7 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
1) Get Organized
I spent much of the past three weeks cleaning up my office. I obviously wasn’t alone, January is National Get Organized Month and to celebrate the folks at Brother are giving away a P-Touch label maker every day throughout January as part of its Get Organized Month Sweepstakes, which features over $4,000 in prizes, including the services of a professional organizer. At the end of the month, one lucky winner will receive a grand prize valued at nearly $2,000, including a $500 gift card, a P-Touch label maker and an office organization system.
The latest generation of the Brother P-Touch label maker comes in a huge selection of colors, fonts, patterns, symbols and tapes to make organization simple and smart.
Labeling may seem mundane, but Brother says it “can take the stress out of work and make you and your team more efficient and productive.”
Enter the contest today to help make 2015 less stressful and more productive.
2) What Lies Ahead?
Capital One Spark Business has dusted off its crystal ball. Keri Gohman, the head of small business banking at Capital One, shares some small business predictions for 2015.
Women and Millennials’ optimism drives sales: According to the Q3 Spark Business Barometer Millennial and women business owners are experiencing improved sales and feeling more optimistic about financial conditions, business prospects and the economy, compared to other generations and male counterparts.
Employees will be better compensated: The cost of doing business (and doing it well) will continue to rise in 2015. The good news for workers at local businesses is that employers have a renewed focus on rewarding talented workers. Nearly half (46 percent) of small business owners plan to increase funding for employee salaries, while a third (33 percent) plan to spend more on employee training. Employers that have struggled to win and retain top talent should consider investing more in their training and compensation policies. A relatively small investment can pay dividends in worker productivity.
Main Street will adapt to Silicon Valley: Entrepreneurs recognize that technology can help them streamline their operations, grow their businesses and even cut costs –and they are investing accordingly. According to the survey, nearly a third (29 percent) of small business owners plan to increase spending on hardware and software next year, while 16 percent will invest more in mobile payment technology.
3) The Internet of Your Things
We all know we can’t grow our businesses without technology. So what should we look for in 2015? Thomas Neergaard Hansen, vice president, Worldwide SMB, for Microsoft offers his insights on the key technology trends that will impact small businesses this year. You can read all his predictions, here’s what he said about two general business trends, the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data.
Technology That Works for You
We are at a tipping point when it comes to intelligent technologies, and it all starts with IoT. Many small businesses may feel overwhelmed by IoT, but [you] can succeed by starting small with a few changes that can make a big impact. The Internet of Your Things, as we like to refer to it at Microsoft, is not about ripping and replacing technologies. It’s about leveraging what companies already have and adding to their existing systems so everything works better together. Here are a couple of examples:
- A local retailer can think about how smarter point of sale (POS) terminals can increase cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, how sensors that monitor traffic patterns throughout a store can better facilitate customer service interactions and how they can track shelf inventory data in real time through a device to better meet customer demand.
- A small manufacturer can add sensors to the factory floor that can “talk” to diagnostic monitors to improve production efficiency and reduce down time.
IoT offers an opportunity to gather insights like never before, and we believe it will help small businesses get away from just running a business to finding ways to make it thrive.
SMBs Will Begin Harnessing the Power of Big Data
Big data is often considered to be the realm of big business, but small businesses are increasingly realizing they can use the data at their disposal to make more intelligent business decisions. In 2015 many small businesses will learn how to put their data to work for them, using it to identify business opportunities, drive internal efficiencies and more thoroughly understand their customers. Big data helps organizations take a proactive approach to managing their business in the best way possible. For example, a small retailer can apply new insights to optimize its assortment of products, pricing and timing of promotions to best increase sales during key times throughout the year, such as Black Friday or Valentine’s Day, as well as during traditionally slow times of year.
Also, with IoT taking hold in 2015, small businesses will have access to more data than ever before. To avoid data-fatigue, small businesses need to figure out what key pieces of data are critical for their business. And with the growth of cloud computing, they can count on having access to anytime, anywhere data and apps at lower costs than ever before.
4) Smart Tips
The beginning of a New Year is a logical time to think about what you did last year and what you’re going to do this year to grow your business. While you make your own list, here are some helpful tips from serial entrepreneur and current CEO and cofounder of NuVascular Technologies, Eugene Anton.
- Keep building relationships, even if you don’t know where they will lead. The founder of a Fortune 500 company was right when he [told me], “It’s not location, location, location that counts, but relationships, relationships, relationships.”
- Don’t become overwhelmed. Instead of focusing on goals that last for years, section your work life into days and hours. It’s like painting a house. If you start painting a 10 by 10 foot space and keep going, pretty soon you will get the entire house painted.
- To help guide your business, make sure you have a lot of people you can go to for ideas and help. Mentors are imperative. That’s why I keep offering myself to others—the world is round and what you do to help someone can circle back and wind up affecting you in a positive way.
- Don’t just sit behind a desk and computer networking from there. Sure, being on social media [is important], but to really succeed, value the people you meet!
- [Don’t] confuse information with communication. [Many entrepreneurs] think if they put their business information on a website and send emails, then investors and customers will come. They don’t know how to interact with others, including total strangers, who can be important and necessary to grow a business. They are conditioned to think that information equals relationship. Information isn’t enough—it’s something you put out. What counts is the ability to get through to another person, which is communication.
- Value who you meet, but don’t confuse position with influence. The person you meet may not be the decision maker. Treat everyone the same and you will be rewarded with dividends.
- Be consistent. Keep at it. It’s the small, consistent steps that build the widest base of contacts. If you manage those with authenticity, they will multiply through referrals far faster than anything else you can do.
5) SEO Help
It’s likely most of you would agree that search engine optimization (SEO) can be confusing and hard to execute for small businesses. But mastering it is important, especially if you’re holding events for your customers, clients or the general public. The folks at Bizzabo, the leading networking platform and event guide for professional conferences and events, want to help. The company advises, “If you want to be front and center of anyone’s Google search, you’ll have to follow a strategic approach to harness the power of search. Keywords are simply no longer enough, and for SMBs, incorporating a knowledgeable SEO strategy is crucial for marketing, and typically done in-house due to limited resources.”
To further assist you Bizzabo has released a free white paper about SEO for event planners of small and medium sized conferences and events, which outlines an actionable roadmap for maximizing event SEO. The guide includes easy steps that will improve event website’s SEO performance, which means more potential attendees, and increased ticket sales for SMBs and their events.
6) The Future of Work
MBO Partners predicts 2015 will be the year Americans accept and adapt to the rapidly growing independent workforce and focuses on ways to make it an easier and safer work arrangement.
The prediction is based on four factors:
One: Self-Employment Is Critical to Innovation and Economic Progress. The sheer number of Americans choosing self-employment and sticking with it has impacted the work landscape at large, and is changing attitudes and perceptions about work. [There are] 30 million self-employed Americans—either as a main source of work (17.9 million solopreneurs) or by using self-employment as a way to augment other income (12.1 million side-giggers).
Two: Self-Employed Solutions at Your Service. As businesses continue to augment their workforces with agile pools of non-employee contract talent, an entire industry is emerging to support the needs of this new workforce. Innovative technologies, online work marketplaces, back office support platforms and portable healthcare benefits are making the leap to self-employment a more compelling proposition for many.
Three: The Real Price of Self-Employment Will Become Clear: As more focus is given to self-employed workers, systems and processes are being put in place to better educate, calculate and ensure that the fully-burdened costs of self-employment are factored into these work arrangements. Companies are beginning to institute formal programs to better manage, engage and catalog the capabilities of their freelancers and self-employed service providers, and doing it in a more direct, cost efficient and compliant manner.
Four: A Year of Elevated Conflict and Class Action Lawsuits will Increase Focus on Safe Engagement Practices: The continuing growth of side-giggers and freelance workers who need to take work from on-line marketplace and work platforms to generate income are a magnet for worker’s rights activists claiming these marketplaces are commoditizing labor, driving down wages, and violating almost every aspect of labor law. Expect continued acceleration in controversy and litigation around this new way of work, already evidenced by the hot press around ridesharing start-up Uber’s labor disputes and the all-too-public class action wage and hour lawsuits against online freelance marketplaces. As a result, 2015 will be a year that debates a better and safer way for all types of independent work to get done.
7) 2015 Will be a Big Year for Buying or Selling a Business
In a nationwide survey of business brokers conducted by BizBuySell.com, the Internet’s largest marketplace for buying or selling small businesses, about 67 percent of respondents report a year-over-year increase in transaction activity during 2014. And in fact, BizBuySell.com just reported that small business transactions reached record levels in 2014 as brokers reported the highest number of businesses changing hands since BizBuySell started tracking data in 2007.
The main driver of this growth appears to be an increase in the number of qualified buyers on the market, cited by more than 35 percent of brokers. Another 26 percent of brokers credited the general improvement in the small business environment..
Younger Generation Taking Over Businesses From Baby Boomers
The increase in small business owners looking to sell over the past few years has been driven by the growing number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age. Brokers witnessed this first hand. More than 78 percent of brokers attributed a minimum of 25 percent of their closed transactions to Baby Boomers. More specifically, for 38 percent of the brokers between 50 and 74 percent of their transactions were generated from Boomers. Most brokers say their buyers were most likely to be between 30 and 49 years old, while the sellers were most likely to be between 50 and 64 years old.
Brokers Still See Room For More Growth in 2015
Although 2014 was a record year for small business transactions, brokers are overwhelmingly optimistic that 2015 may be even better. The full results are included in BizBuySell.com’s 2014 Insight Report, which aggregates statistics from business-for-sale transactions reported by participating business brokers nationwide.
The company’s Insight Report data supports the belief that small businesses are performing at a higher level. The median revenue of small businesses sold grew from $405,905 to $417,562 in 2014, and the median cash flow rose from $97,000 to $100,000.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva.