The end of the year typically means a lot of experts begin looking forward to what's likely to take place in their sector over the course of the next 12 months, and the small business arena is no different. For this reason, it might be wise for owners to begin looking into the expected trends for 2014 in their industries, as a means of making sure they're ready for what comes, and potentially having more time to prepare.
Perhaps the most important thing for owners to consider in 2014 is that they're simply going to have to be more involved with technology to keep up with consumers' ever-changing habits, according to a report from Small Business Labs. While many may not think they have it in their budget to start relying more heavily on things like mobile interfaces, Big Data, social marketing, and other such emerging trends in the business sector, the fact of the matter is that their choice is to either keep up in this regard or be left in the dust by both larger competitors, and those which are more their size but a little better at looking forward.
The sad truth is that some small businesses may actually now be cutting back on their use of tech these days because their budgets remain a little thin and while things are likely improving, many companies simply aren't yet back to the kind of business activity they enjoyed prior to the recession, the report said. But it's important to keep in mind that while investing in technology often carries a decent-sized initial price tag, it usually helps companies save on operating expenses and even time in the long run, and therefore is usually a good place to which owners can direct a little bit of their companies' discretionary funds.
A new focus on connecting with employees
In addition to trying to keep up with competitors in terms of what companies offer to their customers or clients in the coming year, small business owners should also try to better engage the people they employ as a means of keeping the company afloat, the report said. With the economy still recovering, it might be a little easier for small businesses to compete with larger ones in terms of attracting and retaining their best workers, but any industry's big boys may be better positioned to bring in high-quality new applicants, and lure away independent enterprises' best and brightest with more pay and better benefits. Companies may need to focus on building workplace satisfaction by boosting commitments to these issues, even if it hurts the books in the short term.
This may be especially true for companies that employ mostly younger workers, as the things millennials want from an employer may differ from what an older boss or owner thinks they value, the report said. Trying to reach out and determine exactly what employees in their 20s and 30s think is important to making a business succeed all the way around can therefore be vital to ensuring that a workplace is happy, productive, and attractive to both current workers and potential hires down the road.
Of course, all of the above issues necessarily come with an increased price tag, and owners may therefore need to do a little more to prepare their companies for the potential impact. That might include shopping around for more affordable small business insurance coverage that better fits a firm's needs. For example, reducing workers' compensation or general liability insurance can save businesses thousands of dollars or more per year, which can then be devoted to other aspects of the enterprise.