We are fast approaching the end of 2016. Before you get caught up in the whirlwind of holiday activities, now is a good time to start planning for the year ahead.

How do you see your design business shaping up? Will 2017 be a year of growth or a year for standing pat? Should you undertake a new venture or begin to wind down operations?

With so much uncertainty at present, it is especially difficult to make plans. Still, setting a course, even a temporary one, is preferable to having no direction at all.

No doubt by now you have a fairly good idea of how 2016 will turn out in comparison to last year and whether you are sensing momentum going into the new year. Start by assuming a baseline scenario. If next year goes more or less as this year, how will that affect your business? What if your business increases by 5 percent? 10 percent? Likewise, what if your business decreases by 5 percent? 10 percent?

These are rough parameters, but they can help you define strategies in the absence of more concrete information. How would your business have to change to sustain an increase in demand or a decline in demand? What steps can you take now to help prepare for either eventuality?

While it's anybody's guess what will happen in 2017, some current trends are worth paying attention to as indications of what may unfold. Industry forecasters are predicting a strong market for remodeling and renovation during the first half of next year. Realtors also expect home sales to improve.

At present, the luxury home market is softening in many areas of the country, but that could change as competition drives prices down and a pro-business administration in the White House buoys stock markets and pushes for lower tax rates. That could be just the incentive affluent buyers need to move up to their dream home, purchase a vacation home or close on that luxury condo they've had their eye on.

Any and all of these trends should translate into more business for designers. Of course, these forecasts apply to national trends. Conditions will vary depending on the local economy.

As you make the rounds this holiday season, try to get a sense of how people are feeling about their prospects for the year ahead. Are they generally optimistic or cautious? Are they talking about ways they'd like to improve their quality of life? If so, make a mental note to follow up with them after the New Year.

And speaking of forecasts, the National Weather Service is predicting milder-than-usual weather this winter in many parts of the country. That quite likely will mean an earlier-than-normal start to the home remodeling and renovation season in the first half of the year. It could boost home building and real estate activity as well.

You should have a contingency plan in place in case you begin receiving inquiries sooner than you expect.

Whether you are anticipating growth or the status quo, starting your business planning now for next year will help keep you focused and moving forward during the after-holiday lull. You can always adjust your plans later if conditions change, confident that you will be well prepared if they do.