Female freelancer remotely working on the go.

11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know by Rieva Lesonsky


1—Are Your Employees Engaged?

Obviously your business will do better if your employees are engaged. But what if they’re not? The folks at Clarizen shows us what happens what happens when are staffs are not engaged—to the theme of Netflix’s Stranger Things.



Happy Holidays!


2—Making Your Customers Happy at the Holidays

For many small  businesses, especially in the retail and hospitality sectors, the holidays, says the National Retail Federation, may account for 30% of a company’s annual sales. So, of course you Want to keep your customers happy. Jay DesMarteau, head of Small Business Banking for TD Bank, shares some ways you can capitalize on the rush of the holiday season and ensure customer satisfaction.

Train your employees to express gratitude at each transaction. Front-line or service employees especially interact with customers daily, so their buy-in is essential, especially during the busy holiday season. This is important as repeat customers spend 67% more money at a business than new customers, according to research from BIA/Kelsey and Manta.

When in-person interactions are not possible, regular customer communication via other mediums is crucial, especially during this time of year.  According to a recent TD Bank survey, 39% of consumers prefer a phone call, while 33% prefer email as the best methods to convey thanks. However, when it comes to mobile-savvy Millennials, 44% prefer a text or emoji “thank you.” Small business owners should try to personalize each acknowledgment by including details about the customer and his or her transaction and keep updated contact information for customers to receive these communications.

Creating a customer loyalty program is another way to show appreciation and build a repeat customer base during the holiday shopping season. Once popular among big-name brands, loyalty programs are easily managed and tracked through integrated payment and sales platforms like Clover for small businesses.


3—Holiday Success

This is a crucial time of year for many businesses. Check out these five tips for small business success at the holidays from NerdWallet.


4—Create a Culture of Giving

Americans donated more than $373 billion to charity last year, according to the National Philanthropic Trust. Since giving is often top-of-mind this time of year, Rev1 Ventures, the seed-stage venture fund that combines investment capital and strategic services, announced the launch of its new entrepreneur giving fund, START. START is a unique charitable fund with an entrepreneur-led advisory board aimed at supporting initiatives and people in central Ohio that are “starting up” something special in the community.

Rev1 is seeding the non-profit fund with an initial gift and a preliminary goal of raising an additional 50 percent in funds from the startup community by early 2017. Rev1 will match those contributions with another donation.

Every startup can integrate a culture of giving within the fabric of their company—take a look at these tips from Rev1 Ventures and its START Advisory Board:

Be Creative: Entrepreneurs are used to looking at challenges and finding solutions, so encourage that out-of-the box thinking when it comes to philanthropy efforts at your company. Think about proving your software at a steep discount to select non-profits; have a contest for the most unique idea amongst your team, etc.

Make It a Group Effort: Seek input from your team and get them involved from day one. Even though startups might lack a large staff base or unlimited charitable funds, they can find activities that are meaningful to staff as a group and provide outlets for them as individuals. Ask your team what they are already doing in their communities to determine if there is an opportunity to build upon where they are already involved.

Use What You Know: You can look around your office area, or within your field or customer base for ideas that will resonate with your purpose. As an IT company, can you provide coding lessons or tutoring for kids? As a restaurant, is there a food pantry nearby to support? Could you provide resume writing, job training, or job coaching to someone coming off public assistance?

Put in the Time: At its core, philanthropy is the “desire to promote the welfare of others,” and that’s something startups can do by spending time with other companies who are struggling to make the difference they envision in the world. Give staff paid time (even if it’s just a couple days a year) to volunteer for a charity or cause of their own choosing. Allow them to choose how to use those days—mentoring students to organizing events or supporting a community group. If they’re into the idea, it will make for happier volunteers and a happier team of employees.

Pool Your Resources: Give staff opportunities to join their resources and select a charity to support together. Think about holding a special contest or tournament with a buy-in for entry and allow the winner to select the charity that will receive the donations. It doesn’t cost money, and it’s a great way to support team building. Think about doing food drives, coat drives, or collecting school supplies for kids in need. Those are all great charitable outreach initiatives that cost very little, but instill a sense of community.


5—Creating a Sales Performance Calculator

Want to know how to gain more customers? Using a sales performance calculator is one of the best ways to increase sales, while also being one of the most efficient ways to improve sales performance. In the infographic below sales-i shows you how.


6—The Power of Personal Reviews

Today’s female shoppers are more discerning and less impulsive than ever—according to the Reviews and Recommendations report from Influence Central. Social influence has become more important for women consumers, making it vital for small business owners to tap into.

Some highlights of the report:

  • 86% of women consumers tap members of their social media network for opinions, advice, and recommendations.
  • 96% are likely to seek opinions and recommendations from others before they buy a product, or try out a service, restaurant, or store.
  • 86% use social media and websites to access recommendations they use to make purchasing decisions.
  • 88% of women consumers say they are discerning when it comes to the credibility of online reviewers.

Another report from Influence Central, the Social Upends Traditional Media in Driving Shopping Purchases survey reveals online coupons and recommendations from family/friends are the biggest influencers of shopping behaviors. Then comes:

  • Influencer-driven social media content
  • Product reviews
  • Shared recipes or fashion tips
  • New usage ideas
  • Beautiful photos showing the product
  • How-to videos

There’s a lot of interesting information in this report—check it out here.

7—Fighting Cybercrime

Guest post by Ebba Blitz, CEO, Alertsec

Cybercriminals have targeted large enterprises for many years, and it seems that barely a week goes by without yet another high-profile intrusion or large-scale data breach hitting the headlines. As security professionals, we know that organized, well-funded and highly capable hackers are literally everywhere and that computer hardware and networks are under constant, around-the-clock attack.

Cybercriminals continuously seek to invade systems with the intention to commit fraud or conduct espionage or in hopes of gaining access to consumers’ valuable Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In the enterprise, intrusion attempts are common and expected, and enterprise IT departments are always “looking over their shoulder.” Company and customer protection must be taken seriously.

Because SMBs are an enticing target, cybercriminals are rapidly learning to take advantage of the security loopholes in this market that result from the lack of technical know-how in many small firms. Add to that the cost and deployment barriers associated with having a robust IT security and compliance program, and it is easy to see why thieves target sensitive data within SMBs. And once systems and networks are compromised and data is lost, companies face potential liability and an uphill battle to fix their reputations, even if no harm appears to have been done.

So, what can SMBs do to combat this growing threat?

Because security can be overwhelming, SMBs should first start by understanding how encryption—a foundational element of cybersecurity—works. With a basic understanding of the benefits of encryption, SMBs should then look to their most urgent security needs and commence a company-wide security assessment.

As a key part of any assessment, SMBs need to look at where their sensitive data lies and understand how it is protected at every point in the process of doing business. This means having a full view of the hardware and software landscape within the company and development of a strategy that encrypts and protects data wherever it may be.

As part of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, employees’ smart phones and tablets should be part of the data security plan, too. In addition, the strategy must account for security when data is in transit, including providing for the use of firewalls and virtual private networks (VPNs) to prevent “data in motion” from being intercepted and compromised.

As with enterprises, SMBs should develop security and compliance plans that mandate multi-factor authentication for access to critical systems and data. Additionally, SMBs should look to human factors—typically the “weakest link” in security—to avoid being caught up in social engineering schemes and common deceptions in which fraudsters engage. This is why IT security training is critical across the entire organization, and all personnel must be taught to check and verify before providing anyone access to company data. The risk from human error is not something to be taken for granted!

Even the smallest of SMBs can and should execute a company-wide security assessment that will put them on the path to developing a robust and legally compliant security plan. Once the assessment is complete, evaluation of solutions that mitigate business risk and provide protection for critical company data and assets will be much easier. Development of a “short list” of providers that meet both technological and business needs will be more streamlined.

The end result for SMBs will be a faster path to a more secure computing environment.


8—From Ideation to Implementation: The Road to an Industry-Defining Product

Guest post by Terry Antinora, Vice President, Office and Solutions Business Group, Xerox

All great partnerships are an evolution that take time and commitment to develop. We have been working with Staples for nearly 20 years as a retail location for our customers to purchase Xerox printing solutions.

Now, we’re introducing the Staples self-serve kiosk. The new kiosk, built by Staples, Xerox and EFI, gives customers greater control over their time and production through independent scanning, printing, emailing or faxing.

The Staples self-serve kiosk is a custom-built device for in-store customers and is unlike anything else on the market. It offers the printing capabilities of the Xerox WorkCentre 7800 Series Multifunction Printer (MFP) and a new Android-based, easy-to-use interface that runs on a standard tablet attached to the MFP. Payment, usage and receipt functionality works seamlessly at the device, and includes the option to scan coupons or a Staples customer loyalty card during a transaction.

In August, nearly 3,000 devices were placed in Staples stores across the country, and although the new self-service fleet is less than three months old, Staples is already seeing a positive response from customers and associates. Jose Bernal, Vice President of Production and Operations for Staples says, “The growth of traditional services like printing and copying has exceeded our expectations and new services like scanning and emailing are growing at a surprising clip.”

At the annual Staples Supplier Summit, the development team received the Staples Innovation Award, which is given to projects that are breakthrough technologies that significantly improve Staples workflows and the customer experience.


9—Training Salespeople

Only 21% of businesses believe they train their salespeople on the skills they need each year, according to a new report conducted by Corporate Visions, Inc., a leading marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company, and Sales & Marketing Management Magazine.

Corporate Visions’ State of the Conversation, Beyond the Classroom: Trends in B2B Sales Training, shows that 45% of companies surveyed believe in-person, instructor-led training is the most effective training format. But many companies struggle to train as many reps as they want on the skills they think they need. Among those unable to train the number of reps they want, 56% say time out of the field is the biggest training limitation. And 37% cite budget restraints as the biggest obstacle to training access.

This explains why 65% of respondents expect their investments in virtual training to increase “significantly” or “slightly” in the future—the biggest gain of any form of training. And instructor-led, in-person training investments are expected to remain flat, despite being rated the “most effective” form of training in terms of creating behavior changes.

“In-person training is still considered the best form for teaching ‘soft’ selling skills that improve pipeline growth, proposal success, as well as negotiations, but there are real pressures forcing companies to explore other alternatives,” says Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer of Corporate Visions. “The growth anticipated around virtual training modalities shows that companies need more flexible, competency-based training formats that give reps skills training when and where they need it, without removing them from the field.”

The survey also reveals companies most often rely on sales managers to determine what training and development plan to follow for individual salespeople, despite only 19% of respondents reporting it as the most effective method for developing training plans. In contrast, 30% believe assigning reps to training based on specific key performance indicators—such as struggles with pipeline building or stalled proposals or margin erosion—is more effective for developing individual training plans.

“Arbitrary learning paths based on manager opinions or feelings about where a salesperson is underperforming need to be replaced with more data-driven learning paths based on key performance indicators and behavioral outcome studies,” Riesterer says. “The real opportunity created by flexible, modular online training is that you can ‘push’ appropriate training content when needed, based on exactly where a salesperson is struggling. Custom learning paths based on identified performance gaps versus arbitrary learning paths based on people’s opinions or generic role or responsibility training plans.”

To see the report from Corporate Visions, click here.


10—Tapping into Facebook

With 1.79 billion users worldwide, Facebook is obviously an important vehicle for small business owners to use to reach customers. Check out this guide, The ABCs of Facebook Marketing from Canva for ideas and tips.


Cool Tools

11—Get Paid Faster

Xero recently announced the integration of Apple Pay through Stripe, making it even faster and easier for customers to get paid. Xero’s 862,000 subscribers can now offer their customers the ability to view and pay an invoice using Apple Pay through Stripe. Invoices paid with a payment service get paid almost 80% faster than invoices that don’t offer a payment service. This new feature is available automatically to everyone on Xero using Stripe where Apple Pay is available.

“Mobile payments are the way of the future,” says Craig Walker, Xero Chief Technology Officer. “Attaching a payment option to online invoices helps Xero customers get paid almost faster…so they spend less time chasing unpaid invoices for a more productive and cash healthy business.”

Going mobile is vital, because as Cristina Cordova, Head of Business Development at Stripe, notes, “Almost a fifth of online commerce in the United States now happens on mobile devices.”