By Leslie Jenkins
The last few days of 2013 are upon us–that frustrating “No Man’s Land” that is the space between Christmas and New Year’s. You know, the hot prospect who was ready to close last week has gone silent. Half the office is on vacation and many who are in are in varying stages of recovery from the dulling effects of too many holiday treats. But in just one short week, we’ll be cracking open the 2014 desk calendars and staring the promise—and the challenges–of a brand new year right in the face. Here are just a few of the challenges the new year has in store for growing businesses.
Health Care Reform Act: January 1 means that health care reform will no longer be just a topic of debate among politicians and neighbors. While time will tell what the real impacts will be, few argue that small business owners face particular challenges. For example, though the mandate to supply health insurance does not apply to companies with fewer than 50 employees, some employers who do offer coverage to their staff have found their prior policy options no longer available, or only available at higher costs. To help businesses deal with the impending changes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a one-stop hub to address many of their questions and concerns.
What will the Fed do? A confirmation vote is planned on January 6 on the nomination of Janet Yellen to head the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, Yellen will be the first female chair of the Fed and is expected to lend continuity to the role, having served as vice chair under current leader, Ben Bernanke. With reports from the agency that they plan to scale back on some remaining stimulus practices, business leaders will be carefully watching for changes in Fed policy that may affect financial markets.
Employment Regulations Among its top list of regulatory issues affecting small businesses in the coming year, payroll processor Paychex names a number of employment regulations, including growing support for raising the federal minimum wage and stronger enforcement of regulations governing the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors.
Mobility If we’re still “going mobile,” do we ever actually arrive? Workers continue to demand the freedom to do more remotely and tools the enable mobility have become essential. Employers will continue to embrace the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend as a win-win. Employees enjoy using their own technology of choice and employers save a fortune compared to the old days when every mid-manager and up was supplied a handset and a business wireless plan on the company nickel. Many business leaders, though, continue to work through challenges of protecting company intellectual assets and information that resides on employees’ devices. Too, employees are demanding more mobility tools. They want access to their CRM and marketing automation and other business intelligence platforms on their smartphones and tablets and, fortunately, companies like Salesforce.com and HubSpot are actively keeping up, making mobile versions of their cloud-based tools more and more robust.
Online Presence Unless your business has no need to reach a target audience, attract new customers or stay top of mind with existing customers, you’ve got no choice. You’ve got to stay up to date on what is going on with Google. And let’s face it—something is always going on with Google. Over the past several years, they’ve made changes to how searchers are connected to the information—and companies—they seek online through cute-sounding updates to their algorithms. There was Panda, then Penguin and now, Hummingbird. Essentially, Hummingbird seeks to better adapt results for how users actually search and rewards websites for offering accessible, relevant content. But you don’t have to be an SEO expert—or a zoo keeper—to keep up. There are plenty of articles, like 5 Tips To Improve Content Marketing After Google’s Hummingbird, that break down the changes for businesspeople.
No matter what interesting challenges await business leaders in 2014, however, there is no shortage of opportunity. U.S. GDP is on the rise—up at an annual rate of 4.1 percent for Q3 of 2013, signaling strength and more recovery heading into the new year. And there are arguably more resources available than ever before for the company managers looking to stay abreast of changes online or to local, regional or national regulations. The National Federation of Independent Business, for example, does a great job of boiling major issues down to their essential points and keeping business owners up to speed on how they may be affected.
What about you? What challenges are you expecting to face in 2014 and how to do you plan to position your business to face them?