13 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Marketing to Different Generations
There’s a lot of information packed into Campaigner’s 2017 Generational Marketing Insights Survey, which looked at buying preferences of online shoppers.
Social Status: Only 24% of online shoppers say social media is one of their preferred channels for brand interaction. Of those that do engage with brands on social platforms Facebook leads the pack, followed by Pinterest and Instagram (tied for 2nd).
Email Still Reigns: Email is one of the most preferred digital marketing platforms for brand interaction (44%). A whopping 75% of online shoppers are either somewhat or very likely to open email from brands.
However, online shoppers’ top complaint (49%) about marketing messages is they get too many of them. Most recipients (29%) prefer to hear from a brand less than once a month, while only 11% prefer to get brand messages more than once a week. But 27% of Gen Xers think getting emails from brands once a week is ideal.
Marketing to Millennials: Millennials are the most likely generation to engage with marketing emails—22% say they are very likely to open an email from a brand, compared to just 15% everyone surveyed.
After their digital preference of email (51%, 47% use social media to interact with brands. While Facebook is still their top social choice (65%), Instagram is another favorite among this group with 37% using it to interact with brands. Millennials are nearly three times as likely to use Snapchat to engage with brands as the average online shopper (14%).
Boomers & Traditionalists: These generations prefer to with brands in physical stores more than the average shopper. In fact, 73% of Traditionalists and 67% of Baby Boomers say they prefer to interact with brands in-store, compared to 65% of the group overall.
If you’re marketing to these groups, online deals that further entice foot traffic to stores may resonate best. Additionally, Traditionalists appreciate helpful tips and short reads more than the average online consumer, at 28% versus 13% overall, so content marketing may be most impactful for this group.
You can see it all in the infographic below.
2—Are You Agile?
The folks at Clarizen remind us, that just as Ernest Hemingway warned to “Never confuse movement with action,” we should never confuse movement with progress. In other words, although consumers may be bombarded every day with emails, meetings and chats, it’s all a “distraction if people are not connecting the dots.” Check out the infographic for more information.
3—Gender Gap Closing in STEM Careers
Guest Post by Hazel Garcia, Investmentzen
STEM careers, or careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics, have been traditionally held by men. Thanks to new groups and programs focused on advocating more women joining the field, the gender gap between men and women in STEM careers is slowly closing.
More women are starting careers than ever before. The technology sector alone has made tremendous advances with groups teaching women how to code. The skills learned are allowing women to claim higher-paying jobs without spending a fortune on education. Most jobs only require a Bachelor’s degree or less, allowing for faster entry into a career while accruing only a small amount of student debt.
Higher rates of pay also bring unexpected benefits for many employees as well. Many women are either starting their career later in life or retiring early. Working less also leads to less burnout, more job satisfaction, and less health-related issues from overworking.
While the gap is starting to narrow between men and women, there is still a sizable discrepancy. Some states are more proactive in hiring women than others. States such as Maryland and Rhode Island have just over two men per woman working in STEM careers, which differs widely from states like Utah and Idaho, which have over four men per woman holding these jobs.
States like Maryland hold the most favorable ratio, while other states employ a larger number of women. California alone employs more than 280,000 women, while Maryland, the state with the smallest ratio, only employs about 84,000 women. Higher populated states like California and Texas will take more time to balance out the ratio due to more workers overall.
Curious to see where your state lands? The infographic below shows data from a U.S. Census Bureau Community Survey displaying the different ratios from every state as well as the total number of men and women working in STEM.
4—SMBs Struggle with Cash Flow Management & Customer Payment Fraud
New national research from WePay, a provider of integrated payments for online platforms, highlights just how challenging it is for U.S. small businesses to manage money and payments. The WePay SMB & Money Survey shows 41% of businesses report having experienced cash flow challenges and 16% have experienced payment fraud—just in the last year.
The cash flow issues hit particularly hard: 59% say the financial impact is highly consequential or consequential.
Small business owners and operators also report significant pain beyond their bank accounts: 56% say the emotional impact is highly consequential or consequential, and 44% say the same about the administrative impact.
More findings on payments challenges:
- 25% of SMBs experienced a chargeback (a fraudulent or disputed transaction that resulted in a financial institution requiring the business to make good on the loss) in the last year
- Many small businesses experienced multiple instances of customer payment fraud, including 8% of those affected reporting 10 or more instances
- 21% hit with payment fraud first experienced it less than one year after the business started, and 51% experienced it within two years of when the business started
The research indicates technology can help. For example, those small businesses that process all their customer payments directly within the software platforms and apps they use to manage their business—like Shopify, Square, and Zoho—report a 15% lower incidence of cash flow management issues and especially lower administrative consequences.
Another plus, SMBs handling their payments online rarely need to visit their banks, while respondents overall reported frequent bank visits that often take them away from their primary work.
Deeper payments findings:
Payment fraud and chargebacks affect all types of SMBs—new and old, those that sell goods and services, and those that conduct commerce in-person and online
- SMBs are often left waiting for payment, with only 33% reporting they get paid immediately (mostly those selling goods in-person)
- 12% report they expect it will usually take one month or longer after requesting payment to collect from customers
- 10% have had to chase down a customer payment for 181 days or longer
- 58% visit their bank on a daily or weekly basis to deposit cash or checks
Deeper business management software / apps findings:
- 84% of SMBs routinely use at least one software tool or app to manage their business
- Most of the SMBs managing their business via software and apps use 1-2 tools, yet 16% find need to consistently use 5 or more
- Speed and security matter. When asked what improvements they most want from their go-to software, 50% want faster service and 45% want improved security
5—Small Business Optimism on the Rise
According to the 2017 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, 72% of business owners have a positive outlook on the economy and their own business prospects over the next six months. This rosy outlook is translating into immediate plans for growth. Business owners have made growth their single most important priority, surpassing keeping/maintaining current business and sources of revenue for the first time since Spring 2011.
This year, business owners find themselves in a good position to expand—20% say their businesses are “riding high” and growing strong in the current economy. Cash flow concerns are flat (34% vs. 36% a year ago) and business owners remain confident they can access the capital necessary to grow (82%, on par with 83% 2016).
As they shift into growth mode, entrepreneurs plan to make capital (56% vs. 51% 2016) and hiring investments (45% vs. 39% last year and 34% in 2015). They are also increasing their usage of social media tools (65% vs. 57% last year). The primary reason business owners are using social media is to attract new customers (52%).
Staffing up with the Best Candidates Proves to be a Growth Challenge
According to the survey,74% of entrepreneurs need to hire to handle growing business or to help increase business volume (72%). The greatest number of small businesses (17%) will hire a combination of full- and part-time employees, 16% will hire only part-timers and 12% will hire only full timers.
To set their businesses apart from the competition, 78% of entrepreneurs will focus on better servicing their customers. Business owners are aware of the importance of having proficient employees. More than three-in-ten (31%) say their business mantra is “You are only as good as your people.” But securing the best employees is a concern. Finding the right staff continues to be the number one challenge to growth (26%, up from 19% last year).
Happiness is Being an Entrepreneur
Business owners’ optimistic outlook is not limited to business. Most (94%) are happy with their lives. Of these, 81% say their happiness is due somewhat or entirely to being an entrepreneur.
Fewer entrepreneurs are worried about saving for retirement (45%, down from 53% 2016). On average, they believe they will need $1,182,000, up slightly from the $1,170,000 they thought they needed last year.
6—Why Document Management Software Prevents Burnout in the Workforce
Guest post by Jesse Wood, CEO, eFileCabinet
The days of the blue-collar American ethic have been replaced with idealism steeped in economic materialism, whether for better or worse. And the fewer the number of obstacles in our way in pursuit of “The American Dream,” the better. The trick is finding the shortcuts in as many ways as possible, and combining them into an actionable strategy that will render our ideals reality.
Most workers, business owners, and business magnates are unaware of their own inefficiencies in pursuit of the lifestyles they’d like to live. The key isn’t always to work harder than everyone else—compounding effort with intelligent action will deliver the best results, and that’s why document management software is a technology for delivering the ideals of The American Dream. We needn’t wear badges of workaholism with pride any longer, provided we have the right technology at our disposal.
Because amid the stresses of workaholic routines, more and more Americans are burning out and becoming dissatisfied with their jobs.
This condition first received recognition around 2011 and 2012. USA Today pointed out that burnout rates had been surging, but many employees silently suffered through the phenomenon without exploring other avenues toward obtaining their ideal work-life balance.
So, the question is how can we eradicate burnout without losing job performance? Here are just a few of the reasons document management software is the answer:
Document management software reduces workload while increasing output. Instead of making employees feel like it’s difficult just to get to work, the efficiency document management software provides lets them rid themselves of the “do more with less mentality.” It’s no longer a justifiable solution to budgetary restraints. What’s more, it measurably reduces innovation (a definitive trait of any business’s excellence) within a business, as reported in numerous studies.
In fact, 46% of job-related stress is caused by workload, with people-related issues in the office coming in a distant second. Software can overthrow this issue, save the world’s workforce, and bring the ideal working environment back to the American office. With a reduced number of paper documents to handle, the workflow steps are reduced and the time to complete tasks is expedited.
Many workers feel they don’t get to follow their passions in the world of work. This could be attributed to the fact the average employee spends 20% of their day searching for information in traditional filing mediums, such as filing cabinets and folders. With that much time wasted on the tasks, it’s no wonder workers are unsatisfied.
Additionally, many of the automation features in a good document management system turn the mundane, boring, and even soul-crushingly boring aspects of work life into enjoyable productivity, freeing up time to improve professional growth and facilitate a happier working experience for the average American worker.
7—Developing Next-Gen Leaders
IMPACT Group, a global career coaching firm, recently announced the release of their latest leadership development e-book, Defy the Talent Gap: Develop Next-Gen Leaders Today, addressing the critical talent shortage affecting organizations.
The company says the talent gap—the point when the supply of available, skilled, knowledgeable talent is no longer enough to fill the hiring and promotion needs of companies—is here. The reality? Baby boomers are leaving and up and coming leaders don’t have the benefit of time to develop critical leadership skills. The result? We currently face one of the worst talent shortages since 2007:
- 40% of companies report hiring difficulties;
- 46% struggle to find available talent;
- 56% are not ready to meet leadership demands.
You can download the book here.
8—Can Reading Change the World?
Perhaps. Here are 6 must-read books, presented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that can start you on the path to be a social entrepreneur.
9—Hitting the Road—In Style
Business owners who want to travel between Boston and New York City can now ride the roads in luxury. LimoLiner, a deluxe motor coach travel service, offers the best of air and land travel without the associated hassle, featuring executive-class amenities and high-touch service.
Passengers enjoy spacious leather seats selected in advance, complimentary Wi-Fi, on-board satellite TV/radio, dedicated work spaces and premium cabin assistance from an onboard attendant overseeing meal and beverage service free of charge. Fares start at $89 each way between Boston and New York.
The company is run by an entrepreneur, Mark Richardson, who’s invested millions to improve and expand LimoLiner. His motivation is to: “help other entrepreneurs by easing the burden of business travel costs, which can be a major expense for growing companies.”
Justworks, the benefits, payroll, and HR support platform, recently partnered with JazzHR, an award-winning applicant tracking system, offering “a streamlined and complete solution set that solves HR problems for small businesses.” The companies say the “partnership extends Justworks’ ability to be a single resource for entrepreneurs looking to start and grow their companies quickly and with the right talent.”
11—In-App Flight Booking
TravelBank, the modern budgeting and expense app for business, recently launched Flights, enabling businesses using TravelBank to search for and book flights—all through the TravelBank app.
TravelBank says it “added flight booking capabilities in a continued effort to further streamline business travel management and expense reporting.” Flights is launching with: Air Canada, China Southern Airlines, Copa Airlines, Icelandair, JetBlue, United Airlines, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Saudia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and other major U.S. airline carriers. After a flight reservation is made, a receipt for the flight purchase is automatically added to the employee’s expense report.
- Social seating. You can see which flights and seats have been reserved by others in your business, so you can pick that seat right next to your co-worker—or aisles away
- Personalized recommendations. TravelBank learns user’s preferences over time and brings the best flights for each user to the top of their search results
- Concierge labels. Flights where you have the best chance of being upgraded, the best deals, and the flights that sell out the fastest, are labeled so it’s easy to weigh the options and make your flight selection efficiently
- 24/7 support from a concierge team. When you book through TravelBank, customer service is free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Earn TravelBank points. Each flight earns TravelBank points you can use with rewards partners including Uber, Lyft, RedAwning and others
It’s smart for small businesses to offer free Wi-Fi to their customers, but not every business owner knows how to ensure their guest network is set up to provide the fastest speeds and keep customers from using the connection for inappropriate purposes. And hiring an IT expert is not always in the budget.
If this sounds like you, check out the ALLY Plus Smart Business Wi-Fi from Amped Wireless. It’s a plug-and-play solution for businesses that have multiple devices connecting throughout the day. Unlike normal routers that fulfill connection requests in the order they are made, ALLY connects every device at once, resulting in faster speeds for everyone within 15,000 square feet of coverage. Plus, you can block certain types of sites, deny access to unknown devices, control time of day access rules and more all from an app.
13—Portable POS Solution
Designed for high-touch industries such as hospitality and restaurants, the Carbon 8 features a high-resolution, 8-inch, merchant-facing tablet that runs applications that help merchants operate and grow, such as accounting, real-time inventory management and staffing tools. Carbon 8 offers also offers a shoulder strap for comfortable carrying and optional, detachable thermal printer for on-the-spot receipts.
The Verifone Carbon series is powered by the Intel high-speed chipset for fast processing to run and integrate any POS software and third party applications. Carbon will have access to the Verifone App Marketplace where merchants will be able to discover, purchase and install commerce apps and customize their device to personalize the customer experience.