Owning a small business is an all-consuming task. Critical work such as customer service, managing staff, tracking the budget, marketing and sales require your constant attention, leaving you little time and energy to focus on the larger trends within your industry.
However, staying on top of technological breakthroughs and innovations is important for business success. By doing so, you will be able to quickly adjust to market forces, save time and identify ways to streamline and strengthen your business processes.
Try to set aside up to two hours each week to do one or more of the following activities to help you keep current:
Subscribe to Business Journals, Magazines and Newspapers
Subscribing to a couple publications can yield big dividends for your business. Bloomberg Business Week , Consumer Reports , Fast Company , Inc , Financial Times , Wall Street Journal , Wired and this website, Small Business Trends , are just a few of the popular mainstream business publications that cover the latest small business and economic trends.
Keep publications where you spend the most time so you can quickly access them, both online and offline. If you subscribe to print editions, publications often provide free and full access to the digital version, which typically includes interactive content such as informative videos and helpful online tools.
Engage on Social Media
One of the best ways to stay connected is through social media. Through LinkedIn  and Facebook  groups, you can exchange tips with those within your industry. Groups are also a good place to ask questions about emerging trends and best practice.
Create Twitter  lists of influential people in your industry to track what movers and shakers are talking about it in real time. Google+  also has communities where you can find what’s trending and ask other small business owners about industry patterns they are seeing.
Keep an Eye on Business Stats
Agencies such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis , Census Bureau  and National Bureau of Economic Research  all report industry data and statistics that will help you get an idea of national, regional and state trends.
Join Industry Associations
Although you may not be able to fully commit to an industry or trade organization, joining one can be beneficial to your business. These groups are a great way to network and explore how others in your field are addressing challenges and developing new ways to serve their customers.
Take Advantage of Free Training
SCORE ,the Small Business Administration  and Small Business DevelopmentCenters  all have free online training, courses, webinars, blogs and other resources that will help you expand your business and stay up-to-date on important national issues related to your business.
As a small business owner, you know that time is money. So devoting just a small amount of time to understanding emerging trends in your industry can yield big dividends.
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