11 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1) Entrepreneurs UNite!

No, that’s not a typo. Dell’s founder Michael Dell, who is also the UN Foundation’s Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship, has launched a movement—#EntrepreneursUNite—to help entrepreneurs scale globally. The big goal: international job creation to ultimately “advance the greatest innovations of our time.”

Dell and its partners are kicking off the campaign with a global call to action in the form of a worldwide petition to ask for the support of “United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8.”

Sounds a bit confusing, I know. So I asked Elizabeth Gore, Dell’s entrepreneur-in-residence to explain. Gore says every 15 years the United Nations votes on a set of global goals, essentially it’s the “world’s to-do list.”

The goal Dell is supporting—Goal 8—specifically calls for the support of entrepreneurs by promoting sustained, inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Goal 8, explains Gore, is essentially a road map for every country, showing them how to enhance entrepreneurship through laws, regulations, market access, and more.

Gore says at Dell they, “believe entrepreneurs are the foundation for innovation, economic growth and job creation. We have seen firsthand what founders can do to clear obstacles for their peers to create change.” Goal 8 would empower entrepreneurs around the world to get access to markets, capital, talent and technology.

The list of Sustainable Development Goals (17 of them) are being debated now by the countries in the UN and will be decided on in September at a special summit.

As entrepreneurs we all have to do our parts. Dell is rallying entrepreneurs to go to the Entrepreneurs UNite website and sign the petition to adopt Goal 8. And please share this information with your social networks, using the #EntrepreneursUNite hashtag.

Consider your signature an investment in your future—and the future of global entrepreneurship.

2) Social Media ROI

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What’s the ROI from social media?” Well, a new survey from Manta reveals that 59 percent of small business owners don’t see a return on investment from their social media efforts.

John Swanciger, Manta’s CEO says, “While Facebook has a solid head start, none of the social networks have convinced small business owners that it’s worth a significant investment.”

Some highlights from the survey show:

  • Facebook is the top social network for small business owners. In fact, benchmarked against Manta’s 2013 social media survey, 53 percent of those surveyed rank Facebook as returning the most value to their businesses, up from 29 percent in 2013.
  • 47 percent of the small businesses that see ROI on social media report receiving less than $100 each month
  • 34 percent of business owners plan to increase time spent on social media, down from 49 percent in 2013

But entrepreneurs are not giving up on social media. They’re setting social media goals:

  1. New customer acquisition—37 percent
  2. Driving awareness of or marketing for their business—17 percent
  3. Generating leads or referrals—1 5 percent

To help, Manta offers these tips to help you get the most out of social media:

  • Follow the 80/20 rule.  Use social media to talk about your business 20 percent of the time, but beware: going overboard with self-promotion can sink your social media credibility. Stay afloat and engage followers by talking about things other than business 80 percent of the time.
  • Don’t put all of your social eggs in one basket. There are endless places to engage with potential customers, so mix it up. Most business owners rely heavily on Facebook, but each social channel caters to a different demographic. Customize messages to fit the platform and think about how your audience uses different social networks to consume information.
  • Keep it fresh. No one wants to read the same post again and again. And since you should limit your words, think about the impact of each one. Keep messages persuasive and active.

3) 5 Tips for Preventing Burnout as a Small Business Owner

Guest post by Evan Singer, General Manager, SmartBiz

Burnout isn’t usually something that’s talked about among entrepreneurs—maybe it’s because we’re a relatively optimistic group, or perhaps we think we’re supposed to always feel fueled by “living our dreams.”

But, the truth is that no matter what you’re doing or how much passion you have, the physical, mental, and emotional stress that comes from overwork can get to anyone.

In fact, both China and Japan each have a word specifically for burnout leading to death! Although “guolaosi” and “karoshi,” respectively, certainly represent the more extreme end of the spectrum, burnout can nonetheless creep up on us and slowly bring us down.

Here are five ways to make sure you’re refreshing that non-stop brain of yours so you don’t hit the wall of business burnout:

  1. Keep Yourself Healthy.  When it comes down to it, an investment in your health is an investment in your business. Even though self-care frequently falls to the bottom of an entrepreneur’s never-ending to-do list, it’s crucial to the success of your company. Not only will good health enable you to simply continue your work, but the healthier you are the more energy you’ll have to put back into your business—which can pay off financially as well. Studies show that entrepreneurs who get cardiovascular exercise have higher sales than those who don’t. It makes sense: exercise increases endorphins, boosts brain activity, and improves self-esteem. Although you may think you can’t afford to pay much attention to your personal wellbeing, the truth is you can’t afford not to.
  2. Take Leisure Time. Just as important as physical health—or perhaps even more important—is your mental health. Taking leisure time doesn’t mean lollygagging whenever you please or taking an excessive amount of vacation; it could be as simple as taking the weekends off. The bottom line is it’s essential to fully “shut down” and carve out time—sans work. The cost of neglecting to unplug from technology and truly enjoy other activities is actually quite large: In the U.S., fatigue costs over $136 billion per year in health-related lost productivity, with 84 percent of the cost due to reduced performance at work. It’s important to remember that humans operate more like batteries than a nuclear power plant—we have to be recharged. Often, taking time out for yourself is the only way to come back with a fresh start.
  3. Delegate Tasks. As a driven entrepreneur, it’s natural to feel compelled to “do it all,” but trying to accomplish everything yourself can lead to burnout faster than anything else. It’s a simple reality that if you take on everything, you often end up achieving almost nothing. Alternatively, consider which activities you must do yourself and identify any others that could be relayed into someone else’s hands. A lot of entrepreneurs’ time is sucked up by relatively menial tasks such as paperwork, filing organization, invoicing, and detail management. Save your brainpower for what you do best, like focusing on the big picture of your company, and hand off the details to other competent contributors: independent contractors, employees, and vendors. Surrounding yourself with only what you absolutely need to do will not only free you up, but likely reinvigorate your creativity because you’ll be able to hone in on your own fortés.
  4. Break Up with Multitasking. In our ever-changing, fast-paced society it’s become more and more seductive to try to “stay on top” of everything by doing more than one task at once. Yet, current research points to how multitasking is an illusion: instead of getting more done, we’re actually just rapidly going back and forth between activities and not delving into anything fully or giving it the thoroughness it deserves. This creates a hectic, scattered relationship with our work. On the other hand, dedicating ourselves to one undertaking at a time and completing it before moving onto the next task gives us a greater sense of accomplishment and yields better work quality.
  5. Work Toward Goals. It may seem like a given that as an entrepreneur you’re compulsively looking ahead, but many people become consumed by to-do lists rather than investing in important business goals. A useful method for staying on track and making sure your head, energy and efforts are in the right place does involve a list. But it takes objectives to a whole new level. For starters, begin your normal daily list with three big goals that would propel your business forward. From there, compose three tasks per goal for the day that would help you to accomplish it. If you focus on those priorities before tending to all of the little “to-dos,” you’ll ensure that the path you’re carving is a rewarding one, leading you where you truly want to go.

4) It’s Going to be a Good Year

According to a new survey from Headway Capital, 57 percent of small business owners anticipate sales growth in 2015.

Some survey highlights:

  1. 57.1 percent anticipate moderate to high growth in their operational expenses
  2. 52 percent expect moderate to high growth in inventory and supplies costs
  3. 51 percent expect wage increase-related expenses
  4. 19 percent are concerned about unexpected expenses

With all these anticipated increases in spending, it’s not surprising that small business owners are looking for additional capital—and they’re starting to look outside of traditional credit sources. While banks are still their top choice for funding, the survey shows “more small business owners are now considering alternative lending as a viable option.”

The problem? More than 41 percent of small business owners were unsure of the options that are available to them.

5) Promote Your Business—the Easy Way

Ooma, a business and home communications company, just expanded its Ooma Office platform to include a powerful lead generation tool. Ooma’s vp of marketing Jim Gustke, told me the tool is specifically designed to help small business owners drive customer acquisition.

The capabilities in Ooma’s Business Promoter are built into the Ooma Office platform, which Gustke says is designed to help small businesses broaden their marketing reach and build their online presence.

Here’s how it works:

Subscribers to Ooma Office, which is targeted specifically to small business owners, who sign up for the Business Promoter package will get help from Ooma experts creating an online presence using SEO techniques. Then when a potential new customer calls, depending on the length of that call (so you’re not paying for hang-ups or wrong numbers), you pay a small fee. Think of it as a pay-per-lead

Gustke says this is ideal for busy business owners—essentially, he says, “you answer the phone, you make a sale.”

6) Mobile Payments Grow

A new survey just released by CAN Capital shows the shift toward mobile payment technologies and capabilities is considered by industry professionals as the largest area for growth and disruption this year.

Can surveyed payments and alternative finance professionals, 70 percent of whom say mobile payments have shown the most growth among merchant-focused product offerings over the past 12 months. Plus, 44 percent feel new payments technologies will gain the most momentum in 2015 within the processing industry. When asked what trends will have the largest impact on consumer spending habits in 2015, 36 percent say mobile wallet technologies, followed by 27 percent who cite online/mobile marketing practices.

However, the CAN Capital Small Business Health Index shows 87 percent of small businesses do not currently accept mobile payments, and only 11 percent say mobile targeting is an important component of their digital marketing strategies.

“As the payments industry shifts toward mobile offerings and EMV-enabled credit cards, we must make sure we continue to engage with and educate the small businesses who will be using these new tools in their everyday business dealings,” says Dan DeMeo, CEO of CAN Capital.

The transition to EMV (chip and pin) credit cards in the U.S. is another topic that is top of mind for today’s payment professionals. Twenty percent of professionals say the adoption of EMV will have the largest impact on the spending habits of consumers this year. Yet, although 55 percent of small businesses are familiar with EMV, only 18 percent have taken steps to update their POS systems to be compatible with chip and pin cards.

7) New Source of Loans

Kabbage Inc., a leading online provider of small business loans, is teaming up with Sage Payment Solutions, a full-service payments provider, to deliver a fully-branded lending product to small business customers.

Sage Payment Solutions, a division of Sage North America, allows merchants to accept multiple forms of payment, including credit and debit cards, electronic checks, Check21, gift and loyalty cards, and automatic recurring payment, and provides a wide range of secure standalone and integrated payment solutions, such as Sage Small Business Loan powered by Kabbage.

Sage Small Business Loans powered by Kabbage is now live.

8) New Website Builder for Event Planners

If you’re an event planner, you’ll want to check out the new all-in-one, easy-to-use, website builder for event planners from Bizzabo. This newest addition to Bizzabo’s event management platform gives event organizers and anyone planning a professional event or conference the ability to build a custom event website in minutes, and with no prior coding or design experience required. The professional cloud-based software is sleek, responsive, and includes a range of different themes, allowing organizers to create a well-branded, fully synced and updated event website.

The website builder is free for organizers who use Bizzabo’s all-in-one event success platform. The new capability was designed specifically for event planners, and delivers the ability to design and brand any event’s public image beautifully and seamlessly.

9) Get Smarter

The traditional business school model is being disrupted by Thrive15.com, which offers “practical business training from world-class mentors who have been successful in business.”

Thrive15 costs only $49 per month, $19 per month for students and is free for U.S. military members through Thrive15’s 1 for 1 HandUp Movement!

Cool Tools

10) PDF Converter 

Do you have to convert PDFs? Now it’s easier than ever, thanks to the latest version (v9.0) of Able2Extract PDF Converter, which is now an all-around, complete PDF conversion package.

Some of the new features of Able2Extract 9 include:

  • Runs on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms
  • Converts PDF to multiple editable formats (PDF to MS Office, OpenOffice, AutoCAD, Image, HTML etc.)
  • Edits PDF pages (delete, resize, move, scale, rotate, adjust viewing preferences)
  • Creates professional PDFs from almost any format
  • Offers custom PDF to Excel conversion

11) Deeper Analytics

Check out Jumpshot, a next-generation marketing analytics platform. The company just received $22 million in Series A funding and will use the funds to scale operations and enrich its two core offerings: the Jumpshot Plus web platform and Jumpshot Strategic Analytics.

With 107 million global users who click on 150 billion links per month, Jumpshot says it has the statistical accuracy to report what is actually happening, as opposed to what a limited panel merely suggests is happening.

The Jumpshot Plus web platform allows clients to benchmark performance against competitors or market trends and uncover new marketing opportunities via audience segmentation. It also lets clients see where their audience goes before and after visiting their own websites and even track customers who visit a specific URL.

Jumpshot’s Strategic Analytics business answers in depth questions specific to a client’s unique business needs. The product can track growth, performance and conversion rates for any online property; evaluate trends and segments by global region; and overcome systemic marketing short-sightedness by tracking what customers do and how they convert on any digital property on the web.