Like business and commerce generally, the small business arena in the US has changed and evolved over the years as tech advancement removes barriers and the ‘entrepreneur culture’ becomes more prevalent.
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) says there are now almost 30 million small businesses employing more than 47% of the workforce. While the SBA defines small businesses as those employing fewer than 500 people, the majority employ fewer than 100 and many are micro businesses with a handful of employees or maybe just one or two.
The tech transformation
Relatively recent tech – such as the Internet, Big Data and AI (Artificial Intelligence) – has enabled small businesses of just about any size to reach and service their market wherever it’s located, and advanced POS (Point of Sale) systems are widely used throughout the small business community – not just by larger retail operations.
Tech has extended the reach and scope of smaller business:
Data and the cloud – more data is being collected than ever before thanks to increased use of social media and mobile apps to name two sources. This data is being analyzed in more depth to provide highly valuable marketing intelligence for businesses of all sizes, not just larger corporations.
It means smaller businesses can operate from a position of strength from knowing more about their market, and cloud technology enables small concerns to store the ever-larger amounts of data economically without the major expense of physical storage.
The Internet – undoubtedly a huge game changer for all business, but really opens up opportunities for smaller operators.
It’s reasonably economical to set up a professional looking and effective online presence, so smaller businesses benefit from being able to reach their customers almost anywhere in the world instead of being restricted to local markets.
This also means more niches are being specifically served by smaller businesses agile enough to respond to a need for a particular product or service.
Before the widespread use of the Internet, certain niches may not have been viable to go into if relying on a small number of local buyers. Now though, even a minority niche can be worthwhile if you can reach all (or at least the majority) of customers for it by promoting on a global scale as the web makes possible.
The culture of entrepreneurship
In general, the US – while always having at its heart an entrepreneurial spirit – has developed an even more pronounced entrepreneurial culture in recent times with increased numbers of people going into business for themselves.
Tech such as the Internet enables potential entrepreneurs to identify a need in the marketplace and develop a product or service to quickly fill it. Sometimes these can be quite niche such as – for example – entrepreneurs filling gaps in the food and drink market by providing specialist cuisine outlets that offer something different to the competition.
Others have found themselves with an unexpected hit on their hands having started out by filling a small gap in the market and later finding demand is far higher than expected.
The ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factor
Something that drives small business growth and startup culture is the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factor – particularly noticeable among women entrepreneurs.
A report in 2017 by the National Women’s Business Council identified this push and pull; the ‘pull’ stems from the stimulus to start a business (ie spotting a gap in the market), and the ‘push’ stems from factors driving people to start something influenced by their circumstances. For example, a business that be can run while looking after children, fulfilling familial obligations, or perhaps due to dissatisfaction with their present job.
Another factor helping small businesses grow and operate in certain markets is the rise in the availability of skilled outsourcers. Being able to hire people with specific abilities as and when needed is a tremendous help to small businesses, and their choices are widening with more of the workforce likely to be contractors or freelancers of some type going forward.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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