Is the sky falling? That was the question morning roundtable panelists at the Pittsburgh Smart Business Dealmakers Conference sought to answer. SDI Companies CEO Scott Kiger says we're always going through some change.

"The reason we educate ourselves and try to learn is because it's an always changing environment," Kiger says. "And yes, COVID changed things forever. But two years from now, we'll be sitting here and it'll be something else that everybody's going, did you see that coming? All of us have to wake up every day and it's a grind. There's, there's a few people in here that have had that success of we had this one thing that made us, but most of the people in this room, I would think, get up every day and they do what they need to do to better their company or themselves, and I just think that's what you have to do. I think that's the only consistent is good people always make good decisions and you just have to educate yourself so that you make sure that you're doing that."

Metz Lewis Brodman Must O'Keefe LLC Founding Member John Lewis says his prediction is probably unpopular. With the college enrollment cliff coming in 2025, and birth rates in the United States are declining, it means a lower number of people entering the workforce.

"And that's going to last for the next 15 or 20 years," Lewis says. "Gen, Y, and Gen Z, it is very clear, have more importance and more focus on work-life balance than what the Boomers ever had. And so, I really think that the successful employers of the future, in any industry, particularly in services industries like ours, are going to have to embrace artificial intelligence and technology, to some degree. And second of all, the unpopular part of this is, I think our society over the next 10 years and our American economy is going to become more European-based from a standpoint of the successful employers that are going to attract the real talent are going to have to offer lots more vacation time, a lot more health and mental health and physical health-based care. The employers that become more socialized, I think, are going to be the ones that attract the talent and the ones that don't adapt to that and try to do it the old-fashioned way by hammering everything home are going to be the ones that lose."

Continuim Equity Partners Managing Partner George Pilafas says despite many challenging issues affecting companies he doesn't believe "the sky is falling." But offering his predictions for the balance of 2023, he says a big focus will be the employment situation.

"People have talked about unemployment forever," Pilafas says. "Unemployment is really low right now. I think that's a little illusory. Total employment is way more relevant. I'm hopeful and I think, because of the dynamics that are at play, when we're talking about the health of the economy and how the Fed views inflation versus employment and economic output, we're looking at total employment not unemployment."

3 Rivers Capital LLC Partner Rob Carskadden says his primary interest in the coming year is web 3.0, which encompasses AI and machine learning.

"It's still early in the game, but I think if you're not sticking your head into this and really getting up to speed on what's going on, there are some things out there that are going to really change our industry," Carskadden says. "Right now, some of these firms are now tokenizing their investments. So, you're essentially turning a private equity investment into something that's liquid. And so, they're coming down to the blockchain and doing some of this. So, if we're not at least, I say fast follower here on this, if you're not keeping yourself up to speed on some of these changes that we were talking about, I think you're going to find yourself left behind pretty quick."

The other issue that has his focus is the dearth of employment and difficulty recruiting, which creates room for AI to introduce more efficiencies.

"We can get more efficient and we can help fill that gap. And we're going to need these tools. It's not really something be afraid of but it's something to understand, learn and embrace."