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Three Reasons to Expect 2014 Will be a Great Year for Small Businesses

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By making one relatively minor adjustment to their operations in the New Year, 60 percent of small business professionals expect to save money in 2014. (Keep reading to find out what that adjustment is.) In a year-end SMB survey conducted by cloud-services provider j2 Global, we found a consistent theme among entrepreneurs: small and medium-sized businesses have a definite plan of action for 2014 — a plan to cut costs, increase output, market more effectively, and even step away from work once in a while to enjoy life.

In short, SMBs are optimistic this will be a great year. Here are three reasons to believe them.

1) SMBs have found a formula for cutting costs and boosting productivity

Small businesses are always looking for ways to trim costs and increase productivity. For 2014, the majority of SMBs have identified at least one strategy that can accomplish both.

Roughly 60 percent of SMBs we surveyed expect to save money in 2014 by moving some of their operations to the cloud. For example, 27 percent discussed eliminating fax machines and moving to online fax services. Another 25 percent hope or plan to replace office landlines with cloud-based virtual phone solutions.

This trend makes sense for SMBs. In a recent Computerworld feature, “2014 Forecast for Cloud Computing,” cloud-services expert and TriBridge founder Tony DiBenedetto states, “The cloud has democratized software and applications… to the point where even the tiniest company can have access to game-changing solutions.”

2) SMBs have learned a lot about how to market effectively

SMBs are constantly researching, testing, and applying what they learn to improve their processes. For 2014, small business professionals plan to leverage what they’ve learned about marketing — email automation, mobile, social media — to improve their overall marketing strategy in the coming year.

Forty-four percent of SMBs will focus on tried-and-true email-marketing practices, such as introducing email automation tools and running email campaigns that inspire sharing on social networks. Fourteen percent will make mobile-marketing best practices a top priority.

More good news: SMBs’ focus is on offense rather than defense: only 11 percent cite roadblocks like spam filters or the new tabs in Gmail as a top concern for their email-marketing efforts.

3) SMBs have finally decided to seek the elusive work-life balance

Another reason for SMB optimism seems to stem from awareness that, thanks to mobile technologies and the cloud enabling them to run their businesses on their own schedules, small business professionals can now add a healthy work-life balance to those busy schedules — for themselves and their employees.

The SMBs we surveyed stated explicitly that health and creating a more enjoyable office culture are 2014 priorities. Forty-three percent plan to exercise more — the survey’s top New Year’s Resolution. (Another top SMB resolution: take a deep breath, and count to 10 before letting stress get the best of you.) And 36 percent plan to offer a flexible work policy to attract and retain better talent.

Year after year, small business professionals drive our economy — by innovating, taking risks, hiring as they grow, and working tirelessly to bring us better products and services. So whatever the reason for any specific SMB’s optimism about 2014 — the prospect of saving money from cloud services, enthusiasm about new marketing plans, or a new strategy for relaxation — it’s nice to see the small business professional full of energy and excitement about the year ahead.

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