8 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
1) Escape from the Cubicle Jungle
These days, workplaces come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many companies are allowing empl0yees to work at home, which, while a great perk, isn’t an option for all businesses. But there’s a way you can provide a more comfortable working environment in the office, and not a cubicle jungle.
turnstone, a Steelcase company, just released a survey showing that working outside an office sometimes comes with a downside. While 64 percent of employees surveyed say they are most productive working at home, only 18 percent are productive in a coworking space and a mere 6 percent claim they’re productive in a coffee shop.
To help business owners create an inviting work environment, turnstone just launched an extension of its Campfire product line, which is designed to bring the elements of people’s favorite places into the office. Elements of the new line include a “Skate table” which is on wheels and comes with enough space for a laptop and notebook and a “Slim table” which also could be used as a bench or fully-powered media console.
Brian Shapland, the general manager of turnstone, says there are ways you can make your office the kind of destination employees want to come to every day. You should start, he says, “by making them feel at home.” Shapland shares his tips:
Make culture a priority. Foster vibrant culture by capitalizing on what makes your team unique and special. Allow workers to put their personalities on display with personal items, artwork or photos. Plan activities that bring people together, and be intentional about having fun. Consider playing music in the office and celebrating birthdays, company anniversaries and big wins as a group. Remember: Positive workplace relationships are the basis for trust and creative collaboration, which in turn, lays the foundation for growth and innovation.
Offer a palette of place and posture. Providing more than one place to accomplish work is key to making your team feel at home when they’re at work. Incorporating a palette of place and posture recognizes that tasks don’t necessarily have to reach completion while sitting at a desk. In fact, a recent turnstone survey indicates that 32 percent of 18-34 year olds prefer working in lounge postures (me too, actually).
Intentionally plan your space to include lounge areas, café spaces, quiet zones and places intended for privacy. Offering your people choice and control sends the message that you trust them to work in places that best support the task at hand.
Support wellbeing. It’s important to remember that wellbeing encompasses the cognitive, physical and emotional health of individuals. Improving workplace wellbeing won’t happen by accident—it starts by planning spaces that promote health for everyone.
turnstone’s Buoy is an active seat with a curved base that forces the user to balance, firing leg muscles and engaging the core. Incorporating walk stations and standing height tables are easy ways to help encourage movement throughout the day, too. The Campfire Footrest supports both standing height positions (as weight is shifted) and seated lounge postures, reducing pressure points and keeping workers comfortable.
2) Spring Clean Your Digital Marketing
While this winter made me appreciate the fact I moved to southern California many years ago, the rest of the country will be very happy to see the arrival of spring. But with the spring flowers comes spring-cleaning. Jeff Federman, the SVP of YP Digital region has six tips for spring cleaning your approach to digital marketing. Here’s Jeff’s advice:
Spring cleaning isn’t just a time to clean up your home. It’s also a good time to clean up your business, organizing not only your workspace, but also the business itself. That includes taking a fresh look at your approach to marketing—an area entrepreneurs consistently say is overwhelming and confusing.
With smaller budgets and staffs, small business owners don’t have a lot of flexibility to experiment with unproven digital marketing strategies, and there is very little room for mistakes. By keeping these six rules in mind, businesses owners can drive leads to their businesses and attract customers.
- Make your money work harder. If you have a fairly fixed budget every month, invest your dollars wisely. Both presence and performance products should be combined to target local consumers. Think of your online presence as your business card. Make sure your digital and mobile presences are current and cohesive. That means accurate phone numbers and addresses, and check that all social media links are active. When it comes to performance campaigns, consider dayparting your marketing dollars. Spend less on SEM bids during closed hours and days (weekends and holidays for example) so that you can spend more aggressively during open hours and days of operation.
- Keep content fresh. It’s no surprise that pictures and visuals capture attention and drive action on websites. But how often should you update that content? Quarterly, at minimum. When it comes to blogs, updates should be more frequent. If you have a blog, be sure to host it in a subfolder on your primary website domain, and not a link to a separate site, to keep your audience engaged in one place. It’s also best to keep any headlines or calls to action (such as offers, reservations, etc.) above the fold so they’re readily accessible.
- When selecting keywords, start small and targeted. When you’re first starting off in SEM, go smaller and more targeted. Bidding on your business name is a great place to begin. The best converting keywords usually tend to be brand or business name keywords, like “Auntie Marie’s Bakery” or “Fancy Nancy’s Pet Shop.” Generic keywords, like “attorney” or “lawyer,” will have tons of competition and higher click costs. So try category + geography keywords, like “attorney Beverly Hills” or “lawyer Santa Barbara”. These long tail keywords can help drive quality traffic to your site. Also, you can target your search campaigns to only be seen by customers you can serve.
- Consider misspells. Not everyone is a spelling bee champion! “Plumber” could easily be misspelled as “plummer”. And who knows how many different ways “veterinarian” and “chiropractor” can be misspelled. By bidding on misspells with a search marketing campaign, you can increase traffic to your site, while also adding some lower cost, lower competition keywords to your campaign.
- Use Ad Extensions. Spruce up your text ad by adding ad extensions, such as sitelinks, phone numbers and addresses. Sitelinks allow you to add deep links under your text ad that drive users to specified pages within your website. Some sitelink examples are promo pages, product pages and about us pages. With call and location extensions you can add your business phone number and address alongside your text ad. These extensions can be useful for local small businesses that might rely heavily on in-store foot traffic. Call tracking numbers will provide another tangible measure of value to the advertiser by tracking not just traffic clicks but real leads delivered.
- Remember your 3Rs (ratings, reviews and reputation. Reputation management and monitoring ratings and reviews across the web should be a routine for any business owner. Personalized responses from a business owner on these sites make a powerful statement. If someone is taking action to correct a situation or even apologizing for a less than positive experience, a customer would be more likely to overlook a business misstep.
3) Spring Clean Your Computer
Speaking of spring cleaning, your computers likely need some attention as well. Damian Giannunzio, the Director of iolo Labs offers his cleanup tips.
Clear out the CRUDD. Go through your applications folders. Chances are, there will be some programs listed you’ve barely even noticed before—some of them may have come pre-installed and others may have installed themselves without your knowledge. Regardless, if you don’t need them, you can delete them.
Update everything. Set aside some time to update all the software you’ve been putting off. Installing software updates will speed up your system and make sure your computer is protected against many of the latest security threats, which get patched regularly within programs but remain unpatched in older versions.
Benefits of backup. Back up your files onto an external hard drive or cloud storage service. Then go through your library and delete some of the stuff you don’t use very often anymore.
Get rid of fragmented data. Run a defragmenter to remove clutter from your hard drive. Like many of the processes on this list, you should do it more regularly than once a year.
How NOT to Clean Your Hardware
Be sure to unplug your computer before you start. Second, never spray liquid cleaners directly into your system. If you use any liquid to get rid of dust, pour it lightly onto a cloth first.
Fans and vents. When it comes to the hardware portion of a routine PC cleanup, your best friend is a can of compressed air, which will allow you to blast every fan and vent on the outside of the tower.
Tackling the interior. First, touch something metal for several seconds to ground yourself and prevent static electricity from damaging the sensitive inside components of your system. Next, remove any added video or audio cards and place them aside. Other components, like audio connectors and port extensions, can be taken out too. Be careful when using a vacuum—it’s effective for much of the built-up dust, but don’t get it near any PC components. Get out the brush and the compressed air you used for the exterior and very gently get to work on the motherboard and slots.
Piecing it back together. Before you seal the machine back up, carefully clean all the components you set aside with your brush. Then put them back where they belong, ensuring that you replaced everything in its rightful position and you didn’t leave any cleaning materials inside the case. Close it all up, but wait at least half an hour before plugging in your now-clean PC and booting it up again.
4) Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges
The just released annual LegalZoom/Kauffman survey, “Challenges Facing New Entrepreneurs in 2014,” reveals the challenges entrepreneurs faced last year with the intent to better understand what is impacting business creation. Among the key findings:
- 45 percent of new companies say lack of credit access is a business challenge, unchanged from 2013 and 2012.
- 49 percent of entrepreneurs have no business challenges, up from 37 percent in 2013.
- 46 percent are affected by unpredictable business conditions, down from 57 percent in 2013.
- Nearly 41 percent of startups are not impeded by state government policies.
While the news was positive, it doesn’t explain the overall declining entrepreneurial marketplace. John Suh, the CEO of LegalZoom says, “While we cannot identify a single issue driving lower entrepreneurship rates, entrepreneurs consistently self-identify the same obstacles.” Dane Stangler, vice president of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation adds, “Overall, the economic news generally is good. Yet, entrepreneurship rates remain on a 30-year-long decline. Lack of access to credit alone isn’t enough to explain why entrepreneurship is falling. But it seems to have some impact, and more study is needed to determine exactly what that impact is.”
5) Working Capital Solutions for Small Business Owners
Worldpay, a leading global provider of payments technology and services and CAN Capital, the market share leader in alternative small business finance, are working together to offer Worldpay merchants fast, efficient access to working capital so you can grow your businesses and preserve cash flow.
Through CAN Capital, pioneers of the Merchant Cash Advance (or MCA) and Daily Remittance Platform, Worldpay merchants gain access to flexible finance programs that are easy to manage. This allows merchants to increase inventory, purchase new equipment or even open new locations quickly and with cash-flow friendly terms.
CAN Capital Chief Marketing Officer James Mendelsohn says, “Through our advanced technology, funds can be sent to Worldpay merchants in as little as three business days.”
6) What Will You Do with You Tax Refund?
According to the latest Small Business Index conducted by Office Depot 57 percent of small business owners think the amount of federal income tax they will pay this year is fair and will enable them to continue investing in their businesses.
In other Index results 46 percent of SMBs report their businesses are currently doing well. And 36 percent are confident in the direction of the economy.
What will the SMBs be investing in?
- 32 percent: office supplies
- 25 percent: advertising and marketing
- 25 percent: technology and website development
- 23 percent: payrolls and salaries
7) Protect Your Credit Cards
Retail data breaches have affected millions of consumers, and the cost of credit-card and debit-card fraud rose to $11 billion in 2013, up $3 billion in only one year. A recent survey by Experian shows that 55 percent of consumers think monitoring financial transactions is challenging and 40 percent believe monitoring financial transactions is too time-consuming.
In fact, according to a new survey from Experian Data Breach Resolution, consumer concern about the security of their payment cards and financial information is high and affected holiday shopping behaviors. Consumers say they plan to be more vigilant this year by monitoring payment-card transactions.
To help protect consumers, Experian Data Breach Resolution is teaming up with BillGuard, a leading card fraud monitoring mobile application to give users on-the-go access to quickly and easily monitor their payment cards for fraudulent activity.
Now its active fraud surveillance and identity theft resolution product, ProtectMyID®, includes payment card fraud monitoring that can be checked on-the-go with the BillGuard app.
Members of Experian’s ProtectMyID can now download the BillGuard mobile app and access both their ProtectMyID alerts and BillGuard features within the BillGuard mobile app.
8) Startup Roadblocks
Many startups look for business partners to team up with. But is this a good idea? Maybe not, according to the recent 2014 Startup Acceleration Data Survey of startup entrepreneurs by Consero, a company that creates industry-specific events for senior-level executives. The survey reveals 58 percent of startup entrepreneurs say they’ve had conflicts with investors or partners that hindered their businesses. And 34 percent occasionally regret starting their businesses.
Other interesting findings include:
- 90 percent of those surveyed don’t think students should drop out of college in order to start businesses.
- 76 percent say startup funding is at least “moderately available” today
- 60 percent believe cloud technology is critical to their businesses
- 66 percent have at least one parent who is an entrepreneur
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva