15 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know


By Rieva Lesonsky

1—Oldest Small Businesses in America

Today kicks off National Entrepreneurship Week and as we celebrate (and learn), it’s a good time to also salute America’s oldest small businesses. Check out this infographic from Ally Kearn at Digital Third Coast and Busy Beaver Button Co.



2—Email Obsession

It would not be an exaggeration to say Americans are obsessed with our email. Reachmail and Matt Zajechowski, from Digital Third Coast, report on their survey which shows:

  • 71% of Americans first check work email between 5AM-9AM.
  • 70% check their work email after 6PM.
  • 46% send fewer than 10 emails a day. (This shocks me—I feel like I send 10 a minute some days.) The Northeast tops all regions averaging 22 emails per day.
  • 58% of Americans say they typically respond to an email within 1 hour. Only 5% of Americans take more than 24 hours to respond.
  • Over half of Americans have fewer than 10 unread emails in their inbox. Only 13% of Americans have 100+ unread emails.

There’s more to learn in the infographic below.



3—Digital Transformation Pays Off for SMBs

Increased sales, decreased costs, ease of information access and improved customer service and worker productivity are just some of the benefits 80% of SMBs worldwide are seeing from undergoing a digital transformation—according to a global study from IDC and SAP SE. However, not all businesses are onboard—less than 7% of SMBs have “gone beyond integration to derive real-time insights that drive optimization in processes and workflows to yield business results.”

Barry Padgett, president of the SMB team at SAP says, “Digital transformation could quickly become a cost of doing business for SMBs that want to maximize growth and profitability. This study shows that smaller companies are being proactive and strategic in how they invest in digital technologies. These investments, many of which have minimal requirements in terms of capital investments and IT staff, enable unprecedented opportunities for scale and efficiency by providing access to capabilities that were once out of reach for smaller companies.”

The survey revealed:

  • SMBs are taking a “practical and tactical” approach to digital transformation. Almost 44% are investing in technology to make an immediate difference in supporting current processes.
  • 2% of small businesses believe their active participation in the digital economy will be essential to their company’s survival in the next three to five years, compared to 46.5% of midsize businesses.
  • The use of the cloud for implementation has made digital transformation simpler for smaller companies, with 40% saying the rollout of their first solution was either easier than expected, or took no extra effort.
  • Use of collaborative software, customer relationship management (CRM) and e-commerce applications is widespread among SMBs. These applications often serve as the first points of entry to digital transformation. And 33% of smaller firms prefer these applications be delivered through the cloud.
  • 73% of companies that have adopted digital applications say their expectations regarding technology investments were met or exceeded.

“SMBs globally are increasingly recognizing the benefits of digital transformation and continue to add advanced technology resources,” says Ray Boggs, vice president, small and medium business research, IDC. “But the challenge is in connecting different technology areas for maximum impact. Firms that do that tend to grow faster and be more successful in an increasingly competitive environment.”

The good news is 34% of respondents have dedicated additional budget, staff and resources to digital transformation.

SAP_IDC_infographic_SMB_DX_102016 (1)


4—5 Tips to Build a Great Company Culture with Your Remote Workforce

Guest post by Bryan Miles, CEO, BELAY

  1. Make time for face-time. Even at a 100% virtual company, it’s important to meet employees face-to-face—in a virtual sense. Telepresence technology makes it possible to conduct interviews and have meetings using a video feed so that participants can put a face with a voice and name and connect on a deeper level. Gaining buy-in to the company culture depends in part on developing and maintaining rapport, and face-time is an important element of that process.
  2. Look for people who play well with others. Whether virtual or onsite, team members who have each other’s backs are a vital component of a cohesive culture. When adding to the team, look for people who are humble, yet driven. Ask about their failures, and note if they accept responsibility or blame others. Ask about successes, and observe whether they take all the credit or praise colleagues for helping them get the job done. Collaboration is important in a virtual setting, so hire team players.
  3. Make sure job candidates are hard workers. Virtual workforces can be even more productive than closely supervised onsite workers. But it’s important to make sure anyone you hire has a great work ethic and the discipline to focus on their jobs without supervision. Creating a great company culture depends on choosing hard workers, so during interviews, ask candidates about their experience, and note whether they took an active role in handling challenges. Make sure they are self-directed.
  4. Find out what motivates employees. A passion for serving customers is central to any great company culture. To build a team that takes this to heart, find out what motivates employees. Ask them what they’re passionate about, and listen closely to what they say, paying particular attention to facial expressions (this is where video is essential). Gauge their enthusiasm, and determine if the things that make employees excited match up with your company’s objectives.
  5. Insist on professionalism. Working remotely is no excuse for sloppy habits. To build a productive and professional workforce, assess candidates’ punctuality. Make sure they’re dressed appropriately for meetings (again, video is important here) and that the workspace seen in the frame captured on video is professional. Employees who are prepared and display good organization and communications skills will contribute to a great workplace culture, whether remote or onsite.


5—Should You Invest in Marketing Automation?

Yes, you should, says Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD. Gray believes, “Marketing automation is an investment that goes well beyond the technology. Companies that haven’t curated a best in class tech stack probably don’t have a team in place that can handle or interpret the mountain of data that comes with it, which is why it’s imperative to surround any new software with expertise.”

Gray continues, “Creating your ideal team depends on what your business objectives are. If you implement this software today, where are your most glaring deficiencies? Identifying the key roles within your new automated hierarchy will show you who among your current staff can seamlessly fit in, and where you’ll need to turn to round out your automation dream team.”

To learn more, check out the infographic below.

marketing automation


6—The Art of Hiring

Guest post by Kyle Zagrodzky, president of OsteoStrong

Hiring is one of the most crucial decisions you will make as an entrepreneur. Staffing choices are some of the hardest in any business, but because every person counts in an entrepreneurial venture, the people you choose to grow your business are even more vital. As your business expands, the list of things you need to delegate grows along with it, which means putting more trust in more people. With so much on the line, how do you choose the perfect people for those roles?

Hiring is far more art than science. You could easily ask five great businesspeople about the best way to hire talent and get five different answers. Even hiring mammoth Google, who once tried to identify the smartest candidates with bizarre interview brainteasers, later admitted their unusual questions weren’t reliable predictors of who would ultimately become a good employee.

How do you sort out the smartest from the friendliest, the most skilled from those with the most potential, and the team players from those who are just out for themselves? How do you make big decisions about who to trust within a miniscule interview period?

The answer is simple: Always go with your gut.

What do your instincts say? Someone may flaunt perfect test scores, flawless GPAs from Ivy League schools, and an ideal number of years in the right jobs, but… For some reason you can’t quite put your finger on, you just don’t like them. If that’s the case, don’t hire them! No matter how great someone seems on paper, it’s always better to hire the person you have a “good feeling” about. Think about a time when an employee didn’t work out, then go back over the initial interviews. Were there red flags or subtle signs that you ignored? When an employee doesn’t go the distance, there were usually overlooked warning signs early on. Our culture often values visible facts over instinct, but gut feelings are one of your best hiring tools. They’re the subconscious compasses that point out good and bad traits in people that are harder to quantify on paper, traits like creative and confident versus uninspired and cocky. Above all, listen to your gut.

Get the team involved. As an entrepreneur, you may be the supreme ruler of your business, but the person you hire likely won’t work with you exclusively. Even though the hiring manager makes the decision about who to bring on board, it’s wise to involve the team the candidate will actually work with in the interview and evaluation process. You might get lucky working on your own every time, but it’s better to involve people you trust in the choice of who joins the work family. For this process to work, you also need to make sure employees are comfortable providing candid feedback and sharing concerns and upsides. You need to listen carefully.

Diversify your interview question base. When someone is asked to describe their personality in an interview, they’re often trying to tell you what they think you want to hear. Instead, tune your questions to get answers that will show who someone really is. As they speak, do you get a sense they are competitive, driven, soft spoken, or intuitive? To get a better sense of the person, make your questions more creative and approachable. For example, what would their best friend tell you about them if they were here? What was their last Facebook post about? What do they do to blow off steam when they’re stressed, and what do they do for fun?

Hire specific personalities for specific job categories. Everyone is blessed with a certain set of skills and personality traits, and your job is to figure out who fits into which role best. Managers need to be on top of the numbers, but they also have to be fair, accountable, encouraging, and realistic. A good manager will be positive and want to coach employees and bring out the best in them. They need awareness, empathy, and the ability to know which employee will perform which task the best. “Front people” are the born extroverts who are energized by time with people and don’t mind being assertive; they’re the ones you want greeting people on the phone, attending trade shows, and selling. Visionaries are the sensitive, creative problem solvers who assess the present accurately and see past the moment into the future.

Take the interview outside the office. This rule applies to every role, but especially to jobs that include sales and public-facing responsibilities. Take your top candidates out to lunch, ideally with the group they will work with closely, and let everyone get a sense of them in an informal setting. How are their table manners? Are they comfortable making conversation with a group they don’t know well? How do they treat the waiter and other people who aren’t directly related to the interview? A casual lunch is an optimal environment to just relax with a candidate and let those inner instincts go to work.


7—The State of the Tech Job Market

Tech trends are constantly shifting. To keep up, IT hiring managers and entrepreneurs need to understand current trends. According to a recent survey from Modis:

  • Most tech workers are more concerned with total compensation than company stability
  • The most prized benefit is flex hours
  • Soft skills present the biggest hiring challenge
  • Age is the biggest challenge to diversity
  • AI/Artificial Intelligence will likely have the biggest tech impact in coming years

The next tech “hot” spot is predicted to be Chicago.

Learn about these stats and more by reading infographic below. For questions about hiring your own tech talent, get Modis’ 2017 Salary Guide.

state of tech


8—The Easy and Fun Way to Buy Stocks

Avi Lele was looking for an easy and affordable way to gift stock to his kids, nieces and nephews a few holiday seasons ago. When he couldn’t find one, he cofounded Stockpile, which offers the world’s first gift cards for stock, making it easier than ever for the average consumer to invest in the stock market.

The gift cards are available at 14,000 grocery and retail locations across the country, including Kroger, Target, Safeway/Albertsons, Wegman’s, Giant Eagle, SuperValu, Hy-Vee, Save Mart, OfficeMax, Office Depot, Kmart, Buehlers and Supervalu. This new concept makes buying stock as easy as purchasing any other consumer good.

Lele, the company CEO says, “Most people have never had an opportunity to own stock in their favorite companies because it’s too expensive and complicated to get started. You can’t do anything with $25 at a traditional brokerage. Stockpile removes those barriers by using fractional shares and bringing the stock market to you. You can walk into the supermarket and buy a gift card for, say, $25 of Apple stock right off the rack.”

With a thousand different stocks, ETFs, and ADRs to choose from, investors can buy or give the exact dollar amount they want. Stockpile allows customers to give via physical gift card or e-gifts, allows users to redeem rewards points for stock, or turn existing gift cards into stock.

Once a stock is purchased or redeemed via gift card, the stockholder receives a fractional share of the stock in a real brokerage account that will go up and down with the market. Stockholders can hold on to the stock and track its progress, buy more of the stock or other stocks, or cash out of the stock by selling it whenever they want.

How Stockpile is revolutionizing access to the stock market:

  • Buy any dollar amount of stock for yourself, or give any amount up to $1000 as a gift.
  • Get fractional shares of real stock. If you redeem a $50 gift card and Disney is trading at $100 a share, you get half a share.
  • Purchase in 2 minutes. Use a credit or debit card to purchase Stockpile gift cards at Stockpile.com or download the iPhone app.
  • Kids and teens can own stock with an adult on the account with them.
  • Free switching. Gift card recipients can redeem their Stockpile gift card for the stock on the card, a different stock, or even a merchant gift card.


9—Digital Lending Platform

The American Bankers Association, through its subsidiary the Corporation for American Banking, recently endorsed the digital lending solution provided by Akouba, which provides community and regional banks with an origination and underwriting platform for small business loans. ABA members will receive preferred pricing.

Akouba is transforming the way banks help business owners through a cloud-based, white-labeled technology that provides business lending quickly, accurately and profitably. Akouba’s business lending platform provides banks with leading edge technology that integrates the bank’s own unique credit policies into a convenient, online process—from application to documentation— all the way to closing and funding. The bank uses its own credit policies, originates its own loans and owns the entire brand and customer relationship.

To learn more about Akouba’s digital lending solution, ABA will offer a free webinar on Wednesday, March 8 at 2:00 p.m. EST.  For more information on this and other endorsed solutions, go here.


10—Are You Losing Baby Boomer Shoppers?

A study from ICLP, a global loyalty marketing agency and SSI reveals that despite the affluence of Baby Boomers (age 55+ in this study), as many as 93% aren’t fully loyal to their favorite brands because they feel overlooked and not adequately rewarded. As a result, companies are losing out on a major financial opportunity with this generation and increasing the chances these customers will stray to competitors. The study shows if you want to create valuable, enduring relationships with Boomers, it is imperative retailers target online and mobile marketing efforts towards them and create tailored loyalty strategies that fit with this generation’s needs and expectations.

The poll surveyed Millennials to Baby Boomers, to examine the psychological parallels between human and brand relationships. The poll compared consumers’ experiences with friends and romantic partners to those they have with brand relationships, looking at seven core relationship criteria, including: recognition, rewards, reciprocity, reliability, respect, trust and communication. They partnered with Professor Ron Rogge, a global authority on relationship dynamics from the University of Rochester focused on three key components of a relationship; intimacy (willingness to share information with a retailer), passion (brand enthusiasm) and commitment (loyalty). The study found at their most loyal, consumers fall into the devoted group and are enthusiastic, passionate and committed to a retailer, as well as the least likely to stray to competitors.

Why Baby Boomers aren’t devoted customers and the consequences of this 

Cyber Monday hit a record $3B in sales last year marking a 16 % jump from the previous year and highlighting the increasing importance that consumers of all ages are placing on the online and mobile shopping experience. Beyond Cyber Monday, most retailers focus their year-round online and mobile marketing efforts on Millennials by appealing to their frugal, post-financial crisis mind-set and multi-device-connected lifestyle. However, brands are missing out on the Baby Boomers—as 84% have a smartphone they use for shopping and 79% are willing to indulge on purchases for their family. This age group controls 70% of the U.S.’s disposable income.

The research shows 93% of Boomers are not devoted to the brands they engage with the most—they don’t feel a high level of passion, commitment or intimacy towards them, and are more likely to “cheat” with a competitor. They aren’t devoted because they tend to feel undervalued and unrecognized by these brands—88% don’t expect brands to spend the time to get to know them and understand what they want, and 71% say their customer loyalty is not adequately rewarded.

This is problematic because devotion is an extremely powerful business driver. Nearly all consumers who are devoted to their favorite retailers recommend the brand to others. However, only one-third of Boomers would regularly recommend their top brands to others, demonstrating their overall lack of enthusiasm and commitment.

What retailers can do to increase customer devotion among Baby Boomers

According to the findings, the following best practices are key to driving customer loyalty among Baby Boomers and therefore, moving the needle towards that ideal devoted relationship:

  • Increase customized recognition: Just 12% of Boomers expect businesses will spend the time to get to know them and understand what they want. Additionally, less than 40% of Boomers who consider themselves “regular customers” feel appreciated by those brands. By brands tailoring efforts towards understanding what Boomers want from the shopping experience, they’ll feel more valued and become more loyal customers.
  • Recommend more relevantly: As many as 80% of Boomers don’t expect brands to make relevant recommendations for products and services that personally interest them. It’s imperative that brands make recommendations based on individual purchase patterns.
  • Be reliable and responsive: Over 60% of Boomers want brands to acknowledge when things go wrong, apologize quickly and fix the problem quickly.
  • Treat them like an individual:Less than 40% of Boomers expect brands to make them feel valued, rather than just like any other customer. Again, individualizing is key for this generation. For Boomers, tailoring communications, recommendations and recognition according to their personal relationship with the brand will make them feel special and in turn, increase their loyalty.
  • Provide more personalized rewards: 77% of Boomers are not rewarded with offers that are specifically tailored to them. While rewards are typically more important for Millennials and Generation X, all generations are more likely to purchase if they’re rewarded better.
  • Send relevant and valuable communications: 75% don’t expect brands to send them information and content that’s tailored to their requirements and interests, with nearly the same amount claiming that brands don’t keep them up-to-date with the latest trends. Find the right balance between contacting frequently (and relevantly) but not bombarding. Use Big Data insights to understand the ways that individual customers prefer to be contacted.

“Brands typically target their mobile and online marketing efforts at Millennials, regardless of what type of brand relationship they are in, because they are the largest and most tech-savvy generation. However, by doing so, they risk overlooking Baby Boomers, who are also highly influential and often more affluent shoppers,” says Phil Seward, Regional Director, Americas at ICLP. “However, Boomers are also shifting more of their shopping online, and they’re using many of those same rewards apps.” Our research highlights that Boomers feel undervalued and overlooked, so it’s important.


Read This!

11—E-Commerce Marketing Solutions

Need help boosting your e-commerce sales? SmartMail just published a guide for e-Commerce marketing in 2017 featuring 15 marketing solutions from experts. You can check the guide out here.


12—Improve Your SEO

In a recent poll, Manta found small business owners lack the baseline knowledge needed to successfully integrate search engine marketing (SEM) into their marketing plans. To bridge this gap, it released a whitepaper, focusing on SEM success.

The white paper, “A Small Business Guide to Maximizing Paid Search Results – Part 1,” offers tips for small business owners looking to capitalize on non-traditional marketing tactics like SEO and PPC and a few surprising stats about SBOs current digital marketing strategies.


Quick Links

13—Secure Your Routers

Has your router turned into a zombie? It could have—due to a botnet responsible for the DDoS attacks that have been taking down company websites.

Trend Micro has lots more information. Check it out here and here.


14—Family Business

PwC recently released the results of its U.S. Family Business Survey, a biennial survey incorporating the views of over 160 U.S. family firm owners, executives and stakeholders, with data and commentary on succession planning, talent retention, innovation and keeping up with changing technology.

Some results:

  • Passing a sticky baton: Just 23% of family firms have a robust succession plan in place, with 46% saying they are reluctant to pass the baton to the next generation.
  • Gender equality: Only a distressingly low 10% of survey respondents were women, and just 64% of family firms say that females and males in the next generation will be considered equally for leadership positions.
  • Gap between goals and priorities: 21% of family firms rank “being more innovative” as a very important business goal, yet 67% of firms prioritize “ensuring the long-term future of the business,” showing a gap in immediate and long-term visions for success.

Check out the whole report here.


Cool Tools

15—Upgrade Your Equipment

If you’re in the market for a laptop or printer, you might want to check out these offerings from HP.

Printing is vital to any business operation—from presentations to important forms and documents, having a printer that delivers can make or break efficiency. If you’re looking for a printer that delivers speed, quality and mobility, check out the HP OfficeJet Pro 8720, which offers lightning fast, high-quality printing for up to half the cost of lasers, and integrates the latest in wireless technology so you can print in the office or on-the-go.

I own an EliteBook and love it. So, you might want to check out the completely convertible HP EliteBook x360, which can tackle any task you give it. The screen can rotate 360°, it transforms into multiple devices—including a notepad and presenter mode. In addition, it delivers powerful security and collaboration tools in a frame that is easy to carry and designed to impress

There’s a lot more to check out from HP. You can see its latest lineup in its LookBook.