Now is a good time to launch a small business and, in order to succeed, there are a number of technology trends small businesses should know about. Management author, columnist and consultant Gene Marks offered his ideas on tech trends to watch during the second half of 2013:
» Mobile technology. Consumers want to be able to search for services and products on their phones and tablets. Having a mobile plan is a small business must-have this year. The plan should include ensuring consumers can find your business and allow the small-business owners to be able to connect with consumers on a mobile device.
» Mobile payments. Consumers also want to make payments using their mobile devices. They want to complete transactions faster and more efficiently and that means doing them on their smartphones and tablets anytime and anywhere. The key for small businesses is trying to get the consumer's money upfront instead of waiting 30 days or more. He expects credit cards to eventually be eliminated and replaced by mobile payment systems.
» Corporations helping small businesses. A number of corporations are holding contests to help spur small business. One is the America's Backbone Contest in which U.S. Cellular is giving away $25,000 in free advertising, $5,000 in cash and free mobile services and devices to a small business. It's a win-win because small businesses get a boost and corporations get their brand out as a friend of small business.
» Electronic document management. Services like EchoSign and DocuSign allow small businesses to create their quotes, proposals and invoices in their own word processors and then upload them for customers to log in and sign. It makes business — particularly industries like real estate — more efficient. Document management is one area that always seems to slow down business, but electronic services can help and lead to more business.
» Outsourcing. You'll continue to see small businesses in one part of the country take advantage of employees elsewhere fairly seamlessly because of technology. If you live in Omaha and need a really good developer but can't find one locally, you don't have to move your business to find one. You can use services like Skype and document-based sharing systems to communicate.