In the years ahead, lowered infrastructure costs and stronger social networks will allow smaller businesses to cater to highly specified niche markets and secure a bigger role in global commerce, according to Intuit's Future of Small Business Report.
The report, which was released this week and is based on interviews with business owners and experts, says social networks, reduced trade barriers, and facilitated access to manufacturers are encouraging more small-business owners to tap into global opportunities. Already, small businesses are growing their exports three times faster than the overall economy, the report notes.
"It's fascinating how we are becoming a one-world, one-market economy," said Rick Jensen, Vice President of Intuit's Small Business division. "Small companies can play big globally and remain small."
Social networks, Jensen said, are encouraging teamwork and idea-sharing among the world's business owners. He said small coffee shops these days compare strategies on how to compete with latte giants like Starbucks, while immigrant entrepreneurs are maintaining social and professional ties abroad. Because each successful company now sits in a carefully defined niche, business owners can afford to share ideas without being worried about losing them to another company.
"Small-business owners apply what other businesses learned and use it to accelerate growth. There is a real trust factor from small business to small business," Jensen said.
Large and small businesses, he added, are now tapping directly into each other's strengths. Amazon, for example, provides smaller companies with web storage and other internet services, while specified social networks like eLance already allow small firms to outsource work. As a result, expertise in all aspects of running a business is no longer required of an entrepreneur.
Despite the recent downturn in economic growth, Jensen said the entrepreneurial boom will continue its resilience.
"Small businesses can do very well against a rollercoaster economy," he said. "The days of signing a big lease on Main Street are gone."
As social technology develops further and previously bulky infrastructures lose more of their weight, "you'll be walking around with your business in your hip pocket," he said.