12 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know


By Rieva Lesonsky

Happy Holidays!


1—Surprising Holiday Trends You Need to Know

Good news for retailers. A recent survey from ReachLocal shows 44% of respondents prefer to shop both in physical stores and online, with 28% preferring to shop only in stores. This means small businesses (retailers, as well as service companies, restaurants, or other local businesses) need to integrate their online and offline marketing efforts.

Another surprise (many assume consumers would rather shop online) is that millennials prefer to shop at physical stores, citing the social aspects and overall experience of shopping with friends and family.

There’s lots more information in the infographic below.


2—Most Popular Gift Cards

What are the most popular gift cards this holiday season? LendEDU ranked the 101 most popular gift cards. The report shows the top-rated gift cards this year were from McDonald’s, GameStop, Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon.

Additional findings:

  • 79% of Americans intend to buy gift cards this holiday season
  • 76% would rather receive a gift card instead of an actual gift
  • 34% have re-gifted a gift card
  • 37% prefer a tech-industry gift card, 31% want a pre-paid multi-purpose gift card, and 22% want a clothing-industry gift card.

3—10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Brand Awareness

For small business owners, brand awareness is a crucial element of growing your business. Frank Ouyang, the chief manager and cofounder of Panda Paper Roll Company, a paper roll supplier and mobile payment solution provider, offers some advice.

“Your brand is what makes you unique and recognizable in the market. It has everything to do with how a customer perceives your business; from your logos, the company website and adverts. Their experience with your brand can make or break your business. It is therefore important to work towards building a brand which is easily recognized and gives the customer a great experience. A great brand is, unfortunately, not an overnight success; it does not just happen. A lot of thinking and planning has to be put in place in order to achieve this.

“The brand is your identity in the marketplace. In today’s world, businesses compete on a global economy. Since there are thousands of similar businesses, how do you stand out from the others? You have to identify your unique value proposition and let your brand consistently communicate this. This will put your customer at ease as they know what to expect each time they interact with you, and are more likely to refer others to you.

“A strong brand will create a great business value. If you think about some of the greatest brands around you, their value is not just tied to their physical assets. Many have created an emotional attachment between their clients and their products or services which makes them irresistible, which creates customer loyalty.

Check out the infographic below from Panda Paper Roll Company.


4—Business Travel Secrets

Business travel can be grueling—or enjoyable—if you know the inside secrets. Global hotel brand Hampton by Hilton and Wakefield Research conducted a survey which found 89% of respondents had business trip secrets they were willing to share. Some of the secrets were simple, such as scheduling meetings for a Friday or Monday to incorporate a weekend stay (51%) or a little more complex, like staying at a less expensive hotel so they can splurge elsewhere, such as at a pricey restaurant (37%).

Other findings:

What travelers dread: 81% of business travelers dread either getting delayed and being away from home longer than planned, or managing a pile of work when they get back home.

Rookie mistakes: For a novice, the biggest reported mistakes were: arriving late to the airport or missing a flight (63%), packing more than needed (51%) or not packing appropriately for the weather (47%).

Age matters: Millennials (87%) are more likely to book their work trip with a personal interest in mind than their boomer counterparts (71%).


5—End-of-the-Year Compliance Cleanup

What’s your business’ status as 2017 comes to a close? Check out the compliance cleanup checklist below from Scot Ferraro, Director at Wolters Kluwer’s CT Corporation,  and see why end-of-year compliance cleanups are critical for every business.


6—Doing Business with Amazon

If you’re a retailer, you might want to consider selling your goods on Amazon. To find out how, we talked to Joe Hansen, founder and Managing Director at Buy Box Experts. Hansen and his partner, James Thomson, are the authors of The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma.

Q: The feeling is if you can’t beat them, join them. So how can a small retailer expand their reach through the Amazon platform? Is it a smart move for a small business to join Amazon?

A: What many brand owners fail to realize is that the decision as to whether a brand’s products are sold on the Amazon marketplace is rarely within their control. Even where a brand has complete control of its distribution, there’s no way to ensure that a customer won’t create a product listing to sell a used item or arbitrage a new product sale. In short, your products will get offered for sale on the Amazon marketplace, whether or not you want your catalog to be there.

Given that, it’s just a matter of when your products show up on Amazon, not if, we recommend every brand owner (size doesn’t matter) at least invest the time and energy to ensure their product listings represent the brand’s standards. After that, it’s a decision as to whether to sell to Amazon Retail, sell on the marketplace as the Seller of Record, or sell through other third-party resellers. There are tradeoffs in control, profitability, and daily involvement to each approach. We discuss these tradeoffs in our book The Amazon Marketplace Dilemma.

Q: How can a small business stand out from so many competitive products from companies both large and small? And is the effort worth it?

A: While it’s a necessity for large brands to develop an Amazon strategy, the majority of sellers on the channel today are small to medium-sized. We know thousands who’ve carved out successful product niches. Amazon provides a unique platform for small, private-label sellers to compete head-to-head with massive brands, and they can do this without spending hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to be competitive on Google and Facebook. We have witnessed hundreds of cases where private label products outrank billion-dollar-brand products because they employ a better strategy than large brands do.

Q: How can a small business sell on Amazon and maintain profit margins?

A: Ensuring that product sells at MSRP is one key to maintaining margins so the brand remains profitable. This requires worldwide, tight control of distribution. Brand owners should also consider designing product specifically to fit within Amazon’s FBA sizing requirements to limit fees, and since FBA costs typically make up a larger portion of sales for lower priced items, bundling products to increase AOV (average order value) can help improve margins too.

Q: Are there “tricks” or secrets that can help small businesses succeed on Amazon?

A: There are no silver bullets to Amazon. There are dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks a brand should perform to manage the channel appropriately. The majority of successful brands on Amazon focus on three key principles: protect brand equity, optimize listings for best conversion, and utilize Amazon advertising to promote products.


7—Access to Capital

P2Binvestor (P2Bi), a leading marketplace lending platform that offers crowdsourced, asset-secured lines of credit to growing companies with big ambitions, recently announced today the launch of a bank partnership program. The program gives growing businesses an innovative way to quickly access capital while allowing banks to increase their addressable market and improve their conversion rates. To kick it off, P2Bi teamed up with New Resource Bank, a triple-bottom-line bank serving values-driven businesses and nonprofits that are building a more sustainable world.

“Businesses want access to affordable bank financing and banks want to lend to growing businesses, but the two sides haven’t been able to connect due to regulatory and technology hurdles,” says Krista Morgan, CEO of P2Binvestor. “Until now, there hasn’t been a solution like this. With this partnership program, we’re enabling banks to lend to businesses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to due to strict lending standards. We are excited to be powering New Resource Bank’s line of credit with both our marketplace and proprietary receivables lending platform.”

This bank-Fintech partnership allows community banks to leverage P2Bi’s receivables lending platform and marketplace to quickly deliver multi-million dollar lines of credit to growing small-to-medium businesses. This, say the companies, “will help businesses build a lending relationship with banks at an earlier stage in their lifecycle and provide them access to a much lower interest rate than they would with a traditional alternative lender. Through the program, banks will provide 50% of the capital with a senior secured position and P2Bi’s marketplace of private investors will provide the rest of the capital, which results in a blended interest rate of 8 to 12 percent and all the capital they need.”


Quick Takes


8—Video Marketing

Video is playing a bigger and bigger role in marketing—but what do you need to know to incorporate it into your marketing strategies? Check out this informative article from Jonathan Magnin, founder of Video Intro Maker. It’s all the video marketing stats you need to know for 2018.


9—Software for Accountants

Ledgersync, a company that provides bank feed data for accountants and bookkeepers, recently won the “Best Client Accountant Software” award from Accountex 2017.

Ledgersync’s technology enables bookkeepers and accountants to connect to hundreds of financial institutions and extract critical based information such as statements and check images. The company says “with Ledgersyncthere isn’t a need to hassle clients for their financial data nor store sensitive user login information on Excel sheets.”

Maurice Berdugo, CEO of Ledgersync, says, “The award for Best Client Accounting Software only reinforces our drive to make client financial data accessible to accounting professionals. We heard at Accountex 2017, and from many other accounting professionals, that the number-one issue is simply accessing client financial data in order to do taxes or monthly bookkeeping. Too much time and money is wasted before even getting started. Ledgersync is a one-stop shop that does it all.”


Cool Tools


10—Free Invoice Templates

You can’t collect money owed you, unless you send invoices. Sage has released templates making it easy for you to create and customize your invoices. And they’re free! Check them out here.


11—Making Gmail Work for You

On average, U.S. workers spend 6.3 hours a day checking their email. With that much time put in, wouldn’t it be great if you could transform this into something more productive. Well, if you use Gmail, you can. Check out Drag, a startup that transforms your Gmail into organized Task Lists. The free Chrome extension turns your inbox into a manageable workspace. Nick Timms, Drag’s founder says the extension is “just like Trello, but for Gmail.”

Earlier this year, Drag reached the Top 5 on Product Hunt and made #1 on Hacker News and BetaList.


12—Project Management Software

Business solutions company Zoho recently launched Zoho Sprints, an agile project management solution that encourages teams to work iteratively and incrementally, over short periods of time, to quickly release potentially shippable products. Zoho Sprints follows the scrum framework and combines backlogs, agile reports, collaboration tools, and customizable scrum boards, making it ideal for software developers and other teams that follow the agile methodology.

“Developing new software is nothing like making trains run on time,” says Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho. “It’s more like laying train tracks through unknown terrain, which requires one to improvise and make decisions on the fly. Agile project management formalizes that spirit of improvisation, and Zoho Sprints brings that spirit to life for all agile teams.”

Zoho Sprints allows you to:

  • Put a plan together with the Backlog. The Backlog is where Zoho Sprints users create user stories, tasks and bugs, which can be prioritized in to-do lists based on the business value they deliver.
  • Know where each task stands.
  • Access analytics that enable change.
  • Work with collaboration tools for both co-located and distributed teams.
  • Track work hours.

Pricing and Availability

Zoho Sprints is available with user-based pricing that does not tie customers to contract slabs. The free plan supports up to five users and five projects. Paid plans start at $20 for 20 users per month and support an unlimited number of projects and features. Complete pricing details are available at here.