12 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1) The Transformation of Business Travel

Certify recently released an end of year report showing how the sharing economy has disrupted business travel. The big news? Uber passed car rental companies nationally in total receipts and expenses by business travelers. See the infographic below for more information.

SpendSmart FY15 Infographic


2) How to Improve Employee Morale

Guest post by Matt Peterson, CEO and President of eFileCabinet
Employees are the backbone of any good business. They are the ones who make it possible for your business to run on a day-to-day basis. Productive employees mean a more efficient and profitable business. Unproductive employees, on the other hand, can drive a business into the ground. So what can you do to improve employee productivity and give your business that boost you’re hoping for this year?

You may think that the answer is to buckle down and drive your employees to work harder, but in fact, many studies have shown just the opposite to be true. Creating a more relaxed environment can boost your employees’ morale, and happier employees make for more productive employees. Now that you understand why it’s so important to improve employee morale, let’s talk about a few ways you can actually accomplish this this year.

Company Culture: Put in the effort to develop a strong company culture. Seek the input of your employees when deciding what type of culture you want your company to have. Keep in mind that an approachable company culture not only helps boost employee morale, but also helps you connect more easily with potential customers. Once you decide what type of culture you want in you workplace, make efforts to implement it right away. Have a kickoff party or something similar to get your employees engaged and excited about the company’s future.

Incentive Programs: Rather than encouraging improved performance by setting requirements and passing out disciplinary action for not meeting those requirements, set up an incentive program for top performers. Using this positive reinforcement instead of punishment as a motivator will do wonders for improving company morale. First, your employees won’t be living in fear of punishment for not meeting minimums. Second, rather than only doing enough work to avoid discipline, employees will strive for the top prize in your incentive program, pushing them to do more every month. Plus, they’ll feel like their work is truly appreciated, rather than feeling like they only get noticed when they are in some kind of trouble.

Proper Tools: Few things are more frustrating to employees than feeling like they don’t have the right tools to do the job required of them. If you were going to ask them to build a skyscraper, you wouldn’t give them Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, would you? Likewise, no matter what task you ask your employees to complete in the office, ensure that you are giving them the right tools to get the job done in an easy and efficient manner.

Not only does this prevent them from becoming frustrated with manual and redundant processes, or inefficient workflows, but it will also help them work more effectively. The tasks you want completed are done quicker, more accurately and with a better overall attitude when you give employees the tools they need.

What tools do you need to give them? Well, that depends on the type of business you’re running, but one tool that works across many industries is document management software. It will eliminate manual processes, redundancies in documents, and unreliable workflows. All these things make work a little easier for your employees and help boost their morale.

Yes, it’s almost February, but it’s not too late to set some New Year’s resolutions for your business. Make it your goal this year to improve employee morale and see how much your company will benefit from the change.


3) Retail Comparison Tool

How does your retail business stack up against your SMB competitors? You can now see how businesses, similar to yours, are performing and identify areas where you need to make improvements in 2016. Leading inventory and multichannel selling platform Stitch Labs created a free tool—Retail Amplifier—that provides you with free reports comparing your business to that of other retail operations.


4) Small Business Hiring Forecast

Global job site giant Indeed recently released its small business hiring study showing that while 77% of small businesses plan to hire in 2016, about half of those businesses will be replacing current employees. “Small businesses should anticipate higher attrition levels because an improved economy means more confident job seekers,” says Tara Sinclair, Chief Economist at Indeed. “Small businesses have always competed for talent, but that will be more pronounced this year as companies of all sizes increase hiring.”

The primary reason for hiring, cited by 71% of small businesses is “sudden growth,” while 54 % are looking for employees with new skills.

There’s lots more information in the infographic below.



5) How Will Small Business Market in 2016?

Are small businesses expecting 2016 to be a good year? Do they plan to spend money on marketing? What marketing tools will they be using? Is email dead?

The topic of what’s going on in the minds – and marketing plans – of small businesses is always a hot one. Are they expecting a healthy 2016? What new marketing tools will they be testing? Is email dead?

To see what small business are thinking check out the report from Constant Contact.


6) Best Countries

Germany is viewed as the best country in the world, according to the inaugural Best Countries report, a joint rankings and analysis project of U.S. News & World Report, WPP’s BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The rankings are the centerpiece of a new web portal called “Best Countries,” just launched at the World Economic Forum.

Canada and the UK rank #2 and #3 as the best overall countries, with the U.S. coming in fourth and Sweden rounding out the top 5.

2016 Best Countries: Business Data-Driven Insights

  • Germany ranks #1 due in part because to its strong economy, world influence and focus on key global issues, such as the migrant crisis and Eurozone unity.
  • Asia has the top five up-and-coming economies: India, Singapore, China, Thailand and Japan.
  • Economic influence is 90% correlated to a country’s technological expertise.
  • GDP is not the sole determinant of the “best” countries. Progressive attributes such as innovation, entrepreneurship, global citizenship and quality of life, are highly correlated with GDP.
  • Germany is the best country for entrepreneurship, while Luxembourg is the most business friendly. The best countries to start a business are:
  1. Thailand
  2. Malaysia
  3. Philippines


7) Can a Desk Boost Your Productivity?

We know that sitting all day at work is really bad for your health, and that standing desks are said to be a great weapon against “sitting disease,” helping desk-workers keep moving.

Studies have also linked interval standing to increased work productivity, group collaboration and creativity, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, and job stress—a major win for both employees and business owners, who financially benefit from health insurance savings, reduced absenteeism improved work performance, and higher retention rates as a result.

deskIf you’re interested, check out the VARIDESK, one of the newest standing-desk innovations, which lets users transition from sit/stand positions easily throughout the workday to burn calories, as well as remain active and productive.


8) 6 Ways to Keep Your Business Data Secure

Data breaches are becoming more common, in fact 43% of U.S. companies experienced a data breach in the past year and small businesses, which are often seen as easy targets, are attracting hackers and nefarious agents. As we’ve said before, small businesses continue to underestimate their risk level, with 82% of small business owners saying they’re not targets for attacks, because they don’t have anything worth stealing.

Data Privacy Day is January 28, and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) the nation’s leading nonprofit, public-private partnership promoting the safe and secure use of the Internet and digital privacy is leading the effort in the U.S. and Canada to keep businesses aware and safe. It recommends these top 6 essential ways businesses, both big and small, can promote a privacy culture and keep their data safer and more secure.

  1. If you collect it, protect it. Follow reasonable security measures to keep individuals’ personal information safe from inappropriate and unauthorized access.
  2. Be open and honest about how you collect, use and share consumers’ personal information. Think about how consumers may expect their data to be used.
  3. Build trust by doing what you say you will do. Communicate clearly and concisely to the public what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain privacy.
  4. Create a culture of privacy in your organization. Explain to and educate employees about the importance and impact of protecting consumer and employee information as well as the role they play in keeping it safe.
  5. Don’t count on your privacy notice as your only tool to educate consumers about your data practices.
  6. Conduct due diligence and maintain oversight of partners and vendors. You are also responsible for how they collect and use personal information.

Here are some Fast Facts For Small Business:

  • 43% of U.S. companies had a data breach in the past year
  • The average direct cost to a small business for a single attack in 2013 was nearly $9,000, not including brand damage and other soft costs.
  • Cybercrime and cyber spying cost the U.S. economy $100 billion a year and the global economy $300 billion a year
  • One in five small-to-medium-sized (SMB) companies were the victims of cyber breaches in 2013


9) Retailers: Get Your Email Act Together

Nearly 33% of retailers say integrating email with other their digital channels is one of their top three email marketing priorities for 2016. However, according to The 2016 Yesmail Marketing Channel Report, this goal may remain out of reach for many that continue to overlook the importance of incorporating key data points spanning social, browse, point-of-purchase, and demographic, into their digital marketing strategy.

The study shows, that although 60% of retailers are integrating email with social channels like Facebook and Twitter, almost half don’t collect email addresses via any social media channels or at in-store locations. Additionally:

  • 67% of retailers don’t use customer data to personalize their email offers.
  • More than 33% don’t personalize subject lines
  • Over 50% don’t use a recipient’s name in the body of their emails
  • 64% don’t personalize email copy at all
  • 17% fail to obtain email addresses from visitors to their website
  • More than 67% fail to capture email addresses through their own mobile app

If you want to get a copy of the 2016 Yesmail Marketing Channel Report Back to Basics: Retailers are not Ready for Cross-Channel Integration, click here.


10) Are Businesses Selling?

According to BizBuySell.com, the largest online business-for-sale marketplace, the number of annual small business transactions stabilized in 2015, ending the year down just 3.6% from 2014’s record high. The full 2015 and fourth quarter results are included in BizBuySell.com’s 2015 Insight Report, which aggregates statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.

A total of 7,222 closed transactions were reported in 2015, nearly matching the 7,494 transactions in 2014, which was the highest year-end total reported since BizBuySell started tracking data in 2007.

The median revenue of sold businesses in 2015 grew to $449,462, up from $417,562 in 2014 while the median cash flow crept up to $102,000 from $100,000 in 2014. Improved financials allowed sellers to both ask for and receive a higher price for their businesses in 2015. The median asking price grew 12.5 percent from $200,000 in 2014 to $225,000. The median sale price also increased a solid 7.6% year-over-year, from $185,000 to $199,000. The average sale to asking price ratio of 90% remained flat from 2014 to 2015.

“After a very active 2013 and 2014, this year’s small drop in transactions suggests the large rush of business owners waiting to sell during the recession may have now exited the market and we are left with a more stable, balanced environment,” says Bob House, Group GM of BizBuySell.com and BizQuest.com.


11) Social Media and Executives

A new study sponsored by Domo and CEO.com found that 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs are not active on any major social network, and are missing an opportunity to use social platforms to interact with their key audiences. This year’s Social CEO Report, an annual survey that investigates the social media habits of business leaders, shows that social media usage among this elite group is gradually increasing, as 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs weren’t active on social media when the first report was published for 2012.

White this report covers Fortune 500 CEOs, I think small business owners can learn from this survey.

Not surprisingly, the social platform most closely associated with business networking, LinkedIn, continues to dominate as the “entry network” of choice—in fact 70% of the CEOs who are active on just one social network chose LinkedIn, and the number of active CEOs on the platform increased from 25.4% in 2014 to 32% in 2015.

The number of Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter increased slightly year-over-year—up just 1.7% from 2014. While 10% of the CEOs now have profiles on Twitter, fewer use the platform on a consistent basis, with half of all active members tweeting once a month or less. Don’t be like them—Twitter can be very valuable for small business marketing and brand building.

The report also reveals fewer CEOs are using Facebook—only 11 percent have Facebook accounts and the majority of those are kept private with only eight CEOs maintaining official fan pages.

While social media adoption is slow overall, the report found that video appears to be a new focal point for both CEOs and their companies, and participation is growing faster than any other medium. Although only two Fortune 500 CEOs operate a personal YouTube account, 41% have been featured in a YouTube video for their company.

If you want a copy of the report, click here.


Cool Tool

12) Obamacare Resouce Center for Accountants

Intuit, the maker of Intuit Tax Online®, ProSeries® and Lacerte®, just announced the launch of the Intuit Affordable Care Act Resource Center to help tax professionals assist their individual and small business clients in understanding the tax and financial implications of the Affordable Care Act. The Intuit ACA Resource Center is part of the Intuit Tax Pro Center, and includes easy-to-use guides and tools designed to make it easy for tax professionals to stay updated on changes in ACA compliance and requirements for reporting client health insurance status.

Intuit’s full ACA guide for individual taxpayers can be found here.

 Changes for Small Businesses

  • 1095-B: Employers with fewer than 100 employees are not subject to the employer shared-responsibility provision this tax year and will not issue form 1095-B unless they offer employee insurance that is self-funded.
  • Small Business Health Options Program: Small businesses can purchase health insurance for its employees through the Small Business Options Program, or SHOP, through the Marketplace. Employers with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages of less than $50,000 may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit. SHOP enrollees will not receive a 1095-A.

Intuit’s full ACA guide for small businesses can be found here.

You can find more insights and resources at the Intuit Tax Pro Center.