If we are going to make room for small business ambition, strategy, value, and success in the future, we have to find a new vocabulary – not to mention a new lens with which to view the world. Try these different perspectives on for size…

Downside: Unemployment will hover around 9%.

Upside: Unemployment is not likely to increase until returning military are processed into the workforce. However, this represents a real plus if you see this as a pool of dependable, accountable employees. Form an alliance now with the designated veterans’ rep at your local unemployment office. Meet with him/her and make clear what you are looking for in terms of character and skills set. This will prove an invaluable partnership.

Downside: Inflation will increase slightly.

Upside: Inflation reduces the impact of debt. More important, it is a sign of the availability of money. You need to position yourself to land the part of that money that is discretionary spending. With fuel prices declining or at least returning to 2010 levels, you have cash flow you didn’t have throughout 2011. Plan now to make use of it.

Downside: Housing starts are still down and repossessions have not bottomed out.

Upside: Construction has resumed on unfinished developments in many places, and many cities are seeing an uptick in denser residential development and delayed retail construction. These are all signs that someone has faith in the direction of the economy.

Downside: 2012 is an election year.

Upside: Issues of importance to small business owners and to your customers will be argued 24/7. Efforts will likely be made to please the middle class, but nothing material is likely to take effect until after the next inauguration. If the payroll tax break is extended, small businesses are likely to benefit directly.

Downside: World economies will remain volatile.

Upside: Economies in Greece, Italy, Spain, etc. are worrisome. Hysterics in their markets affect investments in ours. Nonetheless, American markets remain relatively steady and consistent. Inflation in China and political unrest in Russia favor US currency, and emerging Middle Eastern nations are creating potentially loyal markets.

Downside: “Quality” is not the buzzword it once was.

Upside: Quality has become a given in US manufacturing, and global markets demand it. But, as Time Magazine reported recently, perceived value is the deal breaker. US software, pharmaceuticals, aviation, and other manufacturing sectors are succeeding in new ways. I’d like to believe this is the tip of a resurgence.

Downside: Small business owners remain discouraged.

Upside: Their level of discouragement has dropped, and their pessimism has lessened in key indexes, such as accessibility of funding, capital investment, and expansion of labor force.
This may not be a terribly optimistic view of 2012, but it marks positive steps. In most sizable cities, the major bank hosts a yearly event in which an economic expert paints a picture of the coming year. Make sure you get an invite or pick up the report. It can provide strong and layered direction for your 2012 planning.
By Steven Schlagel