Top Small Business Trends for 2013

The times, as Bob Dylan once observed, they are a changin’. And that is as true now as it was when he sang it, and insofar as business goes, truer than ever.

One advantage I have getting to write my weekly small business column for USA TODAY is that I get to see and hear a lot about changes coming down the pike. If it’s not a new app, it's a book, or hot new startup, or some other wonder of the day. Accordingly, every January I compile a list of the top small business trends I see happening for the upcoming year.

Here are a few of my faves for 2013:

1. Say goodbye to work as you knew it: If there is any group that gets that the very nature of work is changing, and changing rapidly, it is my pals here at Concur. Between their apps and software, they are not only tapping into the fact that the old 9 to 5 is, well, old, but they are also helping to make the new world of work easier and more fun.

What is this new world? You know: Working when, where, and how you want. Working from home, or from Starbucks, or from the kid’s soccer game. Running your business on your smartphone. Trying to explain to someone what a fax machine is. Making your own hours. Using software to be more productive. Hiring teams for short-term projects instead of long-term employment.

2. Funding gets easier: One of the toughest parts of the not so great recession was that finding the funding for a business became a big challenge. The good news is that all reports I see lately indicate that not only are more loans being made, but most small businesses say they are getting the funding they need now. That is great.

And beyond that, we are entering into a whole new era where alternative forms of funding a business are coming to the fore. Crowdfunding, receivables financing, microfinance, business plan competitions – the list of options is long and getting longer.

3. Say hello to the solopreneur: An adjunct to the changes above is that more people than ever are using the availability of both new technology and creative funding to start their own ventures, often without the need for cumbersome overhead. In fact, it is no surprise that one of the biggest business books of the year is The $100 Startup. Going solo has never been easier, or more popular (and if this describes you, then let me also suggest that you check out my latest venture, geared just for the solopreneur, TheSelfEmployed.com.

4. Little is the new big: To succeed in business, it used to be that you would need to spend big bucks to make a big impression. Ha. That is no longer the case. The key now is to spend fewer dollars, use them more wisely, and micro-target your customers precisely. That means taking advantage of local search, of interacting with potential customers on social media sites (which requires time but not money per se), and most especially, mastering not the big screen (TV), but the little screen (the smartphone.) Smartphone sales have not only surpassed computer sales, but more than half of all Americans do not go an hour without checking their devise.

Now there is a trend to master.

And a happy 2013 to you all!

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