16 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky


1) Saluting Entrepreneurial Women

October is National Women’s Small Business Month. To celebrate Balboa Capital is asking businesswomen across the nation to submit their success stories.

Check the infographic below to see how far women business owners have come since October 1988 when the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, which increased federal support of women-owned businesses and made it easier for female entrepreneurs to obtain capital, business training and assistance, was signed.

women in business

2) Do Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Boost Business?

According to Yesmail, the 4th quarter of the year not only generates between 20-40% of retailers’ annual revenues, but also boasts the largest number
of holidays marketers could use to boost engagement and maximize revenue.

Using its Market Intelligence tool, Yesmail looked at key email metrics of top retailers in the 3rd and 4th quarters and found that for certain holidays, timing is everything. For holidays, such as Halloween, Cyber Monday and Christmas, it was better to email early, but for Back-to-school, Black Friday, Thanksgiving and general holidays, emails sent closer to the actual holiday saw higher open rates.

Specifically consumers open Halloween-themed emails more when they are sent within the first two week of October (15.2%)—which means now! Fewer emails sent in the last two weeks of the month were opened (12.5%).

Some other interesting findings:

  • Cyber Monday emails deployed the weekend directly before the holiday got higher open rates (14.8%) than those sent on the holiday (14%)
  • Christmas-themed emails perform better than base communications throughout the entire month of December and increase closer to the holiday

In more good news for marketers, rising email volume does not necessarily drive down response rates—the average open rates for Q3 and Q4 2014 were 14.7% and 14.6%, respectively, despite a 46% quarter-over-quarter increase of average email volume.


3) And Yet, Entrepreneurs Aren’t Prepared for the Holidays

Campaigner, another email marketing company, just released the results of its 2015 Internet retail holiday trends survey, showing that although marketing and mobile sales are on the mind of Internet retailers, “too many are still unprepared for the impending holiday season.” A “shocking” 38% say they haven’t yet begun preparing for it.

Some small business owner have started, and among them, over 50% have finalized developing their holiday content and promotions for marketing purposes. Their other priorities include launching a mobile-responsive website (28% plan to do this), because 70% believe their mobile sales this holiday season will top their 2014 results. In fact, 13% expect mobile sales this year will spike significantly—between 50 and 100%, compared to 2014. On the other hand there’s the 31% who aren’t doing anything to improve the mobile experience for their users. (I will never understand this attitude—and if you’re an Internet marketer without a mobile-friendly site, you are going to lose business.)

Other highlights of the survey shows Internet retailers will be emphasizing social media this year with 71% saying their top priority is to add a social component (i.e. Facebook or Twitter integrations). Additionally, 49% are prioritizing social sharing this year in order to increase email marketing effectiveness.

Most (59%) are not yet implementing any type of direct-buy buttons. Of those who are, 67% will do so via email, while 54% will offer buy buttons via Facebook and 17% will do so via Google.

Most (69%) plan to tweak their content strategies; 28% will focus on informational content, 26% will change their promotional content and 22% plan to incorporate more video content.

The Internet retailers surveyed do have some concerns about the upcoming holiday sales season, including:

  • Shipping costs (58%)
  • Competitors’ promotions & pricing wars (57%)
  • Shopping cart abandonment (54%)

Most (59%) say email marketing still ranks as their top strategy to get ROI, followed by word-of-mouth (46%).


4) Combatting Online Credit Card Fraud

October is also National Cyber Security Awareness Month and this year, the United States’ migration to chip cards could have significant implications for online fraud. While the switch to EMV/chip cards should decrease fraud in brick-and-mortar stores, many analysts are predicting online credit card fraud will likely rise.

Web.com CEO David Brown offers some insights on cyber security and how businesses and consumers can combat online fraud. He says,

Businesses can:

  • Update passwords regularly. Frequently changing passwords keeps information safer and reduces the chance of hackers obtaining passwords.
  • Protect domain names by using a multi-step security procedure. Multi-step security actually does not add much extra time and the additional level of protection is well worth the effort.
  • Utilize trusted secure links for e-commerce sites. Using unsecure links makes a business vulnerable.
  • Store customer data on secure sites. This is a simple but crucial step to keeping customer information protected from being easily accessible.
  • Implement virus protection software and scan systems regularly. This should be a regular part of your online routine so you can find out if there is an issue right away. Knowing if there are weak points in your security will give you the chance to make updates before it’s too late.

Consumers can:

  • Strengthen passwords on computers and mobile devices. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for secure sites and change them often. Try to avoid commonly used phrases and general information about yourself, like names of children or pets and birthdays.
  • Pay with a credit card, not a debit card, when shopping online, making large purchases or traveling on vacation. Also, when on vacation, make sure to keep track of purchases so you can identify anything suspicious right away.
  • Avoid security threats by regularly updating software to keep your devices free from malware and bugs. Updated systems work more efficiently and make your platforms more stable and secure.
  • Understand what data mobile apps can access on your device before downloading. Most people have the tendency to just agree with terms and services without actually reading them. Take the time to look over what personal information the app will have access to and set preferences if given the option.

5) And if You Get Hacked

We heard this week about yet another massive data breach (T-Mobile) reminding us cybercrime happens to businesses of any size. And, as noted by Travelers insurance, cybercrime has actually become increasingly frequent, costly and complex—and the government, businesses and their employees and customers are more exposed than ever.

Tim Francis, enterprise cyber lead at Travelers warns:

  • Cyber threats are increasing, but businesses can take action. Hackers have evolved and are now more sophisticated than ever.
  • It’s important for businesses of all sizes to understand their risks. Cyber insurance is not the only thing to consider; regular intrusion/ penetration tests, encryption, employee education and device management systems are all critical.
  • Once a data breach happens, the biggest problem is no one knows who to call. It’s important for businesses to create clear action plans to help manage a data breach.

6) Small Business Snapshot: September

Intuit just released its monthly Small Business Indexes showing small business employment was stagnant in September. The details:

  • Employment for small business totaled 20.65 million people nationally, up 155,000, or 0.8%, from a year ago.
  • From August 2014 to August 2015, total national payroll employment rose 2.1%.

Despite the flat net hiring, the hiring rate continued at 5.25%, reflecting the high turnover in small business employees.

Small business employees saw a slight increase in monthly compensation, with average monthly pay reaching $2,838, up $2 from August. While this is only a 0.6% increase, compensation is up 1.5% from a year ago—which in my opinion is not enough.


7) Doing Well by Doing Good

Sage North America, a leading provider of business management software and services to SMBs, recently announced the results of a new study revealing how generous small business owners are. The study shows that “virtually all (92%) small business owners personally donate to charities and non-profit organizations.”

And that’s not all—53% encourage their employees to volunteer and 58% would like to do more to support their local communities.

We all know small businesses help local economies by creating jobs, but, according to Jodi Uecker, the Interim President, Sage North America, small businesses funnel more of every dollar spent back into the local economy than other retailers. “For every $100 spent at a locally operated business, roughly $68 stays in the local community,” she says. And Uecker encourages consumers to “consider shopping locally to support your community” as the holiday season approaches.


8) Finding Nonprofits

If you’re looking for nonprofits to donate to or otherwise support check out Public Good, a new online platform with information about over a million nonprofit organizations housed in one space. This allows the nonprofits to connect with people they otherwise would be unable to, and allows people to explore causes and organizations they would like to contribute to.


9) 10 Truths about the State of the Cloud

The Cloud Era Institute just released its first State of the Cloud: 10 Truths for Managers report (which you can download for free), providing advice on how to survive and thrive in the Cloud Era.

The report depicts the current state of the cloud, defines the Four Stages of Cloud Adoption, and provides advice on how you can become more cloud-savvy.

“There are two kinds of companies right now – those who work using the new cloud rules and tools, and those who are trying to figure out how to get on board,” says Kristin Zhivago, co-founder of the Cloud Era Institute and author of the report. “What we are finding is that the cloud-savvy companies are gaining market share from the other companies, whose revenues are slipping. It doesn’t have to be that way. All of this is learnable. It’s just that no one has been revealing what’s really going on, at the managerial level. This report is designed to help meet that need.”


10) Is Your Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

According to Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer small business owners are less optimistic and more concerned about current economic conditions.

The report, which covers the 3rd quarter shows:

  • 44% of small business owners feel business conditions in their industry are fair or poor
  • Only 31% say their company’s financial position is improved compared to 12 months ago (compared to 47% who felt more optimistic in March)

But not everyone is pessimistic. The Barometer found both women and Millennial-owned small businesses were optimistic:

  • 56% of female business owners believe current business conditions are excellent or good vs. 44% of males.
  • 71% of Millennials say current business conditions in their industries are excellent or good (compared to 47% of Gen X, 46% of Baby Boomers and 45% of Mature).
  • 49% of Millennials believe their financial positions are better than a year ago compared to 36% of Gen X, 28% of Baby Boomers and 23% of Mature.


11) Analyze Your Business for Success

Do you know what a Win Loss Analysis is? Check out the infographic below to learn how it can help your small business.


12) What Type of Entrepreneur are You?

Guest post by Fabiola Stein, Global Head of Marketing for Sage One

Today we are seeing more and more people jump-start their career dreams by building their own businesses from the ground up. In fact, 2015 showed the largest year-over-year increase from the past two decades for startups. It’s no wonder, given today’s technology and resources, that 67 percent of Millennials surveyed in the U.S. said their goals involve starting their own businesses.

Entrepreneurs are naturally inclined to take chances and seize opportunities, making a path where others are too weary to tread. It’s a game of high risk and high reward that has often resulted in life-changing products and services—think Uber, PayPal, eBay or Spanx. When it comes to identifying entrepreneurs, one size certainly does not fit all, but here are a few types you might identify with along with some business insights to keep in mind when launching your big idea. Go for it, the opportunity is yours for the taking!

Type 1: The Niche Products Entrepreneur

Likes: Pebble watches and exotic pets (think sugar gliders and Tibetan mastiffs)

Drinks: Black coffee or oolong tea sourced straight from China via their local Chinese market

Startup Idea: Pet-friendly bookstore that only sells self-published novels

Business Insight: If you’re a product-driven entrepreneur then you know inventory rules your business. You may spend most of your time managing how to bring down your costs, maximize profits, move product and pay your vendors. From selling travel bags made of organic cotton to handmade jewelry on Etsy or your own e-commerce website, you need to stay on top of your cash flow. Whether you’re receiving or making payments, you can’t afford to let your business fall behind.

Type 2: The Experiential Entrepreneur

Wears: Skirt-and-heels combo or a Hugo Boss suit (even at a barbecue)

Reads: The Startup Playbook by David S. Kidder

Startup Idea: Service firm—consulting/producing events /marketing/social media

Business Insight: If you’re thinking of starting a service-based business, presentation is everything. Being able to answer questions on the spot and offer estimates and quotes can provide a real advantage. Making adjustments to a quote in real time is not only efficient, but also makes a great impression. Clients will see that you’ve got a process in place and that you’re running a solid operation, this translates to greater trust, which often turns into repeat business and referrals. Now that’s time and money and well spent.

Type 3: The Practical Entrepreneur

Never Tires Of: Thinking of ways to make life more efficient. This entrepreneur asks “Wouldn’t it be great if there were an app to request a cab?” and then Uber was born

Favorite Hashtags: #DIY, #AllDayEveryDay, #Innovate

Startup Idea: Which one?

Business Insight: As a practical entrepreneur, you know what you want to do and look for tools to make it happen in an easier, faster and more cost-effective way. Your keywords are streamline and efficiency. Multi-tasking is your first, middle and last name, so you’d appreciate being able to receive payments, create an invoice, and check your balance sheet all in one sitting so you can get back to nurturing the eureka! moments of your day.

Type 4: The All-in-One Entrepreneur

Skillset: Writer, Designer, Programmer, Marketer…name it, this entrepreneur does it

Startup Idea: An online collection of fashion stores built by users for other users

Business Insight: Finished the business plan? Check. Polished the mission statement?

Check. Secured investors? Wait, who is working on the numbers? As much fun as doing everything yourself can be, being the all-in-one entrepreneur shouldn’t mean you’re a one-man team. It’s smart to offload work, and having a financial tool that allows someone else to take the reins with easy, multi-person access will free up a precious little thing called time. Bonus tip: When you’re ready to take your passion to a global level, be ready to say “merci” or “gracias” with the ability to invoice in multiple currencies. Trust me, less time with your bookkeeping lets you have more face-time building out ideas with your amazing team.

Type 5: The Already-Funded Entrepreneur

Friends With: Visionaries and people with deep pockets

Startup Idea: To build the next cool startup

Business Insight: Does this sound like you? Well, then you’re already ahead of the pack. You know how hard it is to get funded and how important it is to keep your investors happy and well informed. If you’re this lucky entrepreneur you’ll want to make sure you can provide accurate financial reports on demand. They need a Profit & Loss report? Done. Aging receivables? Done. They want to invest more? Thank you!

Regardless of the type, there is one thing that connects all entrepreneurs, and that is the desire to make a living doing what they love. With so many tools and resources readily available, this is an amazing time for a self-starter, like you, to breathe life into your dream and make it your career reality. Let your passion be your purpose.


Fabiola Stein is Sage’s Global Head of Marketing for Sage One a cloud accounting and invoicing app for small businesses. Based at Sage in England, she handles the global digital marketing requirements for Sage business units in 14 countries. An avid globetrotter, she is fluent in English, Spanish and will likely understand and respond to you if you speak to her in Italian or Portuguese. Refrain from getting between her and her favorite gelato. Connect with her: LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/fabiolastein. Twitter @fabiola_stein.


13) Winning the Talent War

Jazz, a venture-backed recruiting software company that has helped more than 4,000 employers optimize both how and who they hire, just released its inaugural 2015 Hiring Outlook Report, conducted with The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit. The report uncovered hiring and retention strategies from SMBs across the country—along with some unconventional measures they’re willing to take to land and retain high performers.

As the unemployment rate holds steady at 5.3%, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for companies to recruit and retain quality candidates, which can stifle growth, revenue, and profits.

With attractive alternatives luring companies’ best talent, the pressure is on to not just find, but keep, your most impactful employees. Jazz’s 2015 Hiring Outlook Report found:

  • Nearly 70% of executives trust their guts when it comes to hiring and are willing to stake their reputations on making a hire who may not look the part, but whom they believe is the right candidate
  • 54% would pass on a safe hire to take a risk on a potentially transcendent performer
  • Although more than half of employers believe they are excellent at interviewing (58%) and assessing (54%) candidates, nearly half (48%) still say they currently have weak talent links in their organization

According to Jazz’s 2015 Hiring Outlook Report, to retain top performers, [business owners] are especially open to adopting unconventional policies that can increase employee satisfaction:

  • 54% would be willing to provide generous work from home flexibility
  • 53% would offer a four-day workweek
  • 47% would get rid of titles and/or adopt the holacracy management approach
  • 46% would provide unlimited PTO
  • 44% would provide or subsidize pet daycare

There’s a lot more valuable information in this report, you should definitely check it out.


Cool Tools

14) Teaming Up

Sage, a leading small business accounting and payroll solutions provider, and Microsoft recently announced a global agreement to collaborate on future product development, including having Sage products built on Microsoft platforms and a closer integration across the two companies’ respective product portfolios.

Sage and Microsoft have enjoyed a strategic relationship for the past two decades and the new alliance extends the relationship to deliver cloud, on-premise and hybrid solutions at a global level.


15) Easier Sales on Twitter

Bigcommerce, a commerce platform for established and emerging brands, just announced its partnering with Twitter to support Buy Now, a new sales conversion tool that enables merchants to promote and sell products natively across the social network’s desktop, mobile and tablet apps. Through the partnership, Tweets including links to products sold by Bigcommerce clients will be automatically transformed into ‘buyable’ Tweets allowing buyers to search, discover and purchase products in-the-moment directly within the timeline.

The partnership allows Bigcommerce clients to:

  • Discover and Purchase Products: Include a “Buy” call to action on promoted or organic Tweets, highlighting products relevant to social conversations and enabling shoppers to easily discover and purchase products on desktop, Android and iOS devices.
  • Increase Mobile Conversions: Turn mobile browsing into mobile buying through Buy Now’s native checkout, rather than routing users to a website to complete the purchase.
  • Reduce Checkout Friction: Increase repeat purchases using Buy Now’s checkout flow, which stores and safely encrypts payment and shipping information, allowing returning customers to purchase subsequent items in just two clicks.
  • Process Orders in Bigcommerce: Fulfill and manage orders placed via Twitter Buy Now within the Bigcommerce control panel for streamlined, centralized processing.

There’s more information here.


16) Protect Your Small Business

AVG® Technologies, an online security company just released its 2016 Business Edition software suite with new versions of its AVG AntiVirus Business Edition and AVG Internet Security Business Edition products. The 2016 suite, central to the company’s expanded security strategy for business, provides enterprise scale security to channel partners and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the frontline defense against malware and online threats.

Available worldwide, the products include a free remote management console to provide businesses easy and efficient remote access to all systems on a network. Technical support is also included at no cost.

New features in the 2016 Business Edition upgrade include:

  • Scanning Engine: Scans faster and smarter with cloud-based detection technology
  • Real-Time Outbreak Detection: Uses crowd intelligence technology for better protection
  • Artificial Intelligence Detection: Uses advanced intelligence to identify threats
  • Online Shield: Uses the Cloud to guard against today’s threats
  • Data Safe: Protects your company’s most valuable data
  • File Shredder: Deletes data securely and is Industry-compliant

SMBs can purchase from the AVG.com website.

AVG Internet Security Edition_user interface