With the advent of a New Year everyone is looking forward, and expecting (or at least hoping) that the next twelve months will be better than the last. As business owners we would all like to steal a march on the competition and be able to predict what the emerging trends will be, so that we can capitalize on them. In order to save you the effort, I did a not-so-deep dive into some of the more recent surveys and studies to find out what small business owners should know about what’s coming their way in 2019. 

I have covered many column inches writing about Millenials (those born between 1981 and 1996). They currently constitute the largest generation in the US labor force, and are increasingly becoming senior managers, but as of this year the first Gen Z graduates entered the workforce. Gen Z is defined as anyone born after 1996, and they are not only going to be your new employees, they are already your customers. This generation, that makes up over 25% of the population, currently spends some $44 billion per year and by 2020 are expected to influence between $150 and $300 billion of household sales.
Unlike the Millenials who grew up with the web, Gen Z grew up with mobile apps. Their phones are like extensions of their hands and the need to access Wifi is a stronger drive for most of them than eating – just try changing your Wifi password at home and see how long they take to come and find out what’s wrong! As a result almost everything is now going mobile. This generation only engages with visual content. They can read but they prefer to watch. Videos, memes, mashups, Instagram. If your marketing doesn’t contain really strong visual elements, that are easily accessible on mobile devices, it’s likely that this generation, and it’s billions of dollars of disposable income, will pass you by.

Gen Z are also self-professed entrepreneurs. Almost 75% say they want to own their own business at some point, and the majority of those say that it will come about through consulting or freelancing. If the wishes of Gen Z come to fruition, this will have a huge impact on the hiring practices of small and medium sized companies. With larger companies being able to offer more generous pay and benefits packages to those that do want to become employees, smaller businesses are going to have to become more creative in what they offer in terms of work flexibility, time off and work culture. If you can’t attract the right employees, you will have to adapt to working with contractors or consultants on shorter term engagements

Mass Customization and personalization will become even more important to consumers – basically “I want what I want, and I want it NOW!” aka The Amazon effect. This trend has become particularly prevalent in the digital industry. Pandora and Spotify now let you create “personal radio stations”. Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix allow you to stream virtually any film you want at anytime straight to your TV, computer (or phone). Even something as humble as a cup of coffee has now become a complex minefield. Starbucks has a potential 87,000 (yes, honestly) different variations of its coffees that you could buy from them. You can even get your own face printed on M & M’s – how much more custom can you get? As a business owner you need to be prepared for the fact that your clients and customers are no longer content with a “one size fits all” offering from you, and are not only expecting, but in most cases, requiring you to customize part of your product or service to better fit their needs.

I’m a Gen X’er. Most of my working life has centered around me accumulating “stuff”. Car’s, houses and “toys”. But the younger generation aren’t motivated by the same things. Gen Z’ers still like money, but they use it to take vacations, have adventures and make memories, not as a means to acquire material goods. Gen Z in particular needs to feel as if “they are making difference” in the world, so their employer’s mission is very important and consequently, they are less attracted by large employee compensation packages as they are by the culture and core values of the company they are working for.

If you have any concerns about the challenges facing you in 2019, or you want to make sure you can capitalize on the opportunities you see arising, call Jager for a no obligation, free phone consultation at (440) 385-6737.