13 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—The “Sobering Truths” of Windows 10 Migrations
Guest post by Amanda Timmons, Senior Manager of Product Marketing, RES
Windows 10 is an inevitable migration that is likely making its way up your priority list for 2017. [If you’re remembering your last migration, you might be concerned about how long it will take you to upgrade.] But, now is the time to reflect on lessons learned from projects of migrations past, and look ahead to what could be done differently for a more effectively, seamless, less disruptive OS upgrade. Maybe you’ll migrate in 2017, or just get serious about planning. Either way, there are some important things to consider.
Consider the true cost of an OS migration: The traditional approach to an OS migration can be lengthy, complicated and could result in a bad user experience for workers. One of the major obstacles IT faces during an OS upgrade is the migration of global user settings and profiles. Workers want a seamless experience with all their settings exactly as they had them post-migration, but the process of migrating all settings, personalization and configurations can be very time consuming and costly for IT.
The good news is there is a better path forward: taking a people-centric approach to your Windows 10 migration.
Reduce migration headaches in 2017—put people first: At RES we believe a migration doesn’t end until every worker is productive. IT should be able to manage user settings, personalization and configurations separately from the underlying operating system and devices, so changes to those technologies don’t disrupt workers. Workers should be able to log into a new operating system on day one and find the familiar settings and personalization that allow them to do be productive, significantly reducing that time to migrate. For IT, much of the manual effort involved with configuring user settings on the new OS is reduced because the need for scripting, group policies and other complex methods for supporting users are eliminated. For more sobering facts, check out the infographic below.
2—139 Facts & Stats about Instagram
Use of Instagram by small businesses and consumers is exploding. A new infographic from the folks at WebsiteBuilder.org explores the growing popularity of the platform among the everyday users and big brands. Here are some of the facts they uncovered:
3—5 Time-Saving Hacks to Streamline IT Efforts
Guest post by Ashley Walsh, VP of marketing, Formstack
IT issues can be a major drain on small and medium businesses. Service requests, asset management, and other technology needs can make it difficult to stay on task and accomplish more important goals. Below are five hacks that will help IT departments streamline processes so they can focus on projects that really matter to the bottom line.
Hack 1: Standardize Service Requests: The IT department often spends a lot of time addressing service requests. And if the requests are not standardized or streamlined, they can inundate the IT team or even fall through the cracks.
Use an online IT service request form to create a standard workflow for service requests. This type of form lets other departments in your organization quickly submit requests, and it helps your IT team gather pertinent details so they can easily prioritize and address the most pressing issues.
Hack 2: Use Templates Whenever Possible: Why waste time writing the same information again and again? Create templates for commonly used forms and documents. That way, you can make minor updates when necessary instead of starting from scratch every time.
For example, most IT departments deal with countless help tickets. Instead of starting from a blank page with every incident, build templated responses to the most common issues. Templates will streamline your approach to help tickets and give your team a head start on every maintenance request.
Hack 3: Eliminate Unnecessary Meetings: No one likes to waste time in a meeting that could have been avoided—and doing this too often can seriously hinder productivity. Luckily, keeping meetings to a minimum is easier than you might think. You just need to adopt some intuitive information-gathering tools. Internal communication platforms such as HipChat or a form builder can be great ways to share information and make sure everyone is on the same page.
For instance, you can use a project proposal form to gather details on proposed projects before ever sitting down for a meeting. You can also equip forms with an approval workflow tool that notifies appropriate managers—via a standard and consistent email—when their approval is needed. These tools help your team streamline priorities and cut down on time-consuming meetings.
Hack 4: Implement a Project Management Tool: Using a task-management tool like Jell or Basecamp can also help you eliminate unnecessary meetings. Both platforms allow your team to share status updates, such as project progress, which can keep everyone on the same page without meeting to discuss to-dos.
This can be especially helpful for IT departments since they often have a slew of projects to tackle at any given point. Instead of emailing your manager to provide a status update, use a project management platform that automatically includes stages or to-do tasks.
Hack 5: Keep Important Information Organized and Accessible: IT departments are typically responsible for tracking company assets and providing necessary access if employees forget the password to their computers or other tools. This means IT team members must be able to easily find asset information, such as serial numbers, passwords, network information, and more.
To keep this information organized and accessible, consider having new employees fill out a standard IT information form during the onboarding process. This allows the IT team to collect and manage asset information with little effort so they can spend their time on projects that can impact business initiatives.
IT teams often work on tasks that effectively keep the business’s lights on, but that’s not the best use of their time. Use these five hacks to help your IT team members quickly streamline projects, save time and keep requests organized, so they can focus their attention on more pressing issues.
4—Top trusted SMB Brands
What companies do small businesses trust the most? According to Alignable’s latest report, the Top 10 Trusted SMB Brands are:
There’s a lot more information here.
5—3 Predictions About Flexible Work in 2017
Guest post by Brie Reynolds, Senior Career Specialist, FlexJobs
Several surveys came out in 2016 asking professionals what they think the future of work holds.
The Future of Work Hours: 63% of workers say they expect the standard eight-hour workday will be obsolete. If you think about it, most people already don’t adhere to the standard nine-hour workday. With the widespread availability of high-speed internet, people’s ability to work whenever and wherever has already moved well beyond the traditional nine-to-five office schedule.
In 2017, expect more news about professionals being overworked, but also more trials of alternatives to eight-hour workdays that support working fewer hours, such as Amazon’s 30-hour workweek and the six-hour workday in Sweden.
In 2017, as more companies adopt remote work and more people share what it’s like to work remotely, we expect to see more people working this way. It’s especially interesting to see that a large majority of people expect to work remotely instead of commuting to an office every day. It may be that we are moving beyond the tipping point—where remote work is seen as a standard way of working rather than a perk.
The Future of Freelance Work: Among people who currently hold a “traditional” job, more than half think they’ll be out on their own within five years. Over the past decade, the number of people doing freelance and contract work has risen by almost 10 million people, as reported by The New York Times. Of note:
- Temporary and freelance jobs rose faster than overall employment, indicating an actual decline in the number of workers with conventional jobs, from 2005 to 2015.
- The percentage of workers in “alternative work arrangements” was 15.8% in the fall of 2015, up from 10.1% a decade earlier.
- That rise is dramatically faster than the previous decade. From 1995 to 2005, the proportion had edged up only slightly, to 10.1% from 9.3%.
In 2017, expect to see even more people breaking out on their own into freelancing. This will probably be a combination of people who “moonlight” and do freelance work on the side, while still maintaining a traditional job, and those people who strike out as fully independent workers.
6—Resources for Freelancers
Are you looking to find freelance talent around the world? Check out the Hubstaff Talent freelance directory. Best of all—it’s 100% free.
Rocket Lawyer’s Small Business Index, a yearly report gauging the overall sentiment and economic outlook of small business owners in the U.S. shows most SMBs had a prosperous 2016 and have a positive outlook for 2017. Over half (63%) of the SMBs say growth is rising.
SMB Hiring Remains Steady for 2017: Hiring will remain steady with 39% of businesses planning to hire in the next six months. Of those, 60% plan to hire full-time employees, 50% plan to add part-time workers and 44% will use independent contractors.
“We are entering a time with one of the most pro-business administrations in recent history and we will start to see how changes to policy will impact businesses in regard to hiring and the regulatory landscape,” says Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer. “However, with these changes, we will see new legal risks and opportunities. Rocket Lawyer will be there every step of the way as small businesses navigate this evolving legal landscape.”
The Legal Landscape is a Changing: Complying with government regulations remains the number one legal concern for SMBs. The top legal issues SMBs experienced in 2016 were contract negotiations (35%) and collecting payments (20%). Fortunately, SBOs understand the value of seeking legal counsel for their business: 55% consulted with an attorney in the last year, nearly a 10% increase from 2015.
8—Marketing in 2017
Guest post by Ben Kaplan, CEO of PR Hacker
In 2016, marketing teams had to get smart about Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat to get closer to their customers. But what do businesses need to do in 2017 to keep their product top of mind?
To stay ahead of the curve, marketers should incorporate the following marketing trends into their strategy:
Get Mobile with Consumer Insights: Some 10% of the world’s $18.9 billion market research spend is allocated to online surveys in the U.S. alone. John Papadakis, CEO of mobile survey company Pollfish, says with so much money at stake, mobile surveys can influence consumers in their micro-moments with relevant content—allowing brands to pivot quickly and improve offerings.
An Emoji Strategy is a Must-Have: Did you know you can order a pizza on Twitter with a pizza slice emoji? No longer just a cute add-on to text messages, these little icons are giving brands a powerful way to deepen their connection to consumers. Dana Loberg, CEO of the world’s preeminent emoji marketplace MojiLaLa, says peer-to-peer sharing of emojis and stickers is where the future of marketing is headed.
Plan to Micro-Target on Facebook: Placing ads on Facebook is nothing new—but how do you get the most bang for your buck in a seamless way? At PR Hacker we believe “Inception PR” is a real thing that can be used to pre-seed content and “warm up” media leads for earned opportunities—all by using microtargeting.
2017 promises to be an exciting year in the marketing space.
9— What’s New for the 2016 Tax Season? Part 1
Millions of small business owners pay too much in taxes. If you think you’re one of them, you might want to get a copy of J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes 2017: Your Complete Guide to a Better Bottom Line by Barbara Weltman. I’ve known Barbara a long time and she is the perfect person to help you “maximize your bottom line.”
The book is designed to help business owners make sense of their taxes and file correctly, on time, without over- or under-paying. There’s a complete listing of all available business expense deductions, small business tax planning strategies, and the most up-to-date tax laws and requirements, including plain-English instructions on how to qualify, how to claim, and how to file. There’s an e-supplement with the latest tax developments from the IRS and Congress.
Business taxes have so many moving parts that putting it all together can seem more difficult than actually running your business. The book breaks down the requirements, forms, and processes into a sensible workflow, with expert help that can save your business money.
- Organize your record keeping for a more streamlined filing
- Claim income and losses from business, property, and capital gains
- Identify the many business expenses that qualify as deductions
- Learn professional planning strategies specifically for small businesses
- Work more efficiently with your own tax advisor
10—What’s New for the 2016 Tax Season? Part 2
While 2016 was not a significant year for tax legislation, the upcoming tax return filing season will see more changes than the prior tax filing season, according to Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting.
“Taxpayers will experience more changes this year due to the fact that adjustments to the Tax Code made by the PATH Act enacted at the end of 2015, and in particular changes to the expired tax breaks that were made permanent by the PATH Act, were generally not effective until 2016,” says Mark Luscombe, JD, LLM, CPA and Principal Federal Tax Analyst for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting.
Here are some things Luscombe says small business owners need to be aware of:
Tax Filing Deadlines. The individual tax filing deadline is Tuesday, April 18, 2017, due to April 15 falling on a weekend and Monday, April 17 being a holiday in the District of Columbia. Partnership returns are now due to be filed on March 15, 2017 rather than April 15. Many corporate tax returns are now to be filed on April 18, 2017 rather than March 15. Forms W-2 and 1099-Misc. should have been filed by January 31, 2017. FBAR reporting of foreign bank accounts is moved to April 18, 2017 from June 30.
Refundable Credits. The PATH Act introduced several new restrictions on taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit. These include: deadlines for obtaining Social Security numbers and Taxpayer Identification Numbers; expanded due diligence requirements for the tax return preparer; expanded restrictions on taxpayers who made improper claims for the credits in prior years; an increased underpayment of tax penalty; a February 15 limit on how soon the IRS can issue a refund; and, for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, new requirements to obtain Form 1098-Ts and to include the educational institution’s employer identification number on the tax return.
Mortgage Interest Deduction. The IRS made the mortgage principal limitations on the mortgage interest deduction applicable on a per-taxpayer rather than a per-residence basis. Additional mortgage information is also required on the Form 1098, including the amount of the mortgage, the address of the property, and the loan origination date.
Health Care. The personal responsibility payment for failure to obtain health insurance has increased to the greater of $695 (from $325 in 2015) or 2.5% (from 2% in 2015) of household income. The Cures Act enacted on December 13, 2016 also enables small businesses to offer Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements without penalties.
Bonus Depreciation. With respect to 50% bonus depreciation, the allowance for qualified leasehold improvement property was replaced by an allowance for additions and improvements to the interior of any nonresidential real property.
Research Credit. The research credit has expanded in two different ways to help small businesses. It can be used to reduce the alternative minimum tax and a specific amount can be used to offset the payroll tax on employees.
Expired Tax Breaks. Although many popular regularly expiring tax breaks were made permanent by the PATH Act, other tax breaks continue to expire, with several individual, business and energy-related tax breaks expiring at the end of 2016, including, for individuals, the tuition and fees deduction, the exclusion for mortgage debt forgiveness, and the mortgage insurance premium deduction.
Partnership Audit Rules. New partnership audit rules are effective for 2018, but partnerships under audit can elect to apply the new rules earlier.
11—Entrepreneurs of the Year
Applications are open for the annual EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Awards. Now in its 31st year, Entrepreneur Of The Year honors successful entrepreneurs in over 145 cities in 60 countries and remains one of the preeminent competitive awards in the world for entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are part of EY’s work in identifying and supporting business leaders who demonstrate extraordinary success in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment.
Since its inception, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program has recognized more than 9,000 executives who were estimated to have created over 14 million jobs in 2015 alone, based on the recently released Harvard Business Review report, The Entrepreneur’s Purpose..
In Los Angeles, the awards will be presented at a 750-person black-tie Awards Gala on Thursday, June 15, 2017, at The Beverly Hilton hotel.
Award winners are selected in several industry categories by a panel of independent regional judges, including previous winners of the award, leading CEOs and private capital investors and other regional business leaders. Entrepreneurs eligible for consideration include not only company founders, but also leaders of multi-generation family businesses and transformational public and private company CEOs. The nominee’s company must be at least two years old. Entrepreneurs may self-nominate or they can be nominated by their peers or other business leaders. There is no fee to apply.
Total Merchant Services recently expanded its free equipment program to encompass the company’s entire family of products, including readers, terminals and new point of sale (POS) systems. Through the new program, businesses of any type or stage of development can receive free, cutting-edge payment processing equipment appropriate for their needs.
If you open a new payment processing account with Total Merchant Services or switch from another provider, the company will provide free use of processing equipment—from mobile credit card readers to complete point of sale (POS) solution bundles including software, tablet, cash drawer, receipt printer, stand and EMV/NFC payment device.
Total Merchant Services is expanding its free equipment program to assist with the EMV and NFC adoptions. In addition, it wants to ensure growing businesses can further benefit from technologies available via its new Groovv POS solutions, including inventory management, business intelligence reporting, and back office management tools.
There are two options for merchants seeking a POS system:
- Groovv POS All-In-One has most components built into one countertop device, which is ideal for merchants with elegant checkouts such as boutiques, salons, shops and restaurants.
- Groovv POS Flex is a mobile system with detachable components – ideal for merchants who want to design their own setup, restaurants with at-table ordering and stores with mobile checkouts or limited counter space.
Addressy, a new address verification platform, optimizes and streamlines the checkout process for online retailers and their customers by auto-populating address information, narrowing results with each keystroke, and verifying accurate address data for over 240 countries worldwide.
The company says their system will “eliminate key frustrations associated with the checkout process, including lengthy address forms and complications with deliveries.” In 2015, 6.4 billion USPS mail items were undeliverable as originally addressed. Addressy combats this by ensuring addresses are entered correctly at checkout by catching typos, filling in commonly forgotten details, and recognizing abbreviations. Addressy’s search-based technology also cuts down the number of keystrokes made during the checkout process by 73% through suggesting addresses with each character entered.
Addressy also seamlessly integrates with popular e-commerce platforms such as Magento and WooCommerce, making it simple to use and easy to install for big and small businesses