Small Business Outlook: 6 Forecasts for 2022 | Business

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Small business owners viewed 2021 as a chance to bounce back and rebuild after nearly a year of coronavirus-induced losses. Instead, many have received repeated beatings with supply chain safeguards, unfilled “hire” signs, and restrictions and renewed mandates.

The year has not been a complete failure, however. Entrepreneurship grew at a record pace in 2021, with more than 4.6 million new business applications filed through October 2021, according to US Census Bureau start-up statistics.

And buyers continued to rally with their local small businesses: Compared to the pre-pandemic period, 40% of Americans still made an increased effort to shop small and buy locally as businesses reopen and sell out. Pandemic restrictions are easing, according to an August 2021 survey by NerdWallet. online by the Harris Poll.

So what does 2022 have in store for small business owners? Will supply chain problems ease? Will hiring resume? And what’s next for business loans in the absence of two of the Small Business Administration’s major COVID-19 relief programs?

NerdWallet’s business editors address these topics and more with their forecast for the coming year.

1. Technology bridges the employment gap

Tina Orem: Small business owners will flock to enterprise software that allows them to do more with fewer employees. This can mean more ordering and table payment technologies in bars and restaurants, for example, and more self-service payment options for retail customers.

Hillary Crawford: QR code menus at restaurants are here to stay, even as COVID-19 precautions fall apart. Many restaurants have found that digital menus make it easier for them to update items and prices because they don’t have to reprint the menu every time. They also allow restaurants to operate with a reduced reception staff.

To take with

Smart investments in technology can help you ease the pain of staff shortages, without sacrificing the customer experience.

2. Business lending ramps up, community banks take the lead

Kelsey Sheehy: Small businesses can expect better access to capital in 2022.

Banks have pulled their business loans amid COVID-19, tightening lending criteria and even stopping traditional lending to focus on paycheck protection program loans. But small business loan approval rates will continue to rise as the economy and consumer spending rebound, especially for businesses working with community banks and non-bank lenders.

This is good news for small business owners who have managed to hang on to nearly two years of pandemic restrictions and are willing to invest in new equipment or need working capital to grow in the new year.

To take with

Think about community banks, credit unions, and online lenders for your next business loan.

3. This is the year of brick and mortar

Tina Orem: Traditional small business retailers will shine as consumers learn that it is often faster to walk into the store or get curbside pickup than it is to wait days or weeks for deliveries from shippers. besieged.

To take with

Consider adding “buy online, pick up in store” options to your e-commerce platform to attract more customers to your business.

4. Customers should be aware

Rosalie Murphy: Managing customer expectations will remain very important. Amid the supply chain crisis, inflation and labor shortage, what business owners can deliver to customers in 2022 will not look like what they delivered in 2019.

Customers may have longer delivery times, smaller product lines, and maybe even higher prices, but it’s important to clearly communicate these changes as we move towards some kind of new normal.

To take with

Set realistic expectations by talking to your customers – in person, on your website, and on social media – about the challenges your business faces and how they may affect the shopping experience.

5. Supply chain, hiring problems continue

Randa Kriss: Supply issues have been a big problem for small businesses, and relief is still far away. Business owners will need to figure out how to be creative and agile with their processes, whether it’s working with multiple vendors or trying to streamline their inventory catalog.

Rosalie Murphy: For those small business owners who were successful in hiring new people in 2021, it’s time to start thinking about how to retain these workers until 2022. For those who have lost employees, what changes can be made to to attract new hires? Workers’ expectations for better wages, benefits and hours may subside over time, but I don’t think companies can bank on that yet.

To take with

Adapt to solve the current reality as it doesn’t look like the supply chain and hiring challenges are going to abate in the near future.

6. Some COVID changes become permanent

Hillary Crawford: New restaurants will need to integrate take-out options into their business models. While this has been a given for full-service restaurants, it hasn’t always been taken into account for businesses like breweries, and canning or bottling lines can be expensive.

To take with

Relying solely on in-person experience can leave businesses vulnerable. Use e-commerce software to incorporate online or take-out options into your business plan so your business can adapt quickly if external factors force you to shut down your primary line of business.

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