cloud storage

13 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

 

1—Craziest Business Travel Expenses

Check out the craziest business travel expenses Certify found in a survey of business travels taken last December.

 

2—How to Handle Negative Emotions in the Workplace

No matter how much you love what you do, you’re bound to experience work-related negativity at some point. And negative feelings can result in stress, which is detrimental to productivity and personal well-being.

Estimates suggest that 60-80% of workplace accidents can be attributed to stress, while the American Psychological Association pegs the overall cost of workplace stress to the U.S. economy at $500 billion annually.

While you might not be able to prevent those negative thoughts from creeping up, there are plenty of effective ways to deal with them. Check out the infographic below from QuickQuid to learn how to handle negative emotions in the workplace.

 

3—Avoiding the Pains of Growing Up

Guest post by Patric Palm, CEO and cofounder, Favro.

Most businesses experience growing pains as they scale from startup to growing up. Below are some shortcuts too many scale-ups take as they scale—which can actually kill the business. Check out our full The Pains of Growing Up report.

Hiring too fast: Many times, scale-ups grow so quickly that hiring managers forget to analyze what makes a successful teammate. Hiring managers at scale-ups must slow down and consider the attitudes, skills and values that make for a reliable and productive teammate in the long run.

Recruiting candidates without startup experience: Many startups look to recruit fierce executives from big companies to help get themselves off the ground. These executives are often eager to leave the enterprise scene and work for a hot new startup. Unfortunately, these execs have no experience inside an entrepreneurial environment. Founders must ensure the execs they recruit have the right mindset and ability to adapt to the startup space.

Providing poor onboarding to new employees: When a startup is only growing from five to six employees, companies can get by using manual onboarding processes. But as a startup grows from five people to 20 people to 100 people, these manual onboarding processes will no longer suffice. Scale-ups must implement an automated onboarding system to increase agility and efficiency.

Selecting the wrong investors: Rapidly growing scale-ups tend to get too hot on investors. Meaning, they’ll quickly take on funding without stopping to think whether these investors will provide the additional support needed to nurture a startup.

Leaving agile behind: Rapid growth doesn’t always mean rapid processes. When a startup is comprised of only a handful of employees, organizational processes tend to be agile and efficient. But as scale-ups double and triple in size, these processes can easily lose their agility. To ensure agility doesn’t get left behind, companies must have the right tools, people and culture in place.

Spending lavishly on new solutions: Scale-ups will quickly earn a lot of money and gain customers, making it easy for the C-suite to throw money at expensive tools. The problem is many of these tools don’t scale and will only solve short-term problems—making a company bloated with costly and ineffective solutions. Uber is an excellent example of this. Uber got very far in terms of growth, but is now having issues with cost-efficiency. The point is, while it’s important to grow fast, it’s just as important to build a culture of frugal spending habits.

 

4—Microsoft for Startups

Microsoft just launched a new program for the startup community—Microsoft for Startups. Microsoft is committing $500 million over the next two years and offering co-selling options to startups, in addition to access to Microsoft’s technology and new community spaces that will help promote collaboration across local and global ecosystems.

Microsoft for Startups’ goal is to help qualified startups:

  • Grow with co-selling resources that prepare them to sell to enterprises in partnership with Microsoft.
  • Build with free credits, enterprise-grade technical support and development tools to help them build on Azure.
  • Connect with local ecosystems at every stage with new Microsoft Reactors (spaces where the business community can come together to collaborate), access to Microsoft ScaleUp (formerly Microsoft Accelerators) to help later stage startups accelerate their businesses using Azure and Microsoft Dynamics, and connections with Microsoft Ventures.

You can learn more about Microsoft for Startups at this blog post or on the Microsoft for Startups website.

 

5—The Economic Climate for Small Business

Most wealthy investors believe the economic climate is ripe for owning a business, and 58% would consider starting one now or in the near future. At the same time, others see an opportunity to exit their businesses and make a profit, yet 48% have no formal exit strategy in place and it’s unclear who will step into their shoes. But, 77% of millennials think starting a business is too risky. And 80% of business owners say their children would rather inherit the money from the sale of the business than the business itself. All this according to UBS Wealth Management USA’s latest UBS Investor Watch report, Who’s the Boss?, which delves into investors’ sentiment on business ownership. This is the 22nd edition of this quarterly survey.

Prestige in being an entrepreneur: The report indicates the era of the entrepreneur is here to stay:

  • 73% of respondents say the recent tax reform makes business ownership more attractive
  • 72% are highly optimistic about the state of the current economy
  • 49% of wealthy investors believe that being an entrepreneur is now one of the most prestigious career paths, second only to being a doctor.

Many current business owners are looking to exit: The economic environment is also driving current business owners to consider their exit—41% expect to leave their businesses in the next five years. Over half of these owners (52%) plan to sell, not only because many are approaching retirement age but because timing may boost their chances of securing a favorable sale price. On the other hand, only 20% plan to leave the business to their families.

Most are unprepared: Though a majority of exiting business owners are planning to sell, many are woefully unprepared—58% have never had their business formally appraised, and 48% have no formal exit strategy in place. This indicates a knowledge gap for the 75% of owners who believe they can sell their business in a year or less.

“Selling a business successfully requires a great deal of planning, which owners often underestimate,” says Stewart Kesmodel, Head of Global Family Office, Americas for UBS Global Wealth Management. “Before pursuing a sale, it is important for business owners to not only have a view on the value of their business to potential buyers, but also an understanding of how that price applies to their personal needs post-transaction.”

Heirs are reluctant to take over the business: Among business owners who plan to sell but considered leaving the business to family members, 89% cite a lack of interest from their potential heirs as the main reason, while 21% felt that their family members were not qualified to take over the business. These would-be sellers also overwhelmingly agree that their children would rather inherit assets from the sale of the business (82%) than the business itself.

Business owners who do plan on passing their businesses on to family have concerns about their legacies—57% are concerned about their heirs taking the business in a different direction, and an equal number are worried that heirs might sell the business outside the family. Their biggest fear, however, is missing their role in the business (62%) after spending a lifetime building a successful enterprise.

Millennials remain wary: Among those considering starting their own business, millennials lead the pack, with 72% responding positively. But, they’re hesitant to make their dreams a reality. In fact, 77% of millennials think becoming a business owner is too risky, compared to 55% of Gen Xers and 43% of boomers. Millennials also feel the stress level of owning a business is too high (83%), while only 64% of Gen Xers and boomers agree.

 

6—Businesses are Optimistic, but Struggle to Find Skilled Workers

American business owners are feeling better than they have in years, but are getting nervous about finding the skilled workers they need to grow their businesses as their older workers retire, according to the annual JPMorgan Chase Business Leaders Outlook.

Businesses of all sizes are concerned about the supply of qualified candidates—45% of midsize business executives are extremely or very concerned about it, as are 31% of small business executives.

Among small businesses, optimism for the global and local economy is the highest it’s been in several years:

  • 51% are optimistic about the global economy, up 10 points from last year
  • 63% are optimistic about the national economy, consistent with last year
  • 60% are optimistic about theirlocal economy, up 5 points from last year

While 91% of midsize businesses expect the new tax law to help their businesses, only 37% of small businesses expect it to positively impact their bottom line while 30% expect it to have no impact. As a result, most small businesses are don’t plan to hire full-time employees (65%) this year or give their staff raises (56%).

Small business expectations & challenges:

  • 62% expect an increase in sales
  • 59% expect profits to grow

Their top challenges for 2018 are:

  • Increasing sales: 54%, up 16 points from last year
  • Taxes: 28%, consistent with last year
  • Uncertainty of economic conditions: 27%, down 7 points from last year

According to the Outlook, “Fewer small business executives would select lowering taxes as a top area for the government to focus this year. Proposed focus areas include: Create and foster a skilled workforce (23%) and improving infrastructure (36%).

 

7—Picking a Cloud Storage Provider

Small businesses are heavily influenced by available features and security when selecting their cloud storage provider, according to a survey of small businesses from Clutch.

Small businesses increasingly turn to the cloud for their data storage. The cloud typically offers more cost-effective and secure storage than an on-premise solution, especially for businesses with small budgets and few employees.

How do small businesses select the best cloud storage provider for their needs, though?

Clutch surveyed IT decision makers at U.S. small businesses that use cloud storage to determine how they selected their provider and how they regularly use their cloud storage.

Summary of findings

  • 63% of small businesses that use cloud storage began in 2015 or earlier. But cloud storage usage continues to grow. Our research from 2015 found 52% of small businesses used cloud storage. The latest data shows 37% of small businesses using cloud storage adopted the technology in 2016 or 2017.
  • The largest percentage of small businesses (35%) say that features or capabilities primarily influenced their decision to invest in their current cloud storage provider. Examples of cloud storage features include:
    • Remote access:ability to access data from anywhere
    • Automatic syncing:ability to automatically upload new data to the cloud
    • Flexible storage space:ability to easily increase and decrease storage space as needed
  • The largest percentage of small businesses (29%) say that access to data is the primary benefitof using cloud storage.
  • 81% of small businesses pay for their cloud storage, an increase of 10% over the last three years.
  • 42% of small businesses using iCloud reporteddowntime or limited access in the past 12 months, compared to 33% of small businesses overall.

Small businesses prioritize security of cloud storage providers

Small businesses prioritize security as the most important characteristic of a cloud storage buying decision—97% of small businesses said security was very or somewhat important to consider when picking their current cloud storage provider.

For small businesses with limited resources, storing data in the cloud potentially offers better security than their on-premise solution. Many features that would be difficult for small businesses to build in their on-premise solution, such as two-factor authentication, come ready to use with cloud storage providers.

However, by storing data in the cloud, you may make your data more of a target. While hackers may not care to hack the data of one small business, they may care if your data is stored alongside the data of thousands of other businesses. Be sure you select a cloud storage provider that is cognizant of and prepared for this possibility.

Cloud storage offers better access to data for small businesses

Small businesses value access to data offered by cloud storage the most.

The largest percentage of small businesses (29%) selected “access to data” when asked to select the primary benefit their business receives from using cloud storage.

More small businesses pay for cloud storage

More small businesses now pay for their cloud storage provider. In 2016, 71% of small businesses paid for their cloud storage. In 2017, 81% paid.

The largest percentage of small businesses (38%) pay $51-$250 per month for their cloud storage provider.

How much you pay for cloud storage depends on what you want to get out of it. For example, experts emphasize the different benefits and costs of cloud storage and cloud backup. If you need to access and collaborate on your data frequently, you’ll need a cloud storage solution that allows collaboration.

However, if your data simply needs to be archived and only rarely accessed, you can choose a low-cost and long-term cloud backup solution, such as Amazon Glacier or Google Coldline. These solutions are known as “cold” cloud storage. Since “cold” cloud storage requires little processing power, it is far cheaper.

Almost 40% of small businesses use cloud storage for daily access files and backup equally. Clearly understanding what you need out of your cloud storage may allow you to save money by exploring alternate options for different types of data.

There is so much useful information in the report—you should check it out here.

 

8—How Refinancing Your Student Loans Can Help Fund Your Startup

Guest post from Credible

The hardest part of starting a business is finding the funds to make it happen. Many graduates finish school with incredible ideas for their own company, but they are being held back by the debt they incurred from that schooling.

While it is possible to start a business without any money, startups need funding to find success in the long term. Let’s find out how refinancing your student loans could help you fund your startup by alleviating financial pressure.

The benefits of refinancing your student loans

The unfortunate truth, is that 90% of startups fail. A lack of funding is one of the many reasons why this happens. Other factors, like the viability of the product and the chosen market play a large role as well.

This is why so many startups seek funding before they launch their businesses. There are various ways that they do this:

  • Seeking a loan or line of credit
  • Negotiating an advance from a partner or investor
  • Joining up with an incubator or accelerator
  • Running an online crowdfunding campaign
  • Help from friends or family
  • Funding it themselves

That last point is important. After all, if you had the money you could easily fund it yourself. This seems like the simplest solution, but it’s not easy at all if you’re struggling to pay off your student loans each month.

Perhaps your interest rate is so high that your monthly payments are being put towards interest instead of the principal on the loan. In cases like these, refinancing can help.

Should you refinance your student loans?

Refinancing doesn’t completely remove the burden of your student loans, but it does offer some ways to better control and handle them. When you refinance, you’ll have options on how you want to consolidate the debt or what type of interest and payments it has.

The best private lending firms will offer a variety of choices for how you want to refinance. If your focus is on paying it off quickly, you can negotiate a shorter repayment term and a lower interest rate. If you’re struggling with the monthly payments and need to save money, you can refinance for a longer repayment term and lower payments each month.

Sometimes refinancing isn’t the solution. If you have federal loans, it’s best to keep them as they are because of the benefits that federal options exclusively offer. Things like loan forgiveness and Income-Based Repayment Plans won’t be available if you refinance your federal loans with a private lender.

These are things to consider when you’re deciding if you should move forward with a refinance on your student loans. Money saved during this process is perfect for your startup’s funding. Since many new business owners are facing student debt, this solution is a great way to get those loans under control.

Check out the infographic below from Credible.

 

9—Logistics for Importers

According to Freightos, a logistics technology company, while importing continues to grow across both small and enterprise companies, almost 50% of the 300,000+ American businesses that import still use spreadsheets to manage their international supply chain.

Global trade is worth trillions, and U.S. Department of Commerce data reports a 6.7% year on year increase in U.S. imports in 2017—the fastest rate of growth in more than seven years; yet the industry remains siloed and outmoded.

Freightos conducted a survey to reveal how cumbersome logistics remains to American companies importing goods.

 Key findings

  • 4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours (or an estimated $100 of labor) on managing each individual shipment.
  • 10% of small business owners reported more than 75% of shipmentsarrive late.
  • Of companies that import only 4-10 shipments year, almost half still spendover $10,000 per month on international freight.

Key questions & answers

On average how much time do you spend managing an individual freight shipment (getting quotes, booking, following up/tracking)?

  • 8% spend more than 5 hours. 42.4% of business owners spend more than 2 hours on managing each individual shipment.
  • Over 60% of midsize importers (10-50 annual imports) spend 2+ hours managing each shipment, wasting anywhere from 20 hours to 500 hours a year managing shipments.
  • Among companies that import over 100 times a year, 37% spend more than two hours managing each individual shipment; 12% spend over 10 hours.

What percent of your international freight shipments arrive on-time?

  • 7% of business owners admit less than half of their shipments arrive on time. Only 34.7% report timeliness in the top 25thpercentile. 65% of small business owners say that only ¾ of their international freight shipments arrive on time. 10% of small business owners only receive 1 in 4 shipments on time.
  • Across the board, only 35% of importers say goods arrive on-time 75% of the time or more.
  • 65% of companies that import goods suffer from delays at least 25% of the time they ship goods
  • For 30% of small (4-50/year) importers report half or more of their shipments are late.

Compared to other service providers, how technologically advanced is your international freight provider?

  • Larger importers clearly have access to more sophisticated technology. About 25% of large importers (100+/year) say their forwarders are more advanced than other service providers, while only 7% of small importers say the same.
  • Only 11.7% of large importers feel their freight providers are technologically advanced.

Other findings include:

  • For companies that import only 4-10/year (aka micros), almost half still spend over $10/K month on international freight.
  • 4% of business owners have no visibility of their shipments.
  • 83% of importers report that they do not have full visibility into the location of their shipment during the import process.

“Ask any freight forwarder or business owner, and they’ll agree—international freight, particularly for small and midsize businesses, is long overdue for an upgrade,” says Dr. Zvi Schreiber, Freightos CEO and founder. “These survey results put real data to the all-too frustrating obsolescence of the technology used to manage international shipments, and provide valuable insight into the motives behind the rapid growth in  logistics technology investments.”

 

10—Main Streets Can Win $25K

Today, the 3rd annual America’s Main Streets contest kicks off to help consumers, small business owners and Main Street organizations reward a deserving Main Street with $25,000 in cash and sponsor-related prizes. America’s Main Streets play an important role in the long-term success of communities and help build a sense of place reinforcing this year’s theme: “Local Memories. Lasting Impact.” Independent We Stand invites the public to nominate and vote for their favorite Main Street—whether it’s making a comeback or never lost its staying power.

“Our Independent We Stand America’s Main Streets contest shines a light on the pride business owners and communities take in their Main Streets,” says Independent We Stand co-founder Bill Brunelle. “We know small businesses on these Main Streets help them thrive and have a measurable economic impact. This contest is a chance to share those stories with people from coast-to-coast.”

All nominations and voting take place on MainStreetContest.com. And on March 12, the Independent We Stand team hits the road for the “Great American River Road Trip”, visiting five iconic Main Streets in five states in five days. The team will stop in Minneapolis/St. Paul; Davenport, Iowa; Cape Girardeau, Mo.; Memphis, and Baton Rouge/New Orleans to celebrate the contest. You can follow their journey on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Important dates

  • February 26-April 22: “America’s Main Streets” nominations and quarterfinalist voting
  • March 12-16: “Great American River Road Trip”
  • April 30-May 27: “America’s Main Streets” semifinalist voting
  • June 4: “America’s Main Streets” winner announced
  • July 4: “Main Streets Make Us Better” event; “America’s Main Streets” winner announces plans for $25,000 grand prize

Contest prizes

  • STIHL Equipment Certificate for $1,000 worth of STIHL equipment good at any STIHL dealer in the U.S.
  • Do it Best Corp. $500 shopping spree
  • PPG Paints $500 shopping spree
  • Public relations and social media recognition
  • Special plaque for winner to proudly display

 

11—Should You Lease an Internet Line?

Guest post from Amvia

Is a lease line connection a good option for your business? How do they work? More importantly, are you missing out on the benefits of having a leased line? Here’s everything you need to know about leased lines.

What are leased lines? By definition, a Leased Line is a symmetrical, dedicated fiber telecommunication circuit. Currently, there are two types of leased lines you should know about: Dedicated and Symmetric. Let’s check out what each one does.

Dedicated lease line: Dedicated means it’s not shared to any other internet subscriber. While most broadband services are of the “shared” variety (which means one data line is shared between a number of subscribers), a dedicated lease line maintains consistency in terms of speed. You can be certain that your fiber internet will have the same download and upload speed no matter the time of day.

Some internet provider companies make use of the term “uncontended,” which is just a derivative of the word “dedicated.” Think of it this way—broadband companies have subscribers sharing one road while dedicated lines are like your very own private road.

Symmetric lease line: Symmetry means consistency; in internet speed terms it means you’ll have the same download speed and upload speed. Usually, a 50 Mbps download speed means you get a lower upload speed, say 20 Mbps. But in a symmetric fiber internet, you get 100 Mbps download and upload, which could be more useful than you’d think.

You can now upload large files the same speed as downloading them. CRM and other cloud applications are accelerated. More importantly, VoIP becomes that much clearer.

Let’s take a quick look at the other terms used with line leasing:

Leased line bearer: This means the total capacity that your line can carry. You can opt for a 50 Mbps leased line riding on a 100 Mbps leased line bearer.

Leased line packet loss: Packet loss, or data loss happens when there’s a hiccup in the switch and routers, resulting in dropped VoIP calls, video stutters and data errors in some cases. Fiber connections have guarantees against packet losses included in their Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Leased line jitter: Jitters are delays in data packets being transmitted. Network problems happen when jitters break up the order of data being sent or received. Fiber connections also have guarantees against jitters as written in their SLA.

Leased line uptime: Availability is the metric used for the uptime percentage in a leased line service.

When are leased lines used?

General internet access: Businesses can make use of a leased line to connect to an office connected via the internet. The type of businesses to use this are those who need reliable, speedy internet connection as part of running their daily operations.

Multiple site networks: Leased lines may also be used as the online backbone for multiple offices connected via the internet. The connection forms a LAN, or local area network that offers high-speed internet access. IT technicians and managers can set up different architectural structures depending on their connectivity needs.

Voice Over IP (VoIP): Leased lines are often needed for VoIP operations. The dedicated nature of a leased line allows for bandwidth that can be used in a number of different ways, including VoIP. Call quality and video quality is all but assured; it’s a necessity if clear communication is vital for your business. Moreover, leased lines offer jitter guarantees as part of their SLA.

 When would you need them?

If the nature of your business requires an always online presence, huge data transfers and superior call quality, then leased lines are something you should consider. Your company’s size may also dictate the need for better speed and uptime quality. If the nearest DSL main point is far away, you might be better off with a leased line as broadband quality suffers the farther you are away from the next service point.

Your business will need leased lines if you want it to run more efficiently, reliably and increase production and profits.

Leased lines are arguably the fastest business broadband line you can get because they have fiber technology backing them up. In the UK you can get leased line speeds of up to 10 Gbps, or 10,000 Mbps. The dedicated aspect of it adds further to the appeal. Moreover, the symmetrical feature allows your business to send out data on the same speed as receiving them. Remember that all of these are exclusively yours and no one else’s.

Leased lines also have guarantees. SLAs are written for protecting the subscribers. This means you get an SLA each time you opt in for a leased line. Performance factors such as round-trip time, throughput, speed, fix time and availability are included in the package. Service credits are applied for downtimes. Most leased line companies offer 99.9% uptime.

Conclusion

Fiber is often called the internet of the future and with good reason. The architecture is scalable, which means technicians can customize the system according to their specific needs. Businesses choose the bandwidth speed during signup and they can upgrade their leased lines at a moment’s notice.

The fact that bandwidth availability is guaranteed (as stated in the SLA) makes fiber a reliable partner for your business. The dependability, speed and scalability of a leased line far outweighs the costs of getting one. In short, a fiber-based leased line will future-proof your businesses’ internet connection, which means you won’t be upgrading to better internet speed for a long, long time. Just look at the leased line providers available to you and see which one fits your business needs and budget.

 

12—Travel Discounts  

 Ebates, a leader and pioneer in cash back shopping, just launched Travel Thursdays, a 24-hour promotion on Thursdays that gived members up to 10% cash back on hotel bookings made through Ebates Hotels while also offering savings on airfare, rental cars, cruises and activities.

At 10% cash back, members can receive an average of $40 cash back for a three-night stay or $70 for a five-night stay.

Save Up To 10% Cash Back on Hotels

Each Thursday during the promotion, Ebates shoppers can earn up to 10% cash back on more than 280,000 hotel bookings worldwide listed on the site. The service works similarly to other major travel booking platforms but utilizes Ebates’ cash back for extra savings. At 10% cash back, members can receive an average of $40 cash back for a three-night stay or $70 for a five-night stay.

Ebates credit card holders will automatically receive an additional 3% cash back when booking travel through Ebates, increasing the total amount saved to 13%.

Additionally, each Travel Thursday will have a specific theme that offers special pricing and deals on airfare, rental cars, cruises and activities, offering members up to 50% savings and the cash back.

Promotions

  • March 1—Europe: London, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona
  • March 8—Beach: Rio de Janeiro, Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, Jamaica, Aruba
  • March 15—Big Cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas
  • March 22—Disney: Orlando, Anaheim
  • March 29—Resorts: Miami, San Diego, Maui, Ft. Lauderdale, Phoenix
  • Travel Thursdays will run through March 29. The promotions start at 9pm PT on the Wednesday before and end at 11:50pm PT on Thursday.

 

Cool Tools

13—Xero & ACH

Xero, a global small business accounting platform, in partnership with Stripe, is now enabling Xero customers to accept Automated Clearing House (ACH) bank transfers via its integration with Stripe. With the availability of ACH payments, Xero’s more than 1.2 million subscribers have yet another way to get paid quickly, safely and securely.

Enabling ACH in Xero is easy: from within Payment Services settings, Xero customers can login to their Stripe account to connect Stripe ACH bank transfers as a payment gateway. They can then connect this to an invoice theme, which will enable the “Pay Now” button on the invoices they send to their customers.

When the recipient of that invoice makes a payment with ACH, Stripe will generate and display unique bank account details for that specific invoice, keeping the sender’s bank details private. The recipient will then log into the bank of their choice, where they can initiate ACH payment using the bank details provided on the invoice.

Once the ACH payment has cleared, the money will be received into the Xero customer’s Stripe account, and the invoice will be automatically marked as paid. When Stripe transfers the money into the Xero customer’s bank account, Xero will match the payment and processing fee to the statement line for easy reconciliation.