Q: What are your top business predictions for 2008?-- Mara, Los Angeles A: While I examine small-business trends, I don't usually deal in predictions as they are speculative and that's not my bag. Who do I look like, Carnac the Magnificent? That said, I do see some big trends shaping small business this year that you should take note of. Here are my top 3 for 2008: No. 3: Green is the new black. Whether it was Al Gore winning an Oscar or Russia staking claim to the Arctic -- now that takes chutzpah -- it's all too obvious that climate change is real. It is also an opportunity for you. As Time Magazine recently put it: "Green investment by American venture-capital firms reached $2.6 billion in the first three quarters of 2007, the highest level ever recorded and nearly 50% more than the total for the whole of 2006." Meaning: Green start-ups searching for cash "have gone from a desert to drinking from a fire hose," says Nancy Floyd, head of the alternative energy-focused venture capital firm Nth Power. Whether you're looking for a prime sector for growth, want to help the planet, want to impress your customers or are looking for a new profit center, like the Earth, green business is getting hotter. No. 2: Work is what you do, not where you go. The ability to work anywhere at any time continues to radically change how we all do business, and not always for the better.
The good news is that the opportunity to outsource mundane tasks makes it very possible to work smarter, not harder. Indeed, Timothy Ferris, in his wild book
The 4 Hour Workweek has proven that it's possible to outsource so much of your boring tasks that working radically less is quite possible. The flip side is that, for those of us -- like dum-dum me -- who have not mastered this yet, it is also possible to work when you shouldn't be. For example, I am writing this on New Year's Day in a Starbucks ( SBUX) while on vacation in California while my family goes for a swim. No. 1: It's the economy, stupid! Like the old unofficial Bill Clinton campaign slogan, 2008 will be dominated by a slowing economy. The subprime crisis is not only affecting homeowners and banks, but small businesses as well. Credit is getting tighter and businesses are spending less, resulting in a chain reaction of slow or no growth. Even Google ( GOOG) will likely not grow as it has. Combined with a presidential election, continued high gas prices and an unsettled international scene, the top trend this year is a cautionary economy. Plan accordingly.