Look to trends to map the future

The name of Crystal Langdon’s company, Crystal Clear Finances, might be considered an oxymoron to many people in today’s financial climate. In her recent address to the Port Salerno-Hobe Sound Rotary Club, however, Langdon spoke clearly about trend analysis research as the key to making successful business and life decisions.

“If you look at current trends,” said Langdon, a Certified Financial Planner, a registered investment advisor and speaker, based in New York, “and you understand the trends–what’s happening overall–then you can have a far greater impact on your own business and, as a service organization, within your own community.”

Rotarians who gather weekly for breakfast at the Treehouse Restaurant at the Heritage Ridge Golf Club nodded their heads in agreement when she declared, “Main Street USA will be the driving factor in the economy, not Wall Street.”

Though the massive job layoffs of last year have declined, she added, the uncertainty continues. As employees feel pressured at work and the unemployed are unable to find work, they will begin to look internally, to undergo a self-examination of talent, skills and abilities that will result in the decision to utilize those skills in their own businesses.

“There will be a surge in new small businesses as a result of this trend over the next five years,” she said.

Those businesses will address many of the well-recognized trends in the news today, but they also will tap into other, less obvious trends that currently float out of range of current headlines. One of those is a return to the kind of farming that our great-grandparents undertook two generations ago.

“There will be money to be made in the micro-farm,” she assured the group, as communities increasingly make the connection between what they eat and their health, as well as recognizing that what is offered today in supermarkets and fast-food restaurants is far inferior nutritionally and “chocked full” of unwanted chemicals than the food consumed by previous generations.

She pointed to her own experience as a lesson in trend watching. She now leases garden plots to neighbors from the 10 acres she owns in New York so families who want to grow their own vegetables can do so.

“Doing that has created an additional revenue stream for me,” she said, “and at the same time, the farms meet the needs in my community.”

Generational trends also will play an important role in the future, she said, as families increasingly combine generations, not just for improved economy but by choice.

“In their fast-paced lives, families are increasingly needing and wanting the wisdom of the older generation,” she said, “and at the same time, the older generation is reaching out to the younger one… Many in the older generation want to learn new technology in which the younger generation is quite adept.”

In the process, the younger generation also needs the wisdom that comes from living life, starting and running businesses and families. Opportunities exist, as a result of these blended generations, for a return to “front-porch” living, where neighbors know each others’ families and where neighbors look after neighbors.

“Even though I am separated from my neighbors by 10 acres,” Langdon explained, “all of us on that road look out for each other, and those on the next road also look out for everyone on their road. This is community, not just existing next door.”

The generational blending and the trend toward self-examination will lead to an increase of life coaches, wellness coaches and food coaches. “I know that sounds so weird,” she said, “but these coaches will teach us how the food we eat, the food we put on our plates, helps us live longer. And look at the number of cooking shows there are. Cooking is a trend.”

So is fitness and prevention of childhood obesity, which offers opportunities to establish weight-loss camps for children that can make a lasting impact on the community. She said people also are suffering from “sensory overload,” from all the technological gadgets infiltrating their lives, so another trend will be turning to “selective technology” as a way to simplify lives.

Technology is changing, and is both widely accepted and pervasive. The Internet may spell the demise of the major television and cable networks as more consumers download their programming, said Langdon, and is becoming essential to running a business.

“In order to have a successful business,” she added, “make sure you have an Internet voice somewhere.” She said it was important for parents also to have command of the Internet to “reach our children,” as that is how they now conduct their own lives.

Blending generations, exploring new technology—including the alternative energy and self-sustaining environmental movements—and re-examining values, all will create new business opportunities, she added. There also will be a change in artwork, becoming less edgy. People also will take more pride in how they dress, adopting a chic elegance, with garments they make themselves.

“Women…and some men….are lining up to take sewing classes,” she said. “It reflects this growing trend.”

Business owners need to blend both the new technology and a sense of the past, keeping in mind that people are looking for a feeling, not just for a product.

“I greet my customers in a room that looks like an elegant living room,” she added. “Am I selling financial planning? No, I am selling peace, so when they come inside, I want them to feel comfortable, peaceful.”

She also drew on her financial background to issue some chilling warnings regarding Congress’s current consideration of a one percent bank transaction fee (that’s one percent when you make a deposit and one percent if you withdraw it) and legislation regarding Internet privacy.

“You should be absolutely clear,” Langdon said. “The war over the future of the Web is a war for control of your mind.”

The fall of some larger companies, which also is on the horizon, should not be met with dismay, she added, calling the process “creative destruction” that can be desirable and natural, because it can lead to creative entrepreneurship and new growth.

“Just like the green shoots on the forest floor that begin to grow when internal rot has felled the large trees,” Langdon said. “Other businesses, your businesses, can now take their place in the sun.”