5 Business Trends in the Grand Traverse Region for 2010

by Chris Wendel

As the decade ends and the New Year is upon us, it’s a good time to take stock of some of the new trends that are impacting small business in the Grand Traverse Region.

1. The rise of the micro-businesses start-ups

The very nature of small business development is changing in our local area. The traditional small business start-up involved a huge amount of personal and financial risk (IE quitting one’s job and putting ones’ house up as collateral).

With the advent of the internet, a small home based business or even a part time “gig” can serve a viable purpose as either a beginning business that can grow into a full-time vocation or something on the side that provides ancillary income.

The smaller micro-business can be started with minimal investment and in some circumstances can run for a short time and simply close if the performance does not exceed expectations. If the one model doesn’t work, it’s time to try something new, without spending a fortune and a tremendous amount of time

Expect the micro-business model to provide both jobs and incomes to the region in the coming year, including a new wave of telecommuters that can work from anywhere and are not be tied to the traditional office setting.

2. Online marketing continues to grow in use and popularity

A whirlwind of online marketing tools swept over small business in 2009. This included new ways to market established web sites, blogs to build conversations, community building, and social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Constant Contact that provide an inexpensive form of permission based marketing to small companies.

Going forward the challenge will be to not overwhelm customers with email and information, and choosing relevant information to disseminate through succinct online marketing efforts. It’s worth noting that there is still a large segment of the population that is catching up to the social marketing movement, and that traditional targeted advertising will never being totally displaced.

3. Buy Local movement gains acceptance

Not long ago “buy local” efforts were seen as fringe movements for small town chambers and agricultural producers. With the recent downturn in the economy “buy local” now makes sense to the majority of the population as a way to keep money and jobs in the community. Look for more of these programs to sprout up at state, regional, and local levels.

4. Companies focus on markets outside the region, state, and country

Buying local does not limit companies to selling locally produced products and services to other parts of the U.S. and world. Look for more companies to establish international markets and look to sales opportunities outside of Northwestern Michigan.

More entrepreneurial people will choose to live in our region for its lifestyle, and have the ability through internet technology to maintain a base of customers from outside the region. Meanwhile local retailers and producers now have the ability to market and sell their products to seasonal residents when they return to their year-round homes.

5. Workforce learns to be versatile

Gone are the days of the career position with a large corporation with the gold watch awarded after 50 years of service. As employees or business owners all of us will work for several people (including ourselves) in our lifetime. This means that we’ll all have to learn to be versatile; change skills set, and adjust to market conditions. Feeling entitled to a job or career, or thinking that your employer will take care of you will be the kiss of death going forward into the new decade.

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