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Innovation

9 Small-Business Trends That Should Be on Every Entrepreneur’s Radar

The struggle to make a living on Main Street never ends, but millions of people are remarkably happy trying to do it.

David Nilssen

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If it seems like 2016 was a booming year for small business, it’s because more entrepreneurs are going into business and staying in business. In fact, the survival rate for small businesses remaining in operation past their fifth year rose to 48.73 percent in 2016, compared to 45.95 percent in 2015.

That’s a 6 percent year-over-year increase, and the highest the survival rate has been since it started being indexed 30 years ago.

todays-small-business-owner-infographic

Related: Government Funding and Grants for Small Businesses

With over 28 million small businesses taking up residence on Main Street, my company, Guidant Financial, wanted to take a closer look at who today’s small business owners are. We surveyed more than 1,000 of our small business owner clients, asking about their lives as entrepreneurs, how their businesses are performing and what struggles they’re facing on a daily basis.

Here’s what we found to be the most noteworthy small business trends:

Small business owners are opportunistic — when they can afford to be

At 37 percent, the top reason our clients went into business for themselves was because they were dissatisfied with corporate America. Along with this, the No. 2 reason individuals chose to pursue business ownership was due to the right opportunity presenting itself.

The 2016 Kauffman Index of Start-up Activity refers to this as “opportunity entrepreneurship” and reports that 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs in 2016 started their business because they saw an opportunity rather than out of necessity (unemployment).

Despite business owners’ opportunistic nature, many are still having a hard time accessing the capital they need to take advantage of business opportunities. Guidant’s small business clients listed “access to capital/cash flow” among their top two challenges, and according to a report from the National Small Business Association, 31 percent of business owners said they were not able to obtain adequate financing in 2016, up from 27 percent the year before.

This has created a break for alternative small business funding methods to enter the market. My company, for example, saw a 5 percent uptick in the number of people who used their retirement funds to buy a business in 2016, which has primed them to take action when the time is right, rather than when money allows.

Baby boomers thrive in business ownership

Between 2015 and 2016, Guidant saw an 83 percent increase in entrepreneurs under 40 who used business funding to launch their new ventures, but there’s room on Main Street for entrepreneurs of all ages. Baby boomers between the ages of 51 – 69 were our largest group of business owners, representing just under half of all survey respondents.

Times have changed, and there’s no denying that people are working longer for a variety of reasons, from financial necessity to wanting to delay retirement. The 2016 Kauffman Index for Startup Activity shows that while the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs is those age 35 – 44, the age range for new entrepreneurs varies from 20 – 64, and these different age groups are represented almost evenly.

Twenty years ago, the largest group of new small business owners was in the 20 – 34 age range, accounting for 34.3 percent of total entrepreneurs. The smallest group was age 55 – 64, accounting for 14.8 percent. These groups are now represented almost equally at 25 percent of total new entrepreneurs each.

Related: 4 Tips On Hiring In A Small Business

Small business owners are happier in their new careers

Entrepreneurs in our survey reported high levels of happiness in their entrepreneurial careers — an average 7.52 out of 10 — with little variance depending on what industry they worked in, how long their business had been in operation, or across different socioeconomic groups.

A 2014 report from Manta revealed that small business owners feel empowerment in creating their own earning potential and feel additional satisfaction in turning their passions into their career. This echoes various reports that say small business owners are happier than those working in the corporate world.

Historically underserved groups are turning to alternative funding

Unfortunately, it’s been documented that racial minorities traditionally have less access to capital for purchasing a business. According to a report by the Minority Business Development Agency, “Minority-owned businesses are found to pay higher interest rates on loans. They are also more likely to be denied credit, and are less likely to apply for loans because they fear their applications will be denied.”

Small business owners are educated, but it’s not mandatory

A large majority of our small business owner clients had some college education, but it’s more common to have not attended college than it was to have earned a doctorate.

Eighty-two percent of Guidant’s survey respondents had an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree, but 15 percent had only a high school diploma or GED. And an even lower percentage had a doctorate degree (3 percent). This signals that with the right experience, financing and support system, any aspiring business owner can pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, regardless of education.

Related: Gearing Up For Funding Applications: What Does It Take For A Small Business To Be Funding-Ready?

Popular Industries are poised for success

Our clients are opening up shop in every arena from pet grooming to computer repair. The most popular industries for small business owners in 2016 were food and beverage; health and fitness; and business services. For more information on the health of these industries, we looked at the Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship.

This report looks at the high growth of young companies, which is an important indicator for sustained growth in the industry as well as job output. Both health and fitness and business services were listed in the top five high-growth industries, while the food and beverage industry saw its highest year for growth since 2008.

Franchising is a popular option

Regardless of industry, many entrepreneurs are opening the door to small business ownership through franchising. About 40 percent of our clients used our business funding services to purchase a new or existing franchise.

The cost of acquiring a franchise starts as low a few thousand dollars for home-based companies and can reach into the millions for larger, well-known brick-and-mortar establishments. The majority of our clients who purchased a new franchise spent between $50,000 – $100,000, while existing franchises usually cost between $101,000 – $175,000.

Going into business can be affordable

Buying a small business can easily turn into a multi-million-dollar deal, and many Guidant clients who secure an SBA small business loan obtain close to the $5 million maximum limit. But it is possible to start a business with a lower price tag for business owners on a tighter start-up budget.

We found that almost 30 percent of our clients spent less than $100,000 total to acquire their business. Although this is no small price, there are now more funding options than ever before, and entrepreneurs don’t need to be millionaires to afford making their dreams of business ownership a reality. In fact, the combined household income for the majority of new entrepreneurs is less than $150,000.

Small businesses are looking to expand in 2017

The top two challenges small business owners faced in 2016 were recruiting and retention of employees and lack of capital/cash flow. Over 30 percent of respondents also indicated they struggled with time management, as well as marketing and advertising.

Even though small business owners do have concerns over lack of capital, they are looking to grow. We asked our clients how they would invest additional business capital, and 48 percent indicated they would use it to expand.

Despite the recent uncertainty about us the U.S. economy following President Donald Trump’s election, the dust is beginning to settle and entrepreneurs are able to focus their attention toward their business’s success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

David Nilssen is the co-founder and CEO of US-based Guidant Financial. The company helps entrepreneurs invest their retirement funds into a business or franchise without taking a taxable distribution or incurring penalties.

Innovation

Innovate For Change – Think Like A Social Entrepreneur

Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?

Nation Builder

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Social entrepreneurship is an exciting business arena that finds new, sustainable business solutions to long-standing problems. Social entrepreneurs see social challenges (such as poverty, homelessness, poor infrastructure or lack of quality education) as an opportunity for change.

This approach brings together the best that business practices offer and blends it with the best that civil society offers (a social mission, broader stakeholders involvement and the engagement of the community). By generating income from business activities and reinvesting its profits back into driving its mission, this approach generates both social value and economic value simultaneously.

Why consider the social entrepreneurship model?

1. Seeing social challenges as opportunities

South Africa’s social and structural challenges, from our poor ranking in health and education to the high level of unemployment, provide a myriad of opportunities for entrepreneurs that are willing to roll up their sleeves and work to build a better future.

The recent winner of the recent Nation Builder Social Innovation Challenge, Lungi Tyali, is a great example of this mindset.

Across Africa, there is a dire lack of provision for the electrification needs of the majority of the population, especially in rural communities. In South Africa, at present, there are 3.4-million households without a formal, metered electricity supply; 2.2-million in formal and 1.2-million in informal households. Lungi Tyali is the CEO of Solar Turtle who, with her business partner, James van der Walt, created a solar energy solution for rural and off-grid areas. Solar Turtle provides a solar-powered kiosk in a container that serves as a hub for renewable electricity. During the day, the solar panels are open to collect sunlight and at night they are enclosed and locked securely into the container.

Related: How To Be A Social Entrepreneur

2. Social entrepreneurship has low barriers to entry

Many of the most successful social enterprises start off small with an enterprising individual seeing an opportunity in their local community and building from this small beginning. There is no prerequisite for a university degree of formal training. Growing social enterprises can thus also offer employment opportunities to unskilled workers and youth without experience, addressing South Africa’s high level of unemployment.

One such story is that of Nonhlanhla Joye, the founder and facilitator of Umgibe Farming, Organics and Training Institute. Ma’ Joye, was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and as a result, could not work to provide food for her family. She decided to grow organic vegetables in her backyard to feed her family. Unfortunately, the chickens ate all her vegetables and she had to come up with a solution.

She innovated a growing system using plastic bags. Before long Ma Joye was teaching other community members to use her growing system. A platform was born where poor communities started growing vegetables to feed themselves and collectively sell their surplus produce.

3. Corporate Social Investment, with purpose

Social enterprises also offer individuals and companies the opportunity to invest in lasting social change. Unlike traditional philanthropy, the impact of social enterprises has the potential to be much more lasting by directly providing affordable social goods and services, as well as employment opportunities.

Nation Builder, for example, is a platform* that brings like-minded businesses and civil society together in order to learn from each other and partner together for the greatest possible impact through wise and responsible social investing.

Related: Miss Teen Social Entrepreneur SA Is Making Its Mark

4. Personal actualisation

Perhaps the most rewarding advantage of being a social entrepreneur is the impact you can have on society, but this model also offers several personal benefits:

  • working to solve issues you care about
  • freedom to explore and create innovative solutions that can inspire change
  • the opportunity to turn passion into profit
  • working as your own boss.

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Innovation

Having The Perfect Product Isn’t Enough To Keep You In Business

The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.

Matthew Mordi

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There is a small bakery operates in my neighbourhood. It bakes bread; no cakes or other confectionaries. The best home-made bread that has your palates yearning for more. This is in sharp contrast with the bread produced by bigger bakeries. They also supply bread to the neighbourhood.

The bigger bakeries operate a model that is largely automated to the point that they lose a very important ingredient beyond flour, yeast and whatever goes into making bread. They lack the personal touch that gives it the home-made feel. This is why the neighbourhood bakery is preferred despite being pricier.

The small bakery isn’t without its flaws; avoidable flaws that may, sadly, sink the business. My view is more on the certainty of the demise of the business as observers would’ve noticed a slow yet steady decline in the output of the business. These flaws aren’t unique to the bakery, several other small businesses have share the same flaws.

Why would a customer who is willing to pay more for a product suddenly cease patronising the business. What other factor apart from higher price, in the absence of a drop in purchasing power, would make a customer buy bread of supposed inferior quality from the competition.

A couple of years ago when I moved to the neighbourhood the business was doing great. Even during a biting recession the shelves were always stacked with freshly baked bread of different varieties. Despite the excellent product on display, there was an unsatisfactory trend in the operation of the business.

For one, the sales personnel are rude. Having the right staff is necessary to grow any business, but when this very fundamental issue isn’t gotten right it will be fatal to the business. After all for how long would customers put up with poor service delivery in the face of stiff competition from bigger rivals.

Small business owners must realise that proper training of staff is as important as sourcing for capital and shouldn’t be overlooked as the survival of the business also rests on it. Bigger businesses in this regard always come out tops in comparison with their smaller counterparts.

Related: Why Small Businesses Are Unable To Pay Staff Salaries

Annually, big businesses spend billions of dollars on staff training for the simple recognition of the fact that having disgruntled customers, on account of poor service by personnel, is dangerous for business. Despite their size, big businesses tend to understand better the importance of the single customer. Also, how the discontent of a few customers can translate into poor sales which is detrimental to the business.

The mindset of a small business shouldn’t be different. Investing in staff shouldn’t be treated with levity to ensure the business not only stays afloat, but also grow it. Growing a business is in itself tough work, small business owners shouldn’t make it tougher by providing terrible service.

The neighbourhood bakery lacks this important feature and it’s been responsible for the steady decline in sales. I didn’t know the poor service rendered by the attendants had attained much notoriety until I was having a conversation with a group of individuals at a religious gathering and the issue came up. It’s a sad realisation.

For financial reasons small businesses aren’t known for recruiting the best personnel. Most employ the services of family members. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s important to ensure such person is the best fit for the business. Employing family members may lead to a myriad of problems for the business. Therefore it will be in the best interest of the business not to employ an incompetent family member than have him ruin the business. This is a risky way of running the business.

The feeling of the customer towards the goods or services businesses provide is key to its success or failure. This is because customers can have the most unbiased assessment of the business rather than management and staff. Despite the poor service the bakery openly had on display, no one seemed to have bothered complaining to the owner of the business. So it may seem.

It will be in the best interest of a small business owner to leave an open channel for feedbacks from customers. This isn’t the case with the bakery and some other businesses face this challenge too which may lead to further problems.

The inability to provide an avenue for customers to channel their complaint to the proper individual creates a problem of inaccessibility. Accessibility happens to be an area of strength for small businesses because of their size. In larger businesses, despite creating channels for complaints there is usually no personal relationship between the owners and their customers. This is an area a small business shouldn’t be found wanting.

One would imagine that as a small business, the owner of the bakery should be easily accessible to interact with customers to in order to obtain feedbacks pertaining service and staff performance. This isn’t the case as the business clearly takes this important factor for granted. A lot of customers don’t know the owner of the bakery despite patronising it for years.

On paper the size of small businesses translates to easy accessibility. A closer look will reveal that the owners of small businesses tend to take a lot of things for granted. They fail to realise that they have to be consciously open to the idea and cultivate the habit of seeking feedbacks from customers. A small scale business has to maximise its potential for dynamism and flexibility. If it can’t take advantage of its unique qualities then it’s doomed.

There has been a reduction in the variety of bread baked and in addition to this is the equal reduction in the amount of bread on display generally. From observation it’s clear that patronage has taking a massive hit.

It’s painful witnessing the slow demise of a business with a good product due to its own failures. Having the perfect product won’t on its own keep the small business in business. The odds of the small business surviving aren’t stacked in its favour. It’s more likely to fail than succeed. That’s the bitter truth. However, once it’s able to shake off the niggling teething problems, watch it as it unfolds from a pupa to a beautiful butterfly.

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Company Posts

Customers Are The Heart Of Innovative Businesses

Keep your customer at the heart of your business.

Viga Interactive

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One of the main reasons start-ups fail is because they don’t create solutions that meet their customers’ needs. Failure is avoidable. Businesses that understand their customers feelings, challenges, expectations and motivations make themselves indispensable in highly competitive markets because they recognise that true innovation is led by customer insight.

An incredible example of a business that believes in innovation driven by insight is Netflix. They revolutionised the way people watch video content by listening to their customer’s needs. You’ve probably heard the story before: after paying a $40 overdue DVD fee, Reed Hastings co-founded Netflix. He was simply too busy to return his DVD. He recognised that this experience wasn’t exclusive to him, but that it was a problem that many people faced. He saw a gap in the market for receiving and returning videos more effectively, and that is how the $150 billion business was born.

If your start-up doesn’t fulfil a human need, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not enough to have a cool idea. Ask yourself, “What is the market need behind the offering?” and then test ways of delivering your offering in the most user-friendly manner. Talk to your consumers, understand their likes and dislikes and establish your business purpose before haphazardly allocating funds to R&D.

Related: How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

You can’t go from being a California based DVD-by-mail provider, to becoming the world’s largest online video streaming service without a business plan. It’s important to recognise the step-by-step process of success. Netflix didn’t go from delivering DVD’s to pouring capital into the production of video content within six months. That sort of development would have bankrupt the company almost immediately. It took 21 years for the business to become content creators.

  • In 1999, the company became a subscription service because they found that customers preferred paying a monthly fee rather than making a once off purchase.
  • Then, in 2009, the company used investor capital to expand their DVD collection because their clients wanted a larger selection of movies.
  • In 2010, the business expanded internationally because they saw a gap in the market across various countries.
  • Finally, in 2013, Netflix created its first original content series because customers craved fascinating content beyond the overused Hollywood archetype.

The point is: Progress didn’t happen overnight. The business had to set goals and objectives. They then had to fund their growth by presenting market opportunities, backed by customer insights, to their investors. Establish your start-up one step at a time and make sure every progression isn’t innovation for innovations sake – it must be inspired by a human need.

13-reasons-whyNetflix was founded by a computer scientist and a marketing director. While one partner focused on Netflix’ service development, the other focused on sales. Since the company’s origin, collaboration and balance have been the cornerstones of the business’ success.

Netflix is currently composed of a diverse team of tech-professionals and designers. They understand the importance of combining technology and design to offer customer-inspired user-experiences.

After conducting consumer research, Netflix discovered that series and movie artwork influences viewing decisions by 82%. This has resulted in the creation of more descriptive and provocative designs. Netflix is known for leveraging human-behaviour to revolutionise their service offering.

As an entrepreneur, you can increase your ROI by partnering with the experts that understand human-based innovation.

Keep your customer at the heart of your business.

Related: What These 5 Digital KPIs Say About Your Business

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