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My Horribly Accurate Small Business Predictions for 2010

January 12th, 2010 ::

road_sky_smAs it is always the case with a new year, there are new predictions for the year that do their best job of guessing how business will act which is like trying to win the lotto. Still many of us try it, including me. Some times we nail it and look like visionaries and at other times we look like complete idiots. Some think major brands will disappear this year and others think social media will radically change, again. While many predictions posts are focused on technology predictions, we are taking a small business focus and where it involves technology it has to have a small business impact. So here for you are what I am calling “my horribly accurate small business predictions for 2010″. Shall we get started?

1.) Small Businesses will increase the flexible work model – In the past people have been able to work from home one day a week or be able to connect to the office when there was a snow storm. The real reason companies did this was so employees would feel compelled to work more and find it easy to do work. Small businesses who are looking to grow will bring on contractors or staff but not feel the need to expand office space, especially in an unstable economy. These flexible work models will be pushed for that reason but demanded from skilled workers who need a work like balance after getting all the work from laid off staff dumped on them. The economy is slowly getting better and even if you think employees won’t leave now, if you treat them poorly, the best ones will be out the door first and fast.

2.) Web Sites will cease being “One Way” Marketing Brochures – My firm builds a lot of web sites and user experiences so you could say over the last 10 years I have seen my fair share of good and bad web sites. In the beginning, many companies felt the pressure to have something, anything up as a web page and for many their site has sat for a few years in HTML purgatory. With the explosion of social media, many are realizing that now is a time to upgrade the site and more importantly look at it as a sales tool that needs to make money or pay for itself. A web site should not only tell people about you but bring in the right kinds of customers to buy from you.

3.) Cloud Computing is Adopted on a Large Scale by many Small Businesses – Clouds used to be flying through or imagining what animals they looked like, but if you mention the word “cloud” around a technical person you hear words like S3 and Azure and Software as a Service. Cloud computing has been looked as the evolution of time sharing or utility computing and has been most useful for companies looking to start a business or test a web service without investing in infrastructure before they really need it. No that it has passed the early adopter phase, more businesses will look to use these companies to run their entire business on. You will see large companies sign huge deals and government agencies also sign with established providers.

4.) Social Media Blends into the DNA of Doing Business (where everything had an e- to it now has social added on to it however these things will be core to sharing and communicating and marketing) – As I mentioned before in #2, web sites are growing up, getting sophisticated and being a lead generating, money making channel. Social Media is key to this and now that we have a fairly established set of tools it will be about getting the most out of them, measuring ROI/effectiveness and building a following that generates new business and keeps in contact with existing customers in a tighter way.

5.) Niche Branding and Marketing will be even more powerful and easier to do – With the explosion of blogs and now Facebook and Twitter, the concept of building a 1000 fan company is more achievable than ever. “Go for the niche” as I always say. It is better to have 1,000 true fans that buy your stuff than 1 million fans that do absolutely nothing.

6.) Coworking Becomes a Major Alternative to Office Space – We have talked about co-working many times and I truly believe that 2010 is co-working’s year to break out of the realm of solo hipster entrepreneurs and become a real alternative to office space for the masses. Companies like Blankspaces in LA and IndyHall in Philadelphia are expanding and have flexible options, including private locked space (awesome) so that more and more small businesses see this as an alternative to share office suites or taking the plunge into a long term lease.

7.) Strong Proliferation of “Slate” Devices – Last year was the year of the Netbook and I profess that 2010 will be the year of the slate. With multi-touch the norm, full screen smartphones and e-book readers all over the place, many companies have launched “Slate” devices which are pretty much touch screens with web browsers. The big one we are waiting for is the “iSlate” from Apple so this should benefit small businesses because it will be a great tool for communications and make your travel bag lighter by hopefully eliminating the laptop.

8.) Tighter Integration between Web Software Company Applications – Last year we saw the launch of “The Small Business Web” which is a loose confederation of software as as services sites like Mailchimp, Outright, BatchBlue, Freshbooks and a ton of others that work to connect their API’s to each other so a small business picking one would be inclined to select their partners because they work so tightly together. You are going to see this much more to go up against the large integrated solutions to create a competitive advantage of upstarts that can launch quickly, cheaply and offer a similar service for free. The goal is to eliminate long term customer turnover and this integration will only benefit small businesses.

9.) Capital markets will ease up by mid 2010 - It has been a long and hard 18 months for many people and many small businesses. Lay offs and cut backs, budgets stripped and people overworked has created a tough and stressful work environment. This ripple effect impacts the small business because the vendors they rely on may cut their budgets stopping their orders, or paying late. This can be devastating to a small business but I believe that we are starting to see the markets improve, job loss has almost halted and banks have paid back almost all their bailout money. They question becomes not if, but when lenders are confident to loan. Businesses need three things to grow – market stability, vendor payment reliability and positive customer outlook.

10.) Homepreneurs will become a major force – For many years, people working out of their home has been some what dismissed and in some cases ignored as a viable small business sector. No more. With a recent report by Emergent Research, the Homepreneur is on the rise and those home businesses employ over 13 million people and I predict you will see an association or union-like organization emerge to unite the homepreneur’s buying power for healthcare and other things that every small business needs.

What Are Your Small Business Predictions for 2010

Do you think we are on track? Do you think we are out of our minds? Did you have a look into the crystal ball? Do you have a prediction that you must tell the world? Share it in the comments below.

The Rise of the Homepreneur and the New Report from Network Solutions

October 28th, 2009 ::

Over the last decade many entrepreneurs have turned their homes into remote offices in the early days and over time these home-based entrepreneurs or “homepreneurs” have become a force to be reckoned with. Because what many deemed a place for hobbyists or telecommuters, the home has become the affordable and sensible place to do business. With technology today, many work virtually and teams are formed from a global pool of resources, so it quickly becomes irrelevant if you have pricey office space on K Street in DC or at 30 Rock in NY but work out of your home in suburbia. Much to an entrepreneurs desire to be competitive that smart strategy can be passed on to clients in the form of lower costs and flexible teams.

This past Friday, BusinessWeek published this article on “The Rise of the Homepreneur” which discusses the findings of the report “Homepreneurs: A Vital Economic Force” which is a new report published by Emergent Research, a small research and consulting shop in Lafayette, Calif. “We’re seeing more and more home-based businesses that are real businesses,” says Steve King, who coauthored the new report with Carolyn Ockels. To prepare the report, they analyzed U.S. Census data and Small Business Administration research, along with data from our very own Small Business Success Index, a survey of 1,500 companies sponsored by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Highlights of the Report and Download Link

The report is a good read and here are some highlights from the paper:

  • Home businesses employ over 13 million people.
  • Nearly 6.6 million home businesses generate at least 50% of the owner’s household income
  • 35% of home businesses generate $125,000+ in revenue; 8% more than $500,000.

Reading the summary section of the report I was not surprised by the three trends why more people are becoming homepreneurs:

  1. The lower costs and risks associated with starting a home-based business
  2. Demographic and social shifts
  3. A lack of corporate jobs

To find out more and read the whole report click this link to find out more from latest SBSI Research brief.