By Rieva Lesonsky
1) The Long & Winding (Email) Road
An email faces many obstacles as it winds its way from you to a recipient’s inbox. Check out the infographic below from Constant Contact, which offers some way to get through the obstacles.
2) Prepping for Holidays 2016
Guest post by Brandon Levey, CEO of Stitch Labs
The holidays provide a mixed bag of responsibilities. With increased stock quantities, hyperactive shoppers and a surge of fulfillment needs, it can be tough to manage all the moving parts of your business. In this article, we’ll help simplify your operations and create a better rhythm of productivity.
Tracking your orders
How many times have you had to check and re-check inventory stock quantities? And exactly how confident are you in the information you’ve documented? When you manually track inventory and rely on multiple systems, you’re risking missed sales opportunities and your sanity! In this section, we’ll walk through how you can setup your inventory operations to be successful.
No one is complaining about the increased transactions during the holidays, but if you’re not tracking the orders properly – it can be one big headache. Using a central order system that tracks the flow of inventory being picked, packed and shipped will make this a lot easier. You’ll be able to turn around orders quickly, keep sales moving, and improve the customer experience overall.
What to look for in an order management system
- Low Stock Alerts
- Order Status Reports
- Central Purchase Orders
- Easy Restocking
- Order Analytics
- Publish New Listings
Whether you’re currently managing multiple warehouses or have plans to expand during the holiday season, it’s important to find the best process to fulfill customer orders across all your locations. Creating a central warehouse inventory tracking system that helps you deal with transfer orders, overflow inventory and more will help your team ship items more efficiently.
Optimize your warehouse for maximum efficiency
Who wants to sit around re-routing their inventory all day? Using an inventory and multichannel selling solution can help retailers optimize their warehouse management:
- Automatic overflow system.All of your inventory tracking can sit in the platform, so the system can anticipate when you’re running low. If an order comes in and you need a backup warehouse to pull from, some platforms reroute the order to a secondary warehouse automatically.
- Transfer orders.Want to shift stock to a different warehouse? You can access transfer order feature and move them where you wish. Your platform should also keep a record of any activity that occurs.
- Amazon FBA.Taking advantage of Amazon’s FBA services? Awesome! Some inventory platforms directly integrate with Amazon’s solution so you can assign a warehouse to keep track of your FBA specific inventory.
- Drop shipping.Don’t let fulfillment of stock hold you back when expanding your product line. Drop shipping is great option for those looking to grow inventory but are short on up-front cash or space to hold the products.
What you need to know about Amazon FBA
Fulfilling during the holidays—what a mess, right? Selling and tracking orders is a piece of cake with the tools you have in place. But picking, packing, and shipping goods out to your customers is not so simple. If you’re exploring the idea of implementing a third-party fulfillment solution to ease the pains, Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon services can be very helpful. Here are some basic things you need to know before diving in:
- Access to tens of millions of Prime customers
- Eligible for Amazon Prime Free Two-Day Shipping and FREE Shipping
- Amazon handles all customer service issues as well as returns
- Ability to fulfill orders from other non-Amazon channels
- Extra space for more inventory in-house
- More mental space and energy for you and your team!
HOW AMAZON FBA WORKS:
- Send Amazon your inventory.
- Amazon will receive and store your products with their ready-to-ship inventory.
- Once the items have been received, your products will be eligible for Amazon Prime Free Two-Day Shipping, FREE Shipping and more.
- An order is placed and FBA will pick, pack and ship products directly to the customer.
- If your customer has issues, they can contact Amazon directly, which takes a huge burden off your plate!
- If a customer needs to return an item, Amazon also handles that! (Return processing fees may apply)
Get your team ready
Be it two or 20, your team is at the heart of your operations. They need to be aligned and energized during the holiday rush in order to keep things afloat. How do you accomplish this in an organized fashion, while still staying on top of your inventory? We have a few ways to make this a breeze.
- Use this checklist to make sure you’re keeping your team aligned, motivated and happy!
- Implement a central communication tool like Slack to make information sharing easy.
- Find out what drives your individual employees and come up with ways to empower them.
- Encourage the team to come up with new solutions to existing problems.
- Set clear expectations about scheduling
- Check in to see how they’re doing. You’re not the only one who will be stressed!
Will you need extra hands during the holidays? Here are three things that will help you make the most of every new seasonal hire:
- Look for the right people, and do it early.Hire employees with the right traits, such as a flexibility and fast learners. Starting the process early will allow you to get the pick of the litter and bring people on your team that fit with your culture and expectations.
- Don’t skimp out on training.It can be easy to get wrapped up in everything you need to get done and avoid training new employees. Take the time to invest in training. The more they are educated up front with context, the better they’ll help you throughout the season.
- Manage as usual.Just because they are seasonal hires, doesn’t mean they don’t have opportunity to help you later down the road. Manage all your employees with great attention and leadership. Encourage them to take on greater responsibility and be an advocate for their success.
3) Small Business Saturday Is More Lucrative With Upscale Consumers
As most of you know, Small Business Saturday encourages consumers to support and shop their local small businesses during the holiday season and all year ‘round. It’s, of course, vitally important you reach these shoppers—so now is the time to start planning a strategy.
AudienceSCAN’s has issued its annual Small Business Saturday Shoppers 2015 whitepaper which clearly shows that SMBs that plan for and participate in this national event can yield lucrative results. The paper contains fresh data from an annual survey of more than 14,000 consumers, revealing cutting-edge information in the hearts and minds of those most likely to be this year’s best customers.
The new data shows:
- 7% of Small Business Saturday shoppers have household incomes of $100,000+
- When selecting your inventory, remember that 75% of Small Business Saturday Shoppers are willing to pay more for higher quality products.
- Small Business Saturday Shoppers are 55% more likely than average to have taken action after seeing ads on mobile apps or text message ads in the past month.
- If all other things are similar, 64% of Small Business Saturday Shoppers will shop at a different store to support an important cause or charity.
Download the FREE whitepaper to see all the insights and data.
4) Craziest Business Expenses
Check out the infographic below from Certify.com highlighting the “craziest expenses” business travelers have seen or submitted this past year.
5) Better Access to Healthcare for the Self-Employed
Intuit Inc. has partnered with Stride Health to provide self-employed workers with increased savings, stability and predictability in their day-to-day lives. The partnership integrates Stride Health’s personalized approach to managing health insurance, healthcare and compliance within QuickBooks Self-Employed, which helps freelancers manage business and personal finances.
The self-employed now make up 36% of the U.S. labor force and are expected to reach 43% (of 7.6 million workers) by 2020. Intuit’s new research shows 28% of these freelance workers don’t have a health plan—more than double the 12% of Americans without health insurance.
Alex Chriss, vice president of Intuit’s Small Business Group says, “Self-employment gives people the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss, but it comes with challenging compliance requirements and a constant struggle for financial stability.”
Effective now, Stride gives QuickBooks Self-Employed customers access to:
- Tailor-made health-plan recommendations. Stride instantly compares 38 factors across thousands of plans to find the most cost-effective plan, allows you to keep preferred doctors and ensure affordable prescription drug coverage. The experience enables QuickBooks Self-Employed customers to organize their financial data so they can maximize tax credits, and access tax savings.
- Personalized care savings and support. Receive personalized care plans that take maximum advantage of free preventive care included with your health insurance. QuickBooks Self-Employed users can also use Stride to locate in-network doctors and get exclusive access to deals on prescriptions at 70,000 pharmacies nationwide.
- Personalized tax savings. Helps you take advantage of healthcare-related tax deductions and tax credits provided by the government to fund coverage. The unified Stride-Intuit experience delivers a one-stop shop, helping self-employed workers track healthcare deductions, premiums and contributions to tax-advantaged health savings accounts. QuickBooks Self-Employed subscribers identify on average $3,809 in potential tax savings per year.
- Year-round dedicated advisors. Provides self-employed workers with year-round support to navigate health plans and understand how to use their plans to save money on their taxes.
Open enrollment for 2016 health insurance starts now, with a December 15 deadline to receive coverage that starts on January 1.
6) Holiday Scorecard
A survey from Manta reveals small business owners’ plans for the upcoming holiday season.
Survey highlights include:
- 77% of small businesses won’t hire new employees this holiday season
- 19% says they can’t afford to hire
- Of the 23% who do plan to hire
- 65% will hire one of more full-time employees
- 35% will hire one of more part-time workers
What could have the most negative impact on their businesses:
- 38%: Severe winter weather
- 36%: Lack of proper planning
- 19%: Volatility in the U.S. stock market
- 4%: Chinese economy
- 3%: Not meeting the EMV deadline
Which customers bring you the most success during the holidays
45%: Regular customers (make purchases at least monthly)
41%: New customers
14%: Repeat holiday customers (make purchases seasonally)
65% of small businesses say winter is their busiest season, and November-January are their busiest months.
The industries with highest winter sales are:
Food & beverage: 44%
- Consumer products & services: 38%
- Technology & communications: 30%
They attribute their success to:
- A naturally greater demand for my product/service: 56%
- A combination of demand and discounts: 17%
- Ramping up inventory & having more products for consumers: 7%
- Offering supreme holiday discounts/promotions: 5%
Business services (44%), health (39%) and Industrial businesses (36%) report winter sales slumps
Manta also surveyed consumers—40% plan to support small business during the holidays, with most (52%) planning to shop at small retailers.
7) 3 Megatrends Impacting Business
Guest Post by Dominique Turpin, President, IMD business school
The future is hard to predict and a lot of “experts” regularly get it wrong. However, there are some facts so important and trends so inevitable leaders would be ill-advised to ignore and not try to anticipate them.
Here are three of many future megatrends that will not necessarily determine what will happen, but will most likely have a big impact on everybody’s business in the coming years to decades.
This is one of the only indicators that cannot lie about the future: Tomorrow, we will all be older than we are today!
Some of the major changing tides of demography may have important political, economic, and potentially military consequences. For example: what are the implications of Russia having a life expectancy of 59 [years old] versus 61 for Bangladesh?
For many mature economies like Japan and the U.S., the workforce will be older, healthcare costs will be higher, and it looks like we will see diminishing pension benefits. Overall competitiveness in these countries is being challenged.
Companies need to be creative and find new business models to take advantage of the shifting makeup of their operating countries’ populations.
There will be big growth in the world, but it will be in countries like India or in Africa, where there will also be some big opportunities. Over the next five years, some African economies (Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania, just to name a few) are likely to grow as fast as, or faster, than some of the recent Asian champions.
This growth comes with challenges however. It could easily be squandered if problems like corruption, political instability, lack of infrastructure and poor education persist or get worse.
These predicted shifts in demography don’t only spell decline though. There will be a lot of room for new business opportunities in the healthcare and nutrition sectors for example. Infrastructure will need to be redone and rethought, creating a lot of openings for building and technology innovators.
Explosion in technology
If you think we have seen a stark increase in technology in our lives over the last few years with the omnipresence of smartphones and wearable health trackers, you haven’t seen anything yet.
One example of how fast we have been speeding up is that the number of mobile web users is growing eight times faster today than the number of people getting on desktops in the mid-1990s. And this change will only continue to move quicker!
In the coming era, everything will be connected: from buildings to roads to satellites to your refrigerator. The Internet of everything is on its way. Advances in 3-D printing will change the cost and efficiency of making a lot of products.
In addition, with the explosion of technology and the Internet of Things, digital disruption will continue to displace established industry incumbents at an alarming rate. Up to 40% of current businesses are vulnerable to digital disruption according to recent research by the IMD/Cisco Center for Digital Business Transformation.
You have probably noticed by now that we are living in an increasingly V.U.C.A. (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world.
There is no end in sight and leaders are struggling to cope. Add to that the fact all sectors are becoming more transparent and leaders are much more exposed today than they were 10 to 15 years ago. They are under pressure for quick results in a difficult environment with an unprecedented level of scrutiny for their every decision.
We need great leaders more than ever to overcome the challenges we face ahead. But it is getting harder and harder for leaders to navigate obstacles and to obtain the mandate and leeway they need to make their mark.
What can we do?
In these tough times some of the biggest, and most common mistakes companies can make are to compete on price or to lower investments in education, research and development or innovation.
The most successful organizations will continue to invest in innovation in a broad sense and relentlessly collect business and customer insights. They will also focus on their “customers’ headaches”, not just their needs and wants, and work on making sure they come back. Ensuring that they have a great experience once is not enough anymore.
We all face tough times ahead and no one approach will work for every organization or in every industry. But if you follow these general principles you will be off to a good start.
The stakes are high; these megatrends are all but certain to come and have the potential to make or break your business.
How are you preparing for the megatrends of the future?
8) How CEOs Spend Their Time
- CEOs tend to be night owls and early risers, getting less sleep than the average person
- 80% wake up at 6 am or earlier
- CEOs are often on the road and typically connected to work even when they’re not in the office
- Aside from sleeping, CEOs dedicate the most time outside of work to being with their families
- The average CEO works an average 57.8 hours a week and 2.4 hours on the weekend
You can download a copy of the report here.
9) Reducing Fraud Risk
Sage North America, a leading provider of business management software and services to SMBs, recently announced a partnership between its payments division, Sage Payment Solutions and Kount, a leading innovator of fraud solutions in risk management. The goal is to develop and bring to market new solutions to enhance fraud detection for small and medium businesses.
Card-not-present fraud (fraud that occurs when the cardholder and card are not physically present when the transaction takes place) is expected to grow exponentially. Research and advisory firm Aite Group predicts card-not-present fraud will more than double by 2018 in the U.S.
“While EMV is a major step forward, it was really designed to prevent card-present fraud,” says Paul Bridgewater, the CEO of Sage Payment Solutions. “Sage wants to help ensure companies doing business online and over the phone are protected.”
Just one fraudulent transaction can do damage to an SMB. The partnership with Kount enables SMBs to set just the amount of fraud protection that fits their business and growth objectives.
Jack Alton, the senior vice president of sales at Kount says this alliance will give SMBs the “same fraud detection capabilities employed by large enterprises.”
10) The Keys a Shared Economy Business: Control & Collaboration
Just a few short years ago the “shared economy” business was a term no one truly understood. Since then it has bloomed past being just a trend to one that keeps gaining in popularity—so much so that 68% of people around the globe are willing to share assets with others. Millennials like the do-it-yourself business model, not because of a nostalgic need for bartering, but because it creates and strengthens a sense of community. You should pick up on the shared economy way of getting a job done, and if you’re looking to jump into a revolution, I want to give you some keys about accessing the shared economy business through control and collaboration.
Be a control freak, in a good way
Where is your phone? I bet you can answer that question in .3 seconds, and if you can’t you might start freaking out. Taking a look at the most popular shared economy businesses means unlocking your screen and visiting the app store on your phone. So, if you’re looking to be a part of the community, what should you already have? Well, having a good calendar is probably the number one must-have since 78% of consumers say they’ll be working multiple jobs in the next 30 years. That means working your own hours, so keep track of that time in a schedule management app like Sunrise; it’s free and connects with other major calendar services so you can see what you’ve RSVP’d to. That way, you can get that project done and sent and have time to binge-watch Game of Thrones.
Also, I know waiting isn’t your forte, but if you want the capabilities of a personal assistant but don’t trust anyone to schedule your meetings or get the right consistency for your coffee you should check out x.ai. Amy or Andrew will keep track of your schedule and respond to anyone looking to meet up with you. You have to join the waitlist, but it looks like a great app worthy of getting to know. Note: he/she won’t actually get you coffee, but will make your life easier.
Looking for even more time to walk your dog or actually make one of those “home-cooked meals” you keep hearing about? Being a part of the shared economy and gaining a little more control for free-time means utilizing some of the cool new businesses that are popping up like shyp, which will package and send any and all of your items. We all evaluate new tech pretty quickly, so try out a bunch of new, free things like invoicing software or “dogtastic” day-care services. You’ll be able to fill out invoice templates while taking your pup to a friendly getaway so you can hopefully get to your own getaway.
It’s called collaborative consumption for a reason
You’re probably ready to go solo with this shared economy thing, but when your business starts to grow or you become a part of a bigger project you’ll want everything in place for stress-free collaboration. Some of the popular software and online know-hows are Google Drive and—of course—Dropbox, but you can also use Trello. Trello is designed to keep you in touch with everyone you work with during a project, such as a designer, a writer or that awkward but super intelligent Uber driver you met one time. You might want to keep an accountant around, too, since it’s possible you didn’t graduate with a degree in Mathematics from MIT, so look for software that makes cash management easy.
Whether you’re working for a shared economy company or a customer of it, we’re all a part of the same community. It’s a business that 89% of consumers agree makes life easier, and saves money. Take a bit of control and mix it with collaboration and you’ll unlock a market that’s got everyone involved.
11) Connecting Fashion Brands to Over 1 Million Sellers
Poshmark, the largest community-driven marketplace for fashion, just unveiled a new private wholesale portal connecting fashion brands directly to its massive network of sellers who are using their social influence to drive sales.
Through its mobile app, Poshmark makes it easy for women to turn their personal style into significant sales. From Millennials to moms, Poshmark has enabled over one million women to open a virtual boutique on the platform—that’s roughly 10 times as many physical fashion boutiques that exist in the U.S. Poshmark sellers are part of today’s social media generation—active, engaged and influential—inspiring their peers by creatively merchandising what they are selling and sharing what they love. But unlike traditional social media, everything on Poshmark is immediately available for sale—in fact, a sale is made on Poshmark every five seconds.
Now, independent fashion brands will have the opportunity to sell merchandise to influential sellers on Poshmark. Through its private wholesale portal, Poshmark will connect pre-qualified sellers to brands, allowing them to buy new inventory at wholesale prices to sell in the marketplace. The portal will leverage Poshmark’s seamless backend payment system, logistics and customer service platform, enabling retail sellers to make a purchase, and brands will receive pre-paid, pre-addressed labels to ship the wholesale inventory to sellers.
To supercharge its mission for every woman in the country to become an entrepreneur, the company is introducing the “Poshmark Fashion Entrepreneurs Fund” where it will offer financial grants of $500 to 50 Poshmark sellers as seed investment, to help the women purchase their first batch of retail inventory in the wholesale portal. Poshmark’s panel of judges will select recipients of the grants based on the most compelling vision for their retail stores in the platform.
If you’re a brand interested in getting access to the Poshmark wholesale portal, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
12) The Importance of Educating Your Employees
NH Learning Solutions, a network of 17 New Horizons Computer Learning Centers across 10 Midwestern and Northeastern states, says, “Training your staff and further educating them is crucial for retention, satisfaction and the further a business.”
Here’s some perspective from NH Learning Solutions:
Educating and training your employees:
- Allows them to come up with quick, organizational and new business solutions
- Enables them to identify trends within an industry.
- Furthers their knowledge about what is going on in their industries
- Allows them to excel in their roles
- Increases their overall satisfaction
- Benefits employers in the long run
- Shows employees you are invested in and dedicated to their success
- Motivates them to work hard for you and your customers
Companies everywhere struggle to keep pace with technology, but even more fail to take advantage of the technology that they already have. Advanced features are often overlooked and a company’s investment is rarely maximized. On-going training ensures a much stronger return-on-investment as individuals return to work more confident and equipped to do things more efficiently.
New Horizons Computer Learning Centers trains thousands of individuals all over the world on a host of different topics and technologies to ensure they continue to expand their skill set.
They offer an Our Power Hour series, which allows customers to get very specific, task-focused, training in under an hour. Businesses can focus on their pain points and get exactly the right solutions for their business problems.
13) And the Winner Is…(part 1)
Rev1 Ventures, the venture development organization that combines investment capital and strategic services, is one of the most active seed funds in the Midwest. In fact, its on pace to increase investments by 39% this year compared to last year. At its first-ever Demo Day, Rev1 showcased 11 impressive startups that powered through its unique program to achieve a product the market wants and needs, first revenue and first customers.
“What if tech entrepreneurs had an express lane for getting their companies off the ground?” says Tom Walker, president and CEO of Rev1 Ventures.” Rev1’s innovative program helps entrepreneurs prove their product, their market and their business model in as little as four months.
The winners at this year’s Rev1 Demo Day were: 3Bar Biologics, Ardina, Clarivoy, GenomeNext, MentorcliQ, Nexosis, ProteoSense, Seamless Contacts, Simple-Fill, TicketFire and trueDOK.
14) And the Winner Is… (part2)
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia will host its American Made program this Saturday, November 7 at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia’s headquarters in New York City. The nationally recognized program celebrates the next generation of makers who have turned their passions for handcrafted, well-designed goods into small businesses and proudly make their products in America. The American Made Honorees and Audience Choice Winners, who will be featured in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine include:
Annie’s Annuals and Perennials, Annie Hayes – Richmond, California. With her catalog of rare and unusual annuals and perennials—including an extensive selection of California natives and old-fashioned cottage flowers—Hayes is helping to diversify the gardening landscape of the U.S.
Fruitscapes and Pine Island Tropicals, Steve Cucura and Jesse Avolos and Donna and Gary Schneider – Bokeelia, Florida. Since 1993 Pine Island Tropics, has been selling tropical organic plants, fruits, and homemade food products. Newcomer Fruitscapes specializes in new varieties of mangoes and other unusual fruits and plants. Together these two companies are building a successful market for unusual mangoes and other rarities in Southwest Florida.
Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri, Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark – New York City. Puri, Haley and Frymark are trying to revolutionize the urban food landscape by converting unused city rooftops into verdant greenhouses that grow fresh, pesticide-free produce year-round in New York City and Chicago.
Leontine Linens, Jane Scott Hodges – New Orleans, Louisiana. For Hodges, “every piece of linen tells a story.” And so, inspired by her great-grandmother’s own monogrammed collection, she started a company that handcrafts heirloom-quality linens featuring modern color and patterns.
Little River Sock Mill, Gina Locklear – Fort Payne, Alabama. Growing up in a town formerly known as “the world’s sock capital,” Locklear witnessed as much of the town’s manufacturing moved overseas. Determined to stem this tide, she set out to revitalize her family’s own sock business by producing high-quality organic cotton socks sustainably, and, in doing so, bring jobs back to the community.
Portola, Jamie Davis and Casey Davis – Los Angeles, California. The Davis brothers are admittedly obsessed with color. Together they have turned their father’s small paint shop into a thriving environmentally conscious business where each color is blended by hand and each customer gets personalized treatment.
Rainbow Iris Farm, Kelly Norris – Bedford, Iowa. Norris’s childhood dream came true at age 15, when he talked his parents into buying an iris farm. Thirteen years later, the mail-order company specializing in unusual irises that he owns and operates with his parents is still going strong. Today Norris is focusing on breeding unique varieties.
Sandback, Peter Sandback – Harrisville, New Hampshire. The forms may be simple, but Sandback’s tables are anything but. For his current collection, the artist and inventor embellishes each handmade piece of furniture with inlaid nails, inspired by old fabrics or Japanese stencils.
Smith Family Farm, Margaret and Lucian Smith – Bar Harbor, Maine. At Mount Desert Island’s only remaining dairy farm, the Smith family raises Jersey cows and heritage pigs, and grow heirloom apples and vegetables. They offer the fruits of their labor—artisanal raw milk, yogurts, cheeses, butter, meats, fruits and vegetables—to their local community.
The 2015 Audience Choice Winner, Baiser Beauty from Miami Beach, Florida, will also be celebrated at the American Made Summit and attend the exclusive reception. Baiser Beauty was chosen from over 500 finalists by popular vote online and will also receive a cash prize of $10,000 and a trip for two to New York City for the Summit.
15) Generate Leads and Engage Customers
Hootsuite, the most widely used platform for managing social media, just introduced a free version of its popular Hootsuite Campaigns Enterprise to help users launch social marketing campaigns in order to engage customers and drive leads.
The free version of Hootsuite Campaigns gives users the ability to launch sweepstakes and landing pages. As businesses get more active they’ll benefit from paid options, which offer more campaign types, deeper customization and ability to scale for larger organizations.
Intuitive and easy-to-use, Hootsuite Campaigns enables entrepreneurs and digital marketers to create effective social marketing campaigns—from social media contests to sweepstakes and galleries—across multiple social platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
You can download the free version here.