Challenges Facing SMB Owners In 2016

A new year brings new opportunities . . . a fresh start . . . time to reassess and regroup. It’s the time to face new challenges, especially for small business owners. Wearing a lot of hats is no small task, so hitting the pause button in the 4th quarter of 2015 might be just that’s needed to get a jump-start on that year ahead.

Spanning the gamut from adapting to technological advancements to an ever-changing economic climate, to recruitment of staff and seeking out new customers, small business owners have a lot of priorities to address. How and if you face these challenges head-on is what’s going to give you that extra vote of confidence to move forward expeditiously.

Tapping Online Customers

Seeking online customers becomes more and more difficult with each passing year. Every time you think you have a handle on it, last year’s formula needs to be re-tweaked just to keep pace. Converting customers is now affected by artificial intelligence, IoT and sophisticated robots taking on more and more of the job responsibilities that were previously assumed by humans in the past. So, it’s incumbent on business owners to choose prudently between hiring a new staff member or new software to target customers.

While organic search results are more difficult to obtain, small business owners need to assess the rising costs of SEO, online advertising and privacy concerns that come into play. Now, it’s necessary to understand buyers’ preferences, behavioral patterns and lead referral systems that are current and effective.

Recruiting talent

Industry experts point to the current state of the union having a direct correlation to diminishing labor pools. As the economy continues to grow and unemployment rates continue to decline, 2016 will see less and less candidates with the necessary skills to fill your job openings.

Mobility is the key

It’s no surprise that today’s mantra is ‘work on the go’ and 2016 will see this trend escalate even more, as workers use their smartphones – over any other device – to conduct business. More than ever, 2016 business owners will need to communicate with their customers, clients and business partners in efficient and quick manner.

As traditional PBXs and PSTNs are being replaced by VoIP and IP-based PBXs, the telephony space is not going to stop adding features.

Adapting to minimum-wage increases

With the presidential and gubernatorial elections fast approaching, there is no doubt that contenders will push for minimum-wage increases. In such states as Nebraska, an increase of over 10 percent has already occurred. This challenges business owners to make tough decisions in hiring and to find ways to recoup lost profits as a result.

Increasing prices on goods and services, outsourcing work to third party contractors and virtual assistants, and/or reducing staffed hours are now decisions business owners will need to make early in 2016, or they will likely see the wage increase affect their bottom lines significantly.

Embracing Change

More important than ever, one of the biggest challenges SMBs will face in 2016 is to know when to adjust strategies around technological advancement. And here, it’s important to separate the wheat from the chaff, to discern what innovations make the most sense for your company, versus a fun new toy to experiment with.

UsersThink CEO John Turner believes, “as the cost to enter a number of industries plummets, higher levels of competition will make for a much noisier environment, and by virtue of volume, it will be hard to find the actual challengers to your business, versus new ventures just making a lot of noise.”

Obtaining appropriate financing

Obtaining sufficient financing for SMBs facing start-ups and/or business growth is going to become more challenging in 2016. As the big banks continue to make it harder and harder for small businesses to get financing, the process for obtaining a traditional loan will become more and more difficult. So, it’s wise to look for 21st Century options, such as crowdfunding campaigns, venture capitalists and peer-to-peer lending.

Avoiding data security issues

With cloud computing becoming more and more a requisite for SMBs, it’s important to assess how much of your data is at risk going into the new year.

MJ Pedone, president and CEO, Indra Public Relations says, “”I believe that CEOs will be challenged with keeping their business secure. There is a lot of unrest in the world, and we are faced with the challenges of cyber-attacks, bank account fraud, social media hacking and viral corruption in general. If these hackers are able to hack into such bigwigs as Sony, they will be able to attack SMBs as well.”

Looking forward . . .

Challenges Facing SMB Owners In 2016Since 2016 will be here before you know it, today’s tips and trends will hopefully help you start thinking about what’s important for your business.

But don’t make this list or any other overwhelm you. Prioritize what means the most to you and start on those larger tasks first, since they will most likely give you the better return on your efforts and your dollars. This means becoming vigilant with time, and shifting your focus from the trivial [personal emails, social networking, social calls, etc.] and minimizing distractions, so you can meet your obtainable deadlines consistently and on time . . . or even better . . . in advance of their need.

Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.