By Rieva Lesonsky

1. Very Happy Holidays
In its quarterly Spark Business Barometer survey, Capital One reports small businesses are feeling good and expecting to have a great holiday. In general, women- and millennial-owned businesses are more optimistic about financial conditions and business prospects, as well as the economy.
Some survey highlights:
• 71 percent expect holiday sales to be equal to or better than 2013
• 57 percent of business owners say current business conditions are excellent or good
• 43 percent experienced increased sales over the past six months
• 49 percent are optimistic about the national economy in the coming year
• 62 percent feel positive about their local economies.

Top 4 priorities
• Attracting and retaining new customers
• Improving advertising and marketing (26 percent will spend more on online advertising & 28 percent will spend more)
• Reducing costs and expenses
• Improving cash and financial management processes.
Investing in people:
• 25+ percent will increase hiring
• 46 percent will give employees raises
• 33 percent will spend more on employee training

2. Party Time
It’s that time of year when holiday party planning is in full swing. But before you pop those bottles of champagne, Lisa Honey, the director of legal document services at Rocket Lawyer wants to remind you not to neglect the potential legal liabilities of hosting a company party. Her Do’s and Don’ts:
● Make Your List and Check it Twice: Make sure the appropriate documents for your catering company, venue, entertainment (photo booths, palm readers), etc., all are signed, sealed and delivered in advance of the event.
● Avoid Driving the Sleigh Drunk: If you are serving alcohol, encourage employees to take cabs or ride sharing services. A nice gift for employees would be Uber or Lyft vouchers at the end of the night, if available in your area.
● Get All Your Stockings in a Row. Often event spaces require you to release them from liability at a holiday party. If an unforeseen event occurs, such as someone slipping while dancing around the Christmas tree or accidentally setting the curtains on fire with their sparkler, you need liability insurance to cover it.
● Get a Gift from Uncle Sam. Expenses for your holiday party should be tax deductible, as long the party isn’t overly lavish or wholly unrelated to work activities.
● Be Wary of Overtime and Wage Laws: If you task any non-exempt employees with planning, preparing for and staffing the party, their hours are likely work hours for which they must be paid.
● Don’t Play Favorites With Santa: Don’t assume everyone celebrates the same holidays, so don’t go overboard with the “Merry Christmas” theme. Avoid any conduct that could be construed as favoring one religious group over another to avoid any discrimination claims. Refrain from calling your party a “Christmas Party” and stick with the neutral “Holiday Party” instead.

3. Getting Carded
According to the folks at ProgressiveEcards.com, more and more businesses are opting to send eco-friendly corporate holiday e-cards this season instead of traditional paper cards. A recent survey shows that two-thirds of people prefer to receive e-cards from businesses; 16 percent cite environmental reasons for this preference.

4. Happy New Year
It’s not just small business owners who are feeling hopeful about next year. The Hartford just released is first-ever The The Hartford’s 2014 Midsize Business Monitor, showing those businesses feel “confident and optimistic” as they look toward 2015.
Most (66 percent) midsize business owners are optimistic about the national economy getting stronger and plan to invest in:
• Technology (88 percent)
• Operations (87 percent)
• Additional staff (74 percent)
They’re also looking to expand by:
• Offering a new product or service (76 percent)
• Selling to new customer segments (70 percent)
• Targeting new geographies (61 percent)

5. Oh Brother!
Wouldn’t we all like to be more organized? Brother wants to help us do that by creating it’s first PC-connectable label maker with a full-color LCD display. Feature of the Brother PT-D600’s features include:
• Easy-type keyboard with display that allows editing in real time
• The ability to create high-resolution barcodes and labels with information stored in an Excel or Access database on your computer
• Print customized labels with up to 7 lines of text
• A library of ready-to-print business labels and pre-programmed with 14 fonts, 11 styles, 99 frames and over 600 symbols
• Customize pre-formatted label templates using fonts, symbols and graphics already stored on your computer
• Super-fast print speeds up to 30mm per second and an automatic tape cutter to help save time
• 2-year limited warranty and free phone support for the life of the product
• Estimated street price $99.99

6. How Black is Black Friday for Small Businesses?
Not very, according to new data released by Bank of America about the impact Black Friday and Cyber Monday have on small business owners. The findings, from the fall 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, show:
• 74 percent of small business owners say Black Friday has little to no impact on their bottom line, compared to 69 percent last year
• 41 percent who sell consumer products say Cyber Monday has a moderate to significant impact on their bottom line, up from 38 percent last year
• Overall, 73 percent expect to meet their year-end revenue goals

Perhaps due to that positive sign, 52 percent of small business owners plan to give holiday salary bonuses to their employees, and 49 percent plan to throw a company party.

7. How Good Is Your Marketing Automation Software?
A new Grid report for marketing automation software, released by business software review site G2 Crowd, ranks 20 products to help software buyers make the right selection.
Originally focused on email marketing automation, marketing automation refers to a broad range of automation and analytics tools and the report excludes products targeted toward one specific area of marketing, such as email or social marketing.
For small businesses Grid says these are the top programs for marketing automation:
• Leaders: HubSpot, Act-On, ONTRAPORT, Pardot
• High Performers: Net-Results, LeadSquared, OutMarket, Salesfusion

8. What’s Your Business Worth?
According to Valuations.com less than 2 percent of entrepreneurs think “it’s worthwhile to spend the time and money required to value their businesses.” Valuations is offering a free assessment of your business’ value—and they say it will take less than a minute to find out.

9. You Gotta Have Friends
Employees with friends are more committed to their companies and have more positive experiences at work says a new report from Globoforce.
According to the report American employees say their work friends have become central to their engagement, happiness, and the quality of their lives.
• 93 percent value the respect of work friends or colleagues
• 89 percent say t work relationships are important to their quality of life
• 64 percent of employees with between 6-25 co-worker friends love their companies
• 48 percent of employees with between 6-25 friends are highly engage.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+   and Twitter.com/Rieva