Industry Survey—the hard numbers that reveal trends in operating budgets, memberships, revenues and more—there is almost always a tendency to project a much more positive future. On the other hand, in the qualitative portion—where respondents can fill in their thoughts on challenges they are facing—there is a great deal of pessimism.

Part of this is due to the nature of the qualitative question. We are asking respondents to talk about their biggest challenges, after all. But overwhelmingly, these challenges are driven by concerns about financial issues, and if you look at the projections for most portions of the industry, you'll see that things might not be so bad as you think.

(There are exceptions to this rule. Schools and school districts, for example, have a right to their pessimism, as evidence from that industry shows they are still battling up from the depths of the recession's negative impact.)

So, which are you? Are things as bad as they can get? As good as they can get? Getting better all the time? And if you're not sure, try putting some hard numbers on your future expectations. You might just be surprised by how good things are going to get.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
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