It would be an understatement to say 2002 was a year of uncertainty. But it's over, so let's look ahead. 2003 looks like . . . well, at the moment it looks much the same as last year. But that's not going to stop us from trying to figure out what's next. Since that's not a task I want to tackle alone, we asked a few experts to share their insights.
Last year on this page, business consultant Elaine S. Peck (who also happens to be a professional psychic) and her colleague, Carroll Eileen, predicted that in 2002, "things will get worse before they get better." For 2003, they believe that while the economy will show signs of a slow (very slow) recovery, overall, our economic doldrums will continue. Money will remain hard to come by for business owners, whether for start-up or expansion. Personal and business debt will soar.
Overall, they think many of us "will be ruled by fear" this year. While they see several major industries (like timber) suffering more than others, there is a bright spot on the business horizon: escapism. "Americans are in a runaway mood," says Peck, and anything designed to help them escape will do well in 2003. Entertainment-related businesses and products such as toys will thrive. And they believe this will be a "fair" year for luxury goods and services. (For the scoop on how you can grab your share of this market, make sure you read the May 2003 issue of Entrepreneur.)
Personal finance gurus Ken and Daria Dolan, hosts of the wildly popular syndicated radio show The Dolans, and authors of the new book from Doubleday Don't Mess With My Money, report that the consensus among 25 CEOs at a recent lunch was "guarded optimism." The Dolans agree with that assessment, with some caveats: "If interest rates remain steady, as we believe they will, that bodes well for both businesses and consumers, since it will help control costs for small businesses. We don't believe there will be a return to double-digit increases in business spending, despite a moderate growth in GDP (in the 2 to 2.5 percent range). We expect continued weakness in the stock market as investor pessimism continues. The one word overhanging all matters economic: uncertainty."
Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein is a bit more optimistic, predicting GDP growth of about 3.5 percent. But he cautions, "Don't look for a better stock market." And Mark Zandi, chief economist for Economy.com, believes the economy will "gain traction" as 2003 progresses. Zandi says that while small businesses will continue to be tested (especially early in the year), they will fare "a bit better than larger businesses" because small businesses are less leveraged. You can read more from Goldstein, Zandi and other economic experts on our Web site at www.entrepreneur.com/hotcenter.
Now for my predictions. In 2003, Entrepreneur is going to bring you even more of the information you need to grow your business-the smart way. We start, in this issue, by bringing you several new columns. Check out "Net Sales" (in Marketing), "Personal Finance" (found in Money), "Creative Zone" (in Management) and, in Tech, you'll find "Solutions," which comes to you from the folks at CRN, one of the country's most well-respected technology trade magazines.
For even more up-to-the-minute information, check us out on the Web at www.entrepreneur.com.
With this issue, Entrepreneur's circulation increases to 550,000 a month (our readership remains around 2 million monthly). In fact, Capell's Circulation Report, the premiere magazine circulation newsletter, just named Entrepreneur one of the Top 20 "Best Performers in Circulation" over the past 20 years. We're in good company here-the list also includes such magazine giants as Architectural Digest, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, People and Vanity Fair.
While we are so proud to be on this list, we know we owe it to you, our readers. Our best way to thank you is to continue to bring you the best magazine for small and midsized businesses, and we promise to do exactly that in what we hope will be a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2003.