Small businesses are often referred to as the backbone of economies, and considering how companies with 0-49 employees account for almost 99% of businesses in the EU, we’d say that this claim is quite accurate. But poor management can quickly kill a small business — and many fail within the first 2-5 years.

Fortunately, we can learn a lot from observing the way that successful businesses operate. And on that subject, let’s take a look at the top five trends in small business management to watch out for (and, hopefully, learn from).

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1.   Workplace flexibility remains paramount

The pandemic introduced much of the global workforce to a more flexible way to work – and many people want to continue with it. Remote and hybrid work models help workers achieve better work-life balance by eliminating commute times and giving them freedom to manage their schedules. Providing this flexibility is key to attracting and retaining top talent, which should be a priority for businesses of any size. 

And sure, there are still some kinks to work out with hybrid and remote work, but we’re headed in the right direction – with technology leading the charge. Speaking of which…

2.   AI and automation fuel productivity gains

The AI and automation revolution isn’t ‘coming’, because it’s already here.  Small businesses and large enterprises alike are leveraging automation in different forms, from automation tools built into existing software (like workflow automation tools in business management solutions) to dedicated automation solutions (like robotic process automation software (RPA) such as UiPath, and no-code automation tools like Make). Similarly, AI is adding value to several business functions, e.g., by providing more accurate forecasts, analyzing large datasets, personalizing customer experiences, generating content, and more.

Small businesses are constantly under pressure to do more with less, and AI and automation help you do so without exhausting your workforce. Keep experimenting with new technologies and discover what works for your team. 

3.   Exploring better ways to communicate

We have more tools than ever to facilitate communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. We’ve got Slack, email, video conferencing tools, project management solutions — you name it. But when you’re managing a business – small or large – it’s important to make sure your tools serve your teams and reflect the way they work.

That’s why we’re seeing small businesses become more intentional about how they use software to access and share knowledge. Knowledge centralisation is a bigger priority, and people are scrutinising the way they communicate and exploring better methods. 

4.   Personalisation and customer-centricity

Businesses have always claimed to be customer-centric, but many haven’t committed fully. However, as personalisation becomes even more important for brand differentiation, we’re seeing small businesses place greater emphasis on it. Companies are exploring how they can deliver truly personalised experiences at scale – with data leading the way.

Small businesses are making simple, impactful changes – like investing in systems to centralize customer data, capturing the voice of customer, and leveraging segmentation – to improve personalisation. 

5.   Unlocking scalability with the Cloud

While using cloud solutions certainly isn’t a new trend, we’re seeing more small businesses become Cloud-first; these organisations have their core infrastructure on the Cloud. They’re using cloud solutions to manage major business functions, from HR to customer relationship management and business economics. 

The versatility of the Cloud helps these businesses scale quickly and sustainably. Cloud solutions are device agnostic, so you can access software and information from anywhere. Moreover, the Cloud also helps small businesses reduce security costs. Since cloud services/SaaS providers manage the servers, apps, and data security, you don’t need to hire additional IT staff for security, support, and maintenance. 

What do these trends mean for your small business? 

These trends in small business management reflect changes in the way modern teams work and in the infrastructure of organisations. If you’re managing a small business then the scalability of cloud solutions, the power of automation, and the convenience of flexible working models can collectively help your organisation stay competitive. 

So which trends are your small business already following, and what ones do you plan on adopting? 

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