February 11th, 2020 - Beth

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Happy New Year! Well let’s hope so anyway.

The Christmas and New Year downtime has allowed me to ponder on the trials and tribulations of the past four and a half years (if we include the campaigning towards the referendum). And I believe that in broad terms the behaviour of many of us with an opinion (and who didn’t have an opinion?) can be summarised by the psychological condition known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Allow me to explain.

The Dunning-Kruger effect is what is known as a form of cognitive bias (a systematic error in thinking that effects the judgements that we make) in which people believe that they are cleverer and more talented than they actually are. In other words, these are often people with low ability that simply do not have the intelligence or skills to recognise their own incompetence. And no, I am not making this up.

In fact, pre-empting the formal recognition of this condition some 2,600 years later, Socrates said that ‘The only true wisdom is knowing when you know nothing’, at which point you might well be pointing the metaphorical finger at yours truly…

However, returning to Messrs Dunning and Kruger, the effect that they identified is related to people overestimating their own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other people.

And for now, that provides a perfect summary for some of the utter rubbish that we have all heard spouted – maybe even uttered ourselves – during the past four and half years.

No doubt.

After the early Christmas present of the General Election I was left with an overwhelming feeling of hope and, actually, relief. The landslide victory of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, has now put paid to any doubts about the result of the referendum, fully and finally, right?

It would seem not. Prime Minister Johnson’s insistence that we need to enshrine a leaving date in law, whatever the state of negotiations, is not going down well as I write, with the naysayers all dusting down their old hymn sheets and singing the same old dirges that we have become so used to.

Teresa May proved how woeful she was at negotiating and my reader will know, most likely being in businesses for him or herself, that successful negotiations always require a number of key elements. But of these, the most important is to have a point that your opponents know you will not go beyond, that is quite simply, non negotiable. And putting a very clear line in the sand – the date by which we will leave – will sharpen up the negotiations no end. Neither side wants no deal: having this clear benchmark will get it done.

And now for the mad rush to buy our windows and doors….

Well maybe not. Through our retail installer customers as well as our own little retail operation in Chelmsford, business has been patchy for too long now. Yes of course, we have kept our heads above water and where a few of our customers have struggled, they have been offset by others sharpening up their acts. But the net result is flat sales, something confirmed by recent reports from FENSA, which reports 2019 registrations pretty much on par with the previous 12 months.

There has been optimism that pent up sales will be released and that we may enjoy a boom but my belief is that business will pick up indeed, but with sales growing steadily, surely a better scenario; with a reasonable increase in enquiries and conversions our factory and suppliers will be able to assess and plan for growth. A surge in sales will simply result in stretched delivery and installation schedules and disappointed customers.

We need stability now, with an end to the unpredictable sales that prevent any business from planning ahead, the results of which disrupt financial control, price negotiations and agreements and in turn, investment at every level. In fact so long now has this unpredictability gone on for many businesses it has become the norm. We will have to refresh many budgeting and basic strategic planning skills.

I wonder also if the increasing emphasis, rising to near panic in some quarters, on climate change, might have a positive effect on our industry? Although an argument that is repeated pretty much with every new Government, but which fails repeatedly to receive any purchase, is for tax incentives or subsidies to encourage people to improve their homes. The obvious of these of course is a reduction in VAT, the argument that the additional sales incentivised will more than make up the difference in a cut to 10% or even 5% in VAT.

As we move into the Roaring Twenties it makes more sense than ever to encourage us all to improve our homes not just for appearances and convenience, but for energy performance too. The increasing emphasis on electric cars is providing a powerful stimulus towards green thinking amongst consumers. Let’s hope that will be extended to our homes during the next few years.

Although astonishingly we still don’t know how Part L of the Building Regs affecting home improvements will be affected this April, we can but hope for a tightening up of U values for replacement windows and perhaps even doors, to provide another welcome stimulus, albeit some way down the road if it happens at all.

All in all however, I am optimistic for 2020: And what is good for you will also be good for me, so I wish you, both of my readers, a healthy, wealthy and positive new year.



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