10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

Editor’s Note: There’s so much information for entrepreneurs today—one column is not enough to share it all. So, starting this week, we’re going to bring you 2 editions of Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know—on Mondays and Wednesdays.


1—Employee Benefits

Last Friday was Employee Appreciation Day. Did you celebrate?  O.C. Tanner conducted a survey showing that receiving recognition even just once a year can make a significant difference in the workplace.

For example, employees who received recognition at least once in the past 12 months saw marked improvements in several areas over employees who didn’t receive any recognition.

More information in the infographic below:

MKT-WellnessInfographic_OnePager_CW-01 (2) (002)


2—Get More Customers

Small business owners are increasingly adopting online marketing tools to attract new customers and grow revenue. However, Web.com’s Small Business Trends Report, launched in partnership with Dr. David Ricketts at Harvard TECH, shows that many small business owners are not taking full advantage of all of the tools available, including social media.

“Our survey found that a majority of small business owners are hitting roadblocks when using social media to promote their business,” says David Brown, CEO of Web.com. “Enlisting help from an expert will ensure you reach the right customers, so you can focus on running your business.”

Check out the infographic below for more.

10920-6 (002)


3—Minimizing the Risk of Data Hoarding in the Workplace
Guest post by Kara Kennedy, Research Manager, G2 Crowd, a leading business software review platform.

We’re all guilty of it—downloading and creating files that end up floating in the abyss of the “download” folder, or worse, on an over cluttered computer desktop. According to a study from Veritas, 96% of IT decision makers admit to saving personal files to company storage. Now, imagine that level of personal disorganization on a company scale. Hoarding data can create the mild annoyance of not being able to find the file you’re looking for, but it also can have larger repercussions for your company.

Companies used to be extremely particular about the amount of data they kept to balance high storage costs and small storage limits. This led many to rely only on critical data, organizing it according to very specific schemas, which made it easy to know how and where to find the data you needed. The proliferation of cloud storage and the associated decrease in cost to store data has totally flipped the script on this. Many companies are opting to take the “better safe than sorry” approach by storing ALL the information they can with the hopes of being able to use it at some point down the line, which can contribute to the collection of hordes of disorganized data and files.

Not only does data hoarding make files and data difficult to find and use, it also puts a company at risk for security breaches, takes up valuable storage space, and makes companies less efficient overall. To avoid hordes of files, small businesses should consider cloud-based enterprise content management or business content management software options that are often inexpensive, offer large storage capacity, and allow easy access by all employees. These solutions are also scalable, allowing a small business to continue using the same tool as they grow.

The storage features to consider that can help you avoid the hoarding of large amounts of disorganized data include:

File Tagging and Labeling: Data storage solutions that offer the ability to tag or label files with specific information (including author, themes, locations, and more) give companies the ability to go beyond their standard file naming taxonomies to make files trackable and searchable in a number of ways.
Analytics: The analytics features offered by storage solutions are going to be some of the most valuable when trying to avoid hoarding unnecessary data. These features provide visibility into usage trends, amount of data being stored, and file types. Some storage options can also track the data that is frequently and infrequently accessed and automatically transition less frequently accessed storage to a lower cost storage class, enabling your company to focus on the data that is current and most relevant.
Automated Archiving: Storage solutions allow you to set policies so that documents will either be archived or deleted automatically according to your standards. This ensures old files that haven’t been utilized, or are no longer compliant, aren’t cluttering up your storage space or accidentally being used when they shouldn’t be.

When it comes to your company’s files and data, organization is key. By taking an intentional approach to the way that you organize and store your data, with the help of the features provided by storage solutions, you will be able to ensure that your employees can easily access the information they need and finally put the hoarding to rest.


4—Driving Brand Loyalty

How do you get customers to become loyal? The latest edition of the Global Consumer Pulse Research from Accenture Strategy shows the factors that influence customer relationships and drive loyalty in the digital age. The report found businesses are wasting billions on customer loyalty programs that don’t work, and identified the five new ‘languages of loyalty’ that most resonate with U.S. consumers today.

A few U.S. consumer findings include:

  • 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them—understanding when they need them, and leaving them alone when they don’t.
  • 78% of consumers are switching providers at profit-crushing rates.
  • 66% of consumers spend more with the brands they love.
  • 59% of consumers are loyal to brands that present them with small ‘tokens of affection’, such as personalized discounts, gift cards and special offers to reward their loyalty.
  • 44% of consumers are seeking “thrills”, like the opportunity to design or co-create products or services that are bespoke to them.

For more information, take a look at the infographic below.

brand loyalty


5—4 Things to Teach Your Employees about Data Security

Guest post by Scott Hamlin, VP & General Manager of Aldridge’s Seattle branch

Today, businesses rely almost entirely on data storage and exchange to conduct their operations. While the use of this technology has helped increase efficiency and profit, the risks associated with potential data disasters have the power to end a company’s operations entirely.

So, how can businesses safeguard themselves against data threats? Despite the doom and gloom clouding the topic, data security is manageable—even internally. As a starting point, informing your staff of safety measures and protocol is imperative to your network security.

While software and monitoring can protect your business from external threats, all it takes is one wrong click on a virus-infected email to endanger your entire business infrastructure. Education regarding safe internet navigation, effective passwords, and secure handling of mobile devices can prevent an accidental compromise due to carelessness or uninformed employees.

Here are four best practices to teach your employees today about data security:

  1. “You shall not pass!”: How to create and manage secure passwords. Create password-structured guidelines for your employees, and make sure all employees understand and follow those guidelines. By combining lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers and symbols, passwords become more complex and secure. Make sure that passwords are something no one else can guess, yet specific to the employee and easy for them to remember.

Never store employee passwords where they’re easily located—such as on your computer’s desktop or on a piece of paper on your desk or monitor. Also, never use the same passwords across the board. If someone were to get one password, they’d have access to everything.

Have employees change their passwords often, but not often enough they will not remember. Every six months is the recommended timeline for changing your passwords. Lastly, don’t share employee passwords over email or other online platforms—only share over the phone or in person.

  1. Don’t get caught: How to avoid phishing scams. It’s important to educate your employees on the different types of phishing scams and how to identify them. Provide guidelines on how to recognize a suspicious email, even those that look like they’re coming from the company or upper management.
  2. Patch the holes: Continuously apply updates and patches. Keep your company constantly guarded against data threats by continuingly updating anti-malware programs and web browsers. Have your IT team complete malware scans on a weekly basis and scan all portable media and devices for malware or viruses.
  3. Prepare for lockdown: Lock all devices. To help ensure no one can access a computer during work hours, instruct your employees to lock all devices when they leave their desks. All employees should have a lock/password code on all their mobile devices and should report immediately if devices are lost or stolen.

With over 230,000 new malware samples produced daily, businesses and their data are under a constant barrage of digital attacks. But, by teaching employees simple, and easily adopted, techniques, they can to do their part to defend your company against these threats.

6—Supporting & Celebrating America’s Small Businesses

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife are teaming up “to elevate the voice of America’s small business owners and highlight the important role they play in the nation’s economy.” The initiative will produce a quarterly small business research index; a series of local market events that will present information that help businesses save money, save time, and foster growth; and the annual DREAM BIG Small Business Awards program, which celebrates some of the country’s top entrepreneurs.

The quarterly research index will identify what drives and influences the decisions small business owners make. In addition to offering a comprehensive quantitative snapshot of the health of the small business sector, the survey will explore small business owners’ perspectives on the latest national economic and societal trends. In doing so, the index will offer a unique lens through which to better understand this increasingly critical and constantly growing segment of the economy.

In addition, live local events will be held across the country to equip local businesses with best practices, insights on national trends, key takeaways from the most recent research, and other advice to help them succeed and grow their businesses. Events are currently being planned for 2017 in Minneapolis, Tampa, Phoenix, and Dallas, in addition to a national summit in Washington, D.C., where the winners of the DREAM BIG Small Business Awards will be announced.


7—Entrepreneurship is On the Rise

And so is job creation—according to the Global Entrepr­eneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Global Report released recently with sponsors Babson College, Universidad Del Desarrollo, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, and Tecnológico de Monterrey. The report says 55% of entrepreneurs worldwide expect to create at least one job in the next five years.

Yet, the GEM notes, “Globally, many factors are in play that could hinder such entre­pre­neurial growth. These include sophisticated technologies and communications that may enable entrepreneurs to operate on their own, rigid labor regulations, poor availability of skilled or educated labor, limited access to entrepreneurial finance, and the decision to stay small to avoid the complexities of formalization.”

In its 18th consecutive year, GEM is the largest single study of entrepreneurs in the world.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016 Global Report: 

  • Over the past year, entrepreneurial activity remained stable or increased in approximately 2/3 of all economies surveyed in both 2015 and 2016.
  • More than 2/3 of all adults see entrepreneurship as a good career choice, and the same believe entrepreneurs are considered “high status”.
  • 60% believe entrepreneurs receive positive media attention.
  • On average, 42% of all working-age adults see good opportunities around them for starting a business. This perception is just about equal across all economic development levels, with only a 3% difference between factor-and innovation-driven economies.
  • North America reports the highest rate of opportunity perception at 58%, however, this does not translate into robust entrepreneurial intention. Only 13% of North Americans intend to start a business in the next three years.
  • On the other hand, North America demonstrates the highest overall rate of entrepreneurial activity within existing organizations (6.5%). This behavior, called Entrepreneurial Employee Activity (EEA), includes the development and launch of new activities for an individual’s main employer, and accounts for more than half the average Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) in innovation-driven economies.

You can read the report here.


8—The Challenge of Finding & Hiring Top Tech Talent

More than any other concern relating to hiring and retention, finding and hiring top tech talent keeps executives up at night—more than keeping the team they have in place and more than staying competitive with regard to salary and bonuses. According to the recently released Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey for 2017, half of all executives report this is their biggest worry and that number has continued to grow by 11% in the last three years alone.

So what are executives doing to attract top tech talent? While being able to offer excellent compensation and benefit packages were most often cited as important recruiting tactics, being able to attract new employees with an amazing corporate culture or a company’s unique industry position ranked as the next most important strategies. An environment that is creative, inspiring and fun (63.4%); being industry-leading and innovative (54.8%); and having the chance to work on interesting projects (51.6%) were cited most often as contributing to an exceptional corporate culture.

Corporate culture also plays a critical role in employee attrition. Nearly 26% of survey respondents say people left their companies for more exciting opportunities and the chance to work with new technology; another 16.7% said they thought it was because their corporate culture was very challenging. Competitive compensation and benefits packages always play a role, too, with another 19.2% citing that as a reason people had left the firm.

Kathy Harris, managing director of Harris Allied, which conducts the annual hiring and retention survey within the technology space, concurs. “Candidates often cite better compensation or benefits being offered elsewhere when they give notice to their employers. We know from experience that many factors contribute to an individual’s desire to change jobs. It’s very important for technology professionals to have opportunities for professional growth, as well as to work on exciting projects and contribute to the success of an organization.”

So, what do executives feel they should be doing, or doing better, to attract and retain top tech talent? Of the executives surveyed, the answers were fairly evenly split among improving professional development opportunities, increasing employee compensation, improving corporate culture and employee morale, and improving benefits, vacation and PTO time.

Among the other key findings of the Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey are:

  • Social media plays an important role in a company’s recruitment strategy (86.7%).
  • Offering both competitive compensation packages and outstanding benefits packages were cited most often as important (ranging from slightly to extremely) as a recruitment strategy. Offering employees the opportunity to telecommute came in a close second.
  • User experience design and web development projects were cited most often as driving corporate hiring needs in 2017. Software application developers/architects were the roles that employers expect to recruit most aggressively for in 2017.

To see the complete findings of 2012-2016 surveys, go here.


9—Enter to Win $25,000

FedEx just launched its 5th annual Small Business Grant Contest. You can enter now through March 29. The total prize pool is $120,500—the largest sum since the contest’s inception.

The contest offers grants and services to 10 small businesses and for the first time in the FedEx contest, the winners will also receive an additional dollar amount in credit to use towards FedEx Office print and business services to help run their businesses. The awards include:

  • Grand prize: 1 winner of $25,000, + $7,500 in FedEx Office® print and business service
  • Silver prize: 1 winner of $15,000, + $5,000 in FedEx Office print and business services
  • Bronze prize: 8 winners of $7,500, + $1,000 in FedEx Office print and business services

The 2017 FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is open to U.S.-based for-profit small businesses with fewer than 99 employees and operating for six months or more.  To enter, participants must visit the Small Business Grant Contest page and enter their contact information, write a short profile about their business and upload four photos of their business or product, including their logo.  While not required, participants also have the option of submitting a 90-second “elevator speech” video to supplement their entry.



Cool Tools

10—Better Backup

Acronis, a global leader in hybrid-cloud data protection and storage, recently added Microsoft Office 365 backup functionality to what they call “the world’s fastest and most complete small business backup solution”, Acronis Backup 12, enabling businesses to protect all data, local and in the cloud, with a single solution, single configuration, and a single interface.

Microsoft Office 365 services deliver unprecedented flexibility and scalability, changing the way small businesses manage their email infrastructure. Acronis provides additional backup by enabling protection of cloud workloads with Acronis Backup 12, giving businesses full control over the protected data, and allowing them to keep it locally or in the cloud for long-term access or archiving purposes.

“Small and midsize businesses worry about control, worry about security, and worry about cost. Tying things together in a comprehensive way gets harder as firms grow and data protection becomes an ever bigger chore. Acronis has data control as a key product capability and SMBs will appreciate the ability to coordinate and manage diverse data,” says Ray Boggs, Vice President, Small and Medium Business Research at IDC.

Acronis Backup Office 365 Subscription Licenses are available online and from local distributors. The monthly price per mailbox ranges between $1.67 and $3.33 depending on geography, volume and the subscription term. More details are available here.