5 Microbusiness Trends: MidYear Update

Crystal ball gazing can be a popular pastime at year end. It makes sense; we are all overcome by that Janus impulse to look at the year that is over and the new year that will soon be upon us, in a re-enactment of rituals of passage that are older than time.

All the experts weigh in with their predictions at that time of year, too. They let us know what the coming year will bring in their particular area of expertise.

It’s a fairly easy thing to do, after all. For a lot of people, those predictions alone can cement your place as an expert in their minds.

Even better, it’s pretty rare for anybody to go back and check your predictions for accuracy.

Of course, if you manage to avoid those “put up or shut up” moments, your value as an expert is somewhat compromised. At that point, you have to just hope nobody notices – and that’s no way for an expert to have to live.

Microbusiness entrepreneursSo, in the interests of establishing my bona fides as an expert (in addition to the fact that I just like you guys a lot), I have decided to indulge in an accountability moment. I direct your attention to my January 11, 2009 article, “Top 5 Microbusiness Trends for 2009.”

I got the idea to do this, by the way, from a communication I received about this White House report, which covers a variety of topics including where the future of the job market is heading over the next decade or so.

Top of their list are health care and energy, which also happened to be the top two industries cited by yours truly as the best opportunity sectors of 2009. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that, if the economists think these two industries will be producing a lot of jobs, there will be plenty of revenue opportunities there for firms, too.

Fancy that. The White House Council of Economic Advisors has vindicated my prediction. Not too shabby.

In that article, I also predicted another spike in microbusiness numbers during the 2008-2009 period, with nonemployers continuing to lead the way. Thanks to the data lag, we won’t know if I was right about that for another year or two but the signs are propitious.

If I was wrong about anything, it is the fact that the nonemployer (e.g., sole proprietor) population spike began back in 2007, a year earlier than I thought it would. Given what has happened in the job market since then, there is no reason to imagine the growth in nonemployers has slowed down.

Not much to say about microbusinesses and social networking, except that it looks as if I was right to call it a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. And, also as I predicted, the avalanche of small business owners turning to social networking as a low-cost or no-cost marketing method has spawned a whole new industry in social network consulting.

I wish I could say that my prognostication of more attention from lawmakers showed signs of coming true. I’m sure that by now you think my continuing to blow hot air in this direction is nothing more nor less than wishful thinking at this point.

Ah, but it ain’t necessarily so! And while there haven’t been any hearings scheduled to look into the finer points of firm size standards, there has been more attention focused on microbusinesses this year than we’re used to seeing on Capitol Hill. Interestingly, however, that attention is not coming from lawmakers.

Rather, we are getting a lot of “don’t forget the micros” rhetoric from many more small business lobby players than Kristie Arslan of the National Association for the Self-Employed and Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association.

Now, suddenly, trade groups are bragging about how tiny most of their members are. Even representatives from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business are singing Hymns to Microbusinesses.

As I said in my original article, somebody has to roll that snowball off the top of the hill. I suppose it was too optimistic of me to imagine that somebody was going to be a politician.

But then, of course I’m optimistic! I’m a microbusiness owner.

* * * * *

About the Author: Dawn Rivers Baker, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the Publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal, where the nation’s business meets microbusiness. She also publishes the Journal Blog.


Dawn R. Rivers Dawn R. Rivers, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal. She also publishes research at the Microbusiness Research Institute and she blogs at The MicroEnterprise Journal Blog.

8 Reactions
  1. Thanks, Dawn. Hey, I knew you’d be right about most things! Never a doubt…. — Anita

  2. Dawn: I think lawmakers are showing much more attention to small business. In our meetings on the hill we are getting a lot more questions and interest from both staffers and elected officials.

    True, we haven’t seen any big breakthroughs and most of it is political posturing. It takes these folks a long, long time to change.

    But don’t underestimate the impact of your hot air – your message does appear to be getting through:).

  3. Dawn,

    You have good grip of the crystal ball and you must have very good eyesight! 😉

    Do you think it will be easier for microbusinesses owners, sole traders (sole proprietorship), solo entrepreneurs to do business in the near future? Do you think they will cut the red tape and bureaucracy down to a minimum? Could you give me a watch list on places (cities and states) that are more small business friendly than others? I want to plan for the future and know where it is the best business climate.

  4. Dawn Rivers Baker

    Martin, one of the cool things about running a microbusiness is that, for most federal regulations, your firm is too small to be required to comply. OSHA regs, for example, don’t kick in until a firm has a minimum of 20 employees. And, even in situations in which that is not the case, most of the microbusiness owners I’ve talked to are very creative about finding ways to do what they want to do around the regs that threaten to get in their way.

    IRS regs are always the exception, of course.

    I wish I could give you such a list. I know that, until recently, only the state of California officially acknowledged micros as a matter of state law and economic development policy. I heard that Connecticut was looking into enacting its own micro-specific economic development policy but I don’t know if that was ever finalized.

    If there is anybody smart in places like Ohio and Michigan and Wisconsin — places that have been particularly hard hit by the pain in the manufacturing sector in general, and the auto industry in particular — there ought to be all sorts of economic development initiatives to support self-created jobs. As for whether there are any smart people in those place (except for Anita, of course), I couldn’t say.

  5. Dawn Rivers Baker

    Steve, knowing how long it does take the folks on Capitol Hill to change is the only thing that keeps me from complete despair. I’m glad to hear there is at least some interest in learning more; that is a very good sign.

    As for the relative effectiveness of my hot air, I’ll have to remember to share you observation with my husband. 😉

  6. Dawn,

    Thanks for your further input. Please keep that crystal ball handy! I look forward to your insights in the future! 🙂

  7. Hi Dawn – Once again — a brilliant resource for small business. I want to congratulate you on your prognostication skills because you’ve hit it on the head. If there is anything we can all predict it’s that whatever the prevailing environment is, you can count on it to change within the decade. I can remember when it was all about big business and huge companies. Then in business school playing around with the idea that “cottage industries” would start trending up. I see microbusinesses as cottage industries and if technology continues growing, then we can see more of that. Until all we talk about are micro-businesses and the large companies start buying us up. Now that’s what I’d call retirement!

  8. Dawn- As the director of a small business development center in northern Michigan, we’re on board with providing our local microbusinesses the training, financing opportunities, and support system to succeed. The major hurdle we face are traditional lenders and economic development organizations that do not fully recognize the job growth and local economic impact created by these innovative companies.