Every year around this time I look at the top trends in small business. Not surprisingly, the top trends last year were dominated by the economy. This year, 2010, the economy also comes in at the top, but the reasons and effects are different, and better . . . thankfully!
So the top trends that can affect your small business this year are:
No. 10: Renewed Frugality: The state of the economy is such that, as we have all painfully noticed, people are spending less. This new frugality will continue to impact your business throughout the year and must be taken into account as your move forward. If people are looking for bargains, then give them some.
No. 9: Changing Employment: Between the loss of millions of jobs and (you know the tune!) the worst economy since the Great Depression, how people are working is changing. Having several part-time jobs is far more common, as is working in an independent contractor basis. For the small business owner, this means that not only can you get some great employees right now, but it will cost you less than before.
8. Doing More With Less: Generally speaking, small businesses right now are being forced to do more with less – less money, fewer customers and employees, and less credit to name a few. The upshot is that there will be less room for error. Plan well, be careful of drastic changes, concentrate on what you do best, and test new ideas well before rolling them out. Cautiously optimistic is the way to proceed.
7. Uber Connectivity: As Adam Ostrow of Mashable put it so well in this piece, it is easier than ever now to connect the dots of your online life so that, once you post or create content in one place, it automatically propagates others. One example Adam gave is “you can now connect your Flickr and YouTube accounts, and even your blog, to Facebook.” The great news is that this means you can multiply your online presence and brand with little extra effort.
6. Green Growth: The opportunity to make money by offering green solutions is growing every year, and the good news is that those solutions can be big or small, depending upon the size of your business and ambitions. Whether it is creating a simple organic soap or a windmill farm, this year the opportunities and money (especially government stimulus money) is reaching a tipping point.
5. Social Media Grows Up: What began as a way to connect with friends and associates has transmogrified into an essential business tool. Whether it is using Twitter for customer service, creating your own toolbar for customers to download, or fanning the fans on Facebook, social media is all about business now.
4. Localize It: The advent of a community garden at the White House was a harbinger of a greater societal change that will affect your business this year and beyond. Increasingly, consumers are going local and looking to spend their money where it is seen to help the economy most – in the local small businesses. That is good for us.
3. Sharing Experiences Trump Shared Experiences: NPR has noted that we used to be a nation of shared experiences. That is, because there were only a few media outlets, we tended to experience the same thing at the same time – Walter Cronkite wiping tears from his eyes for instance. But between the fragmentation of the media and the ability to create our own content, sharing, not shared, experiences is the new norm – on Facebook, YouTube, Yelp, blogs, etc. For the small business, this means it is almost expected that you relate in a more personal way.
2. The Mobile Explosion: No, I am not just talking about iPhone apps (but I am talking about those too.) The mobile explosion (there are 4x as many cell phones on the planet as there are PCs) is broad, wide, and growing, and you need to be a part of it: Text ads, text PR campaigns, apps, mobile video, you name it. There are a myriad of new ways to reach people on their most personal piece of technology and you will have to learn what they are and how to use them.
1. Start-Up Mania: The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects small business to create almost 10 million new jobs by 2018. And according to the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, just about half of those will be created by women-owned businesses (striking, since they make up only 16% of U.S. employment.) But it won’t just be women leading the charge – laid off white collar workers, 20-somethings with a dream but no job, the home-based entrepreneur, the high-tech start-up – these are the folks who, right now, like a Phoenix out of the ashes, are creating a new economy that will change the face of business this decade.