10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know


By Rieva Lesonsky

Editor’s Note: April is National Volunteer month. If you have time, sign up to help a cause you believe in. If you have business expertise, consider becoming a SCORE volunteer. You will not regret it.


1—Is Your Office Hazardous to Your Health?

Increasing employee productivity is one of the most difficult tasks as an employer. The more committed your employees, the better work they provide and the more profitable your business. However, it’s highly likely that your office is not reaching its full potential. In fact, Inc.com says that in an average 8.8 hour work day the average person is only productive for roughly 3 hours.

When they are not working, office employees are spending time reading news websites, checking social media, conversing with other employees, looking for new jobs, and texting among other things. This lack of productivity can hurt your bottom line and decrease employee satisfaction. It’s important to understand some of the common issues with office productivity and how to overcome them.

A sedentary office environment doesn’t just decrease productivity, it can also be hazardous to your employees’ health. Exercising can boost productivity by 15% says the American Psychological Association. Encourage your employees to exercise before work or provide breaks during the day so they can take walks, stretch, or engage in physical activities. This will improve office productivity, while also promoting a healthier work environment.

Poor indoor air quality and temperatures can also lead to decreased office productivity. It’s estimated that poor ventilation can reduce employee performance by 6-9%. In addition to better ventilation, keeping the office temperature between 65-70F can also improve productivity. Studies have shown that overly cold office temperatures can decrease productivity and lead to depression.

For more information on the dangers hiding in the office and how to defeat them, check out the infographic below from Quill.com.


2—Help for Project Managers

It seems logical that project managers who work at small and midsize businesses are most likely to buy and use project management software. So why did research reveal more than half of surveyed IT professionals were actively looking to replace their project management software? To answer this question, GetApp conducted some research. Here’s their view:

“Project management is more valuable than ever. This is due in part to the fact that more businesses are adopting project management techniques. But this also means that today’s project managers wear even more hats than in the past. They’re still expected to deliver projects on time and under budget. On top of this baseline, they’re also expected to deliver projects at a much faster pace and make more contributions to high-level strategy.

Today’s project management software solutions don’t often support this new workflow. GetApp’s research found 56% of project managers use software daily, and two in three use Microsoft Project. But this same report also found that two in three project managers are at least somewhat likely to switch software this year.

Project managers can make smart choices if they shop for software that integrates with project teams’ essential cloud-based tools; offers strong task management and collaboration features; can scale alongside evolving business needs; and provide APIs to link projects back to business strategy.”

Check out the infographic below for details.


3— Most Innovative States

WalletHub recently released its in-depth analysis of 2017’s Most & Least Innovative States. WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 18 key metrics. The data set ranges from share of STEM professionals to R&D spending per capita to average Internet speed.

Most Innovative States Least Innovative States
1 Washington, D.C. 42 Maine
2 Maryland 43 South Dakota
3 Massachusetts 44 Iowa
4 California 45 Tennessee
5 Colorado 46 North Dakota
6 Washington 47 Oklahoma
7 Virginia 48 Kentucky
8 Utah 49 Louisiana
9 Connecticut 50 Mississippi
10 New Hampshire 51 West Virginia

Key Stats

  • Washington, D.C. has the highest share ofSTEM professionals, 9.4%, 2.8 times higher than in Mississippi and Nevada, which have the lowest at 3.3% each.
  • Virginia has the highest share oftechnology companies, 7.52%, 3.9 times higher than in West Virginia, which has the lowest at 1.95%.
  • New Mexico has the highest research and development (R&D) intensity, 6.31%, 19.7 times higher than in Wyoming, which has the lowest at 0.32%.
  • C. also has the fastest average internet speed, 22.47 Mbps, 2.1 times faster than in Idaho, which has the slowest at 10.65 Mbps.
  • C. has the highest share of public high-school students who completed advanced-placement (AP) exams, 60.2%, 4.4 times higher than in North Dakota, which has the lowest at 13.8%.

You can see the full report here.


4—5 Ways to Avoid Employee Burnout

Guest post by Kristen Appleman, vice president of Health and Wealth for ADP TotalSource®

The pace of work and life has sped up. We all feel it. But for business owners and their employees, the impact of today’s frantic pace may be more keenly felt as they tackle the day-to-day struggle to keep all the entrepreneurial cogs well-oiled and spinning. It can be exhausting and may lead to that oft-cited byproduct of the overworked—burnout.

We see more and more written about burnout lately, especially in the past 10 to 15 years as technology has enabled us to be more available. On one hand, that immediacy can help prevent and resolve a customer service issue more quickly. It can keep us better connected and let us respond more efficiently. But our smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other digital devices also have created an expectation that we’re always on. Never off.

That “always on” mentality may be typical (and even necessary) for a small business owner and—by extension—his or her employees. But it’s important to try to infuse some balance into the work environment. Without it, the consequences can be potentially devastating.

In addition to the more commonly known telltale signs—apathy toward work, a lack of confidence, and impatience toward coworkers and customers—burnout has serious health risks, such as heart disease, and can disrupt creativity, problem solving, and even memory.

In fact, a recent article published by the Association for Psychological Science reports on the six key components of the workplace environment that contribute to burnout: Workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values. The article says, “burnout emerges when one or more of these six areas is chronically mismatched between an individual and his job…and when the balance of deadlines, demands, working hours, and other stressors outstrips rewards, recognition, and relaxation.”

To help address burnout—or possibly avoid it—here are five things a business owner may want to try to help build well-balanced work habits in themselves and, hopefully, their employees:

  1. Assess staffing. It’s understandably challenging to strike the perfect balance of staffing—especially in seasonal businesses. It may help to periodically reevaluate the employee roster to ensure there’s a balanced workload being spread among workers. If the workload seems out of kilter, additional staff may be needed. This type of assessment may help your employees get the time they need to address personal commitments while meeting the demands of their jobs.
  2. Model balanced behavior. Responding to emails at 2 AM may be the only available window some business owners have, but it may send employees the signal they’re expected to do the same. It may be a business owner’s personal work style to burn the midnight oil, but if employees begin to reply in kind, it might be worthwhile to discuss expectations and work habits.
  3. Encourage employees to take breaks. Some business owners literally have to schedule time on their calendars to eat lunch. That’s if they eat lunch at all!  But don’t let that practice become the workplace norm. Encourage your employees to take the breaks they’re given; to take a walk, get some fresh air, to leave the cash register, checkout counter, or their desks. Doing this may help employees feel as if they have more control over their time and reduce the stress that being “driven by the work” can impose on some workers.
  4. Support employees’ commitments to their passions. Being flexible enough to accommodate an employee’s obligations to his or her volunteer work, family gatherings, or creative outlets shows workers that taking time to give back to their communities, or spending time with their families, is considered an important facet of their lives. Acknowledging and supporting employees’ passions also can potentially strengthen their loyalty to a business that allows them the flexibility to pursue them.
  5. Provide access to health and wellness programs. Whether it’s child care or elder care; fitness, yoga or mental health programs, giving employees access to extra resources may help them better balance the demands of their lives. For some employees, just having a resource they can turn to for help may alleviate workplace stress or help them better manage life’s demands. Health and wellness programs can sometimes be the glue that helps an employee “keep it together” during challenging times.

Having a thriving business and committed employees is an entrepreneur’s dream. With a little forethought and awareness, business owners can cultivate a well-balanced workplace environment that values a measured, healthy approach to everyone’s contributions.


5—How a Rookie Can Be Your Next MVP

Guest post by Nick Hedges, CEO of Velocify

Have you ever wondered why there’s a certain group in Silicon Valley that has added CEO to their resumes before they’ve been to their first happy hour? It’s because great new ideas often involve a degree of inexperience and ignorance. Ignorance generally has a negative connotation, but in the business world it can be an exceptional advantage. As an entrepreneur, inexperience with the way things are done allows you to figure out the best way to do things moving forward. From ignorance often comes innovation.

When I was starting my entrepreneurial journey in the UK, having an open mind led me to make certain decisions that ended up being great for my company, but weren’t necessarily the conventional way of doing things. If I had more experience with the way things were done, I might not have made the same decisions. This phenomenon can be found across industries, but is especially true in sales. Sales leaders often think that more experience is preferable, but that isn’t automatically true. Greener reps often bring fresh ideas, and the healthiest organizations have a balance of both.

The problem with being a seasoned worker in the rapidly evolving technological world is we expect the things we’ve already learned to hold true—but that doesn’t always match reality. Why question something we already think we know? That’s where the beauty of inexperience comes in.

Liz Wiseman, an expert on business leadership, wrote a whole book on the topic, called Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. She writes, “When the world is changing quickly, experience can become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing, while inexperience can be a blessing, freeing us to improvise and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

Being inexperienced means being open to newer (and possibly more effective) ways of doing things. In sales, that might mean embracing technology to better access customer data or experimenting with social selling-tactics that a more seasoned sales professional might dismiss in favor of something more “tried and true,” or never even consider.

At the management level, it could mean being willing to reevaluate established processes in areas like incentives, organizational structure, and resource allocation. Reexamining how you assign leads is a particularly relevant example. Fifteen years ago, dividing sales territories by geography made perfect sense, because people wanted to feel like their salesperson was local and therefore trustworthy. Deals were struck over rounds of golf. Today, customers have come to expect—and even prefer—they won’t meet with their salesperson, so geography is no longer as relevant. Instead, the migration to inside sales has opened the door for far more effective systems for assigning leads, by area of expertise or performance, for example. A manager who’d been in the field for twenty years might not ever think to question the territory norm. An inexperienced manager would.

When I founded my first company, the odds were stacked heavily against me. I’d created the business only a year or so before the dotcom bust. The economy shuddered to a halt; companies were failing left and right. At the time, I didn’t truly understand the scope of the obstacles my company was facing. If I had, I’d have made decisions like someone paralyzed by fear. But I didn’t. Instead, I simply tackled each problem as it arose, and we were able to get through it and create a successful business.

Feeling indestructible can empower people to do great things. A salesperson who focuses on everything that could go wrong during a sale is far less likely to close a deal than a salesperson who acts with confidence. Recent psychological studies show success is as much defined by confidence as it is by ability. Even confidence borne of inexperience can end up setting a salesperson ahead.

Obviously, there’s a balance to all this. Many of the tried-and-true methodologies are still used for good reason, and no amount of confidence will ever be as valuable as a deep understanding of the industry or customer problems. That’s why maintaining a diverse sales organization is so important. Having sales reps from a variety of different backgrounds ensures they’ll be able to complement one another and push each other to continually grow. That willingness to learn is the difference between a good sales team and a great one.


6—How Retailers Can Forge Stronger Customer Relationships

Retailers who want to foster stronger customer relationships and drive more repeat business need to be more proactive during the post-purchase phase, according to the Narvar Post-Purchase Benchmark 2017. The benchmark report is based on customer engagement data from over 300 brands and retailers over the course of the year and distills key insights by merchandise category, retailer type, average price point, and other dimensions.

The report compares pre-purchase with post-purchase—and the data shows that customer engagement is sky-high during this window. When shoppers track their packages, they engage 3.1 x on average on the Narvar platform. This presents an opportunity for retailers to reach customers repeatedly during the delivery anticipation window. In addition, those pages see a click-through-rate on marketing assets that is 3x higher than average marketing emails, which garner a 3.5% average click-through-rate on average.

To empower retailers to engage during this time, Narvar will share specific benchmark insights with its clients, so they can access real-time and historical visibility on how their post-purchase strategy compares to overall industry averages, and to averages from their vertical.

“Consumers have spoken and the message is clear: they want brands to actively engage with them after purchase. Retailers are recognizing that they can turn this interest into engagement, and then loyalty,” says Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar.

Additional findings from the Narvar Post-Purchase Benchmark:

Proactive notifications from retailers increase customer satisfaction. In addition to the information on the tracking page and in-email, a large number of customers also opt-in for delivery notifications to be pushed to their mobile devices. Customers on the Narvar platform can opt-in for updates on Facebook Messenger and/or SMS. As opt-in rates increase, the average feedback score increases an average of 18%. When customers are kept in the loop on where their package is, they are happier with the experience—even if there is a delay or other issue.

Mass Merchant, Luxury, and Footwear lead the pack in post-purchase. These retailers have demonstrated they can keep customers engaged and satisfied after they buy. They have also successfully driven customers back to shop for new products while they await their order. Food/Drug retailers have the greatest room for improvement in driving post-purchase satisfaction.

The Narvar Post-Purchase Benchmark is available for free download.


7—America’s 500 Most Valuable Brands Revealed 

Every year, leading valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance values the brands of thousands of the world’s biggest companies. A brand’s strength is assessed (based on factors such as marketing investment, familiarity, preference, sustainability and margins) to determine what proportion of a business’s revenue is contributed by the brand. This is projected into perpetuity and discounted to determine the brand’s value. America’s 500 most valuable brands, classified by both their industry and their state, are featured in the Brand Finance US 500.

National Results

America’s brands continue to reach new heights. The total value of America’s top 500 brands now exceeds $3 trillion dollars, having increased 11%, from $2.82 trillion in 2016 to $3.14 trillion this year.

2017 has already delivered one major shock to the branding world: Apple has seen nearly $40 billion wiped off its brand value. Apple has over-exploited the goodwill of its customers by failing to maintain its technological advantage and delivering tweaks to existing products rather than genuine innovation. Brand value has fallen 27% since early 2016 to $107 billion, meaning that for the first time in over five years, America (and the world) has a new most valuable brand.

Six years after it last held the title in 2011, Google is now the world’s most valuable brand with a value of $109 billion. Google remains largely unchallenged in its core search business, the mainstay of its advertising income.

Amazon is growing strongly (brand value is up 53% year on year) as it continues to both reshape the retail market and to capture an ever-larger share of it. With a brand value only fractionally behind Apple and Google already, Amazon could easily become the most valuable brand in the US and the rest of the world in 2018.

In the fast food industry, the brand values of McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Subway and Domino’s have all fallen due to heavy competition in an increasingly fragmented market, with healthier challenger brands offering greater choice for consumers.

State Brand Battle

California remains America’s most valuable state by brand value. Its dominance in tech (the most valuable and fastest growing sector) has enabled California to pull well ahead of other states. Of the country’s top 500 brands, 71 hail from the Golden State, with a total value of $725 billion.

New York is in second place at $481 billion. Finance comprises a large share of New York’s total brand value so New York has therefore been disproportionately affected by the stalling values of financial services brands.

The increasing concentration of brand value in tech also helps to explain Washington State’s strong performance. Washington has just 11 brands (16 states have more) yet as the home of tech titans Microsoft and Amazon, Washington ranks 4th with a total brand value of $242 billion.

3rd placed Texas has a much broader base of brand value. Its 48 brands have a total value of $263 billion. Oil & Gas brands are of course well represented, including ExxonMobil and its portfolio of brands, however Texas is home to major brands from a wide range of sectors including AT&T (telecoms), Dell (tech), American Airlines and Whole Foods (retail).

5th placed Illinois is another state with a diverse array of brands. 1st amongst its 31 brands is McDonalds, which has had a challenging year dropping 9%, however many of Illinois’ other brands are performing strongly with Boeing up 17%, Accenture 38% and United Airlines up 60%.

Harley-Davidson has lost its position as Wisconsin’s most valuable brand. In 2016 Harley was in the elite group of AAA+ rated brands with a brand value of over $5 billion. This value has dropped 38% and Harley has been overtaken by both Fiserv and Kohl’s, which now leads Wisconsin’s seven brands with a value of $4.9 billion.


Quick Links


8—Retail Outlook

The 2017 Retail Compass Survey of CFOs from BDO reveals retail CFOs are bullish on growth (predicting +4.9% in total sales and +10.7% in online sales). Even as the proposed border tax looms. CFOs expect a busy year ahead for deal making and investment in the industry.

Key findings include:

  • 62% of retail CFOs plan to spend more money on marketing and advertising in 2017
  • 68% plan to dedicate more resources to bolster e-commerce & mobile channels
  • 38% will spend more on mobile this year than in 2016
  • Free shipping was the most successful holiday promotional strategy for 29% of retailers, up from 20% in 2015

Check out the full report for more information.


Cool Tools

9—New Payroll Service

BambooHR recently launched Bamboo Payroll™, an all-new, full-service online payroll experience powered by Execupay. Available in all 50 states, Bamboo Payroll intuitively integrates with BambooHR and the Bamboo mobile app, which streamlines HR functions for both managers and employees by seamlessly combining payroll and a human resource information system (HRIS). New customers can sign up now.

“Payroll is one of the most vital HR experiences and it affects every single employee. From contractors to full-time staff members, everyone participates in the payroll process. And if that experience is complicated, unreliable or overly time-consuming (which it commonly is), it’s more than just the bottom line that suffers,” says Ben Peterson, CEO and cofounder of BambooHR. “We’re making payroll a seamless experience, not just a process. That means no more double entry, no more manual errors, and more time to focus on the things that really matter: your people.”


Additional features and services of Bamboo Payroll include:

  • Paystubs reinvented. Bamboo Payroll simplifies payroll by including easy-to-read, full-color graphs and using plain language to describe taxes, deductions and take-home pay.
  • Full-service online experience.Processing payroll can be tricky—and a mistake can be costly. Since the most common payroll errors involve taxes, Bamboo Payroll™ pairs HR professionals with their own APA-trained payroll support staff.
  • Stress-free transition.Bamboo Payroll assumes the responsibility for the remaining tax payments and filings for the current quarter. It also conducts the necessary audits and payroll tests to ensure accuracy.
  • Automated tax prep and filings.Bamboo Payroll manages the payment and filing of ongoing and year-end taxes. Bamboo Payroll generates end-of-year W2s for employees and 1099s for independent contractors, which are then available in the employee’s self-service portal in BambooHR.

10—Kneeling Desks  

While some may have considered 2016 the year of the standing desks, kneeling desks are set to take over the trend for 2017!  Or so says the folks at TheEdgeDesk.com, one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever.

The company says the desk is “designed for today’s Millennial mobile lifestyle, and is the perfect solution for anyone working in a tight space, such as a home office, or on-the-go. The Edge is a folding desk/kneeling chair that offers “a better way to be productive” and is ergonomically correct. The design is sleek, weighs less than 30 pounds, sets up in 30 seconds and adjusts to fit just about anyone. The Edge folds flat and can be stored under a bed in no time!
The Edge desk costs $349.99 and includes shipping.