In 2015, about 6.36 million small businesses were created. These new enterprises, along with the more than 50 million existing small businesses and freelance operations, will have to navigate a changing landscape in 2016.
With change comes risk, but forewarned is forearmed. To minimize your chances of an unpleasant surprise in 2016, read up on the 13 trends that have the potential to change the face of small business in the coming year.
Law, Politics, and Nature
- This year's El Nino is the most forceful in almost two decades. To prepare for extreme weather, make sure you have an emergency plan for the disasters most likely to affect your region. If you haven't updated your Property Insurance in a while, check to make sure it covers the biggest threats you face.
- Protests shut down Chicago's Magnificent Mile on Black Friday, the year's biggest shopping day. Given the current social and political climate (not just in Chicago, but around the country), that may be the new normal. Develop a plan for working if your business is inaccessible and communicate it with your employees.
- Around the country, increases in minimum wagehave been gaining traction, which could have a serious impact on your bottom line. Not sure what legislation is on the table where you live? Now's the time to investigate--and weigh in with your representatives if necessary.
- Small healthcare breaches will continue, as healthcare records remain more valuable on the black market than credit card numbers. Healthcare providers can work with an IT consultant to make sure their security systems and in-office practices are up to snuff. Otherwise, they risk not only the cost of a breach but also the accompanying HIPAA fines.
- Internet of things (IoT) breaches are also likely to pick up in 2016. As manufacturers of everything from toys to cars to household appliances get in on the IoT trend, the number of potential security holes increases. Creators of these products aren't traditional IT companies and so may not have the security background necessary to deliver secure products. If you're using products that rely on the IoT, be aware of your increased data breach exposure. If you're selling or recommending them, know that you could have liability in the event of a breach.
- Increasing cyber insurance costs and greater lawyer willingness to try data breach cases mean data breaches are more expensive than ever. Luckily, as many as 90 percent are preventable. 2016 is the year to get serious about in-house security so you don't have to deal with the headache and cost of a breach.
- A California judge recently ruled that Uber's workers can proceed with a class-action employment lawsuit challenging their status as independent contractors. The trial begins in June and could have a transformative impact on the sharing economy. Whether you rely on independent contractors or work as one yourself, the final ruling could affect you.
- Despite Uber's headlines, race and gender employment actions remain the most commonly filed with the EEOC. If you have employees, familiarize yourself with employment regulations to avoid an unexpected lawsuit.
- The portable benefits movement made waves with an open letter to policymakers in November. In it, tech, finance, and education leaders called for benefits like healthcare, retirement, and workers' comp that attach to an employee rather than an employer. If a portable benefits system emerges, it could be a game changer for small business, making them more competitive with larger peers.
- On October 1, liability for card-related data breaches shifted, increasing the odds that retailers can be responsible. The key lies with the new technology standard: retailers using EMV-enabled registers are safe, but those with outdated magnetic-stripe registers could have serious liability in the event of a breach. For anyone with a physical checkout, making the investment in EMV is essential to avoiding the costs of a breach.
- Online (card-not-present) fraud is expected to pick up next year as a direct result of the EMV transition. Online retailers can boost security by having adequate verification measures in place.
- Increased ad blocker usagecould affect businesses that rely on online advertising to draw new customers. While this likely isn't a problem for most small businesses, it could affect programmers, developers, and marketing consultants.
- HTTP/2, the latest update to Internet protocol, has the potential to drastically improve user experience, according to SearchEngineLand.com. Of course, making the transition comes with backend work and potential downsides, including not all browsers currently supporting the protocol. The bigger story, though, is that the Internet will continue to evolve in 2016. If it's been awhile since you updated your website, the time may be now.
One final word: don't be intimidated by all the changes--they're par for the course. Small, agile businesses are well suited to adapt and outdo their bigger, slower competition on shifting ground, so use your edge to your advantage!