15 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know


1—On the Road Again

Capital One just released new data taking a closer look at the habits and preferences of small business owners and decision makers, offering valuable insights into their attitudes and behaviors when out of the office.

For many SBOs, travel is a job requirement.

  • On average, 55% of SBOs report traveling at least once a month for work.
    • Reasons for travel: Attending work-related trainings or meetings (82%), entertaining existing clients (46%), visiting current or potential new office locations (39%), winning new business (38%).
  • 60% say a typical business trip requires more than three nights away from the office.

SBOs enjoy their time on the road. 

  • 88% of those who travel for business enjoy it—72% wish they traveled more often.

But there are shortcomings:

  • Travel mishaps (46%), being away from loved ones (39%), uncomfortable accommodations (29%), lengthy travel processes (28%), being away from the office (20%).

Why employers want their employees to take time off. 

  • SBOs understand the importance of their employees getting time outside of the office—94% say work-life balance is the key to having happy employees, and that a generous paid time off (PTO) package makes employees happier (94%).
  • 94% say giving employees time for themselves makes their staff more motivated and productive (93%).
  • 89% encourage their employees to use all their vacation days; 93% encourage them to truly disconnect from work when they are out of the office.

SBOs recognize their leave can benefit the business but don’t always set the best example. 

  • Many SBOs barely take personal time, with 32% saying they travel for personal reasons only four days or less per year.
  • SBOs stay connected when out of the office—69% report working on their last vacation. Of those, they worked, on average, nearly 3 hours per day on their last vacation.
  • Only 4% of SBOs say they are not available when on vacation. Plus, 20% say they’re  constantly available no matter what.
    • Most SBOs aren’t making an effort to unplug while on vacation—only 24% turn off their work email notifications when out of the office. And similarly, 25% turn their work-related instant message notifications or phones (18%) off when they are on vacation. This desire to be always-available may be why: only 38% set up an out-of-office message prior to a trip, 35% hand out their personal cell phone numbers, and 24% forward their desk line to their personal cell phone prior to heading out for a personal trip.

They know unplugging has its benefits. 

  • SBOs believe unplugging from the workplace can bring benefits—40% say it makes them a better boss; 52% say they are more productive, motivated (45%) and inspired (42%) after taking a true break from work. And 39% their work performance improves after they take time off.
  • Women are more likely than men feel refreshed after taking a vacation (61% vs. 51%).


2—The Truth About Modern Offices

Olivet Nazarene University recently surveyed American workers regarding their satisfaction with their current office environment and how it contributes to their happiness and productivity. The survey asked about their views on office design, office productivity, digital distractions and working remotely.


  • 77% of American workers are happy with the way their office is set up; those with private offices are the happiest
  • Cubicles are no longer the most popular type of workspace layout, replaced with open floor plans which can be found in 51% of workplaces today
  • Thanks to technology, employees are now having more daily conversations via messaging apps rather than face-to-face interactions (9 conversations vs, 8, respectively)
  • 58% of Americans say they are less productive when working remotely. Top reasons for loss of productivity include distractions, trouble signing off at the end of the day and difficulty communicating and collaborating with coworkers

Find out more about modern offices here.


3—Coworking Space Trends for 2020

Despite all the recent negative news about WeWork, a study from Clutch found WeWork is still the most popular coworking space. And overall, people are happy working in coworking spaces.


  • 22% of coworking employees work only in a coworking space
  • 46% of people work in their coworking space 5 days or more per week
  • 75% of respondents have worked in their coworking space for more than 1 year

Learn more about coworking trends.

Clutch did more research on the coworking industry—read about the 5 benefits of working in coworking spaces. Other “perks” include:

  • Coffee and tea (71%)
  • Snacks/meals (56%)
  • Networking/social events (45%)
  • “Fun” elements such as games (30%)
  • Gyms/exercise facilities (26%)
  • Pet-friendly amenities (26%)


4—Can You Persuade Without Manipulating?

Guest post by Angela Civitella, a certified business coach and founder of INTINDE

People who are effective in sales, persuade. They do not, I repeat, do not manipulate.

But really, what is the difference between the two? Aren’t they the same? A challenging question, isn’t it? But it’s a good one for sure and in fact, the differences are eye opening.

Let’s look at the facts

Whether you are trying to persuade or manipulate, in both cases you are trying to get someone to buy into something they would not normally do or think of, without being influenced.

Persuasion and manipulation are, in a sense cousins, good cousin and evil cousin. After all, both are based on certain principles of human nature, human action and interaction.

People who excel at persuasion and manipulation have a keen understanding as to the rules that apply to both, but more importantly, they know how to use them. That’s why you need to be weary of someone who you know is bad to the bone, yet an expert at people skills. In essence, the principles are the same, but the results could not be more different.

 What is the difference? 

Yup, you got it, intention. Experts have provided the following explanation:

“Manipulation aims at control, not cooperation. It results in a win/lose situation. It does not consider the good of the other party. Persuasion is just the opposite. In contrast to the manipulator, the persuader seeks to enhance the self-esteem of the other party. The result is that people respond better because they are treated as responsible, self-directing individuals.”

See? Change the intention and you get different results. People who try to persuade, are in it to help. On the other hand, however, people who try to manipulate are out to hurt you.

 How do you catch a manipulator? 

Manipulators almost always cause pain, and if pain isn’t the outcome, they most certainly don’t care about if that does happen. The manipulator is self-focused, and only in it to promote their own self-interest. They do only what they feel is for their own benefit and, if someone must suffer as a result, then so be it.

The truth is, it’s not only negative for a good life practice, it is absolutely counterproductive for your business life. Manipulators collect employees, but never excel at putting a team together.

They can have customers, but it’s usually the revolving door kind. Referrals? You can forget that, not happening. And, if ever discovered, well, it’s like having a front row seat and watching your career die a slow death. In their personal lives, manipulators can have family and friends, but never have any fulfillment or happiness that drives from them.

So, what is the difference? 

Yes, both persuaders and manipulators know the how and why of human motivation. And, both use their knowledge to cause the action they desire a person to take. However, the crucial difference between the two is that while manipulators use that knowledge to their advantage only, the persuader uses it to the other person’s advantage.

Ultimately, your influence and ability to persuade is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first. If you are like me, I truly believe we get back what we put out. When you set out to help make a difference for someone else, it’s a reciprocal behavior that’s going to come back, and reward you over and over again.


5—Time to Nominate Top Small Businesspeople, the largest referral network for small businesses with 4.5 million members, just launched their Small Businessperson Of The Year Contest. The contest, introduced last year, is searching for Main Street’s unsung heroes—the business leaders who help drive the success of their entire small business communities.

This year’s competition promises to be even more robust. “Last year, this contest created a truly awesome frenzy of praise among small businesspeople in their communities, giving them the chance to thank peers publicly for helping them in good times and bad,” says Eric Groves, Alignable’s cofounder and CEO. “We expect even more well-deserved shout-outs for small businesspeople everywhere this year.”

Contest criteria focuses on honoring local leaders who’ve not only succeeded in their own businesses, but have actively helped peers thrive via recommendations, referrals, mentorship, and advice—ultimately demonstrating a strong desire to elevate their entire local business economy.

The Call for Nominations phase runs until March 20, 2020 at midnight ET. During this phase, not only are small businesspeople in North America encouraged to nominate their most-esteemed peers, they’ll have the chance to “like,” share, and comment on their favorite contestants. The more Alignable “likes” individuals accumulate, the better their chances to advance to the next round.

“In addition to local recognition from their peers, last year’s winners benefited from increased visibility, credibility, media buzz, and business referrals,” adds Venkat Krishnamurthy, Alignable’s cofounder and President. “So it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of pent up demand for 2020’s friendly albeit intense competition.”

Alignable members can participate in the contest by clicking here or they can go to their community forums. Small businesspeople who aren’t on Alignable yet can sign up for free at


6—5 Key HR Topics for Businesses to Keep Top of Mind in 2020

Guest post from TriNet

Harassment Prevention: Harassment prevention was a hot topic in 2019 and will continue to be in 2020. California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, New York City, and New York State all currently have harassment prevention initiatives and we anticipate that other states and cities will implement requirements in 2020. Harassment prevention legislation have included required postings in the workplace, notices to employees, thorough harassment prevention policies, and harassment prevention training for both employees and supervisors. Illinois has a new training requirement effective January 1, 2020 and Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts strongly recommend training. Employers should make sure their business follows all applicable anti-harassment regulations and best practices to create a work environment where all employees feel safe and supported. This helps businesses remain compliant while fostering a positive workplace culture. An HR professional or professional employer organization can be instrumental in helping design and implement an effective anti-harassment program.

Mandatory Paid Time Off: Businesses are just beginning to become accustomed to mandatory paid sick leave requirements as paid sick leave laws have been a growing trend in the past years. Now we are beginning to see states expanding this requirement to mandatory paid time off for any reason, not just for being sick. Maine was the first state to pass a law that beginning January 1, 2021, requires employers to provide “earned paid leave” that can be used for any reason. Nevada passed a similar law that went into effect on January 1, 2020. Bernalillo County, New Mexico, has enacted the “Employee Wellness Act,” effective July 1, 2020, requiring employers to provide paid time off for employees to use for any reason. We anticipate this will be a growing trend in other states and localities. A competitive paid time off policy is a great tool to attract and retain talent. Employers should look at their current paid time off policies to ensure they are competitive and compliant with local or state regulations.

Paid Parental Leave: Paid parental leave, has been a popular topic for state and local legislation. Currently, the following states have parental leave requirements which provide or will provide employees with paid time off for purposes of bonding with their new child: California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. This is also a trend where many private employers not subject to any requirements are providing paid leave in support of parental leave. Many companies see the benefit of offering paid parental leave to retain talent and create a strong company culture. Employers should review their current parental leave policies to ensure they are compliant.

Misclassification of Independent Contractors: Companies often engage independent contractors to perform work for their business. This will become much more challenging for companies operating in the state of California. California recently passed AB 5 that went  into effect January 1, 2020, codifying stricter guidelines on the classification of independent contractors. Companies must use an “ABC” test to determine if an individual qualifies as an independent contractor. To pass the ABC test, the company must be able to show the following three items:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the company (by agreement and in fact),
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business, and
  3. The worker is engaged in an independently established business of the same nature as the work being delivered to the hiring entity.

Part B of the test is complex because it is generally interpreted to mean that a business cannot use an independent contractor to do anything that the business uses employees to do—or that is central to the business regardless.

We anticipate that other states will follow California’s lead in implementing stricter guidelines for independent contractor classifications. Companies should review the independent contractor requirements for their state to ensure that independent contractors are properly classified.

New Overtime Rule: Per the Department of Labor (and effective as of January 1, 2020) the minimum exempt salary under the administrative and professional exemptions will increase from $23,600 to $35,568 annually. For employees to maintain an exempt status they must be paid a minimum salary and meet specific duties tests. Although the duties tests have not changed, employees making less than $684 a week will be eligible for overtime. Under the new rule, incentive payments, commissions and nondiscretionary bonuses paid on an annual or more frequent basis may be utilized to satisfy up to a maximum of 10 percent of the minimum salary level. Additionally, the new rule increased the salary threshold for highly compensated employees from $100,000 annually to $107,432 annually.

Employers should review employees’ salaries, take into consideration state requirements which may be different than the federal requirements and review the applicable duties tests in order to make sure employees have the proper status.


7—Consumer Interest in Subscription-Based Apps Skyrockets

Liftoff, a leader in performance-driven mobile user acquisition, recently released its annual Mobile App Trends Report which provides insights into the booming app economy. Specifically, the report found a cultural shift in consumer purchase behavior, as users demonstrate a preference for enrolling in subscription services over making one-time purchases.

Drawing upon Liftoff’s internal data, the report analyzes over 349 billion impressions across 992 mobile apps, 5.35 billion clicks and 76.6 million total post-install events. Spanning a variety of app categories, including those in Finance, Entertainment, Lifestyle, Music & Audio, Education, Gaming, Shopping, Social Media and more, the report found the following:

Gen Z(ero Ownership): Consumers Are Far More Willing to Subscribe to Services than to Make a Purchase: The subscription economy has taken off in recent years as consumers have moved increasingly away from ownership, and the market has noticed: today, there are over 2,000 consumer-focused subscription businesses capitalizing on customers’ diverse tastes. For the past two years, Liftoff’s data has pointed to the growth of the subscription model, but this year it shows one key difference: mobile users are far more willing to subscribe to a service than to make a one-time purchase.

The cost to acquire a user who makes a first-time-purchase is up more than 60% year-over-year, making it the most expensive acquisition across all mobile app categories. However, high cost doesn’t equal high return—in the past year alone, purchase rates have plummeted by a whopping 213%. Meanwhile, costs to acquire a subscribing user are down by 58.2%, while engagement is up 45%, demonstrating that users are eschewing traditional ownership in favor of the advantages of subscription. And for those marketers looking for major results, iPhone users may be the target: those on iOS have 121% higher subscription rates (10.9%) than Android users (2.7%).

“The subscription model, particularly in e-commerce, offers consumers a convenient, personalized, and often lower-cost way to buy what they want and need,” explains Mark Ellis, CEO and cofounder of Liftoff. “Marketers looking to capitalize on this cultural shift should explore subscription-based models or tiers or take note of key points in the year when purchase behavior is up to get the most bang for their buck.”

For more details on download the full report.


Cool Tools

8—Faster & More Efficient Shipping

Pitney Bowes Inc. (NYSE: PBI), a global technology company that provides commerce solutions in the areas of ecommerce, shipping, mailing and financial services, just launched SendPro C Auto, the latest evolution of its SendPro digitally-connected sending technology portfolio.

Utilizing the integrated mailing and shipping technology with the SendPro platform, SendPro C Auto includes a high-speed auto feeder that can process mail at speeds of up to 120 letters per minute or 2 every second, accelerating productivity and saving businesses up to $6 in postage spend per minute automatically. SendPro C Auto takes efficiency to the next level and is specifically designed to eliminate labor-intensive manual processes by enabling business to process large mail volumes, print labels, ship parcels and track shipments and costs, all in one place.

“SendPro C Auto is an exciting evolution of our flagship SendPro portfolio, extending the value and reach of SendPro to a wider audience,” says Jason Dies, EVP and President Sending Technology Solutions, Pitney Bowes. “It brings together our advanced engineering capabilities and design innovation in an easy-to-operate, user-friendly sending hub with some industry-leading features. Time is money for our clients, so finding new ways to boost their productivity, efficiency and reliability translates into direct cost savings.”

With the simple-to-use full-color touchscreen and integrated scale, sending has never been so quick and easy.  Further, with the Android operating system and Google GMS compliance, the SendPro C Auto leverages Internet of Things (IoT), Data Analytics, and the ability for App development to maximize savings and efficiency for the client to scale with their evolving business needs.  Access to the SendPro Online shipping platform comes as standard, providing complete visibility of sending activity, costs and tracking history. Users automatically save on every First-class letter  and realize potential savings of up to 40% on Priority Mail shipments when using the USPS IMpb Label Feature. Included access to presort rates offers even greater cost efficiencies for businesses with larger mail volumes as well.

Having recently announced its 100,000th installation, SendPro C is Pitney Bowes’ leading all-in-one sending technology. In 2018 the technology won an International Design Award, which recognizes and celebrates groundbreaking achievements in product design.

SendPro C Auto Features and benefits

  • Automatically feed & seal up to 120 letters per minute, up to  5/16” thick
  • Print postage and save 5¢ on every First-Class letter, flat and postcard, up to $6 in postage savings per minute automatically
  • Reverse separation feeding technology to minimize letter jams
  • Access to presort rates – at no extra cost – to save even more on larger volumes
  • Integrated 15 lb. scale to weigh large envelopes and packages, with options of 30lb and 70lb external scales
  • Optional label printer for shipping labels directly from the device
  • Track sending and spend directly from device, up to 500 accounts
  • 7” color touchscreen lets you quickly and easily select your sending task
  • Meets latest USPS (IMI) compliance and security standards
  • Automatically calculate postage for different size letters and envelopes
  • Automatic postal rate updates ensure you pay the right price
  • Access to SendPro Online portal:
    • Print and save up to 40% on Priority Mail shipping
    • Easily compare shipping rates and options across USPS, FedEx and UPS
    • View postage, shipping and accounting reports all in one place
  • Access to the SendPro Care App that provides on product tutorials and assistance for resolving client issues or questions
  • Google GMS compliance, enabling a platform for App development and integration
  • Analytics that can maximize savings and efficiency of spend for clients


9—Get Lightning-Fast Scans

Epson America, a leading provider of digital imaging solutions, just introduced the WorkForce® ES-865 color duplex document scanner, a high-speed document scanner fine-tuned for high-volume businesses. Offering lightning-fast color scans, the affordable ES-865 quickly scans stacks of documents unattended and can speed through both sides of a document in a single pass at fast speeds of up to 65 ppm/130 ipm.

The robust ES-865 is equipped with Epson’s intuitive ScanSmart Software, which is designed to simplify and streamline the processes of scanning, reviewing and saving documents. Home, small and medium business users can upgrade to ScanSmart Software Accounting Edition to help organize and export receipts into existing accounting software, such as QuickBooks® Online, QuickBooks® Desktop, Quicken®, and TurboTax.

Compatible with both PCs and Mac®, the ES-865 is ideal for any business or home office workspace and allows users to scan to popular cloud storage services such as Evernote®, Dropbox® and Google Drive™. The included TWAIN driver ensures seamless integration with virtually any scanning software, while the built-in Nuance®OCR allows users to create searchable PDFs or editable Word and Excel® files, ultimately helping to make everyday office tasks easier.

Equipped with a color LCD display for easy navigation, mode selection and maintenance features, the ES-865 features a 100-page Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) for high-volume batch scanning. With advanced paper feed technology including Slow Speed Mode for delicate sheets, Double-Feed Detection and Paper Protection to prevent misfeeds, the robust ES-865 allows users to conveniently scan important documents including business cards, ID cards and more.

Pricing and Availability: The Epson WorkForce ES-865 (MSRP $749.99) color duplex document scanner will be available on February 13 through major online computer, office and electronic superstores and on Epson’s site. The scanner will feature a one-year limited warranty and optional extended service plans featuring next business day exchange programs.


10—Easing the Burden of Tax Prep

Sunrise, a Lendio company, recently launched Tax Assist, designed to lessen the burden of tax preparation for small business owners. Free to Sunrise users, Tax Assist alerts business owners of their potential tax liability so they can be better prepared financially, in advance of tax payment deadlines.

Tax Assist also guides small business owners through the process of organizing documents to ensure a smooth tax filing, thereby reducing the time and money needed for professional tax preparation services. While Tax Assist does not enable business owners to file their taxes through the Sunrise platform, it does help LLCs, Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships to get their books in order and to pinpoint potential areas of tax savings.

Key features of Tax Assist include:

  • Tax Health List with automated book preparation
  • Bank account reconciliation
  • Transaction categorization
  • Unpaid invoice follow-ups

“Small business owners consistently cite both bookkeeping and tax preparation as major pain points in running their operations,” says Brock Blake, CEO and founder of Lendio. “With this new Tax Assist feature, Sunrise can significantly reduce both of these challenges for entrepreneurs—so they can get back to doing what they do best.”

Sunrise is a user-friendly solution for solopreneurs and small business owners and comes in two versions: a free plan that allows businesses to do both cash and accrual-based accounting as well as a paid plan that also allows growing businesses to leverage expert bookkeepers.


11—2-Way QR Codes

ContactPigeon, the omnichannel marketing automation platform with  300+ enterprise clients in the U.S. and EU, has bridged the customer experience between the digital and offline channels with the introduction of a patent-pending 2-Way QR extension.

“In-store sales comprise more than 80% of global retail sales in 2018, so physical retail is here to stay. The challenge has always been connecting the customer journeys between the online and offline worlds. Our 2-Way QR codes technology tackles this challenge by integrating consumer interactions across the channels and enabling retails to engage shoppers with targeted messages in-store. We expect this to be a game-changer in the customer loyalty battle,” says George Moirotsos, founder and CEO of ContactPigeon.

ContactPigeon’s patent-pending 2-Way QR integration offers a non-intrusive solution for tracking and engaging with store visitors, which can be easily and quickly deployed across large numbers of stores without heavy capital investments.

Unlike traditional adoption of QR codes, ContactPigeon works with the existing digital profiles by displaying content most relevant to the corresponding customer. Customers who scan the same QR code can encounter different messages, thus enabling retailers to design targeted offers and engage customers at various store locations. The interactions with QR codes are captured as part of an integrated customer profile with data, such as location visited, products viewed or purchased offline – that can be used for remarketing campaigns. And the customer does not have to download any app or prior registrations, a major deterrent to consumer adoption.

ContactPigeon has been testing the 2-way QR Integration technology on a pilot program with a major domestic electronics retailer with promising results and plans to expand the deployment to a wider client base.


Quick Clicks

12—Customer Complaints

Why do consumers rant about companies online? According to this post, Complaining Customers & Calling Out Businesses Online on the WhoIsHostingThis blog, the top reason is they’ve had a bad experience with a product or service. Poor customer service was also considered more problematic than paying for overpriced goods.

Not all review sites are created equal. Yelp, Facebook, Reddit, TripAdvisor and YouTube rank as credible in the eyes of consumers. Compared to Facebook, Twitter users have a higher likelihood of receiving same-day responses from a customer service representative or business owner.

And 1  in 10 respondents who vented negatively about a brand online were eventually blocked by the company on social media.


13—Starting a Business? 5 things every bootstrap founder should know from Service Direct.

14—Best CRM: 10 Best Free and Open Source CRM Software Solutions from Reviano

15—Employee Satisfaction: Keep Your Workers Happy & Your Business Healthy from smallbizgenius.

Business stock photo by ESB Professional/Shutterstock