When I was younger and more aware about how business operated, sometime last month, I thought that business was conducted solely to provide quality products to a loyal group of enthusiastic customers, allowing them to do all kinds of good and productive things.
That might still be part of it, but at the risk of going completely over to the dark side, if doing all those marvelous and fulfilling things doesn't equal profits, cash flow or in a word, money, it's not going to be around very long.
Money's not everything, but it's a pretty good way of keeping score.
Even in an industry that's dealing with emissions, changing definitions of globalization, and product developments that are stunning if not revolutionary, the balance sheet or the P/L statement are always in the room, if not sitting at the head of the table.
Even the most remarkable engineering in the world will never see the light of day if it doesn't make money for someone.
So, in many ways, this month's issue is all about money, engineering and new products. In a sense, every issue is that way, this one is just more obvious.
Cat isn't building a new engine operations in China because it expects to lose money. DDC/MTU didn't upgrade the 4000 Series because it wants lower market share. Grove's new crane or Liebherr's new haul truck aren't being introduced just for the heck of it.
It all comes back to money.
To start, this is our annual Forecast issue. Some of the brightest minds that follow these markets weigh in on how they see 2008 shaping up.
We probably should call this Forecast v1.0. Frankly, a lot of prognosticators just aren't sure right now. No one is fully in the doom and gloom camp, but they are unsure. In fact, it was interesting to see the difference in tone as we received the forecasts. The ones we got first were clearly more optimistic than the last forecasts we received. Things can change in a hurry.
As a result, we're going to let these same bright minds have at least half a mulligan and update their forecasts in our December issue. It's that kind of year.
The financial world hates uncertainty more than just about anything. If the market's going up or going down, they can figure out how to play it. If they're not sure, that's when the holders of purse strings get anxious, nervous and maybe a little weird.
And since we're talking about money, one of the common targets of people in industry are financial analysts. In fact, for years I thought they were officially known as Those Damn Analysts.
I guess if you announce an all-time high in quarterly revenues and your stock gets hammered for the next four days, you're certainly confused and probably not having warm and fuzzy thoughts about Wall Street.
As such, for the latest installment of our Diesel X series, we sat down with Bear Stearns' Ann Duignan, who watches these markets for the New York financial giant.
Her comments on the markets, how analysts work, and why they do some of the things they do, may provide at least a glimpse of how the financial world thinks.
Because like it or not, in business at least, it usually comes down to one simple question: "you making any money?"