Romancing the unknown--it's one of life's eternal passions. Humanity continually ponders age-old questions: What will tomorrow bring? What can I expect for my family? For my business? Will I be healthy, happy and successful? Through the centuries, the queries have remained much the same--though the methods used to find the answers have changed with time and vary among cultures. From the ancient Greeks and Romans who sought divine revelations from the oracles to the revered medicine man in North American Indian tribes, the common theme remains: a burning interest in unleashing the mystery of the future.
With that in mind, we strove to determine what the remainder of 1998 holds for small business. We consulted a potpourri of experts, including small-business advocates, an astrologer, a futurist and a numerologist, for their predictions. Notably, despite their differing backgrounds and experiences, a singular picture of the year ahead--and beyond--emerged. The year will be a positive one, they unanimously agreed. And for some sectors, the next several months could even surpass achievements made in 1997.
"I think it's going to be a good year for small business," says Jere W. Glover, chief counsel for advocacy for the SBA. "I think we're going to continue to see small businesses grow in record numbers, and I think we're going to see more small businesses surviving."
Vast potential is already one of 1998's hallmarks. Our experts expect banks and other financial institutions to greatly increase lending and credit availability to small businesses, opening doors to more newcomers and releasing established firms from the capital confinement that can hinder growth.
And there's another factor affecting the possibilities facing today's small businesses: their diligent political strides. Entrepreneurs today rely more and more on the robust national organizations lobbying in Washington with increasing savvy and political strength. Their collective voice receives legislative attention and action on a level unheard of just a decade ago.
"I believe we are at a [turning] point in history," says Watts Wacker, a futurist at SRI Consulting, a business trend consulting firm in Menlo Park, California. "The way we organize our lives--literally every assumption to how we run our commerce, our governments and our affairs--is about to change. The last time this happened was probably with the discovery of the New World and the Renaissance of 500 years ago. And it will provide wealth-creating capabilities that have not been seen very often, that portend for tremendous opportunities economically."