America has over 30 million businesses that employ over 60 million people, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Although the unemployment rate spiked during the pandemic to 13 percent in 2020, it came back to near 5 percent in 2021. Dealing with labor issues is just one of the top small business challenges 2022 will bring, among the following areas of concern.
1. Supply Chain Slowdowns
One of the top small business challenges in 2022 is overcoming supply shortages and late deliveries due to the supply chain crisis at American seaports. As supplies become more scarce, prices go up. The supply chain tie-up that started during the pandemic is a complex puzzle that usually isn't thoroughly explained in one newscast. Three giant ocean shipping alliances that own the world's biggest ships have been taking up so much space and time at ports it's creating a chain reaction.
Mixed in with this chain reaction include labor shortages, high storage fees, and pandemic fears that have created a surge in consumer demand. All of these factors contribute to the supply chain crisis. It's not clear what the solution will be for returning to normal. One of the solutions to logistics issues since the pandemic broke out in 2020 has been establishing alternative pickup options based on social distancing.
2. Labor Shortages and Attracting Talent
Another leading small business challenge of 2022 will be recruiters filling job vacancies created by the "great resignation" from 2020-2021. Many Americans quit during the pandemic to rethink their family life and career choices. But even before the pandemic struck, specific industries such as healthcare and trucking were experiencing labor shortages. The labor crisis goes deeper than people getting sick of their jobs due to pressures created by the pandemic.
Mental health has entered the equation for managing employees. That means employers need to be more mindful of mental well-being in the workplace. Elevation of stress levels through increased multitasking contributes to workplace deficiencies in terms of more paranoia, reduced focus, diminished loyalty, and decreased productivity. Small businesses must be particularly concerned about attracting and nurturing loyal talent due to limited resources.
3. Management of Remote Work
Attracting the right talent can be achieved partly by offering remote work, which allows you to tap into a global pool of experienced professionals. The topic of remote work, in general, is one of the most critical small business challenges for the new year. Remote work isn't going away because it helps companies cut costs with less need to spend money on multiple workstations.
According to Harvard Business Review, the number of digital nomads, who work online from anywhere, blossomed to over 7 million Americans in 2019, then to over 10.9 million the following year. Some popular digital nomad jobs include writing, graphic design, digital marketing, consulting, web design, and software development. The cloud allows for videoconferencing to bring together staff meetings and collaboration among coworkers.
4. Pandemic Concerns
Another one of the top small business challenges in 2022 will be the continuing threat of pandemic outbreaks. The longer the COVID-19 pandemic persists with Omicron or other variants, the more consumers will stay home and buy online. Consumers are expected to use their smartphones even more in the coming year. They will also communicate more via social media channels, partly as a form of social distancing.
Even though online shopping is expected to escalate, physical establishments must be prepared to return to regular foot traffic. The industries most adversely affected by the pandemic have been hospitality, retail, education, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, and business services.
5. Securing Adequate Funding
The pandemic has led to shutdowns that have resulted in severe financial losses for small businesses. But the good news for some entrepreneurs is that resilient firms often bounce back stronger after being tested by significant challenges. One of the ongoing small business trends that began before the pandemic has been tightening budgets. Trying to do more with fewer people and less spending can be achieved through automation. For many small companies, a solution to business survival has been reducing salaries while creating more flexible work schedules.
6. Improving Your Content Marketing
Working with a digital marketing firm can do wonders for bringing traffic to your website. A firm experienced with SEO, PPC, and e-commerce solutions can help monetize and promote your website. Digital marketing campaigns can attract new leads through search engines, email, and social media.
You can cross-promote through guest blogging by networking with other business owners, and industry thought leaders. Influencer marketing through social media and blogging can help identify new sales channels. Small business owners need to understand the value of providing followers with original expert commentary via multiple marketing channels.
7. Developing Better IT Solutions
Small businesses can overcome many of the problems posed by the pandemic by upgrading their IT networking. The more your business becomes cloud-based and digitally interactive, the more you need effective oversight of your IT systems. If your company doesn't have the resources to hire an in-house IT team, it's advantageous to outsource to a reputable local managed services provider (MSP). The most modern MSPs embrace AI, IoT sensors, automation, and machine learning software encompassing self-healing solutions.
8. Working Toward Sustainability Goals
Sustainability is a central theme for all businesses to cut expenses and waste to maximize productivity and profitability. Digital marketing is a sustainable solution because of the efficiency it provides. Dealing with inflation will be a huge challenge for startups, so they'll need to spend money carefully. Online freelancing in the gig economy is a form of sustainability because it cuts transportation costs and reduces strain on traffic and the environment. By 2020 there were over 77 million gig economy workers in the United States, as over a third of the workforce now engages in freelance work.
9. Countering Employee Burnout with Work-life Balance
Employee burnout happens when a job becomes monotonous, and advancements deteriorate. To maintain a positive customer experience, you need a team of happy people that want to share their happiness with customers. Creating a family-first workplace environment is a step toward work-life balance. Showing empathy toward staff members humanizes the workplace.
Essentially, business leaders must find the right balance between professional growth and improving personal quality of life. To accommodate a work-life balance, some businesses are devoting space to recreational activities. It's also helpful to encourage periodic breaks and a sense of openness. Employees should feel free to approach managers with any questions or concerns about their jobs.
10. Investing in New Technology
Many large corporations have already invested in digital transformation, including IoT proliferation, automation, AI, and virtual environments. According to Forrester Research, 63 percent of businesses praise automation as helping their operations move forward during the pandemic. Not only can automation speed up tasks that humans find redundant and boring, but it can also help fill gaps caused by labor shortages.
Embracing 5G will help facilitate more agile digital transformation. Tech industry experts expect global penetration of 5G adoption will be 40 percent by 2024. Machine learning software is another area businesses should look into for gaining a competitive edge. The software can improve cybersecurity, business forecasts, and customer support.
The most significant small business challenges 2021 will define which companies are resilient and grow from this learning experience. Aiming for sustainability is a common theme in the solutions to these challenges. Digital marketing and e-commerce both play into sustainability. Find out more from the e-marketing consulting experts about improving your online endeavors and moving forward digitally.