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Mid-Market Outlook: The Watchword of the Day

Mid-market perspectives blog: Growth enterprise services

Posted by Tom McGee on September 26, 2012

There is one word that seems to have become the watchword of business news these days: uncertainty.

I recently read an article by Geoff Colvin in Fortune that describes the real problem of business as “uncertainty, uncertainty, uncertainty.” Colvin asserts that economic uncertainty, especially policy uncertainty, is greater than it has been in many years, and that a high degree uncertainty creates a loop of paralysis, which we can see in the marketplace right now.

As Colvin notes, “And if you're wondering why the U.S. economy is barely moving or why millions of workers can't find jobs, extraordinary uncertainty is a major part -- maybe the largest part -- of the answer.”

Executives who have responded to our surveys confirm that it’s all about uncertainty. Last year, when we asked about levels of uncertainty related to business conditions, a majority said conditions were higher than normal. Earlier this year, we asked for comparisons to last year and the overwhelming response was that conditions were the same as last year – when they were already high – or even higher.

In the past few weeks, new survey polling for an upcoming report about entrepreneurship that we’re currently working on shows that this trend continues: 46% of respondents say the level of uncertainty is higher than one year ago, and 41.7% believe it is the same as one year ago – again, when the level of uncertainty was already high.

The “loop of paralysis” that Colvin describes has put many policy decisions on hold and is often attributed to uncertainty about the pending elections. Interestingly, a majority (57%) of the respondents to our spring survey told us that clarity and certainty are more important than which party captures the White House.

There is no doubt the watchword is uncertainty – with no end in sight. The question is, how will mid-market companies address it?

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