As a small business owner, you have to juggle many different tasks throughout the day. You’re not just the one calling the shots. You’re also the person taking them, and balancing these roles isn’t always easy. You need to complete the day-to-day activities that keep your company going. But, it’s also important to step back and see the big picture of your business. Keep track of new small business trends in your industry to make smart decisions for your company. Why are small business industry trends important? Find out how trends affect business operations to stay competitive. Here are just a few reasons to stay on top of recent trends in small business: Make forecasts In business, there’s no crystal ball that shows you where your industry is headed tomorrow, in six months, or ten years. But, small business owners do have forecasts. Projected small business economic trends don’t quite give you a peek into the future, but they could be the next best thing. With forecasts, you can predict changes in your market based on industry data. Use information about your market to anticipate the direction your industry is headed. The forecasts will help you make better decisions for your business. Recognize opportunities to improve Current market trends help you determine which aspects of your business need to improve. No matter what industry you operate in, methods constantly develop and change. Find out if your strategies are outdated compared to market trends. That way, you can run your business efficiently and continue to grow. Point out issues early Trends can show you early warning signs for industry-related hazards. You might be able to see what is happening to other businesses and where the market is going. For example, there could be an industry-wide decrease in sales during a certain time of the year. The earlier you recognize changes, the better you can prepare. Tips for following small business trends You need to know what’s going on in your company’s current market. Try these five tips for following small business trends. #1. Check your own trends first You can see market trends in your business. Look at patterns within your company to anticipate upcoming changes. Once you identify your trends, compare them to what is happening in the industry. Many aspects of your business can be measured and reviewed. Examples of trends include: High and low sales months Customer demographics Best/worst selling products or services If you notice trends within your business, see if you need to adjust your sales projections or prepare for recurring changes. #2. Manage every business aspect, but don’t do it all As a small business owner, it’s hard not to be involved in all the moving parts of your operations. When I opened my first company over thirty years ago, I worked roughly 75 to 80 hours per week. Take some responsibilities off your shoulders by automating tasks. With automation, you can get things done in a fraction of the time it takes to do them manually. Automation tools usually guarantee accurate results, so you can reduce errors. Automate tasks like financial reporting, running payroll, email marketing, and paying bills. Simplifying administrative processes frees up time. That way, you can fit monitoring industry trends into your existing workflow. #3. Only worry about relevant trends You don’t have time to follow every event that happens in business. And, it doesn’t make sense to track irrelevant data. For example, if you own a clothing store, you keep up with fashion and beauty trends, not what’s going on with phone applications or auto parts. Focus on situations that affect your industry. The more you understand current market trends, the more accurately you anticipate what consumers want. Understanding the needs of your target market will help you better serve customers. #4. Integrate trends with your daily routine Keeping up with industry trends is important. But, it’s not the most critical part of running a small business. Let trend watching be a more organic process by including it in your everyday routine. To track the latest small business trends, subscribe to relevant publications, newsletters, and blogs. Set up alerts on your phone that indicate when something occurs in your market. The amount of time you should watch your competitors is similar to driving a vehicle. You don’t want to spend time studying all the other cars on the road. But, you should have a general idea of where they are and which direction they’re going. Spend a little time each day on keeping up with trends, but don’t obsess over every headline. #5. Know how you will use industry trends Paying attention to market trends is pointless unless you use them for your business. The data you compile can lead you in many different directions. But the path you choose is up to you. You might think that following trends in your industry will turn you into a “follower.” Depending on how you use the data, the opposite is true. With trend awareness, you can hone in on what makes your business unique. Following industry trends helps you point out the thing you have that others don’t. I launched my fifth startup in 2002, an online payroll software company. Was my company the first in the payroll software market? Absolutely not. There were strong players in that market already. Turning payroll software into a been-there, done-that offering is not revolutionary. I wanted to break away from old-school payroll companies. I knew what small business owners wanted because, at the time, I was one. Relating to my customers was easy. I created offerings with different features and prices, like attendance management and an employee self-service portal. Because of market trends, I could see what my competitors were doing and branch out. At the end of the day, it’s about deeply knowing who your customers are and what makes them tick. Look at patterns to see where the market is headed. Then, create a strategy that makes your business the one that sets the next trend in your industry.