9 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lessonky
Happy new year! Let’s kick off 2017 with some things you should know that might help you keep some of your New Year’s resolutions.
1—Resolution: Exercise More
Do you like to exercise? I have to admit it’s not one of my favorite things, but I’ve been making an effort to exercise more. According to a survey of small business owners conducted by Funding Circle, 45% feel less stressed after exercising, yet 66% skip some or even all of their workouts. The survey also revealed that while 60% feel good about themselves after a workout, 26% don’t have enough time to do regular exercise.
For some New Year’s inspiration Funding Circle created the infographic below, highlighting the exercise routines of top entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and Oprah.
Guest post by Bedros Keuilien, CEO & founder, Fit Body Boot Camp, one of the fastest-growing franchises
Choose the right business: Choose a path in which you can use your skills and talents to help further you in your business plan. Also, with the skills you do have, be sure to choose a path that is in demand and how your location will play a factor in how successful your business will be
Make a business plan: This will not only help you launch your business, but it will help you keep track of the goals you set and the objectives you have as you continue to expand your company. it can also help when trying to get a loan, lenders usually request a copy.
Watch your finances: When planning your startup budget, make sure that you have enough money to cover not only the startup expenses, but some operational expenses for a few months in case you don’t make a profit right out of the gate.
Choose your employees: Since your employees are starting with you from the very beginning, they will likely have an impact on the success of your business. Be sure to hire people that you trust, have a good work ethic and are skilled in the field that you’ve chosen.
Take advantage of opportunities: Always keep your eyes open for ways to expand your business. Whether it’s looking for new products to add to your list or extra services to offer your clients. This may also include franchising your business and expanding to multiple locations.
3—Resolution: Improve Your Marketing—Go from SBO to CMO
Guest post by Haijian Hu, Head of Headway Capital Business Lending
Most small business owners are driven by the desire to provide others with a useful product or service. We often hear from our customers that it has always been their dream to open their own stores or start their own restaurants. Like most entrepreneurs, their goals are to turn their passions into their day jobs.
However, many people are held back by the fear they won’t be able to manage their businesses successfully. It takes a leap of faith to open a new business, but it takes business savvy to keep it open. One of the first hurdles a small business owner will face is getting the word out about their new businesses. An important component to driving sales is marketing. Small or new businesses may lack the staff or budget to have a dedicated marketer. However, there’s a lot a small business owner can do to market a business easily and efficiently.
Define your unique value proposition: The first step to marketing a business effectively is to understand your capabilities and the space you are filling in your industry. Inevitably, you will face competition, so take the time to outline what sets you apart from your competitors.
Begin by clearly identifying the service you are providing and the problem you are solving. This will guide all further efforts and help you to define your value proposition—the unique benefit you are providing for your customers.
Learn from others: Once you’ve established your place in the industry, become as informed as possible. Sign up for industry newsletters and read relevant trade publications and consider participating in industry events. This will allow you to identify trends and stay current on important news. It will also help you identify your competitors. Take a close look at what they are doing and how they present themselves to potential customers.
Get Social: Armed with a clear understanding of your business and its industry, it’s time to market it to potential customers. One of the easiest and most cost-efficient channels you can use is social media. Create a Facebook page or LinkedIn page dedicated to your business that’s separate from your personal pages. Using platforms specific to your business makes it easy for customers to find and interact with your business online.
When it comes to posting on social media, consistency is key. Create a schedule to ensure you are posting regularly so your audience knows to expect content. For example, plan for three posts a week which you can draft in advance. Many social media sites allow you to fill out the content for a post and schedule it to publish at a later date. This way, you can create your posts for the whole week in one day, giving you more flexibility as you focus on building your business.
The paid aspects of social media can also be a great way to boost your business’ profile and get in front of new customers. For instance, you can target the exact type of customer you are looking to attract with advertising through Facebook and LinkedIn campaigns, based on the information individuals have shared in their profiles. If you are able to incorporate this tailored approach into your budget and cash flow it is an option worth exploring to supplement your free social efforts. Sometimes a small campaign of a few hundred dollars can make a big difference.
Define your voice: In order to keep your content dynamic, take a three-prong approach: talk about yourself and your business, talk about your customers, and talk about your industry. Share updates about what’s happening at your business such as a new shipment you’ve received or a peek behind the scenes. Be sure to thank your customers and engage them through questions. Finally, share interesting news articles and invite your social media followers to share their thoughts.
In addition to keeping a consistent timeline for posts, you’ll also want to maintain a consistent voice. Build the personality of your business through your posts. Be authentic and realistic so your audience can connect with you. Many customers may be curious about what it’s like to have your own business so share the road you’ve traveled as a small business owner. Most important, make sure you recognize your customers as the drivers of your success. Social media is a great platform to thank them and highlight everything they mean to your business.
Regardless of size, every business owner can use the tools available to market their businesses successfully. Small business owners can be their own CMO even without a marketing background by developing a keen awareness of their industry landscape, building out their social media presence and developing a brand identity.
4—Resolution: Embrace Artificial Intelligence for Marketing
Demandbase, a leader in Account-Based Marketing (ABM), recently released the results of its Artificial Intelligence (AI) survey, issued in conjunction with Wakefield Research. Overall, the research shows marketers are excited about the potential AI brings to the world of sales and marketing. But, while they believe AI has the potential to significantly impact the entire industry, there is a clear discrepancy between their enthusiasm and their confidence in how to implement AI into their marketing programs. In fact, 80% of all marketing executives believe AI will revolutionize marketing over the next five years, but only 26% are very confident they understand how AI is used in marketing and only 10% currently use AI today.
The top challenges:
- Integrating AI into their existing technology (60%)
- Training employees (54%)
- Difficulty interpreting the results (46%)
- Concern with the cost of implementing AI (42%)
Overall, there is a lack of general understanding around what AI technologies are available, and how to get started using them. Further education and hands on experience will be required to ensure the use of AI technology to support marketing is successful.
The survey results show AI has the potential to help marketers personalize the customer experience at an entirely new level, which allows for one-on-one conversations with marketers who know the pain points, goals and ambitions of their prospects. The top benefits from AI that marketers listed, include:
- Better insights into accounts (60%)
- More detailed analysis of campaigns (56%)
- Identifying prospective customers (53%)
- Expediting daily tasks (53%)
Measuring the success of an AI campaign is also a challenge. The final arbiter of whether AI will be successful is likely to be the bottom line, and if a company is driving more revenue because of its use Demandbase says. In order to be worth pursuing, marketers believe AI must:
- Generate a better sales close rate (59%)
- Increase revenues (58%)
- Improve website traffic and engagement (54%)
- Convert more leads (52%)
5—Resolution: Improve Collaboration & Productivity for Remote Workers
Guest post by Jeff Blackey, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Broadview Networks
A recent report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the average worker would take an 8% pay cut in order to work from home. For some, that number is as high as 21%. With today’s workforce growing increasingly flexible and mobile, innovative mobile technologies are needed to streamline how a business communicates and collaborates.
As the trend of remote employment continues to build momentum, leaders must arm employees with the right tools, technology and connectivity to help stay productive, increase their job satisfaction and attract the best talent. By leveraging unified communications (UC) to manage and equip remote employees, employees can stay in the loop, no matter their location or device, with uninterrupted access to enterprise information on demand, anywhere and anytime, through advanced features of some of the best systems. Following are just three ways businesses can ensure productivity with cloud UC:
- Don’t Rely on Equipment: Employees can access all their business communications, no matter their location, through cloud-based UC systems where the entire platform is available on desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets. A system that is operated 100% in the cloud has the unique ability to store all employees’ data, preferences and user profile information in the cloud, eliminating any reliance on equipment on-site, empowering businesses with true mobility. This means all calls, messages, emails, chats, voicemail and even video conferences can be hosted, scheduled or started from virtually any device and from any location. Additionally, mobile access to UC features like soft phones empower employees to make and receive calls on their mobile device using their business number.
- Offer Seamless Communication and Collaboration: Businesses with remote employees stand to particularly benefit from the right cloud-based communications solution that will enable productive conversation and enable seamless work beyond the office and across any device without difficulty. Employees’ individual user profiles, including their designated phone number, extension, contacts, voicemail and speed dials, follow them with any device they log into, offering the ability to save on equipment costs while keeping productivity high. For example, offering company-wide group chat on all devices allows team members to quickly discuss issues from remote locations—even more efficiently when each employee’s availability, or “presence” is displayed. Plus, some UC systems can integrate with existing productivity apps like Google apps, Skype, Microsoft Office 365 or Salesforce.
- Prioritize Usability and User Centricity: The best cloud UC systems are designed to be user-friendly and allow a centralized administrator to easily add or remove users, features and phone lines instantly by using online administrative controls without the hassle or fees for initial configuration and installation or sunk costs in hardware. Also, employees can manage the features they need to, without requiring costly outside support or the time of in-house IT departments. Be sure to select a solution provider that delivers all employees, not just the IT department, with 24/7 X 365 access to live engineers and experts, instructional videos and a vibrant online community of like-minded individuals passionate about getting work done.
Businesses that make the move from traditional phone systems to cloud-based UC systems can rest at ease while affordably extending telecommuting options to a remote workforce. These businesses that embrace the role of cloud technology can simplify operations, reduce costs and foster close, collaborative teams.
6—Resolution: Prepare for the New Agile Employment Model
By the year 2025, most workers (70%) and employers (68%) agree a majority of the workforce will be employed in an agile capacity (i.e. contractor, consultant, temporary or freelance), according to a study released today by Randstad US, one of the largest HR services and staffing companies in the United States. The Workplace 2025 report peered into the minds and expectations of workers, and the executives who oversee them, about the future of work.
The in-depth study found that as early as 2019, as much as 50% of the workforce will be comprised of agile workers—and 39% of workers say they’re likely to consider shifting to an agile arrangement over the next two-to-three years. This movement is fueling an equally aggressive adoption of new workforce models that tap into both permanent and agile employees to combat staffing shortages, leverage globalization and fuel greater innovation for organizations.
“Our first-of-its-kind study serves as a wake-up call for business and HR leaders to quickly embrace and prepare for the disruptive changes impacting how, when, where and by whom work is conducted,” says Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America.”
More Workers Opt for Agile Path: Nearly half (46%) of workers surveyed say they personally chose to become an agile worker. The Workplace 2025 study uncovered the primary motivations behind this:
- 68% say it better fits their lifestyle.
- 63% believe working as an agile employee will make them more qualified in the future workplace.
- 56% think agile work makes them more money.
- 48% say agile work offers them better career growth than working as a permanent employee.
- 38% feel they have more job security working as an agile worker than they do as a permanent employee.
By 2025, 52% of c-suite executives say their organizations will be much more committed to building an agile workforce and the average employer expects 68% of their workforce to be comprised of agile talent.
The Future Will Require Strategic Partnerships, Better Engagement of Agile Workers
At the core of any agile workforce model is the ability to build a world-class talent base that includes external expertise, like freelancers, contingent workers and consultants, with highly specialized skillsets that are tapped to drive critical enterprise projects and initiatives. However, many companies struggle to engage external talent, or gain clarity and insight into the performance levels, quantity, quality and cost of their agile talent.
In fact, 64% of companies struggle to find ways to engage their agile workforce due to compliance and regulatory requirements, while another 60% agree they have difficulty staying up-to-date on legal and operational best practices associated with managing that workforce. These challenges have triggered a need to engage staffing partners as they build a more agile model. In fact, 81% of employers say in order to build an agile workforce, they will need to rely on staffing/recruitment partners to provide direction and guidance.
7—Resolution for Retailers: Tips to Help You Multiply Your Time
Guest post by Jennie Gilbert, COO, Retailer Web Services. Jennie is a frequent speaker at durable goods retail conferences and the co-author of RE:THiNK: 11 Surprising Things You Should Do Now To Win Retail Customers In The Digital Age
Let’s face it, technology can be distracting. An hour disappears when we intended to check Facebook for just five minutes. The afternoon you set aside to solve a business problem, like writing a thoughtful job description for your indispensable new hire, is instead spent reading and replying to emails. Then, there’s that slew of text messages staring at you from your smartphone, awaiting your response.
All this distraction—24/7, I might add—can leave us with a bad taste in our mouths about technology in general, feeling like these devices and platforms meant to help us get more done are actually overwhelming us, ultimately causing us to accomplish a lot less.
But, before you write off the promise of technology, realize while some newfangled software only adds to our To-Dos, other exciting technological developments hold the exact opposite promise and help us take things off our To-Do list and increase our productivity. They can help us get more done in less time; they are multipliers of our time and efforts. But, whether they are implemented or consistently used, often makes the difference between businesses that thrive and those that fall behind.
So for 2017, put technology to work for you, not against you. When implemented correctly, the following technology tips should help you minimize your To-Do list and enable you to focus on running your business:
- Automate product data updates:We’ve heard from many an independent retailer the lure of choosing a simpler or less expensive website, even though it might require you to update product when it’s discontinued or new ones are added. Make sure the solution you choose has options for automatically and consistently updating product data to save you time in the long run. Not to mention, it will increase the effectiveness of the original time you spent to set it all up.
- Implement review monitoring software:While this was a hot topic for RWS and our retailer customers in 2016 (with the rollout of monitoring software), our guidance to clients on managing their online reputations will only continue to grow in importance in 2017. Typically, many retailers go through cycles where they pay attention to online reviews about their businesses (usually after discovering a particularly nasty or hurtful one). Eventually, you or the employee responsible for regularly checking it, get busy with the day-to-day of running your store. Or, that employee is no longer with the company. Months can easily go by without any oversight of your digital reputation. Take the time now to investigate your options. Choose and implement a software system that will monitor all the review sites for you, automatically. You’ll not only save time and the angst of renewing the cycle in the future, but consistent monitoring of your online reputation will result in a more sustained and effective campaign to improve it.
- Increase good reviews about your store:Dozens of retailers have expressed frustration to me about how unfair online reviews are. It’s true! Consumers are four times more likely to leave a negative review after a bad experience than vice versa. And to make it worse, Yelp, in particular, tends to be suspicious of many “rare” glowing reviews and sometimes suppresses legitimate good reviews. The true path to increasing your average star rating and getting more good reviews about your business: consistency. Relying on you and your staff to remember to ask customers to post a review only works for a short time. But, if you change your store’s process and enter the email address of each customer into software that automatically solicits new reviews after every purchase—although an extra step to implement at first—ensures a more consistent outcome: a steady stream of good reviews.
- Be more promotional:When Black Friday and all related shopping holidays are finally over, most retailers are exhausted. But before you know it, a full and demanding new year of promotions will begin in earnest. If you’re trying to plan your own promotional calendar, gather all the creative elements, post them in a timely manner, remember to take them down, etc., you run the risk of burnout. And worse, you may eventually stop doing it. This only leaves you at a competitive disadvantage. Take the time up front to review and select a digital marketing package that can deploy professionally designed and branded turnkey promotions on a timely basis. Though it might seem daunting to understand and set your marketing automation settings the first time around, this is another time saver in the long run—that will also increase your returns. A no brainer.
I hope these tips encourage further thought and discussion around ways to increase your output and improve productivity for your business. After all, beyond staying fit and healthy, some variation on managing time typically rounds out our top five New Year’s resolutions. Here’s to multiplying your time in 2017!
8—Resolution: Think Positive
The Staples National Small Business Survey reveals small business owners are optimistic about 2017. The survey, commissioned by Staples and conducted by Wakefield Research, discovered that 85% of American small business owners are “optimistic” about the small business climate in the new year, while 67% think business tax reform should be the top policy priority for 2017.
Signaling further short- and long-term positivity, highlights of the survey show:
- 97% of small business owners plan to increase investment in their companies in 2017
- 93% believe running your own business is the best kind of job satisfaction there is
- 91% would likely encourage their children to start their own businesses
- 72% plan to increase staff compensation in 2017
- 67% of respondents plan to hire in 2017
Check out the Staples Small Business Hub for expert tips, information and industry advice.
9—1st Annual Super Girl Contest
The deadline for the 1st Annual Super Girl Contest from The Project For Girls with contest partners including BCBG + POPSUGAR is rapidly approaching. If you know an inspiring young woman (ages 13-16) who is changing the world, who wants to make an impact in 2017, who doesn’t let obstacles stand in the way of her dreams, let her know about this great contest which ends January 13. The Project for Girls is looking for young women who embody a positive, passionate life.
Check out the video from TPFG alums Ariana Greenblatt (Disney’s Stuck In The Middle), Lori Mae Hernandez (America’s Got Talent), Francesca Capaldi (Disney’s Dog With a Blog) announcing the contest.
The Project For Girls is a community powered by positivity, passion, and electric idea sharing for teen and tween girls. According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, with girls about twice as likely as boys to be cyber bullied. TPFG’s mission is to create a corner of the Internet that feels different for young women; one that is inspiring, resourceful and safe.
- Sponsored, all expenses paid flight for winner and parent/legal guardian to Los Angeles, and a one night hotel stay there
- An expertly-styled shoot wardrobe from BCBGeneration
- An opportunity to shoot with one of The Project For Girls alums
- The winner, her story, and her photo shoot will be featured on The Project for Girls
- A customized swag bag.
Girls can enter here.