As an entrepreneur, you already play many roles at your small business. And while you don’t have to be a tech or finance guru on top of it all, you should know how trends in these industries may affect your company in the coming year. Leveraging them -- or at least confronting them -- may be what helps you stay nimble and relevant as the business landscape rapidly shifts and evolves.
Here are a few things to make sure are on your radar when it comes to updating your technology:
- Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Tech trends may come and go but the use of AI is here to stay and if you don’t integrate it where it makes sense, your competition could pass you by. Think about whether your customer data would benefit by being quickly analyzed so you could reach out in new and more effective ways. AI can also make cross-functional work possible as well if you have departments that aren’t able to communicate or collaborate effectively. AI provides ways to analyze your company’s workflow to see if there are increased efficiencies. You can use scheduling apps like Clara or incorporate an AI chatbot on your website to field commonly asked questions like your hours or location. Data analysis can even improve your process for hiring and recruiting talent.
- Cybersecurity: According to a poll by Insureon and Manta, only 16 percent of small businesses think they will face a cyberattack, but 61 percent of attacks occur at small businesses. Your business is attractive because you may not have the security of larger companies, so use planning and assessment tools and train your employees to be aware. Make sure you have backup and disaster recovery contingencies in place to protect both you and your customers. Compromising customer information is a sure way to lose both current and future business.
- Influencer marketing: Small businesses don’t need the endorsement of major influencers to make a difference. Consider using micro-influencers who are trusted sources to endorse you to reach your local clientele. These accounts may not have as many followers as the celebrities, but their audience may trust them more intimately, making this type of partnership more cost-effective and potentially just as impactful.
Finance trends for small businesses to keep on your radar include:
- Crowdfunding: One of the hardest things to do as a small business is to have enough capital on hand to grow. Platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe allow you to give your whole pitch and reach out to multiple potential donors on a variety of platforms, saving time and getting the word out to all your contacts. And since only 32 percent of small businesses reported securing financing through a loan in Q2 2019, you may need to look to alternative funding.
- Small Business Administration Loans: SBA loans are a more traditional way to fund your business but offer the safety and stability you may need to feel comfortable borrowing money. In 2017, the SBA’s 7(a) program provided $25.44 billion to 62,430 businesses. They also have programs for under-served communities, minority-owned businesses and microloans if you have little or no credit history.
- Fintech: The crossover between financial services and technology, or Fintech, is growing rapidly, as Millennials and other busy business people need services and apply for loans outside of “normal” business hours. As a small business, you may be able to use and provide better financial services using Venmo, Square and PayPal.
Small business advice is usually to focus on doing the best work you can and the rest will follow, but making sure you are aware of changes in technology and finance can ensure you apply the best of both to your business, saving time and money as a result.