The nature of small business has changed radically over the past decade. Once an outlier of employment, small business has become a significant engine of America. In fact, the entrepreneur’s dream is the stuff movies like “The Social Network” are now made from. So what have been the most significant trends for small business in the last decade that have pushed it to the forefront of American business?
- The internet means geographic independent customers. For most businesses, a company and its consumers can now be anywhere in the world. While this breaks down geographic barriers to entry, it also opens up a worldwide marketplace to every small company.
- Working anywhere at any time. For many businesses, the office is wherever their smartphone or computer is. Work has become place independent. This also means that small businesses can find the best and most cost effective employees anywhere in the world!
- Merging of work and home. Many people no longer go to work at 8:00am and leave work at 5:00pm. Home looks more like work and work like home. As a result, most small business owners work a lot more hours than they did a decade ago. This mashup also keeps productivity down.
- Easy to keep a broader network. Ongoing connection with customers and prospects has never been easier through Facebook and other social media. Doing business together no longer requires face to face meetings.
- Size no longer matters. It is typically impossible to tell the size of a company. Technology like Nextiva's cloud-based phone service enables small companies to look big and large companies want to look small and personal.
- Customer service is the new marketing. Online reputations are now driven by peer recommendations on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or YouTube. Technology makes this the new age of customer service with easy customization, big data, cookies, self-service and customer chat.
- Less credit, more cash. Businesses are financing their own start up or growth through personal savings, family or friends. Banks have more limitations imposed by the FDIC on how they give loans. As result, small businesses are being forced to manage their cash more efficiently.
- Less benefits, higher deductibles. An employer paying 100% of a health care premium is a thing of the past. Employees now pay a larger share with a higher deductible supplemented with health savings accounts.
- A new class of employee appears. It used to be that a person was either employed or unemployed. Now, many people are underemployed. They are either working only part time or not getting paid what they had been before.
- Personal branding. Working for one company for a long period of time died in the 90’s. In order to find employment, people now form loose collaborations to accomplish a task for a single or multiple clients. Since these form and change frequently, the only brand that is promoted long term is “you”.
What do you think the most important small business trends of the past decade have been?