The economy is growing, but that growth has been slow - and it's got many small business owners understandably concerned about obstacles they'll have to face in the coming year.
Now the 2013 Christmas retail rush is over and 2014 is upon us, here are a few of the challenges US business owners will have to contend with:
Sluggish economic growth
The economy's growth took a hit in October when the government partially shut down. And while it's expected to pick up again in 2014, that boost may not give as much help to small businesses as they'd hope.
According to Kiplinger, the US GDP is expected to build momentum slowly, finally reaching a growth of 2.6 percent for 2014. Uncertainty about the economy's future is the main force keeping growth down. Congress only authorized funding to keep the government running until Jan. 15 and lifted the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.
That means another showdown over the debt ceiling is likely, and many businesses (especially those with government contracts) are spooked enough to put a temporary freeze on investment and hiring.
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Health care reform
While the ACA was meant to benefit small employers, many are still worried about the new law's effect on their bottom line. And the reality is, even the smallest employers will have to deal with a lot of new rules and reporting requirements - and, in some cases, new costs.
Without huge human resources departments slogging through the paperwork and making sense of new regulations, some small business owners may have to seek legal advice to ensure they're in compliance.
With these added costs, confusion, and uncertainty, the ACA is one of the biggest challenges to small business owners going into 2014.
Finally, the ever-changing face of marketing poses its own set of unique challenges to businesses of all sizes. Content marketing surged to the forefront of everyone's marketing strategy in 2013, thanks to shifts in Google's search algorithms. That trend looks to continue into 2014.
That focus on content means small business owners will have to produce (or find someone to produce) more content than ever before.
But it's not just the quantity of content that presents a challenge: All of these materials have to also deliver quality and value, or they're a wasted of effort. Outsourcing, creating an editorial calendar for the year, and repurposing content across channels can all help alleviate this burden.
Social media and mobile marketing have also become huge forces, and their importance is likely to grow in 2014 and beyond. Small businesses need to integrate these channels into their marketing plans, if they haven't already.
The 2014 outlook is cautiously optimistic, but that doesn't mean businesses won't have some serious obstacles to overcome.
Those who look ahead and build a strategy now to deal with those obstacles stand a good chance of seeing healthy growth into next year - and beyond.
About the author
Freelance blogger Angie Mansfield covers a variety of subjects for both consumers and small business owners, including marketing, social media, and personal finance management.