January 1st, 2015
The New Year is a time to look ahead and make resolutions- and that applies to businesses as well as individuals. An important resolution for any small business is to keep up with the marketplace, looking at what the latest trends are and how to take advantage of them in order to succeed and grow.
Here are our tips on some current trends which will impact small businesses, and which entrepreneurs should bear in mind over the coming 12 months.
Growth of Mobile Technology – With the increasing sophistication of mobile technology, people are spending an increasing amount of time and money using mobile devices. This includes not just smartphones but also tablets. It is essential that small businesses keep up with this fast-moving technology and look at how they can take full advantage of its opportunities. This could include enabling mobile payments, making sure that websites display properly on all devices, and developing user-friendly phone and tablet apps.
Social Media – In a trend closely related to the growth in mobile technology, social media is becoming increasingly important for business. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Linked In are all now used to build relationships and foster loyalty, and this whole method of promoting brands is expanding fast. Indeed, one communications’ agency is predicting 2015 will be the year of the “social sell”. Against this background, it is advisable to build your social media presence via different platforms and to be ready to take advantage of payments via social media websites once these come in.
Freelance and Flexible Working – There has been a growth of freelancing over recent years, especially among younger workers, and this trend looks set to continue in 2015. It comes at the same time as a greater demand for flexible working following changes in the law. In the past flexi-working was regarded mainly as an option for parents and carers, but now it is increasingly popular with other groups of workers too, including older employees. Given the continuing skill shortages, it pays to consider these newer ways of working when seeking staff with the expertise and experience your business needs.
Virtual Working – Changes in working patterns have seen a growth in the number of people working from home, at a distance from their employer’s office and sometimes even in another country. As a business, you need to have the right technologies set up to take advantage of this trend, such as cloud computing and data banks which your remote employees can access securely, as well as video conferencing. It’s also a good idea to have access to meeting rooms or extra office space that you can use if your “virtual” workers need to come into the office on occasion.
Keeping Up with Pensions Changes –Up to now, larger and medium-sized businesses have mainly been affected by the changes in UK pensions’ rules. However, from June 2015 onwards, auto-enrolment is gradually being rolled out to small businesses with fewer than 30 members. It is important for companies to be on top of the changes in legislation and to be aware of their own “staging date”, when their pension scheme must be in place. Even if you are not affected yet, you should start planning now and getting ready for when the changes come in.
In addition, alongside the arrival of auto-enrolment, changes to the tax regime mean that pension saving is now more attractive to many people. This means there is likely to be higher take-up than in the past, and a good pension offer could be key to attracting and keeping staff.
Social Responsibility – Customers of small businesses, as well as larger ones, increasingly want to know that they are operating in an ethical and eco-friendly way. While pricing is obviously important in gaining customers, it is not the whole story, since increasingly clients will look at how you operate. The much-publicised rows over larger companies involved in controversial tax avoidance schemes have shown the pitfalls of being seen to behave without the proper degree of social responsibility.
It can be harder for small companies to rebuild reputations once they have been lost, so it is important to act in a responsible way. One aspect of this is to be as “green” as possible, avoiding waste and recycling wherever possible, while another is to be involved in community initiatives.
As we move into the New Year, Basepoint’s networking opportunities, communications and regular seminars will help owners of SMEs to keep up with current trends in business and to know what is coming next. This means you should not be caught out by any changes in the marketplace, and will be able to keep on looking ahead with confidence – all through 2015 and into 2016!