12 SIGNS YOUR COMPANY HAS AN ENVIABLE WORKPLACE CULTURE

*** originally posted by  TIM STEVENS on FastCompany 

USE THESE SIGNS TO BUILD A HEALTHY COMPANY CULTURE, ONE EMPLOYEE AT A TIME.

But within a few months, I began to realize the department where I was placed did not represent the values of the overall organization. The leadership was more interested in saving face than making decisions based on integrity. Staff members talked about one another in highly negative terms. Complaining and whining were the most common modes of communication. There was little respect for the contribution of others on the team.

A friend and I tried to swing things back to a positive place, but we were sarcastically branded "Danny and Darla Do-Right" since we wouldn’t participate in the negativity. Efforts to make central leadership aware of the toxic nature of the culture were directed back to department leadership—which, of course, was where the problems began. The department completely fractured toward the end of our assignment, and most team members left the organization hurt and disillusioned. Richard Dore, the director of Proteus Leadership Centres, explains what happened this way:

Having a great workplace culture can appear to be rare—and creating one is elusive and near impossible for some managers. People are often frustrated by their culture, with some describing their workplace as being dominated by negative and toxic personalities, with underhanded and manipulative infighting that stifles growth, innovation and results.

There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many weeks of vacation you are given; when you work in a toxic environment, you still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day. And that isn’t worth it.

On the other hand, there is nothing better than working at an organization with a great culture. You wake up every day looking forward to getting back to work on the mission with people you enjoy being around.

I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, but here are twelve signs that a great culture exists in your organization or company:

1. PEOPLE ARE WAITING IN LINE TO JOIN YOUR TEAM

It’s not because you are offering more money than they could find somewhere else. Many times the pay is less. But people have heard about your team, and they would give anything to be a part of it.

2. TURNOVER IS LOW

You should especially pay attention to this in entry-level and mid-level jobs. Often top leaders will stay forever because it’s safe and the pay is good. But if you see people staying for an unexpectedly long time in facility care or accounting, you are probably looking at a healthy culture.

3. TOP LEADERS ARE NOT INSECURE ABOUT OTHER LEADERS SUCCEEDING

In fact, they encourage it.

4. GOSSIP ISN’T TOLERATED

It isn’t just the leaders calling for people to take the high road in their communication. At every level, gossip is shut down with an encouragement to speak directly to the individual.

5. LATERAL LEADERSHIP IS OUTSTANDING

Leading people below you is easy. That is, it’s easy compared to leading people next to you over whom you have no authority. A great culture sees people coming alongside their peers to encourage, or occasionally to correct and redirect.

6. TEAM MEMBERS ARE ENERGIZED BY THE MISSION

You hear leaders at all levels of the organization talking about the mission. It gives them energy, and they are constantly thinking of ways to get it done.

7. IT’S NOT JUST A JOB

People go to movies, hang out at one another’s homes, and sometimes even vacation together. This doesn’t mean they don’t have other friends, but they really enjoy the company of the people they work with.

8. THE TEAM BELIEVES THEY ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE TASK

There is a sense that, as employees, they really matter. They aren’t just people filling tasks; but the culture, systems, language, and structure communicate value. Even in tough times with salary freezes or benefit changes, the vibe is still, "You matter!"

9. PEOPLE ARE SMILING

Walk the hallways and you will see people smiling, enjoying conversations, and having a good time in the midst of high productivity and intense focus.

10. FEAR IS MISSING

People don’t fret if they say the wrong thing in front of the wrong person. There aren’t hushed conversations because of the fear of what will happen if they are overheard. Employees in an organization with a great culture can walk into the boss’s office with a concern and walk out knowing they were heard.

11. COMMUNICATION IS STRONG

From the top to the bottom, people communicate. The staff isn’t surprised with information they didn’t hear until it was announced at a Sunday service or came out in a new product brochure. It is communicated well in advance, with leaders even asking the staff to help find solutions.

12. CHANGE IS WELCOME

People aren’t afraid of change. It’s not that everyone likes change, but most have been through it so many times and have seen the leaders manage change with care and dignity that they no longer dread it. Identifying the evidences of a great culture is all fine and good.

This list might be discouraging if you aren’t working in an environment with such a healthy culture. To that person I would suggest: You have the power to change the culture, one day at a time! Building a healthy culture starts with a few determined people.

In just one department, in one corner of the building, a new culture can begin to emerge. As others interact with the healthy department, they are attracted to it. At their core, no one wants to live in a culture of negativity. People want to love their job. They might not know how to act in a positive environment, and they might resist as you call them out of a place of mediocrity, but ultimately love and positivity always wins out.

Get with others who have the same desire, and take that first step!

This article is an adapted excerpt from Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace (Thomas Nelson, January 6, 2015).

Tim Stevens is the author of Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace (Thomas Nelson, January 6, 2015). Tim is also a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders. For more information, visitwww.FairnessIsOverrated.com.

The Big Share

rentse working spacess around the world

The big share

HBS historian examines a new kind of connectivity

*** Originally posted on Harvard Gazette by Colleen Walsh, Harvard Staff Writer

Need a ride but don’t want to call a taxi? How about a place to stay instead of a hotel? Or maybe you just need someone to fix your washer? If you can access the Internet, you’re in luck.

With the click of a mouse or the tap of a smartphone, users around the world are joining the “sharing economy,” an expanding network of buyers searching for a product or service and sellers eager to deliver what they need.

Savvy entrepreneurs have tapped into this culture of “collaborative consumption,” connecting searchers and sellers for a price. Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft link passengers and drivers through a smartphone app, and travelers who log onto Airbnb can rent everything from a private yurt in Malibu to a room in an Upper East Side apartment.

Investors like what these companies are offering. Uber recently raised $1.2 billion and was valued at more than $18 billion. In the spring, Airbnb raised $450 million and was valued at $10 billion.

But the new sharing economy raises many questions. Some city officials are calling for more oversight — after a long battle, Uber recently reached a deal with New York’s attorney general regarding its fees — and some experts wonder what “sharing” startups will mean not just for the economy, but for the future of the workforce.

The Gazette spoke via email with the Business School’s Nancy Koehn, a historian and the James E. Robison Professor of Business Administration, about the sharing economy and its implications.

GAZETTE: Can you define the sharing economy?

KOEHN: The sharing economy refers to the system of direct exchange of goods and services among individuals — without an intermediary directly facilitating every transaction. This is theoretical language for peer-to-peer exchange of everything from car rides to spare bedrooms to advice on buying a new television or finding a good plumber. Virtually all of this interchange is enabled by individuals’ access to the Internet, particularly through smartphones, which allow billions of people around the world to connect to each other at any hour of the day or night.

We usually don’t associate the word “sharing” with buying and selling for mutual gain. But that is what is happening in more places than not on the new landscape of this hyper-connected global marketplace. Consumers log into their smartphones to call an Uber ride because the value that each of these individuals derives from the service, such as convenience, comfort, speed of transport, is at least equal to the price they will pay for the ride. Suppliers, including the drivers and Uber, the company broker overseeing all this activity, make a surplus or profit on the difference between what it costs to supply the ride, in the case of the drivers, or what it costs to run the “switchboard” that connects riders and drivers in the case of Uber.

Analogously for Airbnb, this company claims a percentage of the price of the room rented each night from both the individual staying in the room and the person renting out the extra space they have available. Ditto for Angie’s List, which is in the advice or referral business.

As children, we learned to share without any connection to money or tit-for-tat. But make no mistake about it, today’s sharing economy is big business, involving lots and lots of money and all kinds of players motivated powerfully by financial gain.

GAZETTE: What do you think attracts consumers and suppliers to the types of companies in the shared economy, and what role does technology play?

KOEHN: First, there is a directness about calling a limo ride yourself on Uber or Lyft and then rating the driver and car after you get to your destination that is both empowering and seemingly more transparent than calling a car service or hailing a taxi. One has the sense that as a consumer there is more control involved in this kind of transaction than in a more traditional exchange. We live in a very turbulent moment. Whether we are talking about technology, global politics, airline travel, world financial markets, climate change … everywhere we turn, we are confronted with VUCA — volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Small wonder that consumers are seeking more control in what they buy and how they purchase it.  And suppliers want agency over what they sell and how they sell it.

Second, around the world, there is a yawning trust vacuum. Individuals from all walks of life, particularly younger consumers, simply do not have much trust in established business, governmental, and other large-scale organizations. Against this backdrop, many consumers — and sellers — find peer-to-peer buying and selling to be more appealing because it is not so closely associated with a big business that may (or may not) have a mixed track record in their minds.

Remember the early days of eBay? This was one of the real pioneers in the sharing or connected economy. Consumers jumped on because eBay opened up a treasure trove of previously unavailable goods, almost all of which were initially being offered for sale by people seemingly just like them. Suppliers jumped on because suddenly they had a ready-made garage sale for all kinds of stuff they owned and because they suddenly had mercantile power and reach of their own. Of course, eBay, like Uber and Airbnb, took a nice percentage of all these exchanges and became a big, established company in its own right. But, in the beginning, it seemed to be a kind of “power-to-the-people” marketplace that attracted folks on both sides of the exchange, just like Airbnb today.

Incidentally, Airbnb, Uber, and other new entrants into the connected economy are organizing all kinds of public-relations initiatives focused on getting this message out to the public. Some of this outreach, for example, urges consumers to support Airbnb in its regulatory battles against the New York State attorney general on the grounds that the company represents the power of the people against the overbearing arm of the government. This is by no means the full story of what is going on in New York. But Airbnb knows that the libertarian hook is a powerful card with consumers, and the company is playing this for all its worth.

A third reason that consumers and suppliers embrace the connected economy is that both regard it as good value. This, of course, is the bedrock of all enduring markets. Consumers can efficiently find a huge assortment of goods and services — at reasonable prices — that they might not otherwise find. Suppliers can offer their time, material assets, and energy quickly, efficiently, and profitably to a wide swath of potential customers through companies like eBay, Airbnb, or Lyft.

GAZETTE: What does the future hold for companies like Uber and Airbnb? Their executive officers seem to argue that they are beyond certain regulations required for standard hotel or taxi services, and therefore don’t deserve to be treated the same, yet many city and state officials are urging more oversight. Will stricter regulations harm or even shut down the sharing economy?

KOEHN: The law always lags innovation (the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, for example, was created to deal with the enormous power of the Standard Oil Company, which had been founded a number of years earlier). So it is no surprise that Uber, Airbnb, and other new companies find themselves operating in an area where the application of existing laws is potentially unclear. It is also not surprising that these companies are fighting efforts by regulators to apply government rules and standards to their growing market.

If history is any guide, virtually all of these companies will come under the visible hand of government regulation to some degree or another. Existing standards or licensing requirements will be applied to ride-sharing companies as they now are to taxi operators; health and tax code regulations will apply to individuals who supply rooms on Airbnb as these requirements now obtain to hotel companies; and other younger businesses, still coming to commercial shape in the eyes of all kinds of entrepreneurs, will find themselves subject to government requirements and regulations.

There is very little historical evidence that the presence of government oversight shuts down productive economic activity. Rather, the enterprises that succeed and endure are those that understand how to compete effectively within the framework of government regulation because these players understand what is really at stake in the specific lawmaking.

There is a wonderful example of this from the early 20th century when food regulation was in its infancy. In 1906, Henry Heinz, who had founded the pickle and ketchup company of the same name several decades earlier, decided he was going to work for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Why would he do this? Because he believed that government regulations that required a range of safety and purity standards were good for the larger market of processed food. These regulations would help raise the bar for all food companies and thus increase consumer confidence in food that they did not make at home. Also important to Heinz’s calculations was his own realization that his company was already doing a lot of what the 1906 law was going to mandate. So he was ahead of the game relative to his competition.

GAZETTE: What does the sharing economy mean for the future of the more traditional workforce? What does it mean for the future of the more traditional company?

KOEHN: The sharing or connected economy is part of a larger shift in our collective notions about work. For more than 100 years after the beginning of the industrial economy in the mid-19th century, work for most individuals was done in relation to a larger institution, such as a factory, store, service, or manufacturing business, or a government or nonprofit organization. To be sure, farmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners worked for themselves. But these latter groups were a much smaller slice of the workforce than the former groups. For much of this time, if one worked for a big organization, one could expect to hold this job for a long time and to earn enough in salary and benefits to live what Americans call a middle-class life.

In the last several decades, this broad social contract and the underlying notions of work associated with it began breaking down. It is still too early to discern precisely what will replace such a contract and our accompanying understanding of work. But some large outlines are emerging. We know, for example, that entrepreneurial work is becoming much more important ― and not just for techies and inventors in Silicon Valley or Boston. We know as well that many of us can expect to work for a range of organizations — of different sizes — during the course of our lifetimes. It is a pretty safe bet that most people will earn their keep doing more than one or two activities and that they, not some big institution, will be the chief architect of their own training and development. In all these respects, the connected economy is emblematic of the future of work.

20 Hot Coworking Spaces for Business

*** Originally posted on Small Business Trends by Annie Pilon (01/10/2015)

Working remotely doesn’t have to mean being cooped up in your house or apartment. Now there are spaces where remote workers and tech startups can get office space or just share a communal work area with others just like them.Coworking spaces like WeWork have even made the news recently scoring big cash investments.

Robert Conrad, partner in another such venture, Co-Merge Workspace, explains to UT San Diego why coworking is the future:

“One, technology enables it. With all that technology offers, beyond face-to-face interaction there’s no reason to have an office. It’s much more effective to have people work wherever is most productive for them. Two, there’s a lot of value in this to big companies. It can reduce the real estate costs, and they’re more likely to retain talent if they allow employees to be more flexible about where they work.”

Here’s a list of 20 hot coworking spaces currently making news, perhaps one in a city near you;

WeWork

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This New York based startup rents office space to entrepreneurs around the world.WeWork’s business model essentially pairs office space with the technology that it takes to run a business. After a recent round of funding, the company is now valued at $5 billion, making it one of the biggest players in the coworking industry.

NextSpace

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

With nine locations throughout the country, primarily in California, NextSpace is one of the fastest growing coworking organizations around. Membership varies at each location, but most offer options ranging from day passes with mailbox access to full-time offices.

Coalition

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This coworking space in the heart of Boston offers a professional office setting with a vibrant community of entrepreneurs. Monthly plans range from $99 for conference space and a few other amenities to more than $1,450 for private office space.

Enerspace

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Enerspace offers coworking memberships in Chicago and Palo Alto, California. Members can choose between full-time and part-time, coworking and private offices, as well as other offerings. They also have access to special member events like demo days, classes and networking lunches.

HackerLab

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This Sacramento-based coworking space features membership for entrepreneurs and makers. Mentorship programs, networking and industry events are aimed at students, professionals and hobbyists, mainly in design and creative fields.

Posh Coworking

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Posh Coworking is a coworking community created specifically for women entrepreneurs. Located in Austin, Texas, membership at Posh comes in various levels, which come with different annual prices and benefits. The space also offers various networking events for women throughout the year.

The Hive @ 44

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

The Hive @ 44 is a coworking center in St. Louis, Missouri that focuses on community building. Member amenities include meeting rooms, mail service, a photo and video studio, legal services and more. Cost ranges from $15 for a one-day pass to $575 and up for a private suite.

BoxJelly

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and freelancers in Hawaii also have access to coworking space withBoxJelly. Members can book a dedicated workspace, attend or host meetings and events, or even just use it as a place to receive business mail. Mail membership starts at $50 per month and dedicated desk spaces can range up to $349 per month.

Blankspaces

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Blankspaces offers three coworking locations in Southern California where entrepreneurs, freelancers and other creatives can gather or work privately. Full-time membership starts at $350 per month. But there are also part-time options for those who want to just drop by once in awhile.

1776

1776

This Washington D.C. based startup incubator aims to connect startups with the resources they need to succeed, from mentorships to capital. Mainly focused on sectors like education, energy, health and cities, 1776 accepts startup applicants and hosts events at its campus just a few blocks away from the White House.

Collective Agency

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Collective Agency in Portland, Oregon offers a cozy environment for anyone in the area who would rather work alongside others than at home by themselves. Membership ranges from $250 per month to $375 per month and includes amenities such as Wi-Fi, coffee, conference rooms, bike parking and more.

Tahoe Mountain Lab

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Located in the mountains of South Lake Tahoe, California, this coworking space offers both shared and private office space outfitted with the necessary technology for entrepreneurs and freelancers. The space has a variety of different plans to fit different needs, from a one-day pass for $25 to full-time, private offices for over $500 per month.

Design Spaces

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Design Spaces is a community focused coworking space in the heart of Silicon Valley. It aims to provide an office environment to foster collaboration and cooperation between entrepreneurs and other remote workers. Coworking membership starts at $250 per month and includes shared workspaces, conference rooms and other amenities.

Spark Labs

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This co-working space also offers support and consulting services for entrepreneurs in the media and tech industries. With locations in both New York City and Paris, Spark Labs also has partnerships with other incubators and accelerators around the world to enable its members in different markets.

Venture X

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Venture X is a coworking space in Naples, Florida. Members can rent office space starting at $249 per month or rent meeting rooms or virtual office services.

Game CoLab

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Located in Tempe, Arizona, this incubator focuses specifically on the gaming industry. Its aim is to educate people about games and gamers about business, while also acting as an advocate for the gaming community.

Thrive

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

With multiple locations in Denver, Colorado, Thrive offers everything from part-time lounge space to meeting rooms and offices. Part-time membership starts at $199 per month. Thrive also hosts various events for entrepreneurs in the Denver community.

Venturef0rth

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

Venturef0rth offers 10,000 square feet of coworking space in Philadelphia. The space is a mix of private offices and common areas for entrepreneurs to meet and collaborate. And this coworking space doesn’t keep regular office hours, so its amenities are available to members 24/7.

Thinkspace

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This coworking space offers a place for entrepreneurs to work and collaborate along with other acceleration services like virtual reception and member events.Thinkspace has two coworking spaces located in Seattle and Redmond, Washington, with more than 300 companies in its community.

HQ Raleigh

coworking spaces for entrepreneurs

This coworking space in Raleigh, North Carolina offers a variety of different options for local entrepreneurs. Coworking membership starts at $125 per month and includes workspace, meeting space, and various other office benefits. And community membership starts at $300 per year and includes access to the group’s network of entrepreneurs and various other benefits.

Top 10 Problems of Working at Home

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Working at home was a huge trend. However, a business at home is not without problems. Here is a list of the top ten conflicts that you might experience while working at home:

1. Separating work and family life.

Start-up home based entrepreneurs find that the main advantage of a work-at-home business – to be near family – can be a disadvantage as well. Daily household routine can be a source of distraction for your business. Instead of answering emails, for example, you feel compelled to do the laundry.

If you have kids, then your work-at-home life becomes even more exciting. Try closing an important deal over the phone with your customer while your one-year old child cries his heart out – in your home office!

Given the fact that your two roles are under one roof – being a wife, for example, and being a businessperson – expect to experience difficulties in juggling the demands of both home and business.

2. Not enough space.

working-from-home-homeoffice-coworking-sharedspaces

The setting-up of a home office is less of a problem if your house is big enough to offer extra space. However, space becomes
a concern if you are living in a closed quarters, such as an apartment with hardly any room to spare. While you can make do with a makeshift office in a quiet corner of your hallway, the ideal office space is one that provides you with privacy and protection for your equipment and files.

3. Not being taken seriously.

The common concern of most home based business owners is whether their clients will consider their business a substantial one. Since home businesses are often regarded as “little hobbies,” their professional image and credibility normally suffers. Worse, they are not taken seriously! Home business owners should therefore project a professional business image.

4. Cannot do any work.

You start a home business, supposedly to be able to work from home — only to find that you cannot work from home! One reality home-based entrepreneurs are faced with is the fact that it is not easy to work from home. Others especially those who’ve never tried it may think that working from home is a piece of cake. But many entrepreneurs are finding that it takes a strong commitment, creativity in juggling various roles and tasks, and willingness to work beyond normal working hours to be able to successfully work from home.

The home is a fertile ground for interruptions. Your family and kids may demand your attention, your neighbors could drop in for a chat, housework that needs doing, dogs barking, even the daytime soap operas! Working at home is especially tough if you have a baby or very small children who demand your full and complete attention. Or you simply are not used to the isolation and freedom working from home brings that you think you need to take a course first on time management to be able to work effectively from your home.

5. Lack of privacy.

Unless you are living on your own or have your own private home office, privacy can be a concern. Imagine that your office is near the family room, for example, and guests drop by and loiter near your work area. Your documents, work and even files can be fair game to everyone!

6. Strain on family relationships.

Be sure that your family understands what it takes to operate a home business. Talk to your husband or wife and ask for their support, and explain to the children your need to be given time to work for the business. Some members of your family may resent the fact that while you stay in the house the whole day; your attention is not focused on them. However, be sure also to know when to stop working for your business and start living as part of the family.

7. Working too much.

When working at home, the line between work and family sometimes crosses. There is always the temptation to work long hours that may be difficult to resist, like checking and answering emails after dinnertime. Instead of spending quality time with the rest of the family, a home based businessperson sometimes fall into the trap of being consumed with work. They do not know when to stop.

8. Feeling isolated.

With no co-employees or bosses hovering in your workplace, the start-up home businessperson often finds it difficult to adjust in a solitary work environment. Suddenly, the whole work has become so quiet – no more exchanging weekend stories in the pantry, or exchanging jokes near the coffee machine. The isolation feels more intense for those who are adjusting from a corporate white-collar job to a home business and for those who are social in nature.

9. Self-discipline or self-management.

Your productivity as a home-based worker may go up or down, depending on your self-discipline. Working on your own business at home means that you are boss – there are no codes of conduct to follow, no weekly performance reports to keep you in tow, and no formal office routine. Others find that they are spending way too much time watching television, or they are having a hard time getting out of bed. If you fail to maintain a certain level of discipline, compounded by ineffective time management, it will be hard to accomplish your goals.

10. Zoning, home and condominium association regulations.

Before you finalize your plans for starting your home business, be sure to know the rules and regulations that govern your circumstances. If you live in an apartment or condominium, check with the management the level of business activity that they can tolerate. Your landlord may not allow you to receive too many visitors or the frequent comings-and-goings of delivery trucks may not be acceptable. If you are thinking of starting a catering business, for example, some states do not allow the establishment of a commercial kitchen in a residential area. It is better to be aware of the restrictions governing your business at the very start of your business.

*** originally posted on PowerHomeBiz (http://www.powerhomebiz.com/working-from-home/challenges/problems-of-working-at-home.htm)

Top 10 Small Business Trends for 2015

The ongoing technology platform shifts to Cloud and Mobile Computing will continue as long term drivers of change in 2015. While each is important and powerful on its own – and both have been listed individually multiple times in our top 10 lists from prior years – their growing convergence is amplifying their impact and fundamentally altering how business is done.

1.  Cloud Automation tools are simplifying a wide range of traditional small business applications such as accounting, payroll, inventory management, HR and benefits administration, etc.  Cloud tools from companies like Zenefits (HR administration), Intuit (QuickBooks Online), Nimble (CRM) and others are not only simplifying business processes; they’re allowing workflows to be reimagined and reengineered – saving time and money and creating new ways of working.

2. Ambient Proximity: OK, I admit this is on the list because it’s such a cool buzzword. Ambient proximity refers to the ability of smartphones to interact seamlessly and autonomously with their surroundings thanks to the growing deployment of “Beacons”. These inexpensive devices use Bluetooth to automatically push information back and forth between themselves and nearby computers (usually smartphones). Already in use by Apple and other major retailers, Beacons are being used for applications such as in-store customer service notifications, special upgrade offers and personalized marketing messages.

 3. 3D Printing:  Despite being one of the most hyped technologies of the past few years, we’ve resisted adding 3D printing to our top 10 lists due to technical shortcomings – until now. Improved hardware, cheaper and better performing input materials and the emergence of 3D printing service providers are turning 3D printing into an increasingly viable small business prototyping tool and, in certain situations, small batch manufacturing platform.

4. Security and Privacy:  Due to a series of high profile cyber security breaches (Target, Sony, etc.) consumers and business customers have become much more concerned about information and data security and privacy. Add to this a growing wave of cybercrime – which is increasingly targeted at small business through the use of automated online bots – and 2015 looks like a year when online security and privacy will be major small business issues.

2015 Economic Trends

Despite signs of a global slowdown, our 2015 U.S. economic outlook is for continued solid if moderate growth with U.S. GDP increasing in the 2.75% to 3% range.

5. Energy: Oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel in July to about $57 dollars today. This rapid decline will be felt across the economy – in both good and bad ways – in 2015. The major positive is, of course, lower energy bills. But there is a negative side to declining oil prices. The U.S. energy sector has been one of the strongest sources of recent economic growth, creating both direct and indirect market opportunities for many small businesses. These firms will be hurt as the energy industry cuts back due to lower prices. While the net economic effects of declining oil prices are positive, small businesses need to evaluate the impact of lower prices to see if they are energy winners or losers.

6. Crowdfunding Moves Towards the Mainstream:  Crowdfunding is not a new trend, but until recently few small businesses used this method to finance their business. This is rapidly changing as growing numbers of firms successfully raise money via crowdfunding platforms. 2015 will see this growth continue and will also see equity crowdfunding start to gain traction. While legislation allowing this form of equity financing remains stalled at a national level, about a dozen states now allow equity crowdfunding. Small businesses in these states will start to take advantage of this option in 2015.

7. The Shift from Jobs to Gigs:  Instead of traditional job identities, workers are increasingly relying on a portfolio of talents, skills and occupations to create multiple streams of income via a mix of traditional jobs, independent work and/or part-time gigs.  These portfolios of gigs may or may not map with one particular career path and are driven by the need to earn income, uncertainty due to a lack of job security and the desire to work in meaningful and/or interesting ways.

8. Corporate HR Departments Wake Up about the Contingent Workforce:  Long viewed by corporate HR departments as a way to save money, the independent workforce (freelancers, contractors, independent consultants, etc.) is increasingly being seen as a strategic resource. Corporations large and small are turning to independent workers to increase workforce agility and flexibility, provide specialized and/or hard to find talent and even add competitive advantage. This shift is leading to the increased use of independent workers, providing more opportunities for the growing numbers of people pursuing this path.

2015 Social Trends

Economic uncertainty and a lack of job stability are leading to social shifts and changes in consumer behavior.

9.  The Lean Years: Coined by Millennial blogger Melina Coogan, "The Lean Years" describes the angst felt by this generation (and many of those who are older) due to a  lack of personal economic stability caused by slow growth, stagnant wages and declining job security. The resulting uncertainty is leading people to avoid long term or major commitments, both in their personal lives and as consumers. The impacts of “Lean Years” thinking include (but aren't limited to) lower marriage rates, birth rates, and home ownership rates and a resistance to large purchases of all kinds. "Lean Years” thinking will continue in 2015 and small businesses need to evaluate its impact on their firms.

10. Just in Time Learning: Long touted as the next big thing,low-cost yet highly professional on and offline short, specialized training courses and programs are finally starting to deliver on their promise of improved business education.  The hugely successful programming camps – 8-10 week immersive courses that teach programming skills – show that even complex topics can be taught relatively quickly and in a just in time manner.  These types of programs provide small business the ability to adapt and adjust to changing business conditions.  They also provide independent workers (and others) a way to upgrade their skill and/or learn new ones.

*** originally posted on deskmag.com (http://www.deskmag.com/en/the-top-10-small-business-trends-for-2015)