I had a great evening at the most recent Atlanta CEO Council executive reception. There were about 130 people there, many of them long-time friends and business acquaintances, and it’s always refreshing to get together for informal discussions with these folks – especially in as nice a setting the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.
Driving home, it struck me that there had been an intriguing thread in many of the conversations. Most of them started with the old, “How’s business, how are you doing,” and most immediate responses were along the lines of, “We’re doing great, business is good.”
In many cases, that eventually turned to something like, “What worries me is 2014” and, “Do you think this might be another bubble?”
What’s intriguing is that people didn’t so much speculate that we’re in another bubble as express concern that it might be possible. I think everyone realizes that current economic times are very different from the bubbles of the past, when we saw houses selling for increasingly shocking prices and, before that, startup companies with no revenue receiving shockingly high valuations.
Still, the question about whether we might be in a bubble came up more than a handful of times. The more I think about it, that kind of questioning is both natural and healthy, given recent business history.
It’s natural because we endured a long recession in which flat was the new growth. That’s a years-long, sobering reality that likely sparked fiscal conservatism and put a damper on tendencies toward go-for-it euphoria.
I also think leeriness about bubbles is healthy, because money today is tending to go toward demonstrably good ideas and much-needed B2B infrastructure. Investment capital that once chased duplicative telecommunications infrastructure that proved to be unnecessary is now directed toward beneficial cloud breakthroughs.
I personally think we’re now in a period of sustained growth that’s grounded in reality, and that it was happening last year, is continuing all of this year, and should continue for the foreseeable future. I also think that the long recession made us more cautious than optimistic. Good for us. Bubbles are the product of incaution.
I also expect that by next year’s Atlanta CEO Council executive reception, we’ll start to see people becoming a little more confident, perhaps even aggressive. Let’s hope it’s not to such a degree that weactually do risk initiating another bubble.
Peter Baron is founder and CEO of Carabiner Communications. For more insight, visit his blog at The Connector.