Given the tough economic times businesses are dealing with, it is critical for senior managers to understand the trends they are facing. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day work and fail to see the trends and how they are affecting business. The survey conducted by Management Methods with responses from 19 states and over 125 senior managers identified top trends and strategic issues for businesses to consider today.Strategic Decisions, Strategies and Trends That Must Be ConsideredI. Best strategic decisions in the past 3 years1. Improved planning process in businesses2. Establishing a clear vision or direction3. DiversificationII. Worst strategic decisions in the past 3 years1. Failing to properly staff for transitions2. Not “staying the course” with new products/development /direction3. Not setting clear goals and following through on themIII. Top problems facing businesses today1. Mergers and consolidations in various industry sectors2. External forces such as regulatory/legal issues3. Off-shore competition4. Ability to obtain financing and continue long term banking relationshipsIV. The most significant long term trends1. Industry consolidations2. Off-shore competition, especially the Chinese markets3. Continuing short term targets and expectations vs. long term planning and strategies4. Increasingly difficult regulatory environment for business in the U.S. leading to higher overall costsAnalysis of the Most Significant Long Term TrendsIndustry consolidations have been occurring and appear to be on the upswing as we’re dealing with the 2008-2009 recession. From banking to automotive to refining to gasoline distribution to making tape to healthcare to automotive suppliers to electronics there is no let-up in the sweeping changes due to consolidations. This is being manifested in the workplace with more employee instability and fear of job loss. Effective leaders will recognize the situations internally and work to keep strong communications lines open within the organization as well as with customers and suppliers.Off-shore competition is affecting almost every business in the U.S. today; whether it is in direct competition in the marketplace or in competition for raw materials and components. The reality is that American Industry must become even more competitive in the face of increased competition and in cases where the competition is not on a level playing field. It is imperative that organizations rethink their vision; develop visionary strategic plans and reality driven operating plans. Then execute the plan throughout the organization.The increasingly difficult regulatory environment is here to stay. So, what can we do in our businesses? Insure that we have the processes in place to identify all legal and other requirements that affect our businesses; and, then conduct planned compliance reviews. When non-compliances are identified get them into our corrective action systems for immediate follow-up. This will keep us one step ahead and enable us to prevent major issues related to compliance. (Note: this process is a requirement under ISO 14001:2004.)What these trends mean for your business, or “What should I do now?”1. Identify where you may have weaknesses in internal communications and with your customers and suppliers. Make renewed efforts to effectively communicate what’s happening in your industry and more specifically in your business. Do it systematically and often. In fact, communicate, communicate, and communicate!2. Have your senior management team review the vision for your business. Does it fit the reality of today? Update your strategic plans and operational plans. An effective strategic plan does not have to be a “book,’ but rather a simple plan that will guide your business along the path to being the low cost, high quality producer in your industry. Execute your plans!3. Given the regulatory compliance issues of today, the ISO 14001:2004 process is an essential link in environmental compliance. As well, the OHSAS 18001 standard can provide a roadmap in the area of safety. We strongly recommend these. However, at a minimum each business needs to have a systematic approach to compliance reviews and follow-up.Be a leader in your industry by recognizing the long term trends and taking the necessary actions to position your business to thrive in the new era of today.