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Eight Small Business Trends For '08

Jan 1, 2008
1. Collaborating Online

A number of factors make online collaboration more available and affordable for small businesses. 1) The continuing spread of broadband internet connections. 2) Free or low cost web-based software applications like word processing and spreadsheet programs. 3) Free or low-cost email encryption services. 4) Free or low-cost web-based storage services.

The days of having to carry around memory sticks or sync your files seem numbered. Small businesses that embrace these changes can reduce software costs, have access to the latest versions of software, and increase security.

2. Subscribing to Online Software Applications

More small businesses will be using software applications that are based online and available by subscription. This growing trend is called software as a service (SaaS). Always having the latest version of your software and paying a set monthly fee are some of its advantages. The old way usually meant using an old version and avoiding upgrades because of the cost and hassle of installing them. Subscription software will aid security since the data will be stored offsite and backed up regularly, and will provide secure access to collaborators.

3. Going Digital

A completely paperless business may not be practical, but it is possible. Going truly digital means more than just converting and storing documents digitally, it means not accepting and not creating paper documents at all. Look for ways to deal with employees, customers and suppliers without creating paper documents. Payroll can be directly deposited in employees' bank accounts or added to their own debit cards. Customers can be invoiced and pay by email or online. Many vendors will send electronic invoices and statements, and accept orders and payments online. Deposits can be made and bills can be paid using an online bank account.

Going digital will reduce paper and postage costs and save some trees, but the real savings will come from streamlining how things get done. The time saved by not processing all that paper will help reduce payroll, or can be spent on more important activities.

4. Advertising Online

Small businesses will be reducing print ads in yellow page directories and newspapers because more customers are looking for products and services online. Online advertising is generally cheaper, so small businesses will be able to save money and increase exposure at the same time. Online advertising is providing more targeted results as search engines offer geographically relevant results, and more web sites with local content offer advertising space.

Small businesses will be re-working their advertising program and budget to take advantage of online options.

5. Going Green

Small businesses will find lots of innovative, low-cost ways to go greener. They can make simple changes to policies and procedures to turn off lights and equipment when not in use, encourage employees to carpool or use public transportation, reduce waste, and recycle. They can switch to more energy efficient lighting and buy electricity from renewable source suppliers. They can go paperless to save paper and trees. They can buy a hybrid as their next company vehicle.

Since environmental issues are hot topics, small businesses should promote all of their green accomplishments. Keeping track of how many trees saved or tons of CO2 not produced can be a great promotional tool.

6. Going Wireless

Wireless capabilities are expanding and improving. More computer peripherals, office machines, telecommunication devices, etc. will be operated wirelessly. Fewer wires allow more flexibility in placing equipment. Centrally located and shared devices will reduce the need for hardware. Increased connectivity with employees, customers, suppliers will improve productivity.

7. Going Color

Reasonably priced, high-speed, high-quality color laser printers are now on the market. As a result, small businesses will be using more color in their documents. All black print documents will become a sign of being behind the times. Businesses will be able to produce their own full color promotional materials like letterhead, business cards, and brochures. Although these items may cost more per piece, the ability to print small quantities and make instant changes will make this an attractive option. Not having to order and store large quantities of printed materials will be another benefit.

8. Going Local

In our increasingly global economy small businesses that maintain, strengthen and promote their local roots will benefit. Products and services that are made, purchased, sourced, based and connected locally will be in demand. The businesses that educate and inform their customers effectively about these local ties will have a competitive advantage.
About the Author
David E. Coffman CPA/ABV, CVA has authored a number of works about small business topics. He also maintains several blogs about business topics including Small Business Trends. He has 30 years of experience working with and operating small businesses.
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