It seems to becoming harder and harder to predict each year what will happen next. Whether it’s politics, the economy, or even sports (see Falcons, Cubs, Villanova, Roger Federer, et al); guessing the future of anything is not getting any easier.
With that said, here are my fearless predictions for small business in 2017. I am willing, maybe even hoping, to be wrong on any of these forecasts. I am also interested in what you think, so please send me an email, share this blog post, or forward it to a colleague.
#1. Office hours are going away. Dying a slow death. Thank goodness! Work hours go back to the farms of our grandparents and Henry Ford and the auto factories. Those businesses had to work on a set time schedule.
Today, not so much. Why? The best employees, your superstars, will arrive at work when they need to and will leave when they are done for the day. You don’t need to require them to arrive at 9am because they start working at 7am. They may leave the office at 4pm and yet will still work into the wee hours if needed.
The only employees that need a set work schedule in your small business are the ones that don’t want to be there to start with. They show up right at 9am, work 2-3 hours, and then hang around the office the rest of the day (chained to their desks) because they have to. Why are they still employed at your business?
#2. Less sales. More marketing. This trend has been building momentum for a number of years now. Small businesses spending less time and money on sales and more on marketing. Why? Simply because buyers have so much information and data at their disposal now that they don’t need to be sold much any more. When they are ready to buy, they do.
Research today indicates that over 95% of the sales process in B2B today happens before any contact is made by the buyer to the seller. The buyer spends time studying the market, comparing products, shopping prices, and then contacts the seller and places an order.
This is true in retail as well. No need to speak to a car salesperson, a real estate agent, or a even a department store service representative. Think Amazon.
This trend means marketing now has to do the heavy lifting in generating revenue. Marketing has to make sure potential buyers have access to all of the information (content) they need. Marketing also has to make it easy for the products to be made available and purchased. The less friction in the buying process, the better.
#3. Less variable pay for employees. More fixed compensation. The pendulum has definitely started to swing in the direction of fixed compensation after several decades of more variable pay.
Why? Two good reasons. First, money never has been and never will be a motivator for the vast majority of your employees, particularly your best team members. Pay can certainly be a significant de-motivator. Not enough money or uncertainty about pay will drive away top performers.
Secondly, small businesses still face a seller’s market for top talent. More positions open than qualified people to fill those jobs. Most superstars prefer fixed pay, because it’s more predictable. They know they can perform and expect to get paid accordingly.
#4. Gun-free workplaces. As a result of both federal and state law making it easier for employees to bring weapons to work, many employers are now beginning to prohibit firearms in the workplace. As a result, many states have passed “parking lot” laws which allow employees to have guns in their cars at work in the parking lot.
Why are more small businesses taking this action? Two reasons. First, many employees are asking for it. They want to feel safe at work. Secondly, it’s a liability issue for businesses. What responsibility do you have as an employer if an employee uses his or her gun at work?
I remember seeing “drug-free” signs at the main entrance of many businesses in the 1980’s. Today the signs say “gun-free”.
#5. Small Business will matter less in Washington, DC. This is not political fanfare. We now have a president who generally has not supported small businesses in his career and a political party in control that has not historically supported small business. Please fact check me on this if you like.
The Affordable Care Act has had more than it’s share of problems. I am paying more now for health insurance than ever before. But no legislation in recent decades has had more of a positive impact on new business start-ups than this one act. One of the biggest hurdles for someone leaving their current job to start a new business is access to health insurance. Prior to the passage of the ACA, new start-ups in this country were on the decline for the first time ever in the history of this country. Now, in part to ACA, business start-ups are again on the rise in the United States.
#6. Small Business will continue to Matter in this country. #1 driver of new jobs, innovation, and economic opportunity.