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The 12 people who will most impact your small business in 2024

By December 27, 2023No Comments

(This column originally appeared in The Hill)


There are 12 people whose decisions will impact the profits and growth for many small businesses next year.  Keep a close eye on them.

Jerome Powell — chairman of the Federal Reserve
(Honorable Mention: Janet Yellen, Treasury secretary)

As I write this, the national prime rate is now averaging about 8.5 percent, and many small-business owners like me are in the midst of re-financing loans that are coming due for working capital, property and equipment. But remember that prime is for the best customers. The interest rates our banks will charge are, for most small companies, a few points above prime, and that will have a significant impact not only on our ability to service any new debt but to raise capital for business growth. A cut in interest rates by the Federal Reserve will help to alleviate that problem. A new federal reserve ruling called the Basel III Framework, if enacted, may also have a significant impact on how banks lend to small businesses too.

Danny Werfel — commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service
(Honorable Mention: Janet Yellen)

As the IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department and under Secretary Janet Yellen’s domain, begins to spend its $80 billion windfall from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, my clients — particularly “wealthier” business owners — are already bracing for more audits and an increased level of scrutiny on their business structures.

Jason Smith (R-Mo.) — chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
(Honorable Mention: House Speaker Michael Johnson (R-La.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.))

Provisions from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that impact small businesses have already begun to expire and more will come to an end after 2025, most significantly the Qualified Business Income Tax Deduction, which offers a tax deduction for small businesses that are “pass-through” entities such as S-corporations and partnerships. There’s been an increasing call for “tax extenders” to push these expiration dates further back, and we can expect this issue to become a priority over the next 12-24 months.

Michael Johnson (R-La.) — House Speaker 
(Honorable Mention: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

A government shutdown looms in January and rests in the hands of House Republicans. If no deal is reached and the shutdown persists for more than a few weeks, countless small businesses — from delicatessen owners that provide lunch to government workers to firms that contract with the government to business travelers seeking passports – will be impacted.

Julie Su — acting secretary of Labor
(Honorable Mention: Lauren McFerran, chairperson of the National Labor Relations Board)

While not confirmed by the Senate, Su this year will oversee (and defend) the implementation of new rules governing overtime pay and worker classifications. These regulations, while sure to be contested by business groups, will increase our compensation costs and make it more difficult to use independent contractors in our business. Updated Joint Employer rules recently issued by the NLRB will also impact many small businesses that are in the franchising and construction industries.

Charlotte A. Burrows — chairperson of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(Honorable Mention: Doug Parker, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency)

The EEOC will continue to be very active in 2024. And with an updated rule governing harassment expected to take effect early in the year, the agency will be further armed to go after employers of all sizes that it — and the employees who report them — are alleged to be creating unsafe or risky workplaces for their workers. Both OSHA and the EPA have very aggressive agendas for 2024 that will likely create more regulations and costs for small businesses.

Isabella Guzman — administrator of the Small Business Administration
(Honorable Mention: Bridget Weston, CEO of SCORE, and Bruce Purdy, SBA associate administrator of the Office of Small Business Development Centers)

A tireless promoter of small businesses, Isabella Guzman — who can mostly be found on the road — has been one of the best SBA administrators in recent memory. Her agency will continue to be an important resource for business who rely on their 7(a), 504 and other loan programs (particularly the ones that directly fund small businesses in federally declared disaster zones) for resources as well as provide assistance to help small businesses deal with the federal bureaucracy.

Suzanne P. Clark — CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
(Honorable Mention: Brad Close, president of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Nykia Wright, interim CEO of the National Association of Realtors)

These are associations that represent the interests of millions of companies, and you can rely on their advocacy to fight the increasingly regulatory challenges that have been challenging small business both at the federal and state level. The challenges facing that nation’s realtors — from commissions earned to housing woes — will both directly and indirectly impact countless small firms throughout the year.

Satya Nadella — CEO of Microsoft
(Honorable Mention: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce; and Sam Altman, CEO, of OpenAI)

As artificial intelligence tools begin to proliferate in 2024, many of the mainstream business applications used by my company and my clients — from office collaboration to accounting to customer relationship management — will change the way companies do business in a very good way, at least for those companies who lean into this new technology and recognize it as a tool for increased productivity and efficiencies.

Sundar Pichai – CEO of Google 

Online search and advertising are critical for many small businesses, and that monopoly is held by Google (which also owns YouTube). Small tweaks to Google’s and YouTube’s search parameters create huge changes for companies that rely on online ads for their livelihoods. 2024 will see the start of the Google’s change in how “cookies” are downloaded to track browsing habits; this will likely create additional confusion and challenges.

Andy Jassy — CEO of Amazon
(Honorable Mention: Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy; Benji Shomair, vice president of Commerce Business at Facebook; and Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify)

Most small businesses, particularly retailers, have realized the benefits of opening up online channels to sell their goods, and Amazon remains the largest destination to find customers around the world. But Amazon isn’t the only game in town. Etsy has proved to be an enormous benefit for providing additional side-gig income for artisans and creators, and e-commerce platforms like Shopify has made it easier for smaller companies to setup their own stores both in and independent of the larger marketplaces.

Ryan Roslansky — CEO of LinkedIn
(Honorable Mention: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Elon Musk, CEO of X)

Social media platforms will continue to be an important place for small businesses to engage their communities and sell their products. The leading business site continues to be LinkedIn, but both Facebook and Twitter will continue to grow their small-business members with opportunities to sell their products and build communities.

You may wonder why I’m not including President Biden or his presidential challengers; that’s because 2024 is an election year and, excepting foreign policy decisions, I’m not expecting any big changes from these people that will impact businesses while they campaign. But whoever wins the White House in November certainly will certainly be making changes. So let’s worry about that in a year, OK?


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