Lessons from the Year's Small-Business Trends
CHICAGO (MainStreet) -- 'Tis the season for year-end wrap-ups and Top 10 lists. While condensing a year's worth of events into a single Best Of list can be daunting, looking back can also give us a fresh perspective. In that spirit, we're highlighting some major themes that came up in our small-business coverage this year.
While it's impossible to make a single pronouncement about the overall state of American small business in 2011, a few general observations hold: The business climate is still fairly bleak, as is the mood of many owners. Few companies are planning hiring sprees for 2012, and the hurdles to growing a business (weak customer demand, tougher credit requirements) remain daunting.
|Through merchant associations and city-funded initiatives, companies were getting the word out about buying local in 2011.|
That said, start-ups still started up this year and business owners still invested in new ideas and strategies. Here are some of the other small-business topics that resonated with us this year:
1. There's power in numbers
No small business can afford to be an island, especially during challenging economic times. Through merchant associations and city-funded initiatives, companies are getting the word out about buying local, finding it's more effective to market themselves as a group. State and local governments have created all sorts of incentives to strengthen their business base (and boost their "job creation" credentials). And business incubators are providing workspaces and mentoring to help start-ups move to the next level. If you need help growing or maintaining a business, there are plenty of people out there -- often in your own community -- who want to help you succeed.
Every new gadget is hyped as being potentially life-changing. In a few cases, that's actually true. Apple's iPad, which at first appeared to be a leisure-time entertainment accessory, turned out to have significant business applications as well. The tablets allowed some small businesses to save money on computer costs and create a more mobile workforce; in creative fields, showing off samples and videos on an iPad became an instant status-booster and conversation-starter.
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