It's A Small Business World

The Top 10 Small Business Trends of the Decade

Next month, will mark the end of the first decade of this millennium (End of the decade we did not know what to call...I vote for "the naughts"). Some will say that this decade was a bad hangover with Y2K, the Dot Com Crash, 9/11 and the Great Recession.  But, there have been some very significant advances and developments that helped small business in this past decade. Here are the most significant trends:

1. The internet allows geographic independent sales and marketing. For most businesses, you and your customer can be anywhere and still do business together anywhere in the world.

2. The movement to reduce costs and commuting by working at home. Your office is wherever your phone, computer or PDA is. Work has become "location independent".

3. Mashing of work and home spaces. You no longer leave work at 5:00 PM and go home (see #2). Home looks more like work and work, well it looks alot more like home. As a result, we actually work a lot more hours than we did a decade ago. Thank you automation!

4. We are more easily able to network and keep in touch with people from our past. Reconnection with the friends and business associates has never been easier through Facebook and other social media. They are there whether you want it or not. But remember, business is basically about people!

5. Size no longer matters. It is mostly impossible to tell the size of the company you are doing business. Technology enables small companies to look big and for most of us, the size of the company is no longer important for most of our purchases. What people say about the company in peer reviews is the key (See #6).

6. Customer Service makes a comeback. Big companies can now become "human" as Chris Brogan says. With web site personalization, recommendations, and customer chat, companies can handle your problems more quickly. They need to since it is a lot easier tell how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with that company on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp or Youtube.

7. Less credit, more cash is king. Businesses are financing their own start up or growth through personal savings, family or friends. Banks are no longer risking their capital, not even on real estate purchases.

8. Less benefits, higher deductibles. Your employer paying 100% of your health care premium is a thing of the past. You are paying a larger share with a higher deductible and supplementing this with health savings accounts. If health care legislation passes, small business may be carrying an even higher burden.

9. A new class of employee appears. It used to be that you were either employed or unemployed. Now with the economic downturn, some people are working but not getting paid by their company as a result of cash flow issues. The promise of getting paid is better than being unemployed and well...not getting paid at all.

10. You are your own brand. Working for one company for a long period of time died in the 80's. In order to find work, people now form loose collaborations to accomplish a task for a single or multiple clients. Since these form and change frequently, the only brand you promote now is your own personal one.

What do you think the most important small business trends of the past decade have been?

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18 Comments

Jetgirl said:

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Great post!

I think the return of customer service, and the expansion of services to increase access to revenue are the big ones for me.

Chef Eric Paul said:

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Great post Barry. It's great to see that you are still spreading your knowledge.

Chef Eric Paul- ChicagoNow Blogger - Alter EatGo's Healthy Kitchen

Barry Moltz said:

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Thanks Jet Girl and Chef Paul..I am glad to be aboard!

ChicagoKTU said:

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The Marketing of and to small businesses has drastically changed. A small business no longer sees success in putting an ad in a local newspaper. We need to be more creative. And there are many, many new marketing firms targeting this market.

Barry Moltz said:

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This is a great point! Even the large firms target small biz. @chicagoktu what has worked for you?

ChicagoKTU said:

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During the past two years, our marketing plans have been 'fluid'. Internet searches, referral on-line services (e.g. Angie's List), Direct Mail and B2B networking has produced the best results. We've interviewed a few marketing consultants and firms and were disappointed by their lack of creating a unique plan for us. So we continue to sift through the countless products and try to get our message out without wasting any money.

Barry Moltz said:

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Sometimes knowing what does not work can be valuable. What does your company do?

ChicagoKTU said:

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We make kitchens happy...we're kitchen remodelers providing custom solutions - full kitchen guts, cabinet replacement, refacing, wood restoration and more!

Barry Moltz said:

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How has business been in the Great Recession? What challenges have you faced?

ChicagoKTU said:

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We are doing ok. Lead generation and sales have been inconsistent throughout the year. Our biggest challenge is dealing with the many unlicensed, uninsured, out of work contractors bidding very low and getting the jobs. You would not believe the number of times we have been called to finish or re-do a job that was started by these guys...they just disappear after starting, have no guarantee, they don't care about customer service because they have not intentions of starting a business; they just want to get by. Next problem...the banks!

Barry Moltz said:

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Do you use a lead generation system and process? also, don't get me started with the banks! See my video! http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/its-a-small-business-world/2009/12/giving-no-credit-where-it-is-do.html

ChicagoKTU said:

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We manage our leads manually - follow-up phone calls, e-mails, snail mail. We use a crm to record this activity. We also e-mail monthly newsletters, special offers, community work. We make about 50 sales calls a month with a closure rate of about 40%.

Barry Moltz said:

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I guess the key would be how to generate more sales calls if the closure rate is high at 40%!

Internet Marketing Guys said:

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Working with small businesses, and being one ourselves, we've definitely been seeing pretty much everything you describe. The credit and cashflow issue has been the toughest for many of the companies we work with. But it is true that being small, these companies have greater loyalty from their clients and customers and are a lot more nimble than larger companies with regards to changing up their marketing and communications to keep and get business. (plug :) our company site is VisibleU.com Internet Marketing )

Alora said:

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I think there is one huge factor that you did not include on your list: analytics. When I started in ecommerce in 2000, marketers had not yet truly realized the power of the analytics they were capable of getting out of the web (and, even back then, what we could do online was still light years beyond what they'd had in an offline world). As they started to understand that, and we started building more and more tools to feed that hunger, the business of the web fundamentally started to change to being more and more of a marketing-driven space. Before that point in time, small businesses were just used to doing without, because it was only large enterprises that could afford the tools to give them reliable numbers. The entire world of online analytics changed both the toolsets being used by small business, and created entirely new lines of business (many of which are being services by other small businesses) that didn't previously exist. The ripple effect has been huge, and one of the largest game changers I've seen in my 14 years online.

Sima Dahl said:

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Alora great point. We can measure so much of our marketing efforts yet I know so many small businesses, particularly B2B, barely scratch the surface. What do you think holds businesses back from doing more with available tools? From my own experience, it seems that marketers are always being pushed to do more - faster - and with less - leaving little time or bandwidth to pause and measure. Thoughts?

Eosvirtual said:

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I would add #11 We have moved from the challenge of multi-tasking to multi-jobbing. Many of us (entrepreneurs) have greater opportunity to operate in multiple arenas. I consult in my old wall street world while developing my new technology world (virtual). Technology and many of the ideas you expressed allow this to develop. Great thoughts thanks

Barry Moltz said:

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@eosvirtual I love the term "multi- jobbing"? I agree!

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