I’m always uneasy about making predictions about the future, especially in perilous times. Last January, this column predicted that innovation would be the key word for what is now last year. This prophecy came true in many ways, but it really wasn’t a tough call. Hard times often force us to become innovative.
One thing we can say with some confidence: the overcrowding of community colleges, notably Central Oregon Community College, will continue through 2010 and likely for a while beyond that. People out of work are finding that financial aid for returning to college is often easier to find than that elusive job.
This year, I will share with you some observations by the people Entrepreneur magazine calls “our experts.” These experts have come out with some definite predictions—not all of them either good or bad, but some in both categories. I’m including only the predictions that seem either unusual or especially relevant to Central Oregon.
Collections problems. Management expert Nina Kaufman predicts that given the likelihood of new taxes, and with the economy still sputtering, small businesses will find cash flow tighter even than in 2009. As she puts it “Entrepreneurs will be chasing after their clients to get paid, and the IRS and Departments of Labor will be chasing after everyone to get their hands on income employment taxes (to replenish the depleted treasuries)—whether or not the amounts are actually overdue.” So much for idealistic predictions.
Problems selling your products and services. Entrepreneur magazine’s Michael Port points out that the New York Times has called 2009 “the year of the bamboozle.” I find it novel to be agreeing with that particular newspaper, but they’re right. Trust has been undercut in this country, leaving big trust issues for salespeople to deal with—especially those working on first-time prospects.
Tight credit. Okay, so it’s already tight. Joseph Benoit, a small business finance strategist, sees credit getting even tighter. This condition will make it increasingly important, he says, for small businesses to keep organized and careful financial records. Also, Benoit mentions “diligently documenting your successes.” Paying all of one’s bills on time is but another “must” for a world of tighter credit.
Taxes going up. In Entrepreneur, Bonnie Lee isn’t the only expert who predicts higher taxes, both on the national and state-and-local levels. Regardless what the government folks tell us, someone has to pay for the war and the new health care legislation. None of you will be surprised to hear that small business will be right in the middle of that.
I can hear some of you saying, “Okay, Lamberton—enough bad news. What’s going to be positive? Anything? I’m happy to report that this prediction cloud has a silver lining. For one thing, according to Business Week, the leading economic indicators have been moving upward since April of 2009. Although improvement has been slower in some months than in others, the trend since then has been consistent improvement.
Local growth. On the local scene: a number of new businesses have opened their doors in Central Oregon just in the past few months. That shows me that someone in this area believes in recovery.
The coming “spurt.” Returning to Entrepreneur, small business expert Domenic Rinaldi predicts “a slight recovery [that]will see small and mid-size businesses return to profitability quickly.” This spurt will be followed by fairly large number of baby boomer-owned businesses going up for sale. His contention is that the recession has caused many baby-boomers to delay their plans for retirement. The upswing in the economy will prompt them to sell and thus salvage some retirement funds. This will provide new opportunities for non-baby boomers.
Though the picture isn’t as rosy as we would like, we have some reasons for optimism. May 2010 be a good year for you and your business, whatever it is.
Lowell H. Lamberton is Professor of Management at Central Oregon Community College. You may call Professor Lamberton at 541-383-7714 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.