Having a crystal ball would be handy these days as turmoil on both political and economic fronts makes it hard to accurately predict what kind of a year 2018 might turn out to be. More than ever, small-business owners will need to adapt quickly and find new ways to streamline operations to power growth.
Here are the trends I see as being most important.
1.Adapt or die – changing technology is here to stay
We have never seen such a rapid pace of technological change. SMEs need to make sure they stay on top of new developments. Agile and integrated are the new buzz words.
Cloud solutions are now used by most small businesses, many attracted by the additional security and functionality offered. As technology evolves, it’s likely many will be making the move to entirely paperless offices as online and iPhone-friendly solutions trigger new efficiencies and offer a competitive advantage over rivals.
Managing late payments will get easier. This is one of the biggest problems for small business according to small business surveys by cloud accounting provider Xero, who estimate only 50.7 percent of small businesses have positive cashflow (Sept 2017).
Creating invoices quickly, paying suppliers and tracking cashflow is critical. Now highly mobile and customised applications plug into accounting hubs to provide automatic online bill payments, invoice creation, compliance, inventory management, HR and marketing as a one-stop shop.
Data management will enable businesses to gather intelligence to help plan staffing, cashflow and growth strategies. Business advisors can use this information to set KPIs and track performance in real time to help their clients make better business decisions.
Keeping up to date with the latest taxation and compliance changes is vital. There are many new developments that are positive for SMEs, but advisory services will be important to help owners make the most of new opportunities for savings.
Changes to legislation like an increase to the small business turnover threshold from $2 million to $10 million open up a raft of new tax concessions.
In addition, superannuation changes have come into effect to give greater flexibility around contributions and these provide valuable tax planning opportunities, if used correctly.
Those looking to sell their businesses will need to keep on top of changes and plan in advance to make the most of any concessions available.
In a fast-moving world with machines or call centres on the end of most telephone lines, there will be no replacing the value of old-fashioned customer service.
New trends in client service and marketing will focus on creating personal relationships and connecting with existing and new customers.
While data mining is making it easier to track preferences and buying habits, small business can differentiate themselves with a personal approach to safeguard customer loyalty.
Personal follow-up calls, special offers, reward programs, VIP customer offerings, face to face workshops, and social media campaigns are all ways businesses keep customers coming back. Clever businesses will also use feedback programs to measure levels of service to make sure new marketing strategies are effective and spurring growth.
No doubt going the extra mile for a client will be critical in this competitive age where personal touch is a rarity.
Adam Griffiths, Director, DMCA Advisory