This year we release our 10th annual Top 10 Small Business Trends list.
While change appears to happen very quickly, trends generally take a long time to become mainstream.
Mobile computing, for example, is on the 2008 list and most of the other lists.
And it's mentioned below.
So as you look through the list, keep in mind that the future doesn't change much year to year and while the pace of change is fast, it's not as fast as we think.
Which is why virtual reality is not on this year's list. It's still too far away.
1. Digital Transformation: Cloud computing, mobile computing, social technologies and data and analytics have matured to the point where we’re seeing a fundamental transformation in how business is conducted. Small businesses are becoming digitally savvy, increasing their efficiency, ability to serve their customers and improving their competitive position. This digital transformation will continue to accelerate in 2017 and SMBs who do not keep up with the pace of change will be increasingly disadvantaged.
2. Cyber Security and Data Privacy: We’ve had cyber security and data privacy in some form on our list of the top small business trends for several years. 2017 is the year we expect mainstream small businesses to recognize that cyber security and data privacy are important parts of business risk management and take steps to improve in this area.
3. SMB Globalization: Despite the backlash against globalization and international trade, exports by small, micro and even solopreneur businesses will continue to expand in 2017. Digital, global platforms such as Amazon, Ebay and others will continue to drive down the costs, knowledge and effort associated with exporting. Powered and enabled by these platforms, growing numbers of SMBs will access and serve buyers of goods and services around the globe.
4. The Million Dollar Solopreneur: We’ve borrowed this phrase from author and journalist Elaine Pofeldt, who will be releasing a book on this topic in 2017. This trend refers to the rapidly growing numbers of people choosing to use outsourcing, contingent labor and Internet services and platforms instead of traditional employees to build their businesses. We agree with Elaine that this growing trend will accelerate in 2017.
5. Corporations Embrace Freelancers: This year will see an inflection point in terms of major corporations embracing freelance talent. After studying and testing the use of freelancers (called “agile talent” and “contingent labor” by corporations) for several years, 2017 will see the corporate use of agile talent increase and become mainstream. This will, of course, increase the demand for independent workers.
6. SMBs Develop Platform Strategies: Platforms such as Amazon, Etsy, Intuit Quickbooks, etc. provide SMBs “plug-and-play” access to world class business infrastructure on a variable cost basis. These platforms provide a wide range of valuable services including access to customers, cloud computing resources, manufacturing, warehousing, shipping and even talent. Platforms have become so important that small businesses need a platform strategy. For most this will consist of identifying the best platforms to participate in and the right ecosystem role to play. These decisions will increasingly play a key role in small business success.
7. Business Coaches Go Mainstream: One of our most surprising (at least to us) 2016 research findings was the extent to which successful small businesses are using coaches. We knew business coaching had developed into a big business, but we had under estimated how widespread coaching had become. Due to the growing complexity of business and the rapid pace of change, coaching will become even more common as more SMBs seek help on working through complex problems quickly.
8. The New Better Off: This is the title of a book that describes how many are reinventing the American dream. In this new approach, bigger isn’t always better, wealth isn’t equated with happiness and experiences are more important than things. We’ve been tracking trends related to this for over a decade and we’ve seen a strong acceleration in new ways people are seeking happiness and fulfillment (Hygge being a recent example). This shift will continue to grow in 2017.
9. Coconut Everything: OK, this is not our trend. It comes from Whole Foods Top 10 Food Trends of 2017. Evidently pretty much any food product you can think of - natural beauty products, flours, tortillas, chips, ice creams, butters and many more – will be coconutized and join coconut oil and coconut water as popular products in 2017.
10 President-Elect Donald Trump: There’s a lot of speculation about how President-Elect Trump, a pro-business, anti-regulation, populist and his administration will impact small businesses. While too early to tell, it’s likely SMBs will see reduced regulatory burdens, tax cuts and a more pro-business attitude from DC. Because of the lack of specificity around potential programs, small businesses will need to pay attention to what’s going on in DC over the next year to stay on top of changes.