There is modern tradition that my friend calls the ‘Month of Sundays’. In fact, it is just a week – the week that falls straight after Christmas in the advent of the New Year – but we can all agree, I’m sure, that the impact of the ‘Month of Sundays’ is somewhat diminished by accuracy, and we can allow his poetic license in this case. It is a week in which all sorts of important commentators contribute their predictions of the year ahead. Of course, in terms of accuracy this is an entirely useless exercise, but this attempt to take control of our futures is nevertheless a satisfying game to play.
Having pondered a number of these predictions in the last few days, I have a few of my own to add to the mix. 12 months from now it will be interesting to see how close to the mark I was.
In a nutshell, I predict that this coming year is going to be hugely unpredictable. The first reason for this is that 2014 saw a number of events that are global game changers. The most significant of these is the 50% drop in the price of crude oil that happened in the second half of the year. The effect of this price drop has yet to move through the world economy, but most commentators think it will lead to a shift in influence from oil producers such as OPEC countries and Russia, to consumer countries such as Europe, the US and China. Good news, perhaps, for us in UK, but it will lead to a significant drop in the taxation revenues and public spending programmes of producer countries, some of whom are “friends” of the West and some who are less so. At the very least, there will be a political response within those countries. If you are producing non-essential consumer products to be sold in the Middle Eastern market, 2015 could be a tricky year.
The second reason is that in 2014 there was a shift in the political landscape in UK. The popularity of UKIP with two by-elections won from the Conservatives in the second half of the year, coupled with the muscularity of the Scottish Nationalist vote in the September devolution referendum has meant that the May 2015 general election is too difficult to call right now. My sense is that even when the ballot papers are in and the polls have been counted, the new makeup of the UK Government, let alone its major policy direction, will be indistinct at best.
The third reason is the sustained volatility of the European economic situation. Despite five years of austerity, significant parts of the Eurozone remain lacklustre in terms of economic growth, and most recently, even previously robust parts of the Euro block appear to be stalling. The recent political situation in Greece has resurrected the possibility of a left wing president coming to prominence and challenging the status quo of European economic thinking. If Greece votes in favour of Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party in January, then other Southern European countries could gain the confidence to challenge the German view that has been dominating the European economic debate for the past five years. If these philosophical battle lines are drawn, it will manifest itself in the UK in the form of yet another spice being thrown into the already potent mix of the General Election.
In the meantime, business innovation will continue to march ahead at an ever-increasing pace. Internet based technology will continue to be at the centre of all our lives, both at home and at work. I predict that access to business finance for entrepreneurial businesses will become less focussed around the traditional banking sector and much more on the alternative finance sector. Knowing how to access the financing opportunities that these new sources offer will become increasingly important for owners of growing businesses, not just in 2015 but for many years to come.
Learning to adapt to uncertainty is something that modern day entrepreneurs excel at. I am confident in one prediction at least, and that is that the services that we at White Bruce offer will become even more focussed upon the needs of growing businesses and in helping to guide such businesses through the uncertainties of business life.