BUSINESS STRATEGY & GROWTH • April 30, 2015
2 minutes Read
By Gene Marks
Small business influencer Gene Marks is a guest blogger for CAN Capital. He is a celebrated author, columnist and small business owner.
A new index from CAN Capital was released today and the main takeaway is that small businesses seem to be feeling less optimistic, expect less growth and consider this year to be at best “stable.” And you know what? That’s good news for the savvy entrepreneur.
Yes, good news. Because when you dig further into the results of the survey you discover that small businesses have growing concerns about healthcare and employees. They’re worried about their competitors and getting found online. They’re barely keeping up with technology. Of course there are concerns. Of course there are issues. There will always be. But when people have problems then that means they want help. Which also means there are opportunities for those who embrace them.
Take the economy. CAN Capital’s survey reports that less than half of small business owners surveyed (49 percent) expect business growth within the next 12 months, which is a decline from the 58 percent of small business owners who expected growth in the previous index conducted in September 2014. “It seems” according to the press release, that “…small businesses expect 2015 to be a year of stability rather than expansion, with 40 percent of owners saying they expect their businesses to remain about the same over the next 12 months, up from 34 percent in the fall.”
Are you a financial advisor? A CPA? A cost consultant? Now’s the time to up your marketing. Small businesses seem ready for help keeping their overhead under control, getting better metrics on their businesses and leaning on an outside expert to help them guide their company through these slower, “stable” times.
Then there are employees. “Rising employment costs from regulations including new minimum wage laws and the Affordable Care Act were cited by 44 percent of respondents as the biggest threat facing small businesses today.” The complex Affordable Care Act is providing more opportunities for benefits consultants, not less. Great new human resources applications, like ZenPayroll, Zenefits and Work4 have appeared on the market to help businesses find and manage people better, but businesses need help implementing these systems. Small companies need help understanding new laws and regulations (think minimum wage, paid sick days, maternity leave) that concern their employees, which provides an opportunity for firms who provide training and consulting in these areas.
“Many small business owners also recognize the need to do a better job of reaching their customers online,” the survey reports, “with 60 percent saying their knowledge of digital/social media marketing was either fair or poor. Only 29 percent of small businesses said they have optimized their websites for mobile devices, compared with 35 percent of respondents in the last survey. Twenty-seven percent of small businesses in the latest survey said they don’t have a website at all. When asked about how they’re using social media, 42 percent said they are posting content, 39 percent are communicating directly with customers and 30 percent are advertising. However, only 13 percent are using digital tools to gather analytics and insights.” Search engine optimization. Website development. Social media. Data analytics. Ring a bell? Do you do this? Are you interested in doing this? Seems like there are plenty of small businesses out there who could use your help!
Finally, there’s technology. The survey found that “small businesses are also coping with the shift to digital and mobile payments.” Retailers in particular are trying to get their arms around the EMV chip rules governing credit card transactions that will affect them this fall and upgrade their point of sale equipment. Many small businesses are still trying to better understand and implement the best mobile and payment technologies for their business and continue to struggle as they shift to the cloud. Though not mentioned in the survey, security and support are always big needs for a small business owner who is generally under-staffed and overwhelmed. Are you a tech expert? Get to work!
So yes, things are slowing down a bit. Small business owners are not expecting to grow as much. There seems to be a little less optimism. But one person’s problem is another person’s opportunity. As for me, I see plenty of opportunities out there for the entrepreneur that wants to go after them!