Is it really time to turn the corner on a new year again? Things move so quickly these days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, even if you’re sitting still.
But we know that small business owners like you don’t sit still – can’t sit still – or your business will die. The good news is there are plenty of companies, from spirited startups to established old school brands, who want to help you survive. So let’s take a look at what will happen to impact the financial opportunities for small business next year.
I see two mega-trends that will impact small business in a big way in 2013. Those are cloud computing and mobile technology:
Cloud Computing has been around for a while now, but small business has been slow to embrace using the cloud to run their business. That looks like it’s turning a corner. According to the Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 research report (PDF), the number of very small companies using a paid cloud solution will potentially triple in the next three years and those companies will be using multiple cloud apps.
The report states that many of these businesses will use as many as five apps to help run their business. That’s good news for small business owners and for cloud service providers.
Mobile Technology is exploding with the easy availability of smartphones and tablets. It’s rare that a small business has not yet embraced this technology in some way.
According to the ATT Technology Poll (PDF), nearly all small businesses (96%) use wireless technologies in their operations, with almost two-thirds (63%) indicating that they could not survive – or it would be a major challenge to survive – without wireless technologies and 85% of small businesses reported using smartphones for their operations.
Despite being a relatively new technology device, two-thirds (67%) of small businesses indicate that they use tablet computers.
Both of these mega-trends open up a world of possibilities for small business to help them run their businesses leaner than ever before. That can mean plenty of freed up cash to help your business grow.
Here’s how you can leverage those mega-trends for your business:
Lose the Pen and Paper for Good
If you’ve been stubborn about moving from paper for your invoicing, now’s the time to make the move. This area of the cloud is maturing quickly and there are plenty of competitors who want to help you get those invoices out so you can get that hard earned cash in your pocket.
One of particular interest is SageOne, an all-around tool that can help you not only get those invoices out the door quickly, but also track project time, manage your money and help your team collaborate. You can do it all on any device. No need to be stuck in an office. That means you and your team can be flexible and still be on top of your financials. But they’re not the only game in town. There are plenty of cloud-based invoicing apps you can choose from depending on the needs of your business.
Check out this comprehensive list of online invoicing apps here on Small Business Trends. There are so many apps it could boggle your mind, so make sure you define your specific needs and requirements before you choose.
Don’t Hire One Person, Hire a Crowd
Crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular and can create a big advantage for your business. It allows you to leverage the power of many rather than just one. If you need to outsource a task and would like the power of many minds, crowdsourcing is the right thing for you.
It’s still a growing trend, so there are many markets that can open up in this area, but for now you can crowdsource a new logo design for your business (99designs), raise funds for a new creative project (Kickstarter), and have a comprehensive customer support knowledge base (GetSatisfaction) – to name a few.
It’s worth taking a look the next time you need some help.
Getting Funding Hasn’t Gotten Any Easier, But the Network Has Grown
One thing that’s always been tough for small business is securing funding for their business venture. That’s one constant that never seems to budge. When you need money, it’s very tough to get it. Then when you become successful, the companies who have funds to help seem to come out of the woodwork.
The traditional way to get the money you need is to tap into your favorite small business banker and see if they can help you or find an SBA loan vendor that can walk you through the laborious process to get much needed funds. The good news is that the network for small business funders has grown. No longer are small businesses restricted by their local network. The Web has spawned networks, such as Biz2Credit that will help connect you to a lender depending on your loan needs.
Accounting Software Choices are Growing Too
All you have to do is mention accounting and you’ll hear a collective groan from small business owners around the world. That’s not a good thing since cash flow is a key factor in small business success. But choices have been limited in the past, putting small business in a “take or leave it” position when it comes to software – and a lot of them just decided to stick with paper.
Lots of companies are seeing the opportunity to help you with this area of your business. GoDaddy has dipped its toe in the accounting pond through acquisition of cloud-based accounting app Outright that helps organize small business finances and automate bookkeeping tasks. There are some interesting new entrants moving into this space too like Wave Accounting from Canada and Xero from Australia, both with the objective to make accounting simple for you.
Who Needs a Computer, Just Use Your Phone
Swipe devices for mobile have radically changed the landscape for small business. With vendors like Square and PayPal Here, no matter where you want to sell your products or services you can do it. It won’t break the bank either. In addition to getting paid on your phone, there are a ton of financial apps that can help keep you on track. (Google Play lists over 1000.) There’s everything from expense tracking apps like Concur and Expensify to full-fledged banking apps – just to name a few.
So there you go. Moving your business functions to the cloud and leveraging your mobile technology can help your small business be leaner and meaner than ever before. And that will produce better results for your bottom line.
Are you embracing the cloud and have you become more dependent on your mobile to run your business?
Nice job on this post, Denise.
About that, “Lose the Pen and Paper for Good” suggestion…
I’ve tried business accounting software before. You know, income and expenses..
Each time, the software was so clunky, and so hard to use, I scrapped it.
It will take a lot for this one-person business to lose the paper and pen.
The Franchise King®
Thanks Joel. Times have really changed with financial software. The super techies have made it far easier for us than it ever was before. Give it another shot and you may just change your mind (and save time in the process!).
Great list of trends. This information will be truly helpful in the new year. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Ti. Glad you found it helpful. Best of luck to you in 2013!
Hi Denise, I have also seen a lot of people start looking closely at metrics. I have been asked by a few magazines/blogs to write on this topic in the last few months. For example anyone advertising on google will be extremely sensitive to metrics. Thanks for the trends – really useful stuff!!
Darren – Thanks for sharing that. Focusing on metrics is a good thing for small business. Appreciate you reading the article and glad it was helpful for you.
Denise, I think you hit on some key financial trends that are important for small business owners. The topic of small business funding alone could generate several follow up articles. As banks have tightened lending requirements, alternative lenders have stepped up to take their place. I work for an invoice financing company called The Receivables Exchange where we specialize in helping small business owners improve their cash flow and build their credit. Exploring the world of alternative financing is a great idea for any small business owner who needs some working capital.
Mariah — Yes, funding will always be an issue for small business. It’s good that alternatives continue to be available, however none of them are “easy” for small business owners. More often than not, financing for small business will continue to come out of the owner’s pocket. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Denise, thank you for this great article. I agree that cloud computing and especially mobile technology will be very important aspects for businesses in 2013. Mobile devices make everything a lot easier both on a personal and business level. Consequently, more and more consumers want to pay for goods and services with their mobile devices. Businesses are going to need to meet this new demand. I liked the way you put it, “Who Needs a Computer, Just Use Your Phone.” Being mobile with your business is highly beneficial for success. We are truly entering a digital age.
You’re welcome Suzy. Glad you enjoyed the article. As we move forward, our phones will become even more important than they are today. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.