Editor’s Note: We continue with our series on 2006 trends forecasts. As promised, we are pleased to host a number of original content pieces on a variety of niche topics. The following set of trends predictions comes from Dawn Rivers Baker, editor of The MicroEnterprise Journal, a publication dedicated to that segment of small businesses known as “microbusinesses,” which are commonly defined as businesses with fewer than 5 employees. She writes:
In spite of the fact that people have only just started talking about it, the momentum around the microbusiness phenomenon has been building gradually over the last fifteen years or so. The media and politicians had been largely ignoring them, offering a few momentary sops every now and then, but that was all — until recently.
However, once the corporate giants began to see another market to sell to, interest started to grow. Now, microbusinesses — or SOHOs, or freelancers, or free agents, or mini-businesses, or side businesses, or the self-employed, or whatever they’re calling it this week — are beginning to garner a bit of real attention as a lot of learned people sit around and try to figure out where they fit in.
Along those lines, I think the coming year will see these noticeable trends:
- Microbusiness numbers will continue to grow. Look for another jump in the new statistics on the proportionate percentage of the microbusiness population among all U.S. firms, fueled largely by the addition of 1 million new non-employers between 2002 and 2003. The data lag is enough to make everybody tear out their hair but we won’t see any slowing of this growth trend in the numbers of microbusinesses for a few years yet.
- And speaking of growth trends, another thing we’ll see is that energy and information will be the big gainers among industry sectors for microbusinesses, in terms of average annual revenue growth and sheer numbers. There aren’t as many micros in the information sector as you might think but the growth rate in this industry will continue to be substantial. And look to micros in the energy sector to innovate environmentally-friendly and renewable energy products and services, perhaps even within the next two years.
- As the numbers of microbusinesses continue to grow, the markets will respond. The first manifestation we’re seeing of that is in the computer industry and the competition for microbusiness dollars in that sector will heat up in 2006. In one corner will be the software and hardware giants like Microsoft, HP and Cicso Systems, who are starting to figure out that there is a difference between the SMB market and the microbusiness market, and they want to court those micros in the worst way. In the other corner will be software developers who are microbusinesses themselves and offer products conceived from an intimate understanding of microbusiness needs. It’ll probably take a few more years for those big boys to discover how clueless they are and then — let the acquisitions begin!
- Another set that will start to chase the numbers is the media, and that will result in the beginnings of self-awareness among larger numbers of microbusiness owners themselves. Most of the people who operate microbusinesses have no idea how common such small firms are, especially because of the way the mainstream business media writes about small business. That will change in the coming years, as a few online entrepreneurs and media upstarts (Small Business Trends and The MicroEnterprise Journal come to mind) continue to build the beginnings of a real national microbusiness community. Look, too, in the second half of the year for a steady stream of books about microbusinesses and their place in the universe, another trend that will raise awareness.
- With all this attention from various sources, it’s possible that 2006 will be the year that at least some policy makers at the state and federal level finally acquire a clue. That national microbusiness community will be the first step to getting organized politically and, what with the way the small business demographic has been changing with the growth of microbusiness numbers, some of those political consultant bright boys are going to figure out that the small business vote may not be quite so monolithic anymore. This trend probably won’t come into play in more than a few races in the 2006 midterms but you can expect that political awareness of the mighty microbusiness will be firmly in place by 2008.
About the Author: Dawn Rivers Baker is the Editor and Publisher of The MicroEnterprise Journal, “Where the nation’s business meets microbusiness,” located in Sidney, New York, USA. She also writes The Journal Blog.