Trends might hold opportunity for small business

“I don’t set trends. I just find out what they are and exploit them.” Dick Clark

Because we work with business owners, we like to keep an eye on trends that might affect them. This is especially true in times of uncertain economy, when businesses might need to adjust their product or service offerings to accommodate their customers’ needs or attract new customers.

Some trends have little significance while others are strong enough to impact us all, and those are the ones that may provide the greatest opportunities. Computers are a great example. It’s rare today to find a business, regardless of industry, that isn’t computerized. When companies started converting to computers en masse, the businesses that jumped in to provide needed products and support were able to get their share of the pie. In other words, they seized the opportunity.

Whether you’re a cutting-edge kind of person, someone who prefers the status quo, or somewhere in the middle, maintaining an awareness of significant business trends can help you at least consider areas of opportunity that might exist. Here are some we think are important.

Going “green.” These days it’s cool to be green and that applies to businesses as well. Wikipedia defines a green business as an “enterprise that has no negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy.” A Google search of the term “green business” shows around 152 million entries, so this is definitely something people care about.

Companies are jumping on the bandwagon by obtaining LEED certification for their buildings, reducing harmful emissions and energy usage, recycling and cutting down on paper usage. So how can you tap into this trend? Are there green products or services you could provide that would complement what you already offer? Do some research and you might find great opportunities for growing your business.

Alternative forms of energy. Global events and America’s uneasiness with dependency on foreign oil have made finding alternative forms of energy a priority. Natural gas is big business, as is clearly evidenced if you take Interstate 70 through western Colorado. Other industry giants include wind, solar, water and geothermal energy.

All of these industries will need maintenance, supplies, consulting and, in some cases, housing and meals. Are there ways your business could tap into this trend? Could any of these areas supplement what you already sell?

Social media. As trends go, social media is huge. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, in an article posted on August 26, 2011, “Fully 65 percent of adult Internet users now say they use a social networking site, like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn.” LinkedIn, which was started in 2003, reports that it has more than 120 million members worldwide. Numbers like that are hard to ignore.

When used systematically, social media can build your network, help you “meet” people, and generate leads. A lot of business owners would like to get involved in social media but don’t understand it or how to do it. This creates opportunities for businesses in complementary industries, such as telecommunications, web development or marketing, to add social media consulting to their repertoires.

Doing more with less. Frugality is “in,” as the recession has made people re-think how they spend their money. Companies are trying to get the same things accomplished using less money, so they’re using fewer employees, less space and fewer services. This offers opportunities for other businesses to provide outsourced or temporary support, sub-let part of their space, or offer consolidated services.

On the consumer side, people are foregoing new purchases and, instead, remodeling or repairing what they already own. So they need things like home remodeling, auto repair, and furniture repair, and those service providers need supplies and support services. Could this be an opportunity for your company?

The business world is constantly changing as trends come and go. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on them, identify those that might fit in well with your existing business, and look for opportunities to expand what you currently offer. By “exploiting” trends, you might find entirely new revenue streams and avenues for growth.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in BusinessTruths Consulting, Inc.