12 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1—Are You Prepared for a Cyberattack?

We hear about a new cyberattack on business nearly every week, so you have to be super-vigilant about protecting your business. Headway Capital has created a guide to help you prevent cyberattacks. Check it out below.


2—Entrepreneurial Moms

It’s National Women’s Small Business month. Between 2007 and 2016, while the total number of business across the U.S. increased by 9%, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45%—that’s five times the national average. The folks at 99designs highlighted one aspect of this sector—entrepreneurial moms.  The details are in the infographic below.


3—What Keeps Aspiring Entrepreneurs Up at Night?

A report from Paychex shows that starting a business is still the dream of many. In fact, more than 78% of people’s greatest hope was to be independent—topping loving their jobs and having more free time. They’re so eager to get started that 54% of would-be entrepreneurs would self-fund their businesses, while 14% would turn to bootstrapping or a bank loan. And what industry are they dreaming about starting a business in? Arts, entertainment, and recreation is the most popular.

You’ll find more about the hopes and fears of startup entrepreneurs in the infographic below.


4—Boost Holiday Sales

The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase as much as 4% this year—and e-commerce is sure to play a big role in that.

Shipping software company, ShipStation, shares some tips and strategies on how companies can prepare for the season and grow their business during the holidays.

Manage and exceed expectations: Customers expect the same services from a small business as they do from an online retail giant. A recent study conducted by the National Retail Federation found that three of four holiday shoppers checked return policies before making a purchase this past holiday season, and many shoppers ultimately backed out of a holiday purchase because of an inconvenient return policy.

NRF discovered some of the main reasons for backing out of the sale was due to lack of free return shipping (57%), only store credit offered instead of full refund (55%), and too small of a return window (42%). It is important to be transparent with your customers and to anticipate holiday demand so you have the right amount of inventory in stock and workers fulfilling orders. Additionally, communicate with customers on how quickly you can fulfill orders and when they can expect to see their purchases. Adding this information to your website and sending order confirmation emails creates transparency with your customers, ultimately gaining their trust and loyalty.

Build brand awareness: Branding is more than just a logo; it is establishing your company across physical assets, customer communications, and social media. Branding encompasses websites, customer emails, product details, brand ambassadors, shipment tracking pages and more. People are known to purchase products based on an emotional connection with a brand. Give your customers a great experience that makes them want to return for another purchase in the future. By building a powerful and engaging brand you give your company the competitive advantage to boost not only seasonal sales but increase KPIs year-round. Essentially branding is the key to fostering that powerful personal connection to your store.

A great way to build your e-commerce brand is through social media. According to PwC’s 2017 Retail Survey, 39% of people use social networks to get inspiration for purchases. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can boost brand exposure, grow your following, and promote sales. It is important to engage with your audience through these mediums with likes, comments, and sharing content that humanizes your brand and hones relationships. With consistency, social media will prove to be a viable channel for growing your brand and increasing your bottom-line.

Provide amazing customer experience: Customers want brands to court them―that translates to targeted promotions, coupons sent via email or snail mail, and substantial discounts in return for their loyalty. According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say improving the customer experience is their top priority. No one wants a bad user experience; therefore, making your website easy to navigate with a simple purchasing process can go a long way.

Convenience and savings always wins the customer over. The 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper reports that over the past several years shipping and delivery has proven to be critical to the overall online shopping experience. In fact, year-over-year, consumers rank free shipping as the most important option when checking out online. As the holiday rush quickly approaches, entice and motivate your shoppers to order more by offering free shipping, especially if the order is placed prior to your busiest weeks. This way you ensure they get their orders on time while giving you additional prep time.

Automate workflow: The day-to-day operations of running your online business can be daunting, especially during the holiday season. It’s important to re-evaluate your workflow to speed up your processes, so you can spend less time on packing and shipping and more time growing your business. Forrester reports that only 63 percent of marketers prioritize implementing technology investments that will help them improve customer experience.

Using software technology like ShipStation can cut your time in half by automating your everyday workflow. If a whole batch of orders comes in from a store or marketplace, it will sync directly with ShipStation’s central shipping hub software. You can then instantly compare and choose carriers based on price and delivery date, click to print a branded shipping label, then confirm and send the customer tracking information. Meanwhile, all that sales data—including customer and product information—syncs with your accounting software.


5—Small Business Concerns

U.S. small business owners are sharing their concerns with their financial advisors, and according to a new survey from Sageworks, a financial information company, they’re worried about hiring employees and health-care expenses. The survey reveals 44.4% of accountants say their clients are worried about hiring and 41.3% are concerned about the cost of health-care.

In addition to those challenges, the accountants report their clients are also worried about:

  • Government regulations—29.8%
  • Tax compliance complexity—27.1%
  • The economy—26.7%
  • The current administration/Congress—22.2%

However, 26% of the accountants say their clients aren’t concerned about any of these issues.

Sageworks founder Brian Hamilton notes it will be harder for small businesses to grow due to the difficulty of hiring and retaining good employees.


6—Accountants are Feeling Optimistic

Speaking of accountants, according to a new survey recently released by Right Networks, they’re feeling confident about the prospects for increased business growth and stability throughout their industry and the economy as a whole.

The survey of accountants, CPAs and small businesses reveals 75% of those surveyed who use cloud storage are “very confident” about the future of accounting and their respective role in the industry. Another 21% are “moderately confident.” When it comes to technology, 40% call themselves “early adopters” and are willing to invest in start-of-the-art technology and applications. And 59% plan to hire within the next 6 months.

The benefits of technology

For most (over 63%) the reason for upgrading teach is to “either automate administrative tasks and increase productivity and efficiency, or institute more flexible and responsive solutions for clients who increasingly expect an ‘always available’ approach.” Plus, the survey finds there’s “a significant trend” among accounting professionals toward taking on increased strategic and consultative roles for clients.

There’s a lot more details in the survey. You can read it here.


7—B2Bs & Customer Experience

In its recently released B2B Customer Experience 2017 report, Accenture Strategy found complex customer buying journeys and sprawling partner networks are preventing B2B companies from delivering the personalized experiences that drive loyalty and growth. The global report reveals:

  • While97% of B2B sales and customer service execs say channel partners are critical to their businesses, just 21% have total control over their organization’s sales networks and overall customer experience.
  • 84%do not have visibility into sales partner opportunity pipelines.
  • 71%say customers increasingly want B2C-like experiences—faster response times and 24/7 availability—but 49% say they’re failing to deliver the personalized experiences their customers crave.
  • Companies with integrated partner lead generation and coaching are63% more likely to exceed their indirect channel revenue goals.

“B2B leaders know that customer experience is the gateway to growth and have increasingly relied on channel partners to help them deliver. But many have been flying blind. Distracted by building extensive partner networks to increase selling opportunities, they’ve missed the critical balance of picking and managing partners who can leverage customer insight and use it to deliver better experiences,” says Robert Wollan, senior managing director and global Advanced Customer Strategy lead at Accenture Strategy. “To regain control, B2B leaders will orchestrate their sales ecosystem by seeing partners as an extension of their business and empower them with customer insights, coaching and support. Only then can they fully tap their connected growth potential.”

Digital disruption, rise of consumerism & new services make B2B customers harder to reach According to Accenture’s research, most customers are already 57% through the buying process before they first engage with a company representative; 90% never respond to cold outreach; and 61% of all B2B transactions now start online.

Unlocking connected growth

The report shows to deliver the customer experiences that drive connected growth, B2Bs must fundamentally rethink how they integrate and collaborate with partners. They should consider:

Pivoting from partner management to ‘ecosystem orchestration’: Companies can regain control over customer experience by considering indirect partners as extensions of their own businesses and critical enablers of customer value. Intentionally teaming with a select network of partners and ensuring they are well supported can significantly improve customer experience.

Supporting partner priorities: In an indirect channel ecosystem, understanding the needs and preferences of end customers must take priority. Delivering the best customer experiences requires connected insights. Feedback mechanisms and data sharing are essential to building trust and understanding how to create new value for customers. Providing partners with something they value—such as leads, resources, customer events and sales coaching—will encourage continuous customer information sharing.

Adopting a new currency for connected growth: Customer data management, analytics and social listening technologies can help companies deliver the relevant and personalized experiences that customers crave. Investing in these technologies and integrating them with core customer experience capabilities, such as closed-loop feedback, is a solid way to measure performance.

For more information about the study, go here.


8—5 Tools to Build Brand Awareness

Guest post by Abs Girdhar, CEO, Appy Pie 

In order to drive awareness of their ideas, work and/or brand, here are five simple things new entrepreneurs should practice in order to earn a living in the new gig economy, or to increase your new brand’s awareness.

  1. Create a website. No need to hire a professional when you can easily create one yourself by simply following directions and incorporating features that express exactly how you want to be portrayed to your targeted audience.
  2. Create a mobile app. DIY app platforms, such asAppy Pie, allow users to implement the latest technologies that let businesses showcase their capabilities, with features such as AR, VR and even chatbots.
  3. Understand and keep track of your personal finances to ensure you’re able to take care of yourself and the growth of your new business.
  4. Use your social networks to get the word out. Twitter and Facebook statuses, as well as Instagram and Snapchat pictures or stories are helpful when trying to explain who you are, and once you build a following, it helps to spread the word even more.
  5. Ask for honest feedback. Ask your potential customers or new hires for constructive feedback in order to figure out any weaknesses to improve upon.


9—Payment Security

With cybercrime rising, payment card security is increasingly a focus for companies and consumers alike. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is there to help businesses that take card payments protect their payment systems from breaches and theft of cardholder data. The findings from the Verizon 2017 Payment Security Report demonstrate a link between organizations being compliant with the standard, and their ability to defend themselves against cyberattacks.

The recently released  report shows the progress (or lack thereof) organizations have made towards compliance, and the challenges of securing customers’ payment data.

The report shows the biggest issue in payment security is that while “compliance is improving, nearly half of companies that pass validation fall out of compliance within nine months.”

Key findings:

  • Global compliance reached 55.4% percent this year, a 70% increase over 2016
  • Since 2010,none of the breaches investigated in Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report were PCI DSS compliant at the time of the breach
  • Of all industries investigated globally, companies inIT services achieved the highest percentage of full compliance (61.3%), followed by financial services (59.1%), retail (50.0%) and lastly, hospitality (42.9%).

You can view the report and related materials here.


Quick Takes

10—Tips for Latino Entrepreneurs

It’s also Hispanic Heritage month, and to help celebrate the fact that Latinos are starting small businesses at a rate faster than the national average. In fact, they started more than four million businesses last year. To help, Experian published an article on its blog, filled with tips, insights and key steps to financing a small business. Check it out here.


11—SoCal Mixer

If you’re in southern California on October 11, the Asian B2B Monthly Mixer will be held from 6-8 pm in Alhambra. The guest speaker is former American Idol contestant William Hung. The Mixer is sponsored by Asian Industry B2B. The group’s inaugural event was a huge success, so if you’re in the area, you should consider dropping by.


Read This

12—Creating the New Workplace

Work Without Walls: An Executive’s Guide to Attention Management, Productivity, and the Future of Work, by Maura Nevel Thomas.

Work has changed significantly in the 21st century and business owners are more challenged than ever before when it comes to managing employees who may be down the hall, across town or thousands of miles away. Plus, asserts author Maura Nevel Thomas, today’s knowledge workers are more susceptible to stress overload and burn-out, due to 24/7 communications and constant distractions.

Thomas maintains, “Today’s ‘always-on’ work culture actually prevents you and your team from producing what really matters: ideas, innovation, and meaningful results.” She believes, “the most important individual and corporate resources are neither time nor money, but body and mind.”

With that in mind Thomas tells us how to create a better workplace, one that “nurtures creativity and improves productivity.” There are a lot of variables that go into creating that kind of work environment, including being concerned about your employees, their work-life balance, and making sure they take vacation. It’s also about creating an office space that’s collaborative, yet enables employees to focus.

Each chapter provides personal shifts and organizational changes through specific action items you can implement now to support the well-being and long-term success of you, your team, and your organization.

Thomas says it’s time to set your own path: “If conventional wisdom says that constant work is necessary for professional success, I can’t think of a more important time to buck convention.”