10 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
1) Great Idea!
Aryel Rivero and his wife started Giftwrapmyface.com this past holiday season. Rivero says the business took off and they’re now focusing “all their efforts” on growing it. In addition to taking care of their newborn daughter, who’s just a few weeks old—talk about launching a business under pressure. Check the giftwrap out—it’s really creative.
2) A Faster Way to Promote Your Tweets
This week Twitter introduced “quick promote”, a faster and easier way for small businesses to get their best content in front of more people on the social platform. Buster Benson (@Buster on Twitter), the Product Manager, Revenue at the company explains:
“You can use quick promote to amplify your best performing Tweets directly from the Tweet activity dashboard. Promoting a Tweet takes just a few clicks and your Tweet will automatically be targeted to users who have interests similar to your followers—the audience that is most likely to be interested in your message. Whether you’re Tweeting about a new product, promotion or blog post, Promoted Tweets can help you drive measurable business results. In fact, we found that users who see a relevant Promoted Tweet from an SMB are also 32% more likely to visit that business.”
To get started:
- Log into Tweet activity dashboard
- Select a Tweet to promote. Benson suggests you choose a Tweet that’s already resonating with your followers.
- Choose a budget. Twitter will give you an estimate of the reach you can expect after promoting your Tweet.
- Optimize your content strategy to drive more of your desired actions, like Retweets or URL clicks. (You can watch people interact with your Tweet in real time.)
You can select a budget of $10, $20, or $50. Visit the Twitter help center to learn more.!
3) It Was a Happy Holiday for ecommerce
Holiday 2014: What mattered most in ecommerce. I’ll give you a hint—mobile = money.
4) Is Your Business Secure? Part 1
Security is top-of-mind for many Americans these days. Congress is considering data privacy legislation designed to protect the personal information of American consumers and students. As a small business owner, you have a role to play. Jim Flynne, the VP of Operations and Chief Security Officer, at Carbonite suggests small businesses:
Create solid policies and follow them up: Everyone knows stronger passwords are harder to crack. But the strength of a password can also make it difficult for employees to remember. Requiring upper and lower case letters in combination with numbers and special characters is pretty standard, as is requiring the password to be changed at regular intervals. The harder passwords are to remember, however, the more likely employees will be to write them down and leave them out in the open, negating the purpose of the policy, so some policing is often necessary. Rule of thumb? Encourage good memory techniques over sticky notes.
Take steps to increase endpoint security: According to the Ponemon Institute’s recently-released “2015 State of the Endpoint Report,” one of the biggest issues leading to data breaches are employees who do not follow security policies. Employees who use multiple mobile devices and who work outside of the office using cloud-based applications must be properly trained on security policies. It’s important for companies to establish and communicate security policies to employees and then be vigilant making sure the devices and applications in use are in compliance.
Beware of security holes that stem from within: Employee turnover is something all companies deal with, and disabling network and application logins in a timely fashion is very important. Be sure to review user lists and make sure that ex-employees no longer have access to accounts.
5) Is Your Business Secure? Part 2
There are other ways to increase security at your business. Luis Orbegoso, president of ADT Business, shares some tips.
Take the Time: Take the time to sit down and evaluate your security and efficiency practices as a whole. While it will take some time and may seem daunting, looking over your data from all of 2014 can help you establish trends and spot any trouble areas. Because November and December are often the busiest months of the year for small businesses, pay close attention to any security holes or inefficiencies in those months, as they may be more obvious.
Evaluate Your Security: Having a strong security system not only protects your store, employees and goods, but helps give you peace of mind. Check your security backlog and talk to other businesses in your neighborhood. Identify any holes in security or surges in break-ins, theft, shoplifting etc. Work with your security company to make sure you’re protected.
Pinpoint Time Drains: Quantify how much time you and your staff are doing unnecessary admin tasks that don’t bring in profit. Is there anything you can streamline? Are there any redundancies? Is there someone on staff taking longer than the others to do these tasks? Making small changes to your staff or processes can have a big impact on your bottom line.
Put Your Business on Autopilot: Consider automation as a way to help you cut down on administration time and put your business on autopilot. With ADT Pulse you can remotely control lights, arm and disarm your security system and even program and control the thermostat. Many of these automation solutions can even help to cut down on energy bills.
Invest in Training: By investing time and resources into your upper-level employees, you’re giving yourself the opportunity for more free time. Delegate tasks and some added responsibility to these highly-trained employees. Giving up some of the reins can be difficult, but you’ll gain a lot more free time and feel a little less burdened in the long run.
6) Love is (Not) in the Air
Yes, Valentine’s Day is a week away. But sometimes business and love don’t mix. Lisa Honey, Director, Product Marketing at Rocket Lawyer, has some tips to help entrepreneurs make sure your business and assets don’t disappear in the event your relationships (romantic or platonic) do:
Keep Calm and Compromise On. Sometimes little things can have a big impact—don’t underestimate the importance of an occasional in order to keep your business afloat. First, in the event of a conflict, both parties should try to take the emotional involvement out of business decisions and think and act as objectively as possible. Protecting the business—its worth and integrity—should be a top priority. Try to separate your business decisions from those concerning private matters.
To mitigate certain issues before they arise, consider leveraging a buy-sell agreement (also called a “business will” or “business prenup”) to determine what happens in the event of an unfortunate circumstance, such as business partner passing away or a relationship dissolving. This agreement can include provisions for death, disability, retirement, divorce, and transfers of the company. The goal of the buy-sell agreement is to help avoid financial and tax problems that could otherwise occur if not for the explicit instructions included in the document.
Tap a Trusted Third Party. In the event of a divorce (or business dissolution) proceedings, make sure to have your business valued. It usually best to bring in an independent business appraiser who can remain a neutral party. In the case where you and your partner are not joint owners, agreeing on a value can cause a legal headache of epic proportions. With the owning partner looking for a low value, and the non-owning partner looking for a high one, the valuation method that is used, whether asset-based, income-based, or market-comparable-based, as well as the discounts taken, can all be a matter of dispute.
Local Edition: Familiarize Yourself with the Local Law and its Limitations. Know the local law. It could make a big difference in how your business is valued. While most jurisdictions will include the value of “enterprise goodwill” in a business appraisal, many will exclude “personal goodwill.” Some states will not even distinguish between the two types of goodwill and will allow for valuation of both. For the best outcome, your attorney and your business appraiser should agree on strategy and valuation methods, while keeping an eye on current cases, evidentiary rules and statutes that could impact the outcome.
Role Reversals: Consider Reshuffling Business Responsibilities. Occasionally, ex-spouses will put their differences aside and continue to work together in the business. However, this may require a shift in responsibilities. For example, a spouse may be changing from acting partner to board member. In that case, the replacement of the spouse’s skills and working out a transition of the business role may be part of the divorce process. If the spouse has a new role, it’s essential to clearly define (and potentially limit) the spouse’s decision-making powers in the company, to prevent future disputes. And always remember to be realistic—will you truly be able to work amicably alongside your ex-spouse now and in the future? Sometimes it makes the most sense for one spouse to step away in order for the business to stay above water.
Be an Open Book: Judges Don’t Appreciate Legal Surprises. When going to court, one of the most important precautions is to limit any red flags from raising a judge’s suspicions. Once you lose a judge’s trust, it can be very hard to gain it back. You may want to avoid making any big changes to your business during the divorce proceedings, such as altering your business model to decrease revenue or appointing a new love interest to your board of directors. You’re more likely to cause extra conflict in court and potentially jeopardize your business (and face steep fines if you’re hiding assets). It’s always better to be honest, transparent and use legal strategies to reach a solution.
7) 10 Tips to Maximize Credit Card Rewards for Your Business
Are you carrying the best credit card for your small business? How do you even know which card is best? Matthew Goldman, CEO and Cofounder of credit card optimizer Wallaby Financial offers 10 tips to ensure you’re getting the most miles, point, cash back or other credit card rewards for their business.
- Charge Everything You Can. It sounds simple, but more than half of B2B payments are still done by check according to the 2013 AFP Electronic Payments Survey. Many vendors, large and small, will accept credit cards for purchases, sometimes up to $25,000 per charge. And, you can earn a lot of money using credit cards.
- Use a Business Card, Not a Personal Card. For many small businesses, the owner makes most of the purchases and just uses his or her own credit card. These cards aren’t designed or optimized for businesses. The best business cards give bonus points at office supply stores, on gas and other big business expense categories.
- Know Your Travel and Get the Right Card. If travel is part of your business, you probably find that you go to the same places on the same airlines and stay at the same hotels over and over. But do you have the right card? With a business airlines or hotel card, you will earn bonus points on those purchases which you can redeem for a well-earned vacation or to save costs at the office.
- Take advantage of built-in discount programs. There’s more than just rewards out there. American Express business cards come with OPEN, which offers cash back discounts at FedEx Office, HP and other partners.
- Look for relationship benefits. Banks such as Bank of America, and some community banks, will boost your rewards (up to 75%) for having large deposits or investment accounts with them. This can make a mediocre card an amazing rewards card.
- Redeem frequently. Points often lose value over time. As a business, you may be spending in excess of $250,000 per year on credit cards and earning hundreds of thousands of points. Don’t let them lose value or expire; use them frequently for travel, discounts, and cash back.
- Use transferrable points to stack up the rewards. Cards like American Express Membership Rewards Cards or Chase Ink business cards have transferrable points. This means you can take those Amex Membership Rewards Points or Chase Ultimate Rewards points and deposit them in another program (like American Airlines or Hilton Hotels). When you do this, the points stack up faster leading to bigger and better redemptions.
- Take advantage of built-in protections. Many business cards come with rental car, travel and other insurance protections. It’s not cash back, but it can save you big money to decline expense insurance and warranty coverage at the store and depend on your card issuer to take care of it.
- Have a solid 2% everywhere card. Whether you pursue the strategy of using multiple business cards to maximize your rewards or not, your everyday business card should be earning you 2% cash back on everything. Capital One’s Spark Cash Card just does this, meaning you pay less on everything you charge.
- Take advantage of lucrative sign-up bonuses. If you’re ready to sign-up for some new credit cards, get the ones with the biggest sign-up offers. Many cards will waive a first year fee and provide 10,000 to 100,000 points for [reaching certain spending levels] in the first few months. These can be worth hundreds—even up to $1,000. These bonuses will get you off to a great rewards start.
8) Location, Location, Location
It’s an old business adage but a true one. When it comes to retail businesses, location matters. So how do you pick the right place to locate your business?
Bryan Eisenberg, cofounder of IdealSpot, says, after spending the last two decades helping online businesses get more sales, he realized “it was time for all retailers to adopt digital strategies.”
IdealSpot created an algorithm that analyzes over 15,000 demographic, psychographic, social, mobile, and traffic data points for every retail location, store, office, or restaurant. It then tells you, without human bias, if the location is ideal for your business.
You then get a report that shows you an overall risk score and the top factors that will contribute to the success or failure of your location. After answering a few questions about your business IdealSpot runs an analysis and sends you a link where you can download and print your report.
9) For Entrepreneurs There’s No Such Thing as TMI?
When it comes to running a business, entrepreneurs need to get as much information as possible. There’s a trove of small business content at the Business Owner’s Playbook from The Hartford.
10) You Could Win Big
Here are three programs you can enter and compete for the big prize:
- Tallwave and Hansji Corporation are sponsoring the High Tide at Luhrs City Center program. Winners get office space in downtown Phoenix, a stipend for living expenses, and a chance of being awarded $50,000 at the end of the program. This is a national startup commercialization program, enabling entrepreneurs to build their products and take them to market faster. Final deadline for applying is February 28. More information is available from Hansji and Tallwave.
- Comcast Business just announced its 2nd annual “Innovations 4 Entrepreneurs” program, a national competition seeking “the nation’s most innovative startup companies and entrepreneurs. Each grand prize winner will receive $30,000 in cash, one-on-one consulting with national business experts and an all-expense paid trip to Philadelphia. To enter you need to submit a 250-word essay explaining how you would use $30,000 in technology investment to enhance your business. Deadline is March 15. Enter here.
- Are you a rule breaker? Many entrepreneurs are—and now you can get rewarded for it. My company is one of the hosts of the 2nd annual RuleBreakers Awards, sponsored by Sage North America, Infusionsoft and Nextiva. All 15 finalists (and one grand prize winner) will get over $5,000 in prizes each. Deadline for entry is March 31. You can nominate yourself or another RuleBreaker in the following categories: Service Provider, Technology Provider, Food/Restaurant, Manufacturer or Retailer. Apply here.
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.
Photo courtesy Facebook.