Small businesses are the vibrant threads that add color and diversity to the global economy. However, their success journeys are often marked by unique challenges and opportunities that require precise planning—and, often, an astute co-navigator by your side.
We recently talked to Ken Yancey, a long-time small business advocate, board member of the National Business Association (NBA), and excellent small business navigator who shares five essential small business survival tips.
Small Business Survival Tips
1—Keeping Up With Changing Consumer Behaviors
For your small business to truly thrive, you must be conscious of current consumer behaviors. Today’s consumers are dynamic, and their shopping and buying habits are rapidly changing. Yancey points out that activities like social shopping powered by AI are being embraced, especially by younger consumers. And he says, “To stay relevant, it’s essential to meet customers where they are and ensure a seamless experience across different platforms.” Increasingly consumers of all ages are online, on social, and using mobile devices.
2—Embrace New Technologies
The pace of technological innovation is rapidly accelerating, and it’s imperative for small business owners to explore and embrace them. While this can seem overwhelming, it offers businesses numerous opportunities to better serve their customers and streamline operations.
Yancey says, “Leveraging tools like AI can help businesses anticipate and respond to changing consumer demands and expectations.” You need to explore the new technologies and hire employees who understand them and can quickly deploy the solutions.
Too often, small business owners shy away from transformative tech, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, thinking it’s too expensive to invest in and designed for bigger companies. But Yancey points out that “businesses that embrace these technologies can improve efficiency, manage costs, and stay competitive. Being at the forefront of integrating technology into operations is crucial for long-term success.”
2—Commit to Lifelong Learning
Part of embracing new technologies and other innovations is committing to lifelong learning. The NBA believes this is an essential part of being able to survive downturns and thrive. Yancey urges small business owners to “stay current about new trends, emerging technologies, and best practices.”
One of the keys to small business success is leveraging as many resources as you can, global and local. “Often, solutions to business challenges are closer than they appear,” says Yancey. But you have to proactively seek out solutions and resources. Networking helps, of course, as does being part of an organization surrounded by people who have faced similar challenges and can share their solutions.
4—Understanding Your Ecosystem
But before you can grow, you need to look inward as well. That means having a comprehensive understanding of your supply chain, vendors, and the broader business ecosystem. As a former banker, Yancey understands this well. He says, “External disruptions, such as logistical challenges, can have far-reaching implications, even for small businesses. Proactive understanding and contingency planning are essential.”
If you don’t embrace this—if you allow your company to remain stagnant—you risk being left behind. Yancey advises, “Continuous questioning, adaptation, and a willingness to change are necessary to thrive in today’s dynamic business environment. Listening to experts and staying informed can provide valuable insights for navigating shifts.”
5—Prepare to Pivot
It sometimes feels like the business world rediscovered the word “pivot” when the pandemic emerged. But that’s not true. As Yancey reminds us, “Change is inevitable in business. Whether due to evolving customer behaviors, technological advancements, or external challenges, businesses must be agile and ready to pivot. Those unable to adapt risk becoming obsolete.”
The Impact of Small Business
Small businesses have a profound impact not only on their communities but also globally. Entrepreneurs worldwide face unique challenges, and Yancey says, “It’s crucial to be aware of and empathize with the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in different parts of the world. At NBA, we’ve seen that even modest investments in countries like Rwanda can create significant opportunities, particularly for women-owned businesses.”
He adds that these stories are not only inspiring but also serve as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunities we have here in the U.S. In fact, Yancey believes that sharing information about investing in global entrepreneurial efforts, philanthropic efforts, and the success stories of global entrepreneurs can have multiple benefits. He says, “It builds trust and rapport with stakeholders, acts as a marketing tool, and demonstrates a business’s commitment to giving back to society.”
About the National Business Association: Championing Small Businesses
For over four decades, the National Business Association has stood as a steadfast advocate for small businesses across the United States. In an ever-evolving business landscape, the NBA has continually adapted to the changing needs of entrepreneurs, offering invaluable resources and support.
Let’s learn a little more about the organization and what it does to support small business owners.
Long-Standing Support: Since its inception, the NBA’s mission has been to empower small business owners. In its 40+ years, it has witnessed and helped the growth and transformation of countless entrepreneurial ventures.
Governance: At the heart of the NBA is a dedicated board of directors who share a genuine commitment to the well-being and advancement of small business owners. These individuals bring their expertise and knowledge to steer the NBA in the right direction.
Resources and Benefits: Small businesses often grapple with limited resources and information. The NBA bridges this gap by providing a wide array of resources, tools, and information carefully curated to address the unique challenges entrepreneurs face. Plus, it offers exclusive benefits and discounts to its members, helping them access vital resources at a reduced cost.
Access to Benefits: One of the key advantages of being a member of the NBA is the access it provides to an extensive network of features, benefits, content, and contacts. For small business owners, this means gaining entry to opportunities that may have otherwise been out of reach.
Support for Business Initiatives: The NBA understands the importance of collaboration and support. It works closely with vital small business organizations like the SBA, SCORE, the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), and Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), providing valuable content and financial support.
Current Trends and Community Building: There is a burgeoning interest in startups, and the NBA knows how alone a startup entrepreneur can feel. That’s why it’s interested in fostering a sense of community and shared knowledge among both new and current small business owners.
Value-Packed Membership: The NBA offers various membership levels, each designed to cater to the diverse needs of entrepreneurs. These memberships come with a wealth of resources, discounts, and opportunities. As a special incentive, the NBA currently offers a free one-month trial, allowing businesses to explore the benefits risk-free.
Outreach and Updates: To keep members informed and engaged, the NBA plans to provide regular updates through newsletters covering essential issues in the small business world. Staying informed is crucial for businesses to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing landscape.
As we approach 2024, the business landscape is more dynamic and interconnected than ever. The National Business Association is here to help you embrace the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.