Business Basics
5 small business trends of 2024

5 small business trends of 2024

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What are the leading small business trends of 2024?  This Small Business Week, we’re covering some of the top concerns—and opportunities—facing small business owners today. From dealing with talent crunches to embracing artificial intelligence, small businesses are using smart strategies to stay relevant in an evolving world. 

To learn how companies are adapting to this changing landscape, BILL partnered with SMB Group to survey 750 finance leaders at small-to-midsize US businesses (SMB) with 10 to 500 employees, polling their insights on the economy, workforce, and finance automation technologies.

Based on the survey results, we’ve identified 5 small business trends that are affecting small-to-midsize businesses across major industries. To see more survey results, including strategies and future insights for SMBs, download the full The BILL 2024 State of Financial Automation Report

New survey results highlight 5 small business trends of 2024

No two small businesses are the same—but they face a lot of the same challenges, and they’re all looking for solutions. Check out these five trends to see what smart business owners are doing to stay on top. 

Small business trend #1: SMBs are eager to embrace AI in financial operations

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with automation is revolutionizing financial software, allowing for greater accuracy and efficiency. These technologies empower businesses to streamline operations, make more informed decisions, and enhance productivity. 

SMBs' attitudes about financial automation

Enthusiasm for automation and AI is high—85% of survey respondents say they are enthusiastic about these new technologies. It's interesting to note that smaller businesses, particularly those with 10 to 49 employees, displayed greater excitement: 59% indicated that they are very enthusiastic about AI, likely seeing AI as a means to increase their capabilities and efficiency without proportionally increasing staff. 

Sarah Sanders, Vice President of Accounting at Repurpose, finds BILL’s AI capabilities incredibly useful—in fact, it saves the finance team two days out of every work week. “The AI pulls all the information for you and it makes it so much easier,” says Sanders. “You just review. It's easier to cross reference than to actually key everything in.”

Small business trend #2: Remote and hybrid work introduce new challenges to financial management

Companies are working to balance encouraging employees to return to the office with the work-from-home arrangements many employees are used to (and, in some cases, prefer). 

According to the survey, a little more than half of SMB employees work only at company locations, while about one-quarter work remotely and a little less than one-quarter work in a hybrid model. 

Despite their popularity and benefits, remote and hybrid work models have created complications for financial management. Of the SMBs surveyed, 62% indicated that managing a remote or hybrid workforce introduced new challenges. The challenges are even more noticeable for businesses with 10 to 49 employees, possibly because they are less likely to have digitized financial processes than their larger counterparts.

Respondents noted complications in measuring productivity, locating and accessing documents, and difficulties in setting performance evaluation standards as their top three challenges. Heightened security concerns followed closely behind. 

Vermont Flannel team

See how Vermont Flannel uses BILL to manage financial operations in a hybrid work environment. And check out BetterRX, which has been fully remote for years thanks in part to BILL. According to Randi Letendre, CFO of BetterRX: “Having BILL—which lets our people work from literally all over the world, accessing the platform anywhere, from phones and other devices—is fabulous.”

Small business trend #3: SMBs are feeling the talent crunch

81%of respondents agreed that they’re facing difficulties finding and hiring qualified finance professionals—and almost half strongly agreed with this statement.

About two-thirds agreed it’s hard to retain their staff, and that finance people work too many hours and are burned out. About one-third of respondents strongly agreed with both of these statements.  

The talent crunch is taking a tougher toll on smaller businesses: respondents in companies with 10–49 employees were 12% more likely to strongly agree that it’s tough to find talent, and 33% more likely to strongly agree that their finance people work too many hours and are burned out. 

In order to hire experienced candidates, businesses must offer competitive salaries—but many SMBs find it tough to match the salaries offered by larger companies. However, SMBs can leverage the advantages of flexible work arrangements and financial automation tools as strategies to attract and retain talent more successfully.

One great way to retain talent is by giving them more interesting work to do—that’s exactly what JFS Wealth Advisors did when they automated their AP with BILL. “It's a 70% time savings that helps us attract and retain talent,” Laura Blaire, COO, CCO and Managing Partner explains, “as well as better leverage our existing staff and give them more challenging assignments.”

Small business trend #4: Most SMBs feel prepared to weather ongoing headwinds

SMBs face a complex array of macro challenges that extend beyond the immediate confines of their businesses. They cited inflation, supply chain interruptions, and cybersecurity threats as potentially posing the biggest risks to their businesses in 2024. 

Inflation remains the top worry, yet anxiety over a potential recession has slightly diminished. Smaller SMBs feel the sting of inflation and recession worries more acutely than their larger counterparts.

However, a striking majority of businesses conveyed confidence in their ability to effectively deal with these issues: 51% indicated that they are very prepared, and 43% said they are somewhat prepared to navigate through these trends.

Small business trend #5: SMBs are looking to finance automation to address current pain points

Ongoing challenges and shifts in strategic responsibilities are accelerating SMB interest in—and adoption of—finance automation solutions.

Respondents clearly understand the increasingly vital roles that technology and automation play in improving financial management efficiency and providing insights to make better business decisions. For example, BILL’s integrated financial operations platform leverages automation for functions like invoice extraction and bill creation, duplicate invoice detection, and expense management automation.

90% of SMBs agree that automation is crucial for enhancing business efficiency. 84% also feel that automated financial operations can help provide the insights needed to improve decision-making. A majority also believe that automation aids in employee attraction and retention.

BILL 2024 State of Financial Automation Report
Download The BILL 2024 State of Financial Automation Report

How are companies responding to the small business trends of 2024?

The BILL 2024 State of Financial Automation market survey, conducted by SMB Group, examines trends in SMB financial management automation in detail. 

The full report discusses key trends and challenges that SMB financial professionals are facing and how they are impacting their businesses and financial management practices. It also explains how SMBs are automating financial functions today and their plans for the future.

To see these results, download the complete The BILL 2024 State of Financial Automation Report.

Small Business Week FAQ

What is Small Business Week?

In 2024, Small Business Week is celebrated from April 28—May 4. It recognizes the hard work and dedication of entrepreneurs across the United States. The Small Business Association has many activities this week, including an educational virtual summit

When did Small Business Week start?

President John F. Kennedy began the annual celebration in 1963. Though a lot has changed in the last 60+ years, small businesses are just as important now as when the tradition started. 

Why do we celebrate Small Business Week?

We use this week as an opportunity to celebrate the ingenuity and essential work of small business owners—including their contributions to the economy. It’s also a great reason to tell those who work at small businesses how much we appreciate them!

What is the importance of Small Business Week?

Small business week is important for several reasons: 

  • Support—Consumers, policymakers, and other businesses (like BILL!) get a chance to show their support for small businesses. 
  • Recognition—Small businesses are a big part of economic growth and job creation in their communities. And we’re recognizing that right now—because of Small Business Week!

Educational opportunities—Some organizations, such as the Small Business Association, use this week as an opportunity to host educational events.

The information provided on this page does not, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice and is for general informational purposes only. The content is provided "as-is"; no representations are made that the content is error free.