2019 Small Business Forecast: Cloudy with Great Opportunities

Small business expert Barry Moltz says our growing economy is due for a recession but the business owners who are prepared for it can prosper.  Moltz explains which factors suggest a rocky economy this year, why having enough cash on hand is critical for businesses, and what new technologies could boost productivity and efficiency this year.



Intro: Welcome to BizFilings Expert Insights.

Greg Corombos: Our guest this week on Expert Insights is Barry Moltz. Barry can be found at BarryMoltz.com. He's also the author of Small Business Hacks: 100 Shortcuts to Success, and he's also the host of the Small Business Radio Show. So, you know, small business pretty well and business in general. So he's here to offer some of his predictions, cloudy as they might be for 2019, what he thinks business owners might be dealing with, and how they can still take advantage of even some not so great news in the national business environment. And Barry, thanks so much for being with us. We always love having you.

Barry Moltz: Thanks for having me on.

Greg Corombos: Okay, so you said it's cloudy for 2019? Why?

Barry Moltz: Yeah, I mean, I think, listen, it's the end of, it’s the 10th year of prosperity, right? I put prosperity in quotes, right, because not everyone has really recovered from the Great Recession. But it's been 10 years, and historically, prosperity only lasts somewhere between six and eight years. And now in the 10th year, so somewhere along the line, I think the other shoe has got to drop here pretty soon.

Greg Corombos: And what are some of those indicators?

Barry Moltz: Well, I’m thinking of a couple things. One of the leading indicators is always the stock market. And as we've seen for 2018, that was the worst year for the stock market in the last 10 years. So many times, whatever the market indexes are doing is really a leading indicator. I think you also can look at, you know, what are really, you know, what are bond prices really doing, and are long term bond prices, higher and lower than short term bond prices. And they say that’s an indicator of what's going to happen next. And I also think people are in general, you know, just getting a little bit more nervous.

Greg Corombos: And nervous leads to what in terms of business practices or spending habits or what?

Barry Moltz: I think when people are nervous, they hold back from making investments, right? So they don't invest in the next product, they don't hire that next person. So they go into protect mode, where they're not freely, to spend whatever cash is really coming in. So people pull back a little bit and really want to protect their business rather than taking that risk.

Greg Corombos: And I know you also believe that real estate can get involved in some of the economic challenges for 2019.

Barry Moltz: Well, I think it's a psychological thing, right? So when the market goes down 5 or 600 points, those of us are invested in the market. And a lot of small business owners are. We feel poor, right. And so we feel poor, we don't take the risk, and we don't invest. And it stopped...and if real estate prices go down, a lot of times, that makes us feel poor as well. Because for a lot of folks, their biggest asset is their home. And when their home is worth less, they feel like they don't have as much money to spend, they don't feel like they have as much flexibility.

Greg Corombos: Okay, so how does this translate that into how you run your business? If you sense that we might be at the end of a cycle of prosperity, if people are a little more cautious about where they're going to put their money, how does that change your big picture and your day-to-day outlook in running a business?

Barry Moltz: I think you have to focus really on your profit and your cash flow. Because during difficult economic times, the people that win are those that have cash to spend money where people can't usually spend money. So you should start to conserve your cash, make sure you have savings or cash for, in case there is a downturn. So you got to play this game. You got to say, okay, if my business goes down by 10, or 20%, can I still make a profit? Can I still have cash flow? If you still can, then you're in a pretty good position to weather a downturn. And if you have some cash savings, you can then invest those in expansion, which is usually actually cheaper during a downturn than it is in an upturn.

So you got to start thinking that way to say, what kind of opportunities will there be for me if business goes down, and I could still pay my bills, where some other people just can't.

Greg Corombos: And then we get down to the ground level and person-to-person customer contact, you say that trust will be your biggest competitive advantage. Explain that a little bit.

Barry Moltz: Yeah, I think that when people...you know, people don't know what to believe anymore, right? One of the casualties, especially in this political environment, is the truth. Whatever that word truth means, people can find their own truth out there, no matter what’s on the internet. If a customer trusts you, that's going to be a huge reason they're going to buy from you. If you think about it, if they trust your brand, or they trust you personally, that's why people stay with you. There's so many other places where they can buy from or consume services. But it really comes down to do I trust that company is actually going to deliver on what they say they're going to do. And trust becomes even more important, because every purchase during a downturn becomes a little bit more risky, may become a little bit more desperate. And if I trust you, and you deliver for that customer, then that's going to come back to you tenfold.

Greg Corombos: So you should already have established that, I'm guessing, before 2019. Takes a while to build that customer trust. So if you're just getting started, and you haven't necessarily built that years after a year of loyalty and great relationships with your customers, how do you build that trust in relatively short order, when people are going to be a little bit tighter with their money?

Barry Moltz: I think that there's really nothing that substitutes for time. You just really have to be there. I remember during the 70s, and that's how old I am, during the gas shortage crisis. And so my parents went to the gas station where they had built the biggest relationship so they could trust this guy would actually give him gas. He was turning away people he didn't know, but only gave gasoline to the customers that he really had been with him for a long time. So there's nothing that can substitute time for trust. Unfortunately, you can't rush trust, as they say, and also anybody that says, trust me, you can't trust them.

Just trust me, just trust me, right?

Greg Corombos: That's a good rule of thumb. Well, let's hope that the economic downturn, if there is one, is not quite back to the point where there was gas rationing. But you also have...

Barry Moltz: it's not a bad thing. Economies go in cycles. I'm not predicting that there's gonna be another great recession, but there's nothing wrong with an economic downturn, to consolidate things for people to have to get a little sharper with how they spend their money. That's just a natural cycle.

Greg Corombos: And then moving on to another thing, which I think is fun and important in terms of helping small businesses grow, you have some projections on what the hot technology will be. Explain what you think it'll be and how it's going to help small business owners.

Barry Moltz: Yeah, I mean, I think that we, you know, people always say to me, you know, alright Barry, you know, what do you think the next technology is going to be? And I think, well, if you're going to name it, you probably already missed it. But I think that one of the hot technologies that's continued to be this year is really artificial intelligence. And when we think of artificial intelligence, we think of Alexa, we think of Siri, we think of Scarlett Johansson in the movie of Her, right? We definitely want that. But I think what you have to think about is where technology is going to continue to keep helping small business owners get things done. This idea of chat box, where you can talk to a computer software program or application in natural language in real time, that's going to be a huge help for small business owners as we move forward.

Greg Corombos: We're talking with Barry Moltz. You can find him at BarryMoltz.com. He's known for getting your business unstuck. And Barry, overall how would you say small business is faring as we head into 2019? We talked about the economic conditions, we've talked about how some have done better than others in recovering from the Great Recession, which is hard to believe, a decade ago now.

Barry Moltz: Exactly.

Greg Corombos: Yes. Time flies, the older you get, certainly. And so how many have figured out not only how to navigate fairly rough economic waters in recent years, but also how to navigate our changing economy.

Barry Moltz: You know, I'm actually, you know, very nervous now, because I think there's a lot of unpredictability coming out of the Oval Office and the U.S. government in general. And with the shutdown right now...I don't know it's in its 20th day, or wherever we're at, this idea of the SBA being closed. So small business owners can't get loans, is a real problem for most entrepreneurs. I mean, I have several customers that if they don’t solve this in the next week, where they're able to move their small business loan along, it could really threaten their livelihood and their business. So I always get nervous when government offers help for small business owners, which I think is really important, but then they get in the way of actually something getting done. So I think we're at a very tenuous point right now. So I am really concerned.

Greg Corombos: We will definitely be watching that. Barry, any other insights? Any other tips, any other shortcuts, referring to your book that you believe small business owners would be wise to pursue here in 2019.

Barry Moltz: I really think again, that as we head into probably a more difficult economic time that, you know, the old adage that cash is king is really important. Make sure you not only look at what the profit you have in your business, but is your company cash flow, positive or negative? And what I mean by that is, do you have more cash at the end of the month then you did at the beginning of the month? Or do you have less? It’s kind of like when you look at your bank statement. Did you have more money at the beginning of the month or more at the end of the month? If you have more money at the end of the month, you're going to have much more of a chance to be successful and wait out whatever downturn awaits us.

Greg Corombos: Excellent advice and the perfect advice to close out our conversation today. Barry, thanks very much as always for your time. We greatly appreciate it.

Barry Moltz: Thanks for having me on.

Greg Corombos: Barry Moltz. BarryMoltz.com. He's the author of Small Business Hacks: 100 Shortcuts to Success. He's also the host of the Small Business Radio Show locally in the Chicago area, and obviously an expert for many years now at helping get your business unstuck.