Predicting the future for your industry is like using a crystal ball to see into the future. Better information removes some of the sand to make things clearer. Bad or incomplete information puts sand back in. This issue of Cascade Business News focuses on trends in the economy in general as well as specific industries. Here are a few ideas to help you notice changes in your industry.
The new phone book will be out soon. Before you toss it make sure you check the yellow pages in your section to see what changes have occurred. If a competitor’s ad has disappeared, did they close up shop or are they now so successful from referrals they no longer need yellow page ads? For those who are new listings in the section, what type of competitor are they? New to the area, new in business or a business that was established and is growing their business? Quite often as a business expands into a new market they place an ad in a new section of the yellow pages. For those that were there last year, how has the size and content of their ad changed? What services have they added or discontinued?
While you’re at it the new issue of Cascade Business News’ Book of Lists is also out now. You can conduct a similar analysis from those lists. Which businesses have changed in either number of employees or the area of focus for their business? What impact will those changes have on your business or your industry?
It is important to look outside the area for trends. As an example, the recent trend for “Craftsman style” homes has run rampant in Central Oregon. For many contractors, it simply means changing the molding style around the doors and windows and switch to a different siding type. While that may not be true to the craftsman style, it certainly has influenced how homes are advertised. Yet this trend didn’t start here in Central Oregon. Staying current through industry conventions and trade association literature is key to staying ahead of your competition. This growth in Craftsman style homes also impacted building material dealers, furniture and houseware stores, along with other businesses involved in home decorating and furnishing.
Studying transportation plans and traffic studies, population projections and demographic changes, and real estate information such as trends for “days on market” will also help you determine where the next growth spurt will occur. In the early nineties, it was shown that while growth was beginning to occur on the East Side, rising housing prices and few available building lots would soon push growth to Redmond and LaPine. Both of these areas where underdeveloped in the marketplace. Those that saw that trend coming where able to take advantage of those opportunities to either grow their business or grow their investment portfolio.
Ask yourself “Where is the next growth opportunity for your business going to come form?”
Jim Kress works at COCC where he helps businesses investigate trends and growth patterns in their industry. He can be reached at (541) 383-7712.