As we ring in the New Year, small-business owners are facing a host of new challenges as a wave of emerging trends hits the marketplace and technology becomes more vital to business growth and success than ever before.

Small businesses that adopt and embrace these changes will stay ahead of the curve and position themselves for business growth in 2017. On the other hand, those who lag will inevitably fall behind and struggle to keep up with their competitors in today’s ever-changing digital world.

Here are four trends to help drive growth and success for your small business in 2017:

1. Innovative technology is transforming the B2B payments landscape

With the explosion of cross-compatible accounting platforms and versatile software that integrate seamlessly with mobile technology, we’re seeing a new wave of innovative payment technology emerge. This will inevitably transform the way businesses handle transactions in the B2B space.

As mobility becomes increasingly central to business growth and success, this has ignited a rise in mobile payment platforms such as PayPal.Me, Masterpass and PayApp. Although many B2B businesses are still hesitant to fully embrace these platforms, their convenience and ease of use will ultimately drive movement away from more traditional payment methods like paper checks and invoices.

Businesses that adopt these platforms are more efficient, agile and secure. In addition to allowing real-time payments, mobile payment platforms easily integrate with existing payment processes and support alternative payment methods, such as credit cards. This is particularly useful, considering that 13.9 million small-business owners had credit card accounts in 2015, which accounted for more than $430 billion in spending.

However, although mobile payment technology can help businesses improve their cash flow cycle, it does not have the power to solve core financial issues. Before adopting these platforms, business owners should first focus on getting their financial house in order.

2. Millennials are reshaping the workplace culture

Millennials now make up the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, according to a recent report by The Pew Research. But despite this generation becoming a key player in business success, companies are struggling to recruit and retain millennial talent.

In fact, 60% of millennials leave companies in less than three years – leading to a reputation as the “job-hopping” generation. They’re also the least engaged generation in the workplace. Only 29% are engaged at work, meaning a mere three in 10 millennials are emotionally connected to their jobs and companies.

However, it’s entirely possible that many millennials actually don’t want to switch jobs, but their companies aren’t giving them compelling enough reasons to stay. Employee engagement tactics that worked for Baby Boomers and GenX-ers aren’t as effective with this new generation of workers.

To meet the needs of our changing workforce, companies need to create a workplace culture that appeals to millennial motivations, including:

  • Work-life balance (e.g., flexible schedule, remote work, ample PTO)
  • Adoption of new technology
  • Relaxed work environment (e.g., collaborative work spaces, casual dress)
  • Emphasis on corporate social responsibility and values
  • Regular performance feedback

Businesses that don’t adapt their workplaces to the changing workforce will fail to attract and retain millennial talent, ultimately creating a roadblock to competitiveness in the marketplace.

3. Cybersecurity has become a major priority

In recent years, the number of cyber breaches has been increasing at an alarming rate – posing a significant threat to businesses of all sizes. On average, a total of 80-90 million cybersecurity incidents is reported annually. In 2015 alone, we saw a 35% increase in cyber breaches from the prior year. And that number is continuing a steady climb upward.

However, despite the looming threat of cyberattacks, most companies don’t have cybersecurity measures in place. In fact, 81% of data breach victims lack a security system or managed service to self-detect and protect against cyber breaches. Adding to this, more than 52% of respondents from a 2015 survey believed a successful cyberattack against their network would take place in a year.

In response, business owners are beginning to invest significantly more dollars in cybersecurity measures. Over the past three years, cybersecurity spending has seen a 67% increase. Many companies are making the switch to cloud-based services to protect more sensitive data. In the financial arena, for instance, 48% of financial services are being delivered via the cloud.

As part of these preventive measures against cyberattacks, companies should establish specific protocols for all employees, such as:

  • Using current virus protections on work-related devices
  • Updating firewall systems
  • Avoiding file downloads from unknown senders
  • Using strong passwords
  • Updating the operating system regularly
  • Using a virtual private network

With 43% of all cyberattacks targeting small businesses, it’s more critical than ever before to implement a robust cybersecurity strategy that will keep data both private and intact.

4. Social networks are revolutionizing business communication

These modern workplaces call for more effective forms of communication that foster collaboration, increase efficiency and boost productivity among employees.

Employees now spend nearly 80% of their time on collaborative activities, such as meetings, phone calls and responding to emails, according to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review. This leaves little time for employees to focus their energy on completing actual work on their own.

To combat this collaboration overload and break down silos in communication, today’s digital age has given rise to a variety of collaborative tools for communication within the workplace. These tools range from social intranet and web conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Zoho Meeting, to instant messaging and remote control support such as Yammer and TeamViewer.

By fostering more effective and efficient communication, online social tools help boost collaboration among employees – ultimately leading to a more engaged, productive workforce. In fact, productivity levels rose by 20-25% among workers who use online social tools to collaborate, according to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Want to learn more about growth strategies for your small business?

Contact Evolution Capital Partners at (216) 593-0402.

Jeffrey Kadlic

Author Jeffrey Kadlic

Jeffrey Kadlic is a Founding Partner of Evolution Capital Partners, a nationally recognized and award-winning private equity firm dedicated to driving small business transformational success. His passion is simple: arm and inspire entrepreneurs today with the operational leadership, capital management, and success drivers that competitive markets demand. He is a creator of Evolution’s Five Fundamentals, the systematic organizational change agent that transforms the challenges small businesses face into sustainable and profitable growth.

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Contact: (216) 593-0402