For a country known as the “Land of Opportunity” and a place where people must pull themselves up by the bootstraps, small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures are a cornerstone of the American economy. In the past decade, this sector has seen a lot of change, as technology has shaken up the way business can be conducted, and in many ways has opened new doors of possibility.
In a Nextiva blog post, Barry Moltz explores some of the trends that have emerged for small businesses over the past 10 years. The main driver of changing trends for small business seems to be the rise of the Internet, which has given both companies and their customers geographical freedom. The barriers that previously isolated businesses from the global market have essentially been torn down, opening up an international network that any business can access, no matter how big or small. Likewise, customers from anywhere in the world can reach out to and seek services from just about any business with an online presence.
Not only does virtualization allow companies to join a global community – it also gives employees the ability to work from just about anywhere. With technologies like business VoIP, employees can work remotely; all they need is a computer or smartphone and an Internet connection. That independence has given more people valuable job opportunities, and gives businesses a chance to seek out employees from around the world who can bring different skill sets and experiences to bring to the table. And, while it might be debatable whether or not this is a good thing, working from home or remotely has enabled employees and business owners to build more flexible work schedules and, consequently, work longer hours overall.
Meeting in person is no longer a requirement either, as video conferencing and other forms of contact have emerged as alternatives. And with VoIP and cloud services, it’s easy and affordable for any business, however small, to get that professional touch through personalized and streamlined phone and messaging services, etc., making it difficult to tell how big the business actually is.
VoIP and cloud services are one way small businesses can save on costs, as banks have established greater limitations on loans, and business owners are forced to manage their finances more efficiently. Employers don’t have to pay the complete cost of healthcare premiums for employees anymore, as employees now pay a larger portion of their own money, with a higher deductible supplemented by health savings accounts.
Social media has played a big role in establishing a closer, continuous connection between companies and users. The lines between marketing and customer service have blurred, and now a company’s standing often replies heavily upon its reception on sites like Yelp!, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (News - Alert). Reviews and testimonials, good or bad, are just a click away.
While the age of Internet connectivity has opened up doors for more people to get jobs, it has also created a new class of working people who are underemployed and tend to make less money than before or are limited to only working part-time.
Company branding as become more fluid as well. With fewer employees sticking to one job for the long-haul, businesses often find themselves in loose collaborations with other people and services, and ultimately, the branding reduces to “you” -- the customer.
For better or worse, technology has reshaped the way small businesses are run over the past decade, and it’s safe to say that change is the one trend we can count on these days.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey