Five Challenges Ahead for Small Businesses

How to prosper in a changing environment

It was not long ago that there was no Internet and only international spies had cell phones. The changes occurring these days are happening at breakneck speed, and small businesses are hard-pressed to keep up. However, it is important to adapt to the latest developments and incorporate them into your business planning.

What sort of changes are we talking about? Here are five prime areas worthy of your attention in 2015:

1. Legal issues: Laws continue to be enacted and evolve as they are interpreted by the courts, so small-business owners must fine-tune operations accordingly. In recent years, we have experienced a massive new health care law (with an uncertain status before the Supreme Court upheld its validity), increases in consumer protections, benefits provided to employees married to same-sex partners—due to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case—and revisions to intellectual property rights. Also, note that state law changes, as well as those on the federal level, may affect small businesses.

2. Technology: As alluded to above, technology has changed the way we do business. Don’t expect the pace to slow down. Savvy businesspeople will aim to keep abreast of technological advancements ranging from new production techniques to improvements in software. Learning how to embrace and accommodate the new technology can give your business a competitive edge while laggards are left in the dust.

3. Marketing: The marketing “game” has changed drastically over the years. For one thing, different approaches are now available due to technology, such as the ability to advertise online and use Web sites as marketing tools. Also, small-business owners should be attuned to changes in customer tastes and preferences, as well as be able to accentuate strengths and minimize the weaknesses of their organization. It may be helpful to think outside the box.

4. Financing: Generally speaking, it is not as easy for a small business to arrange financing as it was toward the end of the last century. In this current business environment, you must go the extra mile when presenting your case to available lending authorities or trying to encourage investment from other sources. This means conducting thorough research and analysis of the main targets. Do what you can to stand out in a crowded field. It may help to customize your business plan and documentation to suit each potential funding source.

5. Taxes: One constant is that tax laws will keep changing. For instance, Congress just enacted new tax extenders legislation (see “New Law Renews Expired Tax Provisions”) while the IRS keeps churning out new rulings and regulations, and the courts regularly chime in with significant tax-related decisions. To complicate matters, comprehensive tax reform for the business sector remains a hot-button issue, although no consensus has been reached, further muddying the waters.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. With your business advisers at your side, you can meet the new challenges head-on and thrive in this ever-changing business world.

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