2018 was an year for hits and misses for many in the small business community. It had its opportunities and challenges. Some of these challenges were unique to the different businesses, but a majority of businesses across various industries will agree that the following five challenges were the most prevalent:
Small businesses across the world are in the crosshairs of hackers and other online criminals. Analysts are reporting that hackers have been upgrading their techniques since the global ransom-ware attacks of 2017. And, while attacks were not as brazen in 2018, they were still prevalent and persistent. Hackers have come up with more subtle techniques that steal small businesses’ data without causing suspicion. Many disruptions being witnessed on SMEs’ online platforms can also be traced to breaches in cybersecurity.
Luckily, small businesses across the world learnt from the breaches of 2017 and boosted their online security. To this end, there is greater use of small business VPN and other online security tools.
2. Cash Flow
Poor cash flow is the reason behind most small businesses failure. Businesses simply cannot operate without money. However, 2018 was a rough year considering the political and economic uncertainty. Changes in the administration gave rise to changes in tax reporting, and small businesses with poor experience in this field have been struggling with regulation and compliance.
Fortunately, there were many ways for small businesses to stay afloat with respect to cash flow. There has been an influx of creditors willing to loan small businesses and the government is realizing the importance of SMEs to the national economy. Going ahead, it is also advisable for small business owners to seek other avenues of income to supplement their growing resources.
3. Employee Hiring
There may be no shortage of employees to hire, but remarkable employees are hard to come by. Good employees are vital to the success of any business. Good talent, however, usually ends up with the big corporate or goes out on an independent path, much like yourself. To this end, most businesses that did manage to find good talent in 2018 have likely lost these employees already or are facing the possibility of losing them to someone who can pay more.
Many small businesses will still be struggling with this problem several years from now. Smart entrepreneurs, however, are resulting in training their current employees themselves to suit their unique requirements. Still, there is a need for small businesses to offer enough incentives to make their good employees stay. This is a more complex situation considering that cash flow is also a big problem, as explained.
4. Technological Advancements and Marketing Dynamics
Technology is advancing in bounds and leaps and 2018 saw the world witness several milestones in this field. Many of these advancements have been either convenient or disruptive for businesses, depending on which side you are seated. Unfortunately, most small businesses found themselves on the wrong end of the scale in 2018.
Technology advancement may be convenient, but it is also expensive to acquire and implement. To this end, small businesses are losing out to big companies with enough money and resources to splash. This is causing an imbalance in the industry considering that most people are turning to the internet for their shopping needs and big corporations already have this market locked. To this end, small businesses have been forced to result to ingenuity and creativity to keep up with the competition.
Speaking of creativity, small businesses were also struggling to keep up with changes in the marketing sector. Online marketing was changing rapidly in 2018 with new strategies emerging. The move to ban ads on social media sites such as Facebook was particularly devastating. To this end, small businesses should consider getting down to the grassroots and cultivating an organic, genuine following, and user-engagement. They can also consider using influencer if they have the resources to do so.
5. Economic Uncertainty
2018 was an explosive year for the political and economic arenas as both are intertwined. Big economic players, led by the U.S. and China, were intensifying their efforts to get an upper hand in the ongoing trade wars. This was highlighted by more tariffs, sanctions, and threats of more wars from both sides. Europe too has been caught in the crosshairs of these wars as has Canada and much of Asia and South America. All of this fighting has been causing uncertainty in the economy, and small and big businesses alike have been facing the brunt of it.
Some industries have been harder hit than others in the ongoing trade wars and economic uncertainty. The agricultural sector has taken a beating to the extent that governments have been bailing farmers and agricultural businesses out.
Unfortunately, the ongoing trade war doesn’t seem as if it will simmer down any time soon. 2019 is gearing up to be just as hectic and businesses have no option but to buckle up and hold on tight as the politicians wrestle for dominance.
2018 was both lucrative and challenging for small businesses, but those resilient and flexible enough survived it all. 2019 holds a new promise, but the challenges will still be there. To this end, it is up to SMEs to come up with organic solutions to the specific problems facing them to ensure that they not only stay afloat but also take off come 2019.