Steve Forbes: 2021 offers window of opportunity for entrepreneurs

For small businesses in Baton Rouge and elsewhere in the U.S., the key to survival in 2021 will hinge upon how well entrepreneurs adapt to the new challenges, opportunities and realities the past year has delivered.

That’s according to Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media and host of the podcast “What’s Ahead,” who was interviewed virtually by bestselling author Jon Gordon as part of Business Report’s 21st Century Business Forum, which debuted today.

Despite a rocky 2020, Forbes believes the coming year offers promise, with another federal relief package anticipated and more innovations planned in the health care sector. Still, under a new presidential administration, he says businesses will face some uncertainty and, potentially, setbacks.

“We’re going to need to avoid big tax increases and the like, and make sure on the national and state levels that we don’t suffocate our new economy with massive regulations,” says the politically conservative Forbes, a one-time presidential candidate. 

At the same time, Forbes says there’s a great window of opportunity for entrepreneurs. Just before COVID-19, there had been a rise in the number of new business formations—a statistic that had been on the decline for at least the previous decade. While that was halted by the pandemic, Forbes believes it can bounce back in 2021, so long as companies embrace change.

Forbes recalls launching during the internet boom of the mid-1990s. Realizing there was more to electronic publishing than simply putting a screen on a webpage, the company separated its new website from the magazine, with separate leadership structures in place so that was able to grow on its own.

Moreover, rather than have the website depend on the magazine, Forbes turned to outside sources to produce web content. Today, about 90% of web content comes from Forbes’ 3,000 contracted contributors, with online advertising generating up to 70% of the company’s revenue. Meanwhile, print comprises less than 10%.

“My father always liked to say, ‘If you think you’ve arrived, you’re ready to be shown the door,’” says Forbes, whose grandfather started the media empire in 1917. “You have to constantly change.”

Among Forbes’ more practical tips for business owners:

• The markets will be choppy in the short term, so try to keep your emotions in check, expect turbulence over the next year and recognize that there are some “good stirrings” in the country. Additionally, trying to time the market is treacherous, so if you think it’s going down, buy some puts as a form of insurance.

• Keep an eye on the price of gold. When it fluctuates, it’s not the value of gold that’s fluctuating, but the value of the dollar. It’s a good way to keep a pulse on the economy and determine next steps for your business. 

• Adapting to disruption is an art, not a science. Keep asking yourself what skills your business has, what skills it needs and what changes need to be made. Most importantly, realize that sometimes those changes are going to be painful.

The 21st Century Business Forum, which will be broadcast on the second Wednesday of each month, is presented by Business Report and sponsored by LaPorte CPAs & Business Advisors and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.