The Great Prognosticator

Several years ago, I wrote a column for an online sports magazine under the pen name “The Great Prognosticator.” Prog, as he was called, predicted what was going to happen with baseball, football and basketball games, as well as potential organizational and player moves.

The column was essentially tongue-in-cheek, fact-based sports fiction, but the idea was that my character was never wrong. Ever.

Each January, Smart Business publishes its “Companies to Watch” feature, pointing out which firms around Northeast Ohio are worth keeping an eye on and why. Last year, we listed 22 companies.

So how did we do? Well, we weren’t perfect, like Prog, but we weren’t terrible, either.

We correctly predicted a strong year for Jo-Ann Stores, saying that CEO Alan Rosskamm’s perseverance with regard to integrating a new SAP software system was a driving factor behind the company’s 2002 resurgence. As predicted, sales increases continued during 2003, and Jo-Ann’s stock price followed suit.

We also saw good things for RPM Inc. under young CEO Frank Sullivan. The Medina company continued its impressive growth, posting 2003 sales that were 5 percent greater than in 2002.

On the other hand, our assessment of Viztec Inc. couldn’t have been more wrong. We looked at the company’s 2002 successes — strong technology, a $1 million state grant and new leadership — and believed those would translate into “the breakout year for Viztec.” Shortly after making that statement — in fact, the same month our prediction ran in Smart Business — the company failed to land another round of financing and threw in the towel, putting its assets up for sale.

And who could have guessed that Wal-Mart’s “2002 Carrier of the Year,” Roadway Corp., would be acquired by its competitor, Yellow Corp., just when its business was benefiting from competitors that had gone out of business?

Or that a National Do Not Call Registry would be implemented, putting up obstacles for InfoCision Management‘s surging expansion?

Certainly not us. We didn’t think to predict those kinds of business events.

This year, we have a different bent on our list. We recruited several regional experts to give us their ideas.

We hope you enjoy it, and next year at this time, we’ll look back and tell you how accurate our “experts” predictions were.