May 1 – May 7 marks the 2nd annual National Small Business Week.
Small business owners kicked off 2016 by reporting an overall higher level of optimism than they did in 2015, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. The quarterly report, which surveys small business owners, found 60 percent of small business owners considered their past year’s cash flow to be “very or somewhat good” – a result that hadn’t been recorded since 2007.
It is small businesses’ moment to shine and it hardly seems coincidental that this corresponds with the maturation of national initiatives and the development of new technologies.
President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (the “Act”) into law in 2010, encouraging states to invest in small businesses. With new incentives in place, individual states began taking small business owners more seriously. That same year, the first ever “Shop Local Saturday” emerged on a national level. Strategically scheduled to take place on the day after “Black Friday,” the now-annual day dedicated to supporting local businesses was able to generate an estimated $14.3 million after only four years. These initiatives have continued to foster the state of small business in the U.S.
Still, statewide initiatives and incentives haven’t been the sole driving factor behind small businesses’ growth. The emergence and growing accessibility of technology has addressed small businesses’ dire need to stay nimble, retain employees and plan for the long term. Long gone are the days where small shops have to turn away customers hoping to pay with credit card — simple attachments for iPhones make the average Joe a cashier.
Additionally, previously labor intensive processes have been able to be streamlined. On a larger scale, hospitality (and this includes chain and boutique hotels, as well as Airbnb!) is one industry that can serve as an impressive example of these innovations: new revenue management systems utilize machine-learning to cut down on exhaustive spreadsheets, booking systems are automated by advanced forms of technology and iPads are replacing the front desk. And if that isn’t enough, robots are delivering room service.
Other industries are taking suit, too – with HR departments allowing technology to take over painstaking on-boarding and reporting processes, and customer service departments deferring standard complaints to highly adaptable artificial intelligence systems.
In order to compete with their larger competitors, small businesses must continue to invest in technology. Not only does this reduce overhead, but it also “frees” up time – allowing a smaller number of employees to be more efficient and to really zero in on the ultimate end-goal: making their customers happy.
Ease is a cloud-based SaaS platform providing benefits and human resource management to small businesses.