How Worried Should You Be About Your Business in 2017? A new study shows what C-suite executives are preparing for in 2017

By Amna Shamim

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Between Brexit and Trump, the global economy looks precarious, or, if you're optimistic, at least uncertain. Even if you're running a local business, global factors can and do influence your clients, thus affecting your business and you. You might think yourself immune as a lawn care company in somewhere like rural Oregon or as an information technology (IT) staffing firm in New York City, but no matter who you are, everything from immigration policies to data security can impact your business.

It's often a good idea to see what the big players are worried about impacting their bottom line and doing what you can to prevent any of those things from happening to your small business.

So what should you worry about in 2017, and how can you avoid these possible pitfalls?

According to a survey of over 500 C-suite executives across various industries in Europe and America conducted by GITNS.com for ChristianSteven Software, your potential pain points shouldn't be too surprising. One or two might even cheer you up, if you're a newly minted business.

1. Security

With a solid 46.5 percent of C-suite respondents fretting most about protecting internal data and client/customer information, this should be a concern for you as well. While large companies are far more likely to be hacked and their data compromised, it's never too soon to start thinking about this and acting like one of the big boys in terms of security.

Data protection strategies are all preventative. Things like installing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate on your website, implementing a data protection policy for your employees to follow and encrypting data on servers are all critical steps. While you likely don't have a huge amount of private customer data yet, prepare well now and you'll save yourself the headache of backtracking to implement it or the bad public relations if your business is hacked.

2. Information

Technology and big data feel like they're changing daily, but staying up to date is incredibly important. 30.2 percent of C-suite executives are apprehensive about their ability to stay on top of the constant changes in big data, which is a reasonable concern given that over 90 percent of all data has been created in the last three years and that the pace of data production is only accelerating. Having the right analytics system in place to process this data and extract what is most important is essential for every business.

If possible, you could hire someone to deal with data (a data engineer, scientist or analyst). If your business isn't big enough yet to support a full-time person or team to process the data, you could outsource the entire process to one of the many businesses who specialize in analyzing it for you. What you should never do is ignore it. Data is important, even when it's overwhelming, and the more you distance yourself from it, the more likely you are to distance yourself from success.

3. Automation

A significant 23.3 percent of C-suite executives chose automation as the source of their business security unease. Many business models have already been automated away, from printers to weavers, and while manual labor jobs have historically been vulnerable to automation, the advancement of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) mean that a variety of professionals are now vulnerable to becoming obsolete.

There are ways for you, as a small business, to avoid automation-induced obsolescence. If you're willing to accept the help of automation and AI and to focus on the things automation can't yet do, you'll be able to stay ahead of the curve. You no longer need to employ a full-time secretary to answer and route customer calls, which perhaps provides you with the budget to hire another sales person or customer service representative -- jobs automation can't yet handle. It'll take more work to keep your skills relevant and ever-growing, but as a nimble small business, you'll be able to make the changes and grow far more easily than companies which are already behemoths.

4. Business intelligence

There are so many different things that are considered part of "business intelligence," and the C-suite executives surveyed are focusing on a variety of them. For 39.5 percent, real time information and updates are critical as it would be for any company operating in finance, for example. This may not be as much of a concern for your business, and you may fret instead about detailed data analysis or having multiple platform capabilities (Windows, Mac, Mobile, etc.) along with 21 percent or 14.5 percent of the surveyed executives.

Business intelligence is always something you need to be aware of and on top of, because if you aren't aware of what your company focus is and how it should be improved, you are going to lose out to those who do. You should take the time now to identify your biggest business intelligence priority and plan your 2017 accordingly.

5. Client acquisition and retention

Most growing businesses and over 51.4 percent of surveyed C-suite executives are focused on gaining or retaining clients in 2017. After all, without customers, you have no business.

While big businesses with C-suites are worried about protecting their market share and growing it, a small business isn't protecting quite so big a territory and has it slightly easier. Your small business can be nimble and connect with your clients on a more personal level, ensuring you can deliver what your customers need and want -- trying to keep 100 people happy is a lot easier than trying to keep 100,000 people happy. No matter how specific your ideal client, once you reach a certain size, it's harder to connect with your clients and keep them happy.

While this list seems dire for most C-suite executives, you should take a page from their book and stay optimistic. A formidable 87.5 percent of the C-level financial professionals surveyed are optimistic about their businesses' outlook, despite the global economy. If they are this confident about what the future holds, there is no reason that you, with your nimble and growing business, shouldn't be.

Amna Shamim

Writer

Amna Shamim is a nomadic writer-for-hire. She specializes in articles on entrepreneurship, social justice and travel and in content marketing for start-ups. Follow her on social media and/or check out her blog for more information.

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