If there is one thing we can predict with certainty here at FreshBooks, it’s that every calendar year ends with predictions for the following year’s Next Big Trends. But as with all crystal ball gazing, sometimes these predictions come to pass, other times … not so much.
Either way, we know many of you need to keep on top of the small business buzz. In an effort to make that easier, we have consulted small business gurus and owners, and scoured the web for the most insightful themes for 2013.
1. Expanding global opportunities
As CBS’s MoneyWatch program recently suggested, one of the secrets to financial success in 2013 will likely include ramping up money earned through online work. This means small business owners will be taking greater advantage of global opportunities.
A survey by Elance, a California-based online employment platform, recently found that if your small business is based on skills in marketing, writing, or security, you are well-positioned to take advantage of this trend.
2. Rising power of customers
In 2013, customers will take greater advantage of social media tools to either pick or pan small businesses. As the Miami Herald’s Tasha Cunningham puts it, consumers will become marketers.
“With online product reviews, social media and viral video, consumers are more empowered than ever to share their opinions — good or bad — about the products and services they use,” writes Cunningham. “2013 is being hailed in the world of branding and advertising as the year of the consumer.”
3. Keeping a close eye on accounts payable
When the Bank of America released its inaugural Small Business Owner Report earlier this year, it found 45 per cent of small business owners cited not being paid on time as their biggest impediment to cash flow.
That’s no surprise to Libby Bierman, an analyst at Sageworks, a North Carolina-based financial information company. She says small business financial statements show owners are taking slightly longer to get paid.
Not only does she predict the situation will continue into 2013, she has a word of warning for small business owners: “If they let that go, short-term obligations will be harder to meet. Small businesses have to watch their check books carefully.”
4. The Rise of the Home Based Business
“There was a time that if you told someone you ran a business from home, they would pat you on the shoulder and tell you not to worry, things will get better,” says Australian entrepreneur Andrew Griffiths.
But technology, communication and global markets are making it easier and easier for people to realize their dream of working from home, he says.
“This means a lot more “mompreneurs” (moms setting up businesses), “greypreneurs” (retired people setting up businesses) and “youngpreneurs” (children, or more specifically teenagers becoming entrepreneurs),” he predicts.
Certainly, the latest figures from the US Census Bureau back him up. It shows the number of people who worked at home at least one day per week increased from 9.5 million in 1999 to 13.4 million in 2010, increasing from seven per cent to 9.5 per cent of all workers.
5. Losing the office
As Tom Austin, vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based technology research firm, Gartner, tells Entrepreneur.com, “Who says there’ll be an office at all? Already we work from Starbucks, in the car and at our kids’ softball games.”
Entrepeneur’s Matt Villano suggests that as technology allows people to work from just about anywhere, more small- and medium-size businesses may forgo the traditional bricks and mortar office.
“Cloud computing enables data backups and remote collaboration in real time,” writes Villano. “And group video chat–videoconferencing 2.0, if you will–has become dirt cheap (or, in the case of Google Hangouts, free).”
(Full disclosure: this article was written in a coffee shop)
About the Author: Sharon Oosthoek is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes about science and the environment. Her work has appeared in New Scientist, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic, cbc.ca, YES Magazine, Defenders magazine, Today’s Parent, Canadian Family, ON Nature and Canadian Wildlife.