Ten Years Later: A Look Back at My 2007 Small Business Predictions

This is the time of year that everyone makes predictions for 2017. Ten years ago, I made nine small business predictions for the year 2007. Some were way off, some were dead on, and some are still trending today.

2007 Small Business Predictions

1. Small business owners will continue to shift larger portions of their payroll to pay-for-performance. While this has been traditionally true for employees in sales positions or senior management, I believe we will see more employees throughout the organization being compensated for their performance rather than for just showing up for work. This is a win-win for business owners and employees.

2. A comeback for customer service. Like their large business brethren, I believe that many small business owners have shifted their attention away from customer service in recent years as they have made large investments in technology and have cut back service personnel in the name of efficiency. I see smart business owners reversing this trend and refocusing on providing highly personalized customer service.

3. Small businesses embrace the Hispanic market. Larger corporations have already begun this movement and I expect more small business owners to do so as well. This means not only creating marketing campaigns directed at the Hispanic consumer but also beginning to target Hispanic employees as well. The Hispanic purchasing power is grown substantially over the past decade and can no longer be ignored by small business marketers. Likewise, there is a significant Hispanic labor pool available to small businesses who are prepared to open their doors to them.

4. Small businesses will continue to become more virtual. I see more employees working from home as technology has enabled this trend greatly. I also see more small businesses outsourcing more non-critical business processes such as accounting, payroll, and IT maintenance.

5. Focus on velocity. Companies like Walmart, UPS, and Dell already have mastered this trend. It’s all about doing everything faster. Quicker response time for customers. Quicker new product/service development. Quicker hiring and firing of employees. Small business owners will embrace a “need for speed”.

6. Small business marketing will continue to shift away from traditional advertising and move towards new age public relations. Our customers are overwhelmed by thousands of advertising messages each day and they have become very cynical about the sources of these messages. Public relations builds credibility and is in most cases far more cost-efficient for small businesses. The explosion in corporate blogs is a great example of this trend.

7. The role of the church and religion will continue to grow within small businesses. The number of businesses that have branded themselves as “faith-based” has increased exponentially over the past 3-5 years. Many small businesses are now using faith as a factor in their hiring practices. Businesses are supporting and sometimes hosting organized prayer sessions during the work day.

8. Small business owners will begin to jump aboard the energy conservation and “green” environment bandwagons. As more Americans are killed and wounded in the Middle East, business owners will see that they can play a vital part in the War on Terror by maximizing their company’s respective energy conservation efforts. This may include simple strategies such as switching to more efficient light bulbs, using hybrid cars, encouraging employee ride-shares and teleworking.

9. Small Business will continue to “Matter”. They will continue to be the driving force in our economy, driving product innovation, putting more Americans to work, and fostering the American dream of entrepreneurship.

2017 New Year’s Resolutions

This is the time of year that we make New Year’s resolutions for ourselves. The most popular include weight loss, exercise, being nicer to our in-laws, etc.

What about your business? Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for your business for 2017? If not, here is a list of ten that I suggest for any business, large or small. Feel free to pick any one or all of these resolutions for your business.

1. Have a plan. Develop a “road map” for your journey into 2017. It doesn’t have to be a full-scale business plan. Vistage speaker Kraig Kramers suggests you start with a one page business plan with your company mission, vision, goals, and strategies. The Wall Street Journal reported that a small business’s chances of success increase by 50% if that business has a business plan. You decide…

2. Develop your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). In order to be (more) successful, a business must differentiate itself from its competition. The best way to do that is by creating a USP for your business. The best-selling book “Blue Ocean Strategy” is a great resource to get you started.

3. Create Customers For Life. It is not enough to satisfy customers anymore. Satisfied customers are not loyal customers. Satisfied customers will leave you in a heartbeat for a better deal. Your objective is to “own” lifetime customers. Read Ken Blanchard’s book “Raving Fans” for a refresher course on this resolution.

4. Think Global. According to best-selling author Thomas Friedman, “The World is Flat”. What are you doing within your business to capitalize on global opportunities? The options are limitless: importing, exporting, outsourcing, etc. If you are not currently capitalizing on these strategies, now is the time to begin exploring your options.

5. Assemble a Board of Advisors. Every business can benefit from getting the insight of a non-partial, third party advisory group on a regular basis. They don’t have to be a formal group or even be compensated (maybe a meal). The key is to find a group that has no direct fiduciary responsibility to you. Their primary interest needs to be your growth and success.

6. Invest in Training. The Association for Talent Development has determined that for every $1 a business invests in training, it can expect a $5 return on investment. That beats the Stock Market. My recommendation is to set a goal of one day of training per month.

7. Be Healthy. Your physical and mental health will have a dramatic impact on your company’s bottom line. Exercise at least 30 minutes each day. Learn to better manage your stress levels. Watch your diet. Get an annual physical.

8. Keep Score. Managing a business is a lot like playing a game. It might be fun for a short period of time not to keep score, but ultimately we need to know who’s winning and losing. The only way to do that is to keep score regularly (daily). For every business, there are at least three numbers that you should be tracking every single day. You decide what those numbers might be for your business (sales, receivables, bank balance, inventory, etc.) and start keeping score.

9. Network. It is important that you leave the friendly confines of your office on a regular basis to interact with current and potential clients, suppliers, lenders, and advisors. I recommend that you belong to three networks: an industry group, a local business group, and a service club.

10. Become an Expert on your Business. Write a newspaper article, give a talk, get quoted…position yourself as the local expert in your field. This may be the most cost-effective form of “Guerrilla Marketing” available. In most cases this type of publicity costs nothing and could generate considerable results in terms of increased sales, new clients, and positive public relations.

BONUS!

Have Fun! You have chosen to own this business. Likewise, you can choose to have fun managing it. Your new top title is CFO (Chief Fun Officer). Sometimes you have to make work fun. Celebrate new accounts. Take your employees to a ballgame. Be spontaneous. Be the employer that clients want to work with and employees want to work for.

Have a happy and profitable New Year in 2017.