The folks at Time are already making their best guesses for the 2012 person of the year: The Entrepreneur. Add that to the results of this month’s SB Authority Market Sentiment Survey, which showed that a majority of small-business owners are optimistic about the New Year, and 2012 looks like it has a chance to be a breakout year for the independent business owner.
So what can you do to give yourself the best chances at success this year? We’ve come up with our own list of important tools for entrepreneurship in 2012. Hint, it’s heavy on tech.
1. Technology Fluency (learn to speak geek)
In today’s economy, you need more than just great business sense. You need some tech chops, too.
It’s not just that many of today’s big-named entrepreneurs hail from Silicon Valley—high technology is now a critical component in just about every industry, and at every size and level.
And when we say technology, we don’t just mean gadgetry and social media. You’ll need some fundamental understanding in areas such as web and application development, networking, servers, and more. This will enable you to communicate your vision with not only any internal technology staff that you bring on, but also freelancers and/or third-party firms that you contract out to.
An understanding of IT, and knowing what it is (and isn’t) capable of doing, will also help make your operations run more efficiently.
Where to start?
One of the best ways to learn about web development, servers, databases, basic programming (and so on), is to get your hands dirty. Consider building a WordPress site on your personal computer and then deploying it to a live server. There is a ton of help documentation and books out there that can walk you through the steps. WordPress, conveniently, is a great application to work with for both newbies and hardcore web developers.
2. Google+ (and newer new media)
With a fraction of the user base that Facebook possesses, you might be wondering why we’d be giving Google+ the time of day on this list.
The simple fact is Google, for better or worse, dominates search. And for that reason alone, Google+ demands that we pay attention. Case in point: when a Google user adds your Business’s Google+ profile to one of their ‘circles’, any relevant keywords related to your website will rank significantly higher for that user from that point on. In other words, Google’s algorithm puts a ton of weight on Google+. This is something Facebook can’t do.
Where to start?
Set up a Google+ page for your business or brand and create incentives for clients/contacts to start engaging with you on the social-media site.
3. Klout (which is to say influence)
Klout has become, despite some industry criticism, one of the most important tools out there for businesses and marketers to measure how influential they are on the social web. In a nutshell, Klout’s algorithm factors in how active you are (and how active people are in engaging with you), and then assigns you a score. This score, then, can be compared to other influencers out there, and can be an indicator of how well you’re leveraging social media channels for your brand identity (or self).
If you’re wondering why this might matter, the truth is it might not matter at all. But it can be a great tool to let you know how effective your social-media skills are when you’re out there spending huge amounts of time networking and evangelizing your brand. A low score might save you the time to realize you’re not doing things right.
Where to start?
If you’re already a Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ user, visit Klout.com and sign up to see where you stand.
4. Cloud Computing (compute without capital investment)
Last year, it could be said, was the year of cloud computing. The technology, of course, has been around for several years, but 2011 marked the coming out party for ‘the cloud’ outside of the IT world. Amazon, Google, and Apple all released new consumer-centric cloud services (i.e. iCloud, Amazon Cloud Drive, etc.), and hosting providers, like The Small Business Authority and Microsoft, further drove hosted IT services to the small-business community.
Why does this matter to entrepreneurs? Now, more than ever, computing is both mind-blowingly powerful and cheap. Instead of dropping 100K on server and networking hardware, software licenses, and IT staff, you can now outsource it to a premium provider for a little as your home electric bill. Not only that, business-class tools like file storage and other business applications are now available in the cloud for little, if any, cost.
Where to start?
Business computing needs are as diverse as the businesses they serve. First, assess your needs, speak to an expert, determine your goals. You can even call us just to talk about your business (we’re actually staffed for just that).
There’s our tools of the trade for entrepreneurship in 2012. What are yours? Let us know in the comments section below.