We may only be a month into 2016, but current events are already shaping this year to be unique for businesses. How events like Snowmageddon 2016, the U.S. Presidential election and President Obama's final year will impact the landscape for small business is yet to be seen. However, business leaders have their projections.

I recently reviewed the 2016 State of Small Business Report created by Wasp Barcode. It was chock-full of insightful information about small business leaders' expectations for the year ahead, including thoughts on:

  • Challenges and growth
  • Hiring and employment
  • Government and the economy
  • Marketing and IT

Here are some of the most interesting takeaways from this report about small business expectations for the year ahead:

  1. 50 percent of small business leaders see hiring new employees as one of the biggest challenges facing businesses in 2016

    Good news for employees looking to make a change in 2016? Fifty percent of those surveyed plan to hire in the next 12 months. Only 41 percent plan to stay the same, 6 percent are still unsure and only 4 percent plan to reduce. Of those small businesses planning to hire, 79 percent plan to hire three or more employees.

  2. Small business owners say employee healthcare will be a bigger challenge in 2016

    For businesses with 101-499 employees, 50 percent cited employee healthcare as their top challenge, tied with hiring employees. Compare that to the 2015 State of Small Business Report, in which only 32 percent of businesses said employee healthcare was one of their top challenges. This might have to do with new Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations. Starting in 2016, employers with 50-99 full-time employees are mandated to offer health insurance or pay a penalty--the same mandate that was rolled out in 2015 for businesses with 100 or more fulltime employees.

  3. 44 percent of small business leaders have more confidence in the economy than they did a year ago

    Despite other concerns, 44 percent of those surveyed responded that their confidence in the economy was either slightly better or significantly better, compared to 12 months ago. However, while overall confidence remains high, small businesses as a whole are slightly less confident about the economy than they were in 2015.

  4. Small businesses are confident in their anticipated revenue growth

    More small businesses expect revenue growth in 2016. Of those surveyed, 71 percent anticipate an increase in revenue over 2015. In fact, only 9 percent expected revenues to decline in 2015.

  5. More than half of small businesses are using email and websites for marketing

    The top two tools used by small businesses are email (54 percent) and company websites (51 percent). Although small business are using more online marketing tools--like email, websites and social media--than traditional tools, traditional tool use remains high (44 percent).

  6. Small business owners expect a more favorable impact if a Republican wins the presidency in November

    Small businesses owners as a whole said that their business would do better if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016. Thirty-nine percent of small businesses say a Republican president will have an impact on their business' growth, while 34 percent said a Democrat president would have a positive impact. However, more businesses said a Democratic win would have a negative impact on their business growth (30 percent), compared to 22 percent who said a Republican win would have a negative impact.