People notice bad news. Stories about plant closures, layoffs and bankruptcies tend to stick in your head. Maybe that's because the headlines seem so urgent. Or perhaps people are more likely to read stories about somebody else's misfortune.
Don't feel guilty: It's human nature. Drivers tend to slow down and look at the car that's stuck in a ditch, or in the middle of being pulled over by a state trooper.
The plastics industry has had more than its share of bad news during the past few months. But we've had good news, too.
Last week, we had stories about expansions at packaging giant Berry Plastics Corp. and at flooring company Allied Cos. LLC. The week before, we had similar stories about injection molder Steinwall Inc. and blow molder Cortland Plastics International LLC.
Clearly we're writing stories about processors that are investing in new equipment. Sure, there's less spending than nine or 10 years ago. But many of our readers are still doing pretty well.
I'm not writing this to apologize for publishing bad news. Company managers need to know what's happening to their competitors, suppliers and customers. They also need to know what strategies others are using to get through the recession.
So I encourage you to notice the positive stories. There's often something that others can learn from successful firms. Don't miss it.
Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money" program, on Jan. 27 put Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical Co. on the show's Wall of Shame. Cramer said Liveris may be the single-worst CEO to ever run a major company and where did he run it? Into the ground!
This strikes me as unfair. Cramer makes a good living yelling at his TV audience, which helps him stand out from the typical financial news program. I can't say I'm a big fan, but Cramer is entertaining. Liveris has been a somewhat regular guest on CNBC, and Cramer basically used the Dow CEO's words against him.
Cramer noted that Liveris offered too much for Philadelphia-based Rohm and Haas Co. He added that Liveris also pledged publicly to complete the deal, even if Dow's joint venture deal with Petrochemical Industries Co. of Kuwait fell through and on Dec. 8, Liveris promised CNBC viewers that Dow's dividend was safe.
Now the Rohm and Haas deal is on rocky ground, and Liveris on CNBC last week backed away from guaranteeing the dividend.
Did Liveris do a flip-flop? Obviously. He did a pretty poor job predicting the future, and executives need to learn from his mistake: If you're going to sell an asset and use the proceeds to buy something else, make sure you close before inking the next purchase.
Liveris is not denying the mistake; he's trying to explain the change in course. Circumstances change, and executives have to adapt. Better to preserve Dow (and Rohm and Haas) than keep a promise that no longer makes sense.
Loepp is managing editor of Plastics News and author of "The Plastics Blog."