Something interesting happened to small businesses during the pandemic. Despite forced shutdowns, labor shortages, and supply chain woes, entrepreneurs started a record number of new businesses in 2021. And this was no small increase: the number of new business applications in 2021 grew by nearly 50% compared with 2019.
Yet we wondered if that was the full story, especially for the smallest of small businesses, those with five or fewer employees. We wanted to learn more about how these micro-businesses were doing and how the pandemic had impacted their lives and livelihoods. So, we commissioned a survey.
The results are fascinating.
First and foremost, it’s clear that this is a hard-working, determined group. Almost two- thirds of respondents said their businesses are about the same or better than before the pandemic.
Most of the respondents who started their own business said they did so because they wanted to be their own boss. Other major reasons were the desire to earn more money, have more flexibility, and to better balance their work and personal lives.
Our survey also found that this is an adaptive group, willing to modify their work to accommodate different situations (like quarantines and sheltering in place). Most respondents said that good customer communication was critical to their businesses.
But the pandemic impacted this as well. Those who adapted their communications to accommodate the limitations of the pandemic texted or phoned more to stay connected with their customers.
These results got me thinking about how starting a small business has changed over the years. There was a time when you wouldn’t have imagined opening a business without a landline phone to talk to customers, take orders and process credit cards. The smartphone has replaced all that. The increasing capabilities of mobile phones and accompanying applications have made starting and running a business easier and less expensive than ever.
You can run your business, talk to your customers, text them, process payments, and manage your schedule wherever you are and whenever you want. All this is possible using the personal technology many of us (including our survey respondents) have had for years—our mobile phones.
Mobile business technology can bring customers and businesses closer, faster, with gratifying outcomes for both. And it will get better as more and more cloud-based, mobile-first business tools become available to help micro-businesses manage their growth. Using technology for logistics and administrative tasks, these small business owners can focus on providing excellent products and services for their customers and moving their core business forward.
We believe this new generation of technologically adept entrepreneurs will have a better chance of success than ever before because a technology revolution has turned their mobile phones into powerful, economical business tools.
Will these small businesses continue to thrive? It’s too early to say, but I’m betting on it. Because a technology revolution has turned their mobile phones into powerful, economical business tools, the odds that these businesses will succeed may be better than ever.