What Is the Future Outlook for Small Business?

It’s that time of year when we begin looking ahead to the coming year. In fact, with 2010 drawing to a close (can you believe it?), it’s that time when business owners begin looking ahead to the coming decade. If you want to know what the next 10 years have in store, take a closer look at a new report from Intuit.

Intuit 2020 Report: 20 Trends That Will Shape the Next Decade builds on more than five years of research led by the Institute for the Future and Emergent Research. It is the first in a series of reports looking at key trends affecting consumers and businesses in the coming years. Subsequent reports will drill down into specific trends and industries, but the current report presents a broad overview.

What Is the Future Outlook for Small Business?

What’s the takeaway? “The coming decade will be complex, volatile and uncertain, but it will also provide many new opportunities for small businesses and their customers in the United States and abroad,” the report notes. Here are some points I found especially interesting and that have big implications for the future of innovation:

Small businesses will get ever more specialized. Customers will increasingly seek customized products and services. The rise of innovations such as cloud computing, a flexible workforce and lower-cost manufacturing options will make it easier for small businesses to seek out product and service niches.

Startup will get easier and cheaper. In response to growing niche market opportunities, lower equipment costs and better technology, it will be easier than ever to launch a business without a big investment. This means more innovation, as new ideas can be tested without much risk – and startup companies will proliferate.

Big and small firms will join forces. Collaborative partnerships with big companies will increase, as small companies bring to the table innovative practices, market agility and intimate customer knowledge. What will big firms offer small businesses? Marketing and distribution power so that they can take their innovations to broader markets.

One prediction I’m not so sure I agree with: “The Web and mobile technologies will become the great equalizer of big and small, with customers no longer knowing – or even caring – about the size of the firm that provides their goods and services.” In a niche economy where personalization is sought after, will being a small company actually be an advantage? I think consumers may, in many cases, prefer to do business with small firms provided their needs are being met.

And here’s one innovation I particularly hope to see – and I think most busy business owners wish for as well: “The hardware and software we use on a daily basis will get smarter, helping people make everyday decisions and streamline complex tasks,” the report contends. That’s especially good news given that data will become even more critical to competitiveness. Information overload isn’t going away – so smart machines to help us deal with it will be very welcome.

Be sure to check out the full report. You can also find related materials at the Intuit website.

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published at OPENForum.com under the title: “What Does the Future Hold for Small Business?” It is republished here with permission.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

14 Reactions
  1. Anita:

    You’ve hit on one of the more interesting questions raised by these trends: Will consumers favor large or small companies in an economy characterized by niches and personalization?

    We see factors favoring both sides. Our research shows growing consumer interest in purchasing from small businesses (especially local small businesses). But at the same time, data shows large firms gaining share in most industries.

    Big/small partnerships are also making it harder to disaggregate the data. When you buy something from a 3rd party via Amazon’s website or Apple’s iTunes, are you buying from a big corporation or a small business? I think the answer is both.

    We ended up with technology being an equalizer over the next decade, but it is definitely possible it will favor small business.

  2. Anita, Thanks for that information!

    “Small businesses will get ever more specialized,” was mentioned in that report. We’ve been hearing about marketers starting to target more specialized niches for a while now.

    How can we tell if the ones we’re looking into are large enough to actually bring revenue in?

    The Franchise King

  3. In addition to the trends mentioned, I think in order to be successful, small businesses will need to focus more on building relationships in their marketing than ever before.

    With the growth of the internet and massive amount of information available, customers often don’t know who to believe. They are more likely to trust and do business with people they know or someone they have been referred to by a friend. We are already seeing businesses take advantage of online networking tools like Twitter and Facebook. I believe this trend will continue to grow.

  4. Agree with the specialized part and social media/technology will continue to level the playing field.

  5. I think one of the things that businesses may have to get better at is flexibility. Moving with the times because it all moves faster now. Small businesses may be able to do that more easily than the larger ones.

  6. Specilization is the key. Now that many of the trade barriers across states and countries are knocked down with the internet (specifically alibaba, global sources, amazon, ebay, etc) providing a unique solution to a unique problem is where startups need to focus.

    Being unique is nothing new however the accessibility of information forces being MORE unique that you had to be even 10 years ago.

    The bad news is as soon as you are successful expect to be copied.


  7. It has certainly become cheaper and easier to start a business! These days, you can get off the ground with a blog/website, Twitter, Facebook, some business cards, and an email address! All of these are free or very low in cost! So social media and the internet has evened the playing field and at the same time, given the small business owner a lot more reach to their target audience!

  8. I will bet though that funding will remain a major headache even in 2020 !
    As for today – try eSolve Capital (esocap.com)