Alexander M. Cutler isn't the type of executive to be worried by some negative economic reports.
Despite a roller coaster ride the last couple of years in many of the businesses in which the global conglomerate operates, the Eaton Corp. P.L.C. chairman and CEO said his company is targeting 8-percent growth this year.
And that is during a year when global economic growth is forecast at 2.5 percent, with industrial manufacturing production set to gain an even lower 1.5 percent.
"This is not a time to stand still," he told an audience of nearly 1,000 distributors at the 2013 Eaton Distributor Meeting, held Sept. 15-18 in Orlando, Fla. "This is not a time to be discouraged by slow global growth. This is a time to get in the game and partner up and take ourselves to a higher level."
Cutler said Eaton posted sales of $8 billion in 2000, and 2013 revenues are expected to be close to $23 billion. Employment grew from 70,000 a year ago to about 103,000 now as the company spent about $15 billion on acquisitions over the past couple of years, the largest of which was Cooper Industries P.L.C. for $13 billion.
"We're not playing in this industry because we simply want to stay the same," he said. "We're playing in this industry because we want to win. And win means we want to do some things differently to take ourselves to that higher level."
Cutler said Eaton will get to that 8 percent growth rate by following this formula: the "power segment," with which the company identifies itself, should show end market gains of 4 percent, and Eaton plans to outgrow that by 50 percent, bringing it to 6 percent. The last 2 percent, he said, will come from acquisitions.
"Too often when you go through this economic time period, it can arrest our collective confidence," Cutler said. "There is no more dangerous message relative to growth than when people's confidence declines. If you start to become hesitant, it causes you not to hire someone, seek new customers or put new training in place."
Two key industrial numbers are that inventories are down, along with capital spending as a percent of GDP, classic indicators of a lack of confidence, according to the Eaton chairman. But now is not the time to hold back, he insisted.
"Almost every study in every market shows that market share gains are made when markets are weak," Cutler said. "They're not made when markets are strong."
That's because when markets are busy, engineers don't have time to come up with new developments. "When they do have time is when markets are weak," he said. "So this ought to be a rallying cry for all of us in terms of putting the pedal down. Let's go enlarge the window. Let's not do what so many companies are doing right now, which is holding back."