13 ThingsEntrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky


1—The Impact of Your Credit Score

As we leave April and Financial Literacy Month behind, here’s a good reminder from Experian about your FICO score, what factors impact your credit score and how you can improve yours. Though this is about your personal score (which can impact your business), here’s some information about your building your business credit score as well.


2—Politically Speaking

Some days it seems the very last thing you want to do is talk politics, but there’s no question it has an impact on our businesses. Infusionsoft recently conducted a survey of small business owners to find out their views on the government. Some highlights of the survey include:

  • Small businesses see bright days ahead: 92% believe the next four years will be better for business. But, they’re unclear how the new administrationwill impact their businesses.
  • 81% of small businesses claim, despite the ever-present debate, a rise in the minimum wage has no impact on their businesses.
  • Most believe Federal policies unfairly favor big businesses over small businesses.
  • Small businesses are split in their opinions of the following policies:
    • Affordable Care Act: 42%: negative impact; 46%: no impact
    • Tax rates & Laws: 49%: negative impact; 44%: no impact
    • Federal & State Regulations: 39%: negative impact; 56% no impact

Check out the infographic below for more information.


3—Get Help from Goldman Sachs

Due to increased interest the deadline to apply for the National blended program of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has been extended to May 12th. The National blended program is designed for business owners who live more than 2 hours from one of the 13 local programs.

When applying candidates should select “Other Region/ National Cohort”. The application can be found here. If you want more information, they’ll be hosting a series of information sessions starting April 26th. You can register for one of the webinars here.

More information about the local programs can be found here. [My take: I just spoke at one of the regional programs here in southern California. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a great program where you’re sure to learn a lot. I highly recommend you apply.]


4—A Cow “Explains” Business Models

Trying to decide on a business model? It can be dizzying to do so. Check out the infographic below from The Business Backer and Neomam Studios to help you grasp the various business models.


5—Enter the Pitch Off

The UPS Store recently launched its first-ever national Pitch Off contest where startups and small business owners can compete for a chance to win $10,000. The Pitch Off is part of the company’s Small Biz Salute, a month-long initiative celebrating small business owners for their hard work, innovation and dedication to their business and local communities.

Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, explains, “The Pitch Off gives entrepreneurs a platform to tell us what makes their businesses unique. It could be a brand new product, existing thriving business or even just a great concept. The next big idea is out there and we want to help get it off the ground.”

The UPS Store® Pitch Off competition is open for submissions. Here’s how it works.

Start. Small business owners and entrepreneurs at any stage in their business ventures can visit www.theupsstorepitchoff.com to begin the submission process. Pitch off submissions opened April 18 and close 11:59pm ET Saturday, May 20.

Pitch + submit. Capture a 90-seconds (or less) pitch video describing the business or business idea and why it is unique. Be creative. Enter background information and submit the pitch video through the website.

Share. Entrants will be able to socially share their entries and encourage family and friends to vote for their favorite video in an online gallery. The voting period opens 9 am ET Monday, May 22 and closes 11:59pm ET Wednesday, May 31.

Win. Based on criteria judged by a panel of experts and online votes, the final winner will be selected. The grand prize Pitch Off winner will receive $10,000. There will also be cash prizes rewarded to the best pitch videos in a variety of categories. The grand prize winner and category awardees will be announced on June 6.

In addition to the national competition, The UPS Store is hosting Small Biz Salute events in Portland, Kansas City and Denver. Each event will give attendees the chance to compete in a local, live version of the Pitch Off competition. Local contestants will have three minutes to pitch their business to a live audience and panel of judges at the event. The best pitch in each city will win $5,000.

For more information about Small Biz Salute, how to enter The UPS Store Pitch Off and full contest rules go here.


6—5 Clichés and “Don’t Says” to Avoid Like the (Well, You Know)

Guest post by Richard Moran, venture capitalist, speaker, president of Menlo College in Atherton, California, and the author of The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters.

Look up “business buzzwords” or “business clichés” and you’ll find article after article about these irritating, overused phrases. In fact, new ones come out each year documenting the latest crop that’s flourishing in workplaces across America. In a world drowning in buzzwords, tweets, and hashtags, spouting mindless clichés in the workplace may seem harmless. But using too many professional platitudes could be more problematic than you think.

Not only can business clichés be annoying to others who hear them day in and day out, they are the language of laziness. When you use them, you effectively fail to focus your thoughts and really identify what you’re trying to communicate and accomplish.

Language that is “mindless” isn’t also “harmless.” The risks of vague language aren’t just practical detail mix-ups between coworkers. Many of these phrases are actually actively promoting terrible morale that shoves projects and careers into stagnation. By abusing clichés, you might be projecting an apathetic and lazy attitude without even realizing it.

If you’re too lazy to come up with a way to say something other than resorting to a trite buzzword, isn’t that a sign that you’ll be lazy in other areas at work as well? Whether it’s true or not, that’s the message you’re broadcasting.

Here are some tips [from my book] for what not to say in your day-to-day.

  1. “It is what it is” is the sound of defeat.The subtext of “it is what it is” is: “I give up.” That negativity enforces the kind of thinking that kills projects. It makes you a Debbie Downer in business clothing. You might as well say, “Life sucks and work is even worse.” This attitude gets old very fast.
  2. If the “low-hanging fruit” evendoes exist, going after it is just bad strategy. The analogy of going after what requires less effort normalizes what is too easy and simply not existent. Even if it does, the fruit on the top of the tree is ripest, and that’s where the greatest returns for your effort will be.
  3. The only thing that happens at the “end of the day” is, well, the end of the day.Referencing the elusive “end of the day” is common in politics, academics, and especially business. It’s so ubiquitous that it seems to imply that it’s news that each day ends. The truth is that, given technology and workdays that never end, the end of the day is a myth.

These next two aren’t exactly clichés but they’re still all-too-common phrases you should probably avoid. Perhaps you can call them the “Don’t Says”.

  1. Ditch the R-word and the B-word.Though they’re not the hot-button words you’re likely thinking of, Really? and but often exude snark, bad attitude, or are just plain irritating. It’s certainly not true in every spoken instance of these little words, but when your go-to response is “Really?” when a coworker asks for help or you’re constantly using “but” to excuse your own responsibility or knock down something (or someone) else—well, it’s really 
  2. “I don’t know; what do you want to do?” is a known verbal con-job.The “Abilene Paradox” is a group dynamics phenomenon. When nobody knows what exactly they want to do, it’s likely the group will settle on a decision nobody in the group wanted at all. It’s best to stop these indecisive circles in their tracks with an assertive: “I don’t want to do that.”

Pay attention to what you’re saying at work and what it really means. If you’ve gotten in the habit of falling back on clichés or other forms of lazy language, you might be surprised by how much effort it takes to stop and really think about what you mean. But it’s absolutely worth making the effort.

And if you’re a leader, just listen to what employees say over and over. Be alert to the phrase du jour at work. It may tell you more about the people around you than you ever imagined.


7—Small Business Optimism

The latest Capital One Small Business Growth Index shows small business owners are feeling good about sales, the economy and future conditions, with women- and millennial-owned businesses reporting significant increases in sentiment and expectations for the future. The Index reveals 50% of small business owners overall feel current business conditions are good or excellent (up from 41% a year ago), and the same percentage expects to see conditions improve in the next six months—the highest level reported since spring 2012.

However, the survey also shows many businesses appear hesitant to invest in people, technology and marketing that may fuel business growth. Most have no plans to hire (67%), increase marketing (66%), or invest in new technologies such as mobile payments (62%) in the coming six to 12 months. [My take: It’s hard to grow if you don’t invest in your business. In fact, the Index shows 46% of SBOs who currently offer mobile payments say sales have increased over the past six months, compared to 35% who do not use mobile payments.]

Business owners are feeling good and expect conditions to continue improving in 2017

  • 50% of all SBOs report their financial positions are about the same as a year ago
  • 50% expect to be in a better position six months from now

Women and millennials are driving optimism

  • 47% of women expect to be in a better financial position six months from now
  • 73% of millennials are expecting better conditions (compared to Gen X at 53% and baby boomers at 49%).

Top factors impacting business

  • Taxes (50%)
  • Managing cash flow (32%)
  • Keeping up with technology (30%)
  • Minimum wage increases (22%)
  • Access to capital (16%)
  • Immigration reform (9%)


8—3 Ways to Make Time for Your Business Passions

Guest post by Christine Nessen, senior director of contract marketing for Office Depot.

Sales and product development are among the top business passions for small business owners, according to the Office Depot Small Business Index (SMBI). In fact, 54% of SMBs wish they had more time to focus on their passions, which isn’t surprising considering nearly half spend 10-20 hours per week on administrative tasks such as paperwork, planning and budgets. If you break that down, SMB owners spend one-quarter to half their time on admin tasks alone.

Here are some tips from the SMBI that will give you more time to cultivate your business passions.

  1. Invest in quality administrative technology.62% of small business owners say having better technology to assist with admin tasks would allow them to spend more time on their passions.
  2. Hire administrative staff.More than half of small business owners say having more full- or part-time admin staff would assist with day-to-day operations.
  3. Create a schedule.49% of small business owners say they’re not able to focus on their passions due to lack of time. Developing and maintaining a schedule gives SMBs the opportunity to find the time needed to grow and invest in their business.


9—Main Streets Road Trip

Starting today, Independent We Stand hits the road for the Great American Rocky Mountain Road Trip. It’s part of an online contest presented by STIHL Inc., promoting awareness of the importance of America’s Main Streets and the small businesses that help them thrive. The Independent We Stand team will visit five cities, in five states, in five days. If you’re in the vicinity, stop by and show your support.

  1. April 24, Denver, Colo.: Ace on the Fax & Intermountain STIHLLet’em Have it Salon,Old Western Paint Co.
  2. April 25, Casper, Wyo.: Mac Equipment,Alpine Motorsports
  3. April 26, Bozeman, Mont.:The Paint FactoryAmerican Independent Business AllianceKenyon Noble Lumber & HardwareOwenhouse CyclingDowntown Bozeman
  4. April 27, Idaho Falls, Idaho: Westmart Building Center,MarCellar’s Vintage Wine & BrewsIdaho Falls Downtown Development Corp., Idaho Mountain Trading Co.
  5. April 28, Salt Lake City, Utah: IPACO,Local First Utah

Then, from May 1-28, you can go online to MainStreetContest.com to vote for the 25 semifinalists. You can also rally support for your favorite nominee through social media. The winner will be announced June 5. On July 4th, there will be a “Main Streets Make Us Better” event held on the winning Main Street, to announce the $25,000 grand prize.


Quick Links

10—Is Real Life Going to Shatter Teen Dreams?

Where will our future workforce come from? The easy answer is Gen Z, currently the nation’s youngest generation, including most teens. However, if you look at the survey from C+R Research and regular contributor Matt Zajechowski of Digital Third Coast, teens don’t want “regular” jobs when they grow up. The only industries that generated any interest were healthcare (doctors, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, etc.) and the arts/sports/media (artists, entertainers, athletes, media & communications, etc.).

Take a look at the chart—it’s truly fascinating.


11—DIY Web Builder Insights

Check out this article from Clutch about the challenges and goals of those who use DIY web builders.


Cool Tools

12—New Speakerphone, Perfect for Conferences

Business leaders work on average nearly 58 hours a week, of which they spend nearly 2.5 hours every day in meetings. Many also travel frequently—with 86% spending up to 10 days a month on the road.

To help these folks communicate while on the go, Jabra recently unveiled its Speak 710, a new conference sound & call solution, taking the “conference speakerphone” to a new level with immersive call and sound experience. The premium, portable speakerphone is designed for professional and personal use and ensures great sound for conference calls and music. Jabra call the Speak 710 “a high-end personal device providing premium Hi-Fi grade audio and a superior Unified Communication experience.”

Key Features:

  • An Omni-directional microphone for up to six ‘in room’ attendees; 2 Speak 710s can be wirelessly linked for conferencing with 12 ‘in room’ attendees
  • A Hi-Fi grade speaker for crystal clear conversation and music
  • Smart interaction with Personal Digital Assistants, including Cortana, Siri or Google Now with the one touch Smart button
  • Compatibility with all leading UC platforms: certified for Avaya, Cisco and Skype for Business and more
  • Up to 15 hours of talk time and 480 days of standby time

Jabra says research shows a third of conference calls are delayed due to setup issues with connections and speaker phones, 15% of meeting time is spent ‘getting started’, and one of the most common frustrations is poor sound quality. Bringing a plug-and-play, easy-to-use speakerphone experience with premium audio to offices and small conference rooms, the Jabra Speak 710 works with all types of smart devices. It integrates seamlessly with all Unified Communications platforms and eliminates the need for dial pad solutions—challenging the traditional hardware approach to conference calling.

With more power than ever before, the Jabra Speak 710 Series comes in a small, compact design, with an integrated folding stand for extra flexibility. Connect to a smart device or laptop in seconds via USB or Bluetooth via the enclosed dongle. This provides a 100-foot range for laptops or 33-foot range for smartphones.


13—Travel Expenses Under Control

TravelBank makes it easier for managers to approve expense reports. Its patent-pending technology enables you to set predictive budgets for trips and collaborative budgets for projects, such as events, company off-sites, office supplies, and more. There’s a budget bar you can scroll down and easily see which of your employees are under or over budget. The same budget bars make it easy for employees to see where they are tracking against their budgets during the trip.

TravelBank can reimburse employees in 24 hours after approval, so there’s no waiting for a reimbursement check, which your staff will be happy about. The app also gives employees rewards for beating their trip budget.

You can download it for free here for iOS and here for Android.