10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know

By Rieva Lesonsky

1) The State of Microbusiness

Microbusinesses employ 10 percent of all Americans, according to a new report from Sam’s Club Based and Gallup. The State of Microbusiness in 2015: A Year in Review gives a public voice to the concerns of U.S. entrepreneurs and businesses with five or fewer workers.”

Overall, the reports “signals microbusiness optimism in 2015.” Some of the trends noted in the report include:

  • The expectations of microbusiness owners to maintain or grow personal income in 2015 is up 15 percent from a year ago
  • The number of microbusinesses that had to dip into personal savings to make ends meet in 2014 dropped from 44 percent to 36 percent
  • 72.5 percent have “increased confidence” in the future of their companies (up from 66.6 percent)
  • Fewer (46.5 percent) are concerned about finding more customers (down from 51.4 percent)
  • Fewer (30.8 percent) are concerned about access to capital (down from 35.8 percent)

2) Technology Makes Cities Shine

The Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, just released its annual Best-Performing Cities index, which shows technology is “the biggest factor” in these cities’ success.

The top 5 cities are:

  1. San Francisco (#3 last year)
  2. Austin (#1 last year)
  3. Provo, UT (#2 last year)
  4. San Jose (same)
  5. Raleigh, NC (#13 last year)

3) All in the Family

The US Family Business Survey from PwC is out. The survey, which specifically addresses key U.S. family business issues and trends, shows 73 percent of family business leaders don’t have a “robust succession process in place,” and 56 percent believe they will “stay involved in their companies longer than is optimum to ensure a smooth transition.” PwC calls that the “sticky baton syndrome.”

U.S. family businesses are optimistic about their growth prospects—79 percent expect steady growth over the next five years and 70 percent saw revenue growth last year.

Of course, there are challenges: “To achieve sustained growth in today’s market, family businesses recognize the need to adapt, innovate, and become more professional in how they run their operations.”

  • Almost 75 percent believe their companies need to adapt to an increasingly digital world
  • About 33 percent say the need to recruit technology talent is at the top of their digital transition agenda
  • 53 percent believe “family businesses reinvent themselves with each new generation – a form of innovation in itself”

4) Digital Portfolios

If you own a creative business, the folks at Format just released Kredo, a free iPad portfolio app enabling photographers, designers, illustrators and artists to present their work professionally, both in person and online. Kredo lets you share retina-quality, high resolution portfolios online via email, social media, or within the in-app Discover Network, which is a global mobile online community connecting creative professionals with peers and prospective clients.

Kredo is available for free in the App Store.

5) POS Hacks

Bindo, a POS retail technology company, says, “POS systems are increasingly becoming the preferred targets of hackers due to rapidly growing malware software and operating systems that are outdated.” Part of the problem is that 30 percent of POS systems still operate on the Windows XP operating system, which is vulnerable to most hacks and security breaches because Microsoft no longer supports XP.

According to the 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report published by Verizon, there was a total of 198 incidents involving POS intrusions, with restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and various other brick and mortar retailers being the most targeted.

If you want to know more, read Bindo’s whitepaper.

6) 5 Reasons to Embrace Gamification

Adam Hollander, the CEO of FantasySalesTeam, a company that creates sales motivation programs, says SMBs should consider gamification to improve engagement with and motivate their sales teams. Here are Hollander’s five key reasons why you should think about making gamification part of your sales strategy:

  1. Culture: Building a positive culture is of huge importance to any SMB company. It’s how to attract the best employees and keep them as you continue to grow. Making the workplace fun while also driving improved results is the dream of any small business owner. Gamification, when implemented properly, can have a tremendous impact on workplace culture and engagement.
  2. Results: Gamification is proven to drive meaningful results for SMBs. Take this case study with Wireless Zone for example where they implemented gamification in a few of their retail locations across roughly 30 employees. They saw a 176 percent improvement in results and a 9 percent increase in profit margin in just 30 days.
  3. Visibility: Making everyone’s results highly visible is important in any company—but even more so in SMBs. Each employee holds more weight on his or her shoulders; you can’t afford to have anyone not contributing. When results are visible, employees react accordingly.
  4. Teamwork: In any SMB, it’s essential to get your employees working together. 1+1=3 when you get everyone working towards a common goal. Using gamification to get your employees working together as a team will have a profound impact.
  5. Quick Win: Implementing gamification into an SMB is a very quick win. With the right tool, you can have games up and running in a matter of hours and start seeing results within a matter of days.

7) The Name Game

Verisign just released its latest Domain Name Industry Brief. Here are the top-line numbers at the close of Q3 2014:

  • 284 million: the total number of registered domain names across all TLDs
  • 4 million: the number of domain names added to the Internet in Q3 2014
  • 130 million: the total number of .com and .net domains (114.9 million for .com and 15.1 million for .net

8) Startup Lessons

Serial entrepreneur Enon Landenberg just launched Israel’s first startup factory,sFBI (Small Factory Big Ideas). The company consists of 10 past startup founders who’ve worked collectively with over 300 tech startups.

Enon decided to start sFBI “after realizing the struggles and mistakes he made as an entrepreneur in tech space during his 20’s.” He wants to share those lessons with you. Here are his 15 Entrepreneurial Tips I Would Tell Myself Before Running My First Company.

  1. “Think outside the box” is common advice. The only problem? It’s difficult. We’ve been raised to think a certain way our entire lives. At what point can we simply instruct ourselves to think outside the box when we’re faced with a difficult problem or obstacle and expect it to work? A better rule is to think between the boxes. Innovation often happens when two seemingly unrelated concepts are connected, a notion that closely parallels the idea of thinking between the boxes. Two examples from our own wheelhouse: wearables and racket sport scorekeeping, and machine learning and parental security applications.
  2. Listen to people. All the time, but especially when they’re talking about their needs and considerations. The more you listen to what people want, the more you are able to match your capabilities with their needs. Both of our startups started this way. When the CEO of Pulse Play, Andy Ram, retired from professional tennis and started playing with his buddies, he saw they were always fighting over the score. The CEO of Alerteenz, Limor Ben Ari, personally knew teenagers who had been devastated by cyberbullying. sFBI’s entire business model revolves around listening to people. We consider ourselves B2H, business to human. We build startups for people, not for consumers.
  3. Meet lots of people and stay in touch with them. Hold events and go to events, meet people and talk ideas. Then, follow up. A month later, a year later, five years later. They won’t always respond, but those who do will end up being invaluable to you. You can share ideas and resources and benefit from the ideas and resources of others. I recently met with a talented young marketer who had just moved to Tel Aviv. He first reached out to me years ago because [we worked for the same ad agency]. Days after inviting him to my office to help him find work, my marketing manager reached out to him to get some ideas for a content marketing program. Connections matter. Build them.
  4. When you’re explaining your ideas, always focus on the why instead of the what. First, ideas should always start at the why. Second, the why matters. The more you talk about it with your colleagues, friends, family and acquaintances, the more you’ll understand the real reason you’re building a product or company. It also means you’ll build something that’s focused and you won’t be distracted by the bells and whistles that could derail your company.
  5. Give other people credit. It’s the best way to inspire your team. A culture of transparency is a culture of collaboration.
  6. Surround yourself with aces. Aces need other aces. It will give your team confidence knowing that the people around them are working as hard as they are.
  7. Get out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, it’s hard to maintain your curiosity. Almost everybody at sFBI left comfortable desk jobs for an entrepreneurial lifestyle.
  8. Work hard. The only place where money comes before work is in the dictionary. In Israel this is a popular saying. In the United States, it’s easier to jump careers and have a fresh start.
  9. Stay curious. Try to learn something new everyday. Our head of design goes to UX conferences in her free time. Our creative director is taking the famous EdX course from Harvard “Introduction to Computer Science”, in addition to getting an MBA from Tel Aviv University.
  10. Take an acting class. It will teach you confidence and help you understand the importance of crafting your approach to different audiences.
  11. Take a computer science class. This will help you do think outside the box and  [at the same time] think more definitively and more creatively about the capabilities in technology. Much of the current buzz in growth hacking can be attributed to savvy marketers finally taking a computer science class and understanding how they can apply simple, technological concepts in their marketing.
  12. Maybe you won’t be an entrepreneur in a big way, but be an entrepreneur in a small way. Host an event and try to promote it. Write a blog and try to promote it. It will expand your skill set, give you confidence, and show others that you have passion. Most likely, you’ll meet a lot of people in the process who share your interests and goals. You can help prop each other up—and maybe you’ll end up as business partners.
  13. Get opinions. There is such a thing as input overload (which is why process is important) but getting opinions is key to understanding the merit of different ideas. Understand opinions constructively even if they are conveyed negatively. An atmosphere of free exchange should never be an idea killer.
  14. Don’t be discouraged if your idea has been “taken”. Focus on doing it better or reinventing it. sFBI isn’t the first venture studio and neither of our projects is categorically original, but we’re taking a fresh approach to everything by thinking between the boxes.
  15. It’s never too late to start something new. According to recent study, only 22.7 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2013 were aged 20-34 compared to 26.4 percent the year before. At sFBI the average age of the CEOs and founders is 38. Age and experience are an asset. sFBI wouldn’t be possible without it.

9) Snow Days

During the harsh days of winter, when we experience weather events like the massive blizzard that hit New England especially hard this week, there’s no doubt that millions of us are working from home. InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing and collaboration service provider, surveyed employees from winter-affected regions of the U.S. to find out if winter weather keeps them from getting into the office and how it impacts their overall productivity, even when working from home. You can take a look at the entire survey, but here are some highlights:

  • Severe weather has forced 79 percent of employees to work from home at some point this winter, most say they’re just as, if not more, productive thanks to today’s advanced communication and connectivity methods.
  • 32 percent say working from home would have real impact and affect customers and/or team members
  • 65 percent disagree, saying working from would have only a minimal impact on their results and would just require shifting around a few priorities/deadlines
  • Email is still the most common method used to work and communicate when working from home (93 percent), followed by phone or conference calls (71 percent), instant messaging or chat (54 percent) and video chat (11 percent)
  • 39 percent of employees are just as productive working from home
  • 32 percent believe they are slightly or significantly more productive working from home
  • 59 percent say their companies either don’t have or they’re unsure if they have an official policy on inclement weather

10) It’s Going to be a Good Year

According to ShopKeep’s Q4 Small Business Index, most storeowners were optimistic headed into 2015, due in part to strong holiday sales. Here are some highlights:

  • 83 percent of respondents reported sales volume greater than or equal to third quarter sales
  • 93 percent are optimistic about business prospects this year and 64 percent of those folks were “very optimistic”
  • 63 percent are concerned about the security of their customers’ credit and debit card data

When it comes to marketing:

  • 90 percent manage their marketing in-house and consider social media to be the top driver of traffic to their businesses
  • Facebook was the platform of choice for social media marketing, used by 63 percent of respondents. Instagram, at 13 percent came in second.
  • 83 percent use social media channels to share business news, such as sales and promotion details. Small business owners also use social media to connect directly with the community and gather valuable customer feedback. 

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+   and Twitter.com/Rieva.