16 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky



1—Back to School

Do you know that back-to-school season is the 2nd largest retail time of year? This year, the NRF estimates back-to-college spending alone will account for an astounding $54.5 billion. Together with k-12 spending, back-to-school shopping totals about $80.7 billion.

Depending on where you live school could be starting in a few weeks—or a few months—so, for many retailers the season is already upon us.

Take a look at the infographic below from The Shelf and check out this post filled with relevant back-to-school stats.

Courtesy of: The Shelf


2—Wages are Growing

We’re making slightly more money these days—wages grew 4% over the last year, increasing the average wage level by $1.09 to $28.54 an hour, according to the just-released ADP Research Institute Workforce Vitality Report (WVR).

The growth (as of June 2019) was driven by strong wage gains for workers in the manufacturing (4.4% wage growth/$29.83 hourly wage) and construction (4.4% wage growth/$28.65 hourly wage) industries.

In the service sector, information (4.2% wage growth/$41.56 hourly wage), trade (4.3% wage growth/$25.27 hourly wage), which represents 22% of the workforce, and  professional and business services (4.1% wage growth/$36.45 hourly wage) were the major contributing industries.

“The tight labor market is pushing companies to pay more,” says Ahu Yildirmaz, co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “As labor shortages are apparent in most of the sectors, the businesses are holding on to their skilled workers by increasing their wages. Female job holders are capturing larger wage gains than their male counterparts. Since January 2019, female job holders received average wage gains of 5%, while men averaged wage gains of 4.6%.”

The Midwest outperformed the rest of the country with 4.5% wage growth, though the hourly wage rate was the lowest at $26.57 and lowest employment growth at 1%. Job switchers fared best in the West experiencing a wage growth of 7.3%. Workers in the South and Northeast had the lowest wage growth at 3.6%. By firm size, workers at large firms had the highest wage growth rate at 5.1%, with employment growth at 3.1%.

Check out the details from the ADP Workforce Vitality Report for the second quarter of 2019 here.


3—New Global B2B Platform

Alibaba.com  just launched its global B2B ecommerce platform, enabling American businesses to sell to the company’s 10 million global buyers. This important strategic shift will give U.S. small businesses, especially manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, access to the $23.9 trillion global B2B ecommerce market (which is 6x the size of the B2C market).

Alibaba.com is also unveiling an enhanced ecosystem of participants. These include anchor sellers and B2B service providers who share its mission to make it easier for SMBs to do business.

To help U.S. SMBs successfully access the B2B ecommerce opportunity, Alibaba.com is also co-producing a series of “Build Up” workshops and webinars with local chambers of commerce and B2B organizations across the country, including SCORE, one of the nation’s largest non-profit network of volunteer, expert business mentors.

“Alibaba aims to empower entrepreneurs and help them succeed on their own terms,” says John Caplan, Head of North America B2B at Alibaba Group. “With 10 million active business buyers in over 190 countries and regions, we are reshaping B2B commerce by providing the tools and services needed for U.S. SMB companies to compete and succeed in today’s global marketplace.”

Key new platform enhancements

Sellers get:

  • Streamlined ability to build and manage a single digital store on the global Alibaba.com platform
  • Valuable transaction capabilities, including online payment (except in NY and NV)
  • CRM and communications tools to facilitate the direct ownership of customer relationships
  • Enhanced digital marketing tools to target B2B demand that is right for them
  • Option to work with Alibaba.com’s U.S.-based Seller Success team

Buyers get:

  • Access to a growing number of U.S.-based supplier options on the alibaba.comlanding page, in addition to thousands of global suppliers
  • A more robust inquiry functionality enabling buyers to begin discussions and negotiations
  • Expanded product selection ranging from ready-to-ship to fully customized
  • Improved product and supplier search functionality allowing buyers to quickly identify best fit, i.e. customized vs. finished goods, and by types and locations of suppliers

 National tour of local “build up” events to support SMB growth

Each Alibaba.com Build Up event offers attendees an in-depth workshop and the opportunity for one-on-one training and consultation from Alibaba.com experts as well as exclusive discounts, incentives, and support from the ecosystem of brands and organizations.

The next event will be in Chicago on July 30 with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce at M Hub. Additional Build Ups around the country are planned throughout the year with support from local and national business organizations, including local SCORE chapters, Food Export USA—Northeast, and Food Export Association of the Midwest USA. Alibaba.com is also co-producing digital Build Up content with SCORE.

To learn more about the enhanced Alibaba.com platform, new collaborators or to register for a Build Up workshop near you, please visit Alibaba.com/BuildUp.


4—How America Shops in the Digital Age

The “retail apocalypse” is not yet upon us. In-store is still the way most Americans shop. Online shopping accounts for just 10% of retail sales nationwide, and malls apparently are making unlikely resurgence with many younger consumers. Still, the percentage of purchases conducted online has grown steadily in recent years, and that trend will almost certainly continue.

Signs.com surveyed shoppers about their purchasing habits and preferences—both in person and online. The results are in the infographic below and in this blog post.


5—Data Breach Costs on the Rise

IBM Security just announced the results of its annual study examining the financial impact of data breaches on organizations. According to the report, the cost of a data breach has risen 12% over the past five years—now costing $3.92 million on average. These rising expenses are representative of the multiyear financial impact of breaches, increased regulation and the complex process of resolving criminal attacks.

The financial consequences of a data breach can be particularly acute for small and midsize businesses. In the study, small businesses (those with less than 500 employees) suffered losses of more than $2.5 million on average, which is potentially crippling for small businesses.

2019 Cost of a Data Breach Statistics: For the first time this year, the report also examined the longtail financial impact of a data breach, finding the effects of a data breach are felt for years. While an average of 67% of data breach costs were realized within the first year after a breach, 22% accrued in the second year and another 11% accumulated more than two years after a breach.

“Cybercrime represents big money for cybercriminals, and unfortunately that equates to significant losses for businesses,” says Wendi Whitmore, Global Lead for IBM X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services. “With organizations facing the loss or theft of over 11.7 billion records in the past three years alone, companies need to be aware of the full financial impact that a data breach can have on their bottom line—and focus on how they can reduce these costs.”

Sponsored by IBM Security and conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the annual Cost of a Data Breach Report analysis takes into account hundreds of cost factors including legal, regulatory and technical activities to loss of brand equity, customers, and employee productivity.

Top findings

Malicious Breaches Pose a Growing Threat: The study found that data breaches which originated from a malicious cyberattack were not only the most common root cause of a breach, but also the most expensive—costing companies in the study $4.45 million on average, over $1 million more than those originating from accidental causes such as system glitch and human error. These breaches are a growing threat, as the percentage of malicious or criminal attacks as the root cause of data breaches in the report crept up from 42% to 51% over the past six years of the study (a 21% increase).

However, inadvertent breaches from human error and system glitches were still the cause for 49% of the data breaches in the report, costing companies $3.50 and $3.24 million respectively. These breaches from human and machine error represent an opportunity for improvement, which can be addressed through security awareness training for staff, technology investments, and testing services to identify accidental breaches early on. One particular area of concern is the misconfiguration of cloud servers, which contributed to the exposure of 990 million records in 2018, representing 43% of all lost records for the year according to the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index.

Breach Response Remains Biggest Cost Saver: For the past 14 years, the Ponemon Institute has examined factors that increase or reduce the cost of a breach and has found the speed and efficiency at which a company responds to a breach has a significant impact on the overall cost.

This year’s report shows the average lifecycle of a breach was 279 days with companies taking 206 days to first identify a breach after it occurs and an additional 73 days to contain the breach. However, companies in the study who were able to detect and contain a breach in less than 200 days spent $1.2 million less on the total cost of a breach.

A focus on incident response can help reduce the time it takes companies to respond, and the study found that these measures also had a direct correlation with overall costs. Having an incident response team in place and extensive testing of incident response plans were two of the top three greatest cost-saving factors examined. Companies that had both of these measures in place had $1.23 million less total costs for a data breach on average than those that had neither measure in place ($3.51 million vs. $4.74 million).

Additional factors impacting the cost of a breach for companies in the study included:

  • Number of compromised records: Data breaches cost companies around $150 per recordthat was lost or stolen.
  • Companies that fully deployed security automation technologiesexperienced around half the cost of a breach ($2.65 million average) compared to those that did not have these technologies deployed ($5.16 million average).
  • Extensive use of encryptionwas also a top cost saving factor, reducing the total cost of a breach by $360,000.
  • Breaches originating from a third party (such as a partner or supplier) cost companies $370,000 more than average, emphasizing the need for companies to closely vet the security of the companies they do business with, align security standards, and actively monitor third-party access.

Regional and Industry Trends: The study also examined the cost of data breaches in different industries and regions, finding that data breaches in the U.S. are vastly more expensive—costing $8.19 million, or more than double the average for worldwide companies in the study. Costs for data breaches in the U.S. increased by 130% over the past 14 years of the study; up from $3.54 million in the 2006 study.

Click here to view the full 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report.

There’s an IBM Security and Ponemon Institute webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, July 30. You can register now.


6—The Popularity of Craft Beer

Craft breweries are still hot—and many cities across the country boast several craft breweries. C + R Research analyzed data from more than 500 cities to determine which cities had the most craft breweries. The top 5 cities are:

  1. Portland, Maine
  2. Asheville, North Carolina
  3. Bend, Oregon
  4. Boulder, Colorado
  5. Kalamazoo, Michigan

C + R Research says craft breweries are prospering in American’s smaller cities: the country’s largest cities—Chicago, New York and Los Angeles don’t appear on the list. In fact, the only cities with a population of 250,000 or more making on the list include Denver, Madison, Portland (Oregon) and Cincinnati.

Check out the rankings of top 15 cities and their most popular craft breweries.


7—Small Businesses Show Customer Appreciation by Giving Back

According to a recent survey, 73% of small businesses provide support to local charitable and communal causes to show their commitment to giving back and to express appreciation to customers and the community. The study, conducted by TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, reveals that even though small businesses typically have fewer resources than larger companies, they still donate money, time and resources to support these causes.

Giving Back, Even with Limited Resources: TD’s survey polled small businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue and found that although they may not have major profit margins, 61% provide a value of up to $10,000 to their communities through charitable gifts, sponsorships or volunteer time on an annual basis. Notably, 16% report donating $50,000 or more in gifts and time annually. In addition to their own charitable efforts, 37% of SBOs encourage their employees to volunteer in their communities outside of work hours. However, despite their dedication to local efforts, 79% of small businesses do not have an established Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program or defined community giving or volunteer mission.

“Most small businesses, by their nature, are entrenched in their local cities and towns, serving as both an economic engine and a resource. Small business owners are local heroes,” says Jay DesMarteau, Head of Commercial Specialty Segments at TD Bank. “It is commendable that so many business owners find ways to give back when they themselves can often be strapped for time or resources. Developing a mission statement for charitable giving or volunteering should be part of any long-term business plan, however, to ensure any strategy is viable for both the community and the business owner.”

Putting Time & Money Where it Matters: When asked to identify the one or more ways in which they give back to their community, small businesses said they are most likely to donate:

  • Goods, such as products or food (35%)
  • Money (29%)
  • Time to volunteer (29%)
  • Space for community events (12%)

In terms of preferred local causes, charities (30%) and youth-focused organizations like schools and sports teams (29%) are the most popular among small businesses. Religious organizations (18%) and police and fire departments (18%) are the next most popular causes supported by survey respondents, followed by arts and culture organizations like theaters and music programs (16%) and environmental organizations (14%). Perhaps aligning with differing generational values, Gen-Z and millennial SBOs give the most money to youth-focused organizations, while their Gen-X and baby counterparts prefer donating to well-established charitable organizations such as the Red Cross.

Personal Touches Make a Difference in the Digital Age: In an increasingly digital world, SBOs still understand the importance of personalizing appreciation. Despite their reputation as digital natives, Gen-Z and millennial SBOs prefer receiving a written “thank you” (28%) from their own vendors or service providers more than discounts (26%) or gifts (11%). In fact, only 10% of SBOs prefer to be thanked digitally, which is especially surprising during a time when most business communications are conducted online.

When asked how small businesses express appreciation to their own customers, a verbal “thank you” in person or over the phone (23%), loyalty discounts (18%) or written thank-you notes (17%) topped the list. These businesses also view their charitable efforts as a way to thank their communities, with 31% stating that giving back shows their gratitude to the community for supporting their business. This was topped only narrowly by cultivating a positive business reputation (32%).

Please go here for a closer look at the inspiring work being done by some small businesses and the special ways TD Bank thanks them for their impact in our communities.


8—New Cloud-Based Small Business Accounting Platform with Integrated Access to Capital

Lendio, a leading marketplace for small business loans, just announced the acquisition of Billy and the launch of its bookkeeping software for small businesses. Sunrise, a Lendio company, is the first freemium bookkeeping software to meld accounting, cash flow management, loan and credit information into a single platform. This user-friendly cash flow, billing and expense tracking solution also provides solopreneurs and small business owners customized access to Lendio’s marketplace of business loans.

Small businesses say cash flow is one of the biggest challenges they face this year, according to a recent Lendio survey. Additionally, data from the Lendio platform shows that two-thirds of microbusinesses are not currently leveraging an online accounting software. Sunrise’s goal is to give business owners more accurate, real-time insight into their business finances. In turn, business owners will be able to better visualize their cash position, better understand their financial health and better predict their future capital needs.

“We are very excited to announce the acquisition of Billy and the re-brand to Sunrise. The Sunrise platform will bring together previously disparate sources of information for small business owners, such as accounting, loan and credit data,” says Brock Blake, CEO and founder of Lendio. “It’s our goal for Sunrise users to feel more confident in making financial decisions that help their businesses grow.”


Sunrise comes in two versions. The first is a free plan that removes unnecessary enterprise features and allows businesses to do both cash and accrual-based accounting. The platform’s invoicing system allows users to create personalized invoices, as well as automate recurring invoices and pay reminders. Customers can easily pay by credit card through the platform’s secure customer portal, and business owners can see when invoices have been viewed, as well as create quotes and estimates online.

In addition to billing, the free version also allows business owners to easily sync bank accounts and credit cards, categorize and track expenses and income, and store receipts in a central location. Reports including profit and loss, balance sheet, tax summary, accounts receivable and customer statements allow business owners to keep better tabs on their financial health. Security is also a priority; users’ data is backed up to multiple data centers and encrypted.

A paid subscription to Sunrise allows growing businesses to expand accounting capabilities by leveraging Sunrise’s tech-enabled bookkeeping experts. Sunrise’s paid subscription allows business owners to automate and streamline accounting tasks, freeing up their time to focus on building their businesses. With access to bookkeeping professionals, business owners will never have to reconcile their own books again. Sunrise’s expert bookkeepers use a three-part system to recognize revenue, take care of invoicing and reconcile books monthly. The paid version also integrates with Stripe, PayPal and Square.

A Sunrise mobile app is currently in development. Over time, other features will be added to Sunrise including auto categorization, a tie-in to tax software as well as more sophisticated loan integrations.

There’s more information about Lendio’s acquisition of Billy here.


9—How to Make a Good First Impression

Studies show we make decisions about strangers within seven seconds, based purely off their mannerisms and body language. For business owners it’s particularly important to make a good first impression—whether you’re trying to get funding or hire an in-demand job prospect or convince consumers to buy from your company. Liza Andersin, HR Director for findcourses.co.uk, created an informative infographic revealing the “7 golden steps” to making a good first impression.

Check out the informative infographic below from findcourses.co.uk.


10—Increasing Employee Productivity

Most employees prefer to spend some time in an office (83%) over being fully remote, according to a new Clutch survey. In-office work helps employees collaborate with coworkers and feel included in the company’s culture.

Businesses need to show all employees—both remote and in-office—they are welcome. This means creating an office space that allows employees to thrive.

“The best offices know how to be comfortable and convenient enough where it encourages employees to be in the office during the workday rather than wanting to be at home doing work,” says Max Falb, a digital marketing strategist at Fueled, a mobile app design and development company.

Employees Prefer Private Offices, Despite Trend Toward Open Floor Plans

Most workers value private spaces where they can get their work done peacefully—52% prefer a private office over an open floor plan or cubicle office at work. Offices, however, are trending toward open floor plans. This can distract and frustrate employees who prefer quiet spaces.

“The trend toward open offices continues and is in high demand in spite of employee objections,” says Bethany Babcock, owner of Foresite Commercial Real Estate. “The most common complaint from open office users is frequent interruptions. If a person is in a position that requires focus, it can be irritating and counterproductive.”

Most Offices Offer Different Types of Workspaces

Businesses can solve this frustration by providing a variety of in-office spaces. Employees prefer private offices, but businesses that offer a variety of spaces to accomplish tasks enable employees to succeed.

  • 74% of offices have personal spaces for employees
  • 56% have large meeting room
  • 53% have small collaborative spaces
  • 51% have lounges or break rooms
  • 41% have quiet spaces

Businesses should create an office with multiple types of places to work, so workers who prefer private space can get work done quietly, while workers who prefer collaboration have space where they can interact with others.

The average worker needs to accomplish tasks that are both individual and collaborative. Offices should cater to those needs.


11—The Hidden Cost of Expense Management Operations

Center, a fintech company that helps growing companies optimize business spend through AI-powered expense software, released its 2019 Spend Management Report, Under Pressure: Operational Challenges for Finance Teams. Based on a survey of U.S.-based finance professionals, the report examines current practices and attitudes related to business spend and expense management. It finds that although 87% of respondents use some type of software to manage expenses, the amount of effort finance teams spend on the process itself—from tracking down receipts to closing the books to producing reports—is  so time-consuming it impacts their ability to focus on important strategic work.

These findings are significant at a time when finance departments are being asked to participate more actively in setting and achieving their companies’ strategic goals: 75% of the CFOs who participated in the survey say they’d like more time for strategy and planning. The challenge is that operational work like processing invoices and expenses, producing reports, and closing the books each month takes up the majority of the department’s time and resources.

Front-Line Pressure: The roles that most feel the pressure of too much operational work are those on the finance department’s front-line: accounting, audit, FP&A, and controllers. These respondents were most likely to say their current expense management processes need improvement, that the time spent producing reports and analyzing data is frustrating, and that they’d like to hire additional resources if they had the budget.

The survey revealed a difference in perspective between the front-line teams and CFOs, who were much more likely to describe their expense management processes as “smooth sailing” or to say they didn’t plan to hire because “everything’s under control.” CFOs are often less involved in the day-to-day operations of spend management than controllers and accounting teams, so they may be less aware of the challenges those teams face.

Priorities: Both front-line finance teams and CFOs agree on the priorities for their departments in the coming six months. They plan to focus on streamlining current accounting processes (39%) and increasing planning and forecasting accuracy (35%). Improving processes and automating spend management will help finance teams dramatically reduce the amount of effort spent on tracking and auditing expenses so they can reallocate that time to work that impacts business growth including spend analysis, strategic planning, and collaboration.

“Time is a finite resource and it’s crucial for organizations to determine how to best allocate it—especially for those members of the finance team,” says Naveen Singh, CEO and cofounder, Center. “Today, organizations need to move beyond spreadsheets and batch-based expense reports. With so much innovation happening in technology, and specifically in AI, finance teams should demand more accurate and real-time data to improve operational visibility, increase productivity, and ultimately help businesses grow.”

For more on how organizations can streamline their current expense management processes, download Center’s full 2019 Spend Management Report, Under Pressure: Operational Challenges for Finance Teams here.


12—Navigating the Glass Cliff

Women have long faced the reality of glass ceiling, an invisible hurdle to success that prevents women from advancing to the top positions in corporations. But even for women who manage to break through the glass ceiling and assume executive roles, many are faced with yet another challenge: navigating the phenomenon of the glass cliff.

The glass cliff, conceived by academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam in 2005, is a metaphor for what happens when women are elevated to leadership positions in a company when company performance is at a low. They are given these top roles only because the chance of failure is the most likely, and often are blamed when company performance worsens. Essentially, women are being intentionally set up to fail. The paradox of the glass cliff is that for several women, they feel as if the opportunity presented could be their only shot at a leadership role and feel obliged to take it, no matter how risky.

Luckily, there are steps women can take to face the glass cliff head on and avoid falling off. To learn how to navigate the glass cliff, check out the infographic from Fundera below.

Please include attribution to Fundera.com with this graphic.

What is the Glass Cliff?


Cool Tools

13—QuickBooks Improves Payroll Experience

QuickBooks just announced new enhancements to One-Day Direct Deposit Payroll:

  • QuickBooks will now debit the small business on the day employees are paid and not several days before, leaving the money in their accounts longer and improving cash flow.
  • QuickBooks users will now have more time to add additional employees to a pay run or fix a mistake. In the past, running payroll early meant the transaction was sent to the bank sooner, after which the direct deposit could not be changed. Now, QuickBooks will hold the transaction until 5 pm PT the day before payday, aligning with the deadline to submit payroll.
  • The experience will now be consistent every time QuickBooks users run payroll, no matter when they do so.

Learn more in this blog post.


14—Enabling Digital Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Are you “open for business?” How do you spread the word? LinkedIn just released a new tool to help freelancers and small business owners do just that. As all of us know—and LinkedIn research confirms it—small businesses have long been reliant on word-of-mouth to attract new customers and clients.

Applying word-of-mouth to the digital age, LinkedIn now offers users the ability to share the specific services they offer right from their profiles. This special feature enables you to show your availability, industry and skills, and geographic location—all indicating you’re “open for business” and ready to connect.

When you add your services to your profile, LinkedIn says you’ll show up when members are searching for businesses such as yours. Let’s say, for example, your company offers accounting services. When someone searches for “accountants” on LinkedIn, they’ll be able to see your company in the search results, with the specific services you provide highlighted. From there, you can directly message them. This feature is available now to U.S. small businesses and freelancers who have a Premium Business subscription. In the fall, the tool will be available to all U.S. small business and freelancers.

Learn more about enabling this feature in the blog and this video.

Join the waitlist here.


15—New Compact Multifunction Printers Offer Reliability and Higher Print Capacity

Xerox just launched a new series of three affordable printers designed to enhance small office mobility, without compromising image quality, security or the user experience. Comprised of the Xerox B210 printer, and B205 and B215 multifunction printers, (the links are to the UK site) the devices offer high-speed wireless connectivity, allowing users to print anywhere, at any time.

Each device features Wi-Fi Direct technology enabling wireless printing without a router and mobile print functionality with Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Mopria and Android support. The series reaches print speeds of up to 31 ppm, while delivering high-resolution 1200 x 1200 dpi enhanced image quality.

Taking cues from the Xerox VersaLink® and AltaLink® series, the B215 also features

a 3.5-inch touchscreen, giving users a smartphone-like experience. “Small businesses and those working from home have the same desires for ease of use, functionality, capacity and productivity as those in larger offices. This series of lightweight, compact printers provides those capabilities at the right price,” says Terry Antinora, vice president and general manager of Workplace Solutions, Xerox.

These printers are available across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) now, and launch in the U.S., Canada and Latin America on August 6.


16—Pinterest Ads On the Go

Pinterest just launched new solutions making it even easier for businesses to reach Pinners and measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. Mobile Ad Tools are a new feature aimed at helping SMBs create Pinterest campaigns on the go. Businesses get simplified ad creation with consolidated targeting options, taking the guesswork out of setting up Promoted Pins.

Pinterest has become a destination point for many startups. The company says 72% of trending business search terms are related to finding inspiration for starting or building a business.

Go here to find out how to easily create Pinterest ads.

Business stock photo by Syda Productions/Shutterstock