Monday, August 16, 2010

When Does the “Other Shoe” Drop?

clip_image002[1]This article was written by Ben McCulloch, SCORE Orange County Business Counselor

Interest rates, credit crunch, employment, stock market, real estate, retail sales, gas prices, inflation …

Your business environment sends you many signals. Some may be noise; interesting perhaps, but affecting ‘the other guy’. Other signals may be loud and clear, and worth paying attention to. Sense-making is difficult, and responding even more so. Yet, to succeed – and even survive – you must navigate your business environment. So, where do you get your environmentals?

Locally, we have several excellent authorities for regional business and economic activity, trends, observations, and even an occasional ‘outlook’. Follow the links below to see some examples. As you do, you may notice two things: that business news – about specific companies, industries, and events – is reported more frequently than economic news and, as you might expect, economic news and analysis can require a more careful reading:

  • The OC Register Small Business section is now found in their ‘Money’ section. Jan Norman’s small business column has been moved to her very active blog, giving her opportunity to report on a greater range of business and economic topics. Be sure to bookmark her site.
  • Orange County Business Journal (OCBJ). Published weekly, the Journal provides a comprehensive report on business news and events around the county.
  • The LA Times Business section features small business news every Monday.
  • Cal State Fullerton Economic Forecasts. Every six months, the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics issues a ‘Midyear Economic Forecast’. Here is their spring 2008 update.
  • Orange County Public Library and city libraries. The reference section of your library is an excellent source of authoritative business information. At the Fullerton City Library and Yorba Linda Public Library in particular, their business librarian can help you find – and interpret – the information you need.

In the current economy, a deeper awareness and understanding of what might be going on can be helpful. Jan Norman points us to The National Federation of Independent Businesses’ (NFIB) report of small business economic trends. Their analysis – reported monthly since 1986 – provides an index of small business optimism, as measured across a variety of such operational factors as sales, prices, wages, inventories, and credit. Although their analysis is not specific to any region of the country, it may help you understand the relationships of the factors that drive your business. You won’t be surprised to learn that the optimism of small business owners is waning, but you may find what they’re experiencing may sound familiar.

Business planning is an on-going process, especially since your business environment changes around you. As you navigate your business through this slowing cycle, remember that a SCORE counselor is standing by to help you steer toward opportunities – and around the hazards – in your environment. We look forward to working with you.