This coming year with be a critical growth time for small-business owners. There will be a major positive attitude shift for customers, employees and vendors that will help companies grow.
Here are 10 ways to help your company take advantage of the factors that will have an impact on business in 2015:
1. The stock market will continue its momentum. Even with the recession in Japan and the fear of one coming to Europe, stocks will continue to rise.
Your move: With no daily fear from negative stock market reports, customers will be in a buying mood. Small businesses should ramp up their marketing on bigger ticket items and sell services that require a long-term commitment.
2. Commodity prices will stay low. The worldwide drop in the price of oil plus the pressure on other commodities will make domestic consumers better buyers than their international counterparts. Inflation will remain around 2 percent.
Your move: Refocus your company’s marketing on U.S. customers who'll have increased buying power next year.
3. Interest rates will remain low. Banks will continue to increase their lending thanks to a relatively stable economy and increased competition from peer-to-peer lending websites.
Your move: Make capital investments in your business now to secure low, long-term loan rates.
4. Competition for employees will ramp up. The unemployment rate will fall, and after years of easy hiring, it’s going to be harder to find the top talent you need to help your company grow.
Your move: Pay 10 percent more for each team member you hire, and expect to spend more on career training to ensure their loyalty.
5. The Affordable Care Act will grow. With seven million people signing up in 2014, only a total of 10 million are expected to enroll in 2015. This is down from the Obama administration’s goal of 13 million.
Your move: Small businesses can get coverage for their employees from SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) and secure a tax credit, which can add to your bottom line.
6. People will expect more from the cloud. With more than half the searches online being done on mobile devices, consumers are now looking for the cloud to be simple and secure. Unfortunately, according to a recent Intermedia study, the average number of apps used per small business is 14.3, and these apps cost each small business about $15 a month per employee in productivity.
Your move: Customers want apps that do more with a single sign on. They also want to access their data in a seamless way 24/7 regardless of the device they're on. Partner with app providers to make this a reality.
7. Security threats will grow stronger and more prevalent. With mobile "bring your own device” (BYOD) policies growing nationwide, ex-employees with access to your company's information are becoming more of a threat. A recent survey found that 89 percent of ex-employees retained at least one login and password from their former employers. In addition, there's been an increase in disasters caused by security breaches or climate outages.
Your move: Implement a non-BYOD policy. While this may initially cost you more, you can more easily manage the security and apps that go on each device. Continue to store all data in the cloud for back up.
8. You'll get a bigger return from “Big Data.” There's a lot of information available for a small business to put to use, but the demand is now for more analytics with intuitive interfaces.
Your move: Employ easy-to-use tools such as Power BI for Office 365 to graphically analyze what the data actually means and how it can help your company.
9. Speech-to-speech translation in real time is becoming more prevalent. The global world will open up even more for xenophobic small-business owners, who may be afraid to sell abroad because of the language barrier.
Your move: Use products such as Skype Translator to do real-time language translation on every international call.
10. More people will want to pay with their smartphones. In 2014, Whole Foods processed 150,000 Apple Pay transactions in the first 17 days of use, an indicator that in 2015, the mobile wallet will finally hits its stride.
Your move: Retail stores need to implement a near field communication-based system or, at the very least, have mobile point-of-sale devices available to checkout customers to ensure the best customer experience.
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