Operating a business in today’s environment is challenging. However, small businesses remain optimistic about the future. Recently, Forbes surveyed 500 small business owners to get insights into how these individual organizations are preparing for the upcoming year and facilitating innovative ideas. Although 41 percent of respondents said their businesses had negative or no growth last year, over 58 percent are stronger now than before the pandemic.
While owners envision a list of changes for 2022, they understand change is a gradual process that may require investing in technology or the people they employ. The Forbes research identified four areas in which owners plan to prioritize their businesses.
- Customer Experience (80 percent)
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (62 percent)
- Technology (78 percent)
- Talent and workforce (73 percent)
Happy customers are the key to success for every business. Keeping that fact in mind, small business owners plan to use technology to take customer experience to the next level. One-third of respondents will invest in new technology to serve more customers.
- 3 in 4 want to increase employee’s ability to transform the customer experience
- 45 percent plan to purchase customer analytics software this year
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The survey results indicate 62 percent of respondents plan to invest more in diversity, equity, and inclusion. During the past few years, the vast cultural shifts within society have made DE&I a focus for brands and companies of all sizes. These organizations are aware that consumers pay attention to representation in marketing promotions and the workplace.
Millennials and Gen Z have a tremendous impact on bottom line profits. Both generations consciously decide where they will spend their time, energy, and money. According to the U.S, Census results, these consumers are the most racially and ethnically diverse adult population in U.S. history. They want to buy products and from companies that share their values. They also want to work for companies that value their talent and diversity and the benefit their experiences bring to the team.
Eighty percent of the organizations surveyed already have the cloud in place or plan to do so in the coming months. The vast majority (78 percent) see technology as a critical investment that will help them overcome existing challenges. Upgrading or incorporating new technology will help in these areas:
- Continuous innovation (46 percent)
- Implementing digital transformation initiatives
- Improving internal processes/workflows
Talent and workforce
Realizing that good employees are hard to come by, small business owners want to improve the employee work experience. Employees are also demanding more from the organizations that hire them. Working from home, altering schedules, and having a better work/life balance have empowered employees to require more hybrid working models and greater flexibility. Now is the time for companies to address the issue since strategies are currently being developed to define how workplaces should operate in the future. Seventy-three percent of the owners surveyed say talent will make a significant investment in talent for 2022.
- 36 percent will concentrate on improving employee mental health and well-being
- 35 percent will address ways to achieve work-life balance for employees
- Seventy-five percent of owners have addressed the need for parental leave and working hours to attract and retain female employees.
With so many unknown variables in play, businesses can’t rely on strategies and ideas that worked in the past. Today’s success requires innovative thinking and the ability to pivot into unchartered waters quickly. Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president of LTK, said this at the Forbes Small Business Summit, “as an entrepreneur or small business owner, you need to be a futurist.”