5 Business Owner Challenges You Might Face in 2020

A new year can bring exciting changes for small businesses, but it can also bring about a unique set of challenges. From evolving customer demands to economic adjustments, small-business owners must adapt to stay relevant in a new marketplace.

As we ring in 2020, here are five challenges that small-business owners may face, along with ideas for how they can prepare accordingly.

1. A New Generation of Workers

For the first time in modern history, five generations make up the workplace, each with its own distinct characteristics. In order to appeal to these different generations, tap into the motivational factors for each individual group.

According to a study by Purdue University:

  • Traditionalists (born from 1925 to 1945) are motivated by respect and providing long-term value.
  • Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) are motivated by loyalty, teamwork and duty.
  • Generation X (1965 to 1980) want diversity, work-life balance and autonomy.
  • Millennials (1981 to 2000) are motivated by responsibility, good managers and unique work experiences.
  • Generation Z members (born after 2001) are motivated by individuality, personalization and creativity.

By understanding your employees’ values, you will be better equipped to lead your team in 2020.

2. Cyber Attacks

It seems like almost every week we hear news of yet another cyber attack. And notably, the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 43% of security breach victims are small businesses.

In order to prevent cyber attacks, install firewalls and anti-malware systems on all of your computers and devices and make sure they’re kept up to date. Create a written cybersecurity plan that employees must read and sign. Discuss current scams during employee meetings, and consider hiring a security consultant who can point out your weak areas and provide solutions.

3. Demand for Purpose

Consumers are now looking beyond a company’s products and services and more toward their business practices. According to the latest Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose study, more than three quarters of American consumers want companies to positively impact society rather than being simply profit-focused. And two-thirds say they would switch brands of the products they normally purchase, choosing those from a purpose-driven company instead.

Share your business’s passion and mission with your customers. Educate your staff so they can answer questions about your standards in their communication with customers. Remember: the most important part of using your business to fulfill a purpose is to do it authentically.

4. Technology Updates

New technology can help your business innovate and evolve, but keeping up with the latest tools and devices may feel like a never-ending quest. It can be tempting to take a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” approach, but implementing new technology can help you improve your customer experience, streamline operations and stay ahead of the competition.

Implement an IT strategy that will identify areas that are vital to your business. This can help you determine where to invest your technology efforts and budget. Choose scalable tools and regularly audit your software and devices to ensure they’re still relevant to your business.

5. Low Unemployment

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate is at 3.6%, as of October 2019. As a small-business owner, you may struggle to find and hire the best talent. Being understaffed can hurt your ability to serve customers, making your employees one of your most important assets.

Address this challenge by focusing on employee retention in 2020. Turnover can cost you time, lessen productivity and put a strain on other staff. If you’re not doing so already, conduct exit interviews to find out why people are leaving. Further, make sure to regularly check in with employees to measure their engagement and job satisfaction.

Looking Ahead

A new year can bring in new business — and that’s great news. Still, when you anticipate the coming changes beforehand, you give yourself the best chance for success. After all, challenge is just another word for opportunity.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
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