The outlook appears to be a positive one for small businesses as they head into 2016. Small business owners are forecasting strong growth over the next 12 months, and they even expect to be hiring more employees - a good sign for the economy at large. Such are the findings of Bank of America’s recent Small Business Owner Report, which details what small business owners have been doing during 2015, what concerns they have, and what trends people should be paying attention to as the year comes to a close. Most fascinating are the tech trends indicated throughout the report. Strong growth means a greater tendency to reach out for new technological solutions, whether it be converged infrastructure or software defined storage, and the details of this report reflect that.
When economic times are bad, it's understandable that small business owners will be more cautious in how they operate their companies. Many large corporations can take a hit when economic downturns happen, but small businesses are less resilient by their very nature. As the economy slowly recovers, small business owners appear to be more willing to upgrade the technology they use. According to Bank of America’s report, 43% of small business owners are planning to use new funding they’ll secure on investing in new equipment. This can also be seen in the greater frequency in which small business owners plan on upgrading their technology. 71% of small business owners upgrade at least once per year, with 30% of them doing so every quarter. Further growth in the economy will likely increase this rate.
With growing confidence, small business owners are also showing they’re much more willing to adopt new technologies. In fact, 85% say they want to do so, and they’ve followed through on this trend through their actions. The report looks into what new technologies these small business owners are using that they weren’t five years ago and finds that 54% use new technology to accept payments, 50% have new ways to connect with employees, and 45% are even using new technology to track their inventory. While comparatively smaller, 23% have created an app for their customers in the last five years as well, a significant trend for small businesses that usually don’t spend their resources on such things. Other reports, like the Palo Alto Software survey, show that technologies like the cloud and mobile devices have become more popular than ever among small businesses, with 44% saying they use more than two cloud-based tools to manage operations and 63% planning to increase their use of mobile devices. Combine this with a greater interest in using a big data service, and small businesses no longer need to feel like they’re falling behind technologically speaking.
By using all this new technology like cloud computing and mobile solutions, small business owners are also opening up new strategies and options for their employees. Compared to five years ago, many more small businesses are offering a telecommuting option for workers. According to the report, 47% of small business owners do so, as opposed to only 35% five years ago. Since so many business tasks can now be done through the cloud, offering this option makes plenty of sense for small business owners. The result, according to the respondents in this report, has been mainly a beneficial one; 59% say workers have a much better attitude when given this option, while 54% say telecommuting has lead to increased productivity. Needless to say, with more small business owners noticing the benefits of the virtual office, the trend will likely continue.
If there’s one thing to take away from Bank of America’s report, it’s that increased economic growth has greatly impacted how small business owners see their use of new technology. Many are more willing to experiment with it by investing in new solutions. They’re also looking at technological options they probably wouldn’t have considered before. An improved economy means a willingness to take more chances, and that can only mean good things for small businesses seeking further success and growth. Time will tell, of course, if this confidence is warranted, but for now, small business owners’ optimistic outlook could lead to some exciting developments in 2016.