2011 Small Business Forecast-o-rama -- 10 Predictions and Inspirations

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The holidays are a time of hope and joy. They're also a time when my email inbox fills with an avalanche of small-business predictions, best-practice tips, and success-strategy recommendations. Here's a collection of some of the more interesting forecasts for small businesses in 2011:

1. Financial savvy: More companies will use direct deposit to save money and help the environment, according to the PayItGreen Survey 2010. Calculate how much you could save by switching to direct deposit with this calculator.

2. Venture capital and IPO markets: This year saw a big thaw in the public markets -- the volume of IPOs more than doubled, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported. The value of fourth-quarter IPOs this year is more than we saw in the same period of 2007. This should translate into more venture capitalists seeing payouts...which means more venture capitalists with money to reinvest next year.

3. Leadership success skills: Humor will be a secret weapon of smart CEOs next year, says Francie Dalton, host of the new blog talk radio show Overcoming Business Nightmares. Enough with the gloom already!

4. Management: From Business Innovation for Dummies author Alex Hiam: Maybe while you're on vacation in the next couple weeks, take time away from your business to think about it. Then: Implement something by mid-year.

5. Tax smarts: Companies that take advantage of tax breaks expiring this year will have more growth capital for 2011, notes Brandon Edwards, president of the Tax Credit Company.

6. Next-generation marketing: New high-tech methods of reaching customers will be hot next year, including smartphone-readable QR codes, says Melanie Attia, product manager for email-marketing firm Campaigner. If your business doesn't have a Facebook fan page, she says, 2011 is the year to take the plunge.

7. Cloud, here I come: More small-business functions will be done on free, cloud-based platforms, predicts Bob Egan of research house The Sepharim Group (at least until you get too big and have to pay for an upgraded version). 

8. IT spending: IDC forecasts you'll spend more on IT next year. No, really: You will sleep now, and when you awake, you will realize your current computers and networks are hopelessly outdated.

9. Retail: Smaller stores will rule -- that lower overhead will give sharp operators an edge.

10. New forecasting tools: My favorite is the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce, a new index that tracks real-time consumption data in the form of information on trucking-shipment volume. Its most-recent report indicates we're not out of the woods yet in terms of consumer-goods purchasing.

What's your 2011 forecast for your business? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
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