4 Small Business Trends for 2016

We’re about halfway through 2016 and a lot can happen in six months. With entrepreneurship at an all-time high and the “gig economy” taking a stronger hold month after month, it pays to check in on the latest tech and trends that can make running your company easier.

Say No to Email 

Most companies think communication is still all about email. Don’t get us wrong, we use email all the time, but inbox fatigue is real. Imagine if all the quick notes and questions you have to send didn’t have to clog up your email inbox? What if you could reduce the number of emails you get (and have to respond to) by 50% or even more? Wouldn’t that leave you more time to get actual work done?

Well technology has come to the rescue. Meet programs like Slack and HipChat. More than just group messaging or texting apps, these programs create archived, searchable conversations without resorting to the 100th email before noon. You can share files of all sizes, create groups for transparent communication, set up private groups, and even send direct messages to individuals, so it can work for almost any team structure. These are also useful tools for companies that have a high turnover and need new employees to be able to review recent conversations and get up to speed quickly. The best part? These are incredibly cost-effective (even free!) ways to be more productive and keep your email count reasonable.

The Workspace Goes High Tech

If you need a step up from mere communication and file sharing, you should look into one of the new project management programs out there. While HipChat and Slack both have paid project management options, there are other “one stop shop” programs that may be more suited to your team. These web-based workspaces let teams break apart large projects into milestones, tasks and subtasks. And everyone on the team, including managers and business owners, can see exactly where a project stands and what each team member is doing to move it along.

If you have a team spread out geographically or you work with a lot of freelancers, being able to collaborate, communicate and check work efficiently, all in one place, is invaluable. Zoho Projects, LiquidPlanner and Teamwork are all great places to start in your search for an umbrella project management tool.

Accounting Made Simple

Small business accounting and personal finance have come a long way since the days of handwritten ledgers or the complicated user interfaces of software 10-15 years ago. Today’s programs allow almost anyone to manage finances for a sole-proprietor and there are a lot of good options for larger operations too. Of course everyone has heard of QuickBooks, but there are newer programs that are enhancing their capabilities every day. It completely depends on the size of your business, of course, but many of these programs are customizable to your specifications. FreshBooks, Zoho Books and Intuit QuickBooks Online Plus all got “Editor’s Choice” ratings from PC Mag for 2016 and there’s sure to be a program to suit your needs.

Hiring Smart

This isn’t exactly a trend, but we would be remiss not to mention Millennials in an article about business in 2016. These 18-35 workers get a pretty bad rap in the media (entitlement issues, peter pan syndrome, you get the idea), but many Millennials are also born entrepreneurs and they will work tirelessly for a company or cause they believe in. They’re also digital natives, so don’t be surprised if your Millennial employees are the ones suggesting one of the software programs we mentioned. And most will be more than happy to help you navigate the ever-changing waters of social media.

After growing up during the recession, many Millennials are just happy to have a job and they are used to getting paid less than their predecessors did at the same age, but you may need to make up for that with other perks like teleworking and flexible schedules to keep them on board. Job hopping is a quintessential Millennial trait, so be prepared to provide an attractive place to work if you want to avoid high turnover.

There may be more technologically advanced ways of doing things and reaching people in 2016 than ever before, but the same truths remain constant: collaboration, using the right tools for your team and your business, and hiring the right people for the job will never go out of style.