For many of us, this single year has felt like an entire decade.
Even though much of the world began to regain (albeit shakily) its footing, we all continue to experience the lasting, and compounding affects of the pandemic. Decidedly, we have pushed on in an effort to keep the world moving—together—at a time when we have never been more interdependent.
There is much to worry about. There is much to celebrate. There are still many unknowns.
This month, I had the honor of keynoting at SEMICON West, one of the largest industry conferences even prior to the pandemic era. On stage, speaking to hundreds of manufacturers in and around the semiconductor ecosystem (one that touches everything from automobiles to pacemakers and toothbrushes), I focused on those unknowns—how not just risk (but also resilience) is tied to true transparency and collaboration between business partners. Key to financial health, both risk and resilience aren’t the only ever-increasingly deep grey areas around the world.
While last year’s predictions fit neatly into categorized thematic boxes—the below encompass a wide range of ideas and prognostications that reflect the general “blending” many of us have felt throughout 2021: the financial health of suppliers and buyers, product design and impact investing, work lives and personal lives, geopolitical uncertainty and popular culture, food deliveries to the International Space Station and empty fridges.
Among them all, one thing is certain—supply chains run through everything.
Beyond the connective tissue of global commerce, they represent (both in theory and practice) the success of societies and families as we find our individual and collective way in the pandemic era.
How companies manage their supply chain risk now directly effects each of us.
Here are 22 (plus a few more) team members’ thoughts ahead of 2022, after (another) year unlike any other.
Brendan Mironov (Senior Associate, Data Analysis)
Supply chain shortages, delays, and strains will continue to be rampant in 2022. Industries across the world, from computer chip manufacturers to mom-and-pop bagel shops in New York City, continue to feel the shocks of labor shortage, global trade volatility, and record-breaking shipping demand. In 2022, I predict that a strengthened supply chain will set industry leaders and laggards apart.
Jack Bertolini (Senior Client Support Associate)
I think while supply shortages and increased inflation will put a lot of financial stress on companies, the labor market will continue to add complications. With CPI/Inflation at record levels, companies will have to pay higher wages to their existing employees, so they don’t look for other options. We may see higher turnover rates and increased labor costs, which can lead to more bankruptcies, supply delays, or disruptions. Transparency with your counterparties is key!
Tessa York (Integrated Marketing Coordinator)
In 2022, I predict that the “second wave” of pandemic-induced financial ruin will result in a sharp increase in companies filing for bankruptcies. The debt can that had been kicked down the road via government subsidies and payouts will no longer keep companies with poor financial health afloat. Additionally, the delayed goods/products that are being held in bottlenecks throughout the global supply chain will finally reach their destinations and be able to be sold. At this point, however, demand will have decreased as holidays pass and pre-ordered presents are foregone and shoppers are forced to shop at brick-and-mortar stores for timely gifts. Inventory levels will then increase and the perceived accounts receivables will not materialize—further compounding follow-on effects.
Brad Saegesser (Senior Solutions Specialist)
Interplanetary supply chains take off in 2022 with SpaceX launching the first robotic cargo flight to Mars.
Eamonn Mannion (Network Outreach Supervisor)
Many companies spent 2021 recovering. As we continue to see the impacts of COVID, and as The FHR Exchange continues to evolve in 2022, I predict that we will see more and more suppliers discover and join The Exchange on their own as they begin to see the value in transparency and understanding their own financial health. Not only will they benefit from this, but their clients will too.
Will Powell (Strategic Client Success Manager)
Human Rights protests at the Winter Olympics in China and World Cup in Qatar will heighten global tensions in the East and Middle East. This will pressure western companies to seek alternative supply chain partners.
Increased adoption of remote work and continued demand for Information Security is going to come to a head. A remote employee working for a prominent origination will be hacked, triggering a panic. New resources for better remote collaboration, security, and socializing will be developed.
There will be a new social media platform for avatars called Pandora, triggering a massive legal battle with the music streamer.
Ostap Nalysnyk (Network Outreach Associate)
My prediction for 2022 is that there will be a surge of suppliers expressing interest in becoming members of the FHRX as they will want to proactively know their financial health before their clients even request it.
Jaimie Anzelone (Head of Marketing)
We will see companies place an increased focus on the upskilling and reskilling of workers to improve supply chain resiliency and risk management. As supply chains become more complex and management strategies more advanced, skill requirements are rapidly changing, emphasizing labor shortages. With the demand to attract and retain supply chain talent at an all time high, there will be a significant need and investment for training professionals at all levels, from entry-level to executives, to build a more resilient future.
Will Peabody (Account Executive)
Supply chain is now a buzz topic the common business-minded person knows. As such, it will be leveraged in marketing and sales collateral by brands to win business. It’s not just their tech is better or performance is stronger, but that they can out-deliver their competition and meet their customer’s expectations. Previously the consumer didn’t even know this variable was out there, now a more educated consumer will come to expect quick, accurate delivery. I expect to see a lot of commercials mentioning not just how great the offering is—but an increased emphasis on how accessible the benefits are to the consumer.
In pop culture, in an unprecedented series of events, Pete Davidson starts dating Megan Fox, sending Machine Gun Kelly into a deep songwriting frenzy that ultimately ends up with him winning multiple Grammy Awards.
Everett Weston (Account Executive)
I predict that bankruptcies will increase significantly next year as companies will be impacted more limited lending and reduced purchasing power due to inflation and shortages of critical parts.
Brad Silberberg (Director, Network Sales)
In 2022, technology in supply chain will be big. I predict further worker shortages will prompt supply chain organizations to prioritize adding automation and artificial intelligence to their process which will result in productivity improvements throughout the year. I also think you’ll see more supply chain organizations adopt cloud storage to avoid cyber-attacks and other threats.
Kay Prince (Marketing Manager)
In 2022, I believe that more companies will have to create a dynamic and agile digital marketing approach to handle more supply chain disruptions in a handful of industries. Suppliers and distributors will have a closer relationship creating a gap in each of their marketing departments. Marketing roles will have to continue to evolve to target their main accounts, keep top of mind, and show solutions to their pain points. This will create a higher ad spend and higher need to be seen over their competitors. Companies are going to have to adapt and change their marketing approach in 2022.
Ari Goldstein (Account Executive)
With the limitations of the “Just-in-time” approach to supply chain becoming increasingly apparent over the past couple of years, supply chain teams are looking to additional supply chain management philosophies for inspiration.
In 2022 and beyond, we will see a rise of iterative “Agile Supply Chains” borrowing from the Agile methodology of product management. This solution-focused approach—to the challenges that arise in the complex, interdependent networks that global brands are reliant on—will help reduce the delays and downtime that has plagued our supply chains in 2021.
Justin Labelle (Managing Director, Head of Client Delivery & Operations)
Between the unknowns of COVID and various perspectives and policies on where and how people work within companies, 2022 will bring additional innovation in employee engagement and people operations. There is significant technological opportunity for improvements to communication, health and wellness, and safety and compliance to name a few.
Douglas Cameron (President & Co-Head of Product)
COVID will continue to be a persistent problem and inflation will continue in 2022; the spread of COVID will adversely affect global economies in 2022 as immunity wanes and new variants evade the current vaccines.
With supply chains stretched to their limits, the world’s governments cannot play the card of maintaining economic growth using stimulus that encourages consumer spending on goods. Instead, central banks would have to choke off spending with higher interest rates to avoid excessive inflation.
Putin will take advantage of COVID/supply chain/inflation issues to expand his control over Ukraine; Trump will take advantage of COVID/supply chain/inflation issues to assert his candidacy for President.
Tim Wilks (Account Director)
I feel a key factor next year and beyond will be the US / China decoupling. This won’t be a complete decouple (compare this to the US / Soviet Union relationship during the Cold War, with virtually no commercial contact between the two blocs) but will be a wind down. This will result in significant onshoring and global supply chain redesign. With change comes risk, which is the business we’re in.
Patrick Bolchoz (Account Executive)
If US consumers continue the trend of purchasing more goods and less services, and the economic climate continues to be strong, I see companies continuing to struggle to maintain enough inventory to meet consumer demand–well into 2022. With ~80% of the global supply chain being represented by private companies, the looming tightening of global credit will challenge larger corporations to collaborate more closely with their supplier network to ensure viability, and we will see new standards of transparency evolve.
Philip Murray (Senior Vice President of Product & Design)
Companies will transition additional parts of their supply chain away from just-in-time delivery models to just-in-case models, but as they increase their stocks to build resilience, the result will be further short- to medium-term shortages for certain consumer goods.
More and more e-commerce firms—and the transportation services they employ—will turn to drones and autonomous vehicles in the effort to reduce labour and congestion issues that adversely affect delivery times.
Meanwhile, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) will become even more of a priority for businesses, investors and consumers as a factor in their decisions about where to invest their money.
Pete Tantillo (Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer)
CFOs will continue to be wary of impacts of “pandemic weariness” as new variants come and go, and the supply chain remains unsettled. They must be smarter about how they allocate capital and fund areas of highest return–restoring damaged company reputation and confidence will be paramount (example: an auto industry that clearly lost confidence by the public leading to a vertically-integrated supply chain to distribution to dealer to consumer mess).
Consumers are tired of hearing about “chip shortages” and other pandemic issues hitting supply chain and will start viewing that as an excuse to a problem. Resilient companies must depend on RapidRatings to shore-up their risk of supplier non-performance, lack of business continuity and other third-party issues.
Most people will continue to be startled by eventual tightening of credit as a reprieve was granted in the market in 2020-21 but will surely not persist–making only the most resilient companies stand out.
Paul Madonna (Network Outreach Associate)
In 2022, the oil & gas industry will take a heavy hit as governments, banks, and other financial institutions increase their investments in clean energy sources. A tap in the national reserve will bring gas prices down below $3 per gallon in the short term, but once it has passed, prices will soar right back up to $3 per gallon and higher as a result of the shift to more clean energy investments.
Maren Costello (Regional Head, People & Culture)
2020 and 2021 have changed the way we work forever.
The year 2022 will continue to be another year we will have to ride the waves of transformation. For the first time, we’ve got the potential for five different generations in the workplace at the same time since Gen Z are graduating and will be on the job hunt as we go into 2022. The multi-generational workforce now includes teams of traditionalists (born 1927-1946) to Generation Z (2001-2020). Working in this multi-generational workforce—we will need to direct our attention to finding work-life balance, keeping an open mindset, discussing topics that transcend generations and focusing on the things that bring us together.
Janet Ou (Client Success Manager)
This winter, people will be less willing to dine outdoors but are more likely to continue wearing their face masks because they really do keep you warm!
As more people return to work in the office, a market for pet therapists will be created to help pandemic pets cope with separation anxiety.
Nitin Walia (Chief Client Officer)
In 2022, I expect companies to reduce their focus on lean working capital and manufacturing strategies. They will, instead, expand the size of their supplier networks, plan for increased redundancy, and increase their inventory levels. The increased resilience that results from these strategies will ultimately benefit their customers.
Maxwell Gordon (Graphic & Web Design Manager)
Minimalism is dead. Print is alive and well. The 90s are back. Patterns will clash. The design rules you thought were untouchable are up in flames. Get ready to get uncomfortable.
It’s been a tense two years, and design is here to show it. Last year we saw a powerful revival of retro styles from the 90s, 80s, and beyond. Brands are no longer concerned with following the 2010s’ status quo of minimalist design, flat, simple colors, and familiar sans-serif typefaces. They’re here to make a statement and are bringing maximalism into their visual language. Less used to be more, but more is the new more: more realism, more textures, more typefaces, more colors, and more energy.
In 2022, designers won’t be trying to keep the viewer comfortable. We’re going to see a lot of clashing, charged elements—a design principle called tension. We’re already seeing this with brands like Spotify, where their recent “Spotify wrapped” caused a stir in the design world. Many are critical of the work’s legibility and “cleanliness,” saying a company like theirs can afford not to have “bad” design. But art and design don’t always exist to be easy, and that doesn’t make them bad. If an artist makes you feel anything, they’re successful. This new wave of design is here to challenge you.
Eric Evans (Managing Director, Business Development)
There will be continued emphasis on digitalization with a platform-to-platform approach to supplier risk management, leveraging APIs to operationalize Financial Health into your workflows.
All opinions expressed by our contributors are their own, personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect the views of RapidRatings as a company. All content is provided “as is” and “as available” without any guarantees as to the accuracy of the content. All content is owned by RapidRatings and therefore cannot be copied, distributed, or re-purposed without prior consent. If the content contains any forward-looking statements, actual developments of results could differ materially from those projected and content should not be taken as a substitute for a financial adviser or investor’s independent assessment or advice.
The world’s supply chains have never been more interdependent as they are today. And as a global pandemic continues to redefine modern commerce, one thing is certain—to have stronger suppliers, we need stronger relationships with suppliers. I spoke with Byron Carroll, President and Founder of Carroll Communications, Inc—a US-based, veteran-owned small business. By incorporating a data-based, objective assessment, his company has grown three-fold against a commercial environment like no other. That success has also brought myriad benefits to both downstream clients and upstream suppliers—for a more resilient chain and partnership ecosystem, overall. Carroll Communications—awarded a new Department of VA contract in Texas (for the Installation of new Access Control/Physical Security Card Readers)—has been using The FHR Exchange™ and their own Financial Health Rating to advance those partnerships across the globe. In fact, they’ve seen record growth and recognition since joining—launching a Spanish-language website for expanded demand in Central and South America, while also winning the Department of Defense’s FY 2020 Nunn-Perry Award for DMCA (recognizing excellence in the DOD Mentor Protégé Program).
Read our full conversation below.
To get started, tell us what Carroll Communications is all about.
We are a value-added reseller, primarily serving the United States federal government. Along with IT and communications, telecommunications, services and equipment, we take various components and turn them into solutions while using market research. We also do installations, and thread different companies’ capabilities together. In 2020, our main customer was the Department of Defense, followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs—then system integrators, as well as large prime contracting companies. And we’re quickly becoming an international company as well.
That’s great. And how many countries do you operate or do business in today?
Around eight different countries—the United States being the primary.
How has the last year been for you and for the trajectory of your company overall?Sure, so 2020 was definitely a challenging year, with a lot of indecision. And a lot of, just, the unknown. So we diverted our energy—by using our international network—to help our customers and several of our suppliers meet the unknown needs of the moment.
We also became a major supplier to the Veterans Health Administration (a division of the Department of Veterans Affairs)—the largest hospital system in the world. And actually, we had 3x growth in 2020, in addition to doubling our staff. All in the year of COVID.
So, we were able to grow and expand. And I would attest that to the fact that our feet weren’t stuck in concrete. We were able to move fast—adjusting to the challenges of the day.
And we definitely had several things working to our advantage—
One, we’re already a remote workforce. We do have our headquarters based here in southeastern North Carolina, and our corporate facility is here as well, but our teammates are around the country.
And as a smaller company, having not as many in-person events gave us a level playing field when it came to travel budgets. Since everybody is expected to be doing Zoom meetings, we didn’t have to really compete with the big guys (who have a much bigger budget for travel and for trade shows and things of that nature) because they weren’t happening.
I imagine that in order to be nimble and innovative in this environment, along with a distributed team—you really have to have a strong set of core values?
It’s in our DNA to be a solid partner: doing exactly what we say we’re going to do, being credible and a proven entity. And that’s one of the ways we’ve been able to integrate RapidRatings’ FHR Exchange, because we can say those great words, but it’s really awesome when you’ve got third-party individuals coming in and assessing that, so you can back up those words. And sure, Carroll Communications is a company that is extremely healthy, that is solvent. And our financial strength and health is definitely bedrock-stone to that.
We’re also a company composed of around 80% of veterans; we’re a veteran-owned company. We’re service focused first—business second. And, combined with a solid foundation of financial health and credibility, those are the kind of things that make up Carroll Communications and make us who we are.
What defines partnership, beyond transactional value, to you and your company? So many different things. But at the end of the day, just being the kind of person that I would want to do business with myself—you attract who you are.
And so I look at the partners, as I do my teammates (our staff): they’re investing their livelihoods, and they’re taking chances and risks for me just like I’m doing for them. We’ve got a commingled relationship.
Our suppliers as well. If they’re not supplying us great quality products for us, then when we’re really not going to be very strong.
Ultimately, our customers are trusting us. And all of this intermingled trust in partnership—to be able to achieve great things—is based on us doing what we say we’re going to do. And not just once or twice, but as an extended relationship for, you know, days to months and months to years of being a trustworthy company and group of individuals.
Not all companies have a Financial Health Rating that is as strong as yours, especially after the last year. How would you frame the assessment to your own upstream suppliers?
There are 3 years of history with RapidRatings. We don’t hide this at all because people deserve transparency when it comes to the nature of our business; and it’s something we’re able to offer. So, we put our FHR right on our website. We even put it into our proposals whenever we’re sending them out.
We actually look forward to getting our rating, because it’s just another opportunity to excel as Carroll Communications and a chance for us to get better and better.
And then we are also going into The FHR Exchange and looking at our suppliers, before we partner with them to see how they were assessed, and what’s their strength. It’s our starting point for any conversation. So, if they’re not as strong, what’s the impact? Is it going to be on the product quality? Is it going to be speed-to-market? Am I going to be waiting on my orders to get delivered? Where are they actually hurting?
These are the types of questions we need to ask—to build those honest, long-term relationships that benefit everyone.
Would you ever leverage your FHR with financial institutions or insurers? Oh, absolutely, we use it as part of our general documentation. I actually use our assessment before I send over financials, as a first step. Because it’s a third-party assessment, it kind of pulls in and alleviates some of the air out of the balloon for you know whether or not our financial stability is going to be worthy of them. Eventually, they’ll want to see our financials, of course, and while we’re generating those financials and getting those documents ready, we send over our RapidRatings report to them just to say “hey, we are going to be credit worthy”. So, it’s not only their opinion, but it’s their opinion and RapidRatings coming together to help them make their assessment. And so, we use it as a first strike. For our suppliers, too, and then we also ask them for their RapidRatings report at the same time.
We love to hear it. And you know, you’ve been so generous with your time today, is there anything that we didn’t cover that you’d like to add?
You know, presidents or leaders of small businesses may be feeling a little nervous about submitting their financials to a third-party company, like RapidRatings.
I can tell you: you don’t need to be nervous turning in your financials to them, they’re going to treat you with respect, they’re going to come back around and not only give you a score and give you a benchmark to work from and to improve, but also give you some tools to be able to use their network to protect your business, protect your company’s reputation, grow from that—while learning how their analytics and how their software comes up with a rating—so that you can be a stronger, healthier company.
I did delay for a while and I did have a lot of nervousness before submitting my information. It was unwarranted; I didn’t need it. I was extremely happy when I got the rating back. I actually wasted time not submitting our financials.
And then I can also just add some free advice for some of the large enterprise companies that are thinking about whether or not to partner with RapidRatings when it comes to helping their supply chain: do it. It makes a stronger supply chain. There’s so many places where you can mitigate risk by using RapidRatings and they’ve got several products that aren’t just simply monitoring of your key suppliers once or twice a year but throughout. So, I highly endorse RapidRatings. I highly endorse their team, that they have individuals, that are professionals. And they’re the best of the best. And this is a revolutionary product; you are pioneers in this industry.
How do you use your rating? So we do a lot with ours.
We really use it as a first strike to set ourselves up for success with a new customer. Because our customers are primarily helping us supply the US federal government, the supply chains we contribute to are not only mission critical—but there are literal lives on the line. We have to be able to meaningfully and securely work across our supply chains to deliver the essential things that our men and women in uniform need. And deadlines are extremely real; they’re not soft. So delivering on time, while protecting our supply chains is something that our partners—and ourselves—take extremely seriously.
And as a supplier, supplying large primes that are supporting the federal government, we want to make sure that we’re extremely solid, that we are financially healthy, because there’s always going to be hiccups. Fortunately, we are in a good financial position to mitigate those hiccups whenever they happen.
But how do we demonstrate that?
How do we demonstrate to primes and the end-customer that we are strong?
Many companies didn’t make it out of 2020. And those that did, might be in a difficult position still. We need to understand that, both as a supplier to primes and contractor. That way we can help foresee issues and work with our own suppliers—and everyone else contributing to the chain. The FHR Exchange gives us an unbiased view into the financial strength of our suppliers and how well they’re doing overall. And that gives us a lot of confidence in producing the products that we produce, making the deadlines that we need to make and protecting our reputation, as well as our other partners’ reputations.
This current environment is all about being predictable.
And it sounds like you’re in a really healthy, upticking spiral—getting new business, making the business that you have stickier, and then getting recognition—all feeding back into a grand loop. Tell me a little bit about some of the recognition and accolades Carroll’s received.
I am very fortunate to lead and be part of the team here. They’re the ones who I really have to thank for many of the wonderful things that have happened this past year.
Very recently, we were recognized by General Dynamics Mission Systems as their “Supplier and Services of The Year”. That’s a huge accolade from a top-notch company in the world, and one with extremely high standards. And to be able to get that recognition—I’m very proud our team achieved that and I’m super humbled because there are a lot of great competitors vying for that title.
We were also recognized by Corning Optical, a North Carolina-based manufacturing company that makes fiber optic cabling. They added us to their “Top 10” partners listing in 2020, which gives us a lot of leverage with current and new partnerships.
And on another note: the American Red Cross. They recognized us as an “Outstanding Service Provider & Partner in 2020”. While many companies had to close facilities, we were able to hold a number of blood drives in this community and really tried to promote them.
So, we had a lot of really good things happen and understanding and communicating our financial health has helped make a lot of this recognition, in one way or another, possible—including renewal of our Department of Defense Protégé of General Dynamics Mission Systems status.
To that end, what would you say about your partnership with RapidRatings?
It’s really awesome.
Our relationship with RapidRatings started in 2019, when one of our bedrock partners—General Dynamics Mission Systems—asked us to do a RapidRatings assessment. And as a younger division of this company, our financials were young as well.
You know, we were definitely sheepish about doing it. My background is in sales and business development versus financial and accounting arenas. And so naturally, I was wary of an assessment that analyzed our financials in an advanced way.
But after being urged by General Dynamics Mission Systems, well, I’m really glad we did it. It turned out to be a very, very good thing for us as company. I couldn’t be more proud of our financial health rating and what we can do with it across the board—not only with General Dynamics Mission Systems, but also other partnerships, other customers, suppliers, to my employees, and the teammates, here at Carroll. We really get some mileage out of it.
And it has set a benchmark for my company; a marker in the sand to help us improve. You really can’t manage anything that you’re not measuring. And so RapidRatings gave us the ability to measure our financial health and say, “Hey, we’re going to get better from here.” And we have done that.
We went through our third RapidRatings assessment just last month. And each year, we’ve gotten better.
Internally, too, while it’s really easy for outward-facing executives to get a lot of touchdowns and to get a lot of opportunities to show how good they’re doing—the folks on the inside, here, work just as hard. The RapidRatings assessment gives them a good (and well-earned) milestone.
Shifting gears a little bit and looking ahead to the next year, what are you most looking forward to?
We definitely hope to exceed our revenue growth in 2021, as we head into federal buying season right now. The federal government spends the majority of their money over the summer. And so a lot of everything we do is getting teed up to be successful—right now.
We’ve also been working extremely hard to expand internationally. Recently, we went live with two new websites, one in Arabic and one in Spanish.
Meanwhile, we’re always looking to grow our team. We’re in constant “recruiting mode”—looking for the best-of-the-best to come in and join our team.
And I guess most of all, we’re looking forward to being able to serve our men and women in uniform in a better and stronger way. We’re extremely passionate about that—getting those folks (who deserve the best) the best tools, while continuing to be an ethical, professional supplier to our federal government.
To learn more about how we assess financial data through predictive analytics for public enterprises, private companies, vendors, and other third parties, request a free FHR report or learn more about The FHR Exchange, click here.