The Top 5 Trends in Small Business

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Today, we’re going to look at the top five trends in small business. What I find interesting about the overall list is that it is dominated by changes to the way we work – mostly due to technology, but additionally, because of shifting attitudes and values. So, without further ado:

5. The rise of the solopreneur: Whether it is Fortune Magazine stating “Welcome to the age of the freelancer,” small business expert Barry Moltz stating that “Micro startups are everywhere,” or columnist Jan Norman noting that “almost 17 million Americans are now solopreneurs, 900,000 more than in 2011” there is no mistaking that there is a new class of independent, creative, take-charge small business solo entrepreneurs on the rise.

69% of small businesses preferred to purchase software and applications as an Internet service…

4. You are headed to the clouds: The next three trends can all be lumped together under the title, “The changing nature of work.” Here, what we see is that cloud computing is no longer a stranger to small business. Indeed, a Dell survey not long ago found that 69% of small businesses preferred to purchase software and applications as an Internet service – in the cloud – rather than as an off the shelf product. That same poll stated that those surveyed planned on adding three additional cloud-based services as the year progressed.

Cloud computing, Software as a Service, call it what you will, is proving to be a cheaper and easier way to do business and as such, is the new way that business will continue to get done.

3. Say hello to my little friend: That we are living in the time of mobile work is no surprise, but beyond that, we are quickly leaving even the laptop in the dust. Forrester Research states that 55% of businesses consider smartphone support a “high or critical priority.” And more than half of those same companies indicated they also now need to support tablets.

The challenge for the small business is that we normally rely on what is known as BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. While this is a smart choice, and certainly a less expensive option than buying everyone a smartphone or tablet, it comes with security risks. When people are tapping into your system from anywhere on any device, security breaches are far more possible.

This in turn means that your security systems and software must be top-notch. As one online security expert put it, it is not a matter of if you will be hacked, but when and how bad.

2. Virtual is the new physical: According to a piece in Entrepreneur Magazine, if you are looking for the workplace of the future, you are not going to find it. “Who says there’ll be an office at all?” asks Tom Austin, vice president at Gartner, a Stamford, Connecticut-based technology research firm. “Already we work from Starbucks, in the car and at our kids' softball games.”

The article then goes on to profile a company called Floor64. “The media and consulting company maintains a brick-and-mortar space in Sunnyvale, Calif., but also runs a bunch of Skype-powered chat rooms for remote workers–many of which are buzzing for most of the day. These [chat rooms], more than anything else, represent our ‘office,'” says CEO Mike Masnick, “and they don't exist in physical space.”

And what is fueling this radical shift from the physical to the virtual are all of the trends that make up this column: Cloud computing, powerful mobile devices, technology, new places to work, etc.

1. Happy days are here again: For the past few years, the dour economic news permeated my annual trends column. In 2013, happily, the opposite is true. Not only is there scant bad news to be found above, but the #1 trend for the upcoming year is that business is back. No matter where you look, and despite what the naysayers will tell you, the economic news is headed in the right direction: Housing starts are up, car sales are way up, unemployment is headed down, business lending is up, and so on.

So the upshot is that this is, once again, a great time to be self-employed.