24 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky


1—Do You Know What Your Clients Expect from You?

We all want to know how to gain and retain clients. One of the biggest factors affecting client attraction and retention is the importance of following up and making appointment scheduling easy. A survey from Keap found:

  • 36% of clients won’t bother with service providers who don’t make appoint scheduling easy
  • 44% say lack of follow up was the reason they decided not to hire a company
  • 89% of clients are more likely to hire a service provider who was referred to them

Keap has put together a guide for service business owners focusing on how service businesses can better gain and retain client.

There’s more in the infographic below.


2—Sleep Better

May is Better Sleep Month and the folks at Better Mattress Brand think we should all be sleeping better. They say 70 million Americans are affected by sleep-related issues, so much so many would be willing to make some sacrifices to get eight more hours of sleep. For instance:

  • More than 1 in 4 poor sleepers would quit their jobs for more sleep
  • 40% of poor sleepers are forced to use a sick day at work just to get more sleep
  • Nearly 19% of poor sleepers would pass on a promotion at work for better sleep
  • 26% of Gen Xers would take a 16% pay cut for a year of perfect sleep
  • 22% of millennials would take a 20% pay cut for a year of perfect sleep

Take a look at their study here.

3—Recognizing Mental Health Issues In The Workplace

May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. And a report from the 2018 Mental Health in the Workplace Summit showed more employees miss work due to stress and anxiety than for physical illness or injury.

Dealing with mental health issues can be a delicate topic for both employers and employees. Some think it carries a stigma, and employees may attempt to hide their problems. A survey by the American Psychological Association found less than half of American adult workers felt their companies supported the well-being of their employees.

However, more companies, cognizant of productivity and cost issues associated with employee absences, are starting to implement mental health initiatives as part of their workplace wellness programs.

“Employees try to hide what they’re going through because they fear the negative consequences of being discovered. And these fears are justified,” says Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, formerly Vice President, Health and Wellness, at Prudential and founder of GreenGate Leadership®. “Many otherwise capable managers become very uncomfortable when they hear one of their team members mention words like stress, anxiety, and depression. Forward-thinking employers are implementing initiatives that break stigma and improve access to effective care. They recognize the role of leaders at all levels in creating positive, respectful, health-promoting work environments. As has often been said, culture trumps strategy every time. An employer can have all the right policies in place, but it’s the culture that either brings these to life or makes them a joke.”

Here are some tips from Dolan-Del Vecchio:

Break the stigma. Studies indicate one in five American adults experience a form of mental illness. Like most health conditions, these are most effectively treated when identified early. Stigma causes many who suffer to deny their need for care and, therefore, delay seeking it. Senior execs are in the best position to break the stigma. They can share their personal story if they live with a mental health condition, talk about how they have supported others, and sincerely encourage their employees to get the care they deserve.

Improve access to effective care. Hold your benefits provider system accountable for effective care delivery. Take a searching and fearless look at how well your organization’s mental health benefits actually serve those in need. You do that by creating an anonymous feedback mechanism for your employees and their family members. Sadly, I can almost guarantee that the results will show need for significant improvement.

Train leaders. Stress is the enemy of health and sustained productivity. More than any other factor, our immediate supervisor creates the culture of our workplace. When leaders at every organizational level treat those who report to them with an attitude of caring and respect, including respect for initiative, autonomy, diversity, and reasonable limits when it comes to productivity, the best organizational results will follow.

And Dolan-Del Vecchio adds, “It’s in everyone’s best interest for employers to fight the stigma linked to mental health issues, ensure medical benefit partners are delivering on their promises, and make sure leaders of people are up to the task.”


4—Improving Mental Health in the Workplace

Tips from Sharon Rosen, Chief People Officer, HeraldPR 

Reserve PTO for mental health days: While it’s great to save your PTO for travel, I also encourage employees to reserve a few days a year for mental health purposes. We face pressure and expectations from all facets of life, and if you can manage it, take a day once in a while where you unplug from work, email, and social media. The day should be spent in a way that will rejuvenate and relax you—and that means something different for every person. It could be going on a hike, spending time with family, or going to a yoga class. Taking a full day just for yourself away from work can bring a sense of calm, give you clarity, and really improve your overall mood.

Utilize your mid-day break in a productive manner: We spend eight hours or more a day sitting at our desks and in meetings, and it’s taxing on our bodies and minds. Whenever an employee is overwhelmed or stressed, I suggest that they take a walk and get an iced coffee. It’s amazing what a short walk, fresh air, and a cold drink can do for your energy level and mood. I personally try to be proactive and I take that walk before I get to the point of feeling overwhelmed.

Make sleep a priority: It’s the most common piece of advice, but it’s the best one. Create a healthy sleep environment, keep a sleep schedule, and stick to it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to also keep your phone in another room while you sleep. Our phones have trained us to be on high alert and they need to be removed from the equation so we can have peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. The emails and texts will be there in the morning.


5—Boosting Productivity

IDC estimates 30% of every employee’s business time—or the equivalent of 2.5 hours per day per working week—is spent searching for the people and information required to do their jobs effectively. To that same effect, over a third of employees admitted they are productive for less than 30 hours per week.

How can businesses combat this unproductive time at work? Here are three tips from Iain Scholnick, founder and CEO of Braidio:

1—Take a closer look at the workplace tools your business uses. Jumping from one platform where collaboration is taking place, to another where knowledge assets are hosted does not make for an optimal experience. Explore tools that integrate across third party applications and knowledge repositories to create efficiencies and maximize productivity.

2—Re-evaluate your organization from a bureaucratic standpoint. Some enterprises have layers of bureaucracy that really aren’t needed. Silos can be cultivated by legacy experts who wish to justify their value and ensure job security.

3—Create more efficient processes to streamline efforts. Are your processes too rigid and lengthy? Eliminating steps can help drive better engagement, also creating happiness and fulfillment. Even just a 5% improvement in productivity can save millions of dollars in larger organizations.


6—The Evolution of the Flexible Workspace

Workplace characteristics have changed drastically over the years. Technology has transformed the way we work—with workers sitting in cubicles. But, Figari, a flexible workspace provider, points out, “The rise of collaboration and the continuing evolution of the way people work now begs for new needs—namely a flexible workspace with open areas and multifunctional rooms.”

How have workspaces evolved? Find out in the infographic below.


7—Social Usage Report

Sprout Social recently released their 2019 Index showing nearly 45% of people have increased their social media usage over the past year and highlighting the increased power social holds for both consumers and for marketers in obtaining data and driving business results. But according to Sprout Social’s 2019 Index, despite social’s positive influence across a business, 53% of C-level marketers say proving the value of social to those outside their department remains a challenge.

Key findings:

Social is becoming the most powerful tool for businesses to reach their goals, but marketers struggle to prove its worth: 90% of social marketers agree investing in social media has a direct impact on their business’s revenue and 71% agree they’re able to provide helpful insights to teams outside their departments. Yet, 53% of C-level marketers say proving the value of social to those outside their departments remains a top challenge and 31% find it difficult to secure budget and resources for social media.

Social listening is crucial to better understanding target audiences: 43% of all social marketers say a major challenge is identifying and understanding their target audience. To address this concern, marketers turn to social data: 63% of practitioners believe social listening will become more important in the coming year.

Discounts and sales may prompt purchase, but entertainment and inspiration gain greater interest on social, a total flip from last year:  67% say they will engage with social posts that are entertaining, while only 37% say the same about posts that include discounts or sales. That’s a big shift from the 2018 report, where 67% of consumers said they were most likely to engage with discounts and 51% said they would share posts promoting sales.

Live video, user-generated content and Instagram Stories top the trends charts for social in 2019: 45% of consumers say they want to see live video from brands in 2019, followed by 24% wanting more user-generated content and Instagram Stories.


8—Business Leaders Lack Strategic Approach to Measuring & Improving Productivity

A new report from Jabra, the leading provider of UC sound solutions, reveals fresh insights into assessing workplace productivity. Jabra conducted in-depth interviews with CEOs and C-suite executives in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. The subsequent report, The Technology Paradox: C-suite perspectives on the productivity puzzlereveals deep divisions among CEOs and C-suite executives over who in the organization is ultimately responsible for productivity.

While 31% of CEOs say it’s the board’s responsibility, 52% of C-suite executives think the CEO should take ownership. Further adding to the confusion, 71% say measuring productivity is important but 56% of C-suite respondents believe that is difficult to measure.

Commenting on the research, Holger Reisinger, SVP for Enterprise Solutions at Jabra, says: “Optimizing productivity is one of the biggest challenges facing advanced economies across the world today, but our research shows businesses are no closer to taking a strategic approach to solving the problem. This is an issue that demands real leadership, yet senior leaders cannot decide who’s responsible. This is clearly the first step towards improving productivity, but it must be followed by real engagement with employees about their preferred ways of working.

Where are workers most productive? Previous Jabra research into knowledge workers’ attitudes on productivity found the open office—the most common type of office environment in every country except the U.S.—is one of the least productive places to work.

Knowledge workers overwhelmingly say they are most productive in single or private offices, with 44% picking this among their top two choices for working environments. By contrast, only 17% identified open offices among their top choices.

Noise, technology & colleagues drive distraction. Jabra’s knowledge worker research reveals the productivity obstacles of working in the open office that the C-suite seems not to appreciate. These include interruptions from colleagues (cited by 56%), colleagues talking around me (55%) and noise levels (45%).

The research also suggests technology is contributing to the productivity problem—11% of knowledge workers say interruptions from digital devices affect their productivity, while the proportion of those saying they are distracted by multiple messages coming through to their phones and audio devices rose from 6% to 8% since 2015. This contrasts with the fact that 62% of C-suite respondents believe encouraging the use of multiple communications platforms aids productivity.

“Business leaders admit evaluating productivity is difficult, and our research reveals different countries take different approaches to measuring it,” adds Reisinger. “Surely one of the most effective ways of improving knowledge worker’s productivity is actually to listen to their concerns about distractions and to take account of their preferred working environment. Yet the figures show there is a chasm between workers and the C-suite—for example, over the preferences for open offices and the benefits of using multiple communications technologies.”

He continues, “The C-suite seems wedded to the idea that more technology must result in improved productivity. While this may be the case for some workers, it may have the opposite effect on others. The only way to make workers more productive—and, indeed, happier—in their jobs is to engage with them. But for that to happen, every organization first needs to be clear about who owns the issue of productivity.”

You can download the full report here.


9—Retail Marketing—Experiences Count

Experiential agency Set Creative conducted market research showing that live experiences not only deliver three times the ‘purchase advantage’ over print, radio and TV, but also make brands incredibly sticky: 75% of people involved in the experience study have precise brand recall—messaging, taglines, designs and logos, coloring, etc. to small details like product ingredients. This overwhelmingly tops the effectiveness of other mediums.

Set Creative says the findings are clear: if you want people to remember your brand, create a live experience. With brick-and-mortar in flux, this obviously has implications when it comes to retail. Set Creative says it’s time to pivot to more live events, pop-ups and activations.

Watch the video for more insights. And get the Value of Experience research report here.


10—State of Local Restaurants

The State of Local Restaurants Report from Womply is a comprehensive look at when local restaurants nationally and in each state do the most business and they seat the most guests. To compile the report, Womply’s data science team analyzed transaction data from 42,000 local, independent restaurants in all 50 states during every day of the 2018 calendar year.

Notable national trends from the report:

  • On an average day, local restaurants bring in $1,273 in revenue from 45 transactions at an average of $28.38 per ticket.
  • Restaurant sales don’t fluctuate much, with predictable weekend spikes and only mild seasonality throughout the months of the year.
  • Consumers spend more at local restaurants when the weather warms up. May, June, July, and August each account for at least 9% of total yearly spending.
  • January and February are the two slowest months of the year, bringing in 6.6% and 7% of total yearly consumer spend respectively.
  • Valentine’s Day isn’t even one of the top 100 days of the year (No. 120).
  • Super Bowl Sunday is in the bottom half of revenue days for the year (No. 255).
  • Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick’s Day are the No. 3 and No. 4 days of the year, respectively.
  • Patrons spend the most at local eateries in Rhode Island, Vermont, California, Massachusetts, and Florida and the least at restaurants in West Virginia, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi.

You can click here to see the National State of Local Restaurants Report.


11—Do You Track Your Expenses?

Research from the QuickBooks Self Employed team shows only 15% of self-employed workers track expenses with an app, and 56% of workers don’t keep digital copies of receipts. Plus they uncovered some concerns self-employed business owners have about tracking their expenses:

Concern: I don’t have enough expenses
Reality: Even if you don’t have many expenses, having oversight of money coming in and out helps you quickly understand how your business is doing.

Concern: My business isn’t big enough.
Reality: Every business expense counts, especially for freelancers. Saving your receipt for that new laptop ensures that you won’t forget it at tax time.

Concern: It’s too much work.
Reality: Tracking expenses digitally is one of the easiest ways to stay on top of things as you go.

Learn more.


12—Millennials and Retirement

Mike Brown of LendEDU discusses their new study showing millennials are saving for retirement.

Study highlights:

  • 58% of millennials are actively saving for retirement. The average amount already saved–$26,475
  • Millennials aged 23-27 have $7,796 saved for retirement, those aged 28-32 have $21,375 saved, and those aged 33-38 have $39,787 saved
  • 30% of millennials are personally invested in the stock market outside of their retirement account, only 19% of those aged 23-27 are personally invested and only 35% of those aged 33-38 are personally invested
  • 29% of all millennial investments were in finance stocks, 18% were in tech stocks, and 11% were in healthcare; these sectors were consistently the three that millennials invested most in
  • 21% of millennials use a financial advisor to manage their finances—89% of them think the advisor is worth the cost
  • 65% of millennials would prefer to use a human advisor over a robo-advisor, while 16% opted for the robo-advisor, and 19% had no preference


13—Top Business Traveler Costs

Certify has released its Q1 2019 SpendSmart™ report, which aggregates receipts and expenses submitted by Certify users and highlights the most popular airline, meal, lodging and transportation services among North American companies and business travelers. Certify analyzed over 10 million receipts/expenses in preparing its report.

A key takeaway from the Q1 2019 report is the continued dominance of Uber. The ride hailing giant was responsible for 73% of all car-related ride hailing transactions in the first quarter. Lyft, meanwhile, took 22% of receipts/expenses in the category—a nearly 4% increase over Q1 2018. Taxis accounted for the remaining 6% of first quarter ride hailing transactions.

Uber was also the least expensive car-related ride hailing option among business travelers in Q1, with an average receipt of $25.19 compared to $25.32 for Lyft. Taxis had an average transaction of $33.53.* While the average Uber and taxi expenses have remained about the same from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019, the average Lyft price has increased nearly $6 over this time. For the 5th quarter in a row, however, Lyft was the top-rated ride hailing service, with an average rating of 4.9 stars, according to Certify’s 5-star customer rating system.

On the scooter front, Bird was the frontrunner in Q1 2019, collecting 46% of all receipts/expenses compared to 42% for Lime. Razor was third with 8% of scooter transactions, and Scoot finished fourth with 4%. Bird was also the least expensive scooter service, with an average receipt of $5.01 versus Lime at $5.86, Razor at $5.95, and Scoot at $6.23. Bird and Lime were also the top-rated scooters in Q1 2019, each earning a 4.5 star customer rating.

Food delivery was another common business expense in Q1 2019. Grubhub topped the list at 29% of all transactions compared to 21% for Uber Eats, 21% for DoorDash, 14% for Postmates, 10% for Caviar, and 6% for Seamless.**

Caviar was the most expensive food delivery service, with an average receipt of $113.61 compared to $81.16 for Seamless, $61.57 for Grubhub, $58.72 for DoorDash, $58.25 for Uber Eats, and $56.23 for Postmates. Caviar was also the highest rated service in Q1, scoring a perfect 5.0 in Certify’s 5-star rating system, followed by Uber Eats at 4.6 and Seamless at 4.5. Q1 2019 was the first quarter in which Certify tracked Caviar.

Other items of note SpendSmart report:

  • Uber was the most expensed vendor overall, taking 12% of all transactions.
  • Uber also made the biggest jump on the list of most expensed vendors, increasing nearly 5% from Q1 2017 to Q1 2019.
  • Starbucks was the most expensed food option in Q1 2019, with 5% of transactions.
  • Starbucks was the most expensed breakfast option, taking 18% of all breakfast receipts/expenses in Q1 2019, while McDonald’s was the top lunch and dinner choice at 3% and 2% of transactions for those meals, respectively.
  • Marriott (9.08%) topped Hampton Inn (8.97%) as the most expensed lodging service in Q1 2019; Marriott was also the most expensive, at $300.58 on average.
  • Delta was the most expensed airline in Q1 2019, earning 19% of all category transactions, compared to 17% for American Airlines.
  • Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines tied for the top rating among airline vendors, with an average user rating of 4.6 stars.

 * The average transaction prices for all car-related expenses analyzed by Certify may or may not include tips.

 ** Certify does not have visibility into whether food delivery services were used by workers while traveling or from their offices.


14—Uptick in Small Business Hiring, Revenue, & Overall Expectations

CNBC, and SurveyMonkey just released the findings of their quarterly CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey.

Each quarter, CNBC and SurveyMonkey poll small business owners to measure the vitality of the economy as well as the view from Main Street on jobs, taxes and other hot topics.

Key findings:

  • 56% of respondents say current business conditions are “good.” Additionally, 60% of small business owners expect an increase in revenues and 31% expect an increase in full-time employee numbers. Together, these three factors impacted the small business confidence index score, which increased slightly from 58 to 59 this quarter.
  • The overall confidence index is tempered by the diminishing positive impact of tax policy changes. Only 28% of small business owners expect changes in tax policy to have a positive effect on their businesses over the next 12 months, down from 44% a year ago (Q2 2018.)
  • 52% of small business owners say it’s harder to find qualified individuals to hire now compared to a year ago. For businesses with more than 50 employees, 63% of owners believe it’s harder to find qualified hires.
  • 44% of companies with 50+ employees anticipate the cost of labor will increase at a faster rate over the next year than the cost of raw materials or the cost of capital. That indicates companies anticipate raising wages to fill their open positions.
  • 26% of small business owners say they’ve advertised on Facebook within the past few months—virtually the same as one year ago, despite issues faced by the company. Some 68% of small business owners who have ever purchased ads on Facebook say they’ll either spend even more in the coming months (18%) or keep their Facebook ad spending the same.


Quick Clicks

15—Finding the perfect color combination: It can be hard to find the best colors for your store or office? Using the Color Wheel from Canva makes it simple. Take a look.

16—SEO is Crucial: SEO can be complex and ever-changing. To help small businesses understand and deploy SEO, Moz has put together the comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which explains the basics, and shows you how even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference in your marketing strategy.

17—Onboarding Employees: Great info in bambooHR’s Definitive Guide to Successfully Onboarding New Employees.

18—Social Media Stats: BroadbandSearch provides links to the latest social media stats.

19—Be Nice…Or Else: A study from the University of Toronto, Scarborough shows small businesses are expected to be “friendlier, more honest and more helpful” than larger businesses.

20—QSEHRA Update: It’s been two years since small businesses first had access to the qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA). According to PeopleKeep, in that time, the popularity of the benefit has grown, and businesses have leveraged it to increase their offerings to employees. Read the thorough report.

21—Best CRM Software: CRM helps you track and manage your sales. But what’s the best CRM software for small businesses to use? G2 has the answers.

22—Choosing a Web Host: Did you know your web hosting company can affect your SEO? I didn’t. Check out this guide to the best web hosting company for SEO from Diggity Marketing.


Cool Tools 

23—Claiming Your Yelp Listing

GoDaddy recently announced a Yelp integration with its website builder and marketing platform GoCentral. GoCentral is the first website builder that enables users to natively create and claim their Yelp business listing.

According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers make a purchase after visiting Yelp. With this integration, small business owners can maintain a strong online presence by easily creating and claiming a listing and accessing reviews from one platform. This helps business owners streamline communication with customers and save much needed time.

Using GoCentral, the majority of users are able to submit a claim for their business listing in less than four minutes. Once the listing is claimed, the GoCentral dashboard will show key insights about how the business listing is performing, and the user can easily see new reviews in GoCentral so they can respond on Yelp accordingly. The Yelp integration is available now to all GoCentral customers in the U.S. on the Business Plus and Online Store plans.

There are more details in this post.


24—Managing Workflows

If you want to create or manage workflows, Matt Burns, the head of U.S. Customer Success at, a work hub designed for any possible workflow application, has some tips:

  1. Integrate Zendesk to automatically import and send customer feedback to the appropriate team.
    2. Automate HR hiring processes to track and notify prospective candidates to eliminate wasted time on manual processes.
    3. Choose one main form of communication for your team to eliminate updates getting lost or a confusing system for approvals.
    4. Establish approval workflows which will register reminders and automatically alert the full team when a project’s specific action isn’t completed at an assigned deadline. helps you plan, organize and track workflows for most functions in your business.

How to use to automate the customer process of fulfilling orders: (more on that here)

  1. Use the Shopify/platform integration which pulls all customer data into a pulse field
  2. Set notification automations to stay alerted throughout the creation process
    3. Set date reminders so you don’t miss any important orders
    4. Use Twilio or email integration to alert the customer when status is “shipped” so they know to be prepared for their order
  3. Set up group automation to automatically archive or move to separate board space for record keeping

Business stock photo by nd3000/Shutterstock