By Miles Young

Small businesses are no small part of America’s business landscape. Around 28 million small businesses operate in a range of industries across the United States, and these firms employ more than half of the American workforce. As we race through the beginning of 2015, this advice is important for all small businesses to consider.

Give Back to the Community

Conscientious capitalism is a growing trend which is set to gain even more momentum in 2015 and beyond. It’s causing companies of all sizes to think beyond their profits and about people, from their employees to their customers and the community at large. Small business might not have the dollars to make the massive donations that larger corporations do, but that doesn’t mean that they should let this trend pass them by.

“I think that in this era of social media, a company that is solely a bottom-line entity will lose good employees, good customers and goodwill,” explained business coach, Phil Holcomb. “While some of the ‘too big to fail’ companies may withstand this type of negative public opinion for some time, small businesses do not have the reserves to pivot and rebuild their reputations.”

If your business can’t spare money, it’s important to draw on other reserves. Treat your employees better by offering more flexible hours and telecommuting alternatives, and spend time volunteering in your community. Capturing your efforts on social media will help generate community goodwill and hopefully increase sales.

Be a Great Leader

No matter how large or small the organization, it’s important to have a great leader steering the ship. Oracle’s Mark Hurd, who has helmed the tech company for more than four years, believes that great leadership comes down to five key skills:

  • Getting the strategy right
  • Executing that strategy
  • Putting the right people in the right places
  • Managing dual priorities that others see as conflicting
  • Keeping everyone focused on what matters

While these points come from a LinkedIn article Hurd published in 2013, the first point is especially telling as we zoom into another year. “Consumer tastes and needs are shifting faster and more dramatically than ever before,” he wrote. “Do you have a sustainable strategy for product development and customer engagement and employee engagement that lets you keep pace with this relentless upheaval?”

Developing this strategy and finding the right people to see it through will be essential for small businesses coping with the challenges that 2015 will inevitably bring.

Pursue Local Funding Options

Federal budget constraints have inspired many small business owners to tighten their belts, but that doesn’t mean that 2015 will necessarily be tough for all firms. Many investors are choosing to put their money into businesses closer to home rather than funding larger, multinational corporations. As a result of an influx of direct loans, direct public offerings, and crowdfunding initiatives, 79 percent of small business owners say they feel confident they can access the funds they need to grow.

If you’ve struggled to secure funding since the economic downturn, 2015 is the year you should investigate these new avenues. Not only will it help you secure the money your business needs to grow, but it’ll also help you make valuable personal connections with prominent figures in your local area.

Take Advantage of Affordable Learning Opportunities

In the not so distant past, education and training was generally an expensive proposition. However, there’s recently been an information explosion which has made it much easier for small business to expand their knowledge base.

In 2015, resolve to check out free online courses and affordable personal development and support initiatives designed specifically for small businesses. With more than seven out of ten businesses planning to utilize massive open online courses for training purposes, if you don’t check them you’re likely to be left behind.

Education creates a culture of innovation. It re-energizes a workforce and helps them look at their work through fresh eyes. 2015 is the year to stop putting off education and training and start utilizing the wealth of learning resources now available.

With this advice under their belt, small business can thrive through 2015 and beyond.