5 Hottest Topics for Small Business Owners in 2024!

As a small business owner, of course, you need to stay alert to changing trends in your market and the larger economy. Here is the list of issues determined by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be the hottest for entrepreneurs going into 2024. This information was published in late November 2023. But, if you’re seeing it here for the first time, in February 2024, don’t worry. These areas of emphasis offer opportunities for significant changes through this year by starting in Q1/Q2 on a track toward improvements. Let’s look at the primary ideas around each change and the most economical approach(es) to implementation. 

SBA 2024 Outlook on Key Topics for Entrepreneurs

As you are well aware, the small business economic subsector has been through a lot over the past several years. But, the recovery continues and it’s time to plan for further progress in the next quarters of 2024. Predicting the future is the job of strategic planners. It’s an endeavor that requires an abundance of relevant special knowledge. 

That includes current information about the most pressing challenges confronting your industry and the broader consumer environment. Here are the top trending topics for small business owners to be aware of for planning this year:

1. Customer Experience Rules All Markets

The hallmark of the most well-managed businesses has always been high customer satisfaction. But, as the markets have become so much more intensely competitive in recent decades, the customer experience that generates high satisfaction levels has become the central area of focus for all smart business operators. That includes commercial pavement sweeping business owners.

Naturally, product and service quality and fair pricing have always been and will always be essentials to business success in this industry. But what the SBA references as the “customer experience economy” encompasses all the customer-facing aspects of commercial business you may manage. Perhaps that includes diversified lines in other exterior maintenance services, container rental products, etc. Sales, Marketing, Shipping, Customer Service, Billing, Management, and all departments must share in providing an overall customer experience that is personalized and consistently positive.

2. Maximal Value on Soft Skills

In service of your goal to improve the customer experience metric, a more mindful human touch is encouraged as the ready pathway to becoming a more appealing small business brand. Yes, we’re in a digital era, and functioning in the business world is increasingly a remote online proposition. However, that reality makes excellence in soft skills even more important now. 

Ironically, while AI promises to be the wave of the future, high emotional intelligence is today’s most valuable skill set for business managers and their teams. Some extent of human interaction is necessary in the U.S. commercial sector, so interpersonal skills (soft skills) remain among the most highly valued attributes for professionals in most roles throughout an organization. Ask the representative at your local SBA Learning Center about training resources to help your workers strengthen your team’s soft skills.

3. Sustainability Rises in Consumer Priorities

We’ve all seen the evolution of sustainability as a business factor over the past couple of decades. Today, this priority has become a requirement for many B2C and B2B consumers. The SBA reports that a study from their source revealed that nearly 80% of U.S. consumers surveyed said living a sustainable lifestyle is important for them and that they prefer to do businesses with companies that share their values in this regard. 

Among the many options for developing greener small business operations are: 

  • Provide remote work opportunities.
  • Go solar in your business.
  • Use low-flow water faucets.
  • Buy electric fleet vehicles.
  • Provide incentives for carpooling.
  • Use sustainable vendors for all services possible.
  • Increase insulation value in your buildings.
  • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
  • Set thermostats on fixed seasonal settings.
  • Use sustainable building materials for new facilities.
  • Properly maintain all equipment and vehicles.
  • Many other sustainability measures. 

See your local SBA rep for additional great and achievable ideas for increased sustainability in small business operations.

4. Pervasive Artificial Intelligence

AI is now a permanent part of the business environment. It may be controversial, plagued with uncertainties, rife with ethical risks, etc., but it’s not going away. As a starting point, all companies with the financial wherewithal should retrofit tech architecture and subsystems where necessary to accommodate the greater efficiencies of AI-friendly software platforms.  

The SBA reports that their data source finds that over 90% of small businesses using AI have said it’s made them more successful. The benefits in marketing, sales, and operations, are vast. It’s time for every small business to explore affordable ways that AI can increase your competitiveness.

5. Cybersecurity Awareness Increases

One of the arguably least exciting and most critically important areas of business planning this year is improving data security. Virtually all small businesses are immersed in the data-driven business economy. A business’s reputation and continued success depend on fully secure data collection, storage, analysis, and protection processes. 

Consumers need to know that their financial and other personal information is being handled securely by every business they entrust with the responsibility to manage it when they make transactions by phone, online, or at physical points of sale. Among the many steps you may take to improve your company’s data from common cyber threats, you can:

  • Add two- or three-factor authentication to login protocols.
  • Add anti-malware and anti-virus software upgrades.
  • Contract with an off-site IT system security monitoring service.
  • Use a VPN.
  • Implement routine server backups.
  • Install other data theft and corruption protections. 

SBA Overall Outlook for Small Business in 2024

From plans for daily operations to long-term growth strategies, you should include at least some extent of discussion about each of the above issues in forming your strategic plan for 2024 – 2025. By even the most conservative accounts of national and international economics experts, 2024 is anticipated to be a good year for business growth. That’s very exciting information for entrepreneurs looking to move into the second half of this decade on a strong growth trajectory. The SBA offers free counseling and a range of training opportunities to help you stay on track. 

Reviewing the brief guide above to digest this year’s priorities for modern small businesses is a good place to start. The next step is to start using your imagination and help resources to find unidentified ways you can leverage some or all of these concepts to some degree at no-cost or low-cost. It’s a good way to improve efficiency and to help and impress your customers and elevate your brand.

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