Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and all other appropriate greetings and huzzahs! It is that time of year when no one is working except your intrepid small business columnist. And it is a good thing I am because it is also the time of year when I compile my annual Top 10 Trends in Small Business list.
As usual, let me note that this is not a predictions column; I leave that to people smarter than I. No, what I want to share today (and next week) are the emerging trends, issues, and changes that can affect your business next year, or of which you should otherwise be aware.
2013 was an interesting year for sure – whether we are talking about the economy picking up steam or Obamacare losing it. 2014 is looking to be equally important.
And so, without further ado, awaaaay we go:
10. Green is the new green
Pop quiz! What organic product is poised to overtake smartphones as the fastest growing market in the country? Kale? No, I’m afraid not.
The answer is…pot.
2013 was a banner year for pot: 31 states had legislation introduced seeking to decriminalize it, tax it, or allow medical marijuana. Two states made it legal altogether, and the feds turned the other cheek. All of this means that, according to the Huffington Post,
Legal marijuana is among the fastest-growing markets in the United States, and it's growing at a rate poised to outpace the expansion of the global smartphone market, according to a new report obtained exclusively by The Huffington Post.
Researchers [estimated] that more than $1.43 billion worth of legal marijuana will be sold in 2013. The report also predicts that figure to grow by 64 percent, to $2.34 billion next year.
If 2013 is the year that pot went mainstream, then 2014 is the year when entrepreneurs are poised to reap the rewards, if you will.
9. Say goodbye to paper
Pull up a chair kids, I want to tell you about an amazing substance that once revolutionized the world. It was called “paper.” Paper is a material upon which people would apply ink and color to make pictures and words. Its forerunner, papyrus, was used in ancient Egypt, and modern paper was invented before the time of Christ in China during the Han Dynasty.
Paper really came into its own in 1454 with the advent of the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible. Thereafter, it took over the world. Piles of it became the scourge of offices, and people even used to read newspapers on paper!
But today? Welcome to the paperless workspace. Witness the future, according to a blog by Cindy Bates, VP of SMB at Microsoft:
Have you ever noticed an airline pilot lugging a black briefcase on their way to the next flight? Those briefcases aren’t filled with personal effects, but are 40-pound flight kits containing charts, maps, manuals and guides. Delta Airlines recently made a move to replace those bulky flight kits for its 11,000 pilots by giving them each an electronic flight bag in the form of a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. The cockpit will now be a paperless workspace for Delta.
8. Say goodbye to privacy too
Edward Snowden has become a point of contention in the Strauss house. To my youngest daughter and I, he struck a blow for individual freedom and support of the 4th Amendment (no unreasonable searches and seizures!) To my wife and other daughter, he is a rogue lawbreaker who threatens collective security.
The point is, privacy is very much on people’s mind right now, and this will continue to be the case in 2014 as Congress debates what to do about the NSA. (Will they do anything? Good one! Of course not.)
But for you, heightened consumer concerns about privacy and security means that you must make all of your business’ online transactions as secure and transparent as possible, and you need to communicate that.
7. Be afraid, be very afraid
Have you been hacked? Been a victim of identity theft? Has your social media account ever been compromised? If not, count yourself lucky, because you probably won’t be for long. Cyber criminals are increasing targeting small and medium business (SMBs), because they usually lack strong security solutions due to a lack of resources and a sense of false security.
According to a recent report by the Internet security leader McAfee (a company I do some work with), most small businesses do not have any sort of security system, and nearly 60% of small businesses are never able to recover once they become a victim of a cyber attack and have to close their doors within six months.
According to Bill Rielly, senior vice president of Small & Medium Business at McAfee,
We anticipate seeing a continual increase in threats for business owners in the coming year, including threats involving the cloud, mobile devices and social platforms. We found that 88% of SMB's don’t use data protection, putting both company and customer data at risk. The need for stronger security is therefore an essential component to a company’s longevity and success.
6. Show me the money!
Between continued low interest rates, increased economic activity, more angel investing, implementation of the JOBS Act, and crowdfunding going mainstream, there is more money flowing into small business than there has been in some time.
Next week – the Top 5!