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Business Trends for 2014 – Are You Prepared For The Year Ahead?

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We’re almost at the midway point for 2013, and it’s been an exciting year in business. Economic activity has increased in some important sectors and data indicates that more and more companies are adding employees to their payrolls. Hopefully these positive indicators will continue throughout the rest of this year and into 2014. In looking at data about the economy and the businesses that drive it, we noticed some business trends that we believe are quite significant. If you are an entrepreneur or are considering starting a business, you would be wise to take note of these top business trends for 2014.

Smaller, Faster, Nimbler

With communication faster than ever and market trends changing in the blink of an eye, we’ve been seeing a movement toward smaller, faster, and nimbler business operations over the last several years. However, this trend has really increased in 2013. Several large UK companies, have made strides in the early-goings of this year to create business units that are able to quickly move on the latest trends using the startling amount of consumer data that is now available to companies. These business segments are designed topounce on new ideas and get products out the door before interest shifts to the next thing. In addition, many young people, who are part of one of the most powerful consumer segments, prefer smaller companies because they have a great deal of distrust of nameless, faceless corporations that appear to be unwilling to listen to their needs and are focused solely on huge profits.

The Death of the One-Way Conversation

Over the past several years, we’ve seen that, more and more, companies simply cannot expect to succeed unless they are willing to create a two-way conversation with their customers. Using Facebook and Twitter, consumers now have the ability to disparage or praise a company in front of billions of people worldwide. Businesses must be willing to engage in conversations with consumers, to admit mistakes, and to provide the goods and services the people really want. A few companies have proven themselves masters of social media, engaging effectively with customers and establishing a hip, customer-first brand image. Even large companies have been able to succeed with social media by being quick to respond to customers and by displaying an unexpected sense of humor. In addition to their social media efforts, call answering services have become a popular option for many businesses, as they make it easy for companies to keep payrolls low while still having the resources to provide attentive, personal customer service.

Free (or Cheap) is Good

Social media is a free way for companies to advertise. Thus, with a solid social media marketing plan, companies can generate as much business as they might have with direct mail, at a significantly lower cost. Free, open source software, like Linux, is something that many companies are now using instead of Windows or other expensive operating systems. Skype has made it easy for companies to communicate and hold meetings, while avoiding travel costs and long distance phone charges. Google’s array of tools – Drive, Gmail, Analytics, etc. – are userfriendly, robust,and totally free, making them a popular choice for companies with low operating budgets. Plus, with Google’s new notebook computers, even hardware is very inexpensive. With more and more software and useful business tools coming online for free, you should expect to see more businesses dropping expensive user licenses and going with free and open source products.

A Youth Movement

More and more we’re seeing successful businesses that are started, owned, and operated by intelligent, savvy, and young entrepreneurs. Think of Facebook and YouTube, to name but two. Not all young people who are succeeding in business are starting their own billion dollar companies, of course. Instead, many are quickly moving up the ranks in already successful enterprises. This is happening because young people understand the current marketplace, they’re motivated and willing to make big changes, and they see the many potentialities for technology. In recent years, examples abound of young executives being put in charge of struggling business units (or entire businesses) and quickly turning them around.

Small Business Surge

In 2013, a significant number of small businesses have mastered the art of the two-way conversation with customers, and are small, fast, and nimble because they have no choice but to be this way. Small businesses are the ones that are figuring out the best ways to use, often free, technology and to do more with less, for example, by ditching an unwieldy and expensive customer service department for a call answering service. It is small businesses that are creating revolutionary products and services that larger companies never would have thought to develop and are willing to buy for millions of pounds. If you run a small business, but are still not making use of e-commerce, are failing to interact with customers online, and are ignoring the potential of your young employees, don’t expect to be part of the small business surge for long.

What are some business trends you expect to see in 2014? Tell us about them by leaving a comment.