I was asked to present three workshops at the National SBDC Conference in San Diego:
While attending the conference, I had the opportunity to interact with over 1,500 small business advisors from every state in the US. I was also able to meet with a number of vendors to see what sorts of trends we are seeing in the small business markets within the US. Here are the top 5 trends that I observed:
Cyber Security is not just for major corporations anymore. All business need to have a basic understanding of cyber security practices and put some basic cyber security policies in place. Here is a simple one page cyber security policy that almost any business could easily implement.
The SBDC North Star Program is an excellent FREE resource for small business owners to help with with beginning all the way through advanced cyber security practices.
The biggest challenge for cyber security education to small business owners is the resistance to what they perceive is confusing and complicated. The "I am too small to be hacked" mentality is also a common hurdle that cyber security professionals face when trying to help small businesses elevate their level of security.
I had no idea that the SBDC had so many resources, practices and protocols available that they can and do deploy when communities are affected by natural disasters. Everything from financial assistance to providing physical support resources and help navigating applications for disaster relief are accounted for by the SBDC networks throughout the US. They have massive tents where business owners can go to seek help keeping their business alive or rebuilding following a disaster.
But response was not the only topic. Preparation and awareness were also big topics from workshops such as "Business Continuity Planning" delivered by Tempest Risk Management to "You've been hacked, now what" offered by representatives from several SBDC's including Delaware's SBDC.
It is rare to find startups that do not rely heavily or solely on digital resources and eCommerce. Manufacturers, producers and retailers are getting their start by just selling online rather than take on the significant overhead involved in brick and mortar location. This is a concern for communities who rely heavily on people visiting brick and mortar locations to develop foot traffic. Is this spelling the end for Main Street America? For your average town in America, it just might.
But the digitization of the US marketplace has been a boon for many long time businesses who are able to expand their offerings to a wider audience. This is requiring more of an investment in developing online branding, advertising and social media presence which will be a boon for digital marketing providers for years to come.
If you have never tried to start your own business and are thinking of doing so....be prepared. The sheer number of rules, laws, regulations required and options available are overwhelming. Most entrepreneurs won't be able to start without significant assistance. Fortunately there are a plethora of resources available from chambers of commerce, independent consultants and freelancers and, of course, SBDC centers located in every state in the US. Unfortunately, there are more wanna be entrepreneurs looking for more help and SBDC's need more funding in order to keep up. It is amazing and humbling to meet the members of SBDC's who give so much to help others realize their dream.
The good news is that government investment in small business is significant and on the rise. COVID shifted social discussions to the importance of small business in the US. I predict that "small business Saturday" will not really be much of a thing going forward and more of an every day occurrence, especially as social consciousness appears to favor small businesses over big, bad, money-hungry corporations.
This was my first SBDC conference and I have to say it was informative, entertaining and well organized. I met some amazing people and learned a lot from attending a variety of workshops. The SBDC network is an under-utilized resource in the US. I am going to advise all of my clients to connect with their local SBDC either for help or to provide help. I am and will continue to be an advocate of America's SBDC's.
Tempest Risk Management
Branding is the process of setting your business apart from the competition. It's how you control how people view your business and connect with it. Branding is used by major companies, from Coca-Cola to McDonald's. However, small businesses can also use it to influence public perception.