Small Business Labs (part of Emergent Research) recently released their small business trend projections for the year 2014. These trends point to upcoming opportunities, issues, and outlooks for small business owners in the areas of technology, economics and business, social and demographic arenas, and healthcare.
- The growing convergence of mobile, cloud, data, and analytics tools: While each of these technology tools has been steadily gaining importance in the small business world, when used together in new ways, they are fundamentally changing how business is done. Their use is also leading to new forms of technology based competition.
- The widening of the small business digital divide: The performance gap between those small businesses that successfully leverage available digital technologies and those that do not is significantly widening, as these tech tools continue to enable businesses to cut costs, better connect to customers, and also gain market share. Of particular import are cloud, analytics, and mobile technologies.
- The growth of video as a marketing tool: Firms are increasingly using visual imagery via short-form videos to reach customers. Commonly used sites for this type of outreach include Pinterest and YouTube.
- An increase in networking: Firms are increasing their use of partnering, outsourced services, and independent workers, leading to a much stronger emphasis on networking. The result of this seems to be a blurring of boundaries between firms, with organizations behaving as nodes in broader networks rather than independent entities.
- An expansion of outsourcing opportunities: Small businesses are focusing their internal efforts increasingly on core and strategic business functions. Other activities are being outsourced or turned over to business partners.
- The emergence of portfolio careers: Since the traditional career path is no longer available to most workers, people are creating portfolio careers instead. Here, workers either move back and forth between traditional employment and self-employment or they create multiple sources of income from different jobs (as in freelance or contract work).
- A focus on income inequality: Experts predict that income inequality will become an even bigger issue in 2014, with more local and national debates over minimum wage and living wage laws, as well as on the impact of Obamacare.
- A growth of baby boomer and millennial business partnerships: Many successful small businesses are being born out of this type of partnership. While baby boomers are able to provide capital, networking, and overall business experience, millennials have tech skills and a strong understanding of online business models.
- An increasing commitment to green practices: Multiple studies are finding more people today reconsidering sustainable business practices that were important prior to the recession. This trend also includes an emphasis on ethical business practices as well as support for local businesses.
- A continuation of the Obamacare issue: Healthcare will remain a front and center topic in the small business world. This means that there will be increasing emphasis on small business owners finding and securing the most cost-effective healthcare plans for both themselves and their employees.
King, Steve. “Top 10 Small Business Trends for 2014,” Small Business Labs. 12/28/13.